Ismail (Ishmael) was the elder son of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and Hajar. Sarah, the first wife of Prophet Ibrahim had no child of her own. She became jealous of Hajirah. But Allah had his own designs for Sarah. Allah instructed Ibrahim to take his wife Hajirah and his son Ismail to Hejaz, deep south in the desert of Arabia where the city of Makkah stands today. It was a desolate place at that time.
One morning, Abraham woke up and asked his wife Hajar to get her son and prepare for a long journey. In a few days, Abraham started out with his wife Hajar and their son Ishmael. The child was still nursing and not yet weaned.
Abraham walked through cultivated land, desert, and mountains until he reached the desert of the Arabian Peninsula and came to an uncultivated valley having no fruit, no trees, no food, and no water. The valley had no sign of life. After Abraham had helped his wife and child to dismount, he left them with a small amount of food and water, which was hardly enough for two days. He turned around and walked away. His wife hurried after him asking: "Where are you going, Abraham, leaving us in this barren valley?"
Abraham did not answer her, but continued walking. She repeated what she had said, but he remained silent. Finally, she understood that he was not acting on his own initiative. She realized that Allah had commanded him to do this. She asked him: "Did Allah command you to do so?" He replied: "Yes." Then his great wife said: "We are not going to be lost, since Allah, Who has commanded you, is with us."
Abraham invoked Almighty Allah thus: "0 our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House (the Kaba at Mecca); in order, 0 our Lord, that they may offer prayers perfectly (Iqamat-as-Salat), so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (0 Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. 0 our Lord! Certainly, You know what we conceal and what we reveal. Nothing on the earth or in the heaven is hidden from Allah." Surah 14: 37-38
Ibn Abbas narrated: "Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony. She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of As-Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from As-Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the mountain of Al-Marwa. There she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."
The Prophet Muhammad(p.b.u.h) said: 'This is the source of the tradition of the Sa'y (One of the rituals of the hajj, or pilgrimage) the going of people between them (i.e. As-Safa and Al-Marwa). When she reached Al- Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively.
She heard the voice again and said: '0, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?' And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing) till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."
The Prophet added: "May Allah bestow mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it or had she not scooped from that water to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth."
The Prophet continued: 'Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her: 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.' The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left.
"She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said: 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water). Ishmael's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her: 'Do you allow us to stay with you?' She replied: 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that. Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation, as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families, who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learned Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them."
Ibn Abbas continued: "Once more Abraham thought of visiting his family he had left (at Mecca), so he told his wife (Sarah) of his decision. He went and found Ishmael behind the Zam-zam well, mending his arrows. He said: '0 Ishmael, your Lord has ordered me to build a house for Him.' Ishmael said: 'Obey (the order of) your Lord.' Abraham said: 'Allah has also ordered me that you should help me therein.' Ishmael said: Then I will do so.' So both of them rose and Abraham started building (the Ka'ba) while Ishmael went on handing him the stones, and both of them were saying: "0 our Lord ! Accept (this service) of us, verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower."'. When the building became high and the old man (i.e. Abraham) could no longer lift the stones (to such a high position), he stood over the stone of AlMaqam and Ishmael carried on handing him the stones, and both of them were saying: "0 our Lord ! Accept (this service) of us, verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All Knower." Surah 2: 127
Allah the Almighty told us of Abraham's affliction with his beloved son: And he said (after his rescue from the fire): "Verily, I am going to my Lord. He will guide me! My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous." So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy. And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: "0 my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allah), so look what do you think!" He said: "0 my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha'Allah (if Allah wills), you shall find me of the patient." Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allah) and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering); and We called out to him: "0 Abraham! You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!" Verily! Thus do We reward those who perform good deeds totally for Allah's sake only. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial - and We ransomed him with a great sacrifice (i.e. a ram); and We left for him (a goodly remembrance) among generations (to come) in later times. "Peace be upon Abraham!" Thus indeed do We reward the Muhsineen (good-doers). Verily, he was one of Our believing slaves. Surah 37: 99-111
Time passed. One day Abraham was sitting outside his tent, thinking of his son Ishmael and Allah's sacrifice. His heart was filled with awe and love for Allah for His countless blessings. A big tear dropped from his eyes and reminded him of Ishmael.
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