In Ramadan Reminder Day 4, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi comments on the concept of Islamic brotherhood & Unity in the Muslim Ummah as reflected in Surat Aal `Imran.
In Ramadan Reminder Day 4, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi comments on the concept of Islamic brotherhood & Unity in the Muslim Ummah as reflected in Surat Aal `Imran.
The primary function of the month of Ramadan is to gain taqwa (God-consciousness); meaning to have a true and meaningful relationship with Allah (Exalted be He), to fill your heart with true meaningful love…
How could we gain this taqwa? What does fasting has truly to do with taqwa?
Why food and drink is prohibited during the daylight hours of Ramadan? Our hearts have finite capacity, so how could we empty them out of love of other things to fill them with real feelings? And what are they?
Watch the 1st episode of the series of Instagramadan series by Brother AbdelRahman Murphy and learn how to empty our hearts out of the things that stand in the way of having real relationship with Allah…
Do you know how much the Prophet loved you? In the last verses of Surah Al-Tawbah, Allah describes the qualities of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) relationship with us:
Now has come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that you should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful. But if they turn away, Say: “Allah suffices me: there is no god but He: On Him is my trust,- He the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme!” (At-Tawbah 9:128,129)
Three characteristics that highlight how much he loved us, asking us the question: do we do our best to love him in return? This month, let’s work on learning and loving the man who loved us so much (may peace and blessings be upon him).
Watch the 10th episode of the series of Instagramadan series by Brother AbdelRahman Murphy and learn about the Prophet’s love for us…
By Shafiur Rahman
How many times have you heard someone say practising Islam or being a ‘religious’ Muslim is difficult? Reflect on the following.
Imam Al-Bukhari in his Sahih relates the following hadith (record of the words of the Prophet, peace be upon him) in the chapter On the Deen Being Ease.
It is related from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah said:
“The deen is ease. Whoever makes the deen too hard for himself will be overpowered, so direct yourselves to what is right, follow a middle course, accept the good news of the reward for right action, and seek help [(o reach your goal by being constant in worshipping) in the morning, evening and some of the night.” (Al-Bukhari)
“The deen is ease”
The word deen means obedience; a state of abasement and submissiveness.
In the hadith, ad-deen is referring to Islam as the means or the vehicle by which one is obedient and in a state of humble submission to Allah (exalted is He). It is synonymous with Shari`ah (Islamic law) and includes both Islam (i.e. practice) and iman (faith).
The word yusr (ease / easy) means ease, facilitation without constriction.
Ibn Abi Jamrah in his commentary of the abridged Sahih of Al-Bukhari, Bahjat Al-Nufus, highlights a number of ways the statement ‘the deen is ease’ can be understood and demonstrated. Some of them are as follows.
1- Deen here can be understood as both iman and Islam together. Iman (faith) is ‘easy’ in the sense that it is straightforward without any complexities. This is demonstrated in the hadith where the Prophet tests the slave girl to see whether or not she is a Muslim. He was satisfied by her action of simply pointing to the sky to indicate that Allah is above his creation and by her attesting to the fact that he was the Messenger of Allah.
As for the ease in Islam, the practice, this is demonstrated by the famous hadith where a person asks the Prophet about the obligations of Islam and the Prophet tells him about the five obligatory prayers, the obligatory fast of Ramadan and the obligatory zakah (charity). Each time the person asked if there was anything more than the obligatory prayer, fasting and zakah the Prophet replied that there wasn’t unless he wanted to do something extra voluntarily. While the person was leaving he said to himself: by Allah I will not increase nor decrease from that. The Prophet said he has succeeded if he is truthful.
2- The ease here could be referring to what you have been given as a deen compared to the previous nations and the fact that you have only been obligated with that which you have the capacity to do. Allah has removed the burdens that were in the Shari`ah of the previous nations from this Ummah (Muslim community). For instance, the process of repentance for this Ummah is made by regret, giving up the sin and seeking forgiveness whereas for some previous nations repentance was through capital punishment (for some sins).
Another example is that unlawful things for us have been made lawful in times of necessity whereas this was not the case for previous nations. Also the fact that Allah has only burdened us with obligations that we have the physical and intellectual capacity to fulfill, for if he did burden us with something beyond our capacity, it still would have been acceptable as He is All Wise and the Omnipotent Whose decisions none can overturn. Therefore it is from His favour and bounty that He has forgiven us and only made us responsible according to our capacity. As He says in the Qur’an: “Allah does not burden the soul beyond its capacity”. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)
Therefore the one who is made responsible for that which one had the capacity to bear then that is from ease and not from hardship.
3- The ease here could be that religion is easy for the one who has knowledge of the religion and it is difficult for the one that is ignorant of the religion.
4- The ease referred to here could be the fact that the legal texts that imply an obligation without any room for other interpretations are few in number. The vast majority of legal texts are open to different interpretations (that lead to more than one valid legal option) and therefore this is ease and flexibility from the Master to His servants.
