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Abrahamic Traditions in Hajj 

Many of the traditions associated with Islam and in particular the Hajj date back to Prophet Abraheem (Abraham). Some of these traditions are:


The act of Tawaaf or circumambulation around the kabah, which is the first place of worship and originally dates all the way back to the time of Adam and was later rebuilt by Ibraheem, is known to date back to the time of Ibraheem. Allah says:

“and We commanded Ibraheem (Abraham) and Ismaeel (Ishmael) that they should purify My House (the Kabah at Makkah) for those who are circumambulating it, or staying (Itikaaf), or bowing or prostrating themselves (there, in prayer)” [Quran: Surah al Baqarah 2: Ayah 125].

This verse indicates that tawaaf around the Kabah was known at the time of Prophet Ibraheem.


Although the Tawaaf is a Sunnah (practice) of Prophet Ibraheem, the Rami was started later during the time of Prophet Muhammad. Rami means walking quickly with short steps and is done in the first three circuits or the seven that are normally done in the Tawaaf. This is Sunnah for men only, done during the initial tawaaf of arrival (tawaaf al-qudoom), which is the first tawaaf performed when one arrives in Makkah.

Rami started during the time of Prophet Muhammad, we are told from a narration of Ibn Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came with his companions and the mushrikoon [pagans] said, “There have come to you people who have been weakened by the fever of Yathrib. So the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded them to walk quickly (raml) in the first three circuits… According to another report, he said, “Walk quickly so that the mushrikeen will see that you are strong.” [Bukhaari (2/469-470, 1602), Muslim (2/991-992, 1262)].

This was a practice liked by God and was thus made a part of the rites of Islam.

The water of Zamzam and sai between al-Safa and al-Marwah

Ibn Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: "Ibraheem brought Hajar and her son Ismaeel when she was still breastfeeding him, to a place near the Kabah under a tree on the spot of Zamzam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Makkah, nor was there any water. So he left them there and left with them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ismaeel’s mother followed him saying, “O Ibraheem! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look at her. Then she asked him, “Has Allah commanded you to do this?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not forsake us,” and went back while Abraham proceeded onwards. When he reached al-Thaniyah where they could not see him, he turned to face the Kabah, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayer:

“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka‘bah at Makkah) in order, O our Lord, that they may perform As-Salaah (Iqaamat-as-Salaah). So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allaah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks” [Quran: Surah Ibraheem 14: Ayah 37]

Ismaeel’s mother went on breastfeeding Ismaeel and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ismaeel) tossing in agony. She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of al-Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from al-Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached al-Marwa where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between al-Safa and al-Marwa) seven times."

Ibn Abbaas said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “This is the (origin of) the people’s saa’i (walking) between them between them (i.e. al-Safa and al-Marwa).” When she reached al-Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she said to herself “Shh!” and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, “O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?” Then she saw an angel at the place of Zamzam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), until water appeared. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it.

Ibn ‘Abbaas said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “May Allah have mercy on the mother of Ismaeel! Had she let Zamzam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zamzam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth.” And he said: “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people’…” [Sahih Bukhari (6/396-397, 3364)]

Ibn al-Jawzi said in his book Mutheer al-‘Azm al-Saakin (2/47): “This hadeeth explains the reason why it is called Zamzam, because when the water flowed, Haajar tried to control it (zammat-ha). The linguist Ibn Faaris said: Zamzam comes from the words zamamtu al-naaqah (I reined in the camel).

The standing at Arafah

Standing in any part of the plain of Arafat during the day of Hajj is from the tradition of Prophet Ibraheem. Yazeed ibn Shaybaan said: We were standing in Arafah in a place far from the mawqif [where the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stood]. Ibn Mirba’ al-Ansaari came to us and said, “I am the messenger of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who says to you: ‘Stay where you are (for it is also the place of standing), for you are standing in the area where your father Ibraheem stood.’” [Abu Dawood and al-Tirmidhi (883); Graded sahih by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 1688].

