Ishmael (Isma^il) is the Prophet of God, who is the son of the Prophet of God, Abraham.
Ishmael and Hagar are Left in Makkah
Abraham took Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, to the land of Ash-Sham (Palestine), along with his wife Sarah. Then Prophet Abraham received the Revelation to take only Ishmael and Hagar to Makkah. Prophet Abraham put them in a location that is inside the boundaries of Masjidul-Haram (the holy mosque of Makkah with the Ka^bah in it) as it stands today.
Yet at that time there were no evident buildings there. The Ka^bah had been there until the flood of Noah, but the Ka^bah came down in that flood. No people were living there and there was no water source.
Abraham left his two dear ones, in that barren area, with a bag of dates and a leather bag filled with water. Then, Prophet Abraham left and went back to Palestine. Hagar (the mother of Ishmael) followed him.
She said, “O Abraham, where are you going, leaving us in this valley that has no water, food, companions, or anything?” She kept saying that repeatedly to him. When she realized he was not answering, she said, “Is it that God ordered you to do this?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then we will not be lost.” Then, she returned.
When Prophet Abraham reached a location where Hagar and Ishmael could not see him any more, Abraham turned and faced the location where the Ka^bah stands today. He lifted his hands and made a supplication to God. This is the meaning of verse 37 of Surat Ibrahim. Prophet Abraham addressed God, “O our Lord, I have settled part of my family in a valley that does not have any cultivation, by the House of God, to perform the prayers and worship. O God make people with loving hearts come to them and give them sustenance to be thankful to You”.
Abraham did not leave Hagar and Ishmael out of harshness. He deeply loved these two dear ones. Abraham left them upon the order of God. Prophet Abraham loved God most. He obeyed God at all times.
Hagar started nursing Ishmael, drinking from the water, and eating from the dates. When the water ran out from that container, she and her blessed son became thirsty. She observed him struggle from thirst. She hated to see her son in that situation. So, she left and went towards a mountain closest to her called Mount As-Safa.
Hagar climbed the mountain and looked over the valley to see if there was anyone there. She did not see anyone. So, she climbed down that mountain. When she reached the valley, she raised her dress and trekked her way through the valley, the way an exhausted person would do, until she crossed that valley and reached a corresponding mountain called Mount Marwah. Then, she went on that mountain and looked to see if she could see anyone. She did not.
Hagar did that seven times. The Prophet said in what was related by Al- Bukhariyy that this is why Muslims perform As-Sa^y between As-Safa and Al-Marwah. When she reached the last lap, she heard a sound. She silenced herself and listened carefully.
An Angel Comes as a Mercy to Hagar
Hagar called out, “If you can rescue us, then I have heard your sound.” She saw an angel. He drilled into the ground until water came out. She made a basin for that water. She put into her container any water that collected inside the basin. This was replenished from its source.
Because Hagar made a basin, the water was contained and did not flow freely on the ground. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “May God endow the mother of Isma^il with His Mercy. Had she left the water flowing, without containing it into a basin, the well of Zamzam would have been flowing on the surface of the Earth, and people would have taken their needs from it.”
Hagar drank and nursed her child. The angel said, “Do not fear. You will neither be lost nor be destroyed in this location.” The angel told her that in this location her son and his father would build a House of God, and that God does not make those who are pious get lost.
It is interesting to note that all the Muslims that make Hajj, from the most high on down, reenact the movements of Lady Hagar. Look at her social status. Hagar was a woman slave. Despite that, every Muslim, both men and women, reenact her movements. Many lessons are contained in this, for those who have hearts to understand.
The Establishment of the City of Makkah
Hagar and Ishmael remained as such for a period of time, until people from the tribe of Jurhum passed by. They came from the direction of Kada’, a place south of Makkah. Those people saw a wandering bird, circling in the sky, not landing but wanting to come down. They said, “This is a sign of water in that location”. This is what birds do when they fly over water. The tribesmen found this interesting; for their knowledge of that valley was that it was without water. They sent one or two men to check it out, and those men saw the water.
They went to the mother of Ishmael and asked for permission to stay with her. Hagar agreed, but she said that the water was hers, and not under their control. They accepted. They decided to reside in that location and sent after their people to come join them.
