When does Hajj become Obligatory?

Question: When does Hajj become obligatory on a Muslim? If a person has gathered some money by which he/she can easily perform Hajj, is it allowed for him/her to spend that money on some other account, for example to go for higher education? Please elaborate.

Answer: In this regard, the Qur'an has guided us in the following words:

And for those who have the resources to reach there – [the House of their Lord] – on them is an obligation to perform for Allah the H~ajjof this House. (3:97)

Keeping in view the Arabic word Istata'ah (resources), sense and reason demand that, except in extraordinary circumstances, as soon as a person has arranged for his basic necessities of life like food, clothing, health, house, transport, and education, he should try to raise money for offering H~ajj. He should also plan to take time off from the daily routine of life for this all important undertaking. The importance H~ajjhas as a form of worship ritual entails that one should plan to collect money specifically for this purpose and should embark upon this sacred journey whenever it is possible for him.

The whole event of H~ajjhas a deep symbolic significance and if performed with sincerity and spirit, cleanses a person from all his sins. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

Abu Hurayrahnarrates: 'If someone offers Hajjduring which he abstained completely from lewd talk and did not indulge into any act of disobedience of Allah, he will be rid of all his sins and become as pure as he was on the day he was born'. (Bukhari, Kitabu'l-H~ajj)

A believer should yearn for such opportunities, for purifying the soul is the objective of Islam – something which will lead him to the life of bliss in the Hereafter. As such, saving money for H~ajjshould be among his goals. The current practice of waiting to go for H~ajjwhen one grows old seems to be against the spirit of worship. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have remarked:

He who intends to go for H~ajjshould do it as soon as is possible for him. (Abu Da'ud: Kitabu'l-Manasik)

The money collected for H~ajj can be used for other purposes if any unavoidable need arises.

(Shehzad Saleem)

Which Son did Abraham (sws) offer for Sacrifice?

Question: I am a Muslim and I have a friend who is a new Muslim. He wanted to know the name of Abraham's sacrificed son. The Bible says it was Isaac (sws). Is this true ?

Answer: Without doubt, the son offered for sacrifice by Abraham (sws) was Ishmael (sws). The Qur'an bears reference to this established historical fact in the following words:

And he [—Abraham—] said [after being saved from the fire]: 'Verily, I am going to my Lord. He will guide me!' 'My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous.' So We gave him glad tidings of a forbearing boy. And, when he [his son] was old enough to walk with him, he said: 'O my son! I have been seeing in a dream that I am offering you in sacrifice [to Allah]. So look what you think!' He said: 'O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha Allah, you shall find me of the patient. Then, when they had both submitted themselves [to the will of Allah], and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead, We called out to him: 'O Abraham! You have made the dream a reality'. Verily, thus do We reward the good-doers. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice [a ram]; And We left for him [a goodly remembrance] among the later generations. Peace be upon Abraham! Thus indeed do We reward the good-doers. Verily, he was one of Our believing slaves. And We gave him the glad tidings of Isaac – a Prophet from the righteous. (37:99-112)

The underlined portion of the passage clearly shows that glad tidings of the birth of Isaac (sws) were given to Abraham (sws) after he had already offered his first born son for sacrifice. In other words, the italicized verse: 'So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy', and all that has been narrated after this verse refer to Ishmael (sws).

As far as the Bible is concerned, it, as your friend has pointed out, does mention a different story: In one of the most blatant examples of interpolation, the Jews have inserted the name of Isaac (sws) in place of Ishmael (sws) to cut off the relationship of Muhammad (sws) with Arabia and his great ancestor Abraham (sws).

However, in spite of this tampering, the Bible contains passages which still point to Ishmael (sws) as the son offered for sacrifice1. The passage which mentions the incident of sacrifice in the Bible reads:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, 'Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.' Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, 'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.' Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Abraham answered, 'God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Abraham!' 'Here I am' 'he replied. 'Do not lay a hand on the boy,' he said. 'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.' Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.' The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, 'I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.' (Genesis 22:1-18)

It follows from the underlined portion that Abraham (sws) was asked to sacrifice his only son which means that at that time he had no other son. The fact that this could only be Ishmael (sws) is evident from the following two passages of the Bible:

Abraham was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. (Genesis, 16:16)

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. (Genesis, 21:5)

It is evident from these verses that Ishmael (sws) was fourteen years old at the birth of Isaac (sws), and must have been offered for sacrifice before Isaac (sws) was born because Abraham (sws) had been asked to sacrifice his only son; after Isaac's birth of course the words 'your only son' would be totally inappropriate and against reality.

