In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Hajj and the Neglected Legacy of a Great Woman

    Hajj and the Neglected Legacy of a Great Woman:
    Based on an Eid al-Ad’ha Khutba


    - by Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq

    Islam teaches us to submit completely and whole-heartedly. "O you who believe! Enter into Islam completely, whole-heartedly..." [2/al-Baqarah/208]

    It also calls for a submission that is spontaneous, without any hesitation or resistance against the will and guidance of Allah. "But no, by your Rabb, they can have no (real) faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction." [4/an-Nisa'a/65]

    There is great - truly great - news from Allah. "Those who have faith and do righteous deeds, they are the best of creatures, their reward is with Allah: Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein forever; Allah is well pleased with them, and they with Him: All this for such as fear their Rabb (the cherisher and sustainer)." [98/al-Bayyinah/7-8]

    Today we have gathered here on a great occasion of joy and celebration. Ironically, this joy and celebration revolves around sacrifice. It would probably make sense to only those who understand that the joy of giving - that touches others' lives - is far greater and deeper than the joy of receiving.

    Today is the Eid al-Ad'ha. This great occasion is tied to an unique event, the Hajj; a unique city, Makkah; and a unique family, the family of Ibrahim (a). Indeed, what Qur'an refers to the Millat of Ibrahim is essentially rooted in the legacy of a model family. Say: "God speaks the Truth: follow the Millat of Ibrahim, the True in Faith; he was not of the Pagans." [3/ale Imran/95]

    We cannot discuss Eid al-Ad'ha without remembering Ibrahim (a), who represents in the Qur'an an ideal submission. He never hesitated to respond to the call and command of his Rabb. He never considered anything too precious to be withheld when it comes to the fulfilling the wish of his Rabb. Everything he was commanded by Allah, he fulfilled with honor and nobility. We are all too familiar with the story of his unwavering faith and conviction, and his supreme sacrifice as embodied in the event when he was ready to sacrifice his dear and only son to fulfill the wish of his Rabb. "Behold! his Rabb (Lord) said to him: "Bow/submit (your will to Me): He said: "I bow/submit (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe." [2/al-Baqarah/131]

    Another member of this ideal family was the first son of Ibrahim (a), Ismail. The Qur'an presents him as like father, like son. "... (Abraham) he said: ‘O my son! I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!’ (The son) said: ‘O my father! Do as you are commanded: You will find me, if God so wills, one practising patience and constancy!" [19/as-Saffat/102]

    In his submission to the will of his Rabb, Ismail was no less ideal. He submitted to the will of Allah whole-heartedly and with a heart full of peace and tranquility. Once again, there are very few among us who are not already familiar with the role and position of Ismail (a) in the heritage of Tawheed and the eternal truth.

    In today's khutbah, however, I want to focus on the not-so-familiar Legacy of a great woman, Mother Hajera (a), the wife of Ibrahim (a) and the mother of Ismail (a). Indeed, she is an integral and as important part of the legacy of Tawheed and the Millat of Ibrahim. Her submission to the will of her Rabb and her sacrifice were as ideal as that of Ibrahim (a) and Ismail (a). Allah has ennobled her in the Qur'an by making Safaa and Marwah integral to the performance of Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. These are the two hills between which she ran back and forth in search of water for her beloved infant son, while she was all alone according to the plan of Allah s.w.t. Himself. "Behold! Safaa and Marwah are among the symbols of Allah. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeys his own impulse to Good, be sure that Allah is He Who recognizes and knows." [2/al-Baqarah/158]

    If you have not read already, I invite all of you, my dear brothers and sisters, to read the hadith containing details of her story in Sahih al-Bukhari (Vol. 4, #583, Book of Ambiya or Prophets). It is a must reading.

    Mother Hajera was not just a wife of Ibrahim (a), but she was deeply loved by him. But, once again, to fulfill the wish of Allah, he brought Mother Hajera and their beloved infant son, Ismail, to this abandoned, desolate, barren valley of Makkah. There was no such inhabited place called Makkah at that time.

    As Ibrahim (a) brought Mother Hajera and Ismail (a) to that barren, rugged valley, she asks (as in the hadith): ‘O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is neither any person nor anything else (to survive)?’ She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, ‘Has God instructed you to do so?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’...

    That was enough for Mother Hajera. Now she knew that it was according to the Divine Will. With the same nobility and dignity of faith as it ran in that family, "She said, ‘Then God will not neglect us.’ (In another version): ‘I am pleased to be (left) with Allah.’

    Then Ibrahim (a) left and she was alone with her infant. Makka was not an inhabited place yet. Food and water that Ibrahim (a) provided them with were finished. Then, she started searching for water running back and forth through the valley between the hills of Safaa and Marwah. Finally, she was visited by the arch-angel Jibril (a). [This is an important point for Muslims to ponder: What kind of persons are visited individually by Jibril (a)?]

