‘Whoever wishes to undertake the Hajj should hasten…’. Image credit: Al Jazeera English
Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
Ibn `Abbâs relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever wishes to undertake the Hajj should hasten to do so. A person might become sick, lose the opportunity, or become beset with needs.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd (1732) and Sunan Ibn Majâh (2883)]
There can be no doubt that it is best to hasten to undertake the Hajj as soon as we get the opportunity to do so. We may feel that the opportunity will be there for us I the future, but we do not know what the future has in store for us. Therefore, if we can undertake the Hajj now, and there is no pressing reason to postpone it, then we are well advised to do so.
A legal question: Is it Compulsory to Perform the Hajj Immediately?
However, some people have good reasons to postpone the Hajj for a year or so. For instance a person might wish to wait a year so as to be able to offer the Hajj with his or her parents. Someone else might be in the middle of some important and lawful undertaking at home ad not want to leave at that moment. Can such people postpone their Hajj for some time or are they obligated to undertake the Hajj as soon as they are able to do so?
Scholars agree that it is not obligatory to undertake the Hajj if one does not have sufficient means or the ability to do so.
Allah says: “And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto Allah upon humanity, for whoever has the ability to undertake the journey.” [Sûrah Âl `Imrân: 97]
is able to undertake the journey, or whether it is an obligation that must be fulfilled some unspecified time in the future.
One opinion is that once a person has the ability and opportunity to undertake the Hajj, it is compulsory for that person to take that very opportunity to do so. In other words. It is sinful to delay it when one has the means to do so.
The second opinion is that Hajj becomes obligatory upon a person once he or she has the means and opportunity to undertake it. However, it is not obligator for the person to perform Hajj at that first opportunity. The person has the choice to postpone undertaking the Hajj until a later year.
This is the ruling adopted by the Mâlikî school of law – or as al-Qurtubî says, it is the gist of the Malikî position. It is also the position of the Shâfi`î school of law. It is also the view of Muhammad al-Shaybânî of the Hanafî school. We might safely say that it is the majority ruling. This ruling is supported by the following evidence:
1. There is no textual evidence giving a specific timeframe or time limit within which the Hajj must be undertaken. There is no text designating a specific year or a specific age. The lack of such specifications means that Hajj has a flexible timeframe. It must simply be undertaken at some time during a person’s life.
2. One of the strongest arguments in support of this view is the Prophet’s own practice. He did not undertake the Hajj immediately after its obligation had been revealed in the Qur’ân. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not undertake the Hajj until the year 10 AH.
Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Taymiyah counter this by arguing that Hajj was only made obligatory in the year 9 AH. However, there are a number of verses regarding the obligation of undertaking the Hajj that were most certainly revealed much earlier, like: “Complete the Hajj and the lesser pilgrimage for Allah.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 196] Admittedly, some scholars counter this by arguing that the verse only establishes the obligation of completing the Hajj once you have embarked upon it, not of undertaking the Hajj in the first place.
However, there is also a hadîth related by Anas b. Mâlik where a desert dweller came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the year 5 AH and the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed him to believe, offer the prayers, pay Zakâh, observe the fast, and undertake the Hajj to Allah’s sacred house. [Sahîh Muslim (12)] This is proof that Hajj was an obligation already established upon the Muslims by the fifth year after the Hijrah.
Even if we accept Ibn al-Qayyim’s view that Hajj was made obligatory only in the year 9 AH, this would still mean that the Prophet (peace be upon him) postponed his undertaking the Hajj for one year, since he only did so in 10 AH. [Sahîh Muslim (1218)]
Scholars have investigated the possible reasons why the Prophet (peace be upon him) postponed undertaking the Hajj until the year 10 AH, when he could easily have done so in the year 9 AH, and they have come up with different possibilities. Some say that he was busy with other matters. Others say that he avoided undertaking the Hajj while there were still polytheists in Mecca and a number of polytheistic rites that still needed to be removed. That is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent Abû Bakr and `Ali to Mecca in the year 9 AH and ordered them to announce that idolaters would not be allowed to perform Hajj from the following year and that it would be forbidden to perfom the Hajj rites naked, as had been the pagan practice. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (4363) and Sahîh Muslim (1347)] Thus, the Prophet (peace be upon him) hastened to Hajj in year 10 AH after these practices had been abolished.
Other scholars say the reason the Prophet delayed performing Hajj until the 10th year was that the Arabs in pre-Islamic times had corrupted the calendar by their practice of transpositioning months, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) waited for the 10th year when, by his own profession, he declared that the dates had righted themselves again. During his sermon at the Pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The reckoning of time has come around and returned to the way it had been on the day that Allah created the heavens and the Earth.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3197) and Sahîh Muslim (1679)] This means that in the previous year (9AH) the Hajj would actually not have been performed on the correct date. However, this is ulikely to be the reason for the Prophet’s delay, since the Prophet had also said that Hajj is on the day when the people make the Hajj. In other words, if the entire community is mistaken about the Hajj days, their Hajj will still be valid and accepted.
It appears that the real reason why the Prophet (peace be upon him) postponed undertaking the Hajj until the year 10 AH s his desire to make things easy on the people. His postponing the Hajj for at least a year clearly establishes through his very practice that Hajj does not become compulsory for a person to undertake immediately when that person is able to do so. There is flexibility in the timeframe.
The only exception to this is where a person is able to undertake the Hajj in a certain year and has good reason to believe that he or she will not be able to do so in the future, for instance, someone who is terminally ill. Such a person would be obligated to undertake the Hajj in that very year.
And Allah knows best.