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In the Footsteps of Ibraheem: Sustaining the benefits of 'Haj

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Although there are more than 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today, only a very small percentage of us will be blessed with the ability to perform ’Haj.

Once we have left the tranquil confines of Al’haram and resumed our busy and often stressful lives, the closeness we felt to Allaah and the unity of Muslims that is palpable during ’Haj may have unfortunately quickly become a warm but distant memory.

In lives that are beset by trials and tribulations we are apt to become easily enmeshed in worldly concerns and stresses.

In today’s chaotic world, sustaining the benefits of ’Haj may seem almost unattainable, but sustainment is, in fact, possible.

The total fulfilment that comes from being close to Allaah and the great joy and sense of belonging that comes from being a part of the great pilgrimage are feelings that are sustainable.

Stress is the most common ailment facing medical science today.

It has been implicated in diseases and ailments ranging from coronary heart disease and hypertension to headaches, insomnia and obesity.
In a modern world where stress often leads people to seek the advice of psychologists, can ’Qura~n and Sunnah form the basis of a psychology that relies on more than scientific precepts and empirical evidence?

Islaam can form the basis of a truly comprehensive psychology; one that recognizes the Fi’trah [the innate needs] of human nature and presupposes that man is inherently good and searching for the tranquillity that comes with true submission to Allaah.

So how do we keep the stress and uncertainty of this Dunya from overwhelming us and still retain the benefits of a ’Haj Mabroor (accepted ’Haj)?

One way is to reflect on the journey of Prophet Ibraheem and his wife Hajar.

’Haj, often referred to as following on the footsteps of Ibraheem and his total submission to Allaah, along with the unquestioning trust (Tawakkul) of Hajar, is a beacon of light and a source of guidance for us all.

When Prophet Ibraheem, his wife Hajar and newborn son Isma‘eel travelled to what is today Makkah, it was a dead valley: There was no cultivation and no water; it was a desert.
Prophet Ibraheem left his family there. He left with them some water and few dates and walked away. Hajar followed him and asked three times if he was going to leave them in such a desolate place. He didn’t answer.

Hajar then asked him: “Has Allaah ordered you to do so?” When Hajar heard that the answer was yes, she replied “then He will not forsake us”.

When the hassles and stresses of life threaten to engulf us it is befitting to take a moment to reflect on the Tawakkul of Hajar. She was alone in the desert with a new born baby, few dates and a small amount of water.

Imagine the turmoil that must have been going through her mind. We know that she was desperate when she ran back and forth between the hills of Marwah and ’Safa in search of travellers or wayfarers. But Hajar had total trust and Ibraheem’s behaviour reflected only true submission.

In modern psychological terms it could be said that both Prophet Ibraheem and Hajar had achieved self actualisation.

Self actualisation refers to the development and fulfilment of one’s unique human potential. It is a theory in the humanistic branch of psychology that emphasises the capacity for human growth and an innate desire to satisfy a variety of needs.

Abraham Maslow developed what he called a hierarchy of needs. At the base of the pyramid are the physiological needs – food, water, sleep.

Level two of the pyramid moves on to safety and security – shelter. The third level takes into account social needs; belongingness and the need to be affiliated with and accepted by others.

According to Maslow only when the bottom needs have been fulfilled can we advance to the higher levels.

Next in the hierarchy comes the need for personal growth, self esteem and acquiring the skills and knowledge to reach self actualization, the highest level.

The level at which we actually perceive reality and have moments of great joy, satisfaction and tranquillity.

After Prophet Ibraheem had left his family and reached a place from where they could no longer see him, he turned around, faced the place that would be the Ka‘bah and made Du‘aa- to Allaah.

“O our Lord I have made some of my off spring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House, in order O our Lord that they may perform ’Salaah, so fill some hearts among men  with love towards them and provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.” Chapter of Ibraheem [14:37]

At this time; at this most crucial point in the life of his family Prophet Ibraheem inverted Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The first thing he asked for was that his family be able to establish the ’Salaah (prayer). His first desire was that they feel connected to Allaah and take refuge in the tranquillity that is characterised by submission to Him.

He then asked for the people to love them, he wanted to secure their social needs so that they had a sense of belongingness.
Lastly he asked for food, for sustenance and even then he connected it to ‘Ibaadah.
“….and provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.”  Chapter of Ibraheem [14:37]

As human beings we would assume that to survive we must first satisfy physiological needs but this is not the case.

According to the Fitrah, the first need that must be satisfied is our need for Allaah. After that in accordance with the natural laws of a universe created by the One God all our needs will be fulfilled.

Ibraheem knew that, and Hajar knew that. All the Prophets of Allaah can be said to have achieved self actualisation.

Allaah created us and He knows absolutely everything about us, He knows what is good for us and what is bad.
 “…it may be that you dislike a thing that is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” Chapter of Alba’qarah [2:216]

To have complete and unwavering faith in our Creator and know with full certainty that our purpose in life is to worship Allaah is true self actualisation.

Psychology is able to give us a glimpse into the truth about ourselves, as researchers, scientists and academics discover the full beauty and truth of what Allaah has created.

Modern medicine and science are gifts from Allaah for the benefit of humankind but they will always be limited and fallible.

If we are able think of ’Qura~n as a psychological text book a cure will always be  possible because the words of Allaah beseech us to live our lives in the most natural way, in submission to His will.

In the year 2007 the world is a chaotic place in which we often deceive ourselves into thinking there is no time to reflect and draw closer to Allaah.

To achieve self actualisation, to be the best that we are able to be and feel at peace we must acknowledge our true Fi’trah.

True peace and tranquillity comes only from submission to Allaah.

When we find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control, when despair and psychological torment are overwhelming us, the only way out is to acknowledge that the circumstances are truly beyond our control and in the hands of Our Creator and Sustainer: Allaah Almighty.

That closeness we felt to Allaah during the ’Haj is achievable even away from Al’haram. The change that can occur after an accepted ’Haj is definitely sustainable.

Aisha Stacey -
Aisha Stacey is an Australian revert to Islam currently residing in Doha Qatar.Read More >>

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