Prophet Ismail [Ishmael] (Peace be upon him)

Also mention in the Book (the story of) Ismail: he was (strictly) true to what he promised, and he was a messenger (and) a prophet... (Maryam, 54)

 

THE PROPHET ISMAIL

 

Hz. Ismail is the first son of the prophet Ibrahim. He was born of Hz. Hagar, who was a maid of Hz. Sara.

Hz. Sara and Hz. Ibrahim got old but they did not have any children. Therefore, Hz. Sara asked her husband to marry her maid, Hz. Hagar. Hz. Ibrahim married Hz. Hagar. Hz. Ismail was born out of this marriage. 

 

* * *

After a while, Hz. Sara started to be jealous of Hz. Hagar because Hz. Hagar became respectable in the eye of Hz. Ibrahim. This affected the feminine feelings of Hz. Sara. She asked her husband to take Hagar somewhere else. Allah Almighty sent a revelation to Hz. Ibrahim and ordered him to act in accordance with Hagar’s wish. He took Hz. Hagar and little Ismail to Makkah. The revelation ordered him to leave his son and Hagar in this desolate valley. Hz. Ibrahim acted accordingly.

After the settlement of Hz. Hagar and Ismail in Makkah, Jurhumis from Yemen also arrived and settled there. The Valley of Makkah, which was dry and arid, became a big city soon. 

Hz. Ismail was brought up there.

Hz. Ibrahim visited his son and wife from time to time and returned to Damascus.  

 

* * *

One night, Allah ordered Hz. Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail in his dream. When he saw the same dream three times on end, he told his son, Ismail about it. Hz. Ismail asked his father cold-bloodedly and showing patience to fulfill this divine order.  It was a great test for both the father and the son. Thus, Allah Almighty measured their loyalty and devotion. They passed the test by showing great patience and devotion. Allah Almighty sent Ibrahim a ram and ordered him to sacrifice is it instead of his son. Thus, Hz. Ismail was saved.  

The Prophet stated the following in a hadith: “I am the son of two sacrifices.” He meant his ancestor Hz. Ismail and his father Abdullah with this hadith. His grandfather Abdulmuttalib also vowed to sacrifice his son Abdullah. Then, Abdullah was saved when Abdulmuttalib sacrificed one hundred camels.

 

* * *

Hz. Ibrahim visited his son and wife in Makkah from time to time.  

Once, Hz. Ibrahim met his son near the Zamzam Well and talked for a long time. Then, they started to build the Kaaba due to the divine order. Hz. Ismail carried stones and Hz. Ibrahim constructed the Kaaba with those stones. Thus, the construction of the Kaaba was completed. All of the believers made hajj under the guidance of Hz. Ibrahim. Thus, hajj was rendered fard for believers.

 

* * *

Afterwards, Allah Almighty gave Hz. Ismail the duty of prophethood. He gave him the duty of guiding the people of Amalika in Yemen. Hz. Ismail lived with this nation for fifty years and conveyed them the divine message and orders. Some of them believed in Hz. Ismail but others insisted on unbelief and polytheism.

It is stated in the Quran that Hz. Ismail first ordered his wife, then his children, relatives and nation to perform prayers and give zakah (alms).1

There is a great lesson to be taken from his attitude:

Man needs to guide and improve himself first; then, he needs to guide and improve his family, relatives, clan and nation respectively. Indeed, a person who cannot improve himself cannot improve others. A person who does not do as he says cannot affect others by preaching. The people one needs to improve and guide after himself are his family and relatives. It is easier and more necessary to improve them since there is kinship between him and them. As a matter of fact, all prophets started to convey the message to their families and closest relatives first. Those who believed in the Messenger of Allah first were his wife Hz. Khadijah, and his cousin Hz. Ali. Allah Almighty gave Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) the following order:  “Admonish your nearest kinsmen.”

As it is understood from the statement of the Quran, Hz. Ismail acted in accordance with this principle of guidance. First, he himself practiced the religion; then, he made his relatives practice them; after that, he conveyed the message of the religion to his nation.

 

HZ. ISMAIL’S MARRIAGE

 

When Hz. Ismail became a young man, he had learnt Arabic from the tribe of Jurhum and become popular among Jurhumis. Jurhumis married him off to a young girl from their tribe.  Hz. Hagar died when she was ninety years old. They buried her in Hatim, next to the Kaaba.