5- The ease referred to here could be to shorten one’s hopes, because shortening one’s hopes is amongst the causes that assist one in the religion so that the religion becomes easy. This is due to the fact that when one’s hopes are shortened covetousness is reduced, zuhd (detachment from unnecessary things) becomes easy and performing good deeds becomes light. This is similar to what the Prophet mentioned: “When one of you wakes up in the morning, do not expect (to live) till the evening and when one of you goes to sleep in the evening do not expect (to live) till the morning”.
6- The ease referred to here could be to perform good deeds in reverence to the rights due to Allah since the religion belongs completely to Allah. When one does this the religion becomes easy due to the sweetness of obedience, performing deeds become effortless, and in fact, one is nourished by the deeds performed for the sake of Allah.
“Whoever makes the deen too hard for himself will be overpowered (…)”
Ibn Hajar says that it means that whoever overburdens himself by excess in performing religious deeds without being gentle (on himself) will be incapacitated (to continue), cut off and therefore overpowered.
Ibn Hajar cites Ibn Munir as saying: ‘… this hadith contains knowledge from the emblems of prophethood. Indeed we have seen and people before us have seen that everyone who goes to extremes in the religion is cut off (from continuity). The intended meaning in the hadith is not to stop a person trying to perfect their acts of worship, for that is something praiseworthy, rather it is warning against the type of excess that leads to boredom, or against excess in supererogatory acts that leads to forsaking that which is more recommended, or that which leads to the performance of an obligation outside of its designated time.
The example of the aforementioned is if someone prayed the whole night fighting off sleep until sleep overtook him in the last part of the night whereby he slept past the Fajr (Dawn) Prayer in jama`ah (congregation) or past the best time for Fajr prayer or past sunrise after the designated time for Fajr prayer”.
Imam Ahmed narrates: “You will not attain this (deen) by excessiveness and the best of your deen is ease”.
“(…) so direct yourselves to what is right, follow a middle course, (…)”
Ibn Hajar says fasadidu (which is translated here as direct yourselves to what is right) means sticking to as-sadad (which is correct without excess or deficiency). The lexicographers say as-sadad means balance/moderation (tawasut) in actions.
Ibn Rajab says at-tawasut (balance) in religious deeds is to not fall short of whatever one has been commanded to do and to not burden oneself with that which is beyond one’s capacity.
Ibn Rajab also says about the word qaribu (translated here as follow a middle course) that it carries the same or similar meaning to as-sadad. Ibn Hajar says it means if you cannot achieve the ideal then do your best to attain that which is as close to the ideal.
“(…) accept the good news of the reward for right action (…)”
Ibn Hajar says it means to accept glad tidings of the reward for continuous action even if it is small. Meaning the glad tidings is for someone who cannot perform deeds to the ideal and that he will not lose any reward if it was not due to his intentional shortcomings. The object of the glad tidings is the reward, however the actual word itself (reward) is omitted in the hadith to induce a sense of veneration and magnificence towards the reward.
Ibn Rajab says it means to convey glad tidings to the one who traverses the path of obedience to Allah (exalted is He) through moderation, consistency and balance for he is the one who reaches the destination.
Indeed the path of moderation and balance is more virtuous than other paths, so the one who travels this path is given glad tidings. For, indeed moderation in adhering to the path of Sunnah (prophetic tradition) is better than exerting great effort in other paths. The best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad so whoever follows his path is closer to Allah than anyone else.
Ibn Rajab continues to explain that virtue is not due to the abundance of deeds that one performs; rather it is due to it being sincerely for Allah, it being correct in accordance to the Sunnah, and by the abundance of knowledge and actions of the heart. So the one who is more knowledgeable about Allah, His religion, His laws and His Shari`ah (religious law), and more fearful of Him, more loving of Him, and has more hope in Him is more virtuous than the one who is not in this state even if the latter performs more physical deeds than the former.
That is why some of the predecessors used to say that Abu Bakr (may God be please with him) did not excel others by much fasting or salah (prayer) but rather it was due to something deeply embedded in his heart. Some of them said the thing that was in his heart by which he excelled others was deep love for Allah and His Messenger and sincere counsel for Allah’s slaves.
In my prayers, I am constantly beseeching Allah with the words: “Guide us to the straight path.” Why, then, would I not see any changes in my personality?
Change, after all, is how we learn to respond correctly to new developments. It is how we move away from blind following and dependence on others towards independent thinking. It is the natural response to a world which is, by its very nature, in a perpetual state of change.
Religion, in its essence, is constant. However, our human interpretations and opinions are subject to reassessment. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to beseech Allah with the words: “You Who turn our hearts, make my heart constant in Your faith.” However, he would also make the following supplication: “Guide me to the truth in those matters wherein people have differed.”
