Sunday, 21 November 2010

Wisdom Quotes

"Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." - Buddha

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Holy Pilgrimage

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. As of November 2010, about three million Muslim pilgrims participate the Hajj pilgrimage. The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, and a fundamental pillar of faith for Muslims, a duty that must be carried out once in the lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The pilgrimage is a demonstration of the unity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God All Mighty. Ihram is the word given to the special state in which Muslims live during the pilgrimage. The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him), but the ritual of pilgrimage stretches back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim/Abraham (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him). Pilgrims join with hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals.

Rituals of Hajj.
Once in Mecca pilgrims enter the Great Mosque and walk seven times round the Kaaba which is regarded as the holiest building in Islam (the black cubed house in the centre of the mosque) in an anti-clockwise direction while supplicating to God "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik(meaning, I am ready to obey Your orders, O Allah). This is known as Tawaf. Pilgrims also run seven times along a passageway in the Great Mosque, commemorating a search for water by Hajar, wife of the Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him).

Day 1
Pilgrims travel to Mina on 8 Dhul Hijjah (a date in the Islamic calendar) and remain there until dawn the next morning.
Day 2
Pilgrims then travel to the valley of Arafat and stand in the open praising Allah and meditating.
At the end of the day, pilgrims travel to Muzdalifa where they spend the night. Pilgrims gather up stones to use the next day.
Day 3
In the morning, pilgrims return to Mina and throw seven stones at pillars called Jamaraat. These represent the devil. The pillars stand at three spots where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him)Pilgrims sacrifice an animal (usually a sheep or goat). This commemorates the incident related when the Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) was about to sacrifice his son and God accepted the sheep instead. However nowadays pilgrims tend pay someone to slaughter the animal on their behalf.
Pilgrims shave their heads or cut some hair from it and return to the Great Mosque at Mecca for a further Tawaf, walking around the Kaaba. They then return to Mina, where they spend the night.
Days 4 & 5
Pilgrims spend time in Mina in contemplation and reflection. If a pilgrim has been unable to return to Mecca to walk around the Kaaba, he or she does so on the fourth or fifth day.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Eid-ul-Adha

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.
It gives me pleasure to inform you Eid-ul-Adha takes place this year on the 16th of November (tommorow!), it is known as the festival of sacrifice. The commemoration date is regarded the greater of the two Eid’s. Eid ul Ahdha is approximately three months after the holy month of Ramadan. The significance of the day remembers the willingness of prophet Ibrahim/Abraham (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) to sacrifice his son on the commandment of All Mighty God in a test of faith and obedience. The events which took place is a reminder of our own journey both spiritually and material in order to recognize our sincerity towards our Creator.

Prophet Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) is regarded by Jews Christians and Muslims alike as the father of the Monotheistic faiths. It is Ibrahim (may God All Mighty be pleased with him) who is written about in the Holy Quran as the intimate friend of All Mighty God.  Referred to in many holy books alike as one who is true in faith, pure and obedient. Muslims recognize him to be responsible in giving the name ‘Muslim’ (those who submit to God) to the followers of the beloved prophet of Islam (Muhhamed, Peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him).

Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) was brought up in community of polytheist. Born among a family of disbelievers his father was the tribe’s idol-maker. There are Quranic verse where the prophet himself questioned the belief of his community and even his own father in what he saw as false deities.

"We bestowed aforetime on Abraham his rectitude of conduct, and well were We acquainted with him. Behold! He said to his father and his people, "What are these images, to which ye are (so assiduously) devoted?" They said "We found our father worshipping them." He said "Indeed ye have been in manifest error-ye and your fathers." They said "Have you brought us the Truth, or are you one of those who jest?" He said "Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He Who created them (from nothing): and I am a witness to this (truth). And by Allah, I have a plan for your idols― after ye go away and turn your backs"… So he broke them to pieces, (all) but the biggest of them, that they might turn (and address themselves) to it. They said "Who has done this to our gods? He must indeed be some man of impiety!" They said "We heard a youth talk of them: he is called Abraham." They said "Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may bear witness:" They said "Art thou the one that did this with our gods, O Abraham?" He said: "Nay, this was done by this is their is their biggest one! Ask them, if they can speak intelligently!" So they turned to themselves and said "Surely ye are the ones in the wrong!" Then were they confounded with shame: (they said) "Thou knowest full well that these (idols) do not speak!" (Abraham) said "Do ye then worship, besides Allah, things that can neither be of any good to you nor do you harm? "Fie upon you and upon the things that ye worship besides Allah! have ye no sense?"... They said "Burn him and protect your gods if ye do (anything at all)!"   surat al-Anbiya- The Prophets - verses 51-68

As falsehood perished in the light of intellectual truth it resorted in a response of plotting against Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him).

"So naught was the answer of (Ibrahim's) people except that they said : Slay him or burn him " surat Al-Ankaboot - The Spider verse 24.

Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) could have given up his message and his beliefs to save himself from the fire. He chose to die for God All Mighty's message to live. He chose to walk into the fire in order to save humanity from the fire of ignorance. However...

"But Allah did save him from the fire. Verily in this are signs for people who believe " surat Al-Ankaboot - The Spider verse 24.

"We said `O fire ! Be cool and a means of safety for Ibrahim' " Surat al-Anbiya- The Prophets - verse 69.


