Hajj is proclaimed
Once the Ka'bah had been built, the ritual of Hajj was established. Allaah Almighty, told Ibraaheem may Allaah exalt his mention (what means): “And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel…” [Quran 22: 27]
In the verses explaining how to perform the pilgrimage, Allaah tells us (what means): “That [has been commanded], and whoever honors the sacred ordinances of Allaah – it is best for him in the sight of his Lord. And permitted to you are the grazing livestock, except what is recited to you. So avoid the uncleanliness of idols and avoid false statement, inclining [only] to Allaah, not associating [anything] with Him. And he who associates with Allaah –it is as though he had fallen from the sky and was snatched by the birds or the wind carried him down into a remote place.”[Quran 22: 30-31]
By performing Hajj, we honor Allaah and confirm our belief in the principle of Tawheed, or the Oneness of Allaah. Upon entering Ihraam, it is no coincidence that one recites the following: "Labbayka Allaahumma labbayka, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Innal-hamda wan-ni'mata laka wa'l-mulk, laa shareeka lak!”(Here I am, O Allaah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner!)
In many places in the Quran, Allaah calls the Ka'bah "His" House. Indeed, we visit this house in response to His invitation. Abu Hurayrah may Allaah be pleased with him reported that the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Pilgrims and those performing ‘Umrah are Allaah's guests. Their prayers are answered, and their supplications for forgiveness are granted.” [An-Nasaa’i and Ibn Maajah]
By visiting this Special House we call the Ka'bah, we go back to the very place where Ibraaheem may Allaah exalt his mention stood and called us to Hajj for the first time. By performing its rites, we re-enact important aspects of the struggle to establish the Ka'bah and remember the sacrifices of Ibraaheem may Allaah exalt his mention and his family as well as those of the generations of believers that came after them. In this manner, Hajj is as much a journey to the soul of Islam as it is to the House of Allaah.
Early history of the Ka'bah
During the centuries following Ibraaheem's may Allaah exalt his mention building of the Ka'bah, various tribes assumed responsibility for its care. The first of these was the tribe of Jurhum, the same tribe that Ismaa’eel may Allaah exalt his mention married into when its people settled in the valley where he may Allaah exalt his mention had been staying with his mother. After that, power shifted briefly to the ‘Amaalighah tribe and back again to the tribe of Jurhum. Another group, the tribe of Khuzaa'ah, became strong and managed to expel the tribe of Jurhum from Makkah and take control over the Ka'bah.
The tribe of Jurhum had ruled the area for at least one thousand years and had not always lived up to its duty in front of Allaah to preserve the safety of visiting pilgrims and the sanctity of the Ka'bah itself. Frequent wars along with raids on pilgrims to steal their treasures had led to an atmosphere of danger and corruption.
At the same time all this was going on, practices such as fortune-telling and idol-worship had become common in many neighboring regions, and people were generally engulfed in superstitious beliefs. ‘Amr Ibn Luhaiy, the leader of the Khuzaa'ah, placed idols inside the Ka'bah and called on people to worship them, claiming that these idols could bring one closer to Allaah. With this step, the Ka'bah acquired a function in direct opposition to its original purpose as a House of worship to Allaah Alone without partners.
Amazing as it may seem, pilgrims who visited the Ka'bah now went for the express purpose of venerating idols! This practice gained widespread acceptance, and each tribe acquired its own special idol to place inside the Ka'bah.
The Khuzaa'ah held control over Makkah for several hundred years, until the daughter of one of its leaders married Qusayy Ibn Kilaab, who was the fifth forefather of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) and a member of the tribe of Quraysh. Circumstances led to Qusayy assuming leadership over Makkah, and the Quraysh would maintain the tradition of idol-worship for several generations until the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) took Makkah back in the year 630 CE.
While the Hajj as we know and practice it today is a tremendous exercise in unity, the pilgrimages conducted by the idol-worshippers in pre-Islamic Arabia were distinctly the opposite. With each tribe having its own idol and unique method of worship, there were also many different ways of performing the pilgrimage. Some people performed the rites silently, while others yelled out loud. Various sacrifices were offered to the idols, and blood was routinely smeared on the walls of the Ka'bah. Some tribes even performed the pilgrimage while unclothed. Alcohol, poetry and lewd behavior were important elements of these annual gatherings. The large influx of pilgrims each year combined with their participation in other events, such as fairs, meant a steady source of income for the leaders of Makkah.
The year of the elephant
In the same year in which the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) was born (about 570 CE), the Abyssinian king Abrahah Al-Ashram wanted the Arab tribes to start making the pilgrimage to a church he had built in Yemen and attempted to attack the Ka'bah. In his quest for power and fame, Abrahah sent a huge army of men and elephants to complete his mission. But when they reached Makkah, Allaah sent flocks of birds to repel them by throwing stones on the soldiers from above. Each man who was struck by a stone was killed, and the army was destroyed. This incident is described in the Quranic chapter of Al-Feel (The Elephant). Allaah Says (what means): “Have you not considered [O Muhammad] how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant? Did He not make their plan into misguidance? And He sent against them birds in flocks, striking them with stones of hard clay, and He made them like eaten straw?”[Quran 105: 1-5]
Although the people of Quraysh themselves had been misusing Allaah's House as a pantheon for idols, they still acknowledged the existence of Allaah and realized that it was only by Allaah's divine protection that Abrahah's army had been defeated. Allaah called on them to admit this truth by giving up their idols and turning to worship Him Alone. Allaah Says (what means): “Let them worship the Lord of this House (i.e., the Ka'bah), Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear.” [Quran 106: 3-4]
With the birth of the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) the message of monotheism would soon be revived in answer to the supplication of lbraaheem may Allaah exalt his mention centuries before (which means): “Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” [Quran 2: 129]
In a matter of just few years, the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) would be victorious in Makkah and smash the idols inside the Ka'bah, restoring it to its original pristine purpose as a house of worship to Allaah without partners. The original rites of Hajj called for by Ibraaheem may Allaah exalt his mention would be reestablished. And most importantly, people's hearts would be changed forever.