    Then, water, in the form of an everflowing spring, the Zamzam, was made available to them by direct intervention of Allah. Right during that time, the tribe of Jurhum, passing by the valley saw birds flying. Realizing that water must be available, they searched and discovered Mother Hajera and Ismail. They sought permission to settle there. Thus, the desolate valley of Makkah became an inhabited area. Hadrat Ibrahim returned there much later and laid the foundaton of Ka'ba. Makkah ultimately was to emerge as a city; no, even greater than that, the perennial heartland of Tawhid, the belief in oneness of Allah.

    Subhanallah, Allah is glorified. He took such a significant and noble service from a woman. But consider another aspect. What kind of situation Mother Hajera was placed into? In that desolate, uninhabited valley, what might have been going on in her mind?

    She, while whole-heartedly submitted to her Rabb, was constantly searching, moving and struggling not remembering herself any longer, but to find some water and save her infant. What could she think about herself? Once she was slave only to be given away by her Master, a King representing the owning class; now a victim and a stranger, exiled and abandoned by her family all alone with her child in her arms! She hardly ever had a dignified identity. Had she not been the mother of Ismail (a), who would have recognized her for anything worth? There, in that barren place, her identity did not matter any further. Yet, she reposed her complete trust in her true Lord (Rabb) and was determined to pursue whatever she could in the Way of Allah.

    Now ask yourself. Whom would you consider the Founder of Makkah as a city? Is there any other civilization, or even a city of this stature, that has been brought about by such primary contribution and sacrifice of a woman? How ironical, unfortunate, and insulting that the city that came into existence by a lone woman now does not allow women to drive a car by herself. Nor does it allow a woman to travel to hajj by herself, even though the Prophet Muhammad (s) himself had the vision that woman would travel someday alone to perform hajj and indeed, the vision did materialize.

    It is so unfortunate that so little about her is talked about even on such pertinent occasion of which she is an integral part. I don’t recall myself listening to any Khutbah that highlighted her faith, sacrifice, and contribution that were second to none. Indeed, I have read Sahih al-Bukhari before too, until a Muslim intellectual of our time, whose mind is keen about women’s contribution in the heritage of Tawheed, drew my attention to this.

    What men and women can learn from a woman, whose service and contribution ennobled the Hills of Safaa and Marwah to the status of "among the Sign of Allah," which must be visited, and whose quest for saving the object of her love must be reenacted.

    From far away as the pilgrims perform this reenactment, we also want to be like Ismail and have a share of this noble woman's affection. But there is a greater symbolic implication!

    This community of believers follow the Way of Prophet Muhammad, a way that primarily was designed after the Way of Ibraham and his family. The role that was played primarily by the family of Ibrahim, was broadly assumed by the Prophet Muhammad (s), but now involving not just his family, but the larger community of believers. This community (Ummah) is created for mankind!

    As it was true then, it is also now, humanity is in pursuit of doom and destruction. Can we not, should we not, think of the humanity as Ismail destined for death, to save which love, affection, and restless passion of Mother Hajera are needed again and again? Did not the Prophet Muhammad (s) carry on that mission of mercy and affection, and thus he was the Rahmatulllil Alamin, according to the Qur’an? Did not his loyal companions fulfilled the same mission? Then, does not this community (Ummah) need to be conscious of the trust Allah has given to them, for which the community will be accountable? What could be a better occasion for us to remind ourselves of that trust and invite ourselves to reflect on this and respond accordingly?

    In conclusion, what is there, then, to celebrate? Listen.

    "Our Lord! Grant us what you did promise to us through your Prophets, and save us from the shame on the Day of Judgment: for you never break Your promise." And their Rabb (Lord) has accepted of them, and answered them: "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another; those who have left their homes, or been driven out therefrom, or suffered harm in My Cause, or fought or been slain; Verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath; A reward from the Presence of Allah, and from His Presence is the best of rewards. [3: ale Imran: 194-195]

    For all the toil and struggle, the hardship and sacrifice, the efforts and pursuits, is it not truly deserving of celebration that our works will not be in vain, will not suffer any loss. This is a guarantee from none other than Allah.

    For me, that is good enough. No, more than good enough. With all the worldly promises, guarantees, and warranties that give us a sense of security, one tends to forget that there is also a vast world of deceptions. If we cannot have peace of mind with the promise from Allah, we have no where to turn to. Thus, what could be more worthy of our celebration than the invitation of Allah to an eternal life of peace, happiness, and prosperity, an invitation that comes with the unfailing promise of Allah.

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