Hajj literally means ‘to set out for a place’. Islamically however it refers to the annual pilgrimage that Muslims make to Makkah with the intention of performing certain religious rites in accordance with the method prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam). Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Allaah in the time of the Prophet lbrahIm [Abraham] (AS) and he was the one who was entrusted by Allaah to build the Ka’ba – the House of Allaah – along with his son Ismaa’eel [Ishmael] at Makkah.
Allaah described the Ka’ba and its building as follows:
“And remember when We showed Ibrahim the site of the [Sacred] House [saying]: Associate not anything [in worship with Me and purify My House for those who circumambulate it [i.e. perform tawaaf] and those who stand up for prayer and those who bow down and make prostration [in prayer etc.].” [Surah Al-Hajj 22:26]
After building the Ka’ba, Ibrahim (AS) would come to Makkah to perform Hajj every year, and after his death, this practice was continued by his son. However, gradually with the passage of time, both the form and the goal of the Hajj rites were changed. As idolatry spread throughout Arabia , the Ka’ba lost its purity and idols were placed inside it. Its walls became covered with poems and paintings, including one of Jesus and his mother Maryam and eventually over 360 idols came to be placed around the Ka’ba.
During the Hajj period itself, the atmosphere around the sacred Ka’ba was like a circus. Men and women would go round the Ka’ba naked, arguing that they should present themselves before Allaah in the same condition they were born. Their prayer became devoid of all sincere remembrance of Allaah and was instead reduced to a series of hand clapping, whistling and the blowing of horns. Even the talbeeyah was distorted by them with the following additions:
‘No one is Your partner except one who is permitted by you. You are his Master and the Master of what he possesses’. Sacrifices were also made in the name of Allaah. However, the blood of the sacrificed animals was poured onto the walls of the Ka’ba and the flesh was hung from pillars around the Ka’ba, in the belief that Allaah demanded the flesh and blood of these animals.
Singing, drinking, adultery and other acts of immorality occurred amongst the pilgrims and the poetry competitions which were held were a major part of the whole Hajj event. In these competitions, poets would praise the bravery and splendor of their own tribesmen and tell exaggerated tales of the cowardice and miserliness of other tribes. Competitions in generosity were also held. Thus the people had totally abandoned the teachings of their forefather and leader Ibrahim (AS). The House that he had made pure for the worship of Allaah alone, had been totally desecrated by the pagans and they had com rites which he had established were completely distorted . This sad state of affairs continued for nearly two and a half thousand years.