An Explanation of the Talbiyah (i.e Labbayk…)

ﻟَﺒَّﻴْﮏَ  ﺍَﻟﻠّٰﻬُﻢَّ  ﻟَﺒَّﻴْﮏ ,َ ﻟَﺒَّﻴْﮏَ ﻟَﺎ ﺷَﺮِﻳْﮏَ ﻟَﮏَ ﻟَﺒَّﻴْﮏ َ  ﺇِﻥَّ ﺍﻟْﺤَﻤْﺪَ ﻭَﺍﻟﻨِّﻌْﻤَﺔَ  ﻟَﮏَ ﻭَﺍﻟْﻤُﻠْﮏَ  ﻟَﺎ ﺷَﺮِﻳْﮏَ ﻟَﮏَ

Just as the takbir is continually echoed throughout salah, so too is the talbiyah echoed throughout Hajj. It signifies a transfer from one state to another or one rite to the next just as the takbir in salah is an indication of change from one of its pillars to another.  
     
Subsequently, the sunnah is to repeat the talbiyah (upon entering ihraam) and then to stop as soon as one begins tawaaf. Thereafter, the pilgrim resumes the talbiyah until the standing at ‘Arafah, at which point he stops. When the standing comes to an end, he continues the talbiyah until arriving at Muzdalifah, where he stops. And like this he continues with the rest of his Hajj. The talbiyah is a distinguishing mark of Hajj, which is said when moving between rites. 

“Labbayk  Allahumma  labbayk”

This portion is often translated as ‘O Allah, here I am. Here I am.’ As is normally the case, much of its meanings and connotations are lost in translation.      

The word ‘labbayk’ has many uses and connotes several meanings. They include: 

1. A response. Labbayk is said to someone who calls or invites you. For this reason, its meaning can be translated as ‘I answer your call.’ It is incorrect, linguistically, to respond using this word to someone who did not call you.       

Therefore, the pilgrim says the talbiyah in answer to the call of Allah, “And proclaim to the people the Hajj (pilgrimage); they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.” [Qur’an 22:27]

The  essence  of  the  talbiyah  transcends  beyond  the  call  of Ḥajj,  “O  you  who  have  believed,  respond  to  Allah  and  to  the Messenger  when  he  calls  you  to  that  which  gives  you  life.  And know  that  Allah  intervenes  between  a  man  and  his  heart  and that to Him you will be gathered.” [Qur’an 8:24]

2.  LoveLabbayk  is  only  said  to  someone  whom  you  love  or admire.  For  this  reason,  its  meaning  can  be  translated  as  ‘I answer  your  call  lovingly.’  Thus,  the  believer  responds  to  the call  lovingly  and  with  excitement  as  opposed  to  burden  and dislike.

3.  NearnessLabbayk  implies  drawing  close.  This  stems  from  the Arabic  construction  ilbab,  which  is  based  on  the  same  root letters  as  the  word  labbayk.  Consequently,  the  talbiyah  denotes an eagerness to ever draw closer to the Lord of the worlds.

4.  The  word  labbayk  connotes  meanings  of  sincerity, perseverance  and  humility.  All  of  these  meanings  stem  from different  Arabic  constructions  based  on  the  same  root  letters. Thus,  this  call  demands  sincerity  from  the  pilgrim  and adherence  to  the  commands  of  Allah  whilst  simultaneously acknowledging  His  majesty  and  recognising  ones shortcomings.

5.  The word  labbayk  is  constructed  in  the  dual  form.  This  implies a  reiteration  or  repetition  of  what  has  preceded  with  regards to  its  meanings.  It  is  like  saying,  “O  Allah!  I  answer  your  call, and  again  I  answer  it…”  In  this  case,  the  dual  form  connotes love  upon  love,  closeness  upon  closeness,  sincerity  upon sincerity… etc.

“Innal-hamda  wan-n’imata  laka wal-mulk”

This  portion  is  often  translated  as  ‘Verily  all  praise  and  bounties  are Yours, and all sovereignty.’ 

