Hajj, or pilgrimage to the House of Allah (swt) in Makkah, is one of the five cardinal principles of Islam. This worship was prescribed in the sixth year after Hijrah. It is obligatory upon Muslims, who can afford it, to perform Hajj once in their lifetimes. It takes place only once a year in the month of Dhul Hajj on the ninth.
Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “…Pilgrimage is a duty men owe to Allah.” (Al-Imran 3:97)
Every believer strives for Hajj Mabrur (an accepted Hajj), which is performed by someone with a right intention and sincerity. According to Abu Huraira (rta), Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “An Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) is an expiation for sins committed between it and the next, but an accepted Hajj will receive no less a reward than Paradise.” (Agreed upon)
Islam encourages women to partake in the blessings of Hajj. Aisha (rta) has narrated: “I once asked the Prophet (sa): ‘O Prophet of Allah! Should not we (women) strive and actively participate in the Islamic war with you?’ The Prophet (sa) replied: ‘The best and the most beautiful striving for you in the cause of Allah is Hajj Mabrur.’” Aisha (rta) commented: “After hearing this from the Prophet (sa), I shall never cease performing Hajj.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Before commencing the Hajj journey, women should have the following: a thorough knowledge of Hajj rituals, a sound Aqeedah, fear of Allah (swt), passion to follow only the Quran and the Sunnah, patience in the face of trials and courtesy for fellow pilgrims.
The first requirement for a Muslim woman to perform Hajj is to be accompanied by a Mahram (her husband or a male relative, whom she is not allowed to marry as per the Quranic injunctions).
According to Shafaee school of thought, a woman may travel with a group of women or even with one trusted woman companion, if a Mahram is not available. This opinion is supported by the fact that after the Prophet’s death, Umar (rta) permitted his (saw) wives to perform Hajj, while accompanied by Uthman (rta) and Abdurrahman Ibn Awf (rta).
Ihram for a Muslimah comprises of any garment that covers her entire body modestly except for her hands and face. She is also permitted to wear shoes. (Abu Dawood)
Talbiyah means to recite: “Lab-baika Allahumma Labbaik. Lab-baika la-Sharika laka lab-baik. In-nAl-Humda wan-nimata laka wal mulk-la-Sharika lak.”
Every pilgrim is required to say the Talbiyah. According to Ataa: “Men must raise their voices (when reciting Talbiyah), but a woman should raise her voice to as to hear it herself, but she should not raise her voice more than that.”
4. Restrictions of Ihram
A woman in the state of Ihram must refrain from:
· sexual relations;
· clipping nails, cutting or removing hair by any means from any part of the body;
· wearing perfume, Niqab (facial veil) and gloves.
Observing all the restrictions of Ihram, the pilgrims proceed to Makkah. There they can deposit their belongings at their lodging place and hasten to perform Tawaf at the Masjid Al-Haram.
5. Tawaf of Kaba and Sai
Tawaf is circumambulating around the Kabah seven times starting and ending at the Hajra Aswad (the Black Stone). If possible, women can kiss or touch Hajra Aswad without having to push or be pushed by the crowd. They are required to walk at a normal pace in the first three rounds, unlike the men.
Next, the pilgrims are to pray two Rakah at the station of Ibrahim (as) and drink Zamzam water.
Sai is the walk between two hills starting at Safa and ending at Marwah. Seven rounds are to be made at a normal pace, unlike men, who need to walk at brisk pace.
If the woman is performing Hajj Tamattu, then after completing Sai, she should cut her hair and clip her nails. The Prophet (sa) stated: “Women (pilgrims) do not have to shave (their heads); they may shorten their hair.” (Abu Dawood) The restrictions of Ihram are now lifted. On the eighth day of Dhul Hajj, the woman resumes Ihram again and proceeds to Mina.
6. Stay at Mina and Arafah
During this part of Hajj, there are no specific differences between men and women. To maximize the benefit of Hajj, the pilgrims should immerse themselves completely in Allah’s remembrance and refrain from idle talk, sleeping, wasting time, mixing with the opposite gender, etc.
The pilgrims pray Salatul Fajr at Muzdalifah. After the sunrise on the tenth of Dhul Hajj, they proceed to Mina. This day is known as Yaum Al-Nahr.
7. Throwing of the pebbles
Pea sized pebbles are thrown at Jamarah Al-Aqbah, while reciting the Takbeer. Women, children and weak pilgrims are permitted to carry out this ritual at night. If it gets very crowded or difficult, women can appoint someone on their behalf to throw the pebbles at the Jamarah.
After throwing the pebbles, on the tenth day of Dhul Hajj, the pilgrim slaughters a sacrificial animal and cuts her hair, thereby releasing herself from the restrictions of Ihram. She can resume normal activities, except intimacy with her husband.
8. Tawaf Al-Ifadhah
Tawaf Al-Ifadhah is one of the most significant rituals and can render ones’ Hajj invalid, if the pilgrim is unable to perform it. Pilgrims proceed to Makkah to perform Tawaf Al-Ifadhah. Aisha (rta) used to order women to perform it early on the day of An-Nahr, if they feared they would begin to menstruate. According to Ataa: “If a woman (pilgrim) fears her monthly period, she can perform the Tawaf of Kabah before throwing the pebbles at Jamarah Al-Aqabah and even before her sacrificial animal is slaughtered.”
In case of Hajj Tamattu, the woman pilgrim must perform Sai after Tawaf Al-Ifadha.
9. The farewell Tawaf
Ibn Abbas (rta) narrated: “The pilgrims used to leave Makkah in every direction, until the Prophet (sa) said: ‘Let none of you leave Makkah before making a Tawaf around the Kabah as the last of Hajj rites.’” (Muslim and Abu Dawood)
This last ritual should be performed by the pilgrim before leaving for home as a final promise to Allah (swt) to live her remaining life in total submission to her Creator.
Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Anyone, who undertakes the Hajj just to seek the pleasure of Allah and neither indulges in sexual talks nor in sins, will be purified of his sins, in the same state as he was born by his mother!” (Mishkat)