Ibrahim's Sacrifice


    Ibrahim  and his wife Sarah  had been married for many years but did not have any children. As they became more elderly, it seemed apparent that they would never have a family. Sarah, therefore, gave to Ibrahim her slave woman, Hajira , as a wife, in the hopes that she would be able to bear a child for him. Ibrahim prayed for a righteous son and his prayer was answered. To him and Hajira was born the son Ismail .

    When Ismail was still a small baby, his father Ibrahim took him and his mother, Hajira, to the site of the Ka'bah. He gave them some dates and a goat skin full of water and left them there. At that time no one lived at the Ka'bah, and there was no water nearby. As Ibrahim was walking away, Ismail's mother followed him, asking why she and her son were being left in such a desolate place. She asked several times but he would not answer her. Finally, she asked if Allah had ordered him to do this and he replied that it was so. Upon hearing this, she accepted Allah's will and returned to the site where Ibrahim  had left her.

    As soon as Ibrahim was out of sight, he turned and prayed to Allah to protect and provide for his family which he had left out in the wilderness:

    "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." (al-Quran 14:37)

    Ismail and his mother lived for some time on the supply of water and dates, but finally the water began to give out, and Ismail's mother could no longer produce sufficient milk to nurse her baby. The baby became agitated and near to death because of his thirst. The mother could not bear to see her child suffering, so she ran to the top of nearby Mt. Safa to see if she could find someone to help her. When she could see no one, she ran down the mountain and across the valley to Mt. Marwa. Seven times she ran from one mountain to the other, looking in vain for assistance. After the seventh time she heard a voice and she called out to it for help. When she looked she saw an angel digging the earth with his heel until water flowed forth. That place was the site of Zam-Zam. She carefully made a depression around the place where the water was flowing, and filled her waterbag with her hands. Then she was able to drink water and nurse her baby. The angel told her not to be afraid, that she and her son would be provided for.

    Ismail and his mother continued to live at the Ka'bah all by themselves for some time. One day some people of the Jurhum tribe were passing through the valley. They did not intend to stop, because they knew that there had never been any water in that valley. But they saw a kind of bird, which was known to frequent wet spots, so they followed it to the spring of Zam-Zam. There they found Ismail's mother sitting by the water. They stopped there for a while, and some of them decided to settle permanently by Zam-Zam, so they sent for their families. Ismail   grew up in the company of these people.

    Ismail's faith in Allah was always very strong and he grew up to be a fine youth, one that would bring pride to any father. One day Ibrahim saw in a vision from Allah that he was to sacrifice this wonderful son. You can imagine how heavy-hearted he was at the thought of giving up that long-awaited and much-beloved son. But he never thought to go against the command of Allah. He went to his son and told him of the vision and asked him what he thought of it. Ismail , although very young, never hesitated. If it was Allah's will, he said, there was no choice but to do as they had been ordered.

    Ibrahim and Ismail prepared for the sacrifice. Just as Ibrahim was about to perform it, Allah intervened. Allah provided a ram for sacrifice in place of Ismail . Ibrahim had passed the test of faith that Allah had set for him. His son's life was spared because their faith had been so strong. It is this event that we celebrate every year during the Festival of Eid-ul-Adha or Eid-ul-Kabir.

Bonnie L. Hamid

Published: December 2006