In a few days, pilgrims from all around the world will be making their way to Mecca in order to fulfil their fifth pillar of Islam – Hajj – a pillar that has countless objectives and today I will be focusing on just one of them.
Shaykh Ahmad Ibn ‘AbdulHaleem Ad-Dahlawi said,
ﻭﻣﻦ ﻣﻘﺎﺻﺪ ﺍﻟﺤﺞ ﻣﻮﺍﻓﻘﺔ ﻣﺎ ﺗﻮﺍﺭﺙ ﺍﻟﻨﺎﺱ ﻋﻦ ﺳﻴﺪﻧﺎ ﺇﺑﺮﺍﻫﻴﻢ ﻭﺇﺳﻤﺎﻋﻴﻞ ﻋﻠﻴﻬﻤﺎ ﺍﻟﺴﻼﻡ ﻓﺈﻧﻬﻤﺎ ﺇﻣﺎﻣﺎ ﺍﻟﻤﻠﺔ ﺍﻟﺤﻨﻴﻔﻴﺔ، ﻭﺍﻟﻨﺒﻲ r ﺑﻌﺚ ﻟﺘﻈﻬﺮ ﺑﻪ ﺍﻟﻤﻠﺔ ﺍﻟﺤﻨﻴﻔﻴﺔ ﻭﺗﻌﻠﻮ ﺑﻪ ﻛﻠﻤﺘﻬﺎ، ﻭﻫﻮ ﻗﻮﻟﻪ ﺗﻌﺎﻟﻰ : ( ﻣِّﻠَّﺔَ ﺃَﺑِﻴﻜُﻢْ ﺇِﺑْﺮَﺍﻫِﻴﻢَ )
“One of the main objectives of Hajj is to endorse the lives of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail for they are the Imams of the monotheistic way. As for the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), he was sent to make this way prevalent, a way which Allah described as being “The religion of your father Ibrahim.”
But why Ibrahim (ʿalayhi al-Salām)? Why did Allah choose to make one of the five pillars of Islam a re-enactment of his specific footsteps? For despite it being a story that is thousands of years old, Allah chose to eternalise it by linking our Islam and fate in the Hereafter to the copying of him and his family’s tracks. To answer this question, we must first ask: Who was Ibrahim?
He was the son of one of the dignitaries of his time – Aazar – who was the very manufacturer of the idols which his community would then purchase and take as gods. What a calamity it is when ‘Aqida/creed meets with financial interests. There was nothing on the side of young Ibrahim at that time except Al-Qalb As-Saleem /the sound heart which Allah had placed within his chest. Allah said,
ﻭَﻟَﻘَﺪْ ﺁﺗَﻴْﻨَﺎ ﺇِﺑْﺮَﺍﻫِﻴﻢَ ﺭُﺷْﺪَﻩُ ﻣِﻦْ ﻗَﺒْﻞ
“And We had certainly given Abraham his sound judgement before”
He began his uprising against this from the least expected of places; his home. The Qur’an goes on, in its miraculously eloquent and concise expressions, to depict Ibrahim’s struggle against his community where all of the odds were against him. It tells us of his debate with them, his demolition of their idols, his community’s reaction of rage, their attempt to burn him alive and how Allah altered the laws of physics so that the fire wouldn’t harm him.
The Qur’an also tells us about his debate with the tyrant of his time, how he was compelled to immigrate whilst being all by himself, for he was the only believer on earth. He travels the world, searching for an alternative but sees that the cities of the world had become carbon copies of one another with respect to their idolatry and disbelief. He arrives at Egypt, where he manages to escape a tyrant who tried seducing his wife. He then travels to Ash-Sham where, once again, he invites people to submit themselves to Allah and to reject idolatry.
It is not long however before he is commanded yet again by Allah to pack his luggage and immigrate to another land, along with Haajar and his son Ismail. Mecca would be the destination, a dry, desolate, lifeless and lonely part of the world, lacking every single basic resource for human life. There, he is commanded to leave Haajar and Ismail, and walk away. Without hesitation or any second thought, he submits and, after having handed over to her a small bag of dates, he walks away.
The dates that he’d given her finish, however. Her milk begins to dry up and the baby cried in hunger. She decides to run from between the two mounts of Safa and Marwah, in desperate search for any assistance as she experiences a contrast of terror as per motherly nature but hope and serenity as per remarkable ‘iman. She is puzzled but not hopeless, she has certainty but she isn’t lazy, doing what she can from her part, until Allah honours her by allowing the water of Zamzam to gush from beneath her feet, water of nourishment, medication, Ajr and Baraka, water which has quenched the thirst of millions since and continues to do so to this day.
Ismail grows up and with him grows Ibrahim’s attachment to his son, and bearing in mind the sound state of Ibrahim’s heart, this was an issue, for there mustn’t be anything in the heart of this colossal man that competes with his attachment to Allah. Thus, the painful command came to Ibrahim; to slaughter his son. He sees this dream over and over and thus realises that this must be carried out and so he submits. He tells his son:
ﻳَﺎ ﺑُﻨَﻲَّ ﺇِﻧِّﻲ ﺃَﺭَﻯ ﻓِﻲ ﺍﻟْﻤَﻨَﺎﻡِ ﺃَﻧِّﻲ ﺃَﺫْﺑَﺤُﻚَ ﻓَﺎﻧْﻈُﺮْ ﻣَﺎﺫَﺍ ﺗَﺮَﻯ
“O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I sacrifice you, so see what you think.”
Ismail’s response was one of Abrahamic submission. He said,
ﻳَﺎ ﺃَﺑَﺖِ ﺍﻓْﻌَﻞْ ﻣَﺎ ﺗُﺆْﻣَﺮُ ﺳَﺘَﺠِﺪُﻧِﻲ ﺇِﻥْ ﺷَﺎﺀَ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻪُ ﻣِﻦَ ﺍﻟﺼَّﺎﺑِﺮِﻳﻦَ
“O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.”
This is when Ibrahim does the unthinkable. He walks with his son to the place where the slaughtering will be carried out.
Shaytan makes his presence known at this point and tries to talk Ibrahim out of this, but Ibrahim pelts him with 7 stones. He appears a second and third time and, on each occasion, Ibrahim launches stones at him.
At this point, it’s as if the motion of the universe had momentarily paused in anticipation of what is about to happen next. His son had knelt down and the knife was been placed on this throat, as Ibrahim forcefully suppresses the fatherly obsession with one’s son.
ﻓَﻠَﻤَّﺎ ﺃَﺳْﻠَﻤَﺎ ﻭَﺗَﻠَّﻪُ ﻟِﻠْﺠَﺒِﻴﻦ
“And when they had both submitted and he put him down prostrating on his forehead”
This is when Ibrahim was told to stop,
ﻳَﺎ ﺇِﺑْﺮَﺍﻫِﻴﻢُ ( 104 ) ﻗَﺪْ ﺻَﺪَّﻗْﺖَ ﺍﻟﺮُّﺅْﻳَﺎ ﺇِﻧَّﺎ ﻛَﺬَﻟِﻚَ ﻧَﺠْﺰِﻱ ﺍﻟْﻤُﺤْﺴِﻨِﻴﻦَ
“We called to him, “O Ibrahim, You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.”
Allah sends a ram from Paradise for Ibrahim to slaughter instead of Ismail, for the purpose of this onerous test was never about slaughtering Ismail but to slaughter the love and attachment within Ibrahim’s heart which only belongs to Allah. His submission made it clear however that this had been achieved.