Lecture by Shaykh Yaser Birjas | Transcribed by Sameera
[The following is the video and transcript of Shaykh Yaser Birjas's lecture "In the Foosteps of the Prophet Ibrahim .” The transcript is slightly modified for the sake of readability and clarity.]
My dear brothers and sisters, have you ever wondered why in your ṣalāh – your five daily prayers, the sunnah, or even the adkhar – why do you always associate the name of Muḥammad with the prophet Ibrahim ? Why not 'Isa or Musa or any other prophet? Why Ibrahim in particular?
The Prophet was asked, “Ya Rasulullah, how do we say salam to you?” He instructed his followers to praise and invoke the du‘ā’ for him and his family and also for Ibrahim . If this question ever came to your mind, you need to study the life of Ibrahim . You will realize how significant the life of Ibrahim was to Rasulullah .
The Unique Quality of Ibrahim
When it comes to Ibrahim , there is one unique quality for which Allāh has made him very special and chose him to become khalil'l-Rahman. Allāh says about him, “Allāh has chosen Ibrahim as a Khalil.” The meaning of “khalil” comes from khulla, the word in Arabic meaning the highest level of love. In the Arabic expression of the meaning of khulla, it is when that love penetrates the heart. It penetrates the heart and there is no separation between the heart and that love. Imagine that Allāh loves Ibrahim in a manner that suits His Majesty. He loves him and made him khalil'l-Rahman. The Prophet said, “Allāh has chosen Muḥammad as his khalil the way He has chosen Ibrahim to be his khalil.”
The chapter of the establishment of Hajj is a unique chapter. Muslims are still following the legacy of Ibrahim . For those brothers and sisters who are planning to go to Hajj this year inshā'Allāh, may Allāh make it easy for them. For those who plan to go to Hajj any time soon, I want you to keep this mind: whenever you go to Hajj, you are the response of Ibrahim . You are the response for his call when Allāh told him, “You call the people to come for Hajj! Proclaim the Hajj and let the people come and answer this call!”
Ibrahim said, “How can I make this happen when I am only one person? How will I deliver this to the world?” Allāh told him, “You just proclaim and do the call. We will deliver the message.” Indeed after all these thousands of years since the time of Ibrahim , by the Fadl of Allāh , the Hajj has been continuing, and it will continue until the Day of Judgment. This is the response of the call of Ibrahim .
This chapter in the life of Ibrahim is very unique. inshā'Allāh in this presentation, we will go over the footsteps of , a spiritual journey from the life of Ibrahim and his family through the Hajj, how it happened and what is so special about it.
Again, I want to bring you back to the unique quality of Ibrahim and his relationship to Hajj. What is the distinctive quality of Musa ? He was very strong. What is the distinctive quality of Nuh ? He had a long life of more than 1,000 years, and he did all of his da'wah in 950 years. He had perseverance. Every prophet has a specific quality. When it comes to Ibrahim , what is the unique quality about him? Submission. He was submissive to his Lord .
When Allāh mentioned Ibrahim in the course of building the Ka'bah and afterwards Allāh mentioned his qualities, what are these qualities? Allāh says, “Anyone who avoids the path of Ibrahim, no one does that except the foolish.” Allāh says, “We have chosen him.” Allāh says, “On the Day of Judgment, he will be among the righteous ones.” When Allāh called upon Ibrahim to submit, Ibrahim said, “I submit myself to the Lord of the worlds.”
The mufasireen say about this āyah: When Allāh said to him to submit, there was no pause and no intermission and no question asked. Allāh said, “Submit,” and Ibrahim immediately said, “I submit to the Lord of the worlds.” He did not even ask a question in regard to what. When we check the life of Ibrahim and the rites of Hajj, we see the submission of Ibrahim . For that reason, Islam (which is submission and surrendering to the will of Allāh ) goes all the way back to the original practice of monotheism of Ibrahim . That is why you always say “allahumma salli 'ala Muḥammad” and then “allahumma salli 'ala Ibrahim.”
