Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and was made obligatory in the tenth, ninth or sixth year, according to different reports. In the tenth year, the Prophet r announced that he intended to perform hajj; this was the only time that he performed hajj after the migration to Madinah.
The Muslims came from all over the Arabian Peninsula to perform hajj with him. He left Madinah five days before the end of Dhul Qa`dah (a lunar month).
When he r halted in Arafat, the following verse was revealed to him:
"…This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…" (Holy Qur'an, 5:4)
The Muslims learned the rituals of the hajj from the Prophet r when he said:
"Take your rituals from me."
During this pilgrimage the Prophet r took the opportunity to inform the people the different laws pertaining to the Shari`ah and also gave them general advice as is summarised in the famous Sermon of Arafat.
For this reason, the scholars showed great interest in the farewell pilgrimage and derived many laws from it, dealing with the rituals of hajj as well as other matters, of which the books of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and Hadith explanation are full.
A large gathering of Muslims participated in the event and listened to the farewell sermon given by the Prophet r. Some of the scholars wrote books dealing specifically with the farewell pilgrimage.
During the sermon, the Prophet r said:
"Verily, your blood and your property are as sacred and inviolable as the sacredness of this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this land of yours.
"Behold! Everything pertaining to the days of ignorance is under my feet, completely abolished. Abolished also are the blood reprisals of the days of ignorance. The first claim of ours on blood reprisal which I abolish is that of the son of Rabi`ah ibn al-Harith. And the usury of the pre-Islamic period is abolished, and the first of our usury I abolish is that of `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib, for it is all abolished.
"Fear God concerning women! Verily, you have taken them on the security of God, and intercourse with them has been made lawful unto you by the words of God. You too have rights over them, and they should not allow anyone to sit on your bed that you do not like. But if they do that, you can chastise them but not severely. Their rights upon you are that you should provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner.
"I have left among you the Book of God, and if you hold fast to it you would never go astray. And you would be asked about me (on the day of resurrection), (now tell me) what would you say? They (the audience) said: 'We bear witness that you have conveyed (the message,) discharged (the ministry of Prophethood) and given wise (sincere) counsel.' He (the narrator) said: He r then raised his forefinger towards the sky and pointed it at the people (and said): 'O God, bear witness, O God, bear witness.'" [Muslim]
He r delivered another sermon at Mina, where he said, "Do not return to disbelief, killing one another, after I am gone." [Bukhari]
Some benefits of this Great Sermon:
1. Prohibition of the shedding of innocent blood and taking wealth without right, and Islam's stress on the protection of souls.
2. Nullification of the validity of actions done in the period of Jahiliyyah (the Ignorance Period before Islam.)
3. Prohibition of taking usury or interest, whether small or large. Allah, The Most High, says: "But if you repent, you may have your capital." [Holy Qur'an, 2:279]
4. Admonition to fulfil and give women their rights, and to deal with them in kindness. Many authentic ahadith have been reported in this regard, which elucidate their rights and warn against treating them unjustly.
5. Advice to strongly cling to the Book of Allah, in which lies the honour of Muslims and their victory. Likewise, the order to stick to the Sunnah, which explains the Qur'an. No doubt, the reason for the Muslims' weakness today is their abandoning of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger. There will be no victory for Muslims except by returning to these two sources.
6. Testimony of the Companions y that the Messenger of Allah r conveyed the message, discharged his trust and counselled the Ummah.
7. Order to take rituals of Hajj and other rituals from the Prophet's sayings, actions and tacit agreements.
8. Subtle indication that the Prophet's would pass away soon.
9. Warning against fighting and killing Muslims.