For many years, Abraham and Sarah lived as exiles, and during all that time they had no children. Sarah having passed the age of childbirth, suggested to Abraham that he marry her maid and companion, Hagar. Abraham and Hagar married and she bore him a son who was called Ishmael. Many years later, God rewarded Sarah for her patience and faith by giving her a son of her own named Isaac, and tidings of a grandson named, Jacob God revealed that both Isaac and Jacob would become prophets.
But in the meantime, Abraham, Hagar and baby lshmael set off on a journey. For days and nights they travelled, until they finally arrived at a barren valley in the desert of the Arabian peninsula. It was a desolate place with no vegetation and no water. There they stopped, and Abraham gave Hagar their remaining provisions of food and water. Surprised, Hagar asked, “Will you leave us here then?” Abraham made no reply. Once again, Hagar asked him if he would leave them in this place, and again, Abraham made no response. She then realized that Abraham must be following a divine command and she asked him, “Did God command you to leave us here alone?” Abraham replied that such was the case, and Hagar declared, “We have God with us, no harm will come to us.” And, so, Hagar and Ishmael were left alone in this barren valley.
The heat was fierce and there was no shelter under which they could take refuge. Before long their provisions began to run low, and in desperation Hagar started looking for some water. Leaving Ishmael sitting on the ground, she ran to the top of a small hill called al-Safa, hoping to see some sign of travelers who might be passing by and who would help them. There were none to be seen. Hagar went down to comfort Ishmael and then climbed up another hill, al-Marwa, in the hope of finding some help. Again she was disappointed. From al-Marwa, she ran to al-Safa, and then back to al-Marwa again. Seven times did she climb these hills and each time she saw nothing. Finally, when she returned to Ishmael e, she was too weak even to cry. With great sorrow, Hagar bent down to pick him up, when, lo and behold, a spring gushed forth from under his feet! Hagar thanked God for saving them and gave her son some water to drink
It was not long before passing caravans noticed that birds had begun to gather in the barren valley where a spring of water now gushed. Soon travellers took to halting there and gradually people began to settle in this place. They called their little town Bakka, or Makkah. It was in this very town that, many, many years later, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born from the descendants of Ishmael and where he began preaching the message of Islam.
The years passed, and Ishmael grew into a handsome and intelligent young man. From time to time, Abraham would come to visit him and Hagar e. One night, Abraham saw in a dream that he must sacrifice his son Ishmael Now, although Abraham understood that this was a trial from God, he was deeply saddened as he loved Ishmael dearly. Nevertheless, Abraham did not question God’s command and said to Ishmael
“O my son! I saw in a vision that I must offer you in sacrifice. What do you propose?”
Ishmael submitted to God’s command without any hesitation and answered:
“O my father! Do what you are commanded God willing, you shall find me steadfast”
Abraham took his son and went to a remote place to carry out God’s command. However, just as he raised his hand to kill Ishmael God ordered him to stop and to sacrifice a ram instead which had miraculously appeared close to a nearby bush. Abraham sacrificed the ram, then prostrated himself to God in gratitude for sparing his son. God had not wished to harm Abraham and Ishmael He had wanted to try their obedience to Him and to make their obedience an example for generations to come. This event in the lives of Abraham and Ishmael is commemorated to this day by Muslims all over the world when they sacrifice sheep on the Id al-Adha.
God revealed to Abraham e that Makkah had always been a sacred place, where Adam himself had built a House for the worship of God. This House had been destroyed in the great Flood at the time of Noah God now ordered Abraham and Ishmael to rebuild the Holy House on the very same spot, and to make it a centre of pilgrimage, Gathering stones from the surrounding mountains. Abraham and Ishmael laid the foundations exactly as God commanded. While they worked, they invoked God’s help and glorified Him.
“Accept this senice from us: for You are the Al-Hearing, the All-Knowing our Lard Make us submissive to You and of our progeny a people submissive to You. And show us our rites; and turn to us in Mercy for You are the Forgiving. the Most Merciful. Our Lord! Send them u messenger of their own, who shall reveal Your sings to them und instruct them in Scripture and wisdom and sanctify them, for You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.”
While Abraham and his son were working, angels descended from Heaven bearing a sacred stone. Abraham placed this stone, which is called Al-Hajar al-Aswad or the Black Stone, in one of the corners of the Holy House or Kaba. When work on the Kaba was completed, God taught Abraham and Ishmael the rites that were to be performed there. All pilgrims to the Kaba must circle it seven times starting at the Black Stone, then they must walk between al-Safä and al-Marwa seven times as Hagar had once done.
God then commanded Abraham to purify the Kaba for the pilgrims
Behold! We guve the site of the Sacred House to Abraham (saying), “Associate not anything (in worship) with Me, and sanctify My House for those who circle it. or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (there in prayer).”
This done, Abraham wondered to himself if pilgrims would come to worship God in such an isolated place. But God, Who hears our innermost thoughts, said to him:
“And call men to the pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and mounted on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys, through deep und distant mountain highways.”
Abraham made the call and since then millions upon millions of pilgrims have come to visit the Kaba and to perform the pilgrimage. In fact, Muslims all over the world turn in the direction of the Kaba every day in their prayers or salat. And while Abraham, Ishmael and Hagar have passed away, their example lives on with us ever-new.