وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلًا
Pilgrimage to the House is a duty owed to God by all who can afford a way to it. (Al ‘Imrān 3:97)
Every kind and act of worship is gratitude to God in return for the bounties He has bestowed upon us; it is a practical response to them on our behalf. It is such a response that it is given only to Allāh and for His sake exclusively. Thus, Hājj, or Pilgrimage to the House of God in Makkah, is an expression of gratitude to God in return for both the bodily health and the property He has bestowed on us. Therefore, the person who intends to perform Hājj says: “I intend to perform Hājj for the sake of God.” Conveying this idea, the Qur’ān says: “wa li’llāhi ‘alan-nās” (a duty upon the people owed to God).
The Arabic word “li” (to) in the expression “li’llāhi” (to God) denotes deserving or having a right. The preposition “‘alā” (upon) in the expression of “‘alan-nās” (upon the people) states an obligation. Additionally, the definite article “al” (the) in the word “an-nās” (the people) points to certain people, thus referring to “those who can afford a way to it.” That is, pilgrimage to the Ka’bah is a duty upon the people: who are those people? They are those who have enough security of travel and the amount of provision that will suffice for them during their travel and for their families that they have left behind. If those people are women, they have to be accompanied with their husbands or close members of the family whom they cannot marry legally.
Furthermore, the use of “upon” in “upon the people” reminds us of the following point: There is more hardship in the worship of Pilgrimage than performing the daily Prayers and observing the fast. In addition to the hardships of travel, pilgrims spend a large amount of money. Besides, pilgrims leave their work, countries, and families behind them for a time. Thus, by using the preposition “upon,” the Qur’ān refers to all these hardships and indicates the weight or value of Hājj among all other acts of worship.
Apart from that, the word “istatā‘a” (afford) denotes fulfilling a duty or piece of work in a perfect way and in sincerity and total obedience. This requires the existence of will-power, capacity, and possibility. For this reason, the word “istatā‘a” is used to refer to power, capacity, and possibility, which it encompasses. The wide comprehension of this word has led scholars of Islamic jurisprudence to infer different meanings and legal conclusions from it, which has brought great good to Muslims.