Monday, September 26, 2016

Hajj: A Sacred Tradition-I

Surely, the first House ever to be built for mankind is that at Bakkah (Mecca), blessed and a guidance for all nations. 

In it, there are clear signs; it is the place where Ibrahim stood; and whoever enters it shall be safe. And pilgrimage to the House is a duty which mankind owe to Allah, (especially) those who are able to accomplish it; and whoever disbelieves, then surely, Allah is Self-Sufficient, relying not on temporalities. (Al-Imran, 3: 97-98).

In these two verses, Allah speaks of the First House which was founded for mankind, that is to say, that of Mecca “Bakkah” which is abundant in blessings “Mubaarakan” and a guide to all peoples wa hudal-lil-’aalamiin.

Allah also says: Fiihi ‘Aayaatum-Bayyinaatum – Therein are Manifest Signs. By “Aayaat”, Allah refers to those signs that lead to Allah and which come from Allah. These signs can be found in the Maqaamu ‘Ibrahiim ​​(the rank of Abraham).

man-dakha-lahuu kaana ‘aamina - All who enter it will find peace.

Wa lillaahi ‘alan-naasi Hijul-Bayti - the pilgrimage to the House is a duty to Allah, incumbent on all people, at least those who can find the means to get there (to accomplish it).

Wa man-kafara - Anyone who denies this duty and is ungrateful,

fa-’innallaaha Ghaniy-yun ‘anil-’aalamiin - should remember that Allah is Independent of all creatures, Allah is Self-Sufficient.

Here the word ‘aalamiin that has been taken is related to the “‘aalamiinfrom the mubaarakan-wa hudal-lil-‘aalamiin”. “Allah has built this House in order to make humanity benefit from the divine grace. If we take the word ‘aalamiin which says that Allah is independent of all creatures, we can then ask the question as to what is the importance of this House. This means that He cares about humanity and wants them to receive His blessing. But those who refuse His support are the only ones to be blamed.

About the word Maqaam with the apostrophe “Zabar” and the word “Muqaam” with the “peische,” it seems that the second word means a temporary dwelling, for example, just like a traveller on a brief journey, or to be more specific, just like a nomad who does not have a fixed dwelling place. Whereas the word “Maqaam” alludes to the spiritual rank, but it can sometimes take a physical sense. When we analyze these two verses from the Holy Quran, we realize that the word “Muqaam” has been used in four verses and always in a physical sense whereas the word “Maqaam” has been used fourteen times, and always with a spiritual connotation, except in a verse where it means a temporary dwelling.

Here the word Muqaam-ul-Ibrahim” refers to the area located around the Ka’aba. There is found a stone on which Hazrat Ibrahim (as) stood when he raised the walls of the Ka’aba. At that time, there was no scaffolding like we know today, but Hazrat Ibrahim (as) rebuilt the Sacred House with the help of his eldest son, Hazrat Ismail (as). When the walls were elevated to a certain height, Hazrat Ibrahim (as) chose a rock on which he stood to raise the walls even higher. Therefore, it is included in the duties of Hajj that the pilgrim makes two Rakat (cycles) of Nawafil (additional) prayer near or on the stone. When you choose your place of worship in the “Maqaam-i-Ibrahim,” it will have a double meaning.

Firstly, it will bring you to the physical place of Ibrahim where he was praying. Secondly, you also participate in the spiritual dimension (of this blessed act) because you pray to Allah just as he had done before.

The “Maqaam-i-Ibrahim” mainly refers to the spiritual dimension. While we cannot match the level reached by Hazrat Ibrahim (as), we must still try to get there.

A way to fulfil the symbolism of this verse would be to offer two Rakat of additional prayers during Hajj. With emphasis on the meaning of ‘Aayaatum-Bayyinaatum we get to capture the essence of worship and rank/ status of Ibrahim (as). Through the perseverance of Hazrat Ibrahim (as) to rebuild a House (the House of Allah) on the ruins - a House that exists since the dawn of time despite some changes and additions occurred over centuries - a House exclusively dedicated to the worship of Allah. Here we encounter the intense love that Ibrahim (as) had for Allah. And this way of praying, the dimension of his worship are miraculous signs that lead to God, for no one before him had shown a love so sublime. And the means to carry out that incomparable worship to term are included in the meaning of ‘Aayaatum-Bayyinaatum along with prayer.