In the light of this evidence, it is obvious that the word Isaac mentioned in the passage above (indicated by the underlined portion) was inserted in place of Ishmael (sws).

(Shehzad Saleem)

Why did the Almighty ask for Ishmael's Sacrifice?

Question: Why did God ask Abraham (sws) to sacrifice his son? This seems pretty cruel on the face of it. True the sacrifice never took place but my question is: Why was it asked for?

Answer: The Almighty never commanded Abraham (sws) to sacrifice his son. It was Abraham (sws) who took this step thinking that the Almighty wanted this to happen. In this regard, the following points must remain in consideration:

1. Firstly, Abraham (sws) thought that he was directed to sacrifice his son by the Almighty in a dream shown to him. For the Prophets of Allah, such dreams are a source of contact with the Almighty, and in them they are shown certain images by Him for the purpose of their education and instruction. However, as a principle, they are not to be interpreted literally; they contain realities which are depicted in symbolic form. Symbolic representation is a very subtle and powerful way of expression: facts seem veiled, yet for one who pauses to ponder, they are most evident. So what needs to be understood is that dreams of the Prophets of Allah are symbolic too. They portray a fact in figurative form in order to make it more effective to understand. Let me give you an example. You must have read the dream of the Prophet Joseph (sws) mentioned in the Qur'an. It says that he saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. The interpretation of the dream offered by the Qur'an itself at the end of Surah Yusuf shows that this bowing down was a symbolism to show that his eleven brothers and father and mother would submit to his authority as the king (12:100). Similarly, more examples can be given from the Qur'an.

2. The next point which arises is about the symbolism found in 'human sacrifice'. In other words: 'What does human sacrifice stand for?' A knowledge of the ancient scriptures reveals that human sacrifice offered to God symbolizes consecrating a person in the service of Allah:

You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hand on them. Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord. After the Levites lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, use the one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine. After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the Tent of Meeting. They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. Every firstborn male in Israel, whether man or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. (Numbers 8:10-18)

As is evident from the underlined portion, the symbolism found in 'human sacrifice' is dedication of a person to the service of Allah. In other words, the Almighty actually wanted Abraham (sws) to devote Ishmael (sws) for special tasks assigned by the Almighty.

3. Abraham (sws) in his spirit of submission to the will of God started to follow his dream in the literal sense instead of interpreting the dream; consequently, the Almighty told him that he had 'made the dream a reality', which of course was not required. However, this willingness to submit to a command of Allah as perceived by Abraham (sws) greatly pleased the Almighty since it was based on sincerity and a great will to do what he thought was Allah's will.

(Shehzad Saleem)

Charity instead of Animal Sacrifice

Question: I have a query related to animal sacrifice. Instead of sacrificing sheep on Eid, can one donate the equivalent in money to the Edhi Trust or other bonafide Charity? Secondly, can one give money as Sadqah to charity instead of sheep slaughter? Can one adopt some other token form of Sadqah and give balance amount to charity?

Answer: Your answer needs a little elaboration:

For every human being who believes in Allah, there are two distinct spheres of interaction in which relationships come into existence. The first sphere covers a person's relationship with Allah, while the second one constitutes a person's relationship with his fellow human beings. Islam and all divinely revealed religions nothing but guide human intellect in these two spheres. A person's relationship with Allah manifests itself in worship, which in Islam has some distinct forms. Similarly, a person's relationship with his brethren takes the form of social interaction, which again has many areas. Total or partial negation of any one of these spheres results in an unbalanced life. Extremism in the first sphere breeds monasticism and ascetism while extremism in the second one breeds materialism. Islam wants every person to create a balance in his life by giving each sphere its due. Similarly, it wants a person to undertake the various prescribed forms of interaction in both the spheres since each has a definite purpose.