Let's see the Hajj and how people submit themselves to the will of Allāh through the practice of Ibrahim .
Leaving His Family in Mecca
For those who have been to Umrah, or Hajj in particular, perhaps you have seen this: One of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen in Hajj was seeing people regardless of their age crying. You see people holding onto the Ka'bah. One time I had the opportunity to come very close to al-multazam, which is underneath the gate of the Ka'bah. People are there weeping and crying their eyes out and making du‘ā’ and asking Allāh for forgiveness. That is one of the signs of submission. There is no arrogance there. You are crying and don't even care about people looking at You. You are submitting to the Will of Allāh . Arrogance is not there. It is complete humbleness and humility to Allāh . You only think about Allāh. You don't care about who is standing next to you and cry your eyes out only because you submit to the Will of Allāh . This is one of those beautiful sights.
For those who are going to Hajj, I want you to remember this: Hajj and all the rites and rituals of Hajj are all about proving your submission to Allāh . It begins from the journey. Ibrahim went from Egypt to al-Shaam and then from there went to Egypt from Egypt went again to Filistine and then Allāh gave him the command: “O Ibrahim, I have blessed you with this child Isma'il.” He had desired to have this child for a very long time. All of a sudden, after he enjoyed this child for a few months, Allāh gave the command to Ibrahim: “Take your wife and your son and go to Mecca.”
At that time, Mecca was completely barren land. When Ibrahim made du‘ā’ to Allāh, he said, “O my Lord, I have brought my family into this barren valley near your Sacred House.” It had no cultivation and no vegetation. When Ibrahim did that and undertook the journey from Filistine to the south, imagine the pain of just thinking of taking your wife and newborn child to this place. Why? Because Allāh said so. Ibrahim never questioned his Lord.
For the brothers and sisters who are going to Hajj, the first thing you need to do is remind yourself that when you travel, you are submitting yourself to Allāh . For many people, the moment they start thinking of Hajj, they think of the agonies of the trip – the passports, acquiring the visa, the tickets, who will be with them. They feel disheartened and discouraged more than Ibrahim who was called to send his wife and child into the middle of the desert of Arabia, which was completely foreign land to him. What an amazing submission!
Ibrahim always wanted to have a child, but subḥānAllāh Allāh tested him with that. When we travel today, we use airplanes, trains and cars. Back then, the best vehicle they had was a camel. When you have camels, how much can you carry? Not that much, regardless of how much you try. Wherever you go, you are not going to carry that much with you. Ibrahim carried the most essentials. When you go for Hajj, you carry what is the lightest and the most valuable to you. I have see some people who carry with them even their kitchen utensils, and they get so annoyed and tired because they have bothered themselves to carry so many things with them. When you carry less than, then you have less to worry about.
When you go to Hajj, you have to get rid of extra loads. What are these extra loads? Financial debts. Moral debts like owing people an apology. You may have hurt so many people around you, and when you go to Hajj, you have to try to get rid of all of these loads because if you don't and if you carry it with you to Hajj, then it will be trouble for you. Allāh will forgive you the sins that you commit between you and Him , but if there is anything between you and other people, then you will be held accountable for it and you have to answer for this.
When you go to the airport, one of the first difficult stations is just to get into the plane and find your seat. People carry with them big bags. The more you carry with you, the longer you will wait. The less you carry, the faster the journey will be.
Take the same principle with you when you go to Hajj. Consider this a meeting with Allāh . You have to submit to Him, and you have to admit all of your faults and all of your errors. Therefore, you have to settle the financial and moral debts before you travel. Do as much as you can so that when you go, you go free bi'idhnillah.
Vision for the Future
When Ibrahim arrived, he found the area where Mecca is to be completely empty space. There was literally nothing. There was just his wife, child, mountains, and valleys and some traces where the House of Allāh existed. Ibrahim took his family in submission to the Will of Allāh . What is so amazing is that when he spoke about that land and made du‘ā’ to Allāh , he said, “My Lord, I am bringing my family to this barren land to live next to your Sacred House.” There was no house built, so how could Ibrahim call it Allāh's Sacred House? It was a vision for the future. Ibrahim knew that the day was coming. He was always preparing for the future.
