The Hajj is a pilgrimage to the Ka'aba in Mecca, the holiest site in the Islamic world. This ritual however is truly pre-Islamic, when tribes all across the Arabian peninsula would forget their tribal feuding and converge upon the city for worship and trade. This practice originated amongst the pagan Arabs but was not exclusive to them, as Christian and Jewish tribes would also join the pagans in festivities, trading of goods and worship. The pagans of Mecca even included images of Mary, Jesus and Abraham in the Ka'aba to attract the attention of the other faiths, displaying that Christianity and Judaism in pre-Islamic Arabia often enjoyed a syncretic relationship with the native polytheistic animism of the region. It is noted too, that the pagan Arabs would shave their heads whilst on the hajj to the various shrines near Mecca and Yathrib.
Janazah is the Arabic term for burial practices, or 'funeral'. In pre-Islamic Arabia, rites associated with mourning were called al-Niyaha ('the Lamentations') which Arab women performed by shaving their heads, scratching their faces and tearing their clothes whilst wailing and shrieking loudly; the latter being said to drive away evil spirits from the corpse of the deceased. An Arab man who was a member of the deceased's family would perform niyaha by wearing sackcloth or some other coarse material and spreading sand on their heads: what this symbolized is unclear but it important to note that this ritual is indentical to that of the Hebrews and also the people of Ugarit. Grave goods were often buried with the deceased and in the case of pagan sheikhs, a camel would be tethered at the grave and left to starve so that it would accompany the sheikh to the afterlife (akhirah). Poets often expressed that they wished for the graves of their loved ones to be "refreshed with abundant rain".
'Labbayka j'al dhunubanā jubār, wa-hdinā li-awdahi al-manār, wa-matti'nā wa-mallinā bi-Jihār.'
'At thy service, let our trespasses be unpunished; lead us towards the clearest signpost; let us enjoy life for a long time and let us live long through Jihār.'
In pagan Arabia, the sa'ibah was an animal dedicated to a god that was left to pasture without attention. The mother of the bahirah (she-camel), after ten successful births the sa'ibah was not ridden or milked and was allowed to wander where she wished - becoming the sole property of the god whose shrine she wandered near. Muhammad ibn Abd-'Allah, prophet of Islam, vehemently condemned and outlawed the practice of sa'ibah, wasilah, bahirah and hamiyah.
The pagan Arabians would offer qurban to a deity in a very simplistic manner, addressing their gods and invoking them with a short prayer and then by spilling the blood of the animal on the altar, allotting portions of the sacrificed animals meat among the tribe. The god would be satisfied with the blood alone. Sacrificial offerings to the gods in pre-Islamic Arabia were not always of blood: the Arabs would often offer libations of milk, oil or wine; the first of the harvest (farā'i); incense; and expensive ornaments, to please the deity.
The altars of the pagan Najdi and Hijazi nomads were usually made of solid rock or built out of unhewn stone - the harshness of the desert steppe and the practical mindset of the Bedouin preventing the construction of more extravagant stone temples like those in Tayma and the kingdoms of the Yemen. This humble form of sacrifice was also the earliest among the Semitic peoples, originating with nomadic Hebrew and Arab tribes and continuing through with the Bedouin until the spread of Islam in the 6th century AD. In the sacred open air enclosure (haram) where sacrifices were offered, only the ritually clean and unarmed could enter to worship the baetyl or statue of the god installed there with worship being accompanied by music; clapping; dancing; whistling and prostrating before the enshrined god or goddess.
On a related matter, the practice of qurban was also shared by the cousins of the Arabs: the Midianites, Hebrews and Edomites to the north-west of the Arabian peninsula who would offer a sacrifice of an animal (or very rarely a human) at the infamous High Places attested to in the Hebrew Bible. The sedentary peoples of Yemen, Mecca and the north Arabian oases practised qurban too, but on a more complicated scale with established temples and a priesthood (kuhaniyyah), though the original spiritual concepts of supplication and placation were still maintained.
Barakah in pre-Islamic Arabian thought is a term used to denote a blessing or a benevolent force that is generated from a god or goddess, which could be gained by various means including invocations; sacrifice; talismans; offerings of gifts to the deity, and by completing rituals such as the hajj pilgrimage.The Arabian barakah is equal in concept to the Hebrew berakhah and denoted any sanctifying power. In Islamic belief, however, Allah is the only source of barakah.
Tahannuth is the pre-Islamic Arabian term used to denote devotional religious practices that were performed by the pagan Quraysh either during the hajj pilgrimage or on the month of Ramadan. The rites included various acts of charity such as feeding the poor and freeing slaves, in addition to mystical rites (manasik): the main of which involved undertaking a sojourn ('ukuf) to the shrines (masajid) and high places in the mountains of Mecca, where for one night they would dwell, and offer prayers (du'a), fast, and meditate in the presence of gods and spirits. The tahannuth concluded with the devotees returning back to Mecca from their retreat at the shrines and circumambulating the Ka'aba seven times in a week, in veneration of the seven planets of antiquity. The various retreats where the pagan Arabs would perform their rites included shrines located at Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.