Ḥajj: a Lesson of a Lifetime
As the month of Dhū ’l-Ḥijjah arrives once again, millions of fortunate Muslims from every corner of the world will undertake the journey of a lifetime; fulfilling their obligation of Ḥajj. In a display of annihilating the self, they replace all exterior symbols of individuality, affluence and image with two simple anonymous sheets of cloth. All accents and languages are unified with the chorus of the talbiyah, proclaiming one message in one language. In their quest for divine acceptance and ultimately forgiveness, the pilgrims complete rites and rituals which signify the re-enactment of profound historical events that hold significant and enduring lessons, which are to be engrained into the remainder of their lives.
A life-changing experience if the Ḥajj is performed correctly, with the right intention and understanding, these countless lessons include lessons of sacrifice, patience, equality and simplicity, to name a few. However, with the overwhelming majority of the ummah not being physically present for the Ḥajj, what lessons can they derive in their respective countries during this blessed period, such that they too can change their lives for the better?
The Most Distinguished Quality of Ibrāhīm.
If we reflect on the origins of the rites of Ḥajj, we find that the basis of many of them rest in pivotal moments and events from the life of the Prophet Ibrāhīm. These moments and events have been immortalised by Allāh ﷻ through their inclusion as rites of Ḥajj till the Day of Judgement for a reason. They represent some of the greatest demonstrations of human potential and achievement in the face of some of the most challenging examinations. All of the character traits and achievements of the Prophet Ibrāhīm are worthy of mention, and indeed several have been by Allāh ﷻ Himself in the Qurʾān. However, there is one quality, in particular, that is common to all of these events and is recognised by the ʿUlamāʾ as being the most distinguishing quality of Ibrāhīm. The Qurʾān has beautifully captured this quality in the following verse:
“And when his Lord said to him, “Submit!” He said, “I submit to the Lord of all the worlds.”
The level of submission demonstrated by the Prophet Ibrāhīm, and indeed members of his immediate family, transcends the dictates of human intellect and emotion. His initial contact with the area that would one day become Makkah and host the Ka‘bah, consisted of travelling there with his wife Hājar and their infant, Ismāʿīl. Upon arrival, they found a valley void of any vegetation and water. Ibrāhīm u submitted fully to the instructions of Allāh ﷻ leaving his family there in a vulnerable state as there were no sustainable means of survival, purely in the trust of his Lord. As he turned and walked away, suppressing all emotions and reasoning, his wife followed him, incessantly repeating whether he was abandoning them in this barren land; to which he remained silent. Finally, when she asked whether Allāh ﷻ had ordered him to do this and he affirmed it, she immediately submitted and putting all rationality to one side proclaimed with complete composure, “In which case Allāh ﷻ will not let us perish.”
Like Father – Like Son
Another example of the total submission to the commands of Allāh ﷻ by Ibrāhīm, along with his son Ismāʿīl, is preserved in the ritual of the stoning of the Jamarāt in Minā and the subsequent sacrifice of an animal.
The incident has been succinctly captured in the Qurʾān, from the time when Ibrāhīm prayed for a son:
“O my Lord, bless me with a righteous son.” So, We gave him the good news of a forbearing boy. Thereafter, when he [the boy] reached an age in which he could work with him, he [Ibrāhīm] said, “O my little son, I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you, so consider, what is your opinion?” He said, “O my dear father, do what you have been ordered to do. You will find me, InShāʾAllāh, one of those who endure patiently.” So, when both of them submitted themselves [to Allāh’s will], and he laid him on his forehead [to slaughter him], and then We called out to him, “O Ibrāhīm, you did make the dream come true.” This is how We reward those who are good in their deeds.”
After requesting and being granted a son at such a late stage in his life, Ibrāhīm’s loyalty and submission were again examined by Allāh ﷻ as he was ordered to slaughter his son. A son who was now capable of supporting his father. A son in whom the father had vested great hopes and ambitions; through whom the inheritance of ʿilm and nubuwwah could be passed on. Once again, Ibrāhīm confirmed his allegiance and submitted fully to the injunction of Allāh ﷻ, casting aside any conflicting feelings and attachments, and also found in his young son the same zeal; submitting without any resistance. On route to the appointed place of sacrifice, Shayṭān appeared in front of him in order to prevent him from fulfilling the command. Ibrāhīm, remaining firm and focussed on carrying out the instruction, brushed aside the whisperings of Shayṭān and pelted him with stones. Shayṭān appeared before him three times in total; almost as though Shayṭān knew the gravity of the human success that was about to be achieved and how this success would be acclaimed by Allāh ﷻ; by making the Qurbānī an act of attaining Allāh’s ﷻ pleasure for both the pilgrim and non-pilgrim alike, until the end of time.
The Essence of Dīn
Therefore, the greatest lesson we can all take from the Ḥajj and the events and personalities behind it is to bring complete submission to the commands of Allāh ﷻ into our lives. This is precisely the meaning of the word Islām and as such, is the fundamental concept which forms the essence of the whole Dīn.
Islām in Arabic, derived from the three letter root SA-LI-MA, means to submit and surrender. When applied in the Sharī‘ah, it refers to submitting one’s own will, desires and aspirations, to the will of Allāh ﷻ. Interestingly this is the same word used by Allāh ﷻ in the Qurʾān when He ordered Ibrāhīm to submit and also when He refers to both Ibrāhīm and Ismāʿīl submitting to carry out the sacrifice as mentioned in the verses above. In another place, Allāh ﷻ uses the word SILM when ordering the believers to enter fully into the teachings of Islam:
The submission required on our behalf is a total and holistic one; not one compromised by what our intellects can rationalise nor one subject to the dictates of our whims and desires. In fact, the greatest display of intellect is recognising and accepting the limitations of one’s intelligence and the demands of our base desires, followed by submitting to the intelligence and commands of the All-Knowing, the All-Wise; the One free from all imperfections. Thus, whether the injunction conforms to what we perceive as acceptable and reasonable in this ‘age of enlightenment’ or what our emotions demand, is inconsequential.
