We are approaching the special month of Dhul-Hijjah. This special month reminds us of one very important thing: sacrifice. This word carries with it the message of willingness to sacrifice anything and everything for God out of our love and search for gaining His pleasure.

A father and his son had sacrificed in fulfilling their duties to God. Both the father and the son, who were prophets and messengers of God, were the cornerstones of a noble and highly regarded family. This family witnessed the birth of other noble prophets, among them our most beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The father, as you may have known, is Prophet Ibrahim and his son is Prophet Isma`il (peace and blessings be upon him).

Dhul-Hijjah is also the month of Hajj. The rituals of Hajj teach us to sacrifice when we leave our homes and our loved ones, and to spend money that we could have spent on other things, just to seek the forgiveness and pleasure of God, and also to meet our fellow brothers and sisters from all over the world.

Now, for a minute, let us reflect on our lives. I am sure we will discover without much difficulty that we have sacrificed before in our lives, even if it was a small sacrifice. Maybe it was a sacrifice for ourselves by working extra hard to have more money; or a sacrifice for our family, for their happiness, or for any other reason. What we can be sure of is that we have sacrificed before. But have we asked ourselves how we can reach the extent of sacrifice, doing what is usually beyond us? What is the strongest motivational factor? If we think a bit deeper, we may find that one of the reasons we sacrifice is our true love for someone or something, and our commitment towards a vision in our lives, and our profound and deep conviction in such a vision.

Let us look at Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Isma`il, our Muslim brothers and sisters who have performed Hajj: All of them love Allah, in sha’ Allah. They had one vision and mission: to gain the pleasure of God the Almighty; and for this they were willing to sacrifice that much.

And for this reason too, Islam teaches us that the vision for all believers is to love God: [Say: “If ye do love God, Follow me: God will love you and forgive you your sins: For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”] (Aal `Imran 3:31).

In this verse God explains the vision for the true believers, that is to attain the love of Allah. Following that, He explains the way to attain that love, that is to follow what has been shown by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Only with true and sincere love for God in our hearts will we be able to sacrifice for Him.

I believe that all of us love our religion, Islam. We love peace, prosperity, development, and success for ourselves, our community, our nation, and for all humanity. With the love for these things, I believe we can look at ourselves with humility and search for our own weaknesses. When we discover them, we can work on improving ourselves; hence we become better people. Here lies the challenge; and here is the sacrifice. To pull ourselves up strongly and confidently and start working hard to be better people, in every single thing that we do.

For example, Muslims everywhere seriously need intellectuals and thinkers who are truly conscious of God, have piety (taqwa) in their hearts, and are noble in character. We have lost some of our dignity as Muslims and we have lost our previous towering status, perhaps because we have lost such capable and colorful personalities. Here we have these weaknesses which we must be willing to work on collectively, with all our effort. It is a sacrifice, a jihad, but a contextual and real jihad.

We all must realize too that every soul is capable of contributing towards this cause. Everyone has a role to play in producing such personalities: intelligent, yet humble and noble in character. We can sacrifice our time, our energy, and our wealth for this purpose. We can even do it within our own homes. The possible personalities being our own children and the young generation as a whole.

As parents or grandparents, we need to learn how to deal with the children of today. Have not we noticed that they think differently from most of us? Hence, we can’t intimidate them or threaten and force them to do certain things. We cannot follow our emotions too closely in dealing with children. We need to learn their psyche and apply psychology to talk to them. Only that way can we inculcate beautiful Islamic values in their hearts. Only then will they grow up with taqwa and show noble character. Of course we must first of all show that noble character in all that we do.

Then we can start encouraging them to love the pursuit of knowledge. But let it be clear that we cannot encourage them if we ourselves are not encouraged. We cannot expect our children to read when all they see us doing is watching television, chatting, or sleeping at home. Let us create an environment of discussion and opinion exchange at home. The love of knowledge should begin at home.

There are so many ways to learn in our world today. We can learn at home, especially with the Internet. In fact, the whole family can take part in learning at the same time. Learn a common subject of interest, read the materials and discuss together. Imagine the benefits, ma sha’ Allah. Today, we can even access Arabic lessons from the Net, and this is truly an opportunity not to be missed from the Net.

But we all know that this needs money, time, and commitment. And hence, this is our battleground. This is where we can sacrifice. Instead of normally watching television and lazing around, we can use the same time to learn together, and also improve family relations. This is our sacrifice, for our beloved religion.

God reminds us in the Qur’an [That man can have nothing but what he strives for; That (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight] (An-Najm 53:39-40).

We need to translate the meaning of struggle and sacrifice in our lives into concrete actions that we can take. If we do that to get the pleasure of God, I strongly believe that He will grant us success.

By the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, Based on a Friday Sermon, February 6, 2004/Dhul-Hijjah 15, 1424. Courtesy of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore .