The Story of Prophet Ismael (A.S.)
Prophet Ismail (A.S.) (also referred as Prophet Ismael) is the figure known in Judaism, Christianity and Islam as Abraham's (A.S.) son, born to Hagar (Hajar or Hajarah). Ismail (A.S.) is regarded as a Prophet and an ancestor to the last Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.). He also became associated with Makkah and the construction of the Kaaba/Qibla.
Birth of Ismail (A.S.):
According to some sources, Ismail (A.S.) was born in 1800 BC in present day Palestine.
Sarah, the first wife of Ibrahim (A.S.), knew that her husband was longing for a child. As Allah has mentioned Ibrahim’s (A.S.) dua in Quran:
"O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!" (Surah Al Saffat 37:100)
She also knew that she was getting old and may not be able to provide Ibrahim(A.S.) with a child. She suggested to Ibrahim (A.S.) that he should marry her servant Hajar and maybe Allah would bless them with a child through her. Ibrahim (A.S.) accepted the advice of his beloved wife Sarah and married Hajar. It wasn’t long before Ibrahim (A.S.) and Hajar were blessed with a baby boy whom they named Ismael/Ismail (A.S.). Ibrahim (A.S.) was overjoyed with happiness at the birth of his first son. They all celebrated and thanked Allah for such a great and beautiful blessing. Some scholars say that Ibrahim (A.S.) was 86 years old at the time of Ismail’s (A.S.) birth.
Ibrahim (A.S.) left Hajar and Ismail (A.S.):
One day, Ibrahim (A.S.) woke up and asked his wife Hajar to get Ismail (A.S.), who was still an infant, and prepare for a long journey. In a few days Ibrahim (A.S.) started out a journey with his wife Hajar and their son Ismail (A.S.). Ibrahim (A.S.) 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, no water. After Ibrahim (A.S.) had helped his wife and child to dismount, he left them with a small amount of food and water which was hardly enough for 2 days. He turned around and walked away.
Hajar hurried after him asking: "Where are you going Ibrahim, leaving us in this barren valley?"
Ibrahim (A.S.) did not answer her but continued walking. She repeated what she had said, but he remained silent. Finally, she realized that Allah Had Commanded him to do this.
She asked him: "Did Allah command you to do so?"
Ibrahim (A.S.) replied: "Yes."
Then his great wife said: "We are not going to be lost since Allah Who Has Commanded you is with us."
Ibrahim (A.S.) continued his walk. On reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, Ibrahim (A.S.) faced the Kabaa and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
"O Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House (the Kaba at Makkah); in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayers perfectly (Salah) so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and O Allah provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. O our Lord! Certainly, You know what we conceal and what we reveal. Nothing on the earth or in the heavens is hidden from Allah." (Surah Ibrahim 14:37-38)
Struggle of Hajar between Safa and Marwa:
During those days, there was nobody in Makkah nor was there any water. Ismail’s (A.S.) mother went on suckling Ismail (A.S.) and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water skin had been used up, she became thirsty and Ismail (A.S.) also became thirsty. She started looking at her son, 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 for 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.
Hajar sees Zam-zam:
The Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) said:
"This is the source of the tradition of the Sa'y (one of rituals of the Hajj pilgrimage) the going of people between them (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: "O whoever you maybe! 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 water she had scooped some of it." The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) added: "May Allah bestow mercy on Ismail’s (A.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." (Sahih Al-Bukhari: 3362 and 3363)
Their Settlement in Makkah:
Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) continued:
"Then she (Hajar) 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 (Kabaa) 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 (the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada. They landed in the lower part of Makkah 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. Ismail’s (A.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. Ismail’s (A.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 (Ismail) 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."
Ismail’s (A.S.) Wives:
The Prophet (S.A.W.) continued:
"After Ishmael's mother had died, Ibrahim (A.S.) came after Ismail’s (A.S.) marriage in order to see his family that he had left before but he did not find Ismail (A.S.) there. When he asked Ismail’s (A.S.) wife about him,
she replied: "He has gone in search of livelihood."
Then he asked her about their way of living and their condition, and
she replied: "We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution."
Ibrahim (A.S.) said: "When your husband returns, convey my salutations to him and tell him to change the threshold of the gate (of his house)."
When Ismail (A.S.) came, he seemed to have felt something unusual, so he asked his wife:
"Has anyone visited you?"
"Yes, an old man of such and such description came and asked me about you and I informed him and he asked about our state of living and I told him that we were living in a hardship and poverty."
On that Ismail (A.S.) said:
"Did he advise you anything?"
"Yes he told me to convey his salutation to you and to tell you to change the threshold of your gate."
Ismail (A.S.) said:
"It was my father and he has ordered me to divorce you. Go back to your family."
So, Ismail (A.S.) divorced her and married another woman from among them (Jurhum).
Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) continued:
“Then Ibrahim (A.S.) stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them again but did not find Ismail (A.S.). So he came to Ismail’s (A.S.) wife and asked her about Ismail (A.S.). She said: “He (Ismail) has gone in search of our livelihood.” Ibrahim (A.S.) asked her: “How are you getting on?' asking her about their sustenance and living. She replied: “We are prosperous and well off (we have everything in abundance).” Then she thanked Allah. Ibrahim (A.S.) said: “What kind of food do you eat?” She said: “meat.” Ibrahim (A.S.) said: “what do you drink?' She said: “water.” He said: “O Allah! bless their meat and water." The Prophet (S.A.W.) added: "At that time they did not have grain and if they had grain he would have also invoked Allah to bless it. If somebody has only these two things as his sustenance, his health and disposition will be badly affected unless he lives in Makkah." The Prophet (S.A.W.) continued: "Then Ibrahim (A.S.) said to Ismail’s (A.S.) wife: “When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him that he should keep firm the threshold of his gate.” When Ismail (A.S.) came back, he asked his wife: “Did anyone call on you?” She replied: “yes, a good looking old man came to me,” so she praised him and added: “He asked about you and I informed him that we were in a good condition.” Ismail (A.S.) asked her:” Did he give you any piece of advice? She said: “Yes, he told me to give his regards to you and ordered that you should keep firm the threshold of your gate.” On that Ismail (A.S.) said: “He was my father, and you are the threshold of the gate. He has ordered me to keep you with me.”
Construction of Kaaba:
Then Ibrahim (A.S.) stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them afterwards. He saw Ismail (A.S.) under a tree near Zam-Zam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw Ibrahim (A.S.), he rose up to welcome him (and they greeted each other as a father does with his son or a son does with his father). Ibrahim (A.S.) said:
“O Ismail! Allah had give me an order.”
Ismail (A.S.) said:
“Do what your Lord has ordered you to do.”
Ibrahim (A.S.) asked:
“Will you help me?”
Ismail (A.S.) said:
“I will help you.”
Ibrahim (A.S.) said:
“Allah has ordered me to build a house here,” pointing to a hillock higher than the land surrounding it.
Then they raised the foundations of the House (the Kabaa). Ismail (A.S.) brought the stones while Ibrahim built and when the walls became high, Ismail (A.S.) brought this stone (Al-Maqam or Maqam-e-Ibrahim in Kabaa) and put it for Ibrahim who stood over it and carried on building. While Ismail (A.S.) was handing him the stones and both of them were saying:
"Our Lord! Accept this service from us, verily, You are the All Hearer, the All Knower." (Surah Al-Baqarah: 2:127)
The Prophet (S.A.W.) added:
"Then both of them went on building and going round the Kabaa saying: "O our Lord! Accept this service from us, verily, You are the All Hearer, the All Knower."
Click here to read the entire Hadith (Sahih Al Bukhari: 3364).
History tells us that Kabaa was destroyed more than once so it was rebuilt several times. Kabaa remained standing since the time of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) to this day. Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) and the Prophet Ismail (A.S.) devoted a great deal of energy in building the Kabaa that thousands men could not match.
Allah does not tell us about the time of building the Kaaba and only tells things that are more important and more useful. He tells of the sanctity of the souls of those who built it [Ibrahim (A.S.) and Ismail (A.S.)] and their prayers when building it.
Hajar al-Aswad (The Black Stone):
Hajar al-Aswad is a black stone that is engraved in the southeast wall of the Kabaa. There are different narrations that give a different account of the background of the stone and its placement in the wall of Kaaba. Regardless of the different narratives, the importance and respect of the stone remains the same and it enjoys the same level of sanctity and sacredness in all the narratives.
Out of the different narratives, the most significant and the most authentic one is the narrative of Hajar al-Aswad being a stone from Jannah (paradise) that was installed in Kabaa by Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) and his son Prophet Ismail. According to the narration, when Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) and his son completed the construction of Kabaa, they were a stone short in the building of the walls. Thus, upon this Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) ordered Ismail (A.S.) to go and look for a stone that could fit in the gap in order to complete the construction of the holy place. Ismail (A.S.) went in search of the stone, but after a while when he could not find any suitable rock and came back to his father and saw that a rock was already placed in the empty space. He asked His father about the stone, Ibrahim (A.S.) replied that it was delivered to Him by Angel Garbriel (A.S.). Thus this narrative proves that Hajar al-Aswad is a heavenly stone.
Ibn Abbas (R.A.) narrated that Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) said:
“The Black stone descended from paradise, and it was more white than milk, then it was blacked by this sins of the children of Adam.” (Tirmidhi: 877)
This Hadith proves that Hajar al-Aswad is a stone that came from Jannah and it was originally in pure white state, which then started, turning black with the progression in the increasing sins of humankind.
