A Muslim spends their time, with both their belief and worship, in a continuous and widespread jihad (struggle), thus Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) qualified both the hajj and umrah (greater and lesser pilgrimages) as "jihad without conflict". Reported by Imam Bukhari, Aisha related: "I once asked the Prophet "O messenger of Allah, we (the women folk) consider that jihad is the best deed; why then may we not go forth and fight in the cause of Allah?" The Prophet answered: "The best form of jihad in the cause of Allah for you is the hajj (pilgrimage), which is free from all vices and defects." (1)
According to this report there is no mention of umrah while hajj is given the attribute of "the most esteemed"; the same was also reported by Nasa'i. (2)
This declaration of Prophet Muhammad makes it quite clear that hajj is equal to jihad.
As we learn from another hadith: "The head of faith is Islam, its support is salat (prayer) and the peak is jihad" (3). The term jihad does not always refer to war; rather it refers to any difficult or strenuous process. In this light, the rituals of the hajj and umrah are seen as forms of jihad. It is clear that all Muslims have the chance and responsibility to perform this type of jihad. One day a Muslim complained of his own weakness and cowardice to the Prophet: "You may go on a jihad that involves no fighting; that is the hajj" (4). With this Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made it clear that even though some members of the community are not able to physically participate in wars there is another kind of jihad in which they can partake.
Hajj is also an effective form of teblih (communication), which is of great importance, as Muslims endure the hardship of a long journey and join together to perform the hajj. While it is possible to use one's wealth for comfort or pleasure, the pilgrims choose to use their means to obey Allah's order and put their lives and belongings at risk to go on hajj. Without any violence, people of different races, tribes and backgrounds are united together. All have the same belief; all use the same words and this unarmed army of mujahid (warriors) will certainly portray a message to the hearts of the disbelievers. When it is the time for hajj the entire world has a chance to see these unarmed mujahids; such efforts cannot be in vain.
Challenging evil with their actions, the worship of the hajj is established on peace and is a form of education that helps protect oneself from harm. The ihram (the pilgrim's robe) is the garment of soldiers who are not at war and its foundation is "Reverence to Allah and compassion to the creation."
Living As a Community
Circumambulating the house of Allah, the voices of the pilgrims who are chanting the creed of unification can be heard throughout the world. The hajj allows Muslims from all over the world and from large communities to come together for sacred objectives. This is one of the main reasons why the pilgrim desires to go on hajj a second or a third time; it is the community as a whole sharing a spiritual existence; or to put it another way, it is the feeling of "living as a community" that makes the greatest impact.
Discipline and Education
The foundations of an army are discipline, submission and sacrifice. If these are not present then arms and education make no sense. "Jihad without conflict" itself is a form of discipline and requires sacrifice. Unarmed and harmless, the pilgrims present their greatness and they will be esteemed if disciplined; for the undisciplined there is a heavy burden to carry. The desired result depends mainly on preparation; there can be no doubt that educating oneself will prevent error and will in turn give much greater spiritual pleasure. According to a hadith: "A person who performs the pilgrimage during which they neither indulge in lewdness or abuse returns (from the pilgrimage duly purified) as if newly born that very day" (5). In the same way that an individual is in need of education to attain the results they are striving for, the community is also in need of more extensive education.
The Media is Essential
On the other hand, if we take into consideration the live broadcasts on television of this "jihad without conflict" we can see the importance of the pilgrimage; experts from all over the world comment on Prophet Muhammad's farewell sermon, showing the people of the world who are in search of peace that Islam offers an environment full of peace and pleasure. Reminding people of their duties and the existence of Allah, such information may well be the savior of many and this, essentially, is the main aim of the jihad.