PART 1 ANSWERED some questions about Makkah (traditionally spelled “Mecca”) in a daʿwah setting, beginning with common misconceptions and going on to contextualize for Westerners, using Biblical terms and references, the meaning of Makkah to Muslims.

Abraham, Ishmael and Makkah

The rituals of the Hajj—begun centuries before the birth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ—remind the pilgrims of the long ago events that took place in the Valley of Bakkah, mainly related to Abraham, Ishmael, and his mother Hagar. According to the Bible, Abraham was directed by God to take his first son Ishmael and his mother Hagar (Abraham’s second wife) away from where he lived with his first wife Sarah (Genesis chapters 16 and 21).

According to the aadîth, the place where he left them is the Valley of Bakkah (Sûrat Ibrâhîm, 14:37 and Sûrat Âl ʿImrân, 3:96-97). Hagar asked Abraham why he was leaving her in this deserted valley. When he gave her no answer, she asked: “Has God ordered you to do so?” Abraham said yes, and Hagar with complete faith and trust in God responded: “Then He will not abandon us.” Later, Hagar ran out of water and worried for the life of her son Ishmael (Genesis 21).

She could not endure looking at her thirsty son, so she left him and headed toward a nearby hillock. She ascended the hill and searched for any passing traveler. When she saw no one, she descended the hillock, crossed the valley, and ascended an opposite hill, but yet saw none. She ran to and fro between the hillocks seven times until she saw an angel, Gabriel, who struck the earth with his heel, and to Hagar’s surprise, water gushed forth. This water came to be known now as the Zamzam Well. This agrees to a large extent with the Biblical version:

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her: “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. (Genesis 21:17-19)

The Muslim pilgrims hasten between these same two hills, Al-Ṣafâ and Al-Marwah, located within the Sacred Mosque of Makkah. Al-Marwah is just 330 feet or so from the Kaʿbah, with Al-Ṣafâ about 1,480 feet from Al-Marwah. In their Ḥajj-ritual traverse between them, the pilgrims memorialize Hagar’s search for water for her thirsty son. And following upon her traces, the pilgrims are thus reminded by God of her lofty position in Islam—and by extension that of all pious women.

The pilgrims drink the water of this selfsame Zamzam and gain another lesson still: What to do in times of difficulty. Hagar trusted God, but she also took action, doing her utmost to search out the water needed by her child. The solution to her problem (the water) did not come because of her effort. It came from God, but only after she took action. Accordingly, Muslims must learn to do their best and at the same time trust God. Contrary to the way other faiths have “evolved,” faith and deeds remain ever conjoined in Islam.

The blessed water of Zamzam brought Bedouins to settle around the well. Some years later, when Ishmael attained to an age of striving alongside his father, Abraham returned to Makkah and—with the help of his first son Ishmael—raised the Kaʿbah upon its original grounds. For this was the original site, as established by Adam, as the First House of worship appointed for humanity. Father and son, prophets both, entreated God as they worked, with moving and utterly consequential supplication, ever worth repeating.

So behold! We made the [Sacred] House [in Makkah] a [spiritual] resort and [place of] security for all [believing] people. So take up the [marked] Station of Abraham [there,] as a place of Prayer.

Moreover, We covenanted with Abraham and Ishmael: [You shall] purify My House for all those who shall circumambulate [it in worship; and for all those who shall] retreat [there; and for all those who shall both] bow, and bow [their faces] down to the ground, [in Prayer there].

And behold! Abraham said [in supplication]:  My Lord! Make this land [of Makkah] secure. And provide its people [with every kind] of fruit—such of them as believe in God and [in the coming Judgment of] the Last Day.

[God] said: As for any one [of them] who disbelieves, I shall grant him [the] enjoyment [of his provision], for a little while, [until the Hereafter]—whereupon I shall compel him into the torment of the Fire [of Hell]—and a most woeful destination it is!

Thus when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundation of the [Sacred] House, [they prayed]: Our Lord! Accept this [deed] from us. Indeed, it is You, You [alone] who are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.