The circumstances the first Muslims faced when they were in Makkah were different from those they found when the emigrated to Madinah. The Prophet’s era was different from the era of the rightly guided Caliphs that followed. If we consider the Islamic legal opinions of the great jurist Ash-Shafi`i, we find that the rulings he formulated in Iraq were quite different than those he later codified in Egypt. Ibn Taymiyah, likewise, changed his views many times throughout his life.
In Islamic Law, commands take precedence over prohibitions, mercy takes precedence over strictness, and winning hearts takes precedence over deterrence. In my personal life, I prefer to judge and criticize myself before judging others. I like to discover my own faults instead of seeking out the faults of those around me.
The sky changes by the movement of its clouds. The rivers change through the flowing of their waters. The earth changes in its topography. Every day, the sun sets at a different point on the horizon. If I stop moving in such a dynamic world, I will wake up suddenly one day to find that I have been left behind all alone.
I spent five years secluded from the influence of society. This gave me freedom; the freedom to escape from the narrowness of circumstances to a broader outlook. It gave me renewed life and allowed me to better appreciate the good in others. When I came back into society, I found that a sector of society had moved towards an aggressive attitude. I had to make my stance against their behavior clear, even though it meant losing their favorable opinion of me.
In the Qur’an, we read where Moses (peace be upon him) asked Khidr: “Might I follow you so that you can teach me the wisdom which has been taught to you?” However, who has ever heard someone ask: “Might I follow you so that you can obey me?” This is inconceivable. My freedom is my most precious possession. Freedom does not like being curtailed, whether by a leader or by a follower. I must keep on moving, even if it means I will stumble over and over again. I just have to try and pick myself up every time as quickly as I can.
I am proud that the greatest constant in my life has been my faith in Allah, my deep love for Him and my positive expectations of His providence. I am able to forget my worries, pain and suffering when I bow myself before Him in prayer.
Let me take an example from my life. In my youth, I had unquestioningly followed some of the leading scholars in what was then a commonly-held opinion that Islam prohibited photography except in cases of necessity. I understood that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had cursed the maker of images, and consequently I could not fathom how pictures might be used as a means to call people to Allah.
Now, due to changing circumstances, you hardly find anyone who says Islam prohibits photography. This change did not take place on account of new research, but rather due to changing circumstances in the world. A courageous scholar is one who opens doors that can be opened, rather than waiting for others to break those doors down.
Indeed, I have changed a lot over the years, as well I should. If I was still saying in my forties what I used to say when I was twenty, that would mean I had spent twenty years of my life in vain.
It’s popular today for people to talk about balance; achieving balance between all their aspirations and obligations so they don’t fail in either.
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The religion (of Islam) is easy, and whoever makes the religion a rigor, it will overpower him. So, follow a middle course (in worship); if you can’t do this, do something near to it and give glad tidings and seek help (of Allah) at morn and at dusk and some part of night”. (Al-Bukhari)
Following a middle course is what balance means. Islam does not mean that we observe only our spiritual obligations and totally neglect our worldly lives. We live in this world, while striving for the next world, so we need to be aware of the rights that others have over us; the rights of our Lord, the rights of our families, the rights of our bodies, and respect those rights.
In the seerah (biography of the prophet) class I took a couple months ago, we learned a little bit about Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), and were able to draw a lesson about balance from it. In fact, we can learn priorities from his story in the Qur’an. First we can look at people today and see what their priorities tend to be; self first, then family, and then religion. Right?
Sometimes people even say “number one” when talking about themselves, indicating that even the society understands that a person prioritizes himself above all, and then he might place his family. Maybe if the person is married or children, these goals will be intertwined, but last of all comes the religion, and obligations before God.
In Islam, the priorities are that the deen (religion) comes first, that is, the worship of Allah. Then comes families, followed by our physical needs. You can look at the du`a’ made by Abraham in the Qur’an:
And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) said: “O my Lord! Make this city (Makkah) one of peace and security, and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols. (Ibrahim 14:35)
O my Lord! They have indeed led astray many among mankind. But whoso follows me, he verily is of me. And whoso disobeys me, still You are indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Ibrahim 14:36)
O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka`bah); in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer, so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. (Ibrahim 14:37)
There is another similar du`a’ in Surat al-Baqarah:
And remember Abraham said: “My Lord, make this a city of peace, and feed its people with fruits,-such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” He said: “(Yea), and such as reject faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!”
And remember Abraham and Isma`il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For You are the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.
“Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to You, 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 You are the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:126-129)
This is the du`a’ made when Abraham was leaving his wife and child in the valley. It’s interesting because the request for provision is mentioned before belief, but Abraham is actually only requesting the provision for those who believe in the first place.
The du`a’ quoted above is after Ishmael has grown up and Abraham has visited him again in Makkah. (Chronology determined by the statement “make this a safe city” vs. “make this city safe,” a subtle difference implying that in the latter case the city has been established.) The city has been established and so Abraham requests that he and his progeny be protected from shirk.
