Hajj is a legacy of Ibrahim, his spouse Hagar, his son Ismail, and the last Prophet and Messenger of Allah, Mohammad. Each one of them played a significant role in establishing the manasiks of this unique form of worship of Allah, which eventually led to perfection of the concept and made it a pillar of Islam.

Life of Ibrahim

Ibrahim was born in Ur of Chaldees (a place in the lower reaches of Euphrates). His father was Azar, who was an idol worshipper. When he saw his father making idols and worshipping them, he asked him,

““Father, why do you worship that which neither hears nor sees, and cannot avail you in anything?” [Surah Maryam, 19:42]

His father disputed with him and threatened him. Ibrahim also disputed with his community by breaking their idols, except the biggest one. Finally, king Nimrud ordered him to be burnt. He was catapulted into a huge fire, but with the mercy of Allah, the burning power of the fire was taken removed, and instead of burning, the fire became a place of peace, safety, and security for him. He then walked out of the fire, completely unharmed. Allah says,

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“They said, ‘Burn him, and support your gods, if you are going to do anything.’ We said, ‘Fire, be coolness and peace for Ibrāhīm.’” [Surah al-Anbiya, 21:68-69]

He preached tawhid, but none followed him except his nephew Lut. He then decided to leave Ur, and so he migrated to Syria and then to Palestine. He was accompanied by Sarah, his wife, and his nephew Lut. While in Palestine, he once traveled to Egypt to invite the people to tawhid, where he encountered a tyrant king. The king wanted to meet Sarah, whom he attempted to seduce, but he failed because of divine protection. Out of amazement and reverence, the king gave Sarah a gift, servant by the name of Hagar, the Coptic.

Returning from Egypt, Ibrahim settled in Canaan. Sarah offered Hagar to Ibrahim in marriage, hoping for Ibrahim’s progeny. Hagar and Ibrahim were soon blessed with a son named Isma‘il, the first born. Later Sarah and Ibrahim were blessed with a son named Ishaq.

The life of Ibrahim was full of challenges, which he was able to accomplish the all due to his sincerity and steadfastness, and being blessed by Allah. He purified the House of Allah, built the Sacred Refuge, submitted his will to Allah’s will, and was bestowed with the title of Hunafah, which was bestowed upon him on birth. His life history depicts his monotheistic nature.

“We indeed gave Ibrāhīm his guidance before, and We were well aware of him.” [Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:51)]

He was promised the leadership of this world, and was permitted to plead for his ummah. He remained at peace while being in the middle of the fire all because of his taqwa. However, all of these achievements were not enough to make him “The Friend of Allah”, and to become the leader of humanity until he passed the final test, a test of his complete submission, sincerity, and love for Allah. The test had to be achieved through a great sacrifice, and the command for that sacrifice came in a dream.

“When he was old enough to walk with him, he said, ‘My son! I have seen in a dream that I am sacrificing you. See what you think.’ He said, ‘My father, do that which you are commanded. You will find me, Allah willing, one of the patient.’” [Surah al-Saffat, 37:102]

Hagar and Isma‘il in Paran

When Isma‘il was still being breast-fed, Prophet Ibrahim was commanded to take Hagar and her son to the valley of Paran (the old name of Makkah). The valley of Paran was an arid land devoid of any water or agriculture. Ibrahim left them at the present site of the Haram, between the two hills of al-Safa and al-Marwa, with only a bag of dates and some water in a water-skin.

Helpless and bewildered, the young mother with her very young child, wondered, and finally asked Ibrahim, if this was the command of Allah. Ibrahim answered her by nodding his head, and quietly left. Hopeful and reassured, Hagar resigned and submitted to the will of Allah, and assured herself that Allah would not forsake her and her child, or deprive them of His mercy.

Speechless and heavy hearted, Ibrahim kept walking quietly until he was out of her sight, and on reaching Thaniya, heartbroken, but ever obedient, he supplicated,

“Our Lord, I have made some of my offspring dwell in an uncultivated valley, close to Your Sacred House, so that, our Lord, they may establish the prayer. So make the people’s hearts turn to them, and provide them with fruits, so that they may be grateful.” [Surah Ibrahim, 14:37]

Soon the waterskin of water and the bag of dates finished. Without any food or drink, both mother and child became weak, and even the mother’s milk became dry. Perceiving that the situation to be dire, the mother, despite the threat to her own life, desperately looked for help for the sake of her child. She began to run and climb to the top of the hills of al-Safa and al-Marwa, calling out for help. She knew from the first time that there was no one around, but she continued her efforts, never giving up hope, however small that hope would be, that there may be someone out there who would respond to her call.