Our Lord! And make us both muslims, in willing submission to You [alone]. And [make] of our children a Community of muslims, in willing submission to You [alone]. And show us our [religious] rites [in Your worship], and grant us repentance. Indeed, it is You, You [alone] who are the All-Relenting, the Mercy-Giving.

Our Lord! And send forth among [our descendants] a messenger from their own [midst] who shall recite to them Your verses, and teach them the [revealed] Book and the [way of prophetic] wisdom, and purify them.

Indeed, it is You, You [alone] who are the Overpowering [One], the All-Wise. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:125-129]

Muhammad and Makkah

Millennia later, God answered their petition in the person of His Last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, a descendant of Ishmael through his son Kedar, whose name appears in the previously cited [Part 1] verses of the Bible (Isaiah 42:11). Abraham’s first son Ishmael is thus the father of the Arabs, even as Abraham’s second son Isaac—though not a Jew—is ultimately the father of the Jews.

In Genesis 21:17-19, God promised Hagar to make her son Ishmael a great nation. God also promised Abraham to make his first son Ishmael into a great nation, according to the Bible:

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you [O Abraham]: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. (Genesis 17:20)

Ishmael ruled Makkah and taught his children the religion of his father: Surrender to God (‘Islam’ in Arabic). The Arabic word ‘muslim’ means “one who surrenders to God.” Historically, the names Judaism and Jew appeared later—as these words were derived from the name of Judah; Judah was a son of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. Referring to God using the Arabic word ‘Allah’ does not mean that Muslims worship a different god from Abraham’s God. The name ‘Allah’ appears in the Hebrew Bible (“Old Testament”) 89 times, in various forms.

Hundreds of years passed after the death of Ishmael when many of his descendants deviated from the teachings of Abraham and took to worshipping idols besides God. Idolatry sunk the whole of Arabia into moral decline. At this critical juncture in history, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ appeared in the Arabian Peninsula, in Makkah, in the seventh century [on the Christian calendar], and called people to return to the exclusive worship of the true and only God.

Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ tribe, the Quraysh, (descendants of Kedar) at first resisted his message. For 13 years, they persecuted the Muslims, who then migrated from Makkah to Yathrib, which became known as Madinat Al-Nabî, the City of the Prophet ﷺ, or Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, the Illuminated City. There, Islam grew stronger and attracted many followers.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ united the rich and the poor, the light and the dark skinned, Arabs and non-Arabs. Within a decade the Ummah, or Community, of Islam united the Arabian Peninsula under One God—idol-worship vanquished, divisive tribalism outgrown. From there, it became a superpower in all aspects. Great Muslim scientists and thinkers carried the torch of civilization while Europe was enshrouded in the Dark Ages. Muslims excelled in the arts, architecture, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, geography, chemistry and, above all, the religious sciences. Muslims shared this knowledge from China to Medieval Europe, instigating the latter’s Renaissance.

The repeated promise of God to Abraham and Hagar in the Bible—to increase the numbers of Ishmael’s [spiritual] descendants—has surely been realized today, with the number of Muslims in the world reaching 1.5 billion and continuously increasing; more than one in five human beings on earth today is a Muslim.

As to God’s promise of making Ishmael a great nation, this must also imply greatness of faith and spirituality. Muslims, therefore, are to be reminded of God’s mercy in sending His Last Prophet ﷺ, the Seal of prophethood, to guide them to the Truth—a Truth whose witness they are duty-bound to bear to the world.

 

1 Comment

  • Zayeneesha Farooq

    Zayeneesha Farooq

    September 9, 2015 - - 11:21 am

    After you’re done packing for Hajj/Umrah, you should have an idea about what kind of challenges you’d be facing there and what are the tips that can help you make this journey as fruitful and easy as it can get. Hope this list of tips help you achieve that.
    (don’t forget to learn some Arabic survival phrases (inside)).

    http://ayeina.com/20-quick-tips-for-hajj-and-umrah/

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