[Friday sermon] Hajj 1441/2020, Prophet Ibrahim And The Life Of Sacrifice

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By Imam Murtadha Gusau

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

All Praise is due to Allah, We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad, peace and blessings on him, is His servant, and His messenger.

O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, with correct awareness, an awe-inspired awareness, and die not except as Muslims.

O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, and speak a straightforward word. He will forgive your sins and repair your deeds. And whoever takes Allah and His Prophet as a guide, has already achieved a mighty victory.

“O mankind! Show reverence towards your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate and from the two of them scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;― Be conscious of Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (show reverence towards) the wombs (that bore you): for surely, Allah ever watches over you.”

My Dear brothers and sisters, the coronavirus or covid-19 pandemic has rendered the Hajj for 1441/2020 impossible for millions of people around the world. This year’s Hajj will be the smallest number of pilgrims in living memory. Let us pray that Allah will allow a universal cure that will save lives and make it safe for Hajj next year, In Shaa Allah. Say Ameen!

My beloved people, in this Khutbah (sermon) I want to sum up a few key points for us to remember about this momentous event. Hajj, the Pilgrimage to Makkah, is an epic journey. It’s the 5th and final pillar of Islam: It also summarises the dramatic story of our beautiful and great religion, Islam.

Hajj reminds us about our primordial human nature: our Fitrah. Fitrah is our natural state, the way Allah made us. We were born innocent and pure, without any sin. But Allah also made us to be forgetful. We are easily distractible. It’s our tendency to lose focus and to forget that leads us to slide into sinful and shameful behaviour.

But then Hajj also offers us Redemption, divine Mercy and Forgiveness. Allah reminds us never to despair of His Mercy. If we sincerely stop our bad behaviour and return to Allah’s obedience, His forgiveness is complete.

Hajj takes us on a journey back through time, retelling the moral and spiritual history of humankind. We visit the Ka’abah, the first place of worship, built before the first church, before the first temple, or synagogue. Here we find ourselves at the Baitul-Lah, the House of Allah. It is the home of Monotheism, the cradle of Tauhid, and of Divine Unity. Here we walk around the geographical centre of Islam, the Ka’abah. This is centre of our Islamic universe.

Tawaf symbolises effort, action, in a constant, circular motion, centred round a fixed and immovable idea of Unity: Just like the Ka’abah, Tauhid. Unity of belief, Unity of purpose, stands firm amidst a swirl of individual opinions and different starting points.

The great plain of Arafah becomes the stage for a dramatic role-play of the very beginning and the very end: Long before time and space existed, long before the ‘big bang’ 14 billion years ago, Allah created your soul and my soul and the souls of every human being that ever was and ever will be. Then He asked them to testify according to themselves, by declaring the First Shahadah, the First Covenant. This was in the state of metaphysical time, or pre-Eternal Time. When Allah addressed the great assembled gathering of human Souls, he asked them:

“Am I not Your Lord?” They all replied, in one thunderous voice, “Yes, indeed! We testify to this, so that we have no excuse on the Day of Judgement to say that we were not aware of this (covenant).” [Surah A’raf, 7:172]

That was the very beginning. What about the very end? The great gathering on Arafah is our Day of Atonement. It’s also a dress rehearsal for the Day of Judgement, Yaumul-Qiyamah. This is how the entire human race will one day stand before Allah, awaiting the Final Judgement. In our simple ihram clothes, we cannot distinguish anyone’s wealth and social status. No one can see who’s rich and whose poor; the sultan, the emir, the president, the governor, the senator, the member house of representative, the billionaire, the taxi driver, the school teacher, the mai guard, and the farmer, all look exactly the same.

