Hajj is one of the five central pillars of Islam. Millions of Muslims come together each year to perform Hajj, irrespective of their race, cast, country and language. The Pilgrims unite under the banner of Islam to cleanse their souls and to gain closeness to Allah. The true essence of Hajj, however lies in the commemoration of the the sacrifice and faith of Prophet Ibrahim.
The story of Prophet Abraham tells us that the hardships we face in our lives are not necessarily a punishment from Allah; they could just be a test of faith. As He says in the Quran, He only tests those that are near to Him.
Quran tells us stories of many Prophets that Allah put through these tests. It is entirely up to our individual capacity to learn the right lessons from these stories. Allah says in Surah Yusuf:
There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding. (12:111)
Prophet Abraham had a dream in which Allah ordered him to sacrifice his son Ismael. He did not question Allah’s command or show the least bit of reluctance in obeying His command.
The next morning, Prophet Abraham took a knife and a rope and asked his son to accompany him to Mount Arafat. When they reached Mina, he revealed to Ismael the actual purpose behind bringing him away from home. Ismael accepted the will of Allah just as readily as his father and told him to tie his hands and legs, so he does not struggle and make it harder for his father to sacrifice him.
Just as Prophet Abraham was about to run the knife on the throat of his son, Shaitan appeared and tried to dissuade him. The Prophet, however, did not waver and pelted him with stones. It is to commemorate this act that Muslims throw stones at Jamarat (the three stone pillars where the Shaitan appeared) as an obligatory ritual of Hajj. After getting rid of Shaitan and his traps, Prophet Abraham blindfolded himself and was about to sacrifice his (then) only child, when a voice stopped him:
We called to him, “O Abraham, You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. Indeed, this was the clear trial. (37:104-106)
Thus, Allah rewarded his absolute obedience and faith and asked him to sacrifice a ram as a ransom in place of his son. Millions of Muslims around the world reenact this sacrifice every year to show their submission towards Allah’s will and their trust in Him. May Allah grant us all the chance to perform Hajj with the same faith as Ibrahim’s, InshaAllah.