Dhul Hijjah Mubarak or Blessed Month of Dhul Hijjah
We begin a new month, a sacred month.
Dhul Hijjah is the twelfth month of the Hijri lunar calendar. It is the month of Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. I wanted to begin by sharing a nice article by Dar Al-Ifta on Hajj and its significance. I liked this piece given the comment on rebuilding our lives and the point on reclamation. Read the whole article, in particular pause on the paragraphs below.
“This journey, like most rituals, has a metaphysical reality, and in our postmodern world we often become shortsighted and forget them. We forget that the angels accompany the one who journeys to a place of worship, what then of one who journeys to the greatest place of worship on Earth? The pilgrimage is not, and was never meant to be easy, and in fact, most things that carry immense benefit are very difficult to attain. But God has shown us what it takes to become His friend, to become of the friends of God, and part of attaining that rank is to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, the first friend of God, and his path was one of sacrifice. God says, “When his Lord said to him, ‘Submit’, he said ‘I have submitted [in Islam] to the Lord of the worlds’
The path of Abraham was also one of reclamation, ‘And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], ‘Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing’ (Quran 2:127).
Just as he and his son reclaimed the foundation left by Adam and rebuilt upon it, sometimes our lives are left destroyed and we too must rebuild upon the foundation which God gave us and to ask Him to accept from us. We too must be of those that purify the various idols that have filled our hearts just as God called upon Abraham to cleanse the idols of the Kaaba,’Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer]’
There are an abundance of lessons to be derived from the life of the Prophet Abraham, lessons that are difficult to attain in a world moving further and further away from the metaphysical heart/soul and more and more concerned with the aorta, arteries and other physical aspects of the body. This journey re-centers us; It brings us back to the center of what some say is the center of the world. Like fruits that wish to bear fruit, we reconnect ourselves to the spiritual roots of our spiritual father Abraham and, by doing so, to the rope of God to which if held tightly to, we will never be lost.'”
A Presentation on Hajj
The following presentation was done as I prepared for Hajj. I believed I was going to go in 2013, but plans did not work out, and tried again, in 2014 – the year I went to Hajj. In fact, I tried many years, and each year – there was an obstacle. I share this as sometimes people see the obstacles and don’t try, thinking they will go in the future. However, I have many relatives who passed away and never went. It is best to try, so at least you can be rewarded for the intention if not the Hajj and will not be asked why you didn’t go.
It is nice when you get the opportunity to share your story, but often time – one wonders if their story is the true story of their life as everyone writes their own story with themselves as the protagonist struggling against all odds – against forces and obstacles unheard, but when God tells your story to His creation, it is a whole new story of love, truth, and sincerity. When God connects your story and your struggles and sacrifices to His creation, it is a whole new reality and expression of immense love.
In Islamic tradition, we are told of the story of Hagar, the wife of Prophet Abraham, and their son Ishmael who were left in Mecca alone to tend for themselves. Their story concerning the Hajj is told that when Ishmael was a small boy, the only son (at the time), God commanded Abraham to take his wife Hagar and his only son at the time to the wilderness of Paran (Mecca). Mecca at that time was a desert, a desolate place with no plantation, people, or settlements.
When Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael to Mecca, she asked him, “where are you leaving us in this desolate place, with no one or companion?” She repeated this question many times, and he did not reply. Then she asked him, “Abraham did God ordain you to do this?” he said, “yes.” She replied in all faith and submission to God, “if God ordained this, then He will never get us lost.” The story continues that they ran out of water alone in the desert. So Hajar started running between two hills called Safa and Marwa, which still exist in Mecca, searching for water.
The believer despairs of everyone but God, while the hypocrite has set his hopes in everyone except God.Imam Ghazali
She exerted herself to the very limit of all her capabilities and capacity, and after seven rounds, losing complete hope in her abilities and anyone to find water and having only faith in God – she witnesses a miracle. Her son Ishmael was crying and kicking the ground with his heels, then a spring of water gushed from under his feet.
Hajar tried to contain the water, so it is not lost, so it turned into a well, known as the well of Zamzam, which is over 3000 years old.
Birds can sense where water is – and guided people in the desert to where Hajar and Ishmael were. Slowly, people started to come and camp in the surrounding area.
