Pilgrims from all around the world are making their way to Mecca in order to fulfil their fifth pillar of Islam – Hajj – a pillar that has countless objectives and today I will be focusing on just one of them.
Shaykh Ahmad Ibn ‘AbdulHaleem Ad-Dahlawi said,
ومن مقاصد الحج موافقة ما توارث الناس عن سيدنا إبراهيم وإسماعيل عليهما السلام فإنهما إماما الملة الحنيفية، والنبي r بعث لتظهر به الملة الحنيفية وتعلو به كلمتها، وهو قوله تعالى: (مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ)
“One of the main objectives of Hajj is to endorse the lives of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail for they are the Imams of the monotheistic way. As for the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), he was sent to make this way prevalent, a way which Allah described as being “The religion of your father Ibrahim.” 
But why Ibrahim (ʿalayhi al-Salām)? Why did Allah choose to make one of the five pillars of Islam a re-enactment of his specific footsteps? For despite it being a story that is thousands of years old, Allah chose to eternalise it by linking our Islam and fate in the Hereafter to the copying of him and his family’s tracks. To answer this question, we must first ask: Who was Ibrahim?
He was the son of one of the dignitaries of his time – Aazar – who was the very manufacturer of the idols which his community would then purchase and take as gods. What a calamity it is when ‘Aqida/creed meets with financial interests. There was nothing on the side of young Ibrahim at that time except Al-Qalb As-Saleem/the sound heart which Allah had placed within his chest. Allah said,
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ رُشْدَهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ
“And We had certainly given Abraham his sound judgement before” 
He began his uprising against this from the least expected of places; his home. The Qur’an goes on, in its miraculously eloquent and concise expressions, to depict Ibrahim’s struggle against his community where all of the odds were against him. It tells us of his debate with them, his demolition of their idols, his community’s reaction of rage, their attempt to burn him alive and how Allah altered the laws of physics so that the fire wouldn’t harm him.
The Qur’an also tells us about his debate with the tyrant of his time, how he was compelled to immigrate whilst being all by himself, for he was the only believer on earth. He travels the world, searching for an alternative but sees that the cities of the world had become carbon copies of one another with respect to their idolatry and disbelief. He arrives at Egypt, where he manages to escape a tyrant who tried seducing his wife. He then travels to Ash-Sham where, once again, he invites people to submit themselves to Allah and to reject idolatry.
It is not long however before he is commanded yet again by Allah to pack his luggage and immigrate to another land, along with Haajar and his son Ismail. Mecca would be the destination, a dry, desolate, lifeless and lonely part of the world, lacking every single basic resource for human life. There, he is commanded to leave Haajar and Ismail, and walk away. Without hesitation or any second thought, he submits and, after having handed over to her a small bag of dates, he walks away.
The dates that he’d given her finish, however. Her milk begins to dry up and the baby cried in hunger. She decides to run from between the two mounts of Safa and Marwah, in desperate search for any assistance as she experiences a contrast of terror as per motherly nature but hope and serenity as per remarkable ‘iman. She is puzzled but not hopeless, she has certainty but she isn’t lazy, doing what she can from her part, until Allah honours her by allowing the water of Zamzam to gush from beneath her feet, water of nourishment, medication, Ajr and Baraka, water which has quenched the thirst of millions since and continues to do so to this day.
Ismail grows up and with him grows Ibrahim’s attachment to his son, and bearing in mind the sound state of Ibrahim’s heart, this was an issue, for there mustn’t be anything in the heart of this colossal man that competes with his attachment to Allah. Thus, the painful command came to Ibrahim; to slaughter his son. He sees this dream over and over and thus realises that this must be carried out and so he submits. He tells his son:
يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَى فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَى
“O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I sacrifice you, so see what you think.”
Ismail’s response was one of Abrahamic submission. He said,
يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ
“O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.” 
This is when Ibrahim does the unthinkable. He walks with his son to the place where the slaughtering will be carried out. Shaytan makes his presence known at this point and tries to talk Ibrahim out of this, but Ibrahim pelts him with 7 stones. He appears a second and third time and, on each occasion, Ibrahim launches stones at him.
