Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Timeless and precious hajj advice by Shaykh Sohail Hanif


Today, 13th DhulHijjah is the last of Tashrik days. One thing I learned to appreciate about Eidul Adha is that we get to recite the tahmid/takbir not just on the Eid day but for four days altogether, from the 10th to the 13th of DhulHijjah. I only realized this fact quite late in life, thanks to my late father for trying to impress it upon me year after year.

AlHamdu lillah, Eidul Adha is becoming more meaningful than it used to be. Thanks to the advent of technology, those who are not performing hajj could still get a feel of the ritual and many could fantasize how their own hajj might be like: I would do this here, I would do that with my partner, I will see this and I might feel that. But Shaikh Sohail Hamid said "the hajj is not a romantic picture," it is going to be loaded with things which are beyond our control. Our submission to the Will of Allah and our claim of slavehood will be put to the test. So no matter what happens, the shaykh said we must be pleased with whatever Allah chooses for us, over any romantic pictures we might have chosen for ourselves.
Shaykh Sohail has for many years been giving talks on hajj and the one most important advice that he would give is not about action but of attitude. He said it's something that we need to sprinkle over everything we do on hajj. This attitude is taken from the attitude of the person who inaugurated the rite of pilgrimage, the one who sacrificed his family, whose voice spread over the land. People have been responding to his call for hajj for thousands of years already. It is the attitude of Prophet Ibrahim a.s.

Shaykh Sohail asked, what was the state of Prophet Ibrahim's attitude? What did it represent? In a verse in Surah Baqarah, Allah said whoever turns away from the way of Ibrahim makes himself a fool. And Allah has selected him for this world and will grant Ibrahim an equally good ranking in the next world. So what is the secret of his way? When the Lord said to him, submit, he said "aslamtu li Rabbil 'Alamin" I have surrendered to the Lord of the world. The state of Prophet Ibrahim a.s is in fact identical to Islam. His name is the only name that is conjoined to the word Islam. Throughout the Qur'an he was referred to as a Muslim. Islam is the secret. 

What is Islam? There is a lower level and a higher level to the meaning of Islam. The lower level is when one enters the religion to become a Muslim. The upper level of the meaning Islam is one who is in total surrender to the will of God. Prophet Ibrahim a.s. in many occurences have submitted to the will of Allah. He was willing to slaughter his son Ismail, he was willing to leave the baby in the dessert, he left his people and was thrown into the fire unperturbed, said Shaykh Sohail. This is Islam - surrender. It is the highest station for a person to attain. Again there is an inner and outer manifestation of Islam. Outwardly, we follow the religion's instruction such as solat, fasting etc. Inwardly, we are supposed to taslim or surrender to the will of Allah. To perform the hajj successfully, we are required to do both.

Imam Ghazali said the rites of hajj contain actions that the mind can't quite figure out. Why do we do the tawaf 7 times; why do we throw 7 pebbles at the Jamarah on diferent days, why do we wear three pieces of clothing; why do we have to go to different locations to do certain things. In this regard, hajj is powerful. We need to do the rites, deeming it sacred. We feel honored to do it for Allah even though the mind may not be so familiar with it. We feel blessed to do because those are the rites of hajj.

Hajj requires our submission to circumstances that are outside of our control. Hajj is not just about doing the tawaf, sai'e etc., it is the entire journey. We might have to face a rude immigration officer; maybe we will be made to wait very long; our accomodation may not be as what we expect it to be for the price we have paid. We must realize that all of these is the worship of hajj. Therefore, we can't be angry, upset or miserable, else we will waste the opportunity.

Why do we go for hajj? We go for hajj for Allah to forgive our sins; because we are slave of Allah; we go with the realization that we are not important, we are nobody, we go to lose our identity in the sea of everyone, we are not important to ourselves - I am a slave so who am I to be complaining when I am here to be slave of Allah? Allah will test our claim of servanthood. We may have a romantic picture of what we are going to do on hajj. We may have our doa book for tawaf but we might get pushed and end up not being able to read, so are we going to be frustrated about it? We should be feeling, 'This is what Allah wants from me.'

The day of Arafah is real hajj. It is a sacred moment. It is a real day of mercy so you may plan in your mind what to do on that special day. But you may get a headache and feel feverish so you can't concentrate. If Allah chooses you to be sick on that day, be happy with His choice for you. If you get sick then that is your nature of worship that moment. Worship him with your headache. You must think, 'I am not important. What You want from me is better than what I want for myself. I am Your slave.' So really the hajj is not a romantic picture. Hajj is the example of this life, a life for the sake of God.

What does the Qur'an tells us about hajj? The Qur'an says no arguing. The sunnah tells us other requirements about hair etc. In hajj we have to deal with people and this is where Allah will test our servanthood. Therefore, Shaykh Sohail advised us to be patient, relaxed, content and calm, and to surrender to what Allah gives us, and to be pleased with it. This is not to scare us but things do happen. Hajj is not a holiday.
Concluding his talk, Shaykh Sohail quoted a poetry about surrendering to 'Salma' or the Divine Will. It says 'go wherever she goes, follow the winds of destiny and turn however they turn.' So, go with what Allah gives you and be content. But the shaykh is not telling us to be passive, we can do something to fix a situation but we must not do it with passionate anger and bitterness.
Wallahu a'lam.
The above is a sketchy transcript of Shayk Sohail's lecture.
Please click on the link to view his video.

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