One of the rituals of Hajj connects us to Hajar and Ishmael, upon them peace, where pilgrims likewise have to make seven rounds from Safa and Marwa, called the sai, a reenactment of her experience in the desert. It is a message to pilgrims that miracles are witnessed after you exert and exhaust yourself, not before. It is a message not to lose hope and to look at faith not with what is in it for me, but as Hajar asked Abraham: “Abraham did God ordain you to do this?”
It is a lesson that while we may not comprehend God’s wisdom in things, we need to have a good opinion and trust in His planning.
Our story is part of a bigger story written by the best of writers, and we are part of that Divine Plan. Act based on your faith and values, but trust God’s Divine plan. Hajar did not know that her story would be an inspiration for thousands of years as pilgrims answer the call Abraham made.
Finally, it shows that Islam respects women when God used this African woman as a guiding light for pilgrims, men and women, on their journey to connect to God.
Even Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, followed the footsteps of this beautiful woman.
It leaves us with an understanding that in reading scripture and religious texts, the driving force should be “Is this ordained by God,” and not our egotistic desires attached to specific results and our limited worldview.
“And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing. Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy (Will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (will); and show us our place for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in Mercy); for Thou art the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.”(Quran 2:127-128)
When Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael, upon them peace, completed building the first house of worship to God, the Ka’bah, God commanded him to call the people to Hajj.
Hajj is the Arabic word for the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Ka’bah was built in the Arabian peninsula which was a desert and very few people in the area.
Naturally, he asked God, “O Allah! How shall my voice reach all of those people?” God told him that his duty was only to give the call, and it was up to God to make it reach the people.
Prophet Abraham, upon him peace, climbed Mount Arafat and did what he was commanded and called out in his loudest voice, “O People! Verily Allah has prescribed upon you Hajj, so perform Hajj.”
Since that call was made from a heart full of sincerity and truthfulness to God, each year people answer the call to Hajj – and now we witness God’s plan and power as we see millions go to perform Hajj answering the call of Prophet Abraham, upon him peace, thousands of years ago.
“And proclaim the Hajj among mankind. They will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways”.(Quran Al-Hajj, 28)
If you are listening and hearing the pilgrims chanting, they are responding to the call of Abraham, upon him peace, a call made thousands of years ago. It is called the talbiyah or answering the call. Pilgrims repeatedly say this throughout the Hajj.
Here I am at Thy serviceTalbiyah
O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners.
Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty.
Thou hast no partners.
The most important day of Hajj or the pilgrimage is the 9th day, known as Arafah. It is also the holiest day of the year.
Pilgrims gather around the mountain known as Arafah, but some say the name of this mountain came due to various reasons:
- It is the place that Adam and Eve, upon them peace, met and knew each other.
- It is the place people gather to know each other during Hajj.
- It is where God taught Prophet Abraham, upon him peace, about the rites of the Hajj.
- The Day of Knowing is a day of remembering.
“No! When the earth has been leveled – pounded and crushed – And your Lord has come and the angels, rank upon rank, And brought [within view], that Day, is Hell – that Day, man will remember, but what good to him will be the remembrance? He will say, ‘Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life.’ So on that Day, none will punish [as severely] as His punishment, And none will bind [as severely] as His binding [of the evildoers].”Quran 89:21-25
Keep the end in mind as Arafah is a reminder of the Day of Account: it reminds us of our day of Judgment, our responsibility and mission on earth, of our end, and the Day of Judgment. It reminds us how we will stand for accountability before God, and it is a practical manifestation of the Islamic principles of fraternity and equality before God. I like to think of it as the place to return to God in Ma’rifa (knowing Him).
Some Muslims who are not going to Hajj, will fast on that day as an expiation for their sins. My mother who suffered from a stroke before passing away, has various ailments but she waits for this day to fast and trusts me to remind her and plan the day for her fast. I remind her of the day as she became Aphasic after her stroke and cannot recall the day of the year. Try to include Muslims who are disabled or sick on this day and do not forget them. Help them and assist them in performing the rituals.
