The Hajj is based on a pilgrimage that was earliest even in the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the 7th Century. It is believed that Hazrat Ibraheem (AS) was ordered by ALLAH Almighty to leave His wife Bibi Hajra and His infant son Hazrat Ismaeel (AS) alone in the desert. Though he was gone, the infant became thirsty, and Bibi Hajra (AS) ran back and forth about seven times in searching of water for her son Hazrat Ismaeel (AS). The angel Hazrat Jibraeel (AS) digs his foot or the tip of his wing along the ground, and water amazingly sprang out. This source of water is well known as the Well of Zamzam.
The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It is the major pilgrimage in the whole world, and is the last and the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious responsibility that should be carried out at least once in a lifetime by each and every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to perform it. The Hajj is an expression of the unity of the Muslim, and their submission to ALLAH Almighty.
The pilgrimage starts from the 8th to 12th day of Zil-Hijjah, the 12th and very last month of the Islamic calendar. Ihram is the name of getting in to the special state that Muslims have to carry while on the pilgrimage.
Prior to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) era, every year tribes from all across the Arabian Peninsula would unite on Makkah, as part of the pilgrimage. The precise imaan (faith) of the tribes was not important at that period, and Christian Arabs were as expected to make the pilgrimage same as the pagans. Muslim historians refer to the period before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as jahiliyyah, the “Days of Ignorance”, in which the Holy Kaaba contained hundreds of idols, totems of every of the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, with many idols of pagan gods such as Hubal, al-Lat, Manat, Al-‘Uzzá, and also several representing Mary (Maryam) and Jesus (Isa).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was known to often perform the Umrah, even before Prophet (PBUH) began receiving revelations. Traditionally, Muslims would meet at different meeting points in other big cities, and then carry on towards Makkah, in groups that might contain tens of thousands of pilgrims. Two of the most well-known meeting points were in Damascus and Cairo.
In 631 CE, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) led his followers from city Medina to Makkah, it was the initial Hajj that is to be performed by Muslims unaccompanied. Prophet (PBUH) cleansed the Holy Kaaba and destroyed all the idols and also re-ordained the structure as the house of ALLAH Almighty. Performing Hajj was a dangerous journey for early pilgrims; Ibn Jubair noted the skeletons of the pilgrims who had died and lost their lives because of thirst during the sacred journey.