At the end of the seventh run, when she reached al-Marwa, she heard a voice, and then heard it again. So she said, “You, who have caused me to hear your voice, do you have something to help me with?” Behold, she saw an angel digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), until water gushed out from it. Seeing that, she ran, and began to contain the water with sand, saying the words, Zumi, ya mubaraka,”, meaning “Stop there, stop there, blessed water.” This was the beginning of the spring of Zam-zam. She filled the water skin and drank from it, and fed her son. That was enough for a meal!

Ibn Kathir relates that the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.”

Historically, Hagar lived in the valley of Bakkah and shared the water with the family of Jurhum and others, who lived in the valley, but retained the right to control the well. The tradition continued through Isma‘il and his descendants to the present Arabs.

Because of availability of water, people began to settle in that area, and a new community flourished. She raised her son with moral values, and taught him to remain always obedient of Allah and to his father, Ibrahim. Young Isma ‘il became a part of that community, and married into the family of Jurhum.

Prophet Ibrahim would visit Hagar and Isma‘il frequently. During one such visit, he saw a dream in which he was commanded to sacrifice his beloved son Isma‘il. He mentioned his dream to his son to get his feeling about it, and Isma‘il said his father, “Father, do as you have been commanded, and I will be patient concerning it.” Allah says,

“When he was old enough to walk with him, he said, ‘My son! I have seen in a dream that I am sacrificing you. See what you think.’ He said, ‘My father, do that which you are commanded. You will find me, Allah willing, one of the patient.’” [Surah al-Saffat, 37:102]

However, this was emotionally traumatic for both the father and the mother. Ibrahim, Hagar, and Isma‘il discussed the dream, and decided to obey the command. When Ibrahim was ready to slaughter his son, having turned him face down, he heard the call that he had fulfilled the dream, and saw in the place of Isma‘il a ram. It was indeed a monumental ransom, and became the tradition for his progeny and the Muslim ummah.

“Then, when they had both submitted, and he laid him on his forehead, We called out to him, “Ibrahim, you have fulfilled the dream.” Thus, do We reward the virtuous.” [Surah al-Saffat, 37:103-105]

Thus, Allah acknowledged the sincere intention of Ibrahim, and accepted the sacrifice of the ram in lieu of Isma‘il. This emphasized the fact that it is not the material sacrifice that reaches Allah, but it is the taqwa for Allah that reaches Him.

“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is your consciousness of Him that reaches Him.” [Surah al-Hajj, 22:37]

Hajj and Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha is not something that is supplementary to Hajj; rather, Hajj is the journey to visit Ka‘bah in Makkah to perform the rites, while Eid al-Adha is the day of udhiyah, or sacrifice. Udhiyah is an obligatory rite of Hajj for those who make the intention for it.

Eid al-Adha is also the day of celebration of the legacy of Ibrahim. It is a commemoration of his sincere intention to sacrifice his son Isma‘il for Allah’s love. Muslims from around the world also celebrate these days whether or not they are sacrificing any cattle. Udhiyah is not an obligation, but it is highly recommended sunnah, which can be done on behalf of the living members of a family or as a charity for those who have passed away, leaving behind their property.

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Mohammed Siraj Uddin

Mohammed S. Uddin graduated from medical school in 1968 and completed his training in internal medicine and gastroenterology in New York. He taught in medical school and practiced gastroenterology for nearly four decades. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. He is a fellow of the Americal College of Gastroenterology and the American College of Physicians.Full BIO

1 Comment

  • Linda Thayer

    June 19, 2023 - 1:06 pm

    The Ibrahim/ Hajar /Isma’il saga is once more nicely recounted by one of our elders. Brother Uddin has framed this as a ‘family story’ by explicitly including Hajar in a three-way discussion regarding how to proceed after her husband was visited with a dream calling him to an unthinkable challenge involving all three. Ibrahim’s then-only-son of old age was key to Ibrahim’s own legacy of faith in the One God, to be kept alive by a network of worldwide descendants. And yet God seemingly was asking Ibrahim to let go of God’s previous promise, not out of laxity or some oversight in his normal fatherly duty, but rather by taking into his own hand an action that would surely destroy all possibility of what Ibrahim had been promised!
    It is touching to hear the ancient story recounted in modern idiom. As with Dr. Uddin’s previous articles for Aljumuah, Islamic content is made instantly digestible and absorbable. May Allah reward his work and give him many more years to serve the Aljumuah community.

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