There is no doubt that we believe Allāh ﷻ is the Most Wise and thus there must be wisdom and benefit for us in each and every ruling of Islam. However, it is not necessary that we are able to identify the benefit or wisdom, nor do we base our compliance on being able to understand why we are commanded to fulfil a particular instruction. In any given ruling there are two aspects:
i. ʿillah – the cause or reason that triggers the ruling to become binding; and
ii. ḥikmah – the wisdom behind the ruling.
It is very possible that a ruling becomes binding upon a person and they carry out the dictates of that ruling, however, the wisdom behind the ruling is not achieved for whatever reason. In this case, the ruling will still have to be fulfilled just as equally as where along with the ruling the wisdom is also being achieved. To understand this point through our daily experience, take the example of stopping at a red light. The cause that triggers the ruling of stopping at a traffic light is when the light appears red. The wisdom behind this ruling is to regulate traffic and prevent collisions. The wisdom of this can be easily understood and achieved when there is heavy traffic. However, if in the middle of the night when no other cars are in sight, a person would still be required by the law to stop at a red light. The reason for stopping is the red light and not avoiding a collision.
In a similar manner, this is what is required of us; to execute each and every ruling of Islam when the reason for the ruling has been triggered, regardless of the wisdom. Notwithstanding this, it should be noted that many scholars of Islām have reflected deeply regarding the wisdoms behind the rulings and although the rulings are not based upon these, knowing them can increase one’s certainty and Faith.
Just as we should not let our intellect determine which aspects of the Sharīʿah we will follow, nor should we let our desires determine our actions. Adherence to the Sharīʿah will always lead to the pleasure of Allāh ﷻ and reward even if on the apparent we appear to be forsaking an action carrying a great reward. Take the example of performing Ḥajj. The Prophet ﷺ has stated:
“There is no reward for an accepted Ḥajj except Jannah.”
The ruling of Sharīʿah is a lady must not travel without a maḥram. Thus, in the absence of a suitable maḥram the dictate of the Sharīʿah is not to perform the Ḥajj. If however, overwhelmed by emotion and the desire to achieve the reward of Ḥajj, a lady violates this injunction and travels unaccompanied, then rather than gaining the reward of Jannah she will be disobeying Allāh ﷻ.
We must ask ourselves the question; is my concept of Islām based on what can be rationally explained or what my emotions demand, or is it based upon full compliance with some select commands while openly violating others? If this is the case then we need to question ourselves: am I submitting to Islām or is Islām submitting to me?
Acting Upon the Complete Dīn
We must submit to the Dīn fully and submit to the full Dīn. The full Dīn comprises of five branches: ʿAqāʾid (beliefs), ʿIbādāt (worship), Muʿāmalāt (contractual transactions), Muʿāsharah (social etiquettes) and Ḥusn all-Khuluq (praiseworthy character). Allāh ﷻ has warned us against only following the parts of Dīn that we are comfortable with, as the Qurʾān states:
In order to fully submit to the commands of Allāh ﷻ it is essential for us to firstly seek the necessary knowledge that will allow us to understand the commands that are specifically applicable to our individual circumstances in all of the branches of Dīn. Put simply, whatever situation we find ourselves in on a day-to-day basis we must know the Islāmic ruling regarding that matter. For example, if we are a husband, neighbour, employee or buying and selling on the internet, then it is necessary for us to know all the rulings relating to this so we can submit and follow them. This knowledge must be sought under the guidance of traditionally qualified and God-fearing ʿUlamāʾ. Once we have this knowledge, we must implement it fully. For the ability to bring knowledge into practice, we must strive to purify our heart. The importance of the condition of the heart has been explained by the Prophet ﷺ:
“Indeed, there is a piece of flesh in the body; if it sound, then the whole body is sound and if it is corrupt then the whole body is corrupt. Indeed, it is the heart.”
My beloved and respected Shaykh, Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat ḥafiẓahullāh, has explained that for one to purify their heart the following are some essential points:
1. One must strive (mujāhadah) in carrying out the Commands of Allāh ﷻ. This entails the carrying out of all compulsory (Farḍ) and necessary (Wājib) acts, and abstaining from all the prohibited (Ḥarām) and strongly disliked (Al-Makrūh Al-Taḥrīmī) acts. Thereafter, it includes the performance of optional worships and to abstain from the disliked (Al-Makrūh Al-Tanzīhī) acts.
2. One must adopt good company (and good environments). This includes appointing a spiritual mentor under whose guidance one can successfully navigate the path of self-rectification.
3. One must perform dhikr in abundance. This includes tasbīḥāt, the recitation of the Qurʾān, masnūn duʿāʾs and any specific dhikr prescribed by one’s mentor.
4. A person must constantly beseech the help and assistance of Allāh ﷻ to achieve this objective.
May Allāh ﷻ grant us the ability to seek the necessary knowledge and strive to cleanse our hearts in order to totally submit to the whole Dīn. May He grant us the understanding and the tawfīq to follow the example set by Ibrāhīm and his blessed family, by internalising the lessons of complete submission from the Ḥajj, a lesson of a lifetime. Āmīn.
 Al-Baqarah: 2/131.
 Al-Ṣāffāt: 37/100-105.
 Al-Baqarah: 2/208.
 Al-Bukhārī (1173) and Muslim (1349).
 Al-Baqarah: 2/85.
 Al-Bukhārī (52) and Muslim (1599).