In the first sphere, Islam has prescribed specific forms of worship of which one form cannot replace the other, since each has its own purpose and objective. Animal Sacrifice is one such form of worship. It has an underlying philosophy which must be well be appreciated in order to do it in letter and spirit. Just as Salahcannot replace Zakah and vice versa, animal sacrifice also cannot be replaced by Zakah or charity. What animal sacrifice induces in a person, Zakah or Salahor Hajj do not.

The raison d'etre for animal sacrifice on Eid is to commemorate a great event which depicts an extraordinary expression of submission to the command of Allah – the essence of Islam. The Prophet Abraham (sws) while obeying the Almighty set a platinum example of this submission. When we offer an animal in sacrifice, we actually symbolize our intention that we are ready to submit ourselves to Allah in any way that may be required by Him, just as His great Prophet Abraham (sws) had once done so with spirit and splendour, glory and grandeur.

(Shehzad Saleem)

Taking Allah's Name while Slaughtering

Question: Not taking Allah's name while slaughtering an animal is Haram – right! I have seen many Muslims here in America eating non-halal food in restaurants .They claim it is Mukruh (undesirable) and not Haram. Is that correct? Does the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) specify a particular way of slaughtering? Also what are the reasons of taking Allah's name while slaughtering an animal?

Answer: According to the Qur'an, animals which are not slaughtered while taking Allah's name are forbidden:

Eat not on which Allah's name has not been pronounced. (6:121)

In other words, taking Allah's name before slaughtering an animal is a positive requirement. Therefore, the meat of animals which are slaughtered while disregarding this practice bears the label of prohibition in the Islamic Shari'ah.

Yes, the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) specifies a particular way of slaughtering. It is called 'Tadhkiyah' by the Qur'an. In this particular way, animals as goats and sheep are slaughtered through their jugular veins and are not killed instantaneously by cutting the bead of the neck. This method keeps intact the connection between the heart and the brain so that every drop of blood is drained out of the slain animal. This purifies the meat from the contamination of blood – and achieving purity, we know, is the objective of every directive of Islam.

The underlying reasons in taking Allah's name before sacrificing an animal can be summed up as follows2:

1. As a principle, Muslims have been directed to take Allah's name before every task, routine or work they do. This actually is an acknowledgement of the Almighty's favours and as such is a worthy expression of gratitude.

2. The sanctity a life possesses requires that even an animal be sacrificed only with the permission of the Almighty who is the Creator of life. It is only Allah who can give us this right, and, therefore, as a reminder of this fact, it is necessary to take His name when the life of an animal is taken.

3. This practice closes the gateway to polytheism. Those who are aware of the history of various religions know that animal sacrifice is deeply linked to idol worship. To please various deities, polytheists used to sacrifice them. Taking Allah's name eliminates these unwarranted practices as well.

(Shehzad Saleem)

Does Hajj become compulsory after doing 'Umrah?

Question: I was told by many people that if a person does not have money for Hajj, then he should not try for 'Umrah also. And if a person does so, Hajj becomes obligatory on him as he has done a job he was not asked for. I do not have money to send my father for Hajj but I think that I can manage to send him for 'Umrah. Can I do so and what will be the ruling for the above mentioned issue?

Answer: Although Hajj and 'Umrah both are sacred rituals of Islam. They are separate in their nature and in the extent of obligation they entail. Hajj is obligatory for a Muslim who has physical and financial strength to do it, whereas 'Umrah though desirable and commendable is not obligatory for every Muslim. Offering 'Umrah does not make Hajj obligatory because the physical and financial ability is different for both these rituals. Hajj, you would agree, is more strenuous and also more expensive.

If you can manage to send your father for 'Umrah, you should do so because a true Muslim should be very sensitive for each and every chance of virtue and good deed he gets. When and wherever he gets it he should avail it, lest the candle of his life be put off. However, you should have the urge and intention for yourself and for your father that whenever God provides favorable circumstances you will offer Hajj. Man is responsible and accountable for his present conditions and circumstances and not for his 'would be' circumstances. Take care of the present and the future will take care of itself.

(Siddiq Bukhary)