At the end of the month (July 2020) Muslims will not be converging on Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. This year due to the global Covid 19 pandemic Hajj is restricted to residents of Saudi Arabia who are under 65 and do not have a chronic illness.
The numbers could be restricted to 1000 people, a far cry from the usual 2.5 million who attend from all corners of the world.
The pilgrimage and its rites were first established by Prophet Abraham, when God asked him to build the House of God on the site in the Arabian Peninsula now known as Mecca.
Thus, as we prepare for a quiet Hajj period, it seems fitting that we revisit the life of Prophet Abraham and the spiritual lessons his experiences contain.
Prophet Abraham is recognized and honored with salutations every day when Muslims perform their daily prayers. And the Quran sums up his importance by saying:
Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to Allah, does good, and follows the way of Abraham the true in Faith? For Allah did take Abraham for a friend (Quran 4:125).
Advice Can Come From Unlikely Places
Abraham’s father was a craftsman who sculpted idols from stone and wood. Even as a child, Abraham recognized this to be inherently wrong.
One fateful night Abraham submitted himself to the One True God and felt that his life was filled with new purpose. He advised his father:
Oh my Father! Why do you worship that which doesn’t hear, doesn’t see, and cannot avail you in anything? Oh my father, I have knowledge that you do not, so follow me. I will guide you to a straight path. (Quran 19:42-48)
In these early years of Prophet Abraham’s life, we can learn at least two important lessons:
The first is that submitting to the will of God can quickly and easily change lives.
The second is that one who seeks knowledge must understand that knowledge could come from what we consider the most unlikely of places. Especially today, but throughout history, adults are very reluctant to take advice from their children. However, children are very likely to understand God in a way that is untainted by worldly endeavors.
God Has Total Control Over All Things
As a young man, Abraham turned his efforts towards convincing others in his community to give up the practices that actually pushed them further and further away from God.
He debated with his people in a calm manner using reasoning and logic, but they grew exasperated with him and threatened to harm him.
In the end, they considered it a religious duty to rid themselves of this troublesome young man and threw him into a fire. They were prepared to watch him die in smoke and flames. However, instead of a conflagration, the people saw Abraham exit the fire unharmed.
It was a great miracle; the fire did not burn him but did burn away the chains that bound him. God had ordered the fire to be cool and peaceful.
From Prophet Abraham’s experience, we learn a supplication that is very well known across the Muslim world. God Alone is sufficient for us and He is the best disposer of affairs.
Abraham said this as he entered the fire. If we acknowledge that God has total control over all things, we recognize that He is sending us help and comfort from a myriad of places and in a myriad of ways.
Whenever we are troubled or feel trapped, we must follow Abrahams example and turn to God first and foremost. The help may come from an outside source but we can be sure that God has arranged our affairs in the best way.
After his horrendous trials and tribulations, Prophet Abraham decided to migrate to a place where he could establish the religion of God.
Accepting the Will of God
Sometime later, Abraham’s second wife Hajar gave birth to a son they named Ishmael. When the baby was still quite small, God told Abraham to prepare to take Hajar and Ishmael on a long journey.
They traveled to an uninhabited part of the Arabian desert. Abraham settled his wife and son under a tree, and walked away leaving them there alone, with only a bag of dates and some water.
From this point in the story the behavior of both Prophet Abraham and Hajar teach us lessons and reveal a little bit about the Hajj rituals.
Although bewildered, Hajar asked Abraham if God had ordered him to leave them alone in a barren place. When Abraham confirmed that He did Hajar accepted the situation, humbling submitting herself and her son to the will of God.
This teaches us that we should find comfort in accepting the will of God. Sometimes it is far removed from what we expected, however it is God who holds all the wisdom. And there is wisdom in everything.
Hajar accepted her fate but that did not mean that she did not face challenges. When the water and dates ran out, she and Ishmael were facing a grim future. Hajar ran between the two hills, Marwa and Safa, looking into the distance and calling out for help.
The Angel Gabriel appeared and struck the ground with his foot revealing the underground water source we now call Zam Zam. This water source allowed Hajar to trade with travelers and eventually they were able to turn the barren desert into a bustling community.
When Abraham turned away from his family, he did not leave them unprotected. When he turned around and could only see them as a small dot on the horizon, he appealed to God to offer them His protection.
Oh Lord, he said, I have left some of my family in a barren valley, in the hope that they will worship you, so fill the hearts of some people with love towards them, and provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. (14:37)
Trusting His Choices
It is essential to bear these two people in mind whenever we are hit with unexpected problems. Both Abraham and Hajar displayed phenomenal trust in God’s will.
They believed that His choices for them, no matter how unlikely or unexpected, would ultimately prove to be the best choices. They also understood that God was the only person they could reliably call upon for help, in all situations.
Hajar knew that if God had directed Abraham to leave her alone in a wilderness, there was wisdom in His decision.
Abraham knew that his supplications for his beloved family were the only sure way of protecting them from disaster.
Our lives in this time of civil strife and global pandemic can be compared to Prophet Abraham’s life. Human beings have always faced trials and tribulations; however, God knows what is best for His creation and has provided us with the tools to overcome and conquer even the most troubling circumstances.
One of those tools is emulating the Prophets; their lives teach us how to behave in the best and most dire of circumstances.