People usually make many prayers for themselves, their friends and family, the oppressed, and the welfare of humanity in general. It is also obligatory to pray that God saves one from the hellfire and prays for ones’ good deeds to be accepted. Some recommended prayers to make:
“None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone, without partner. To Him belongs sovereignty and all praise and He is over all things omnipotent.”
We will understand the value of this supplication when we understand how human beings rationalize and interpret things, without reflection. If you have been monitoring the news and listened to how people interpret vague scripture verses, and at times take one verse and build their whole salvation on their interpretation of that one vague verse. However, the supplication is clear, bold, using a command voice and repeated and all false distortions are boldly and strongly refuted. This nurtures certainty and tranquility in one’s heart.
Our righteous leader `Ali ibn Abu Talib, narrates that the supplication that the Prophet, upon him peace and blessings, made most on the Day of Arafah was:
O Allah, to You belongs all praise, as we praise You and better than that.Ali Ibn Abu Talib
O Allah my prayer, worship, life and death are for You, and to You is my return. Everything I possess, my Lord, returns to You.
O Allah, I seek refuge in You from the punishment of the grave, the whispering of the devil and from my affairs being in disarray.
O Allah I seek refuge in You from the evil which the wind carries.
Faith is a light that God places in one’s heart and we turn to Him and seek it from Him.
People interpret what they see and hear, and understand based on the light that dominates their heart. We want the dominating light to be the light of faith. Turn to God and seek that light from God.
“O Allah, place light in my heart, my hearing and my sight. O Allah, My Lord bring tranquility to my heart and give me ease in my affair.”Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings
We should always make the prayers of repentance, privately for God. Hasan Al Basri, a righteous sage learned 70 prayers of forgiveness from the righteous during his time. He used to make the 70 prayers for forgiveness on the night of 7th, 9th, and 10th of Dhul Hijjah. This is a video of the prayers if you want to recite them. A translation is provided as well.
“O Allah, I seek Your forgiveness for every sin that Your pen recorded and Your knowledge encompassed—every one that I have committed and that I am to commit until the end of my life. I seek Your forgiveness for all my sins: the first and the last, the intentional and the unintentional, the few and the many; the minor and the major, the subtle and the noticeable, the past and the recent, the secret and the open and public—and all those I am to commit throughout my life.”Virtues of The Prayers for Forgiveness – Imam Hasan al-Basri
When I went to Hajj, I wanted to make a dua or supplication that was comprehensive. I learned that whatever knowledge reached you – cannot compare to the knowledge of God, and according to Islamic teachings no one knows God more than Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings. I read this supplication in the book, Garden of the Righteous by Imam Nawawi. I thought making the supplication – reflecting on the possibility if one was to go to Prophet Muhammad, or if he was with us in Hajj, what would he ask for, from God right now? So I asked God what Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, would ask in Hajj. I made this supplication all the time during hajj. I use this supplication during all events now, even when I visit my parents’ graves.
The Messenger of Allah, upon him peace and blessings, made many supplications which we did not memorize. We said to him: “O Messenger of Allah! You have made many supplications of which we do not remember anything.” He said, “Shall I tell you a comprehensive prayer? Say:
‘Allahumma inni as’aluka min khairi ma sa’alaka minhu nabiyyuka Muhammadun sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Wa ‘a’udhu bika min sharri mas-ta’adha minhu nabiyyuka Muhammadun sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Wa Antal-Musta’anu, wa ‘alaikal-balaghu, wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah
O Allah, I beg to You the good which Your Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, begged of You; and I seek refuge in You from the evil where from Your Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, sought refuge. You are the One from Whom help is sought and Your is the responsibility to communicate (the truth). There is no power or strength except with Allah the Exalted, the Great.
Pray that when you exit this world, you exit with the greeting and invitation:
[To the righteous it will be said], ‘O reassured soul, Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him], And enter among My [righteous] servants And enter My Paradise.'”Quran 89:27-30
It is understood or believed that when people go to Hajj and return, that all their sins are purified and they return as a sinless baby. However, transgressions against people will remain on the person’s account until they resolve it in this world, or God decides the matter on the Day of Judgment.
