In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
By now, many of the pilgrims who made the Hajj, or the once in a lifetime journey to Mecca, are either back home or on their way there. And I know that they are transformed people, for when I performed the Hajj in 2003, it was the most powerful spiritual experience of my life.
By now, the fellow pilgrims are reeling from the awesome power of seeing God’s House for the first time; they are energized by the soothing mercy they experienced on the plain of Arafat; they are reformed anew by the honor of re-enacting the ancient story of Abraham, Hagar, and their son, Ishmael (peace be upon them all).
For the Hajj is the retelling of that story. Indeed, the story of the Patriarch is the embodiment of Islam, which is, as Ahmed Rehab masterfully writes:
Islam means “to freely submit one’s will to God’s, in pursuit of divine peace.” A simpler version that carries the same meaning is “to enter into God’s peace,” as Professor Tariq Ramadan proposes.
The Patriarch Abraham willingly did what his Lord commanded him to do, and in return, he not only attained the Lord’s Peace, he became the Lord’s closest friend:
And God took Abraham as an intimate friend (4:125)
One of those commands of God was the calling of the people to the Hajj, and ever since that time, people have come on foot, and on animal, and in car, and by boat, and by plane to visit the Holy House that Abraham built. And as they did so, they cried in total glee Labayk Allahumma Laka Labayk, or “Here I am, O Lord!”
The Hajj, as well, is a physical embodiment of Islam: for no other reason, and with complete willingness, people leave their homes, their jobs, their families, and their live to come to the Holy House and perform the rites and ritual of the Hajj. And in return, the attain a peace that cannot truly be described. I encourage everyone who has not yet made the sacred journey to do so – it will be an experience never forgotten.
Yet, is there a way that those of us who are not on the Hajj, or have not yet gone, or who have already made the journey, to re-kindle that spirit? Is there a way for us to live and embody the cry of “Here I am, O Lord?”
Yes, there is.
It is by living and following the commands of God to the best of our ability. Every day we rise out of our sleep and re-commit our belief in the Oneness of God and His supremacy over everything, we live “Here we are, O Lord!” Every day we stop everything we do and face Mecca to pray the ritual prayers, we say with our bodies “Here we are, O Lord!”
Every day we struggle through the heat of the August sun and endure the hunger and thirst that comes with the long day during the coming Ramadan, we are telling God “Here we are, O Lord!” When we reach into our pockets and fight against the innate selfishness we have to give to those who are less fortunate, we are saying Labayk Allahumma Laka Labayk, or “Here we are, O Lord!”
This is especially so with the five daily ritual prayers. Of all the ritual practices of Islam, the five daily prayers are the one practice that many, many Muslims do not faithfully perform, and it makes me sad. The fact that God ordained upon the Prophet (pbuh) the five daily prayers when he was face to face with the Lord shows the utmost importance of the five daily prayers. Yet, so many Muslims neglect it. It should not be so, for it is one of greatest ways someone can say, “Here I am, O Lord.”
The same goes with avoiding the things that are forbidden by the Lord. When we listen to the Lord whenever He tells us not to do something, that is also saying, “Here I am, O Lord!” Some may see it as a restriction of human freedom; But, truly, when I am listening to the Lord, I feel completely and utterly free, and my heart is full of Divine peace and tranquility.
Many of us may not ever be able to make the Hajj to Mecca: it is a very difficult and expensive journey. That is why the Hajj is only for those who are physically and financially able. Yet, all of us are able to live the spirit of the Hajj each and every day. All of us are able to say loud and clear, “Here we are, O Lord!” By fulfilling what God has asked of us, we do just that. And just like the pilgrims who are coming home this year, our hearts will be full of the Light of God’s love, and the Peace of His Acceptance. It is well worth the work and sacrifice.