This is exactly as Allah sees us. Allah isn’t looking at our social status or our designer clothes and expensive jewellery. Allah isn’t interested in what’s on the outside, only what’s inside. What’s inside our hearts? What desires, what hidden yearnings are lurking in the deepest depths of our being? Is it full of anger, jealousy, hatred, vanity and lust? Or is it full of love, mercy, and generosity? Are we patient and forbearing towards others? Have we purified our spiritual hearts? Do we have a Qalb-Salim, A pure, sound heart? Allah warns us that no one shall enter the Garden (Paradise/Jannah) except those who come with a sound heart. [Qur’an, 26:87-89]

We come to Jabal-Rahmah: the Mount of Mercy, a low hill rising above the plain of Arafah. Jabal-Rahmah signifies the central theme of atonement, forgiveness after we’ve acknowledged our sins and pleaded for Allah’s mercy. Here we follow the Adamic role model. Here we stand not simply as Muslims or Believers. Here we stand as Bani Adam, descendants of Adam and Eve. Here is where the first human beings sought forgiveness and this is where Allah forgave them:

“Our Lord! We have truly wronged our own souls, and if You do not forgive us, we will truly be among the losers!” [Qur’an, 7:23]

This is the prayer of Prophet Adam (AS), Adam and Eve, Allah’s peace and blessings on them both.

Prophet Adam’s epic spiritual journey began from a state of primordial innocence and went through human forgetfulness and distraction and disobedience. This was the first Sin. But Allah also gave Adam the ability to recognise his mistake, to regret, to be filled with remorse and to plead for forgiveness, and finally to earn redemption. This is the same journey that you and I and every human being must take. We all were innocent once. We got distracted. We forgot and we sinned. Now it’s time to follow Prophet Adam’s example.

Dear brothers and sisters, if you have not yet undertaken this blessed journey, make your intention, your Niyyah, to do your Hajj In Shaa Allah, as soon as possible, especially after this covid-19 pandemic.

On Hajj, you are all Allah’s guests. Allah has invited you to His House. As Allah’s honoured guests, you must scrupulously observe the good manners that are expected of you. During Hajj it’s best behaviour at all times.

As soon as you put on your ihram, you repeat those evocative words, “Labbaikallah humma labbaik!”: “Here I am, O Allah, Here I am!” Allah has honoured you with His invitation, and now that you have arrived, you announce your presence and your willingness to serve Allah, as best as you can.

Dear brothers and sisters, Hajj is an outward journey tracing the spiritual history of Islam. It is also the inward journey that you and I must undertake, to find our own centre, in the Ka’abah of our heart. What desires, what emotions and passions are still circling, making tawaf around our spiritual heart? The spiritual heart, the Qalb is truly the locus of our personality. This is our real driving force. Let’s make sure that it’s always filled with loving thoughts of Allah. Only when we Remember Allah, and we fulfil the needs of others with love and gratitude, will our hearts ever find lasting peace and contentment. Zikr (Remembrance of Allah) is not just words of praise, not just a warm feeling in the heart. It’s about words and actions. It’s about making our love visible, through big and small acts of kindness towards others.

“Those who Believe, and whose hearts find contentment in the Remembrance of Allah; for truly, in the Remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment.”

O Allah, let our hearts find lasting contentment, deep and never ending joy in remembering You and in taking good care of your creation. Say Ameen!

We often say that we love Allah more than we love anyone or anything else. Do we really mean that? Do we really love Allah more than we love our families, more than our parents and children, more than our selfish egos? Really? Where’s the evidence? If we really love someone, there’s evidence. There’s phone calls, love poems, text messages and emails. Where’s the evidence of our love for Allah? Where’s the evidence that we’re constantly seeking His smiling Face, in our prayers, in our Zikr, and in our lifelong good works?

Respected servants of Allah, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) had a dream in which he was offering his son Isma’il as a sacrifice to Allah. He told his son about the dream, and both father and son, being so devoted to Allah, being sincere servants of Allah, they both agreed and they prepared to follow Allah’s Will. But just as the sharpened knife was about to pierce Ismail’s jugular vein, Allah put a sheep in his place. Ismail’s life was spared. Both father and son proved their love and obedience to Allah. They passed the acid test of sincerity, that is Ikhlas.

