We are now in the final month of the Islamic calendar which is Dhul Hijja. And we all know the significance of this month, in that Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala has prescribed upon the believers the pilgrimage to Makkah. We read in the Quran that when Ibrahim (AS) had constructed the house of Allah, Allah had instructed him saying:
Wa adhdhin finnasi bil-Hajji
Proclaim the pilgrimage amongst humanity
In a tradition narrated by at-Tabari, it is mentioned that Ibrahim (AS) replied that how can I proclaim the call to all of humanity when my voice cannot travel to the far extents of the earth. And it’s related that Allah had the mountains humble themselves and the earth was rendered flat in its entirety and the voice of Ibrahim (AS) carried to every corner of the world and at that time those who were destined to respond, their response was sealed.
So all of humanity has this right to make the pilgrimage and as Muslims we have been instructed in those rights. They are the reenactment of universal Prophetic history, universal in the sense that they are not just rights established by our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) rather they are reenacting rights associated with the life of Ibrahim (AS), with the life of Ismail (AS), with the life of Hajar (AS) and their struggle to establish themselves in that barren land.
Hajj – Reenactment of our Journey to Hereafter
The Hajj in a way is the preparation for death in the sense that when we die, we leave our home, we leave our possessions, we leave our family members and we leave all of our worldly attachments. And Hajj is a reenactment of that journey to the hereafter. We leave our homes, we leave our relatives, we leave our worldly possessions and we go to a far off land. And then we wrap ourselves in two white unsown garments which are very similar to the burial shrouds that we would eventually be wrapped in. Then with no worldly distractions, we are divorced from our family, divorced from familiar surroundings and we give ourselves to Allah. This is a very powerful experience for us because one of the things that often times limits our progress is that the soul is in familiar environments. And those familiar environments tie our soul to this world and that in turn limits our spiritual progress and growth. So when we are at the hajj, in that unfamiliar environment, the spiritual realities that are in existence and that often times we are oblivious to, manifest themselves to us.
Impact of Hajj on our Lives
Now if we are successful in freeing ourselves from matters that distract us from Allah, the experience of performing the Hajj can have a tremendous impact on our lives and can bring about deep transformations in us. We may have witnessed people transform before our eyes but one of the accounts that I guess we all can relate to in the context of North America is that of Malcolm X. We all know that Malcolm X lived in a time in which the society was deeply entrenched in the thralls of racism. His father was brutally murdered when he was still a child; then he saw his mother driven insane by the pressures of the racist system. He saw his own aspirations of becoming a lawyer denied by a white school teacher who suggested instead that he would be better off taking up some lowly profession. He saw the street life and the prison life of America and the racism and negativity associated with them. Then he became part of a movement that was predicated on a reverse racist agenda, that of black supremacy and white inferiority. This movement had a very deep and profound effect on his life. Now after living through all that experience he visited Makkah to perform pilgrimage. And when we got there he saw all of these races, literally from every corner of the earth coming together in total brotherhood, no hostilities, no violence, complete brotherhood. This was an overwhelming experience for him considering his background and it brought about this transformation in him.
Hajj – Aspiring towards Ideals
Now one may argue that this was a very idealistic representation of the Muslim world. That it’s not like that in real, and it only occurs there in Makkah during the Hajj season. But we must understand that it is the ideal of human beings that raise us to a higher level. By aspiring towards ideals we are able to create a better reality so even if it doesn’t attain to the ideal, at least it approximates it. But when we can no longer aspire, what hope do we have as human beings.
So while the brotherhood displayed during Hajj may not be truly reflective of our societies, it certainly is a demonstration of what it can be. So it is the realization of human potential and the realization of Islam that has had such a profound impact on the lives of so many people. And for Malcolm too, the impact was overwhelming.
As Muslims, it’s very important to carry the lesson of brotherhood and humility that we learn from Hajj.
One time during the time of Hajj, Uthman ibn Affan and Ibn Masood went to perform Hajj. When they got to Mina, in Mina you are supposed to shorten your prayers. So Uthman decided that he was going to pray either Zuhr or Asr four rak’as. So Ibn Masood came to him and said “I performed Hajj with the Prophet (SAW) and when he got to this place, he prayed two ruk’as only. So do as the Prophet (SAW) did. Uthman ibn Affan was of a different opinion and he decided that he would lead the believers to pray four rak’as instead of two. So Uthman lead the prayers and Ibn Masood prayed behind him. When the prayers were over, a group of people came to Ibn Masood and said to him, “we thought that you said that you prayed behind the Prophet (SAW) two rak’as and not four rak’as. Maybe you should have waited for the prayer to be over and then you should have prayed your prayers two rak’as only. Then Ibn Masood said:
Ya ayuhannas isma’u. Qasrus salati Sunnah wajtima’ul muslimeena fareeda fala tutrakus Sunnah min ajlil ithyanil bil fareeda.
“O people listen. Shortening your prayers is a Sunnah; the unity of the muslims is an obligation. You do not perform the Sunnah at the expense of an obligation.”
