By Dr Muzammil H. Siddiqi

Reflection on the Last Two Verses of Surah al-Hajj

(Khutbah at ISOC - Dhul Hijjah 3, 1438/ August 25, 2017)

At this time millions of Muslims are gathering in and around the sacred city of Makkah. They are coming from every corner of the globe to perform Hajj. Many members of our own community are there or going to be there soon. We pray to Allah to bless all Muslims, help them to perform their Hajj with sincerity and devotion, in safety and security, and accept their Hajj. Hajj has an amazing power and attraction. It is the largest international human gathering that takes place every year. It has been going on for thousands of years, even before the birth of Prophet Muhammad -peace be upon him. Islam made it more universal, organized and more spiritual. Muslims should take full advantage of this gathering to foster unity, harmony and cooperation among themselves and should give the best example to the world.
In Surah al-Hajj (Surah 22), after mentioning the Hajj and its rites, Allah subhanahu wa ta’al tells the believers their duties and their mission in the world. Allah says,
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ارْكَعُوا وَاسْجُدُوا وَاعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمْ وَافْعَلُوا الْخَيْرَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ {77}وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّهِ هُوَ مَوْلَاكُمْ فَنِعْمَ الْمَوْلَى وَنِعْمَ النَّصِيرُ {الحج 77-78}
O you who believe, bow down, prostrate yourselves, serve your Lord, and do good so that you may succeed. Strive hard for Allah as is His due: He has chosen you and placed no hardship in your religion, the faith of your father Abraham. Allah has called you Muslims – both in the past and in this (message) – so that the Messenger be a witness over you and you be witnesses over other people. So keep up the prayer, give prescribed alms, and hold to Allah: He is your Protector – an excellent protector and an excellent helper.
(Al- Hajj 22:77-78)
Here all believers are addressed. There are eight commands and they are given in plural. This means that everyone should do these things individually and collectively. We should be a solid community of people devoted to Allah and to all that is good.
We must devote to Allah and do good things in order to achieve ‘Falah.’ Falah is not the success in this world only or in the Hereafter only. Falah is the success of both worlds. It will only come if we devote ourselves to Allah and commit to goodness. We are told to bow down, to prostrate. These are specific ways of devotion and submission to Allah, but then we are told to serve Allah in all aspects of our lives. We must obey Allah. Then we are told ‘do good.’ Bowing, prostration and serving Allah are all good things, but Allah commands us to do more good things and seek more ways to do good things in our life: good to ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our co-workers. We must do good to all people of all colors, races, religions and countries. Allah says, ‘Do khayr.’ Khayr is everything that is good, beneficial, right, just, fair and beautiful. Believers should be committed to ‘khayr’ all the time, to everyone, in all manners.
Allah says, ‘Strive in Allah as you ought to strive.’ The Arabic word is ‘jihad.’ It means ‘making effort, struggling and striving.’ It does not mean ‘war’ here. Islam does not promote war; it want to eliminate it or reduce it. War is allowed in Islam only against those who fight but aggression against anyone is not permissible at all.
وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ {البقرة 190}
Fight in the path of Allah those who fight you but do not do aggression. Truly Allah does not like the aggressors. (Al-Baqarah 2:190)
‘Striving in Allah’ means striving in the cause of Allah or for the sake of Allah, as it ought to be done. It should be done for the right cause, in a right way, with sincerity and with seriousness. No one is asked to do anything beyond his/her capacity. In the Qur’an, Allah says, اتقوا الله حق تقاته (Be mindful of Allah as you ought to be mindful of Him, Al ‘Imran 3:102) and it is also said, اتقوا الله ما استطعتم (Be mindful of Allah as much as you can. Al-Taghabun 64:16). The scholars say that ‘من اتقى الله ما استطاع فقد اتقاه حق تقاته (‘Whosoever is mindful of Allah, as much as he can, he was mindful of Him, as he ought to be.’ See Al-Razi in his Tafsir). So whosoever strives in the cause of Allah, as much as he/she can do, is doing his/her duty.
It is said that ‘Allah has chosen you and has not placed any burden in your religion.’ Allah has chosen us not as a race, as a nationality or a country. We are chosen for a mission to spread goodness in the world, and to invite all people to do good things, to do the acts of peace and justice. Allah has not imposed any burden in our religion. The religion is practical in any place and time. There is nothing in Islam that is impossible to practice. If there is any difficulty for any person to practice any rules of Islam, then there are special concessions for that person, in his/her particular situation. We are the community of our father Prophet Ibrahim -peace be upon him. We believe in all Prophets and Messengers of Allah, but Prophet Ibrahim is specially mentioned because he was the father of many prophets. Prophet Muhammad was one of his descendants. Prophet Ibrahim is recognized by most people of the world. Prophet Ibrahim’s patrimony is international and universal.
Our name is ‘Muslims.’ Muslims are those who submit to Allah. This is a universal name. It was given before to the followers of all Prophets and Messenger, and it is given in this scripture, the Qur’an. ‘Muslim’ is not a man-made name; it is a God-given name. Anyone who submits to Allah is welcome to take this name. No nation or race has any monopoly on this name.
Allah says that He has given this name ‘so that you become witnesses to humankind.’ Witnesses by words and deeds. Witnesses to Allah, not to any nationality or culture, witnesses not to any race or color, witness not for any worldly gains, but witnesses only to Allah for the good of everyone.
We are again reminded, ‘So pray regularly, give regular charity.’ Our prayer and charity is not occasional or whenever we feel and whatever way we like. We should make Salat the way Allah wants us to make Salat and we should give Zakat the way Allah wants us to give Zakat, according to the Sunnah of His Prophet.
Finally, we are told, ‘Hold to Allah; He is your Protector, the excellent Protector and the excellent Helper.’ The Qur’an says both: الإعتصام بحبل الله والإعتصام بالله . ‘Holding on to the rope of Allah’ and ‘Holding on to Allah.’ Both of them are important and there is a fine difference between them. ‘Holding on to the rope of Allah’ is holding on to the guidance of Allah, strictly following and obeying His commands. This is related to method, to approach and to learning. ‘Holding to Allah’ is trusting Allah, His help, His power, His closeness and His love. ‘Holding to Allah’ is personal, experiential. It is not just intellectual learning but it is spiritual living. As believers we should do both: hold to the guidance of Allah and hold to the love of Allah.
Allah is our ‘mawla.’ He is our Protector, our Guardian, our Master and our Friend. He is the most excellent ‘Mawla’ and the most excellent ‘Nasir.’
We pray to Allah that we follow this mission of faith and goodness in our lives and bring goodness to the world. Ameen.

The Ten Days of Dhul Hijjah:
The first ten days of Dhul Hijjah should be observed by all Muslims all over the world, in seeking Allah’s blessings and also in solidarity with the universal gathering taking place in Makkah. From the first until the tenth, the Day of Eidul Adha, these are the days of special blessings. Muslims are urged to do more Dhikr, charity and good deeds during this time. Fasting is recommended (Nafl) from the first to the ninth day of Dhul Hijjah. Fasting of the Day of ‘Arafah is very much emphasized, It brings more blessing and great reward. The Prophet –peace be upon him- said,
ما من أيام أعظم عند الله ولا أحب إليه العمل فيهن من هذه الأيام العشر فأكثروا فيهن من التهليل والتكبير والتحميد (الطبرانى ومسند أحمد)
There are no days that are greater in the sight of Allah and the good deeds in them are more beloved to Allah than these ten days. So increase in them Tahlil, Takbir and Tahmid (Al-Tabarani and Musnad Ahmad)

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