So we can get an idea for priorities here, but also understand that everything needs to be in balance.
To close, I will quote a statement from the instructor of that seminar on the seerah, that loosely paraphrases a hadith recorded by Ibn Majah, At-Tabarani, and Al-Bayhaqi, which can be read here.
“Whoever’s concern is the dunya (worldly life), Allah will make his affairs disperse and will put poverty between his eyes. And nothing will come from the dunya except what Allah has written for him. But whoever’s concern is the hereafter, Allah will gather all his affairs, put barakah (blessing) in his time, he can be focused–and will enrich his heart, that he will feel rich, content and not poor, and the dunya will come whether looking for it or not.”
So the point of this post is that we need to have balance in our daily lives, which comes from prioritizing our efforts for the Hereafter. And the beauty of Islam is that it is balanced, and attending to the rights of others on us is prescribed as is attending the rights of Allah.
If there are any mistakes in this post, they are my own, and I pray that someone will correct them.
No one wants to make a mistake and do himself or others mischief. However, making mistakes is an important part of our trial in the life of this world. Allah created our trial in the life of this world in this way. Anyone can make a mistake but what is important is that he repents after his mistake and strive not to repeat this mistake.
Allah reveals in the verses of the Qur’an that human beings are weak creatures who can forget and be mistaken. A person can make a mistake when he does not think something through, ignores something, does not take the necessary precautions, is overwhelmed by his weak points, forgets or is mistaken. This is very natural.
However the important thing is how the person reacts after this, rather than the mistake itself. However big the mistake is, as soon as the person decides to resign himself and begins to show the attitude hoped to please Allah, that mistake disappears, by Allah’s leave. Almighty Allah reveals as such in Surat Aal `Imran:
Those who, when they act indecently or wrong themselves, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their bad actions (and who can forgive bad actions except Allah?) and do not knowingly persist in what they were doing. (Aal ‘Imran 3:135)
Everything a person lives throughout his or her life, everything they do, every situation they face, all of them are created by Allah with all of the pros and cons. In the verses it is revealed that not even a single leaf falls without the knowledge of Allah:
And with Him are the keys of the Invisible. None but He knows them. And He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls but He knows it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, naught of wet or dry but (it is noted) in a clear record. (Al-An`am 6:59)
It is also revealed “Everything they did is in the Books. Everything is recorded, big or small.” (Al-Qamar 54:52-53)
This means that the person makes that mistake because Allah wills him to do so; it is in his destiny to make that mistake. When he acts according to the Qur’an, something good will happen after that mistake.
For example, a person may break a vase when walking by it because he is not careful enough or does not look ahead. Or he can bump into a dinner plate prepared with great effort and knock it off a table. He may cause the people waiting for him to delay their jobs because he fell asleep.
Now in all these there is a variety of reasons created by Allah. Allah is the One Who breaks that object. Maybe that object would have caused a conflict between its owners or broken in a dangerous way that would harm someone. Maybe Allah will make a much more beautiful one to be purchased instead.
In the same way, Allah is the One Who makes the food spill on the floor. Maybe there is an bad ingredient inside that food and it would have made someone ill. Maybe that food would have prevented that person from eating something healthier.
Also Allah is the One Who does not wake a person who is late for a job because he fell asleep because maybe his friends waiting for him need to be late as well. Maybe this will protect them from some danger or maybe bring the means to carry out a more important job.
If one does not realize these facts, when he makes a mistake he would panic and feel anxiety and sorrow. He would feet unease and dismay. His sadness would increase even because of the effect of this situation on other people and his troubles increase day by day.
However, it is not in line with the moral values of the Qur’an to feel sad, dismay and troubled because of a mistake, which took place in his destiny by Allah’s will.
Muslims overthrow their discomfort and anxieties as a result of their mistakes again by turning to Allah and acting according to the moral values of the Qur’an. They do not fall into depression like people who do not live by the morality of religion. They do not feel sadness, sorrow or hopelessness by evaluating their mistakes with an emotional state of mind. They only experience a very deep and strong sense of regret.
However this is not an evil kind of regret; it is a Muslim kind of regret because this feeling of regret helps them hold onto the Qur’an even more strongly. They pray to Allah even more deeply. Their religious enthusiasm, determination to live by the moral values of the Qur’an, submission to Allah, faith in the hereafter and fear of Allah increase tremendously.
They take very sincere decisions to become better in every way and become more enthusiastic and energetic by striving more in this way. They know that even if they could take the time back, they would still make the same mistakes. When they criticize themselves and feel regret for their actions, they do not forget that all things have occurred according to destiny. Therefore they do not “live in a sense of guilt” as irreligious people do:
Everything they did is in the Books. Everything is recorded, big or small. (Al-Qamar 54:52-53)
It is impossible to claim that a person will never make any mistakes throughout his life and is complete and flawless because human beings are created as weak creatures who can make mistakes. Our Almighty Lord is the One Who is forgiving and accepts repentance.
