Nearly four thousand and six years ago, in the Summerian town of Ur, the capital of the Babylonian Kings, in the valley of river Euphrates (which at present is Southern Iraq), lived a young man named Ibrahim (Abraham)(PBUH). The people of Ur had once worshipped God but as time passed they forgot the true religion and started praying to idols, statues made of wood or clay and sometimes even precious stones.
The Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) was the son of Terah Azar, an idol carver and a staunch idol worshiper. He did all he could do to compel Ibrahim (AS) to worship the idols, but he flatly refused to do so.
Even as a small child Ibrahim (AS) could not understand how his people, and especially his father, could make these images with their own hands, call them gods, and then worship them. He had always refused to join his people when they paid respect to these statues. Instead he would leave the town and sit alone, thinking about the heavens and the world around him. He was sure his people were doing wrong and so alone he searched for the right way.
One clear night as he sat staring at the sky he saw a beautiful shining star, so beautiful that he cried out: "This is my Lord."(Qur'an 6:76) He looked at it in awe for some time, until suddenly it began to fade and then it disappeared. He turned away in disappointment saying: "I love not those that set."(Qur'an 6:76) On another night Ibrahim (AS) was again looking at the sky and he saw the rising moon, so big and bright. He said: "This is my Lord."(Qur'an 6:77) But it was not long before the moon set as well. Then he said, "Unless my Lord guides me, I shall surely be among those who go astray."(Qur'an 6:77)
Abraham (PBUH) then saw the beauty and splendor of the sunrise and decided that the sun must be the biggest and most powerful thing in the universe. But for the third time he was wrong, for the sun set at the end of the day.
"When he saw the sun rising (in splendor) he said: "This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all)." But when the sun set, he said: "O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to God. For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and earth, and never shall I give partners to The Almighty." (Qur'an 6:78-79)
It was then that he realized that God is the Most Powerful, the Creator of the stars, the moon, the sun, the earth and of all living things. Suddenly he felt himself totally at peace, because he felt that he had found the Truth.
Speaking highly of him, the Holy Qur'an states: "Ibrahim was indeed a model, devoutly obedient to The Almighty, and true in faith, and he was not of those who set up equals to The Almighty. He showed his gratitude for the favors of The Almighty, Who chose him and guided him to a straight path. And We gave him good in this world, and he will be, in the Hereafter, in the ranks of the Righteous." (Qur'an 16:120-122)
Gradually the Prophet was commanded to commence preaching. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was a man of strong will and determination and he argued with his people with great vigor regarding the folly of worshipping the idols.
rehearse to them (something of) Abraham's story. Behold, he said to his
father and his people: "What worship ye?
They said: "We worship idols, and we remain constantly in attendance on them."
He said: "Do they listen to you when ye call (on them),
Or do you good or harm?"
They said: "Nay, but we found our fathers doing thus (what we do)."
He said: "Do ye then see whom ye have been worshipping,
"Ye and your fathers before you?
"For they are enemies to me; not so the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds;
"Who created me, and it is He who guides me;
"Who gives me food and drink,
"And when I am ill, it is He who cures me;
"Who will cause me to die, and then to live (again);
"and who, I hope, will forgive me my faults on the Day of judgment.
"O my Lord! Bestow wisdom on me, and join me with the righteous;
"Grant me honorable mention on the tongue of truth among the latest (generations);
"Make me one of the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss;
"Forgive my father, for that he is among those astray;
"And let me not be in disgrace on the Day when (men) will be raised up;
"The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail,
"But only he (will prosper) that brings to God a sound heart.
The people paid no heed to his teachings and did not refrain from idol worshipping. The ruler at that time was king Nemrud, who claimed himself to be a god. He conducted a meeting with Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH). In the meeting Nemrud asked: "What is this thing you are calling people for? Why do you persuade the people to worship an invisible God?" The Prophet replied back boldly: "My God is the One Who gives and takes away life." Nemrud answered arrogantly: "I also have the power to do that. I can kill the people and also spare them." Prophet Ibrahim at this point couldn't resist asking Nemrud. He asked: "My God makes the sun rise in the East and set it in the West, can you make it rise in the West and set it in the East?" At this Nemrud couldn't say anything.
Once there was a grand celebration and everybody in town was attending it except Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH). He had a special plan in his mind. He proceeded towards the temple and started axing down the idols. When the people returned they were shocked to find their idols smashed to pieces except the chief idol. Someone suggested that it was the work of Ibrahim (PBUH) and he was immediately summoned in.
