The Talbiya - Labbayka ("Here am I ...")

 

لَبَّيْكَ

The Talbiya or... لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ Labbayka ("Here am I ...") in Abrahamic, Islamic and Babi-Baha'i Literatures.

Stephen Lambden

UCMerced. In progress, October 2016.

The Abrahamic or Biblical background.

הִנְנִ֥י = "Here am I" (= Here I am). 

In the Hebrew Bible the phrase  הִנְנִ֥י =   hin·nî  meaning "Here am I" and implying "at your service" occurs more than 150 times. It is quite frequently something of a prefiguration or ancient echo of the Islamic Labbayka ("Here am I ..."). It can be the responce of persons or prophet figures to a direct, personal  call from God. Abraham responds with this utterance  hin·nî when he is called by God at the commencement of Genesis 22; when he is bidden by God to sacrifice his son Isaac as well as when he is  about to make this sacrifice. An angel calls from heaven and Abraham answers hin·nî.  Jacob responds to a divine call twice with hin·nî
(Genesis 31:11 & Genesis 46:2) as does Moses at  the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:4).

And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, הִנְנִ֥י Here am I.

The prophet Samuel also commences his prophetic mission with this Hebrew word hin·nî (1 Samuel 3:1-10).  So too the prophet Isaiah at the time of his call or at the commencement of his prophetic mission, at the time of his inaugural vision of God and the seraphim (Isaiah 6:8) :

וָאֶשְׁמַ֞ע אֶת־קֹ֤ול אֲדֹנָי֙ אֹמֵ֔ר אֶת־מִ֥י אֶשְׁלַ֖ח וּמִ֣י יֵֽלֶךְ־לָ֑נוּ וָאֹמַ֖ר הִנְנִ֥י שְׁלָחֵֽנִי׃

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I [Isaiah], הִנְנִ֥י , hin·nî , Here am I; send me.

 

لَبَّيْكَ

Labbayka )"Here am I") in Islamic Literatures.

The repitition or ritual utterance of the لَبَّيْكَ labbayka ("Here am I")  is known as the  التلبية or `the talbiyya'. It indicates the لَبَّيْكَ labbayka in Islamic Literatures especially in connection with the Hajj or Islamic pilgrimage. The Arabic word  لَبَّيْكَ labbayka is of uncertain derivation. Some authorities have it that labbayka is compounded of three  elements, [1] the verbal noun from the root labba meaning `to remain', `to abide', [2] a dual formation indicative of affirmation by repetition ay (`we/I two certainly') and [3] the masculine singular personal pronoun ka (=Thy/ awaiting Thy call). Literally translated and paraphrased it might thus be, `I = we two am indeed ready, ever abiding for Thy obedient service'.

This word or the talbiya is quite frequently invoked or recited during the rituals of the Islamic pilgrimage. In Arabic with translation, the Talbiya, including four occurences of Labbayka ("Here am I"), is as follows :

  لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ

 Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayka. Labbayka lā sharīka laka labbayka.

Here am I, O our God! Here am I.
Here am I! No doubt is there regarding Thyself. Here am I.
Inna al-hamda, wa'l-niʻmata, laka wa'l-mulk, lā sharīka laka.
The Laudaton (al-hamd) and the Benefaction (al-ni`mat) are Thine, for unto Thee belongeth the Kingdom (al-mulk). There is no doubt regarding Thee!

Best known in the Islamic world in connection with the obligatory Hajj or Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca ritual, the text of the talbiya (four or five times repeating labbayka = "Here am I") as transmitted in various Sunni canonical collections is set forth, transliterated and translated above - the twelver Shi`a version of the talbiya repeats the lubbayka a fifth time...  

The Talbiya لَبَّيْكَ Labbayka in Babi and Baha'i Literatures.

 ثمّ يقوم مستقيماً ويقول:

The best known Baha'i occurence of the talbiya لَبَّيْكَ is that found twice in the longest of the three possible Baha'i daily
obligatory prayers.

يا إله الوجود ومالك الغيب والشّهود ترى عبراتي وزفراتي وتسمع ضجيجي وصريخي وحنين فؤادي♦ وعزّتك اجتراحاتي أبعدتني عن التّقرّب إليك وجريراتي منعتني عن الورود في ساحة قدسك ♦ أي ربّ حبّك أضناني وهجرك أهلكني وبعدك أحرقني♦ أسئلك بموطئ قدميك في هذا البيدآء وبلبّيك لبّيك أصفيآئك في هذا الفضآء وبنفحات وحيك ونسمات فجر ظهورك بأن تقدّر لي زيارة جمالك والعمل بما في كتابك

Let him then stand erect and say:

O Lord of all being and Possessor of all things visible and invisible!  Thou dost perceive my tears and the sighs I utter, and hearest my groaning, and my wailing, and the lamentation of my heart.  By Thy might!  My trespasses have kept me back from drawing nigh unto Thee; and my sins have held me far from the court of Thy holiness.  Thy love, O my Lord, hath enriched me, and separation from Thee hath destroyed me, and remoteness from Thee hath consumed me.  I entreat Thee by Thy footsteps in this wilderness, and by the words لبّيك لبّيك “Here am I. Here am I” which Thy chosen Ones (asfiya'ika) have uttered in this immensity, and by the breaths of Thy Revelation, and the gentle winds of the Dawn of thy Manifestation, to ordain that I may gaze on Thy beauty and observe whatsoever is in Thy Book.

For the full translation of this Baha'i `Long Obligatory Prayer' refer :

 

The Tablet of Pilgrimage  to the House of the Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850), the Bab, located in Shiraz  (Persia-Iran), by Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri, Baha'-Allah (1817-1892 CE) 

Another particularly interesting occurrence of the talbiya لَبَّيْكَ is that found twice in the pilgrimage Tablet of Baha'-Allah for visitation to the house of the Bab in Shiraz. After standing upright the devotee should repeat the following words as many times as his strengh allows :

لبّيك...لبّيك

"Here am I, O my God, here am I;

greetings unto Thee, and the light be before Thee."

The directive regarding these words and the manner of their utterence are described as : "Follow, then, in the ways of the messengers and the manners of them that are near to God". This probably hints at the Islamic or Abrahamic roots of the Lubbayka  (Here am I"). To clarify matters and set out the overall or wider context the following section of Tablet of Baha'-Allah for Hajj to the Shiraz House of the Bab may be cited in full:

"Lower, then, thy hands and walk upon the ground with the dignity of God and His tranquillity. And as thou walkest proclaim the singleness of thy Lord (with the phrase "there is no god but God").

  • then proclaim His greatness (with the phrase Allah  akbar),
  • then His holiness (with the phrase Allah aqdas),
  • then His majesty (with the phrase Allah amjad).

Follow, then, in the ways of the messengers and the manners of them that are near to God, saying:

"Here am I, O my God, here am I;

greetings unto Thee, and the light be before Thee."

Repeat these words as much as will not cool down the fire of thy ardour and passion.

Thus we have instructed thee in truth that thou mayest be of them that act in accordance with what they have been commanded. Know, then, that thou didst answer thy Lord with these words when He ascended the Throne and called upon all created things with His words

"Am I not your Lord?"

Those words are the secret of those others, if ye be of them that ponder upon the mysteries of their Lord. Indeed shouldst thou behold with the eye of thine inner being, thou shalt at that moment behold Him raised upon the thrones of all created beings, crying:

"No god is there but Me, the Protector, the Self-Subsisting."