Allah the Almighty told us of Ibrahim’s (A.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: "O 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!" "O 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: "O Ibrahim! 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 (a ram;) and We left for him (a goodly remembrance) among generations (to come) in later times. "Salamun (peace) be upon Ibrahim!" Thus indeed do We reward the Muhsineen (good doers). Verily, he was one of Our believing slaves. (Surah Al Saffat 37: Ayat 99 to 111)
One day Ibrahim (A.S.) was sitting outside his tent thinking of his son Ismail (A.S.) 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 Ismail (A.S.) yet he was fully prepared to follow Allah's command and do as he instructed. He took his son Ismail (A.S.) to Mount Arafat along with a knife and rope. Upon reaching there, he told his son about his dream and what Allah SWT had commanded him to do. Being an obedient son, Prophet Ismail (A.S.) immediately obliged and asked that his hands and legs be tied so that he may not struggle and that his father blindfold himself so that he won't have to witness him suffer.
Ibrahim (A.S.) did as Ismail (A.S.) had said. Blindfolded and with the knife in his hands, he did as Allah had asked of him. When he took the blindfold off, to his surprise, he saw the body of a dead ram in front of him. Ismail (A.S.) was completely unharmed standing right next to him. At first he thought that something had gone horribly wrong and that he had disobeyed the order of his Creator. But then he heard a voice telling him that Allah looks after his followers and that he need not worry.
Tidings of Isaac:
In the meantime, three angels descended to the earth; Gabriel, Israphael, and Michael. They came in human shapes and saluted Ibrahim (A.S.). Ibrahim (A.S.) arose and welcomed them. He took them inside his tent thinking they were strangers and guests. He seated them and made sure that they were comfortable, then excused himself to go to his people. His wife Sarah arose when he entered. She had become old and white haired.
Ibrahim (A.S.) said to her: "We have three strangers in the house."
"Who are they?" she asked.
"I do not know any of them," he answered.
"What food have we got?" He asked.
“Half a sheep." she replied.
"Half a sheep! Slaughter a fat calf for them; they are strangers and guests," Ibrahim (A.S.) ordered while leaving.
The servants roasted and served a calf. Abraham invited the angels to eat and he started eating so as to encourage them. He continued, but when he glanced at his guests to assure they were eating, he noticed that none of them had touched the food.
He said to the them: "Are you not going to eat?"
He resumed eating, but when he glanced at them again he found that they were still not eating. Their hands did not reach out for the food. He began to fear them. Ibrahim’s (A.S.) fears increased. The angels, however, were reading his inner thoughts and one of them said:
"Do not fear." Abraham raised his head and replied: "Indeed I am in fear. I have asked you to eat food but you do not stretch out your hands to eat. Do you intend me evil?"
One of the angels smiled and said: "We do not eat. We are Allah's angels."
One of them then turned towards his wife and conveyed the glad tidings about Isaac (Ishaaq).
Allah Has revealed in Quran:
"Verily! There came Our Messengers to Abraham with glad tidings. They said: "Salaam (greetings or peace)!" he answered: "Salaam (greetings or peace)!" and he hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf. But, when he saw their hands went not towards it (the meal), he felt some mistrust of them, and conceived a fear of them. They said: "Fear not, we have been sent against the people of Lot." And his wife was standing there and she laughed (either, because the Messengers did not eat their food or for being glad for the destruction of the people of Lot). But We gave her glad tidings of Ishaque (Isaac), and after him of Yaqub (Jacob). She said (in astonishment): "Woe unto me! Shall I bear a child while I am an old woman, and here is my husband an old man? Verily! This is a strange thing!" They said: "Do you wonder at the Decree of Allah? The Mercy of Allah and His Blessings be on you, O the family (of Abraham). Surely, He (Allah) is All praiseworthy, All-Glorious." (Surah Hud 11:69-73)
Prophethood of Ismail (A.S.):
Afterwards, Allah gave Ismail (A.S.) the duty of prophethood. He gave him the duty of guiding the people of Amalika in Yemen. According to some sources, Ismail (A.S.) lived with this nation for fifty years and conveyed them the divine message and orders. Some of them believed in him but others insisted on unbelief and polytheism.
Allah Has stated in Quran about the prophethood of Ismail (A.S.):
“And mention in the Book (the Quran) Ismail (Ishmael). Verily! He was true to what he promised, and he was a Messenger, (and) a Prophet. And he used to enjoin on his family and his people As-Salat (the prayers) and the Zakat, and his Lord was pleased with him.” (SurahMaryam 19:54 and 55)
As it is understood from the statement of the Quran, Ismail (A.S.) acted in accordance with this principle of guidance. First, he himself practiced the religion; then, he made his relatives practice them; after that, he conveyed the message of the religion to his nation.
Death of Ismail (A.S.):
Ismail (A.S.) had a hundred and thirty, or a hundred and thirty-seven, years when he died. He is reported to have had twelve sons. According to some sources, Ismail (A.S.) lived in Makkah till his death. Ismail (A.S.), according to different sources, buried alongside his mother Hajar in near Kabaa in Masjid Al-Haram. Allah knows best.