Therefore, a believer needs to take lessons from the mistakes he made knowingly or unknowingly or because he followed his inner self. What he needs to do is to regret it and follow the truth and submit to our Lord and strive not to repeat that mistake. Of course he needs to be very careful about not making any mistakes and commit any further sins and protecting the boundaries of our Lord.
But even if he makes a mistake it is a very good quality of faith to ask for forgiveness from Allah. The names of Allah as “The Acceptor of Repentance” (At-Tawwab), “The All-Forgiving” (Al-Ghaffar), “The All-Merciful” (Ar-Rahman) are manifested on the believers who regret their mistakes, ask for forgiveness and turn to Allah.
As a result of their faith and fear of Allah, mistakes help believers become more clean morally. Maybe they make a mistake on one thing, but they remember that mistake all their lives and avoid making a similar mistake by taking lessons from it.
However, Allah created human beings especially in a character so that they can use their conscience, feel regret and repent, turn to Him and ask for His forgiveness and take decisions not to repeat that mistake.
A person must do all he can not to make a mistake; and strive to act in a very moral way by using his mind, will and conscience to the end. But when there is a mistake, he needs to act in the way as described in the Qur’an.
If that mistake has helped the person to better understand his weakness in the face of Allah’s infinite power and his need for Allah, then this shows that person’s sincere faith and fear of Allah. If he regrets his mistake and fears to be held responsible in the Day of Judgment, and if he submits to Allah’s mercy and forgiveness, then he is abiding by the moral values of the Qur’an by Allah’s leave.
Such a person prays sincerely so Allah accepts his repentance and forgives him. He promises to Allah with a true heart not to repeat that mistake. In one verse, our Lord heralds that He will accept the repentance of his sincere servants:
But if anyone makes repentance after his wrongdoing and puts things right, Allah will turn towards him. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Al-Ma’idah 5:39)
The Qur’an is the only measure for believers, so their approach to a person who makes a mistake is always in line with the moral values of the Qur’an.
A believer knows that every person is a human being who is weak and who can make a mistake easily. He does not forget that Allah is the One Who creates everything – by Allah’s leave – and he can distinguish a sincere mistake from a deliberate one. When a person is sincere, his love or respect would not change because of a single mistake – by Allah’s leave.
When Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), the intimate friend of Allah, was commanded all those years ago to proclaim the pilgrimage to Makkah, he did so in faith. Standing in what was little more than a barren, inhospitable desert, he called out for men and women to come on pilgrimage to the holy Ka`bah at Allah’s command.
He was astonished at the response. From the north, south, east, and west, he heard voices calling out, “I respond to Your call, O Allah! I respond to Your call,” and people began to come from all the corners of the earth in praise of Almighty Allah.
Thousands of years later, people are still coming from every corner of the globe to worship at Allah’s command. I have just returned from performing `Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage for the first time, and I share these thoughts with my Muslim brothers and sisters to encourage their faith and that Allah’s name be glorified even more.
But what can I say? How can I describe an experience so profound and so beautiful? Shall I say that it was the most blessed experience of my life? Shall I say that Almighty Allah touched my heart and gave me a feeling of peace I had not known before?
Shall I describe the tears that flowed freely from my eyes, affirming my Muslim faith, as I walked around the holy Ka`bah with thousands of others, begging Allah’s blessings for myself and for those I love? Perhaps the best way is just to start at the beginning, and to allow Almighty Allah to use my poor words as He wants.
Preparing for any journey is, in many ways, almost as important as the journey itself. As I prepared for my journey to Makkah, my heart already began to stir at the enormity of what I was about to do.
I had read all the books and consulted all the manuals so that my `Umrah, in sha’ Allah, would be accepted. I learned the prayers in Arabic that I would need to say at different parts of the pilgrimage.
Good Muslim brothers had told me not to worry too much about all this, because it would be my heart that would speak when I reached the holy Ka`bah. I know that Almighty Allah has placed within the heart of every Muslim a deep longing to visit Makkah, to return home to where we belong, to that first house built on Earth in worship of Allah.
Some say that it was Prophet Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) who first built the Ka`bah. Others suggest it was first built by angels beneath the throne of Allah in heaven. Others still attribute the first building of the Ka`bah to Prophet Idris (peace be upon him). Whatever its origins, we know that over time this first building fell into disrepair and ruin and that by the time of Prophet Ibrahim, there was nothing left of it except a small mound of earth. Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim and his first-born son Ismail (peace be upon them both) to rebuild the Ka`bah.
I had written all these things before and had a good knowledge of the history of the Sacred House, but now it was real to me. This time I was leaving my home in Cairo, wearing the simple white garments of Ihram.
