Prophets of Allah – Hazrat Ishmael: An exemplar and faithful son of Abraham

Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam

“And We did raise among every people a Messenger”


Ishmaelas, commonly known as إِسْمَاعِيْل [Isma‘il] among Muslims and in the Holy Quran, was a prophet of Allah and the eldest son of Prophet Abrahamas [Ibrahim]. The name Isma‘il literally means ‘God has heard’. (Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 7, Macmillan Reference USA, pp. 4551–52)

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was a descendant of Ishmaelas; this fact, among others, also establishes the grandness bestowed upon Ishmaelas, and his father, Abrahamas, by extension. His mother’s name was Hagarra [Hajira].

Ishmael’sas father, Abrahamas, and God’s covenant

Abrahamas is commonly referred to as Abul-Anbiya’ (father of the prophets). A common and obvious reason for this is that he was the father of Ishmaelas and Isaacas [Ishaq], who were both prophets. Another reason for this title is that, through these sons, God raised a long line of prophets. Allah the Almighty was so pleased with Abrahamas and his loyalty that He chose him and his progeny to be the recipients of His blessings and rewards. Allah established a covenant with Abrahamas, which has been recorded in the Bible as follows:

“And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.

“And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” (Gen. 17:‌19-20).

Alluding to this covenant, the Five-Volume Commentary states:

“The covenant began with Isaacas and in fulfilment of it, God raised a long line of Prophets among his descendants, and also gave them worldly dominion, power and wealth. The covenant found its highest fulfilment in Moses. When, however, the long line of Prophets who came after Moses as his successors terminated with Jesus, the second part of the covenant which was to be fulfilled through Ishmaelas came into operation and prophethood passed from the House of Israel to that of Ishmaelas and this was quite in harmony with the covenant which God had established with Abrahamas regarding the conferring of His favour upon him and his progeny.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, pp. 1973-1974)

Ishmaelas: The result of Abraham’sas prayer

The Holy Quran, being al-Furqan (the discrimination), serves as a source of illumination for various matters that have been previously misinterpreted or misunderstood. It offers the truth about various prophets, shedding light on their pure nature, which may have been portrayed contrary to that in other religious texts such as the Bible. The Holy Quran delves into the truth and provides clarity on these subjects.

Ishmaelas was the result of a prayer from his father, Abrahamas. In Surah al-Saffat, Allah Almighty records a prayer of Abrahamas:

رَبِّ‭ ‬هَبۡ‭ ‬لِيۡ‭ ‬مِنَ‭ ‬الصّٰلِحِيۡنَ۔‭ ‬فَبَشَّرۡنٰهُ‭ ‬بِغُلٰمٍ‭ ‬حَلِيۡمٍ‮ ‬

“[And he prayed,] ‘My Lord, grant me a righteous son.’ So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing son.” (Surah al-Saffat, Ch. 37: V. 101-102)

This verse tells us that Ishmaelas was both forbearing and intelligent. Ishmaelas was a prophet who strictly kept his promise and enjoined prayer and almsgiving on his people. (Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V.55-56)

Ishmaelas and Hagarra in the valley of Bakkah

When Ishmael was still young, Sarahra – who later bore Isaacas – asked Abrahamas to settle Ishmaelas, and his other wife, Hagarra, elsewhere. Both Sarahra and Hagarra were the wives of Prophet Abrahamas.

During a time of severe famine in Canaan, Abrahamas left for Egypt, where he married Hagarra, who went on to become the mother of Ishmaelas.

Hagara met Abrahamas when he was in Egypt. Being impressed by his noble character, a chief of Egypt presented Abrahamas with Hagarra, who was a noble girl, for marriage.

Alluding to the incident of Ishmaelas and Hagarra in the valley of Bakkah, the Promised Messiahas states:

“Sarahra wanted Ishmaelas to die somehow, for she was the one who told Abrahamas to leave them in such a land. Although Abrahamas took offence at this, God instructed him to do as Sarahra had said, but not because He preferred Sarahra. In fact, Sarahra had previously expelled Hagarra as well and at that time, an angel of God spoke to Hagarra. Allah the Exalted speaks to those of His servants as well who are not Prophets. As such, God Almighty spoke to Hagarra twice.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 1, p. 264-265)

Hearing Sarahra’s words caused Abrahamas a lot of grief; however, God commanded Abrahamas to do as Sarahra had asked. The Bible states that God desired to make a nation from Ishmaelas. Alluding to Prophet Abraham’sas son, Ishmaelas, it is recorded in the Bible, “I will make a nation of him.” (Genesis 21:13)

According to Allah’s commandment, Abrahamas took his son, Ishmaelas, and Hagarra, and settled them in the valley of Bakkah, which later came to be known as Makkah (Mecca).

