hazrat ismail (A.S)

Prophet Ismail (a.s) was the son of Ibrahim (a.s) and Hajar. One day Ibrahim (a.s) took his baby son and wife (Hajar) to the site where Ka’ba can be found today. He gave them some dates and water and started to leave. As Ibrahim (a.s) walked away, Hajar followed and asked why they were being left in this empty place. She understood from his silence that Allah had commanded him to do this. 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 place where Ibrahim (a.s) had left her.
As soon as Ibrahim (a.s) 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:

رَّبَّنَآ إنّيۤ أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ ٱلْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلاَةَ فَٱجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِّنَ ٱلنَّاسِ تَهْوِيۤ إِلَيْهِمْ وَٱرْزُقْهُمْ مِّنَ ٱلثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ

“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-Qur’an 14:37)
 
Ismail (a.s) and his mother lived for some time on the water and dates Ibrahim (a.s) left them, but finally the water ran out, and Ismail’s (a.s) mother could no longer produce enough milk to feed Ismail (a.s). The mother could not bear to see her child suffering, so she ran to the top of nearby Mount 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 Mount Marwa. She ran from one mountain to the other seven times, looking for water or help. 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 barrier around the place where the water was flowing, and filled her water bag with her hands. Then she was able to drink water and feed her baby. The angel also told her not to be afraid, that she and her son would be provided for.

Ismail (a.s) and his mother continued to live at this place all by themselves for some time. One day some people of the Jurhum tribe were passing through the valley. They didn’t 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 (a.s) mother sitting by the water.

Ismail’s mother agreed they could settle there for a while, as long as they did not claim possession to the water. Some of the people of the tribe settled by the water permanently and Ismail grew up amongst them.

Prophet Ismail and his Father:
After Ismail’s (alayhis salam) mother had died, Ibrahim came to see his family whom he had left near Zam-zam. Ismail (alayhis salam) was not at home when Ibrahim (alayhis salam) arrived, but his wife was. She did not know who Ibrahim (alayhis salam) was. When Ibrahim (alayhis salam) asked her about how they were managing, she started complaining about how difficult life was and how poor they were. Ibrahim (alayhis salam) told her to give her husband greetings from him and to tell him to change the threshold of the gate to his house.

When Ismail (alayhis salam) returned, he sensed that something unusual had happened and he asked his wife if anyone had been there. Then she told him what had happened and what Ibrahim (alayhis salam) had said to her. Ismail (alayhis salam) told her that the stranger had been his father, and that he had ordered Ismail to divorce her.

How did Ismail (alayhis salam) know what Ibrahim (alayhis salam) was talking about? A threshold is the sill of a door or gate, the part that one steps on when one enters a house. If the threshold is rotten, the house is not strong. Ismail’s (alayhis salam) wife was the rotten threshold because of her whining, complaining ways. Had she remained as Ismail’s (alayhis salam) wife, his entire household would have been weakened. The wife, as mother of a man’s children, is the foundation of his family for many generations to come, and she must be made of good material in order to fulfill her purpose well.

Sometime after Ismail (alayhis salam) had taken another wife, his father Ibrahim (alayhis salam) again came visiting and again found no one but the wife at home. However, this time when he asked her how they were doing, she cheerfully answered that they were prospering and she gave thanks to Allah for all their blessings. She offered Ibrahim (alayhis salam) meat and water, and he asked for Allah’s blessing on all their meat and water. When he left, he told her to give his regards to her husband and to tell him to keep the threshold of his gate.
When Ismail (alayhis salam) returned home he asked if anyone had visited. She told him all about the nice old man and the piece of advice he had given in his message to Ismail (alayhis salam). From this message Ismail (alayhis salam) knew that his father approved of the new wife and had advised Ismail (alayhis salam) to keep her with him.

Again some time had passed when Ibrahim (alayhis salam) wished to see his son. He found Ismail (alayhis salam) sharpening his arrows at the Zam-zam well, and they exchanged a warm father-son greeting. This time Allah had given Ibrahim (alayhis salam) an order and Ibrahim (alayhis salam) needed Ismail’s (alayhis salam) help to fulfill it. Ismail (alayhis salam) agreed immediately to help, before he even knew what was required of him. Allah had ordered Ibrahim (alayhis salam) to build a house on the hillock where Ismail (alayhis salam) had been left as a baby with his mother, a place which was higher than the land surrounding it. And so it was that Ibrahim (alayhis salam) and Ismail (alayhis salam) built the Ka’ba. Ismail (alayhis salam) brought the stones and Ibrahim (alayhis salam) put them in place. When the walls became too high, Ibrahim (alayhis salam) stood on a rock and Ismail (alayhis salam) handed the stones up to him. As they worked they kept repeating: “Our Lord! Accept this service from us, for Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” (al-Qur’an 2:127). That is how the Ka’ba came to be built.

You can read about Ismail (alayhis salam) and his father in Sahih al-Bukhari IV: 583-584 and in the Qur’an 2:125-129.

Prophet Ismail and his Mother

When Ismail (alayhis salam) was still a small baby, his father Ibrahim (alayhis salam) took him and his mother, Hajra, to the site of the Ka’ba. 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’ba, and there was no water nearby. As Ibrahim (alayhis salam) was walking away, Ismail’s (alayhis salam) 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 (alayhis salam) had left her.

As soon as Ibrahim (alayhis salam) 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-Qur’an 14:37)

Ismail (alayhis salam) 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 (alayhis salam) 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 water bag 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 (alayhis salam) and his mother continued to live at the Ka’ba all by themselves for some time. One day some people of the Jurhum tribe were passing through the valley. They didn’t 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.

Ismail’s (alayhis salam) mother was a very sociable person who loved the company of others, so she readily agreed to their request to stop there for a while, provided that they did not claim possession of the water. Some of the people of Jurhum decided to settle permanently by Zam-zam and sent for their families. Ismail (alayhis salam) grew up with these people and learned to speak Arabic from them. When he grew up, they urged him to marry one of their women.

You can read about Ismail and his mother in Sahih al-Bukhari IV:582-584.

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