A group of them resided there, and Ishmael grew up among them. He learned the language of the Arabs from them. During that time, Prophet Abraham regularly visited Hagar and Ishmael. Prophet Abraham would ride al-Buraq, an animal of Paradise, leaving the land of Ash-Sham early in the morning. He would arrive in Makkah quickly enough that he would take his siesta there. Then he would leave Makkah, arriving that night to sleep in the land of Ash-Sham.
Prophet Abraham was Ordered to Slaughter Ishmael
Ishmael grew up to an age where Prophet Abraham felt hopeful that he would see a lot of goodness from him, in terms of obedience to and worship of God. When Ishmael grew up to be a young man, with the signs of intelligence on him and the readiness to obey, God subjected Prophet Abraham to a difficult test. Then was the first son of Abraham, a son so loved and cherished by him, and yet Abraham was ordered to end the life of this awaited child. God subjected Prophet Abraham to this difficult test to expose to Abraham, and us, the quickness on the part of Abraham to obey God.
Abraham had a dream that he was slaughtering his son. Abraham knew that this was an order from God, as the dreams of the Prophets are part of Revelation.
Abraham told his son to bring a rope and a knife, and to come with him, on a certain route of Makkah. On their way, Satan appeared to them, wanting to block Abraham from fulfilling the order of God.
Prophet Abraham threw pebbles at him. This is where the Muslims throw pebbles during Hajj. The significance contained in our act is that if the devil appears to us, as he appeared to Prophet Abraham, we shall degrade, reject, and throw pebbles at him like Abraham did.
When Satan became hopeless of distracting Abraham, he appeared to Ishmael, who was carrying the rope and the knife behind Prophet Abraham. Satan said, “Young man, do you know where your father is taking you?” He said, “To get wood for our family from that route.” (This is what he thought.) The devil said to him, “By God, he only wants to slaughter you.” Ishmael asked, “Why?” The devil said, “He claims that his Lord ordered him to do that.” Ishmael said, “Then let him do that which his Lord ordered him to do.”
When Ishmael did not listen to the devil, he went to Ishmael’s mother and told her, “Do you know where Abraham took Ishmael? She said, “He went to bring us wood.” The devil told her, “He only took him there to slaughter him.” She said, “No, he is very loving to his son and too merciful to slaughter him.” The devil said, “He claims God ordered him to do that.” She said, “If this was the order of God, then we are subject to the orders of God.”
The enemy of God, Satan, left as a loser, not achieving anything from Abraham, Ishmael, or Hagar. By the Will of God they did not listen to him. They unanimously stood obedient to the orders of God.
When Prophet Abraham was alone with his son on that route, which is known as the route of Thabir, Prophet Abraham addressed his son by saying, “I have seen in my dream that I am slaughtering you, so what do you have to say?” He said, “O father, do that which you are ordered and, God willing, you will find me patient.”
Then Ishmael said, “O father, if you want to slaughter me, and then tie me well so that none of my blood would splash you, because the pains of death are strong and I probably would shake under the throes of death (for death has a lot of pain). Sharpen your blade to be quicker in finishing me. When you want to slaughter me, do it in a way that you cannot see my face, and that I do not see the blade (and get scared as a result). If you want to take my clothing back to my mother to make it easier for her, then do so.”
Prophet Abraham told him, “You are such a good assistant to me in carrying out the orders of God!” Abraham tied Ishmael down and sharpened his blade, as Ishmael suggested. Abraham made sure not to look at Ishmael’s face, and he placed the blade on his throat.
The Sacrifice from Paradise
At that point an angel called Abraham and told him, “O Abraham, you have fulfilled the orders of God.” The angel told him “Take this sacrifice instead of your son”, as it is cited in Suratus-Saffat 107.
Instead of Ishmael being slaughtered, a hefty lamb with horns and red wool was slaughtered. The lamb had grazed in Paradise for forty years. God made that lamb come down to Earth, and Prophet Abraham slaughtered it in Mina. This is the reason people slaughter a sacrifice at that place in Hajj. The people making the pilgrimage spend of their money to buy an animal and the meat of that animal is given to the poor of Makkah.
The two horns of that lamb from Paradise hung on the Ka^bah for the people to see for many hundreds of years. They were still there when Prophet Muhammad lived, and continued to be there until the rulership of ^Abdullah Ibnuz-Zubayr. At that time the Blessed House was set on fire by the unjust. These two horns burned in that fire.