At this point, it’s as if the motion of the universe had momentarily paused in anticipation of what is about to happen next. His son had knelt down and the knife was been placed on this throat, as Ibrahim forcefully suppresses the fatherly obsession with one’s son. Allah said,
فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ
“And when they had both submitted and he put him down prostrating on his forehead”
This is when Ibrahim was told to stop,
يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ (104) قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّؤْيَا إِنَّا كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“We called to him, “O Ibrahim, You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.”
Allah sends a ram from Paradise for Ibrahim to slaughter instead of Ismail, for the purpose of this onerous test was never about slaughtering Ismail but to slaughter the love and attachment within Ibrahim’s heart which only belongs to Allah. His submission made it clear however that this had been achieved.
During this moment in history, the places of devil worship, venues of idolatry and buildings of promiscuity had filled the earth. The people of godlessness were very well served but the people of Tawhid didn’t have a place where they could meet to single out Allah in worship. Thus, Allah commands Ibrahim to build the first Masjid on earth and Ibrahim submits. Allah said,
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِلْعَالَمِينَ
“Indeed, the first House of worship established for mankind was that at Makkah – full of blessing and a guidance for the worlds.” 
Here, both father and son work hand in hand as they transfer pieces of stone and raise its foundations until the humble structure of the Ka’ba was standing, ready to become the globe’s holiest site of worship. Allah commands Ibrahim to invite the world to it.
وَأَذِّنْ فِي النَّاسِ بِالْحَجِّ يَأْتُوكَ رِجَالًا وَعَلَى كُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يَأْتِينَ مِنْ كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ
“And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass. That they may witness benefits for themselves.” 
Ibrahim asks, “O Allah, how will they hear my voice?” He is told to make the call and Allah will deliver that call, and so Ibrahim submits. He stands on Mount Abu Qubais and proclaims to the world using nothing other than his human voice, “Allah has prescribed Hajj upon you so perform Hajj!” And as promised, Allah delivered his call to all four corners of the globe, thus we see the Russian, Chinese, European, American, Arab and African responding to his call in droves and they will continue to do so until just before the end of times.
Having said this, we now realise that much of our worship during Hajj is in fact a re-enactment of the life of this great man and his family who’d raised the bar so high when it came to submission to Allah and freeing up one’s heart from everything except Him. Your doings in Hajj are a reminder of what it means to rise beyond customs, norms and ‘isms’, what it means to be steadfast as you tread the path of steadfastness all by yourself. These are key values in the life of every Muslim that are very prone to wear and tear, but following the footsteps of Ibrahim during Hajj guarantees their revival and resumption.
The Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would say,
قفوا على مشاعركم، فإنّكم على إرثٍ من إرث أبيكم إبراهيم
“Visit the sites, for you are following the heritage of your father Ibrahim.” 
Consider Haajar’s running between the two Mounts of Safa and Marwa seven times, as she searched in desperation for any sign of life for her hungry child. Ibn ‘Abbas comments on this by saying, فَذَلِكَ سَعْيُ النَّاسِ بَيْنَهُمَا
“This is why the pilgrim do the exact same thing between the two Mounts.”
Consider Ibrahim’s stoning of Shaytan as he tried to dissuade him from carrying out Allah’s command. Ibnu ‘Abbas comments on this by saying:
الشيطان ترجمون، وملة أبيكم إبراهيم تتبعون
“During your Hajj you also pelt the devil, following the way of your father Ibrahim” 
Consider Ibrahim’s intent on slaughtering his son, Shaykh AbdurRahman As-Sa’di said about one’s sacrifice of the animal during Hajj:
هو اقتداء بالخليل صلى الله عليه وسلم حيث فدى ابنه إسماعيل بذبح عظيم
“It is following the steps of Ibrahim when his son was ransomed from being slaughtered.” 
