Every great story starts with a great person and surely one of the greatest of people was Prophet Ibrahim [alayhis].
He was given the title Khalil-ullah, which means ‘the friend of Allah’. Ibrahim [alayhis] was the forefather of many great prophets and is held in high esteem by all the major revealed religions. These great prophets include Suliman, Musa, Dawud, Yahya, Isa and Muhammad, Peace be upon them all. They are all from the offspring of Ibrahim [alayhis].
The founding father of all three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – his story continues to inspire over four billion people worldwide.
Ibrahim [alayhis] lived in a time, long before the time of Prophet Muhammad [saw]. As a boy he used to watch his father make idols. These Idols were sold in the markets as gods for people to worship. Ibrahim [alayhis] could not believe that anyone could consider these idols, made of stone and wood, to be their gods! How could people pray to these idols and ask from them? How could they give these idols offering such as food? How could these idols bring good fortune and look over them? Ibrahim [alayhis] was confused.
Ibrahim [alayhis] watched the idols as a fly came and sat on it. The idol was powerless to even move the fly from its body so how could it have the power to do anything! Ibrahim [alayhis] knew in his heart that the people of his community were deeply misguided but he didn’t know any better himself.
Ibrahim [alayhis] often thought about his people and their worship. He thought about the world around him and how it came into being. He thought about how and why he was created. He thought about why he was here, living on this wonderful planet. He would spend some time thinking about these things and admiring the world around him.
One day he was admiring the beauty of the stars in the night sky. He thought to himself, I will worship these stars as my god they are so beautiful and bright. Then the moon came out and again he admired the beauty of the moon. The moon was shining brighter that the stars so he thought to himself, why don’t I make the moon my god instead of the stars. In the morning the sun came out and the moon and stars could no longer be seen. He thought to himself, why don’t I make the sun my god and worship the sun instead? It is beautiful and much brighter than the moon and stars.
After much reflection he decided that he would not worship the stars, the moon or the sun but instead would worship the maker of all these things. He decided there was one creator, his god, who created him and everything around him. Through this Ibrahim [alayhis] became guided to the right path.
Breaking of the Idols
One day the people of his community were out celebrating. Ibrahim [alayhis] went to the place where the idols were kept and broke them up, apart from the big one. He hung the axe around the neck of the big idol and then went away. When the people returned they were shocked, “What happened to our Idols!” they remarked. They discussed it for a while and thought that Ibrahim [alayhis] would know because Ibrahim [alayhis] was known to speaking out against their idols.
They decided to call Ibrahim [alayhis] and question him about the damage done to the idols. Ibrahim [alayhis] was brought before the community and they asked him who broke our idols. Ibrahim [alayhis] replied, “The big idol must have done this, he has the axe around the neck, why don’t you ask it?
The people grew angry; they knew that Ibrahim [alayhis] was being silly. The big idol doesn’t have the power to move so how can it break the other idols? The big idol doesn’t have the power to talk so how can it tell us about the broken idols? Ibrahim [alayhis] explained to them that if these idols are powerless and can’t do anything, then why do you pray to them? Why do you ask help from them when they can’t even help themselves! Deep down they knew that Ibrahim [alayhis] was correct and that they indeed were wrong by praying to these stone idols.
However, the people became very angry and decided to punish Ibrahim [alayhis]. They would punish him by lighting a huge fire and throwing him into it. They thought this was a befitting punishment for someone who disrespected their religion and broke their gods. They collected firewood from all over the county and began to prepare the bonfire. They wanted to create such a fierce and hot fire, like no one had seen before. They collected together all the material then lit it and made a huge fire. It became so hot that the birds overhead could not fly over it because of the intense heat. The people themselves could not get near the fire to throw Ibrahim [alayhis] into it.
The Idol worshippers decided that they would build a catapult to throw Ibrahim [alayhis] into the middle of the fire, where he would burn in the fierce heat. Ibrahim [alayhis] remained quiet and was confident that Allah would save him. They loaded Ibrahim [alayhis] into the catapult and pelted him into the fire. Allah commanded the fire to remain cool for Ibrahim [alayhis] and not to harm him with its flames and heat.
This was a test for Ibrahim [alayhis] and he remained steadfast to his faith in Allah. Allah continued to guide Ibrahim [alayhis] throughout the rest of his life.
His Marriage to Sarah
After this incident, Ibrahim [alayhis] moved away and got married to a lady by the name of Sarah. They lived happily for a long time. However, there was some heartache in Ibrahim [alayhis] and Sarah’s life. They had been happily married for so long and Allah had not granted them any children. They prayed to Allah so much asking for a child.
Sarah knew that her husband, Ibrahim [alayhis], was longing for a child. She also knew that she was getting old and may not be able to provide him with a child. She suggested to Ibrahim [alayhis] that he should marry Hajar, their slave girl, and maybe Allah would bless them with a child through her.
Ibrahim [alayhis] accepted the advice of his beloved wife Sarah and married Hajar. It wasn’t long before Ibrahim [alayhis] and Hajar were blessed with a baby boy whom they named Ismael.
Ibrahim [alayhis] was overjoyed with happiness at the birth of his first son. They all celebrated and thanked Allah for such a great and beautiful blessing.
However, as they celebrated they did not know that things would change dramatically very soon. They would change so much that Ibrahim [alayhis] would need to make a tough choice about the future of his family. What was this decision and how would it affect this innocent baby in the arms of his loving mother, Hajar.