For us, when it comes to Hajj, many people's plan for the future is to enjoy life as much as possible and then towards the end, go to Hajj and retire. They thought of everything, but Ibrahim was different. He brought his family when there was nothing there yet.
When you go to Hajj, prepare what you are planning to do after Hajj from today. Don't say that you are going to go to Hajj first and then see what you can do. Don't say “I know myself and will go to Hajj and will most likely come back to the same lifestyle.” Ibrahim was preparing for years to come. He built the House when his son became a teenager, perhaps 15 years later.
What was the purpose of this journey and submission to Allāh? He said, “I brought my family to live here by Your House so that they might establish ṣalāh.” He brought them there to establish ṣalāh even though the masjid was not built yet and even though his son was still a baby. He said, “Therefore my Lord, help them. Assist them by bringing righteous company.” He didn't care about food for them at that moment. He cared about the company! He wanted righteous people to surround to help and assist them to achieve that goal of worshipping Allāh .
Then he said, “And provide for them from the fruits of the land.” Why did Ibrahim delay speaking about the provision and fruits? It is another sign of submission of Ibrahim . He knew when he was bringing them to Allāh's House, they were guests. He is telling his Lord, “My Lord, my family is going to be Your guest.” What do you expect from the host? To provide. Ibrahim is implying that provision is granted and that it's part of the hospitality, and he doesn't worry about it because he submits to Allāh's Will. He knew that Allāh would not make his family go to waste.
Whenever you go to Mecca, you will read signs saying, “the guests of the Most Merciful.” You are the guest of the Most Merciful, so when you go there, keep that in your mind. You don't have to worry about food and sustenance but worry about something else. What should you worry about? Allāh says, “When you seek provision for Hajj, then look for the best provision. What is the best provision? Righteousness and piety.” Food is easy to find, but taqwa (righteousness and piety) you need to look for when you go to Hajj.
The Departure of Ibrahim from Mecca
After Ibrahim makes sure his family is there and makes du‘ā’ for them and gives them whatever he had of water and food, he departs. In the hadith on the story of Ibrahim, he left and did not turn back, which is another sign of submission to Allāh. Allāh told him to put his family there, so he did and then he heads back home.
SubḥānAllāh, what would go through the mind of a husband who is leaving his wife and child in the desert? He will wonder what is going to happen to them. Ibrahim kept heading home. His wife Hajar stood up and went after him and started calling, “Ya Ibrahim, who are you leaving us to?” He said, “Allāh.” In the hadith, it is said that he did not even turn his face back. Why? Khalas, he fulfilled the command and is going home. He didn't want to break his promise to Allāh. He did his part and is leaving now. She asked him, “Did Allāh order and command you to do that?” He said, “Yes.”
There is another form of submission in the household of Ibrahim. His wife said, “If this is the case, then Allāh will not allow us to go to waste.” Ibrahim left. After he left, they waited for something to happen. The water finished.
Why do you think Allāh left them there when there was no one there? There is no doubt that it is a test, but testing what? Tawakkul – full reliance on Allāh. Ibn al-Qayyim said it is to help them cut all relations with anything other than Allāh . Whenever people get into tests and troubles, they try to find exits and solutions in anything close to them. When this person reaches a desperate situation when nothing can help, then they go to Allāh . After they try everything possible in this dunya and couldn't do anything, then they go back to Allāh. This is the lesson that Allāh wanted Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim to learn.
They were in a situation where they couldn't do anything. When you have nothing around you, what will you do? Cut ties with this world completely and put your trust in Allāh . That is what this woman did. She put her trust in Allāh . The baby started crying. Finally, Hajar decided that she needed to do something. She left the baby and moved up to the nearest hill, which is al-Safa. She stood there and looked right and left and in all directions for any caravan or any form of life or any kind of water. She didn't find anything. She went to the hill of al-Marwa.