As there was no water there, Abrahamas placed a leather bag containing some dates and some water near Ishmaelas and Hagar. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab ahadithi l-’anbiya’, Hadith 3364) It is also recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari that as Hazrat Abrahamas left, Hazrat Hagarra said:

“‘O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no one whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything?’ She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, ‘Has Allah ordered you to do so?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Then He will not neglect us.’” (Ibid.)

Alluding to this incident, the Holy Quran records a prayer of Abrahamas on this occasion. Abrahamas faced the Ka‘bah and prayed:

رَبَّنَاۤ اِنِّيۡۤ اَسۡكَنۡتُ مِنۡ ذُرِّيَّتِيۡ بِوَادٍ غَيۡرِ ذِيۡ زَرۡعٍ عِنۡدَ بَيۡتِكَ الۡمُحَرَّمِ ۙ رَبَّنَا لِيُـقِيۡمُوا الصَّلٰوةَ فَاجۡعَلۡ اَفۡئِدَةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَهۡوِيۡۤ اِلَيۡهِمۡ وَارۡزُقۡهُمۡ مِّنَ الثَّمَرٰتِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَشۡكُرُوۡنَ

“Our Lord, I have settled some of my children in an uncultivable valley near Thy Sacred House, – our Lord, – that they may observe Prayer. So make men’s hearts incline towards them and provide them with fruits, that they may be thankful.” (Surah Ibrahim, Ch.14: V.38)

The hadith further narrates that when the water Abrahamas provided had been used up, Hagarra and her child became thirsty in the intense heat of Bakkah. Hagar, not being able to bear seeing her child like this, started searching for water in agony. During her search for water, she mounted the mountain of as-Safa to see if she could sight anyone; however, she could not see anyone. She then dismounted and ran towards al-Marwah. She reached al-Marwah and stood on the mountain to see if she could see anyone. She repeated this seven times.

Alluding to this incident, the Holy Prophetsa said, “This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them,” i.e. mounts as-Safa and al-Marwah, during Hajj [the greater pilgrimage].

When she returned to her son, Ishmaelas, history recalls that she found an angel beating the ground with his heel. As she moved forward, she saw water gushing out in abundance. She, immediately, quenched the thirst of her child and placed stones around it, constructing a basin for keeping the water. The Holy Prophetsa is reported to have said: “May God have mercy on Hagarra, for had she not controlled this water, it would have become a flowing stream.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-musaqat, Hadith 2368)

In light of this incident, which billions of Muslims remember and keep in mind throughout their lives, especially during Hajj, the Five-Volume Commentary states:

“The object of Pilgrimage is to accustom men to leave their home and country and suffer separation from relatives and friends for the sake of God. The Pilgrimage to Mecca is also a symbol of the respect shown to places where the will of God was specially manifested and a reminder of the incidents connected with that manifestation. It reminds believers of the long and hazardous journey of Abrahamas and Ishmaelas to the desert valley of Mecca and of Ishmael’sas being left in that desert by Abrahamas; it tells them in speechless eloquence how those who make sacrifices in the way of God are protected and honoured by him; and it fosters their faith in the power and might of God. Again, the pilgrim, on finding himself near the place which has, from the beginning of the world, been dedicated to the worship of God, is sure to experience a peculiar spiritual association with those who have, through centuries, been bound together by the love and remembrance of God.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 535)

Ishmael’sas obedience to his father

One of the main things Ishmaelas, the son of Abrahamas, is remembered for is his obedience and unwavering devotion to his father.

After settling Ishmaelas and Hagar in Bakkah, now Mecca, Abrahamas would, from time to time, journey back and forth to meet them. When Ishmaelas grew up to an age where he was able to work with his father, Abrahamas saw in a dream that he was slaughtering his son. The Holy Quran narrates this instance in Surah as-Saffat:

“And when he was old enough to work with him, he said, ‘O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering thee. So consider, what thou thinkest [of it]!’ He replied, ‘O my father, do as thou art commanded; thou wilt find me, if Allah please, steadfast [in my faith].” (Surah as-Saffat, Ch.37: V.103)

As Abrahamas laid his son down, ready to commence fulfilling the dream, an angel of Allah called to him and said, “Thou hast indeed fulfilled the dream.” (Surah as-Saffat, Ch.37: V.106) Then, Abrahamas was commanded to release Ishmaelas and sacrifice a ram in his place.

