Friday, March 23, 2007

Prophet Ishmael a.s #1

By Ben Al-Hussaini

He was Ishmael Ibn Abraham, Ibn Aazar [Terakh], Ibn Nahur, Ibn Sarough, Ibn Raghu, Ibn Phaligh, Ibn Aher, Ibn Shalih, Ibn Arfghshand, Ibn Sam [Shem], Ibn Noah, Ibn Lamik, Ibn Mitoshilkh, Ibn Enoch, Ibn Yard, Ibn Mahlabeel, Ibn Qinan, Ibn Anoush, Ibn Seth, Ibn Adam the Father of Mankind [PBUH].

Ishmael was the first son of Prophet Abraham 'alaihissalam [a.s] of the two sons. The other son was Prophet Isaac [ Ishaq a.s] , by his first wife Sarah

The progeny of Abraham and Ishmael, that was Muhammad born thousands years later; the last prophet that completed the works of previous prophets before him and established a completed and true religion of God, Islam.

The Birth of Ishmael

Sarah, the first and elderly wife of Abraham [Ibrahim] a.s was sterile. Abrahim invoked Allah for a child saying: “My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous.” [Surah as-Saffat, 37:100]. It happened that Sarah had offered her husband to Hagar [Hajar] in marriage.“So, We gave him the glad tiding of a Halim [forebearing boy].” [Surah as-Saffat, 37: 101]

Hajar gave birth to his first son, Ishmael , in Hehron when Abraham a.s was at the age of eighty-six. The name, itself comes from the root word ‘Samia’ meaning ‘to hear’, because Allah heard and answered the invocation of Abraham .

The seed of a new nation was established when Abraham was commanded to take Hagar and Ishmael to the an uncultivated valley of the present day lies the Sacred Mosque in Mecca which devoid of trees, fruits, foods, and sign of life.

The Migration of Hagar and Ishmael to Mecca.

Ibn 'Abbas narrated a narated that when Abraham had differences with his wife [because of her jealousy of Hagar, Ishmael's mother], Allah commanded that he took Ishmael and his mother and went away and to leave his second wife, Hagar and their newly born son, Ishmael, in an un-inhabited, barren valley. Therefore, Abraham a.s asked his wife, Hagar to prepare for a long journey. The child, Isma’il a.s was still nursing and not yet weaned. They travelled through cultivated land, desert, and mountains until he reached the desert of the Arabian Peninsula and came to an uncultivated valley the present day Sacred Mosque in Mecca, having no fruit, no trees, no food, no water. The valley had no sign of life. After Abraham had helped his wife, Hagar 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, Hagar 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 said, but he remained silent. Finally, she asked him: "Did Allah command you to do so?" He replied: "Na’am [Yes]." Then his great wife said: "We are not going to be lost, since Allah, Who has commanded you, is with us." She understood he was not acting on his own initiative. It was Allah that had commanded him.

The Spring of Zam-Zam and the course of Safa and Marwah.

Ibn Abbas r.a narrated: “...Ibrahim brought her [Hajar] and her son, Isma'îl while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'abah under a tree on the spot of Zam-Zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days, there was nobody in Makkah [Mecca], nor was there any water. Therefore, he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Isma'il's mother followed him saying: “O Ibrahim! Where not are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him: “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He said: “Yes”. She said: “Then He will not neglect us.” and she returned (to her child) while Ibrahim proceeded on his way.

On reaching the Thaniya (mountain) where they could not see him, Ibrahim a.s faced the Ka'abah, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying: O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation by thy Sacred House; in order O our Lord that they may establish regular prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them and feed them with fruits: so that they may give thanks. O our Lord! truly Thou dost know what we conceal and what we reveal: for nothing whatever is hidden from Allah whether on earth or in heaven." [Surah Ibrahim, 14: 37-38; Bukhari vol: 4, no: 583]

Ibn 'Abbas narrated: "The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Isma’il. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah (by dragging it). Ibrahim brought her and her son Ishmael, while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka’abah under a tree on the spot of Zamzam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was no body in Mecca, nor was there any water so he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates and a small water-skin containing some water and set out homeward. Isma’il's mother followed him saying: "Oh Ibrahim! Where are you going leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him: "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said: "Yes." She said: "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Ibrahim proceeded onwards. On reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'abah, and raising both hands, invoked Allah in saying the following prayers: "O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation by thy Sacred House; in order O our Lord that they may establish regular prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them and feed them with fruits: so that they may give thanks."

