I start this week's HuffJumuah by saying Eid Mubarak! We thank God Almighty for blessing us with, yet another joyful Eid al-Adha celebrations today. Millions of Muslims are joyfully celebrating their successful completion of their pilgrimage in the Holy sites of Islam as they earned the honorific title of Hajjah (for women) and Hajji (for men). More than billion and a half others all around the world cheerfully glorifying God's names through their Eid celebrations.
Indeed Eids are times for joyous and well deserved celebrations. They are holy times when we get together with our loved ones, check the well being of every member of our community and try to make every one happy. However, it is equally important that Eids are also times for reflection and spiritual growth. They are invitations for us to ponder over the heart and spirit of that particular Eid. What are we celebrating here? How can we make these celebrations more meaningful, more relevant and more rewarding for us and for our loved ones?
In this spirit of honoring the importance of the day, in today's khutba, which coincided with the first day of Eid, I invite myself and you all to a reflective exercise. I call this exercise Hajj-i Tafakkur, doing holy pilgrimage of Islam through our reflections and contemplations. I pray this 20-minute spiritual mediation exercise will include us, in spirit, in the ranks of 2012 Muslim pilgrims. It will include our prayers and supplications to theirs and these sincere cries will be received by the Almighty God as such.
I now invite myself and you to imagine going through Hajj step by step and reflect upon what would you do in this contemplative scenario? Millions of Muslims who joyfully celebrate the end of their Hajj now in Mecca, they went to their journey through the wings of airplanes and it took several weeks for them to complete this amazing spiritual journey. Imagine yourself doing the same journey through the wings of your tafakkur, your reflections in 20 minutes.
Imagine you have completed all your travel arrangements, got your visa and in a few days time you are about to take off for your Hajj. What did those pilgrims in Mecca do at this point? They contact every one they know and say: "I am going to Hajj, I will meet with my Lord and present the testimony of my life. I am asking for your forgiveness if in any ways I have mistreated you, hurt you, gossiped behind your back, etc. Please forgive me!" They also ask: "Do I owe any one anything? Please let me know so that I can pay before I leave for Hajj..." So if I was to make my Hajj in a few days from now, who would I reach out to in a similar fashion? Who are the list of people to whom I owe an apology but couldn't deliver it so far because I couldn't swallow my own arrogance, have not been humble enough to do so, have been negligent or any other reasons? As I reflect over my life and my relationship with others, where would I send my overdue plea?: "Please accept my sincere apologies as I fell short in certain instances in my ethical and moral standards and asking your forgiveness."
Those happy pilgrims in Mecca circling around Holy Kaba right now did not only delivered their apologies and asked forgiveness with people in their lives. As they know they may or may not come back from their Hajj and may not have this chance again, they reached out to their loved ones and delivered their thanks and shared their thankfulness and gratitude with so many people. So as you are about to start your Hajj-i Tafakkur, who are those people in your life that helped you to be who you are, been there for you in your good days and bad days, has been a source of comfort and support to you and your loved ones, taught you knowledge, protected you from a danger, prayed for you -- but, in response, they have yet to receive an act of kindness, generosity and gratitude from you through a small gift, a meaningful message or even a simple "Thank You"?
Now you have done your pre-Hajj work. You took off through your tafakkur planes to Mecca. Through out your journey you try as hard as you can to formulate your prayers. Things that you want to cry out to God Almighty once you get there. As your mind is in that prayerful mode your lips continuously chant:
Here I am, Oh God, at Your command!
Here I am at Your command!
You are without associate!
Here I am at Your command!
To You are all praise, grace and dominion!
You are without associate!
As all pilgrims do on the way to Hajj, you now see the arches of the Holy Mosque in your horizon. Very soon, you will go through the gates of Haram and will see the Kaba for the first time. The holy site that you turned your face in your daily prayers over and over through out your life. You will meet the center of your spirituality face to face. As the tradition tells us that what ever prayer you will have at that moment will be heard by your Maker and will be received in a special way. What would you pray for on that intense spiritual moment? What would you ask from the one who created you and gave you everything you have, who is the only authority to forgive your sins, who is the source of all strength and guidance. As you burst into tears and cry, what would you say to God?
As you started circling around Kaba, what would your heart ponder upon? What would your lips say? As you travelled to Mina the next day, how would you spend your day and night in that suburb of Mecca? How would you and in what ways you prepare yourself to the climactic moment of your Hajj: Day of Arafat! As you arrive to Arafat the next day, at the outskirts of the Mount of Mercy where our beloved prophet delivered his final khutba, what kind of a conversation you would have with All Hearing All Seeing God?
Filled with gratitude and love after this mountain top experience, fully determined to change and be a different person for the rest of your life, you move to Muzdalifah to rest and collect your pebbles in preparation to the next day where you will cast stones to Satan. You will chase away the concept of evil, both the ones in the universe and the ones we have inside ourselves. As you throw those stones the next day, what are the temptations, addictions, habitual mistakes that you replaced in your target? What are the things that you promise to yourself and to your God that you will never do it again?
Felling much lighter and encouraged after rebelling against the internal and external evil, you now complete your Hajj as you reflect upon the powerful story of Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael, especially the scene in that story where prophet Abraham asked to slaughter his own son. As millions of pilgrims did earlier today in those holy sites, what would be your own reflections on this story? As all of us are in many ways contemporary Abrahams, who or what are our Ishmaels? What would our tests with our faith to God would look like? Would we win those tests as Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael did and modeled for us beautifully?
You have now completed your farewell visit to Kaba and you are on your way back to your home to reunite with your loved ones. Your mind is busy reminding you the list of promises that you have made to yourself and to your Lord. You keep swinging your brush of tafakkur in your mind working to paint the picture of your new self. What would that portrait of your new self look like? What would be different about this person? How would that difference would be recognized?
Eid Mubarak, every one!