Hajj revolves around the life of Ibrahim AS, one of the five great Messengers of Allah. From a very young age, Ibrahim AS rejected the commonly held pagan custom of worshipping idols and false deities. At the time, this beloved messenger was the only monotheistic and true believer on earth who committed himself to worship none other than the one true God, Allah SWT. Later, Ibrahim AS was married to a woman named Sarah, who left a legacy of faith and devotion towards her husband and towards his mission of spreading the message of Allah to humanity.
Imagine the heart of a father and husband and the emotional pull that Ibrahim AS must have felt; but the order of Allah had to be fulfilled. The story is told by Prophet Muhammad SAW in these beautiful words and can be found in Sahih Al-Bukhari:
Abdullah Ibn Abbas RA narrates that the Prophet SAW said:
Prophet Ibrahim AS brought Hajar and their infant son Ismaeel AS while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-Zam. During those days there was nobody in Makkah, nor was there any water. So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward (towards Jerusalem). Hajar followed Ibrahim AS saying, "O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to eat or drink)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Prophet Ibrahim AS proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the direction of the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
"Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful." (Al-Quran 14:37)
Ismail’s mother went on suckling Ismail and drinking from the water (she had). When all the water in the water-skin had been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ismail) tossing in agony. She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times.
She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada. They landed in the lower part of Makkah where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ismail’s mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, 'Do you allow us to stay with you?' She replied, 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that." The Prophet further said, "Ismail’s mother was pleased with the whole situation. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there.
What would you do?
How grounded was her faith and what level of decency did it give her that she neither questioned her husband’s sanity nor her fate, rather relied entirely on Allah SWT.
The ritual of S’aee—run between Safa and Marwa—is symbolic to Hajar’s search for help for her child; and the help only came when she realized her inability and completely surrendered to the will of Allah SWT. Allah wants us to re-live those moments of agony and desperation of Hajar. He SWT wants us to remember that His help is right there and all we need to do is realize our weakness and His strength and surrender to His will. If this understanding is not developed in us, then the wisdom of this ritual is lost and it will have no resonance in our souls.
The struggle of the entire family to remain faithful and surrender to Allah was again tested when Ismail AS reached boyhood. Ibrahim AS had occasionally visited his family in Makkah and had begun to develop attachment for Ismail as he became a young man. It is very natural for a father to develop a sense of belonging and pride as his son reaches adulthood and begins to share his responsibilities and understandings. What was not normal in this case was the status of Ibrahim AS with Allah SWT.
Allah SWT had chosen Ibrahim to be His friend and one of the qualities of Allah SWT is Al-Ghayyur (jealous). When He SWT loves someone, He does not like to share that person’s heart with anyone else. Therefore came the order of sacrifice of Ismail AS!
This event leaves our minds and hearts baffled because we are so far away from the concept of utter and absolute surrender to Allah SWT. We do not know how to detach our emotions from our rationality and accept the reality. The absolute reality being the fact that Allah SWT knows what is best and our knowledge is nothing compared to His.
When Ibrahim AS was on his way to sacrifice his son, Shaytaan appeared to him and questioned his decision, at which Ibrahim AS picked up a handful of dust and threw it at him to dissuade his attempts. Shaytaan repeated the same trick twice more with Hajar and Ismail who both did what Ibrahim AS had done. And this is the origin of the practice of stoning of Shaytaan called Rami-Jamarat during Hajj.
Allah SWT wants us to relive that resolve while performing the ritual—to do the right thing despite the temptations and difficulties! Allah SWT wants us to make du’a for strength and the zeal to stand up to our weaknesses and the shortcomings in our lives.
Ibrahim AS actually went on to slaughter his son who was replaced at the last moment by a ram from the heaven as Allah SWT did not want Ismail AS to be slaughtered, rather He SWT wanted to slaughter the attachment for Ismail in his father’s heart.
We are much lower than Ibrahim AS in our spiritual ranking and Allah SWT by His mercy never tests a person more than he can bear. Allah SWT will surely give us tests which will require us to sacrifice something that is dear to us. It is the ability to sacrifice for the pleasure of Allah that secures guidance for a believer.
Say, [O Muhammad], "If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people." (At-Tauba 9: 24)
Something noteworthy in the story of Ibrahim AS and his family is that every member of the family played his/her own role instead of questioning the other. This is the manifestation of reality of Iman—the understanding that you are responsible for your own deeds, not someone else’s. This is something that is missing from the ummah today.
Isn’t that what Sarah and Hajar did for their husband Ibrahim AS? Wasn’t this the cause of Prophet SAW’s love for Khadija RA, even long after her death? When questioned about this love, Prophet SAW summed up the secret of it for generations to come in the following words:
“She believed in me when no one else did; she accepted Islam when people rejected me; and she helped and comforted me when there was no one else to lend me a helping hand.”
There is no reason that anyone following this example will not be able to achieve the same results.
My message to the young people is to seriously ponder these following questions:
As for the parents, it is about time they stop treating their children as possessions and start seeing them as trusts from Allah, like Ibrahim and Hajar did!
All parents should consider these questions:
Before anyone can really answer these questions, they need to ask themselves the most important of all questions: How do I gain the love and pleasure of Allah SWT?
The answer to this is very simple! You go to Qur’an and Hadith and see what Allah loves. There are many characteristics and actions that Allah SWT loves and if you try to achieve or inculcate even a few of these InshaAllah, by the will of Allah, you will achieve the love and pleasure of Allah.
The ultimate legacy is to leave this duniya with the love of Allah and a message for the benefit of mankind. This message is to believe in the Creator, to worship Him, and try to love and please Him with all our actions. He in turn will love and please us in this life, at the moment of death and life after death. This is the ultimate success and the ultimate legacy!
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