However, after a short while, Sarah became jealous of Hajar and Ismael. She told Ibrahim [alayhis] to take the child and mother to a land far away from them. Ibrahim [alayhis] decided to take them to a place in Hijaz, which was a dry, mountainous and barren land. Here Ibrahim [alayhis] left Hajar and Ismael under the shade of a lofty tree, near the hills of Safa and Marwa. This place had very little vegetation and had no water. Ibrahim [alayhis] left some food with Hajar and a pouch of water.
The Spring Of ZamZam
After some time both the food and water ran short and Ismael began to cry. Hajar was panicking; she ran between the hills of Safah and Marwah looking for food or water but could not find anything. She ran between the two hillocks seven times. After the frantic search, she returned and found a spring had appeared where Ismael was kicking the sand with his feet. This spring, called ZamZam, was producing clean water and Hajar and Ismael drank from it. The ZamZam spring is still with us today producing the same sweet and pure water.
After a short time, people began to move to this valley. By the permission of Hajar, a few tribes settled and it gradually became a small town. This town was near a busy trade route and many merchants began to pass through bringing in wealth. This town grew to become the city of Makkah, which is still a busy city in Arabia today.
When Ismael was still a small boy, Ibrahim [alayhis] had a dream or vision. In this dream he was commanded by Allah to sacrifice his son. When a prophet has a dream it is always true. In fact, a prophet’s dream is actually a form of revelation. This dream occurred several times and Ibrahim [alayhis] decided that he would take his beloved son, Ismael and would sacrifice him to Allah. as the Qu’ran narrates, Ismael agreed that Ibrahim [alayhis] should carry out the command of Allah.
The Qu’ran states: Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I have seen in a vision that I offer you in sacrifice: what is your view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as you are commanded: you will find me, if Allah so wills, one practising patience and constancy!”
Both Ibrahim [alayhis] and Ismael travelled to the place of sacrifice. However, on the way, the shaytan appeared three times and tried to persuade Ibrahim [alayhis] not to carry out the command of Allah. The shaytan tried to deceive Ibrahim [alayhis] by reminding him how much he loved his son. Ibrahim [alayhis] was a prophet and he knew that the love of Allah comes before the love of his son. Ibrahim [alayhis] also knew that this was the command of Allah so he must carry it out. Each time the Shaytan came to him, Ibrahim [alayhis] threw stones at him and continued with this journey.
Traditions tell us that Ibrahim [alayhis] could not bear to look at his son so he blindfolded himself and carried out the sacrifice. When Ibrahim [alayhis] removed the blindfold, a sheep or ram was in place of his son and Ibrahim [alayhis] knew that the sacrifice had been accepted. On this occasion, Ibrahim [alayhis] had proven himself and passed this great trial from Allah (Alhamdulilla).
Later on, Allah blessed Ibrahim [alayhis] with another son, whom they named Ishaq. This time he was born from Sarah, Prophet Ibrahim [alayhis]’s first wife. Historic sources tell us Ishaq was born 13 years after the birth of his brother Ismael. There was much happiness in the household of Ibrahim [alayhis] after the birth of another beautiful baby boy.
From the descendents of Ishaq, there were many great tribes and the Jews are traced through Ishaq to Ibrahim [alayhis]. From Ishaq’s descendents there were many great prophets including Yusuf, Yaqoob, Isa, Musa, Dawood and Yahya. Similarly, through Ismael, there were many great tribes, the most famous being the Quraish. Prophet Muhammad is a descendent of Ibrahim [alayhis] through Ismael. Therefore, the Jews and the Arabs are actually cousins or brethren of each other.
Ismael was respected and loved by the people of Hijaz. The main tribe that settled was the tribe of Jurhum. They married one of their daughters to Ismael and Ismael settled down. On one occasion, Ibrahim [alayhis] went to visit his son but Ismael was not at home. Ibrahim [alayhis] asked Ismael’s wife about their household. She complained of poverty to Ibrahim [alayhis]. When Ibrahim [alayhis] was ready to leave, he asked her to give Ismael the message that the doorstep of his house was crooked and to change it. When Ismael got the message he divorced his wife and later married another woman from Jurhum.
Another time Ibrahim [alayhis] came to meet Ismael and again Ismael was not at home. He asked Ismael’s wife about them and about their life together. She said Alhamdulilla, everything was well and thanked Allah for whatever little they had been blessed with. On leaving Ibrahim [alayhis] left a message that the doorstep of his house was fine. Through this wife, all the descendents of Ismael are traced.
On a third occasion, Ibrahim [alayhis] went and visited his son, Ismael. He found him in the valley of Makkah. After a happy reunion they both, by the command of Allah, built the Ka’bah. This was the first house built for the worship of the one and only true god of all mankind. He then asked the tribes to make pilgrimage to this house of Allah.
A long time ago, Ibrahim [alayhis] started this pilgrimage and he commanded the people to perform this pilgrimage. From then until now, many millions of Muslims still visit the Ka’bahand perform the Hajj. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims must carry out the Hajj, at least once in their lifetime.
The people after Ismael became misguided and gradually began to worship stone idols. What was worse was that they began to fill this holy sanctuary in Makkah with Idols. What Ibrahim [alayhis] had advised and fought against was happening even in this holiest of holy places. The people still believed in Allah but also had faith in these idols. Allah took away the blessing of Zamzam from the people and left them in a state of misguidance.
Society had become astray from the truth. The misguidance continued for hundreds of years until prophet Muhammad was sent as a messenger to the people. By this time, society had become engrossed in many forms of evil and had completely strayed from all that was good. The prophet came and cleansed this holy place from all the evil and forms of shirk.
However, just before the prophet’s time, one noble person from the tribe of Quraysh was going to restore some of these blessings. This person was Abdul Muttalib, the Prophet’s grandfather.