Today when you go to Hajj or Umrah, it is very fancy, māshā'Allāh. There is marble and it is air-conditioned. You don't even feel anything. Even with that, I have heard people complain that the marble is too hard for their feet. Remember this woman running between these two mountains when it was completely unpaved and rough terrain. She did this seven times. She didn't complain.
After she did her part, what was the response of Allāh? Put your trust in Allāh because regardless of how much you try, Allāh can make things happen. Where did the water come from? From underneath the feet of her child. She was running all this distance trying to find water from somewhere. Allāh told her that she can try as much as she wants, and when He decides for it to happen, it will happen.
This is another reminder to submit. Allāh will take care of you. Don't worry about anything.
The water started gushing and came out. She collected the water, and that is why we call it Zamzam. This water is blessed water. Even sahabah such as Abu Dhar survived in Mecca many weeks just on Zamzam.
Allāh 's plan started unfolding to her. A group of caravans started arriving from Jurhum, and they saw water. They made a settlement that later became Mecca. The plan that Allāh promised Ibrahim would happen did happen. The group that came around Hajar was as Ibrahim requested: people of good hearts, kind and gentle people. They had good company from that group.
Remember that when you go for Hajj, Allāh is your host, and He promised that He will provide for you. Don't worry too much about food. Worry about righteousness and piety. This means that when you go to Hajj, you can eat biryani, kabob, or whatever you like, and you can also survive on dates and cheese. I know some people who always target the 5-star packages and always like to be in the fanciest hotels, which is good and there is nothing wrong with that, but to have that experience you have to humble yourself a little bit and realize that the purpose of going to Hajj is not just doing some rituals. It is going through the experience. You have to go through it and submit to the Will of Allāh .
Building the Ka'bah
Ibrahim left, and Isma'il grew up in that area with the people of Jurhum. When he became of age, Allāh gave the command to Ibrahim that it is time. When Ibrahim brought his family to that place, the plan was that in the future he would build the House of Allāh , but it wasn't ready yet. It wasn't until Isma'il grew up enough that Allāh told Ibrahim, “It is time to go and build My House.” Ibrahim came at that time.
What do we learn from this? Another form of submission. Everything has to happen at its right time. It has to take its course, and at the right time it will happen. What do you need to do? Do your part and put your trust in Allāh to make things happen the way they are supposed to happen.
This is what Ibrahim did. He put his trust in Allāh . He did his part the way Allāh commanded him and then waited for the right time. The same thing in your personal life. Most of us are hasty. You want to jump steps in your life to get to a particular area, whether it is in career, education, marital life. While doing that, perhaps you are leaping and racing over other people's shoulders – just like some people do on Jumu'ah: they come and they want to go forward but came late, so they skip over other people's shoulders and hurt them. In life, many of us do the same thing to. As you try to leap and jump over, you hurt other people. It could be your children, your spouse, your relatives or loved ones or so many people around you.
Allāh is teaching Ibrahim that when the time is ready, it is going to happen. Ibrahim submitted to Allāh . Allāh knows best, so he waited. When the time was right, Allāh gave the command to Ibrahim to come.
An amazing thing about this experience is that the purpose of the whole subject of building the House of Allāh is to create the concept of tawhid (monotheism and Oneness of Allāh). How is that? The selection of the place: it was one place. It was one spot. It was the spot of one particular House. It was the one House that Allāh put there first on earth. Everything is first and one and unique. This is why Allāh says, “The first House ever built on earth was the one in Mecca.” This is unique in itself.
Allāh asked Ibrahim to build the House and bring everybody to worship around that place. This is another form of oneness: unifying the people. When he built the House, Allāh gave him the command: “Call the people and they will all come to the place.” Indeed that is what happened. Today after thousands of years, you go Hajj and will be mesmerized by the beauty and site of the human fabric that you see. It is amazing! You can stop in any random place in Mecca during Hajj season and try to take random pictures. Perhaps every picture will capture someone from a completely different place. You may capture people from Egypt, Europe, Asia, from everywhere. This is all in response to the call of Ibrtahim . They all come to worship Allāh .
