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The Hajj and Thanksgiving

The Kaaba
The Kaaba

For Muslims all around the world, this Thanksgiving could not have had more relevance. It is quite symbolic that Hajj falls right in the middle of Thanksgiving, for the purpose of Hajj and Eid al-Adha is, really, to give thanks to God.

The Hajj is a pilgrimage that is performed by Muslims every year in the lunar month of Dhul-hajj. It is one of the five pillars that the faith of Islam stands upon. This pilgrimage that ends with a sacrifice of an animal, embodies the tale of Abraham.

Prophet Abraham’s one and only desire was still to be fulfilled by God- that his bear children. He is old and weak, and his companion in life, knows how badly he wants a child. She urges him to take another wife. Incidentally, soon after she gives him the option, she is pregnant and goes on to give birth to Ishmael. Still, this family’s plight is consistent- Abraham has to travel through the deserts to get home.

After a while, he decides to leave his wife and go on alone. Before he leaves, he prays: "Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular prayer. So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits: so that they may give thanks." (14:37)

His wife is shocked at his decision to leave a newborn and wife behind, but does not say a word when he admits to her that it is God who has commanded this of him. Her faith is ever present.

Here is the plight of a mother who knows her child is hungry, but cannot feed him. She runs around the desert to find anyone, someone yet is disappointed. Finally, she finds a spring of water that does not seem to run out water—the wells of Zam Zam, that Muslims, to this day, drink from and consider its water holy. This spring, clearly, was a miracle sent by God. Her husband’s prayer is answered.

Time passes and the family reunites. It is then that famous tale of Abraham’s sacrifice comes about. He dreams that he is to sacrifice his beloved son for the sake of God. When he discusses his conundrum with Ishmael, the son readily agrees. He gets ready for the sacrifice, and even then he is tested—the Satan distracts him and asks him to NOT sacrifice his only son, to question the word of God. But Abraham holds strong, and throws seven stones at the Satan—a practice that is part of the Hajj to this day. Again, having complete faith is rewarded, and just before Abraham is about to sacrifice his son, God calls out to him and asks him to substitute an animal in place of his son. How thankful must the father have been!

His devotion to God and His command is rewarded, and “God did take Abraham for a friend.” (4:125). The test Abraham passed with flying colors is a reminder for all those who perform the pilgrimage…which of the favors of our Lord will we overlook?

Abraham did not think himself worthy of asking the “why” or “why me”. He followed the Lord’s word- he followed dutifully and for that, he was rewarded.

This Thanksgiving is a culmination of the east and the west- remember to give thanks for the trials and tribulations that God has put you through, as well, for those are the experiences that make you a faithful individual.