What is Islam?
by James William Lovegrove (Habeeb-Ullah)
Pilgrimage to Mecca [Hajj]
This is obligatory only on those who can afford to perform it. Real spiritual advancement depends upon absolute divorcement from earthly concerns, and the institution of Pilgrimage in Islam came as a practical demonstration of how this can be done. The pilgrim not only leaves his home and those who are dear and near to him, but he divests himself when nearing the house of God, keeping only two sheets with him to cover his body.
When reaching the shrine, he walks round the House of God as a true lover would round the house of his beloved one. The shrine of Mecca is the oldest House known to humanity for the worship of one God. It existed before the time of Abraham.
The Prophet Muhammad was born at Mecca, at a time when this House of God was the worshipping place of idolaters, who had placed some three hundred and sixty-five idols in it, which were worshipped by them, each in its turn, on every day of the year. Idolatry continued until Mecca was conquered by the Prophet, who then purged the House of God of all the idols.
Muhammad was buried in Medina, a town one hundred and fifty miles from Mecca.
Jerusalem comes next to Mecca as a holy place.
A Muslim visits the tomb of the Prophet out of his respect and love for him; but not as a worshipper.