Referring to this episode, the Five-Volume Commentary of the Holy Quran states:

“Abraham’sas preparedness to sacrifice Ishmaelas was perpetuated in the Islamic institution of ‘Sacrifice’ which forms an integral part of the ceremonies of Hajj. As long as Islam lasts – and it shall last till the end of time – Pilgrimage to Mecca will continue to be performed and on the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah goats and rams will continue to be slaughtered in hundreds of thousands in Mecca and all over the Muslim world in commemoration of Ishmael’sas sacrifice. It is this institution of ‘Sacrifice’ that seems to have been referred to in this verse in the words ‘And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice’.” (Five-Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, pp. 2699-2700)

Various historians claim that the child whom Abrahamas was told to slaughter was Isaacas and not Ishmaelas. A detailed discussion of this will be given in the article on Isaacas.

Raising the foundations of the house of Allah

Undoubtedly, Abrahamas and Ishmaelas building the Holy Ka‘bah in the holy city of Mecca is an important event in Islamic history.

“When Abrahamas visited Makkah for the second and third time, Hagaras had passed away. Coincidentally, Ishmaelas was also absent, due to which a reunion of father and son could not take place. Upon this, Abrahamas honoured Makkah with his presence a fourth time, and this time, together, both of them began the construction of a house of worship in Makkah. This house of worship was in fact quite old and its markings had been destroyed. Abrahamas proposed to build the house anew, after receiving Divine knowledge.” (Mirza Bashir Ahmad MAraSeal of the Prophets, Vol. 1, p. 100)

Many are of the opinion that Abrahamas and Ishmaelas were the first to build the Holy Ka‘bah. However, this seems to be yet another misunderstanding. As alluded to in the article about Prophet Adamas, some traditions point towards Hazrat Adamas having originally built the Holy Ka‘bah. And from then on, it served as the centre of worship for his progeny. The Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa are very clear on this matter. Allah states in the Holy Quran:

وَاِذۡ يَرۡفَعُ اِبۡرٰهٖمُ الۡقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الۡبَيۡتِ وَاِسۡمٰعِيۡلُ ؕ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلۡ مِنَّا ؕ اِنَّكَ اَنۡتَ السَّمِيۡعُ الۡعَلِيۡمُ

“And [remember the time] when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House, [praying,] ‘Our Lord, accept [this] from us; for Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.128)

This verse highlights that Abrahamas and Ishmaelas raised the foundations of the Holy Ka‘bah and did not build it anew. The words الۡقَوَاعِدَ‭ ‬مِنَ‭ ‬الۡبَيۡتِ indicate that the foundations of the house existed prior to this incident.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, addressing this very matter, stated:

“Here, Allah the Almighty did not say يضع‭ ‬القواعد, but said يَرۡفَعُ‭ ‬القواعد. If there was a mention of laying the foundation, then the [root] word وضع would have been used. This shows that the House of Allah already existed, but its buildings had been destroyed. Hazrat Abrahamas under Allah the Almighty’s commandment, raised its foundations.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 2, pp. 177-178)

It is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that when Abrahamas settled Ishmaelas and Hagarra in the valley of Bakkah, he said a prayer. Before praying, he raised his hands and “faced the Ka‘bah”. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab ahadith al-anbiya’, Hadith 3364)

Sons of Ishmaelas

After the settlement of Ishmaelas and Hagarra, a tribe named Jurhum was the first tribe to settle in Mecca. The daughter of al-Mudad b. Amr, who was the chief of the clan, was married to Ishmaelas (Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad MAraibid., p. 103). Prophet Ishmaelas is recorded, in the Bible, as having had twelve sons who multiplied exceedingly. The Bible lists the names of Ishamel’sas sons: Nebajoth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.

“The people of Arabia are primarily the children of Kedar, son of Ishmaelas, and the Quraysh are also his descendants. As long as Ishmaelas was alive it was he who supervised the Ka‘bah, but after his death, the eldest of his sons, named Nebaioth became its custodian. After his death, the custodianship of the Ka‘bah was entrusted to his maternal grandfather, al-Mudad b. ‘Amr, and for an extended period of time it remained with the tribe of Jurhum.” (Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad MAraibid.)

The Quraysh are the descendants of Ishmaelas. “According to the Bible, the Ishmaelites lived in Paran, and Paran, according to Arab geographers, is the territory extending from Mecca to the northern border of Arabia. Paran, therefore, is part of Arabia, as certainly as the Quraysh, are the descendants of Ishmaelas. The divine glory that was to rise from Paran was, therefore, to rise from Arabia.” (Introduction to the Study of the Holy Quran, p. 69)

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