Upon leaving, I was showered with good wishes and prayers by family and friends who so happy for me as I prepared for the journey of a lifetime. Even during the drive to the airport and the arrival at the airport itself, many Muslims showed on their faces the delight they felt at seeing a brother setting off to perform `Umrah.
What a blessed religion is ours, that brothers and sisters we don’t even know should care for us so much! Throughout the journey, I was repeating in Arabic those sweet words which Prophet Ibrahim, first heard all those years ago as follows:
“I respond to Your call, O Allah!
I respond to Your call and I am obedient to Your orders.
You have no partner.
I respond to Your call.
All the praises and the blessings are for You.
All the sovereignty is for You.
And You have no partners with You.”
As the plane took off, I said these words. As we flew across the Red Sea and landed in Jeddah, I continued to say them. As I said them, my heart filled with excitement as I traveled by car through the Makkan hills and approached the city. More tears came as I arrived in Makkah and saw the sanctuary for the first time from a distance.
But nothing can describe the feeling of entering the sacred mosque and seeing the holy Ka`bah. I was choking with tears, the mosque left me breathless and filled me with an immense joy. Not even the hardest of hearts could be left unmoved by the grace, simplicity, and majesty of the Ka`bah, which has been on this spot since the beginning of time itself.
I kept telling myself that in this very place our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) walked and prayed, as well as countless millions of other good Muslims through the centuries.
And so I performed the rituals of `Umrah, my heart beating with joy and tears running down my cheeks. For something so profound, the rituals were really very simple. They basically involved walking around the Ka`bah seven times and then running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, in imitation of that desperate search for water made by Hagar, which culminated in the spring of Zamzam gushing from the ground. Our beloved Prophet taught us to say just one prayer as we encircle the Ka`bah as follows:
“May Our Lord grant us blessings in this life,
Blessings in the life to come,
And save us from the torment of the hell-fire.”
All of this seemed like a dream. While my lips were saying what I had learned to say, my mind was racing with thoughts and my heart was pouring out everything within it. I had come to the very center of the world in response to the call of Allah. What love He shows to us, and yet how ungrateful we are. What blessings He showers upon us each day, and yet how slow we are to respond to the call of the adhan and to utter His praises.
We can gladly spend hours sitting in front of a television set or talking idly on a mobile phone, and yet we hardly find the time to spend a few minutes in prayer, even though our life in the hereafter depends on it.
The experience of `Umrah or Hajj is like a piercing sword. It cuts through all the rubbish we surround ourselves with and it shows us our lives in their real perspective – we come from Allah and it is to Allah that we will return. The experience of `Umrah is also like being soaked in love. Our heartfelt response is one of thanks.
As if all this were not enough, most pilgrims usually finish their pilgrimage to Makkah by spending a few days in Madinah, the city of our beloved Prophet and the first Muslim state ever. In Madinah, the mosque was at the center of the city and Allah was at the center of every Muslim’s life.
I finished my own pilgrimage in the same way, walking the very paths trod by Allah’s Messenger and falling in prostration on the ground in the same places where he prayed. I met Muslims from almost every nation on earth and was welcomed to the city by Muslims for whom Islam is everything.
If Makkah, then, is the place of powerful emotions that shake a person to the core, Madinah is truly the city of peace. The Prophet’s Mosque is a place of calm and quiet. With its salmon-colored walls, grey and cream Moorish arches, and its floors and pillars of white, polished marble, the mosque is breathtakingly beautiful.
Although it is immense and holds thousands at a time for prayer, the Prophet’s Mosque is a place of peace. The gentle personality and the presence of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is everywhere. Madinah is such a privileged place to end one’s journey of a lifetime.
Now that I am home, the real challenge of living out my `Umrah begins. It is not difficult to pray for long periods of time and to focus all your thoughts on Islam when you are looking at the Ka`bah or are near the final resting place of Allah’s final messenger to mankind. The routine of daily life, though, with all its distractions, is less easy.
I cherish the memories of those days in Saudi Arabia in my heart, and I say al-hamdu lillah (praise be to God). I pray that Almighty Allah will give me the strength to be a good Muslim. I pray that I will always be prompt and faithful to prayer. I pray that I will now learn and recite more of the Qur’an every day.
And, after the experience of a lifetime, I pray that I will always give good examples to my Muslim brothers and sisters, and that I can show to non-Muslims how sweet and beautiful the message of Islam is. Ameen.
Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): “Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways; that they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House”. (Al-Hajj 22:26-29)
Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Makkah) for Allah. And if you are prevented, then send such gifts as can be obtained with ease, and shave not your heads until the gifts have reached their destination. And whoever among you is sick or has an ailment of the head must pay a ransom of fasting or almsgiving or offering. And if you are in safety, then whosoever contents himself with the visit for the pilgrimage (shall give) such gifts as can be had with ease. And whosoever cannot find (such gifts), then a fast of three days while on the pilgrimage, and of seven when you have returned; that is, ten in all. That is for him whoso folk are not present at the inviolable place of worship. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.