How did they unify? In many ways:
1. Making tawaf.
There is a hidden message in the tawaf. When you circle around something, it is your center. When you circle around a particular goal, it is the center of your life, and everything you are doing is to get there. If you put the target in your mind to become a lawyer or teacher or whatever you want to become, then every speech or lecture is towards achieving that goal. It becomes your center because everything revolves around it. if someone wants to marry someone in particular, everything they do is around achieving that goal.
Why do we make tawaf around the Ka'bah? It is symbolic. When you go around the Ka'bah, it means that this is the center of your life – not the House itself, but what it represents. What does it represent? Allāh called this House “bayt.” Allāh told Ibrahim , “You purified My House.” Allāh calls it His House. When you make your tawaf, you are making this the center of your life. It is a reminder.
Regardless how far you go from the center, you still have to come back again closer. Sometimes when making tawaf you find yourself very close to the Ka'bah, and sometimes you feel yourself pushed away. Afterwards you are pushed back again. Because you are doing circles, it is going to keep going around that center.
How do you make this your center? When you make your ṣalāh from around the globe, no matter where you are, you have to face the direction of the Ka'bah. Sometimes I feel so happy when people argue about the direction of the qiblah. They take out their phones and start checking for the qiblah direction. I feel excited about it because I think: “subḥānAllāh, look at this and how Allāh works in mysterious ways to unify.” They want to make sure that when we pray, we face the direction that Allāh commanded. It is unifying the people. Once they all see the direction, they submit. Even when you do your ṣalāh, you have a sense of submission to Allāh through facing the direction of the Ka'bah.
When you go to Hajj, remember that tawaf is a sign of your submission. It is not just doing circles. I remember going with some people and all they cared about in the Hajj was to get it over with. They just wanted to make the seven circles and asked for the fastest and easiest way of doing it. They always look for shortcuts instead of looking to do it properly and achieving the goal that it was made for. This is absolutely not the essence of the Hajj the way Ibrahim did it.
Ibrahim had in his vision that this land would one day become the land of the final Messenger. Even though it was desert, he didn't ask, “Why here?” He knew that something would come from that land and put his trust in Allāh and put his submission to the Will of Allāh when he asked Allāh, “My Lord, send among them a messenger who will recite Your verses and teach them knowledge and hikmah and wisdom.” Allāh answered the call of Ibrahim after almost four or five thousand years. After thousands of years, Allāh responded to the call of Ibrahim .
When we go to Hajj, remember: look at the glory and remember thousands of years ago when it was first built. How did it look? When you see the expansion, don't look at the fancy buildings and the beautiful marble. It is not everlasting. Look at the essence, meaning: when you go, you see all these people, subḥānAllāh. Thousands of years ago, Ibrahim was alone with his wife and child, and now when you go, you see all of these people coming and submitting to the Will of Allāh . You realize that you are indeed the response to the du‘ā’ of Ibrahim who proclaimed the Hajj and people responded.
For the brothers and sisters who are going to Hajj, always remember to say allahumma salli 'ala Muḥammad wa 'ala ahli Muḥammad kama salayta 'ala Ibrahim wa 'ala ahli Ibrahim. Always remember to say: allahumma baarik 'ala Muḥammad wa 'ala ahli Muḥammad wa kama salayta 'ala Ibrahim wa 'ala ahli Ibrahim.
For those who are going to Hajj, I have a few advice for you. I encourage each and every one of you to make the intention this year. If you still can and have the time, do it this year.
1. Always keep in mind that you are the response of the call of Ibrahim . Be proud of it! Your forefather Ibrahim would be proud of you. When he says, “Come to the Hajj,” Allāh delivered, and you are the response of the call of Ibrahim .
2. When you go to Hajj, don't try to show that you are doing Allāh a favor. It is Allāh who is sending His Favors upon you by making it possible for you to come to Hajj. Be grateful to Allāh , Who enabled you to come and attend.
