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Main Pillars of Hajj – Obligatory Acts of Hajj

Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and the dream of every Muslim man and woman to visit the Holy Kaaba and make repentance for their sins. Hajj occurs during the last month of the Islamic calendar, Dhul Hijjah, and concludes with Eid ul-Adha.

It is considered both an incredibly rewarding and spiritually cleansing act. Performing the annual pilgrimage helps deepen a Muslim’s understanding of the trials of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), his wife Hajar (AS), and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Here is everything you need to know about the four main pillars of Hajj and the three obligatory acts without completion of which the annual pilgrimage will be considered void.

What Is Hajj?

four main pillars of hajjHajj, also spelt as Haj, is the annual pilgrimage to the House of Allah SWT (Holy Kaaba) in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The literal meaning of the word “Hajj” is ‘to intend a journey.’ Allah SWT has obligated all able Muslims to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime.

Allah SWT in the Holy Quran says, “You will enter the Sacred Masjid, God willing, perfectly secure, and you will cut your hair or shorten it (as you fulfill the pilgrimage rituals) there. You will not have any fear. Since He knew what you did not know, He has coupled this with an immediate victory.” [Holy Quran, 48:27]

What Are the Pillars of Hajj?

Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. The significance of Hajj in Islam can be better understood by the fact that Allah SWT has asked all physically and financially stable Muslims to perform the annual pilgrimage at least once in their lifetimes.

To perform Hajj, it is mandatory to visit the Holy Kaaba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

Upon completion of the annual pilgrimage, one’s faith is renewed, and they are cleansed of all past sins.

The four primary pillars of Hajj are as follows:

Pillar 1 – Ihram

Ihram isn’t just two pieces of plain cloth tied together; it is a state during which one has to adhere to specific timings and strict rules and regulations.

Allah SWT in the Holy Quran states, “Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj ‎ obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of Ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj.” [Holy Quran 2:197]

Getting into the state of Ihram requires a person to cleanse oneself and declare the conviction and intention to perform Hajj. The Messenger (PBUH) of Allah SWT stated, “Deeds are according to intentions, and every person will be rewarded according to his intention.”

Note that a pilgrim must assume Ihram at the miqats by performing wudu, purifying their bodies, wearing clean clothes, and making intention (niyyah), followed by reciting specific prayers in order to attain the blessings of Allah Almighty.

Pillar 2 – Saee

Pilgrims are instructed to walk between the hills of Safa and Marwa to commemorate the struggle of Hajra (RA), the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). She ran between these hills seven times to find food or water for her infant son, Prophet Ismail (AS).

Therefore, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has directed the Muslim Ummah to walk between as-Safa and al-Marwa in the same way as it is an integral part of the Hajj rituals.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Perform Saee for Allah SWT has decreed that you perform Saee between as-Safa and al-Marwa.” (Ahmad)

Aisha (RA) reported that, “The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made Tawaaf and the Muslims made Tawaaf (i.e., between the Safa and Marwah), so it has become obligatory. May Allah Reject the Hajj of whoever does not make Tawaaf between the Safa and Marwah.” (Muslim)

Pillar 3 – Waqfat Arafah

The time to stand and pray on the plains of Arafah begins from noon on 9th Dhul Hijjah till the dawn of 10th Dhul Hijjah. Waqfah Arafah is an indispensable part of the Hajj, so pilgrims must perform it at the prescribed place and time.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Hajj is the standing at ‘Arafah. If anyone comes over there before the Fajr Prayer on the night of Al-Muzdalifah, his Hajj will be complete.” (Abu Dawud)

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised the Muslims to stand and pray on Arafah, he (PBUH) said, “I am standing here, but all of ‘Arafah is a place of standing.” (Muslim)

Urwah ibn Mudharris (RA) narrated, ”When I came to the Messenger (PBUH) of Allah SWT at Al-Muzdalifah and said, ‘I have come from the two mountains of Tayyi,’ I fatigued my mount and fatigued myself. By Allah SWT, I found no hill (on my way), but I halted there. Have I completed my Hajj?’ The Messenger (PBUH) of Allah SWT said, ‘Anyone who offers this prayer along with us and comes over to ‘Arafat before it by night or day will complete his Hajj, and he may wash away the dirt (of his body).’” (Abu Dawud)

Therefore, standing and praying at any place on the Arafah, even for a minute or two, is sufficient to earn the blessings of the Almighty. In case of omission of this act, Hajj would be considered invalid.

Pillar 4 – Tawaaf Al Ifadah

According to Islamic scholars, the stage of the last pillar of Hajj begins following pilgrims standing on Arafah to the end of their lives.