Ibn 'Abbas's narration continued: "Isma’il's mother went on suckling Isma’il 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 became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Isma’il) 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 fro 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 (PBUH) said: "This is the source of the tradition of the Sa'ie the going of people between them (i.e. As-Safe and Al-Marwa). When Hajar reached Al-Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked her to be quiet and listened attentively. The voice again and said: "O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you[Hajar] got something to help me[Gibreal]?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zamzam, 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 (PBUH) added: "May Allah bestow mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zamzam (flow without trying to control it or had she not scooped from that water to fill her water-skin), Zamzam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth."

The Prophet (PBUH) 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 [Isma’il] and his father, and Allah never neglects his people." The house (i.e. the Ka'abah) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and then 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 after 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 on or two messengers who discovered the source of water and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water). Isma’il'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 people. So, the settled there, and later on they brought their families, who settled with them became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Isma’il) 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 amongst them"

Abraham second visit Mekah

The Prophet (PBUH) continued: "After Isma’il's mother had died, Abraham came after Isma’il's marriage in order to see his family that he had left before, but he did not find Isma’il there. When she asked Isma’il's wife about him she replied: "He has gone in search for our 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,' complaining to him. He said, "When you husband returns, convey my salutation to him and tell him to change the threshold of the gate (of his house)."

"When Isma’il came, he seemed to have felt something unusual, so he asked his wife: "Has anyone visited you?" She replied, "Yes, and old man of such-and-such description came and asked me about you, and informed him, and he asked about our state of living, and I told him we were living in hardship and poverty." On that Isma’il said: "Did he advise you anything?" She replied: "Yes, he told me to convey my salutation to you and to tell you to change the threshold of your gate.' Isma’il said: "It was my father, and he has ordered me to divorce you. Go back to your family." So, Isma’il divorced her and married another woman from among them (i.e. Jurhum).

Abraham Third Visit.

"Then Ibrahim stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them again but did not find Isma’il. So he came to Isma’il's wife and asked her about Isma’il. She said: "He has gone in search of our livelihood." Ibrahim asked her: "How are you getting on?" asking her about their sustenance and living. She replied: "We are prosperous and well-off (i.e. we have everything in abundance)." Then she thanked Allah. Ibrahim said: "What kind of food do you eat?" She said: "Meat". He said: "What do you drink?" She said: "Water". He said: "O Allah! Bless their meat and water."

The Prophet (PBUH) 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 two things as his sustenance, his health and disposition will be badly affected, unless he lives in Mecca."

The Prophet (PBUH) continued: "Then Ibraham said to Isma’il's wife, 'When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him he should keep firm the threshold of his gate." When Isma’il 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, he asked about our livelihood and I told him that we were in good condition." Ishmael asked her: "Did he give you any piece of advise?" 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 Isma’il said: "It was my father, and you are the threshold (of the gate). He has ordered me to keep you with me."

The Greatest Sacrifice

It was the greatest test of his lifetime, Ibraham sees in a dream that he must sacrifice his “only son”, but is it Isaac or Ishmael? It was withoot doubt it was Ishmael, simply because the issue of sacrifice had taken place before Issac were born.

The Vision

It is believed that that the vison of sacrifice had take place about ten years since Abraham since he had left his wife and the baby in Mecca in the care of God.

After a two month journey, he reached Mecca and met Ishmael. The joy of reunion was soon interrupted by a vision which was to be the ultimate test of his faith. Abraham saw through a dream that he sacrifice his son that Abraham regarded as God’s command to slaughter the son he had had after years of prayers and had just met after a decade of separation.

Allah Says: "Then Ibraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them afterwards. He saw Isma’il under a tree near Zam-Zam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw Ibraham, 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). “And when he (Isma'îl) was old enough to walk with him (Ibrahîm ), he said: ‘O my son! I have seen in a dream (a Prophet's dream is a revelation from Allâh and His Command) that I am slaughtering you (i.e. offering you in sacrifice to Allâh), so what do you think?’ He said: ‘O my father! Do that which you are Commanded, Insha'Allah (if Allah wills), you shall find me of as-Sabirin (the patient ones).’ Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allah), 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 the Muhsinun (good-doers). 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. ‘Salam (peace) be upon Ibrahim’. Thus indeed We reward the Muhsinîn.” [Surah as-Saffat, 37: 102-105]

We know from the Quran that the child to be sacrificed was Isma’il, as God, when giving the glad tidings of the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, also gave the glad tidings of a grandson, Jacob (Israel):

“But we gave her glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob.” (Quran 11:72)

Similarly, in the biblical verse Genesis 17:19, Abraham was promised:

“Your wife Sarah shall bear you a son whose name shall be Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant [and] with his seed after him.”