The Wives of Prophet Ishmael
When Ishmael grew older, the tribe of Jurhum liked what they saw of him. When he became adolescent, they had him marry one of their women. Also, Lady Hagar died. After Ishmael got married, his father Prophet Abraham came to check their situation. He did not find Prophet Ishmael at home. Abraham asked the wife of Ishmael about him. She said, “He went out hunting for us.” Then Abraham inquired about their situation and their way of living. She started complaining, saying that they were humans facing great hardships. She did not realize that she was talking to her husband’s father. Prophet Abraham told her, “Once your husband comes back, give him my salutations, and tell him to ‘change the step at his door’.”
When Ishmael came back, he felt that someone came to visit them. He asked his wife, “Did anyone come?” She told him, “Yes, an older man came, and his description is such and such, and he asked about you. I answered him, and he asked about how we were managing. I told him that we are facing a great hardship.” Ishmael said, “Did he give you advice?” She said, “Yes, he asked me to give you his greeting, and he said that you should change the step at your door.” At that, Ishmael said, “That was my father. He ordered me to separate from you, so go to your parents.” Ishmael divorced her, and married another woman from that tribe.
Prophet Abraham visited again after a period of time. He did not find Ishmael. He asked the new wife about him. She said, “He went out hunting for food.” Abraham asked her, “How are you doing, and how is your standard of living?” She said, “We are doing fine, and we are living well.” She started praising God. Abraham said, “What kind of food do you eat?” She said, “Meat.” He said, “What do you drink?” She said, “Water.” He said, “O God, bless their meat and their water.”
Prophet Muhammad said that they did not have grains there, and if they had, then Prophet Abraham would have asked God to bless their grain as well.
Then Abraham told the wife of Ishmael, “Once your husband returns, give him my greeting, and order him to keep the step at his door.” When Ishmael came back, he asked his new wife “Did anyone come?” She said, “Yes, an older man came,” and she described and praised him. “He asked me about you and I told him. He asked me about how we are living, and I told him that we were living well.” He said, “Did he give you any advice?” She said, “Yes, he asked me to give you his greeting, and he orders you to keep the step at your door.” He said, “That was my father, and you are the step. He ordered me to hold on to you.”
Prophets Abraham and Ishmael Rebuild the Ka^bah
Prophet Abraham went away for a time and came back. At that time, Ishmael was working on his arrows, sharpening them under a large tree, close-by to Zamzam water. When he saw his father, he stood up to receive him, and they greeted one another in the loving way of father and son.
Abraham said, “O Ishmael, God ordered me to do something.” Ishmael said, “Do what God ordered you.” Abraham said, “Would you assist me?” Ishmael said, “Yes.”
Abraham said, “God ordered me to build a house over there.” Abraham pointed to where the Ka^bah is today. Abraham and Ishmael laid down the foundations for the house, building the Ka^bah as we explained in the chapter about Prophet Abraham. Ishmael would bring the stones and Prophet Abraham would construct, until they finished building the Ka^bah.
One Branch of Arabs
Ishmael’s second wife was Lady Ra^lah, the daughter of Mudad, from the tribe of Jurhum. She delivered twelve (12) male children for him. From them came Nabit and Qaydar, and from these two in particular, God made that group of Arabs multiply.
Ishmael is the grandfather of the branch of the Arabs that are called al-Musta^ribah as opposed to al-^Aribah.
The Arabs are of two branches. The Arabs of Yemen are of the Arabs who are al-^Aribah (the original Arabs). However, the branch of the Arabs who are offspring of Prophet Ishmael are called the Arabs who are al-Musta^ribah (literally this means ‘those who became Arabs’). Prophet Muhammad is from al-Musta^ribah.
The children of Ishmael are ‘those who became Arab’ because the father of Ishmael was not an Arab, and Ishmael was not an Arab either. Ishmael was then raised in Makkah and married an Arab woman. Ishmael’s children married Arabs. Ishmael acquired the Arabic language and was the first among his people to speak Arabic at its best. God made Ishmael a Messenger to the many Arab tribes in that region. It is said that he died in Makkah, and was buried there in Al-Hijr, where his noble mother was buried.