He was sentenced to be burned alive. A huge furnace was created for this purpose. The Prophet had full faith in The Almighty and remained calm.
When he was tossed in the center of the furnace, the flames were blazing, but the Prophet was unharmed and sometime later Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) walked out of the fire safely. All the spectators were surprised at the miracle.
Still Abraham (PBUH) tried to persuade his own dear father not to worship powerless, un-seeing, un-hearing statues. Abraham explained that special knowledge had come to him and implored his father, "So Follow me: I will guide Thee to a Way that is even and straight. O my father! Serve not Satan: for Satan is a rebel against (God) Most Gracious." (Qur'an 19:43-44)
But Azar would not listen. He threatened his son with stoning if he would reject the gods of Ur. He ordered Abraham to leave the city with these words: "Now get away from me for a good long while!" Abraham said: Peace be on thee: I will pray to my Lord for thy forgiveness: for He is to me Most Gracious."(Quran 19:46-47)
Imagine how terrible it must have been for him to leave his home, his family and all that he knew, and set out across the wilderness into the unknown. But at the same time, how could he have remained among people who did not believe in God and who worshiped statues? Abraham always had a sense that God cared for him and he felt God near him as he traveled.
At last, after a long hard journey, he arrived at a place by the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Egypt. There he married a woman by the name of Sarah and settled in the land of Palestine. Many years passed but Abraham (AS) and his wife were not blessed with any children. In the hope that there would be a child, and in keeping with tradition, Sarah suggested that Abraham (AS) should marry Hagar, her Egyptian handmaid.
Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) prayed for a son in all sublimity and his prayer was granted. Hagar gave birth to a baby boy Isma'il (AS). Soon after, The Almighty commanded the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) to migrate to the Holy Land of Ka'bah in Makkah. In accordance with the Divine Commandment, the family set out on a long and troublesome journey. Towards the end of the journey the family set up their tents in a hilly area without any trees or water source around.
The Prophet lsma'il (PBUH) was a few months old. He began crying because of thirst. His mother ran desperately in quest of water between the two hillocks called Safa and Marwa but found no water. When she returned back to the thirsty infant she was surprised to see the spring of Zam Zam emerged beneath the foot of the Prophet Isma'il (PBUH). She heaved a sigh of relief and quenched the thirst of her baby with the water. People came from far and wide to observe the miracle and gradually this locality named Mecca became the birth place of Islam.
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) received a Commandment in his vision to sacrifice his only son Isma'il (AS). The Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had no hesitation in complying with what he was ordered to do. The father told the son about the dream. To his great surprise, Isma'il (PBUH) had no objection and was willing to be sacrificed as The Almighty had willed. Prophet Isma'il (PBUH) said, "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, If God so wills, one of the steadfast." (Qur'an 37:102)
On the tenth day of Dhul Hijja, the father and his beloved son walked side by side. A young lad possessed forbearance and the old man was full of determination and spirit to complete his submission to The Almighty. Their purpose was to carry out the orders of their Lord. They proceeded towards Mina. Finally they reached a special spot. The father's heart was beating violently as he laid his son prostrate on the ground.
Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) was shaking with emotions as he drew the knife across the son's neck, a moment of action, that isn't possible to describe on paper - they heard a Divine Voice: "O' Ibrahim! You have indeed shown the truth of the vision. Surely do We reward the doers of good." (Qur'an 37:105)
Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) was commanded not to sacrifice his son, instead a ram was provided for the sacrifice. The great moment of suspense came to an end. Both the father and son expressed a deep sense of happiness and gratitude to The Almighty.
When the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) displayed his unstinted submission to the orders of The Almighty, he was informed of the glad tiding regarding the birth of a baby from Sarah, his first wife. The Holy Qur'an affirms:
"And We gave him the good news of Ishaq (Isaac)-a prophet, - one of the Righteous. We blessed him and Ishaq: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to themselves." (Qur'an 37:112-113)
The Ka'bah was constructed by the Prophet Ibrahim and the Prophet Isma'il (PBUT). The Holy Qur'an states:
"Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the Station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Ibrahim and Isma'il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer)." (Qur'an 2:125)
So both the father and son laid the foundations of the Ka'bah. Ishmael brought stones and Ibrahim fixed them. When the walls became higher, Ibrahim brought that stone which is famous by the name of Muqamu-Ibrahim and stood on it and began fixing stones and raised the walls higher. The Qur'an mentions in these words, "And remember Abraham and Isma'il 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 places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in Mercy); for Thou art the Oft-Relenting Most Merciful. "Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Thy Signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, and purify them: for Thou art the Exalted in Might - The Wise." (Qur'an 2:127-129)
The Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) lived for 175 years. His life was full of happenings, tests and trials. He had a firm faith in The Almighty. He gained thousands upon thousands of believers. When he passed away, he was buried in Heburon, about twenty-one miles south-west of Jerusalem.