This miracle did not deter the idol-worshippers from continuing their plots, persecution and cruelty towards Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) but he remained uncompromising in his belief, patient in his suffering. He left the land of his fathers to become a stranger in the land of promise where he continued to struggle, bearing alone the responsibility to advocate monotheism during an age of darkness, prejudice and ignorance. Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) did not have children. And through out his century of service to All Mighty God as Ibrahim grew older, his desire to have a son grew stronger. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) desperately longed for a son but his wife was unable to give him one. He plead to the All Mighty Creator.

"O my Lord ! Grant me a righteous son !" Surat As-SaaffatThose Who Set The Ranks verse 100.  

The Most Merciful fullfilled his promise of making Ibrahim the seed of a great line of Prophets, the root of the  universal religions. 

"So we gave him the good news of a forbearing boy" Surat As-SaaffatThose Who Set The Ranks verse 101.

God All Mighty brought to life the desire of his trustworthy Messenger. For Ibrahim, Ishmael/Ismail was not just a son for a sonless father, he was the end of a life of waiting, the reward of a century of suffering, the fruit of his life. Ishmael was in some sense the whole world for Ibrahim. So there was joy and rejoicing in Ibrahim's house as Ishmael was quickly growing under the sun of his father's love. But Allah decided that it was not to remain so. Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) was to be tried once more. Ibrahim had a vision in which he was commanded by Allah to slaughter his only son.

We must ask ourselves why should Ibrahim, whose entire life was devoted to prophethood, to removing ignorance, to laying the foundations of monotheism be tried once again in this manner?
Is it because man should not rest ?
Is it because man should not be deceived by 100 years of victories ?
Is it because he should not think of himself without weakness ?
Is it for the fact that whatever we fix our eyes upon in this world will blind us ?

It is not possible to convey what it must have meant for Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him)  to be commanded by All Mighty God to sacrifice his only son Ishmael. The magnitude of the pain does not allow the imagination to enclose it. How could he do this to his beloved son, the joy of his heart, his Ishmael. If it were only the slaughter of himself at the hand of Ishmael, how easy a decision it would have been! However this was not the command! The young Ishmael must die and the old and aged prophet must remain! As you can imagine Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) must have felt torn apart ! Within him there must have been a war, The war between God and Ishmael! Who should he choose ? Loyalty to God or loyalty to family ? Prophethood or Fatherhood ? Faith or Emotion ? Monotheism or Polytheism ?

Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) did not choose immediately. He doubted and wavered under the forces of pain and anguish.
He finally decide to carry out Allah's command despite the devil appearing and tempting Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) by saying he should spare his son.
This is reflected in the hajj (pilgrimage) ritual of stoning the three idols representing satan who tempts you to disobey you Creator. Understanding that satan works wherever he finds traces of fear, weakness, doubt, despair, envy selfishness and even great affection towards someone or something. Satan sometimes blows logical reasons, intellectual justifications to achieve his ends. For instance we may imagine that, under the crush of his pain and distress, Ibrahim could have used many justifications. Perhaps the meaning of slaughter is just metaphorical and means kill your ego or doubt. Perhaps ``slaughter Ismail'' actually means ``slaughter the love of Ishmael''. Ibrahim  (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) could have also tried many interpretations of his vision. But the prophet, the intimate friend of God, had faith in God All Mighty and he knew that God demanded the sacrifice. He chose the Love of God All Mighty over Loyalty to family. He chose God and gave up Ishmael.

Ibrahim said to Ishmael : "O my Son, I see in a vision that I offer you in sacrifice. Now see what is your view ? " Surat As-SaaffatThose Who Set The Ranks verse 102

What frightening words for a child to hear!..But Ishmael had faith in his father. He submitted to Gods will. Realising his father's distress, Ishmael gave him comforting words

"O my father! Do as you are commanded. You will find me, if God so wills, patient and constant " Surat As-Saaffat - Those Who Set The Ranks verse 101

This gave Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) strength. He tied his heart to God, he took Ishmael in one hand and the knife in the other and he walked until he reached the place of sacrifice. Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) was suffering while believing and at any moment it was possible for him to turn back. Yet he layed Ishmael on the ground, putting his face away from him to give strength to his crushed soul and paralysed hand. And so he slaughtered Ishmael. But, by God grace, the knife did not cut. Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him)  received a sheep and was called by God

"O Ibrahim ! You have confirmed the Vision Thus indeed do We reward those who do right This is indeed the manifest trial !" Surat As-SaaffatThose Who Set The Ranks verses 104-105

Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) gained everything and kept Ishmael. This means that the God of Ibrahim is not thirsty for blood unlike the gods and godesses of various other religions. This means that from the very beginning God did not want Ishmael to be slaughtered. Mankind has needs but All Mighty God has no needs. He is Self-Sufficient. God All Mighty in His Wisdom raised Ibrahim (may the peace and blessings of All Mighty God be upon him) to the highest peak of sacrificing his Ishmael without willing the sacrifice to take place. This event is not about the torture of mankind but about the elevation of spirit. There is a lot to understand and discover about this momentous event. These were only a few possible meanings. 

The Ishmael of Ibrahim was his son. Who is your Ishmael ? what is it ? Your reputation ? Your money ? Your family ? Your beauty ? Ask yourself put in the position of sacrifice how would your faith in the All Mighty Creator react or uphold.

Brothers and Sisters, Let us learn to slaughter our ego in the hope we can gain the pleasure All Mighty God by removing the knife from the throat of our own oppression. May All Mighty God give us the ability to act against our own desires and hold better accounts for ourself on the day of Judgement.
Remember this Eid is not an Eid of victory. It is the Eid of sacrifice!

I hope everyone has a wonderful day with their loved ones remembering to reflect on the purpose of this magnificent day!!!

Wishing You All A Merry EID MUBARAK