The pilgrimage is (in) the well-known months, and whoever is minded to perform the pilgrimage therein (let him remember that) there is (to be) no lewdness nor abuse nor angry conversation on the pilgrimage. And whatsoever good you do Allah knows it. So make provision for yourselves (Hereafter); for the best provision is to ward off evil. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding.
It is no sin for you that you seek the bounty of your Lord (by trading). But, when you press on in the multitude from `Arafat, remember Allah by the sacred monument. Remember Him as He hath guided you, although before you were of those astray.
Then hasten onward from the place whence the multitude hastens onward, and ask forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
And when you have completed your devotions, then remember Allah as you remember your fathers or with a more lively remembrance. But of mankind is he who says: “Our Lord! Give unto us in the world,” and he has no portion in the Hereafter.
Remember Allah through the appointed days. Then whoso hastens (his departure) by two days, it is no sin for him, and whoso delays, it is no sin for him; that is for him who wards off (evil). Be careful of your duty to Allah, and know that unto Him ye will be gathered. (Al-Baqarah 2:203)
Pilgrimage, an important religious duty in Islam, is described at length in the Qur’an, as is evident from the two passages quoted above. Some of the points addressed include: the House of Allah (the Ka`bah) and its credentials, how the Prophet Abraham (peace and blessings be upon him) proclaimed Pilgrimage and the response to it down the ages, the benefits of pilgrimage, and how it represents the essence of all other acts of devotional worship in Islam, especially the spirit of piety and surrender to Allah pervading every aspect of pilgrimage.
The Qur’anic passage opens with placing pilgrimage in its historical context. At Allah’s directive and at the site identified by Him, the Prophet Abraham constructed the Ka`bah, the House of Allah, and hence its special, hallowed status.
Nonetheless, this account is immediately followed by a condemnation of polytheism in any form. It appears that the above note is intended to clarify beyond any shadow of doubt that the Ka`bah owes its exalted position only in view of its close association with Allah.
The structure of the Ka‘bah itself has no sanctity of its own. It is Allah the One True God, not the Ka`bah, which is to be worshipped. As for keeping it clean and pure, the directive has both a literal and a figurative sense, clear of all material and spiritual filth – for all true worshippers of the One Universal God.
Furthermore, the House, itself, is not to be taken as an object of worship: it is simply a place for worshipping the One.
After the Prophet Abraham had constructed the Ka`bah and ensured that only the One True God would be worshipped there, Allah directed him to issue a general proclamation, asking people to visit the Ka`bah.
In his “The Glorious Qur’an” Daryabadi, a famous Indian Muslim writer and exegete of the Qur’an, pertinently draws attention to the fact that this proclamation was made thousands of years ago, before the era of the press, the post, the telegraph, the wireless, the radio, television and other such paraphernalia of modern publicity and propaganda that mankind has been responding to during all these centuries, by performing the pilgrimage in their tens and hundreds of thousands every year!
Amid the various acts of worship prescribed in Islam, Hajj stands out above others in many respects. That the performance of Hajj provides an opportunity to pilgrims “to witness the benefits to them” is a special feature of Hajj. The above point is made in Allah’s directive, asking mankind to perform Hajj:
And proclaim unto mankind the pilgrimage. They will come unto you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine, that they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He has bestowed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate. (Al-Hajj 22:27, 28)
The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.
The benefits accruing to pilgrims are numerous and varied; religious, financial, social, political and intellectual. Down the millennia pilgrims have witnessed these benefits. This truth comes out at its sharpest in their numerous narratives and travelogues.
There is hardly a pilgrim who returns home without experiencing some of these benefits. It is commonplace that each act of worship has its own benefits. However, the benefits gained from Hajj are, relatively speaking, much more palpable and pronounced, observable to both pilgrims and non-pilgrims.
Winning Allah’s pleasure is, of course, its greatest benefit, which cannot be matched by any other gain imaginable. Accordingly, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) clarified that on accomplishing Hajj a pilgrim is akin to a new-born baby in being pure and sinless.
Amazingly enough, the moment one intends to perform Hajj, a sea change sets in one’s mindset, psychological make-up; in sum, on one’s entire outlook on life and benefits start pouring in immediately. For Hajj represents, so to speak, the pervading spirit of all the prescribed acts of worship in Islam.
The constant mention and remembrance of Allah and chanting certain formulae during Hajj are the unmistakable hallmarks of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) which permeate Hajj. This mention of Allah at appointed times during the course of Hajj also captures the spirit of salah, which is incorporated into Hajj.
A set of certain restrictions, forbidding pilgrims the use of otherwise perfectly lawful and wholesome things during the state of ihram (consecration), reminds one readily of the prohibitions placed on one during the month-long fasting during Ramadan.