The Prophet Isma'il (PBUH) and his mother settled down in the vicinity of the Kab'ah. From the descendants of Ishmael would form a nation from which would come a great Prophet, who would guide the people in the way of God. This was Muhammed (SAW), the Messenger of God. From the descendants of Sarah's child, Isaac, would come Moses (AS) and Jesus (AS).
Hajj demonstrates the essence of Islam which is belief in one God, alone. All the ceremonies a pilgrim performs, all the places through which he goes during Hajj remind him of a great deal of history of this belief, Tawhid.
The performance of Hajj becomes obligatory (fard) upon those Muslims 1) who have the means to afford the journey and 2) are physically able to do it and 3) if the way is safe and free from dangers. Hajj is obligatory once in a lifetime. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "He who performs (Hajj) with no obscenity or evil practices will come out as a newly born baby - free from all sins." (Bukhari & Muslim)
The pilgrim's mind which pulsates with the desire to visit the House of God, learns to retain only virtuous thoughts. He repents for his past sins and seeks forgiveness from people whom he might have wronged. He is careful that nobody is harmed by him while he tries to render whatever service or help he can do to others. He desists from abuse, indecency, dishonesty, squabbles and bickering. Thus the entire journey constitutes Ibadah. This is the journey which continuously purifies man's nafs (soul).
Every year, in each of the different parts of the world, hundreds of thousands of Muslims get prepared for Hajj with a newly kindled spark of the love of God; their influence will improve the moral state of vast numbers of people. When these people, filled with the thrill of Hajj return from the center of their religion to their cities and villages all around the world, and meet thousands of individuals, and relate to them their Hajj experiences, it causes an awareness, an awakening and God-consciousness throughout the whole Muslim Ummah (nation).
Hajj demonstrates the real and practical unity and brotherhood of mankind. Pilgrims belonging to hundreds of countries and communities, languages and colors, flock to one center through a thousand and one routes. They remove their national dress and everybody without exception puts on Ihram, nothing more than two sheets of unsown cloth and a pair of slippers. Pride and vanity are given up. Poor and rich, black and white, Arab and non-Arab, American and African, rulers and ruled, are all clad in similar dress, moving simultaneously in the same direction, raising one slogan, Talhiya. In this way, the differences of nationalities and races and colors are obliterated and a universal group of God-worshippers is constituted. The month of Hajj is the season of peace, Mecca is the place of peace; Hajj is the greatest conference of peace known in the history of mankind.
Hajj is a declaration of strong rejection of all kinds of shirk (worship of any other than God). The pilgrim rejects all concepts of special holiness related to man or place or even prophets. In Islam, nothing is holy other than God, The Almighty. He alone is Quddus (holy); it is His name. He has no partner in any of His Attributes.
- Enter Ihram
from Miquat or from the staying place at Mecca.
- Crying out of Talbiya ("Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk, Labbayk la sharika laka Labbayk, Innal hamda, wanni' mata laka walmulk La sharika lak." - "Here I am, O Allah, (in response to Your call), here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Indeed all the Praise, Grace and Sovereignty belong to You. You have no partner.")
- Set out for Mina the same day and stay there at night (offering the five prayers: zuhr, asr, mahgrib, isha and fajr)
- Leave Mina for Arafat before midday.
- Stay at Arafat plain praying to God until sunset. This is the most important part of Hajj (pray zuhr and asr prayers together at zuhr time)
- Return to Muzdalifa, pray mahgrib and isha together, sleep, offer fajr prayers and leave before sunrise.
- Come back to Mina and throw seven pebbles at Jamrat ul-Aqaba (the last pillar).
- Sacrifice of animals, usually cattle, camels and goats.
- Go to Mecca and perform Tawaf and Sa'ee.
- Return to Mina and stay 2 or 3 nights there.
- Throw seven pebbles at each pillar each day.
- Come back to Mecca and perform Tawaf.
One who arrives in Mecca on the 9th of Zul-Hijjah must go straight to Arafat and perform the rest of the rites. His Hajj is completed.
The Islamic Bulletin
P.O. Box 410186, San Francisco, CA 94141-0186