The Sacrifice

In Tafseer Ibn Katheer (4/15) it mentions the account of the sacrifice. The sacrifice offered during Hajj is traced back to the sacrifice that Ibraheem made. He had a dream in which he saw himself offering as a sacrifice his son Ismaeel. According to a hadeeth narrated from Ibn Abbaas and attributed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “The dreams of the Prophets are Wahy (revelation).”  So, Allaah was testing His Close Friend, Ibraheem, by commanding him to sacrifice this beloved son who had come to him in his old age, when he was very old, and after he had been commanded to settle the child and his mother in the desert, in a valley in which there was no noise, no people, no vegetation and no animals. So Ibraaheem obeyed the command of Allaah and left them there, putting his trust in Allaah, and Allaah sent them provision, from an unexpected source. After all that, when Ibraaheem was ordered to sacrifice this son of his, who was his firstborn and his only child, he responded to his Lord and obeyed His command, hastening to do as He willed. So he told his son about it so as to put him at ease and not sacrifice him by force. Allah tells us:

And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: "O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allah), so look what you think!" He said: "O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha' Allah (if Allah will), you shall find me of As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.)." Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering).

And We called out to him: "O Abraham! You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!" Verily! Thus do We reward the Muhsinun. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice. [Surah az Zumar 37: 102-107].

"... And he had laid him prostrate on his forehead..." means that he put him face down. It was said that he wanted to slaughter him from behind so that he would not see his face at the time of slaughter. This was the view of Ibn ‘Abbaas, Mujaahid, Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, Qutaadah and al-Dahhaak.  It is narrated that Ibraaheem passed the knife over the boy’s throat but it did not cut him at all. It was said that a sheet of copper was placed between the knife and his throat, and Allaah knows best. Then it was called out from Allaah:

“’O Ibraaheem! You have fulfilled the dream!’” meaning, the purpose has been achieved, you have been tested and your obedience and willingness to do what your Lord commands have been proven. An alternative sacrifice will be provided instead of your son, just as you willingly submitted your body to the flames and you spent your wealth to honour your guests. Hence Allaah said:

“Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice” means, meaning that it was an obvious test and We provided a ransom for his son, an alternative to be sacrificed in his stead. According to the best known opinion of the majority of scholars, this was a fine white horned ram. Al-Thawri narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Uthmaan ibn Khaytham from Sa’eed ibn Jubayr that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: It was a ram that had grazed in Paradise for forty years.

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Zad al-Ma’ad (2/319): ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The days of sacrifice are the Day of Sacrifice (yawm al-nahr) and the three days after it.” This is the view of the imam of the people of Basra, al-Hasan; the imam of the people of Makkah, ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah; the imam of the people of Syria, al-Awza’i; and the imam of the fuqaha’ of Hadith, al-Shafi`i (may Allah have mercy on him). It was also the view favored by Ibn al-Mundthir. The three days are specified because they are the days of Mina, the days of stoning (the Jamarat) and the day of al-Tashriq. It is forbidden to fast on these days. It was narrated via two isnads, one of which supports the other, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “All of Mina is the place of sacrifice, and all the days of al-Tashriq are days of sacrifice.” End quote. [The Hadith was classed as Sahih by al-Albani in al-Silsilah al-Sahihah, 2476].

The sacrifice made by the people making Hajj is called 'Hadi' and the sacrifice offered by those not on Hajj is called 'Qurbani'.

The Stoning (Ramy al-Jamarah)

The ritual re-enacts Abraham's pilgrimage to Mecca as explained by the Muslim historian al-Azraqi:

When he [Abraham] left Mina and was brought down to (the defile called) al-Aqaba, the Devil appeared to him at Stone-Heap of the Defile. Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so Abraham threw seven stones at him so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Middle Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so he pelted him with seven stones so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Little Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so he pelted him with seven stones like the little stones for throwing in a sling. So the Devil withdrew from him. All three jamarat represent the devil: the first and largest represents his temptation of Abraham against sacrificing Ishmael, the second represents the temptation of Abraham's wife Hagar to induce her to stop him, and the third represents his temptation of Ishmael to avoid being sacrificed. He was rebuked each time, and the throwing of the stones symbolizes those rebukes.

The jamarat are named (starting from the east) the first or smallest jamrah (aj-jamrah al-'ula or aj-jamrah as-sughra), the middle jamrah (aj-jamrah al-wusta), and the largest jamrah or Jamrah of Aqaba (aj-jamrah al-kubra or jamrat al-aqaba).

The stoning of the jamarat also represents the act of repudiation of man's self (literally the "internal despot," an-nafs al-'amara), stoning, rejecting and casting aside one's low desires, temptations and wishes.


More in this category: « How to do Hajj What is Ihram »