Explanation of the Talbiyah – A Pilgrim’s Journey (Part 4)

لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ ، لَبَّيْكَ لا شَرِيكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنَّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لا شَرِيكَ لَكَ

Just as the takbir (Allahu Akbar) is repeated throughout salah, so too is the talbiyah repeated throughout Hajj. It signifies a transfer from one state to another or one rite to the next just like the takbir in salah is an indication of change from one of its pillars to another.

Labbayk Allahumma labbayk

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

The word ‘labbayk’ has many uses or meanings. They include:

  • Response. Labbayk is said to someone who calls or invites you. It is incorrect, linguistically, to respond using this word to someone who did not call you.Therefore, the pilgrim says the talbiyah responding/answering 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.” [22:27]
  • Love. Labbayk is only said to someone whom you love or admire. Therefore, the pilgrim responds to the call lovingly and with excitement as opposed to burden and dislike.
  • The word labbayk connotes meanings of nearness, sincerity, perseverance and humility. All of these meanings stem from different Arabic constructions based on the same root letters. This means the pilgrim exhibits these meanings when saying the talbiyah and throughout the Hajj.
  • 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 part of the talbiyah is commonly translated as ‘Verily all praise and bounties are Yours, and all the kingdom.’

  • Hamd means praise. But what does it mean to praise someone? A person praises someone when he recognises good qualities in that person 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 the pilgrim’s shortcomings―only so that Allah 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 someone is praised for qualities he does not possess, or a slave praises his master without admiration or believing in that praise, it is not hamd. This is like a commoner praising a tyrant king in the hope of ridding himself of his tyranny. There is no love or admiration, just empty words and insincere flattery.
  • 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 Ibrahim 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 ḥamd, n’imah and mulk are preceded by the Arabic definite article ‘al’ which denotes every kind of praise, bounty and dominion.

In this part of the talbiyah, the pilgrim is simultaneously affirming dominion, bounty and praise for Allah. Combining words and phrases is another manner of praising Allah and differs from saying them independently/singly (e.g. subhanAllah is a single praise whereas subhanAllahi wa bihamdihi is a compounded or combined praise).

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

This combination of praise indicates to the flawless majesty that is befitting of Allah alone, 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 part of the tabliyah is commonly translated as “You have no partner.”

There is a subtle point in repeating the testimony that Allah has no partner (see Arabic at the top of the page): 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, “Then he (Prophet) began to say the words of tawhid (i.e. talbiyah)”

The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam 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” [Tirmidhi]. The talbiyah is an embodiment of these meanings.