On the tenth day of Dhul Hijjah comes the Eid al-Adha, when pilgrims sacrifice an animal in memory of Abraham’s sacrifice, giving a certain percentage—or all of the animal—to those who can’t afford their own. Part of the Hajj is the sacrifice of an animal in gratitude for saving Prophet Ishmael, upon him peace and donating parts of it to the poor. As Jamal Badawi explains, “As a basic rule a vision or a dream for a prophet is not like one for us as it is a command from God.”
We are not prophets, so our dreams are not commands from God. Also, remember God is telling this story, not Abraham. It reached Muslims through Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings. So if you or anyone has such a dream, you need to see a doctor. It is probably due to something you watched or you are under stress. It could also just be a nightmare. Do not act upon it.
“O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy!” When they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him “O Abraham! Thou hast already fulfilled the vision! thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice: And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times: Peace and salutation to Abraham! Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For he was one of our believing Servants. And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet,- one of the Righteous. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.”(Quran 37:102-113)
The story of Prophet Abraham and his family is a beautiful story that faces many trials upon trials repeatedly throughout their lives, and they respond with faith, wisdom, and love of God. Lessons from the story teach us how to view our trials and tribulations and how faith manifests itself to take an accurate account of ourselves and examine our narrative.
When we do not know the fundamental wisdom of God’s plan, we like to interject our reality and conjecture. Both Abraham and Hajar surrendered to God’s command, and they did not know why. We can see both were tested. Hajar was tested through a separation from a very righteous husband who is a Prophet and tended for herself and her son in the desert while solely relying on God. And we can see from the story a Prophet experiencing many trials and abuse from his own family and community, rejected and after decades of not having a child – experiencing the gift of a beautiful child in his old age – joy and happiness that he must be separated.
Yet, the trials for both Abraham and Hajar, upon them peace, do not end there. It continues as this is the reality of life – a roller coast of ups and downs that one needs to turn to God continuously for guidance, aid, and support to know how to respond and weather.
They say patience is at the first strike of a calamity, and I like to think that hope in God is at the strike of a similar calamity after a long separation while patiently waiting for God to answer one’s prayer.
Now that Ishmael – the youth whose heart is connected to God in surrender reaches an age where both parents need his companionship and support – Prophet Abraham has a dream to sacrifice his first and only son.
Abraham consults his son, Ishmael, upon them peace, regarding the dream. Ishmael responds like his mother Hajar did when left in the desert, cut off from all support and aid, solely relying on God and God alone. If God ordained this, do it, and he surrendered to God’s command.
Abraham took his son Ishmael to a place called Mina near Mecca and was about to fulfill the command of God when an angel came from the heavens carrying a big ram. As guiding lights for humanity, the family passed the major test and helped us understand the difference between having true hope in God and putting God under obligation. What if, after patiently waiting for God to fulfill our hopes, a similar calamity or separation happens? Do we feel we believed in delusions, or do we remain firm? We see this realization when Prophet Jacob, upon him peace, was tested with the separation from his son Joseph, and after years of waiting for God to answer his prayer, he is separated from his younger son. It is at the strike of the second calamity that true hope and genuine trust in God manifests.
With the manifestation of true hope comes the generosity of God to Abraham. Ishmael is a Prophet and through his branch is bore Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings.
And Abraham is rewarded with a son Isaac and from that branch, Jacob and many Prophets.
One of the rituals of Hajj is to sacrifice a cow, goat, lamb, or ram in commemoration and giving thanks to God for saving Ishmael for him to become the grandfather of the last of God’s prophets.
We all love something that competes in our love of God. That object of love is our weakness and our life test. If it is money, status, or our children – God knows. When we are separated from what we love – it is normal to feel sad as we saw this in Jacob with his sons, but while we may not understand the wisdom of the trial – to continue to have a good opinion of God and remain hopeful that God will reunite one with what/whom they love in this world or the next.
But it wasn’t his son that was slaughtered. It was his attachment. It was his attachment to anything that could compete with his love for God. And the beauty of such a sacrifice is this: Once you let go of your attachment, what you love is given back to you– in a purer, better form. So let us ask ourselves during these beautiful days of sacrifice, which attachments do we need to slaughter?Jeewan Chanicka
I will update this further throughout the month of Dhul Hijjah.