The word Hajj means, literally, repairing to a place for the sake of visit (al-qasd li-ziyarah), and in the terminology of the Islamic Shari'ah, it implies the repairing to Bait-Allah (the house of Allah) to observe the necessary devotion (iqamat-an-li-nusuk) Bait-Allah is one of the names by which the Ka'ba is called.
Hajj is not a new institution which Islam has introduced in its Shari'ah. This institution is as old as the Ka'ba itself which is called in the Holy Qur'an to be" the first House of Divine Worship appointed for men" (iii. 95). This verse of the Holy Qur'an corroborates the hadith which tells us that the Ka'ba was first built by Adam, the first man upon the earth. It was later on rebuilt by Hadrat Ibrahim and his illustrious son Hadrat Isma'il (peace be upon both of them). And when Ibrahim and Isma'al raised the foundations of the house, they said:" Our Lord! accept from us" (ii. 127). An earlier revelation makes it clear that the Ka'ba was already there when Hadrat Ibrahim left Hadrat Isma'il in the wilderness of Arabia:" Our Lord! I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley unproductive of fruit near Thy sacred House" (xiv. 37).
The whole ceremony of Hajj is commemorative of Hadrat Ibrahim and his family's acts of devotion to God Almighty. This shows that the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) did not innovate this institution but purged it of all evil practices and made it an obligatory act of piety by which one can develop God-consciousness.
It is rightly said that it is the perfection of faith since it combines in itself all the distinctive qualities of other obligatory acts. It represents the quality of salat since a pilgrim offers prayers in the Ka'ba, the House of the Lord. It encourages the spending of material wealth for the sake of the Lord, the chief characteristic of Zakat. When a pilgrim sets out for Hajj, he dissociates himself from his hearth and home, from his dear and near ones to please the Lord. He suffers privation and undertakes the hardship of journey-the lessons we learn from fasting and i'tikaf. In Hajj one is trained to be completely forgetful of the material comforts and show of worldly thing. One has to sleep on stony ground, circumambulate the Ka'ba, run between Safa and Marwa and spend his night and day wearing, only two pieces of unsewn cloth. He is required to avoid the use of oil or scent or any other perfume. He is not even allowed to get his hair cut or trim his beard. In short, he is commanded to abandon everything for the sake of Allah and submit himself before his Lord, the ultimate aim of the life of a Muslim. In fact, physical pilgrimage is a prelude to spiritual pilgrimage to God, when man would bid goodbye to everything of the world and present himself before Him as His humble servant saying:" Here I am before Thee, my Lord, as a slave of Thine."
"Down through the ages." says Professor Hitti, "this institution has continued to serve as the major unifying influence in Islam and the most effective common bond among the diverse believers. It rendered almost every capable Moslem perforce a traveller for once in his lifetime. The socializing influence of such a gathering of the brotherhood of believers from the far quarters of the earth is hard to overestimate. It afforded opportunity for negroes, Berbers, Chinese, Persians, Syrians, Turks-rich and poor, high and low-to fraternize and meet together on the common ground of faith" (History of the Arabs, p. 136).