After Hz. Ismail’s marriage, Hz. Ibrahim visited his son and daughter-in-law one day. When he arrived, Hz. Ismail was not at home.  He asked his daughter-in-law where he had gone. She said he had gone out to find sustenance.  

Hz. Ibrahim asked his daughter-in-law some questions in order to find out whether she deserved to be Ismail’s wife and find out the degree of her devotion to Allah:

“How is your livelihood?” Hz. Ismail’s wife answered,

“We have very little food. We have a miserable life.” She complained about her life.

Ibrahim found out about her character. While he was leaving, he said to her,  

“When your husband comes, give my greetings to your husband and tell him to change his doorstep.”

When Hz. Ismail arrived home, he felt that his father had come. He asked his wife,  

“Did anybody come to our house?” She said,

“Yes an old man wearing old clothes came and asked about you. I answered him. Then, he asked me about our livelihood. I said we were having hard times.” Thereupon, Hz. Ismail said,

“Did he advise you anything or did she tell you to say anything to me?” She said,

“Yes, he told me to give you his greetings and to change your doorstep.”

Thereupon, Hz. Ismail said to his wife,

“The old man is my father. He ordered me to divorce you. You can go to your parents’ house.” He divorced his wife and married another woman. He started to lead a peaceful and happy life with his new wife.  

After a while, Hz. Ibrahim came to visit him again. Hz. Ismail was not at home. His second wife welcomed Hz. Ibrahim. He asked his daughter-in-law where he had gone. She said she had gone out to find sustenance.

In order to test his new daughter-in-law, Hz. Ibrahim asked:

“How are you? How is your livelihood?” Hz. Ismail’s wife said,

“Thank Allah, we are in a good state and we are happy.” Hz. Ibrahim asked,

“What do you eat and drink?” She said,

“We eat meat and drink water." Thereupon, Hz. Ibrahim prayed for them as follows:

O Lord! Make their meat and water abundant and blessed!”

During the time of Hz. Ibrahim, vegetables and grains were not grown in Makkah. People fed on the meat of hunted animals. If there had been vegetables and grains, Hz. Ibrahim would have prayed for them, too.  

While leaving, Hz. Ibrahim said to his daughter-in-law,  

“When your husband comes, give my greetings to your husband and tell him to keep his doorstep.”

When Hz. Ismail arrived home, he felt that his father had come. He asked his wife,  

“Did anybody come to our house?” She said,

“Yes an old man with a luminous face came.” She praised Hz. Ibrahim and added: “He asked me about you and I told him you had gone out to find sustenance. Then, he asked me about our livelihood. I said we were good and happy.” 

Thereupon, Hz. Ismail asked her,

“Did he give you any advice?”She said,

“He told me to give you his greetings and to keep your doorstep.” Hz. Ismail was glad to hear it. He said to his wife,  

“He is my father. You are the honorable doorstep of our house. My father ordered me to treat you well and to get on well with you.”

 

HZ. ISMAIL’S DEATH

 

Hz. Ismail died when he was one hundred and thirty-seven years old. His sons buried him next to Hz. Hagar.

In the year he died, Hz. Ismail went to Makkah. Then, he went to Palestine to visit his father’s grave. Meanwhile, he visited and talked to his brother Ishaq (Isaac). Ishaq had two children: Ays (Is) and Yaqub (Jacob). Hz. Ismail had a daughter called Sabiha. Sabiha and Ays got married. After that, Hz. Ismail returned to Makkah and died in the same year.  

Hz. Ismail had several sons. They moved to various places and settled there. However, two of his sons, called Qayzar and Thabit, remained in Makkah. Thabit undertook the duty of taking care of the Kaaba. Qayzar was one of the ancestors of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). The tribe of Quraysh came from the children of Qayzar.  

 

SOME VIRTUES OF HZ.ISMAIL

 

The most outstanding virtue of Hz. Ismail is keeping his promise.2 He always kept his promise and he was very serious.

Once, he decided to meet a person somewhere and they determined a time. Hz. Ismail went there on time but the other man did not. Hz. Ismail waited for the man for two days there.  

Another distinguished quality of Hz. Ismail was his patience and devotion. Hz. Ismail showed his patience and devotion when his father asked him to sacrifice him. Allah Almighty gave him great bounties in return for his patience and devotion. Besides, Allah sent Muhammad (pbuh), the Seal of the Prophets, from his progeny, which is the greatest bounty.

 

FOOTNOTES

1 Maryam, 55.

2 Maryam, 54.

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