As He stood upon the newly built house in the vastness of the desert, he began calling the emptiness to the House of God.
To an observer, His actions seem worthless. What good will his call do amidst the immensity of the desert? How will it reach the millions of people around the world to bring them to the House of God? Shouldn’t he have built it where people already were, rather than expecting them to come to the house of God? Who would traverse the difficult terrain of Arabia to come to His house?
For Prophet Ibrahim (as), the command of God was absolute and His promise certain. His job was to make the call; it was God’s promise to bring the people. Ibn Kathîr (ra) narrates that Ibraham (as) inquisitively said to Allah ﷻ, “But my voice cannot reach all peoples.” Allah ﷻ responded, “You make the call, and We will deliver the invitation to all.”
Today, millions of people around the world travel each day to visit Mecca to fulfil the pilgrimage; a worship first established that day by our Prophet Ibrahim (as) and continued every day since. What was once a barren desert is now a global metropolis, bringing people together from across the world.
It’s easy to see now the promise of God come true, but for Prophet Ibrahim (as), he knew and witnessed the truth of this command the moment it came to him all those years ago in the barren deserts of Arabia.
Today, many will heed the call of Prophet Ibrahim (as) and travel on the hajj for the day of Arafah; the major pilgrimage to Mecca. For many, their booking was unexpected, but his call rung strong as they find themselves on the plains of Arafah.
In a time of increasing uncertainty and hardship, the lessons of Hajj ring louder in our ears today. When it comes to obeying the call of Allah ﷻ, we often hesitate to act, either consciously or subconsciously worried about the consequences it may bring. How can we fast when the days are so long? How can we give when our money is so tight? How can we pray when its response seems delayed?
Here are 5 lessons we can learn from this beautiful story to enact on the greatest day of the year; the day of Arafah:
- Prophet Ibrahim’s (as) call seemed futile. Who would hear him in the middle of the desert? But to Him, the command of God was absolute and His promise certain. His job was to fulfil the order, and God will do the rest. When doing God’s work, the task may seem futile if not impossible, but we must do it anyway. His command will be fulfilled the moment He gives it.
- God choose for the house to be built in the barren desert so people come to Him. He could have built it in a city already accessible to people, but He chose the harsh deserts of Arabia to build His house. As difficult as it is, we must come to God, whether physically or spiritually. The journey will be tough and its land may be barren, but when you find God you need nothing else. We cannot wallow in the pits of our desires and sin then complain “where is God”? You must go to Him.
- The deserts of Arabia were unappealing, even to the great Byzantine and Persian empires at the time. In all its years neighbouring these great and much conquered territories, none of the armies bothered to venture in to conquer Arabia. So why build a place of great importance within a land so undesired and filled with hardship? Because the journey to that place forges a bond of faith greater than any other relation can. Those who travel to Makkah speak of the immense brotherhood they feel with the millions of pilgrims, each wearing the same clothes, sharing the same food and performing the same rituals as one another. The journey to God is an ends in and of itself.
- The foresight Prophet Ibrahim (as) had to see the truth in Allah’s ﷻ words is incredible. Who could have imagined the barren desert he stood on would become the metropolis it is today. Even though we have complete faith in Allah’s ﷻ capabilities, we would wonder what means would be needed for this to be fulfilled? It took thousands of years, but God’s promise is always certain. We must carry that certainty with us in all that we do, acting as if it has already happened. It is a question of when, not if.
- But just like Prophet Ibrahim (as), the tests will be frequent and difficult, perhaps even unbearable to most. Allah ﷻ does not burden anyone with more than they can bare, so be patient and carry on. I pray Allah ﷻ grants us the strength and patience to see through all our tests, and the sincerity to stay true to our goal till the end.