Hamd  means  praise.  But  what  does  it  mean  to  praise  someone?  A person  praises  someone  when  he  recognises  good  qualities  in  that being  for  which  he  should  be  praised.  Accordingly,  hamd  is  affirmed for  Allah  in  the  same  light.  The  pilgrim  praises  Allah,  particularly  for honouring  and  being  kind  to  him  by  calling  and  inviting  him  to  His House,  and  facilitating  that,  despite  his  shortcomings―only  so  that  He may forgive him.

Additionally,  the  Arabic  word  hamd  is  not  completely  equivalent  to the  English  word  praise.  Hamd  connotes  love  and  truthfulness  among other  qualities.  Therefore,  if  a  someone  is  praised  for  qualities  he  does not  possess,  or  a  slave  praises  his  master  without  admiration  or believing  in  the  reality  of  that  praise,  it  is  not  ḥamd.  This  is  like  a commoner  praising  a  tyrant  in  the  hope  of  ridding  himself  from  his tyranny. There is no love or admiration, just empty words.

N’imah  means  bounty.  In  this  case,  it  is  the  recognition  that  all favours and bounties are from Allah. It evokes a sense of gratitude. 

Mulk  means  dominion.  It  is  an  affirmation  that  to  Allah  alone belongs  the  kingdom,  and  no  true  sovereignty  belongs  to  anyone  other than  Him.  It  is  the  recognition  that  all  languages,  shapes,  colours…,  all times  (eternal  and  temporal)  and  all  places,  etc.  belong  to  Him  alone. Mulk  does  not  only  incorporate  land  but  it  includes  everything  other than  Allah  ‒  the  entire  creation  in  all  its  forms  and  qualities.  He  is Sovereign  over  it  all.  There  is  no  will  except  that  He  is  over  it sovereign.  There  is  no  means  except  that  He  is  over  it  sovereign  ‒  it  is all  from  His  mulk.  Fire  is  a  means  by  which  something  is  burnt  but Allah  is  sovereign  over  it,  and  that  is  why  the  fire  which  Ibraheem (alayhissalaam) was thrown  into  became  a  means  of  coolness  and  not  heat,  it  became  a means  of  refuge  and  not  pain.  His  rule  is  over  all  beings  and characteristics. 

The  words  hamdn’imah  and  mulk  are  preceded  by  ‘al’  which denotes every kind of praise, bounty and dominion. In  this  phrase,  the  pilgrim  is  simultaneously  affirming  dominion, bounty  and  praise  for  Rabb  al-‘Aalameen.  Combination  of  words  and phrases  are  another  manner  of  exalting  Allah,  and  differs  from mentioning lofty descriptions independently. 

This  phase  combines  dominion,  which  includes  power  and  ability; bounty  which  includes  immense  goodness,  kindness  and  mercy;  and praise  which  comprises  complete  magnificence  and  utmost  generosity, all of which lead to admiring and loving Allah, and appreciating Him. 

This  combination  indicates  to  the  flawless  majesty  that  is  befitting of  Allah  and  which  He  alone  deserves.  When  the  pilgrim  is  mindful  of Allah  in  such  a  manner  and  knows  Him  to  be  this  way,  it  fills  his  heart with  good  thoughts  about  Allah.  Thus,  he  turns  to  Allah  and  does everything  that  would  cause  Allah  to  love  him  and  this,  in  fact,  is  the objective and essence of submission and worship.

“La  sharika  laka”

This portion is often translated as “You have no partner.”

There  is  a  subtle  point  in  repeating  the  testimony  that  Allah  has  no partner.  It  is  said  once  after  answering  His  call  (labbayk),  and  it  is repeated  again  after  saying,  ‘innal-hamda  wan-n’imata  laka  wal-mulk’. The  latter  highlights  that  He  has  no  partner  in  hamdn’imah,  and  mulk, whilst  the  former  indicates  that  He  has  no  partner  as  it  relates  to answering  the  call.  This  echoes  the  statement  of  Jabir (radhiyallahu anhu),  “Then  he (Prophet) began to say the words of tawhid (talbiyah)

The  Prophet  (sallallaahu ‘alayhi  wasallam) said,  “The  best  thing  I  and the  other  Prophets  before  me  have  said  is,  ‘There  is  none  worthy  of worship  except  Allah  alone,  having  no  partner.  To  Him  belong  all dominion and praise, and He is able over all things.” [Tirmidhī]

The talbiyah is an embodiment of these meanings.

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