When Does Performing the Pilgrimage Become a Duty?
The Holy Qur'an and the ahādīth clearly prescribe that the fulfillment of the pilgrimage is a duty to every mukallaf, if the following conditions are met.
The pilgrimage is one of the pillars of Islam; performing it is one of the most important responsibilities and neglecting it is a major sin. The denial of the obligatory nature of Hajj is kufr, unless this conclusion is based on erroneous evidence.
In Sūrah "The House of ´Imrān“ of the Holy Qur'an Allah says: "It is the duty of all men towards God to come to the House a pilgrim, if he is able to make his way there. As for the unbeliever, God is All-sufficient nor needs any being."
(The Holy Qur'an, 3:97, Translation of A. J. Arberry).
Sheikh Kulayni reported that Imam As-Sadiq (as) said, "Whoever dies without having performed the obligatory pilgrimage when he was not prevented by lack of means or by illness or force, dies as if he were a Jew or a Christian."
Indeed, there are many ahādīth that deal with the obligation and importance of the pilgrimage, but the brevity of this work does not permit us to go into all the details.
The performance of the pilgrimage as a religious ritual is a duty for every individual only once in their life; it is known as Hağğatu-l-Islām.
#1: The pilgrimage becomes a duty in the same year in which its pre-conditions are first met. If somebody fails to perform it then, they must do so in the following year. Delaying it without valid reason is a major sin.
#2: As soon as the pilgrimage becomes an obligation, the journey has to be arranged to ensure that the preparations are done early enough and that the ceremonies will be performed on time. If there are several groups that could be joined, and the pilgrim feels confident of being able to fulfill the rituals at the right time as a member of any of the groups, they may choose any of them; yet it is preferable to join the group that would definitely get them there in time.
#3: If someone becomes able to undertake the journey during a particular year, meaning that the pilgrimage has becomes an obligation, and they delay their departure because they are sure that they will make it in time, but then fail to do so, due to miscalculation, they are no longer obliged to perform the pilgrimage and they are excused. This applies for every pardonable delay.