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. Love. Labbayk 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. Nearness. Labbayk 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 hamd, n’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 hamd, n’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.