Al-Hajj reminds us of Ibrahim, Hagar, and Ismael in a dry, waterless valley without cultivation, surrounded by barren mountains and the desert. Mecca emerged in this location reflecting the vision of Ibrahim that says: O man! If you internalize and actualize the spirit of Allah-o-Akbar, you have no excuse to quit or give up, no matter how difficult the situation and hostile the surrounding environment.
In a valley without cultivation, the symbol of extreme hardship and absence of life, we find a young woman breast-feeding her infant-child, the symbol of extreme human weakness. Ibrahim, Hagar, and Ismael are teaching the human being an important lesson: Do not despair, and do not give up hard work. For Allah has installed in you the potentials and the capabilities to overcome your weaknesses and make life possible. You have the example of the infant, Ismael, the symbol of fitra – the human nature in its original state of balance. This state provides the optimal condition for water and life to spring under his feet. Ibrahim, Hagar, and Ismael are saying: You can build a city in a valley which apparently has no life, and you can create a new culture – culture is the best English translation of Umran, growth and development. Umran reminds us of Umra, the shorter Hajj.
Al-Aqsa Mosque was the ‘Qiblah’ for the early Muslim generation. But at a certain historical moment, the Sacred House in Mecca became the new ‘Qiblah.’ When and where did this transformation and creation anew take place? Before we answer this question, let us answer another question: What was the greatest event that preceded that creation or transformation? ‘Isra’a and Mi’raj’ were the greatest events that preceded the transformation of ‘Qiblah.’
‘Isra’a’ represents the human movement towards ‘Qiblah’ at the horizontal level. The ‘Qiblah’ of Bayt Al-Maqdis, as the name signifies, embodies the house and the center of purification, the symbol of cleansing, and the essence of peace and holiness. Al-Kuddos or The Holy, and Al-Salam – The Peace, are among the Beautiful Names of God. ‘Mi’raj’ is the vertical movement of Prophet Mohammad from Al-Aqsa Mosque into Heavens, and his elevation to the highest altitude closest to God. “For indeed he saw him at a second descent, near the Lote-tree beyond which none may pass.”