Speaking of worship, we must assimilate it in a very broad sense: it is associated with all the sacrifices. We ponder over the sacrifice of Ibrahim (as) who exiled on divine order his wife Hajra (ra) and their son Ismail (as) in the desert. 

We also reflect upon the dream he had and wherein he was commanded to sacrifice his beloved son. All this has become the first tradition of the Hajj. 

We also remember the anguish of Hazrat Hajra (ra) who ran between the mountains of Safa and Marwa so as to locate a caravan that could offer her some water for her son. This act also has become an integral part of the Hajj, thanks to the intense love that Hazrat Ibrahim (as) and his son Hazrat Ismail (as) had for Allah. Naturally, we cannot repeat those very same acts, but it is possible for us to feel (to sense) that again (that is to say, the impatience of the thirsty child). Indeed, while his mother ran from one mountain to another, Ismail (as) desperately rubbed his heels on the sand, a sign that he was very thirsty. It thus happened that a source sprung from under his feet. This spring is now known as the spring/ well of Zam Zam”. And pilgrims, although they do not rub their feet on the sand (like that of Ismail), but they can still drink the “Zam Zam” water and turn towards the Ka’aba to recite the Takbir and reflect on the agitation of Ismail (as) (at that time).

Regarding the term/ word “Aayaat” there are manifestations of divine love that transcends human understanding – that is what is encompassed by the words “Maqaam-i-Ibrahim. Not only was Ibrahim (as) totally devoted to the worship of God but Allah Himself has distinguished his worship to serve as example (for others to follow). His wife, Hazrat Hajra (ra) also enjoys a high spiritual rank till the Day of Judgment and Allah has considered her actions as a sign of deep love for her. On the other hand, despite the fact that the act of Ismail (as) was an innocent one and it was not his conscious, intentional sacrifice at the time, but the consumption of the “Zam Zam” water is included in the duties of Hajj. 

Allah had already chosen him as prophet and afterwards chose him to send the greatest of the prophets, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) through his progeny, both biological and spiritual. His conscious sacrifice arose when his father told him he had seen in a dream that he had to sacrifice him, his beloved son. And that is where two signs were manifested: Hazrat Ibrahim (as) became ready to sacrifice his son and his son also submitted to this command without raising any protest – a miraculous sign that has not been designated and disclosed (in the true sense) in any other religion in the world (besides Islam). Hazrat Ibrahim (as) exclaimed: “Ya Bunayya” - O my beloved son. The word “Bunayya” is charged with feelings of deep love. So he said to his son: “O my beloved son - you know how much I love you, but I saw in a dream that I am to kill you (offer you in sacrifice) in obedience to Allah. What do you think? What should we do?” Without any hesitation, Ismail (as) replied: “O my father, how can we distant ourselves from this (divine command)? You must do exactly what you have been commanded to do.”

It is at this level that the signs reach their peak. These “Aayaat” that were used as “Bayyinaat” or Manifest/ Clear Signs – reach the “Mihraj” Peak – when the qualities of Ibrahim (as) and that of Ismail (as) reached their pinnacle. They submitted themselves completely to the will of Allah, to the law/ command of Allah, and that is what is called Islam. All you see in the Ka’aba are repeated images of Islam. That is to say, if you want to see these images of Islam, the duties of Hajj performed by the pilgrims and the worship of Ibrahim (as), and that of Hajra (ra) and Ismail (as) are signs that are taken each year and these images are presented to you, like a rebroadcasted movie/ film. It’s as if God (Allah) was offering us a spiritual cinema through Ibrahim (as). When the pilgrims circumambulate the Ka’aba and resume the worship of Ibrahim (as), Ismail (as) and Hajra (ra), it is as if millions of Ibrahim (as), Ismail (as) and Hajra (ra) are now submitting themselves to the laws of God - that is what Islam is. All the methods and ways of worship of Ibrahim (as) are disclosed in the word “ISLAM”. 

----Extracts from Eid-ul-Adha Sermon of 12 September 2016---(10 Dhul-Hijjah 1437 AH) delivered by Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius.