Islam is about knowing Allah. Not just knowing about Allah. But knowing Allah at the deepest, most intimate level of our beings. Last week we spoke about the young Ibrahim asking Allah to show him how He brings the dead back alive. The purpose of the stories is to help us to realize the truth that one day it will be our turn to die and be resurrected. I ask Allah for His Mercy and Forgiveness. I remind myself and you that we are not ordinary people. We are not just mammals that live to satisfy their desires, going from sensation to sensation. Manipulated by those who are smarter than we are so that we become pawns in their board games. We Muslims were created for a far higher purpose. The highest of all purposes; to introduce Allah to His creatures. How can we introduce Allah unless we know Allah? That is the meaning of Islam. I remind myself and you to reorient ourselves and reboot our lives so that we fulfill the purpose of our creation.
The next incident in the life of Ibrahim that I want to highlight is soon after Ismail is born in the land of Canaan which includes modern day Palestine. Ibrahim has now brought his wife, our mother Hajar and their infant son, Ismail to a barren valley almost 800 miles from where he was born. That was the valley of Bakkah which would later be called Makkah and where Allah intended the father and son, Ibrahim and Ismail to build the Ka’aba. But at the time of the story, it is a dry, rocky, valley between two high hills, later called Safa and Marwa. The valley is barren without any vegetation, cultivation, people, or trees. It didn’t even have water. Ibrahim leaves his wife and infant son, with a small leather water bag and some dates with them and turns around and leaves.
Hagar was the African servant of Ibrahim and Sarah, who lived between 1930 BC and 1840 BC and who Ibrahim married and from whom Allah gave him Ismail. Here was a woman who on the one hand was obedient enough to her husband to accept the fact that he was leaving her and their infant son alone in an uninhabited valley on the order of Allah. A son that Allah had given them after decades of dua. Yet Allah was now ordering him to leave his wife and child in the wilderness. Then she had enough Tawakkul on Allah to know that if He ordered this, then He would care for them. She allowed her husband to leave them and go on his way knowing that he was doing the work of Allah. When Ibrahim reached a place where his wife couldn’t see him, he turned and made this totally unusual dua. Before I tell you what he asked for, let me ask you what you would ask for if you were in his place? I would have asked for safety, food, shelter, maybe some help. But Ibrahim asked:
رَّبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ فَاجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَهْوِي إِلَيْهِمْ وَارْزُقْهُم مِّنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ
Ibrahim 14:37 O our Rabb! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (Ka’aba); in order, O our Rabb, that they may establish As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.
First, see the Adab, the respect, that Ibrahim shows towards Allah. He doesn’t say, “I brought them here because You ordered me. So, now look after them.” He places the responsibility on himself – I settled them here. This was the nature of Ibrahim where when he introduces Allah he does it in terms of his relationship with Him and all that he is grateful for. He said:
ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَنِى فَهُوَ يَهْدِينِ
وَٱلَّذِى هُوَ يُطْعِمُنِى وَيَسْقِينِ
وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ
وَٱلَّذِى يُمِيتُنِى ثُمَّ يُحْيِينِ
وَٱلَّذِىٓ أَطْمَعُ أَن يَغْفِرَ لِى خَطِيٓـَٔتِى يَوْمَ ٱلدِّينِ
Shu’ara 26: 78-82 (It is He) Who has created me, and it is He Who guides me; And it is He Who feeds me and gives me to drink. And when I am ill, it is He who cures me. And (It is He) Who will cause me to die, and then will bring me to life (again); And Who, I hope will forgive me my faults on the Day of Recompense.
Ibrahim speaks about Allah in terms of his gratitude for how Allah fulfills his daily needs but when it comes to illness, he doesn’t say, “When Allah makes me ill.” He says, “When I fall sick, Allah makes me well.” This is the sign of his love for Allah that even though he knows that nothing happens without the Will of Allah, when it comes to anything difficult or painful, he ascribes it to himself and doesn’t ‘blame’ Allah. Compare this to our complaining and moaning about the trials of our lives.
Hajar, when her husband had left, did not sit idle but made effort to see how she could secure her own and her son’s safety. Allah liked her action of running from Safa to Marwa and back to Safa so much that He made it a Rukn (pillar) of Haj and Umrah. She did it for her reason. For us, she is the reason. Only then did Allah send Jibreel to bring forth Zamzam for them. This shows that the help of Allah comes after effort is made; not before. Then Hajar negotiated an agreement with the people of Jurhum who came there, ensuring that she and her son retained proprietary rights over Zamzam which was the main resource at that place. This is the sign of the dua of Ibrahim being accepted. Otherwise in 1800 BC, what hope of Arab tribal chiefs respecting and obeying a lone non-Arab, black woman? Come to think of that, what hope today? Allah gave Muslim women rights in the 7th century that Muslim men don’t give to this day. High time we changed our ways or be prepared to face those whose rights we usurped, when we meet Allah who gave them those rights and made us responsible. The interesting thing is that she didn’t speak Arabic at the time, yet she negotiated a deal which gave her leverage in that situation.