Notice how the footsteps of Ibrahim’s (ʿalayhi al-Salām) family have become an act of worship which the intellectuals of the world, the philosophers, scientists and noble prize winners are obligated to emulate should they wish to enter Jannah. Indeed, just as our messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Visit the sites, for you are following the heritage of your father Ibrahim.”
This is a heritage that would be later imitated by Prophets Musa and Yunus. Ibn ‘Abbas said that
“The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) passed through the valley known as Al-Azraq. He asked, أيّ وادٍ هذا؟ “Which valley is this?” They said, “This is the valley of Al-Azraq” To which he said, كأنِّي أنظر إلى موسى عليه السلام هابطًا من الثنيَّة وله جؤارٌ إلى الله بالتلبية
“It is as if I can see Musa (ʿalayhi al-Salām) coming down from the mountain track, as he calls loudly upon Allah saying, LabaykAllahumma labayk!”
Then the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) arrived at the mountain track of Harsha. He asked, أيُّ ثنية هذا؟ “Which mountain track is this?” They said, “The mountain track of Harsha” He said,
كَأَنِّي أَنْظُرُ إِلَى يُونُسَ بْنِ مَتَّى عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ عَلَى نَاقَةٍ حَمْرَاءَ جَعْدَةٍ عَلَيْهِ جُبَّةٌ مِنْ صُوفٍ خِطَامُ نَاقَتِهِ خُلْبَةٌ وَهُوَ يُلَبِّي
It is as if I am seeing Yunus (ʿalayhi al-Salām) riding a well-built red camel, wearing a cloak of wool around him and the rein of his camel made of the fibres of date-palm, as he calls upon Allah saying, LabaykAllahumma labayk!”
In fact, Prophet ‘Isa will make Hajj upon his return to this world. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
والذي نفسي بيده ليُهلنّ ابن مريم بفجِّ الرّوحاء حاجًّا أو معتمرًا، أو ليثنينهما
“I swear by the One who possesses my soul, the son of Mary (Jesus) will make Talbiya (required declaration) for performing Hajj or for Umrah or for both in the valley of Rawhaa.”
After having discovered who Ibrahim (ʿalayhi al-Salām) was, we are now ready to pose the question once again: Why Ibrahim? Why was it his legacy that Allah has eternalised in the form of a pillar of Islam, the pillar of Hajj? Ibrahim (ʿalayhi al-Salām) was a man who was wholesome and listing his qualities is an impossibility. But there is one word however that appears time and time again in his biography. This term is “Islam”/submission. He was a true submitter to Allah. I am not referring to the Islam which separates between Kufr and ‘Iman, I refer to the ‘Islam’ which is in reference to one’s absolute surrendering to Allah whereby such a person almost literally fails to see his/her reflection in the mirror, as they only want to be how Allah wants them to be.
وَلَقَدِ اصْطَفَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ (130) إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“And We had chosen him in this world, and indeed he, in the Hereafter, will be among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, “Submit”, he said “I have submitted to the Lord of the worlds.” 
He was commanded to immigrate and he submitted. He was commanded to leave his family all by themselves in the desert and he submitted. He was commanded to slaughter his son, to build the Ka’ba, to circumcise himself at the age of 80 and every single time, he submitted. Thus the path to greatness is clear: Absolute submission to Allah without hesitation or second thought. The companions would say,
نَهَانَا رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَنْ أَمْرٍ كَانَ لَنَا نَافِعًا، وَطَوَاعِيَةُ اللهِ وَرَسُولِهِ أَنْفَعُ لَنَا
“The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) prohibited us from things which were of benefit to us, however obeying Allah and His Messenger is of more benefit to us.” 
Hajj teaches us to be like Ibrahim, so that when we return to our homes and we’re told that ‘such and such financial dealing is impermissible’, or ‘this is how we should/shouldn’t dress’, or ‘such and such environment displeases Allah’, or their likes, we also submit.
