The first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are a spiritually enriching time where many of us increase our worship and remembrance of our Creator. A time when good deeds are the most beloved to Allah (SWT), these are the days where we have the best opportunity to revive our hearts beyond Ramadan and reflect deeply on our deen and strengthen our relationship with the Almighty.
It is also within Dhul Hijjah, the month of the pilgrimage, that many Muslims around the world embark on Hajj and embrace the trials that come along with it. Even to those of us who are not travelling to Makkah this month, the journey and rituals of Hajj still hold great significance in our lives as lessons of resilience and ultimate trust in the Divinity of our Creator.
The Significance of the Rituals of Hajj
Dhul Hijjah marks a season of sacrifice, goodness and reflection. This is especially true during Hajj, which takes place during the eighth, ninth and tenth days of Dhul Hijjah. An experience incomparable to anything else, Hajj is a difficult, but fulfilling journey for the sake of Allah (SWT) that invokes a deep reckoning within us and allows us to walk in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and the family of Prophet Ibrahim (AS).
When Hajis embark on their journey to the Qiblah, they partake in sacred rituals and reenactments of divine historical events, which are both physically and spiritually enduring. So much so that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “…the reward of Hajj Mabrur (the one accepted by Allah) is nothing except Paradise.”
One of the most important Hajj rituals is the pacing between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times back and forth. Such that it is said within the Quran that:
“Behold! Safaa and Marwa are among the symbols of God. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, there is no blame on them. And if any one obeys his own impulse to Good, be sure that God is One Who is Responsive, Knowing.” (Quran 2:158)
Indeed, the Safa and Marwa are significant symbols of Allah (SWT). But it is also through this ritual that Hajis also commemorate the hardship of Hajar (AS), one of the wives of Ibrahim (AS). Beyond its significance in our practice of Hajj, this tradition by Hajar (AS) is crucial and integral to Dhul Hijjah as a whole, including in our celebration of Eid, and the very heritage of Tawheed (or unwavering Oneness) in our faith.
The Story of Hajar (AS)
The tenth day of Dhul Hijjah, Eid al-Adha, is often remembered as the occasion Prophet Ibrahim (AS) experienced a vision from Allah (SWT) telling him to sacrifice his son, Ismail (AS), as an act of Divine devotion. Of course, in delivering this decree, Allah (SWT) did not wish Ibrahim (AS) to actually sacrifice his son. It was a test for Ibrahim (AS) to wholly practice trusting in Divine Will and internalize that such trust would never hurt him.
Similarly, Allah (SWT) delivered a difficult test to the mother of Ismail (AS), Hajar (AS), when Allah (SWT) asked Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to separate from her and their baby within the desert. Ibrahim (AS) felt deep hesitation at this order, but it was only when Hajar (AS) told him to put trust in Allah (SWT) and His Divine Will that Ibrahim (AS) left.
However, before long, Hajar (AS) soon ran out of water and food to sustain herself and her baby. Desperately, she paced through the valley between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times, searching for signs of life, supplicating and calling for the aid of Allah (SWT). In hearing her call, Allah (SWT) sent the archangel Jibreel to them, and out sprang the ever-flowing water source of Zamzam from the ground beneath Ismail’s (AS) feet.
Eventually, with the steady supply of water came life. Birds flew over, and when Ibrahim (AS) later returned to Hajar (AS) and Ismail (AS), a small but blossoming community had emerged from the previously dry and desolate plain. And it was this community where the Qiblah and Makkah became the core of Tawheed – unwavering faith in the wholeness, completeness, and unique divinity of The One.
For this highly important aspect of our faith, we owe it to Hajar (AS) for not just finding this site haphazardly, but through her role of sacrificing, trusting and communicating with Allah (SWT) in a time of difficulty and hardship.
Even if we cannot perform Hajj, we still commemorate the legacy of Ibrahim, Hajar and Ismail (may Allah SWT be pleased with all of them) and their trust in Divine Will through our acts of worship towards Allah (SWT) in the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. Their willingness to go through sacrifice and hardship is a strong mark of their resilience and devotion to our Creator and a reminder that Allah (SWT) is always with us.
Take this Dhul Hijjah as a month for us to build love and awe of the spiritual journeys of Prophet Ibrahim, Ismail and Hajar (Peace be Upon Them), in addition to our connection to Allah (SWT), and connect with their struggles in our own daily lives.