Ismail was the elder son of Ibrahim bom to Hajirah. Sarah, the first wife of Prophet Ibrahim had no child of her own. She became jealous of Hajirah. But Allah had his own designs for Sarah. Allah instructed Ibrahim to take his wife Hajirah and his son Ismail to Hejaz, deep south in the desert of Arabia where the city of Makkah stands today. It was a desolate place at that time.

The Miracle of Zam Zam

The place where Allah had instructed Ibrahim to leave his wife and child was without any vegetation or habitation. Ismail was thirsty and the mother had run out of water. She ran several times between two hills trying to look out for help, water or vegetation. She was unsuccessful in her quest. However as the child cried kicking the ground with his heels, a spring of fresh water gushed out. This spring runs with unlimited fresh water to this day, and is treated as holy water by pilgrims to Makkah. The act of Hajirah became so significant in her effort to save the life of her child who would be a prophet, that Allah deemed this an essential part of the Haj ritual for all times to come.

The Founding of the City of Makkah

Awandering tribe of the land known as Banu Jarham arrived in the desolate territory to find Ismail and his mother encamped with the fresh water spring which never existed there before. They were fascinated when they heard the story of the spring. They knew that there had been no such spring at that site before. They paid reverence to the holy family and erected their tents by the spring. This temporary sojourn became a permanent settlement, and later came to be known as Makkah.

The Trial of Ibrahim by Allah

Ismail was only nine when his father Ibrahim saw in a dream, that he sacrificed his only son to please Allah. On seeing the same dream on three consecutive nights, he told Ismail about it. Ismail replied that it must be a test from Allah to test their wills, and he was willing to be sacrificed in the way of Allah. Ibrahim took his son Ismail to Mina, laid him on the ground, and tied his arms and legs with a cord. As he placed his knife on the throat of his son, the Archangel Jibril (Gabrial) appeared and announced that the test of their ultimate submission to Allah was complete. Just then, by the Grace of Allah, a healthy lamb appeared there to be sacrificed in place of Ismail. Ibrahim was given the happy tiding that Allah was pleased with them, and their position would be elevated. Ibrahim was also given the happy news of another son, Ishaq.

This act of the great prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail became an essential part of Hajj for all times, and is celebrated a day before the annual Eid al-Adha'.

The Building of Kalba

Ibrahim and his son Ismail, following divine instructions, built the Ka'ba in Makkah as a House of worship for Allah. On completion of the Holy structure, both of them prayed to Allah for acceptance of their service. They called upon the people to come for pilgrimage (Hajj). Since then, the tradition of the two prophets has continued to be performed through the centuries. The black stone (Hajre Aswad) was placed in one comer of the building by the Prophet Ibrahim. According to some traditions, this stone had descended from the heaven!

For the muslim pilgrim, one of the center points of the rituals of Hajj is to go round the Ka'ba seven times and to kiss Hajre Aswad. This is done in remembrance to the act of devotion by the patriarch of our prophets. It is one of the essential obligations of the faithful to go to Makkah and perform the ritual Hajj at least once during his life time.

Ismail had many sons and daughters who migrated to several parts of the Arabian peninsula and they imparted the teachings of Ibrahim wherever they settled. However Makkah remained the central place of congregation throughout the ages, and Ka'ba continued to be the most revered house of worship.

Ismail is also known as Abul Arab, the patriarch of the Arabs.

The last of the messengers of Allah, the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was bom in the clan of Quraish who descended from Ismail and were amongst the most powerful people of Arabia.

References: al Qur'an: Sura Baqara, Anam, Maryam, An'mbiya'. Sa ffat, Jinn.

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