Let us not forget the powerful message here. It’s easy to say, I love Islam, I love Allah and I love Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Talk is cheap, but where’s the evidence? How much are you and I willing to sacrifice for Allah? Let us show that we truly love Allah, by coming forward to help with our time, our knowledge, our talent and our money, to serve others, to make our neighbourhood, our city, our country and the world a better place, a safer place for everyone. This is the real proof of our love for Allah. Serve His creation. Be an agent of His mercy. Just as Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was “a mercy to all the worlds: Rahmatan lil Aalameen.” You and I must become a mercy to our families, to our neighbours and to our communities. As our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) advised:

“Spread Peace, feed the poor, keep your family ties, pray a small part of the night and you will enter Paradise.” [Hadith]

Let us pray for all pilgrims (Hujjaj), that Allah should accept their Hajj. And let us pray for those who have not yet done their Hajj, that Allah should make it easy for them to complete their fifth pillar of Islam, very soon, In Shaa Allah.

Let us plead with Allah please to shower His peace and dignity and mercy on all the followers of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

My Dear brothers and sisters, as the Hajj season approaches, let us consider the story of Prophet Ibrahim, his wife Hajar and their son, Ismail (may Allah send peace and blessings on them). This amazing family left us a great legacy that has become the foundation of the Hajj. Their story is relevant for all Muslims, for all times, and there’s a particular resonance for us today, as we shall see In Shaa Allah…

Prophet Ibrahim’s father was a devout mushrik, an idol worshipper. Despite all his son’s efforts, the father adamantly refused to stop worshipping idols. When he died he was still in denial of Allah. Prophet Ibrahim, the Friend of Allah, the quintessential monotheist, the Patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, could not save his father. We, too, must accept that we have no real power to influence others, not even our own parents, to accept Islam. Allah chooses to guide whom He pleases:

“Anyone who is guided by Allah, he is truly guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him.”

Our duty is only to share what Allah teaches, without pressure, without clever tricks. Allah is not in need of any of His creatures. We need Him. Prophet Ibrahim destroyed the idols that his people worshipped, except for one. When the people asked him who did it, he pointed to the remaining idol. They told him the idol couldn’t have done it, so he asked them how is it that they worship something that can neither harm them nor help them! It couldn’t even defend itself from being destroyed! But such is the arrogance of misguided people, that logic and wisdom is wasted on them. Instead of using their Allah-given reason and logic, they resorted to violence.

They tried to burn Prophet Ibrahim to death. He, on the other hand, was completely calm and unafraid, relying on Allah, and reposing his trust in Allah at all times. Allah commanded the fire to be cool, and thus Prophet Ibrahim (AS), survived. When He and his wife, Hajar arrived in the desolate valley of Bakkah (Makkah), she repeated asked him why they had come there. He said nothing. Then, when she asked, is it Allah’s wish? He confirmed that it was indeed so. She immediately accepted this, without complaining. Both husband and wife knew that no matter how dire the situation, they were always safe in Allah’s hands:

“In His (Allah) Hand is all Good. Allah has power over all things.” [Qur’an, 3:26]

Later, left alone with a hungry and thirsty infant child, she rushed from hilltop to hilltop in search of water, between Al-Safah and Al-Marwah. We commemorate this event during the Hajj. She ran in desperation, she made the effort, and her effort and her pleading for help from Allah was well rewarded. The water came, in limitless abundance, like Allah’s mercy pouring out to his devoted servants. The Archangel Gabriel (Jibril AS), caused the well of Zamzam to gush pure, clean water from below baby Ismail’s feet, and for thousands of years, day in, day out, 24/7, it still flows today, refreshing and purifying millions of pilgrims.

Let us think of Zamzam as Allah’s mercy overflowing, waiting to quench our spiritual thirst, our quest for meaning, our quest for nearness to Allah. When Allah ordered Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice what he loved most, both he and Isma’il knew what that meant. Neither father nor son had the slightest hesitation. They fully understood what ‘we hear, and we obey’ means. No questions, no lame excuses. Just do it! Shaitan (satan) attempted, thrice, to dissuade Prophet Ibrahim to change his mind. On each occasion, Prophet Ibrahim refused, and pelted satan with stones. Today every pilgrim pelts three stone pillars in the very same place as our Prophetic ancestor did. We, too, symbolically reject the promptings of shaitan within us, we too, take refuge in Allah from our own inner demons…