Because God promised to give Sarah a child from Abraham and grandchildren from that child, it is neither logically nor practically possible for God to command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, since God neither breaks his promise, nor is He the “author of confusion.”

Although Isaac’s name is explicitly mention as the one who was to be sacrificed in Genesis 22:2, we learn from other Biblical contexts that it is clear interpolation, and the one to be slaughtered was Ishmael.

“Thine Only Son”

In the verses of Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son. As all scholars of Islam, Judaism and Christianity agree, Ishmael was born before Isaac. From this, it would not be fit to call Isaac the only son of Abraham.

It is true that Judeo-Christian a scholars often argue that since Ishmael was born to a concubine, he is not a legitimate son. However, we have already mentioned earlier that according to Judaism itself, the gifting of concubines from barren wives to their husbands in order to produce offspring was a common, valid and acceptable occurrence, and the child produced by the concubine would be claimed by the wife of the father[1], enjoying all rights as her, the wife’s, own child, including inheritance. Furthermore, they would receive a double the share of other children, even if they were “hated”[2].

In addition to this, it is inferred in the Bible that Sarah herself would regard a child born to Hagar as a rightful heir. Knowing that Abraham had been promised that his seed would fill the land between the Nile and the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18) from his own body (Genesis 15:4), she offered Hagar to Abraham in order that she be the means to fulfill this prophecy. She said,

“Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.” (Genesis 16:2)

This is also similar to Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob son of Isaac, giving their maids to Jacob to produce offspring (Genesis 30:3, 6. 7, 9-13). Their children were Dan, Nepthali, Gad and Asher, who were from the twelve sons of Jacob, the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israelites, and therefore valid heirs[3].

From this, we understand that Sarah believed that a child born to Hagar would be a fulfillment of the prophecy given to Abraham, and be as if he was born to her own self. Thus, according to this fact alone, Ishmael is not illegitimate, but a rightful heir.

God Himself regards Ishmael as a valid heir, for, in numerous places, the Bible mentions that Ishmael is a “seed” of Abraham. For example, in Genesis 21:13:

“And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.

There are many other reasons which prove that it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was to be sacrificed, and God willing, a separate article will be dedicated to this issue.

To continue with the account, Abraham consulted his son to see if he understood what he was commanded by God:

“So We gave him the good news of a forbearing son. And when (his son) was old enough to help in his daily affairs, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice you. So look, what think you? He said: O my father! Do that which you are commanded. God willing, you shall find me of the patient.” [Surah As-Safaat, 37:101-102]

Indeed if a person was told by their father that they were to be killed due to a dream, it would not be taken in the best of manners. One may doubt the dream as well as the sanity of the person, but Ishmael knew the station of his father. The pious son of a pious father was committed to submit to God. Abraham took his son to the place where he was to be sacrificed and laid him face down. For this reason, God has described them in the most beautiful of words, painting a picture of the essence of submission; one which brings tears to the eyes:

“And when they both submitted (to the command of God), and he (Abraham) laid him (Ishmael) face down upon his forehead (in order to be sacrificed).” [Surah Ali-Imran, 3:103]

Just as Abraham’s knife was poised to descend, a voice stopped him:

“We called to him: O Abraham: You have indeed fulfilled the vision. Lo! Thus do We reward the good. Lo! That verily was a clear test.” [Surah As-Safaat, 37:104-106]

Indeed, it was the greatest test of all, the sacrificing of his only child, one born to him after he had reached an old age and years of longing for progeny. Here, Abraham showed his willingness to sacrifice all his belongings for God, and for this reason, he was designated a leader of all humanity, one whom God blessed with a progeny of Prophets.

“And when his God tested Abraham with various commands, and he proved true to each one.” He (God) said, indeed I have made you a leader of humanity. He (Abraham) said (requesting of God), ‘and from my progeny.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:124]

Ishmael was ransomed with a ram: ‘…then We redeemed him with a momentous sacrifice.’ [Surah As-Safaat, Quran 37:107]

“And this is what sacrifice teaches us because It is not their flesh or blood which reaches Allâh, but it is piety from you that reaches Allâh.” [Sarah al-Hajj, 22: 37]

It is this epitome of submission and trust in God which hundreds of millions of Muslims reenact every year during the days of Hajj, a day called Yawm-un-Nahr – The Day of Sacrifice, or 'Eidul-Adha or the Celebration of Sacrifice.

Abraham returned to Palestine, and upon doing so, he was visited by angels who give him and Sarah the good news of a son, Isaac: “Lo! We bring you good tidings of a boy possessing wisdom.” [ Surah Al-Hijir,15:53]

It is at this time that he is also told about the destruction of the people of Lot a.s.


See: Prophet Ishmael. 2

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