So in the same spirit, we too should put our hands together and endeavor to reflect this spirit of hajj into our community.
Ibrahim (AS)’s Sacrifice
We mentioned earlier that Hajj is essentially the reenactment of the rights associated with the life of Ibrahim (AS). And Ibrahim (AS) is described in the scriptures as being the embodiment of sacrifice. When Ibrahim (AS) was asked to sacrifice his son Ismail (AS); Ismail (AS) had reached the age that a father looks forward to, to begin to share his experience with and to teach him his life’s works. At that point Ibrahim (AS) sees in his dream that he’s sacrificing his son.
Now the Quranic narration of the story is very beautiful for several reasons. One of these is that it imparts several lessons that are very valuable to us as families. Allah Subhanahu wata’ala says:
Falamma balagha ma’hus sa’ya qaala yaa bunayya inni araa fil manami anni azbahuka fanzur mazaa taraa.
And when he was old enough to go about and work with him, Ibrahim said to him: My son, I see in my dream that I am slaughtering you. So consider and tell me what you think.
First of all Ibrahim consulted his child. And consultation is something that we should endeavor to introduce into our families. We shouldn’t just impose orders on our children; rather we should consult them, due to the fact that we want our children to carry the spirit of consultation in their adulthood which is a very important part of Islam.
Now the son having heard the news didn’t respond to his father by saying “Dad, I’m too young to die, or why me?”
Qaala yaa abatif’al maa to’mar. satajidonee insha Allahu minas sabireen
He said: O my father do as you are bidden. You will find me, if Allah so wills, amongst those who are steadfast.
That’s a beautiful response. And in this is a very valuable lesson for our young brothers and sisters. In these days and time for whatever reason, many times they do not think
§ about the burdens their parents are dealing with
§ about some of the challenges their parents are facing
§ and they do not look for ways to make things easier on their parents
So in the spirit of Hajj and in the spirit of Isma’il, who is willing to give his life and willing to persevere the difficulties involved in that decision, we should reflect upon this very important lesson for the young people just as Ibrahim’s consultation to his son was a very good lesson for the adults.
Yet another lesson we learn from Ibrahim (AS)’s story is that of perseverance in the path of Allah. It was the patience of both Ibrahim & Ismail that led to the lifting of the trial that they had been exposed to.
When the two of them had submitted
Qad saddaqtar ru’iya. Inna kazalika najzil muhsineen
You fulfilled the vision. Thus do we save those who are true and sincere in their worship.
So we’re going to be tried in this life to see how we respond to these trials. And we need to respond with patience, perseverance and wisdom. And by doing so the trial is lifted. That’s the nature of this life. And our response to these trials determines how we are going to live in the real life, which is the life to come in the hereafter.
Trials as Atonement to our Sins
Now regardless of the nature of the trial, those who make it through these trials successfully, these trials serve as atonement for their sins. Everything that we do in this world or everything we pursue in this world, no matter what it brings to us in terms of worldly compensation and remunerations, if it brings us wealth, if it brings us gold, beach homes, or yachts and fancy cars or whatever form of compensation, if we leave this world carrying the burden of our sins, then nothing in this world was worth it. And if on the other hand, we leave this world and we have no worldly possessions, we don’t have any cars or homes, and we don’t have large bank accounts, we have none of that but if we leave this world with our sins forgiven, that’s the greatest thing we can ask for.
The next few days of Dhul Hijjah contain “Yawm-ul-Arafah”, which is the 9th of Dhul Hijjah and “Yawm-un-Nahr”, the day of sacrifice, the 10th of Dhul Hijjah. Both of these days are of tremendous importance. Especially the 9th of Dhul Hijjah since that is the only individual day that the fasting on which atones for the sins of two years, that for the previous year and also of the coming year.
It is related in Muslim that Ayesha (RA) reported that the messenger of Allah said:
Ma min yawmin akthara min ainy ya’tiqallahu fihi a’bdan minan naari min yawmi a’arafa
There is no day on which Allah sets free more slaves from Hell than He does on the day of A’rafah.
The only day that rivals this is the last day of Ramadan. And it is said that Eid-ul-Fitr is the celebration for those who have been liberated from the hell fire during Ramadan and Eid-ul-Adha is the celebration for those who have been liberated from the hell fire on the day of A’rafah. So this is a blessed time and it’s a time we should not be negligent about, it’s a time that we should turn away from our worldly pursuits and reattach ourselves to the Quran and renew our enthusiasm for zikr of Allah (SWT).
The day of Eid serves as a reminder for us; to submit to the commands of Allah. No matter wherever we are and whatever condition we are in, when the command of Allah reaches us, the response of our hearts must be that of complete submission.
We pray that all the brothers and sisters who have gone for Hajj this year that Allah accepts from them and returns them safely to their families. We pray to Allah that He accepts our sacrifices from us and that He makes our sacrifices atonement for our sins.