Taken in this sense, Hajj incorporates features which are special to fasting. The journey undertaken to perform Hajj, often entailing inconvenience and suffering, re-enacts the essential component of the Hijrah (migrating in the cause of Allah). For in both of these acts of worship one willingly undergoes discomfort and emotional, material and monetary loss for the sake of Allah.
By the same token, some features specific to Jihad (striving in Allah’s cause) also characterize Hajj as the pilgrim makes sacrifices related to both his body and belongings. It goes without saying that to perform Hajj the pilgrim incurs expenses. This reinforces the spirit underlying zakah that man is only a trustee over the material resources endowed on him by Allah and that he should spend in consonance with Allah’s directives. Animal sacrifice, another prescribed act of worship in Islam, happens to be one of the major rites of Hajj itself.
Viewed thus, Hajj displays the quintessence of all the main acts of worship in Islam; prayer, fasting, zakah, hijrah, jihad and dhikr. One may therefore, maintain that this single act of worship, Hajj, renews in one the spirit pervading several acts of worship which is a benefit beyond all measure.
Furthermore, each rite of Hajj is characterized by many benefits which have both functional and catalytic value. The donning of ihram makes one realize paradoxically both the importance and worthlessness of clothes, of which one is habitual since birth. Clothes invest one with identity; individual, social and ethnic. Cloth is doubtless one of Allah’s major bounties bestowed on man.
At Allah’s command however, one stops using one’s traditional clothes during the state of ihram. This amounts, in a sense, to removing an artificial barrier to the unity of mankind. Pilgrims dressed in frugal ihram display the essential sameness of mankind, cutting across distinctions of social class, financial status and ethnic origin.
The strong individuality exhibited, rather reinforced by one’s preferential clothes, is instantly replaced by the awe-inspiring unity of mankind, with each one of the millions of pilgrims, assembled every year during the Hajj period, represented only as an obedient servant of Allah. Ihram thus instructs one in the ideal of mankind’s unity, which has assumed greater importance and relevance in today’s conflict-riven and disunited world.
More importantly, the donning of ihram places certain restrictions on one, ranging from refraining from sexual relations with one’s wife to hunting or wearing perfume, etc. This further infuses and strengthens a spirit of self-restraint. A pilgrim in ihram is not allowed to kill even an insect. He is not to indulge in fighting, obscenity or evil. Avoiding aggression and controlling animal instincts are thus the benefits arising out of donning ihram.
Talbiyah (chanting during Hajj) is of immense benefit for the pilgrim. At one level, it facilitates the bonding between man and Allah, between the creature and the Creator. At another, it helps one discover one’s true self – of wholesale surrender to the Supreme Lord.
One’s sense of proximity with Allah is further heightened by the sacred locale of Hajj sites. The House of Allah and other structures and places with thousands of years of rich history and their association with such august figures as Allah’s Messengers, from the Prophets Abraham and Muhammad (peace be upon them) to the latter’s Companions, make one inhale and imbibe the sense of the sacred and sublimate one spiritually and emotionally.
At the same time, this grand setting humbles one, making one all the more conscious of one’s failings and lapses in being true and faithful to one’s covenant with one’s Lord. Psychologically and morally it brings such benefits which a pilgrim treasures throughout his life.
The talbiyah and Hajj-setting help a pilgrim release and ennoble his feelings, especially towards his Creator and Lord. The sense of liberation and purgation is enhanced by the immediate environment and constant mention of Allah which form part of Hajj.
The visit to Haram (the Sacred Mosque) further heightens the sense of the hallowed and the sacred. It is innate in human nature to exteriorize, objectify and perceive the sacred with sense perception.
In Islam the sacred is abstract and rightly belongs to the domain of al-ghayb (the unseen which is beyond the realm of human sense perception). This natural desire on man’s part is, nonetheless gratified, to a certain degree, on seeing and going round the House of Allah, a concrete object yet enjoying such a close association with the sacred and the divine. The visit thus has a sublimating and exhilarating effect on the pilgrim’s spirit. Needless to add, this benefit is not obtainable anywhere else.
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is on record as saying that a prayer offered within the precincts of the Sacred Mosque is equivalent to one thousand prayers offered in any other mosque. This benefit of Hajj is too great to be disregarded by any Muslim.
Tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka`bah) broadens and reinforces one’s spiritual benefits. This rite draws the pilgrim into the proximity of the sanctum sanctorum. Standing near the Ka`bah, praying at the spot on which the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) had once stood, visiting the Zamzam well and drinking its water, and performing Sa`i between Safa and Marwah all being part of the rites of Hajj, help the pilgrim re-enact sacred history.
This benefit, once again, is special to Hajj. While regarding himself as part of the grand tradition, the pilgrim gains firm religious conviction. In other words, revivification of faith is one of the great benefits of Hajj.
The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.