3. Don't look for shortcuts.
One time I went on Hajj with a group of people, and to my surprise, these are supposed to be people with a good level of knowledge, but they were looking for shortcuts. They were asking, “Is that waajib?” For everything considered not mandatory, they tried to skip so that they could move on to the most important things. The Hajj is valid, but if you would like to enjoy Hajj, you have to do it perfectly. It is a whole other topic on how to make the ihram properly, how to make du‘ā’ properly, how to face the qiblah properly, how to make your tawaf properly. When you go on 'Arafah and spend the entire day, you have to think about how to do that properly as well. When you spend the night in Muzdalifah, what are you going to be doing? Are you going to be checking your smart phone or 'ibadah?
4. Seek provision, and the best provision you carry with you is taqwa and righteousness.
This is the only provision that you take with you, and you always come back with some left over. This means that you go and you come back with more than you left with, specifically if your journey was good. Go with spiritual preparation, but when you go to Mecca and see the beauty of Hajj, your īmān rises and when you come back, alḥamdulillāh you have more than you left with. When it comes to money, you go there and come back with less. Taqwa and righteousness is the most important provision.
5. The echoes of the calls of Ibrahim are in Mecca.
“Labbayk allahumma labbayk…” This is the answer of the call of Ibrahim . “In Your service, O my Lord, I am in Your service. I am associating no partners with You in worship. My Lord, I am in Your service.” You keep calling. When these voices echo, remember that this is exactly what Ibrahim called for: people to come.
6. Hajj is an individual, personal experience.
Many people waste their Hajj in socializing. They spend so much time in socializing and getting to know the people in their group and doing things together. If you want to benefit from Hajj in the best way, go as an individual. Enjoy the experience by yourself. I remember when we used to go as students. Even though we would be together as friends, we would always meet in one location towards the end of the manasik. For example, in 'Arafah, we would decide to meet after sunset at a location. You are on your own in all these hours. Find an empty space and read Qur'an and do whatever you can. The same thing in Muzdalifah. Get some rest because you have to get up the next day and continue with your ibadaat. When you move from Mecca to Mina and Mina to Mecca, try your best. These days become the days of celebration, and many people waste their time in socializing. Make sure to spend your time in 'ibadah. From personal experience, that is when you benefit the most inshā'Allāh.
7. Remember that the purpose is to submit to Allāh .
You surrender your will to Allāh. Hajj will test your patience to limits that you yourself never realized you had. You will go and see things that will make you go crazy, but realize that this is part of the test. It is not by design, but things happen. You need to show your patience. Persevere in patience as much as you can. Remember, it is all about submitting to the Will of Allāh .
8. When you depart from here, it is a training for you when you depart from this world.
You leave behind the most beloved to you in terms of your wealth, houses, family, loved ones, and so on. You start going through a lot of difficult stations, one after the other until you are done.
When you come back, people will ask you how it is. If you did it well, then you will say that you cannot really describe it and that they have to go and see it for themselves. If it wasn't, then you will say to never go without a travel agency. This means that you wasted your time and that you didn't benefit from the Hajj very well. Regardless of the agency you go with, if you focus on the essence of Hajj, you will always enjoy your personal experience.
This is what we learn from the experience of Ibrahim . He submitted to the Will of Allāh , and if you would like to follow the footsteps of Ibrahim , always keep in mind that whatever you do in Mecca and 'Arafah and Muzdalifah, always remember that Ibrahim was there and he submitted himself to the Will of Allāh .
May Allāh make the Hajj easy for those going to Hajj. May Allāh deliver them there safely and have them enjoy their 'ibadah. We ask Allāh to accept their Hajj and make it Hajj mabroor. May Allāh accept their 'ibadah from them and forgive all their sins so that when they come back, they come back forgiven and fresh like the day they were born.
For those who don't have time to go to Hajj this year, I would suggest starting to build on this concept until the next year inshā'Allāh. Don't delay it anymore. If you can go, then just go, and then later you can go at your convenience.