As our human race jointly faces the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in every corner of the world, over 1.7 billion Muslims will finish this month commemorating the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which celebrates the story of Abraham (peace be upon him). For this time in our lives, this global quarantine will also be the first time in living memory when the annual Hajj pilgrimage of over 2,000,000 people will not take place in the same way it has for centuries.
Even so, with the confluence of events this year from the coronavirus pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement taking flight in societies across the planet, the universal story of Hajj is an even stronger and constant thread in all our lives this year. Muslims are called to reflect on the story of Hajar (peace be upon her) who was an African woman and the first person to perform many of the Hajj rituals which pilgrims perform today.
The story of our mother Hajar exemplifies the perseverance of the human spirit. When things looked impossible, her story of hope and sabr (perseverance) showed that anything is possible and never to despair. She ran the same path again and again – seven times in total – when things seemed impossibly hopeless for her, her perseverance was eventually rewarded with water in a dry dessert which still flows until today. The lessons of this holiday season are also personified in the stories of Abraham and Ismail, both of whom sacrificed their own personal feelings to perform selfless acts of obedience.
Even though the Kaaba might be relatively empty this year, we can take this opportunity to make this holiday season a symbol of greater unity and purpose. Regardless of where you live, we can all pledge to take this opportunity to sacrifice our own self-interests for the greater good of all humankind.
Whether it is providing pregnant livestock gifts to underserved villagers in Pakistan or helping to build solar-powered water wells in Africa, I sincerely hope that we will take this opportunity to truly live our Islamic ethics by helping those less fortunate this holiday season. We ask that God blesses us with softened hearts during these challenging times and we pray for protection from oppression, inequality, racism, misogyny, greed, selfishness and egotism.
In the spirit of the Hajj and Eid al-Adha, let us all collectively reflect upon the legacy and literal footsteps of Abraham, Hajar and Ismail to learn lessons for our human race navigating towards that elusive destination of peace, reconciliation, compassion, justice and equality for all people.