Prophet Ibrahim prepared to make a painful sacrifice. At the crucial moment when the sharp-bladed knife touched his son’s jugular vein, Allah caused another miracle: A ram, a sheep, appeared where Isma’il patiently awaited his fate. Instead of Isma’il, the ram was slaughtered. Ismail’s life was spared. Prophet Ibrahim’s trial was over. Allah wanted to show us, and all generations to come until the end of time, what it means to love Allah, what it means to obey his every command. Today we still remember that willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. We offer sheep, goats, cows or camels, Our layyah might only be a small symbolic gesture, but the lesson is timeless, and awesome. As the Noble Qur’an reminds us, it is not the meat that reaches Allah, it is the taqwa, the piety, the cautious awareness of our Creator, the awe-inspired reverence, filled with love, fear and hope.

How many of us will be ready to make this kind of sacrifice? How many of us will be willing to devote our most beloved to Allah? Our wealth, our families, our possessions seem so important to us. But where does Allah fit into our scheme of priorities? Do we really love Allah as much as we should? Is our greatest love reserved for Allah, or do we have more love for what He has created? Here’s some food for thought, my dear brothers and sisters:

“Surely, my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death is for Allah, Lord of all the worlds. No partner has He, and I am first among the Muslims.” [Qur’an, 6:162]

This beautiful declaration was one of Prophet Ibrahim’s wonderful gifts to us. Every time we recite this prayer, at least seventeen times a day, we rededicate our lives to Allah’s service. We remind our forgetful and infinitely distractible human nature, where our true priorities lie. Let us remember with gratitude the awesome debt we owe Prophet Ibrahim and his family. We acknowledge this debt every time we pray, asking Allah to send peace and blessings on Prophet Muhammad and his family, just as he sent peace and blessings on Prophet Ibrahim and his family.

My dear brothers and sisters, the Noble Qur’an reminds us to follow Prophet Ibrahim, who associated no partners with Allah, and whose way is described as the hanif way. What is the hanif way? Hanif means, to turn away from idol worship, to make no associations with Allah, to incline towards goodness, to be orthodox, to be a primordially upright person. This is the way of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), and all those who worshipped Allah, even during the time of ignorance, the time of Jahiliyyah.

Let us, during these momentous days of Dhul-Hijjah, remember Prophet Ibrahim, Allah’s peace and blessings on him. Let us remember who he was and what he lived for and died for. His great legacy is still with us today: Love Allah more than anyone or anything else, be willing to sacrifice anything in Allah’s cause, and strive your whole life to be a primordially upright person. Try to be a loyal friend, a loving wife or husband, an exemplary parent, a loving son or daughter, a helpful neighbour and a good, law abiding citizen. This is the hanif way, the way of Prophet Ibrahim and his family, the ‘millata Ibrahima.’

Brothers and sisters, to conclude my sermon (Khutbah), I will say:

“Surely Allah commands justice, good deeds and generosity to others and to relatives; and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, so that you may be reminded.”

“And remember Me: I will remember you. Be grateful to Me, and do not reject faith.”

“And without doubt, Remembrance of Allah is the Greatest thing in life, and Allah knows the deeds that you do.”

O Allah, please forgive us all. Please have mercy on us, and remove the pain and distress that so many of our fellow-Muslims have to endure in so many parts of the world today.

O Allah, send us a complete cure for the covid-19 pandemics, so that we can safely do the Hajj next year. Say Ameen.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun! Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun!! Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun!!!

Dear brothers and sisters, I condole with the Nigeria Supreme Council For Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) under the leadership of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the entire Muslim Ummah of South eastern Nigeria, the entire Muslim Ummah of Nigeria and the Malam Yusuf Nwoha family, on the death of an Icon of Islam and advocate of peaceful coexistence, Malam Yusuf Nwoha (the Director of Administration, NSCIA), who answered the call of Allah on Wednesday, 29/07/2020 in a ghastly motor accident, on his way to celebrate the Eid-ul-Adha in his home town Owerri, Imo state.

I pray, may Allah Almighty grant the family in particular and the entire Ummah in general the patience and fortitude to bear the irreparable lost and this monumental trial.

I pray, may Allah watch over the family he left behind and reunite us with him in Jannatul Firdaus, ameen.

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Dhul-Hijjah 10, 1441 A. H. (July 31, 2020)

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