Sat, Nov 27, 2021

The Pilgrimage to Mecca: a memory of Abraham's family

  • 08/15/2021 - by Imam Marwan Gill

And who is better in faith than the one who submits to Allah, practices good and follows the religion of Abraham, the righteous? For Allah took Abraham as a close friend." (Quran 4.126)

Abraham is considered one of the most influential people in all of history. The three largest monotheistic religions in the world consider him the "father" of their religion.

Abraham was born in the early second millennium BC in Ur, the capital of Mesopotamia at the height of its splendor as a highly developed ancient realm. The society in which he was born was idolatrous. Although he himself never participated in any form of idolatry, his family was involved in this practice of society. The Quran mentions:

And remember when Abraham said to Azar, his father: “Do you take idols for gods? In truth, I see you and your people in manifest error." (6:75)

This shows that his own family along with society in general indulged in idolatry. Abraham denied all his idols and absolutely did not want to associate himself with his way of life. He tried to use logic and wisdom to explain the Unity of God, but his father and his people paid no attention to him.

Abraham was perplexed by the way his father, along with the rest of the people, worshiped images and idols. He would ask why they did it, to which people replied that they found their parents doing the same. He explained that they, like their ancestors, had made a serious mistake. He explained that his God was the Lord of heaven and earth and that He had created them.

Therefore, one day Abraham to make the point clear decided to destroy all the idols when they were all gone except his main idol. When they returned, they suspected that the idols were destroyed by Abraham, since he had spoken ill of them. They called him and asked him publicly if he was the one who did this to their idols; Abraham responded by saying:

"Yes, someone has surely done this, here's his boss, why don't you ask him who did it." In shame, they replied, “You certainly know that these idols don't speak,” to which Abraham rhetorically asked: "Do you worship instead of Allah what cannot benefit you at all or harm you?"

This angered some of them, and they shouted to "burn" him, so they lit a great fire to burn him alive for destroying their idols. However, Allah cooled the fire and made it a means of security and peace for Abraham (Chapter 21, verses 52-70). This anecdote shows that Abraham was aware of the consequences of his actions and was willing to sacrifice his own life for the unity of God.

 Abraham had a very close relationship with God and because of his loyalty and enormous sacrifices to establish the unity of God, many blessings were promised to him. One of the blessings was that he would be a leader of humanity and would have a blessed progeny.

Despite having already reached a very old age he was blessed with his firstborn son, Ishmael, to his second wife, Hagar. Shortly afterwards he was instructed to leave his wife and his firstborn in a barren desert. Hagar's response was that if God had commanded her to leave his family in the wilderness, then he shouldn't worry about leaving them and fulfilling the divine command. He then he left them in an isolated desert with some food and some water. Abraham submitted to his Lord's command and patiently endured the separation of his wife and child from him. Before saying goodbye, he turned to them and prayed for them in the following words:

“Our Lord, I have established some of my children in an uncultivable valley near Your Sacred House, Our Lord, to fulfill the Prayer. So make the hearts of men incline toward them and give them fruits, so that they may be grateful" (14:38).

Due to the scarcity of water in the desert, it was not long before mother and son suffered from immense thirst. Thus, Hagar ran between the hills of Safa and Marwah in search of water for her son. After the seventh race between the two hills, an angel appeared before her. He advised her that God had heard Ishmael cry and that he would provide them with water. At that time, God caused a spring to gush out of the ground, where Ishmael's heel lay, and from then on Mecca became known for its excellence and abundance of water. Later, the well was named Zamzam and it became a sacred source of water. The act of walking among the hills of Safa and Marwah has become part of the Islamic pilgrimage to commemorate this sacrifice (Bukhari 3364).

Therefore, the sacrifices made in God's way are never wasted, something this family witnessed, and a remarkable event in history that the entire world would later witness as well.

Ishmael, like his mother and father, was always ready to be obedient to God and make whatever sacrifices were necessary. When Ishmael was older, Abraham saw in a dream that he was sacrificing him. He consulted Ishmael about this dream, to which he replied: “Oh, my father, do as you are commanded; You will find me, if Allah wants it, among those who show patience” (37: 103).

This was the incredible level of sacrifice and submission of father and son to the will of God. So when Abraham had laid Ishmael down to sacrifice him, God stopped him saying, "O Abraham, you have indeed fulfilled your dream" (37: 104).

Every year Muslims around the world celebrate the pilgrimage during which they sacrifice animals to commemorate the great sacrifice of Abraham and Ishmael. The Quran mentions that Ishmael gained a great reputation among subsequent generations for this act of obedience and sacrifice.

God tells Abraham in the Bible (Genesis 17) that Ishmael has been blessed and that "he will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly; he will beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation."

It was because of his complete submission that God raised the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the leader and teacher of all mankind, from the progeny of Ishmael.

Abraham's family did not allow any believer of any age group or gender to make excuses that they should be exempt. Young and old, male and female, all presented the highest standards of sacrifice and this is an example for all of us.

This noble sacrifice was such that it remains an example for all of us to this day. The Holy Quran mentions: "You have a good example in Abraham and in those who were with him" (60: 5).

Abraham is a wonderful example of how God rewards one for his sacrifices offered for the cause of God. His father rejected him, but he in turn became the father of all prophets. His people tried to humiliate him by throwing him into the fire, but God saved him and made him respected among all people around the world. He was willing to sacrifice his only son; God in turn made his progeny so numerous that they can be compared to the stars in the night sky. He established his wife and child in a barren desert, but God made him the symbol of his unity. Therefore, millions of Muslims around the world remember Abraham and his family, especially on the occasion of the pilgrimage.

Bless, O Allah, Muhammad and the people of Muhammad, as you blessed Abraham and the people of Abraham. You are surely the Praiseworthy, the Exalted. Amen.


Imam Marwan Gill.