Hajj season is upon us, the Muslim annual pilgrimage to Makkah, this time the whole air is filled with festivities as we stand on the same time-space continuum following the footsteps of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) while Christians celebrate the birth of Prophet Isa/ Jesus (peace be upon) and as Jews commemorate the feast of lights for the rededication of the temple at the Jewish victory of the Greeks.
Prophet Ibrahim/Abaraham (AS) is known as the father of Monotheism. Muslims, Christians and Jews all hold him in high esteem, and during those softer moments shared in interfaith dialogue the term "Abrahamic faiths" is used, to denote the point of convergence across the various traditions, and our connections and relationships to each other.
"Guide us upon the straight path..." Whenever I repeat this verse, my thoughts go back to Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). I see him as a large luminary, making pathways for us where darkness only existed. I feel his torment and conflict, as he grows up surrounded by idol worshipping, confronted by steep cultural norms that were deaf to any heeds of logic or rationale.
I trace his path into the depths of night, as he searches for his Creator; it has to be that shining star, the moon, no, nothing beats the dazzling sun! I see him turning this way and that in great confusion, until he falls exhausted "I love not those that set". The glimmer of inspiration that had him realizing a power much greater than all Creation combined; and a force that contains all the mysteries of the universes and what lies between.
His sagacity in approaching his people, his counsel to his father, his pondering on ways to get them to see the illogics of their actions are all founts of wisdom I continuously sip from. I wonder at his resolution even as he stands ready to sacrifice his son at the highest altar of his Beloved.
I wonder at my own eclipsed state and whether I have the resources to recognize the more insidious idols that we worship. Even as I do, I wonder where my strength is to confront; to guide and nurture dwindling attention spans to all that is important and enduring. I observe his willingness to part with a son most loved to him, a child he waited so long to conceive, to sever the unbreakable bonds that tie us to our children and bind us to ourselves. Could he really carry out such a solemn act without murdering a part of his own soul? I look at my own baby, and can not begin to conceive such a thought, I hold him tight, praying for his safety, O God, please don't let me bear through the pain of ever losing him.
I weep in relief as he spared the tormenting act, and a sheep is laid to slaughter. I marvel as he then parts ways again with his infant and wife, in the middle of a desert. As Hajjar runs through two hills, safa and marwa, following mirages, searching for water, spurred by her baby's crying, I weep along. And as Zamzam finally bubbles out, I laugh at the seeming madness of His plans and pray to never lose hope, even during those moments so bleak and treacherous, with no silver lining in sight.
I journey along with him, as he holds this self-same son by the hand, and together they build the Kaabah. In the middle of a scorching desert sun, they lay the foundation. As the heat gathers around them, they bow in humility "O our Lord accept this service from us." Together, they leave an emblem for worshippers far and wide to come find them, still lingering in our depths, still beckoning from heights we can't perceive.
The year draws to an end, and worshippers from far and wide, gather their belongings with trembling hearts. This is a calling of a lifetime, a moment to leave worldly cares behind and tread ancient paths of submission, tracing that journey that began so long ago, and following the procession of caravans that have never stopped marching.
Friday marks the first day of Dhul Hijja, and for those of us who have yet to make the pilgrimage the nine days culminating with Arafat, are sacred days that give us many openings into spiritual bounty, a chance to perform the pilgrimage in spirit and deed, even from far away.
If you are able to, do fast and hush the humming of your senses perchance the soul may savor these moments. Do repeat your invocations and remembrances of God, over and over again, give your prayer and blessings to the Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Ibraheem (Peace be upon them), perchance we may follow in that path that they blazed through for us.
This is the time to create those reverent moments with your Beloved, embark on that eternal journey, and face the compass of your soul's direction towards the Kaabah, to celebrate that forever pilgrimage that we are all headed towards.
May He accept all the fervent pilgrims heading to Him, both in great and small deeds, in spirit and in intent (amin).