Surely Abraham was an exemplar, obedient to God, upright ... (Quran 16:120 - M. A. Shakir Translation)
During the past week, millions of men and women of all ethnicities converged in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to commemorate the annual rites of hajj. Hajj is the fifth and last pillar of Islam. It is the pilgrimage whereby these men and women tread in the spiritual path of Prophet Muhammad in following the way of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon them both).
Hajj places a symbolic stamp on the close ties of Muslims to the beliefs and practices of Abraham. The rites of hajj are essentially a reenactment of significant events in the life of Abraham and his family as well as a celebration of his legacy. These rites and legacy provide important lessons not just to the pilgrims but to all people of faith with affinity for Abraham. Below are two:
Abraham was an active seeker of truth. He was not someone who simply went with the flow of his milieu. At a time when we are confused about what is fake and what is real; and what is true and what is not, people of faith should not simply “go with the flow” but be active seekers and advocates of truth in the example of Abraham. It is incumbent on us to seek truth before making judgments or taking actions.
Abraham was also a man who submitted to and glorified God, not self. He was so sincere in his submission and obeyed God in such a way that his trust in God was absolute and his virtuousness indisputable. One moment that captures Abraham’s virtuousness is when he received two guests and demonstrated courtesy, consideration and mutuality. The guests turned out to be angels bearing glad tidings. The wisdom from this for people of faith is that there is often Divine blessing in communion with others.
The zeitgeist of our times in this country is perhaps best encapsulated by two things: the “selfie” — that seemingly innocuous outcrop of social media; and reality television with its underlying motif of self-glorification. Some Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders equate self-glorification with polytheism. That is, the taking of self as a god beside God. A cursory observation of the currents of our times show the dangers of magnified self-aggrandizement. Differences between self and the other and/or between us and them are emphasized rather than obvious similarities. This has led to the degradation of civility, lack of compassion and precious little common ground.
This blessing in communion with others is one of the most significant lessons of hajj and of the legacy of Abraham — the father of many nations. The diversity of men and women dressed in simple garb who converged on Mount Arafat in the culmination of hajj collectively seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy underscores the fact that despite our differences, we are all one human family, equal before The One God — Originator and Creator of all that exists.
What distinguishes us from each other before God is neither race, wealth nor social status. Rather, it is what earned Abraham the sobriquet of “Friend of God” — uprightness.
AbdulMalik Negedu is a Community Chaplain with Malik Human Services Institute, Inc. in New Haven.
( Source: New Haven Register )