While performing Tawaaf Al Ifadah, pilgrims circumambulate around the Holy Kaaba seven times and even try to raise hands towards Hajr e Aswad (Black Stone) to seek blessings and forgiveness.

Allah SWT in the Holy Quran said, “And circumambulate the Ancient House.” [Holy Quran, Al-Hajj: 29]

Tawaaf Al Ifadah is a must, and a pilgrim must not leave Makkah without performing it. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was told that Safiyyah (RA) had started menstruating, he (PBUH) said, “Is she keeping us (from leaving)?” They said, “She has already performed Tawaaf Al-Ifaadah.” He said, “Then let her set out.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

However, if one cannot perform Tawaaf Al Ifadah due to sickness, they must appoint someone else to perform it on their behalf or they should sacrifice an animal.

Three Obligatory Acts of Hajj

obligatory acts of hajjThe Messenger (PBUH) of Allah SWT said, “Learn your ritual from me.”

Aside from the pillars of Hajj, there are obligatory rituals that one must perform. Although missing out on any of these rituals doesn’t invalidate one’s Hajj, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has instructed Muslims to offer a sacrifice (cow, one-seventh of a she-camel, or a sheep) to make up for it.

Note that in order to be accepted, the sacrifice must be made within the boundaries of Makkah and meat should be distributed amongst the poor. Ibn Abbas (RA) said, “Whoever forgot any of the rituals (obligatory acts) or left it must offer a sacrifice.”

The three mandatory rituals of Hajj are as follows:

Act 1 Assuming Ihram from the Meeqat

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), after listing the mawaqeet of Hajj, said, “Those mawaqeet are for their residents and non-residents who pass through them with the intention of making Hajj or ‘Umrah.” (Bukhari)

Act 2 – Stoning of the Jamarat

Allah SWT in the Holy Quran says, “And remember Allah SWT during the (specific) numbered days.” [Holy Quran, Al-Baqarah: 203] In this ayah, the Almighty refers to the days of al-Tashreeq.

The Messenger (PBUH) of Allah SWT said, “Indeed circumambulating the House, (the circuits) between as-Safa and al-Marwa, and stoning the pillars; all have been ordained to serve as a (form of) remembrance of Allah SWT.” (Abu Dawud)

Act 3 – Trimming and Shaving of the Hair

Allah SWT in the Holy Quran says, “Certainly, you shall enter al-Masjid al-Haram, if Allah SWT wills, secure, (some) having their heads shaved, and (some) having their hairs cut short.” (Holy Quran, al-Fath: 27)

Different Types of Hajj

There are primarily three types of Hajj:

  • Hajj ul-Ifrad: The name Hajj ul-Ifrad literally means ‘the isolated Hajj.’ It is when a pilgrim performs the Hajj only and does not perform Umrah. The pilgrim who performs Hajj ul-Ifrad is called Mufrid. It is mainly performed by people living inside the boundaries of Masjid al-Haram or those living in Jeddah. Those performing Hajj ul-Ifrad wear Ihram only for the purpose of Hajj. When they enter the premises of Masjid Al-Haram, they perform the Tawaaf, followed by Saee and the stoning of the Jamarat The Mufrid then takes off the Ihram and celebrates Eid ul-Adha.
  • Hajj ul-Qiran: Hajj ul-Qiran is performed by those who do not live near Masjid Al-Haram. It is also known as the ‘Accompanied Hajj.’ When wearing the Ihram to perform Hajj ul-Qiran, the pilgrim must make niyyah (intention) for both the Umrah and Hajj. Note that the pilgrim cannot leave the state of Ihram until both pilgrimages are performed.
  • Hajj ul-Tamattu: Performing Hajj along with Umrah is called Hajj ul-Tamattu. The person who performs it is known as Mutamatti. The majority of people perform Hajj ul-Tamattu in which they wear Ihram before crossing the lines of Miqat. They then perform Umrah before the 8th of Dhul Hijjah as after that the pilgrim is bound to perform all the rituals of Hajj as stated by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Summary – Pillars of Hajj

Even though Hajj isn’t painstakingly difficult, it isn’t that easy a journey either. Performing pilgrimage (Hajj or Umrah) requires a fair amount of struggle in order to gain forgiveness and the blessings of Allah SWT.

From getting into the state of Ihram to performing Saee, Waqaf Arafah, stoning of the Jamarat, performing halq or taqsir and Tawaaf Al Ifadah, praying in the scorching heat of Saudi Arabia is a daunting task.

Yet, every year, millions of pilgrims visit the Holy Kaaba to renew their Taqwaa (faith) and become better Muslims and human beings.

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