To close, I relay a remarkable Hadith which addresses those who will be travelling for Hajj this year, as well as those who’ve voluntarily chosen to stay behind, arguing that ‘it is too hot’, ‘it will be too crammed’, ‘it’s too costly’, having forgotten that the Day of Judgement will be far hotter, will be far more crammed and that the price of not doing so will be far more costly. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
إنَّك إذا خرجتَ من بيتِك تؤُمُّ البيتَ الحرامَ لا تضعُ ناقتُك خفًّا ولا ترفعُه إلَّاكتب اللهُ لك به حسنةً ومحا عنك خطيئةً وأمَّا ركعتاك بعد الطَّوافِ كعِتقِ رقبةٍ وأمَّا وقوفُك عشيَّةَ عرفةَ فإنَّ اللهَ يهبِطُ إلى سماءِ الدُّنيا فيباهي بكم الملائكةَ يقولُ عبادي جاءوني شُعثًا من كلِّ فجٍّ عميقٍ يرجُون جنَّتي فلو كانت ذنوبُكم كعددِ الرَّملِ أو كقطْرِ المطرِ أو كزَبَدِ البحرِ لغفرتُها أفيضوا عبادي مغفورًا لكم ولمن شفعتُم له وأمَّا رميُك الجمارَ فلك بكلِّ حصاةٍ رميْتَها تُكفِّرُ كبيرةً من الموبقاتِ وأمَّا نحرُك فمذخورٌ لك عند ربِّك وأمَّا حِلاقُك رأسَك فلك بكلِّ شعرةٍ حلقتَها حسنةٌ ويُمحَى عنك بها خطيئةٌ وأمَّا طوافُك بالبيتِ بعد ذلك فإنَّك تطوفُ ولا ذنبَ لك ويأتي ملَكٌ حتَّى يضعَ يدَيْه بين كتِفَيْك فيقولُ اعملْ فيما تستقبِلُ فقد غُفِر لك ما مضَى
“If you leave you home aiming for the Ka’ba, then every time your camel raises its foot or lowers it, Allah will write for you a good deed and will erase from you a sin. As for the two units of Salaah which you pray after the Tawaaf, it is equivalent to freeing a slave from the children of Ismail. As for your staying at ‘Arafah until the evening, Allah descends to the lower heaven and boasts about you to the angels, saying: ‘My slaves have come to Me in a rough state from every deep valley hoping for My Paradise, so if their sins were equivalent to the grains of sand or the drops of rain or like the foam on the sea I will forgive them. So proceed, O My slaves, for I have forgiven you and all those whom you intercede for.’ As for the stoning of the Jimaar (the pillars), then for every stone that you throw, it will erase one of the major sins. As for your slaughtering of the animal, the reward of this will be saved with your Lord. As for shaving your head, then for every strand of hair, a good deed will be written for you and a sin of yours will be erased. As for your circumambulation around the Ka’ba after this, then by this time you are completely sinless and an angel comes and places his hand between your shoulders saying, ‘Work hard in doing good deeds in the days to come, for all of the sins of your past have been forgiven.’”
 Al-Qur’an, Surah 22, Ayah 78
 From his book, ‘Hujjatullaahi Al-Baaligha’
 Al-Qur’an, Surah 21, Ayah 51
 Al-Qur’an, Surah 37, Ayah 102
 Al-Qur’an, Surah 3, Ayah 96
 Al-Qur’an, Surah 22, Ayah 27
 Narrated by Abu Daawood and others, on the authority of Ibn Mirba’ Al-Ansaari
 Narrated by Al-Bukhari
 Narrated by Al-Haakim and Ibnu Khuzayma
 Al-Irshaadu Ila Ma’rifatil Ahkaam
 Narrated by Muslim
 Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Abu Huraira
 Al-Qur’an, Surah 2, Aayaah 130-131
 Narrated by Muslim
 Narrated by Al-Bazzaar and others, and classified as ‘Hasanun Lighairih’ by Al-Albany
Shaykh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is Islam21c’s Tarbiya Editor. A UK national of Palestinian origin, he gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari’ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Shaykh Ali is the author of several books including ‘The Daily Revivals’, ‘The Ten Lanterns’ and ‘The Friday Reminder’. He delivers sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.