This is a lesson for us today in a society which is so focused on popularity and being liked even by bots. Popularity is not measured by the number of FB friends or Likes, but by genuine respect and love of those we can respect. How can we be liked? Love and respect are put into the hearts of people who obey Allah. Abu Huraira reported: Rasoolullah said, “When Allah loves an Abd (slave), he calls Jibreel and he says: Verily, I love this person so you should love him. Then Jibreel loves him and makes an announcement in the heavens, saying: Allah loves this person, and you should love him. Thus, the dwellers of the heavens love him, and he is honored on the earth.” In another place, “When Allah is angry with an Abd (slave), he calls Jibreel and he says: I dislike this person, so you should dislike him. Then Jibreel dislikes him and makes an announcement in the heavens, saying: Verily, Allah dislike this person, so you should dislike him. Thus, they dislike him, and he is hated on the earth.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
This is also a lesson that is worth learning in worldly wisdom and taking care of the affairs of this life in such a way that the family is looked after. Allah put respect for Hajar in the hearts of the tribal leaders so that they honored and obeyed her. Honor comes to those who obey Allah. Allah loved Ibrahim and his family’s obedience so much that He made their story the Arkaan (Pillars) His greatest Ibaadah, Hajj. Every Haji enacts that story to remind himself about what gives success in Dunya wal Aakhira.
As Ismail grew up, his mother Hajar inculcated the spirit of obedience to Allah and love for his father in the heart of the little boy such that when his father came, he was not a stranger. The boy knew him, loved him, and awaited him. Then when his father, Ibrahim Khaleelullah related his dream to his son, the son immediately accepted the Will of Allah without question. All this happened even though until that time, the father had not taken any direct part in the raising of the child. Ismail was the product of a single mother. But when that mother has Imaan and is connected to Allah, then Allah guides and protects and helps. It is not a question of how many parents but what kind of parents. Allah created parents to guide children and teach them Allah’s boundaries. But how can parents who transgress boundaries themselves, teach respect for boundaries to their children? How can the ignorant guide others? Society is neither corrupted nor improved by children. It is corrupted by the parents who then complain about the children, conveniently forgetting their own role in their upbringing. Before we can talk about Tarbiyya of children we must look at the Tarbiyya of parents. Please take the role of parenting seriously if you want children who will be a blessing and Sadaqa Jaariya.
فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَى فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَى قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ سَتَجِدُنِي إِن شَاء اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ
Saffaat 37: 102. And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he (Ibrahim) said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (in sacrifice to Allah), so look, what do you see!” He said: “O my father! Do that which you are commanded, In-sha-Allah you shall find me of As-Sabirin (patient).”
Please reflect. What kind of conversation is that? Between a father who is over 80 years old and a son who is perhaps less than 10. The father tells his son about his dream where he saw himself slaughtering his son and then asks him, ‘Look (inside your heart), what do you see?’ The father stayed away all those years and then when he comes, he is talking about slaughtering. And he is not asking his son, ‘What do you think? What is your opinion?’ He asks him, ‘What do you see?’ When I thought about this Ayah, it blew me away. Ismail lived in an agrarian society which depended primarily on livestock and hunting for survival. He would have seen and participated in the slaughter or sheep almost daily. The stale diet of the Arabs was meat. So, when his father mentioned ‘slaughter’, it was not a strange word for him. He knew what he was talking about.
What must have been the level of spiritual development of that child that his father could confidently ask this kind of question and expect a serious, intelligent response? Who enabled that level of connection with Allah, that level of Tazkiyyatun Nafs where the child could answer:
يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ سَتَجِدُنِي إِن شَاء اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ
My sisters, your role as mothers is simply the most critically important role that you can ever have. That is why Allah gave it to you and not to the man. Try to wrap your mind around that and give that role the importance that it deserves. Motherhood is not only about feeding the child’s belly but also about feeding their soul. And for that you must know how to cook the food for the soul. It won’t simply happen because you are a mother. You did not get the status of having the Jannah of your children under your feet just because of biology. It is the result of fulfilling your responsibility of raising children who are Muttaqoon and Muhsinoon. That won’t happen unless you are a Muttaqi and Muhsin yourself. Ask yourself what you are doing to ensure that you are and remain a Muttaqi and Muhsin? To light the lamps of the lives of your children, you must first light your own lamp.
The primary responsibility for raising children is that of the mother. The primary responsibility of materially supporting the family is that of the father. Both parents have the responsibility of being positive role models for their children because children listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they see what you do. You must make the effort because the stakes are high, and the reward is perpetual and eternal. In plain language it means to give them twice the time, half the food and half the money you give now. We must raise children who are conscious of Allah, who love Rasoolullah, follow his Sunnah, have his beautiful manners, and are kind and compassionate. Is that happening? If not, what’s your plan?
My brothers and sisters, in the kind of world we live in today, to build a relationship with Allah is increasingly more important. We need to build the relationship for ourselves as well as create an environment at home where this concern is voiced and worked on.
Remember we can only give what we have. Only a lighted lamp can light other lamps and illuminate. So, let’s seek to build our connection with Allah. Remember that a time that will come upon every one of us, man, or woman, when our breath is stuck in our throat, when it is only the connection with Allah which will help. All our money, power, friends, and family will not be able to do one whit to help us even to breathe easily. They can’t make us live; they can’t even help us to die. So, leave them and obedience to them and pleasing them by displeasing Allah. And cling to the obedience of Allah, no matter who is displeased.
Remember that the only one who is displeased with obedience to Allah is Shaytaan – who sometimes looks human. Ignore him and recall the examples of the Anbiya who we follow. I ask Allah for His Mercy and Forgiveness.