This article was first published on October 4, 2014, Issue 10.
On behalf of ISNA Canada, we extend our warmest Eid Mubarak wishes to you and your loved ones on this blessed day of Hajj! May Allah (SWT) accept all our deeds, prayers, fasting, and sadaqa during this blessed month. We also pray that Allah (SWT) accepts the Hajj for those who are on pilgrimage and that He (SWT) provide them with safe passage home. Please do not forget to pray for those who are less fortunate than us. Let us remember those who cannot celebrate Eid because they are either under occupation, in refugee camps, conflict zones, prisons, or in poverty. Ameen.
After a long wait, and at a very old age (86), Prophet Ibrahim (AS) came to Allah (SWT) in prayer, requesting to have a righteous son:
“My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous.” (Chapter 37, Verse 100)
Allah (SWT) granted his request by giving him a son, and when the boy, named Ismail, began working with his father at the mature age of 15, the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) received a vision in his dreams. He then surprised Ismail when he related this vision to him: “Oh my son, I see in my vision that I offer you in sacrifice. Now what is your view?” The forbearing son answered, “Do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah so wills, practicing patience and constancy.” When they both submitted their will to Allah (SWT), and the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) laid his son, prostrating on his forehead, Allah (SWT) called onto him: “O Ibrahim! You already fulfilled the vision! Thus, indeed do we reward those who do right, for this was obviously a great trial.”
“And we ransomed him with a great sacrifice.” (Chapter 37, Verse 107)
Since a great deal of talks, written works, video tapes, YouTube clips, and Facebook posts are available about Hajj, the sacrifice of Prophet Ismail (AS), and related issues, I have chosen to reflect upon the story of the sacrifice of Prophet Ismail (AS) as divinely related to us by Allah (SWT). In fact, the prominent and well-known writer and educationalist Dr. Jasem Al-Mutawa of Kuwait (with an M.A. on the Secrets of Marital Life from the Quran and Sunnah and a Ph.D. on the Methodology of Educational Leadership of Children), raised a series of very interesting questions about the story of Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail:
1) Why has this story been repeated over and over for decades?
2) What is the objective of the sacrifice that we Muslims make every year?
3) How did the story of a father who wanted to sacrifice his son thousands of years ago become an occasion of joy and celebration every year?
Dr. Mutawa came up with 12 educational lessons that parents and teachers can use in today’s world that provides a unique and beneficial guide to the upbringing of children:
1) The response of Ismail to his father shows that both parent and child are clear about the commands of Allah (SWT), particularly that the vision of Prophets are actually commands from Allah (SWT).
2) Listening and obeying the commands of Allah (SWT) was an instant reaction or response from both father and son.
3) The reward of Allah (SWT) was also instantaneous, despite the difficulty of the situation (sacrificing one’s own son), and the fact that they accepted Allah (SWT)’s commands without question.
4) Good deeds usually leave a lasting legacy that remains for centuries, which is why we repeat this story every year.
5) The friendly relationship between the father and the son coupled with the openness that we see between them is something to aspire to.
6) The story shows the successful way of dealing with serious issues, especially when involving teenagers, as Ismail was only 15, and giving the young space to make up their own minds—even with regards to truly serious matters.
7) The exercise of patience in the most difficult of situations faced by both persons is inspiring, especially considering the age of Ismail, as it is practically impossible to expect a child to accept this kind of command.
8) The whole family is affected when one member is tested with tribulation. Given that the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was sonless at the age of 86, siring a child was itself a test. One can also imagine the situation that the boy’s mother had to face if Prophet Ibrahim (AS) actually sacrificed Ismail.
9) Relief always follows a difficult situation. This is reflected in Surat As-Saffat (Chapter 37, Verse 107), “And we ransomed him with a great sacrifice.” It is also reflective in Surat Ash-Sharh (Chapter 94: Verse 5), “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.”
10) How generous Allah (SWT) is to give Prophet Ibrahim (AS) a son at the age of 86, to put them both through such tribulation, and to follow up by providing Prophet Ibrahim (AS) with yet another son, Ishaque.
11) That the descendants of those who obey Allah (SWT) are blessed, as mentioned in Surat As-Saffat (Chapter 37, Verses 112 and 113), “And We gave him good tidings of Isaac, a prophet from among the righteous. And We blessed him and Isaac. But among their descendants is the doer of good and the clearly unjust to himself.” As a result of this blessing from Allah (SWT), the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) came from the progeny of Ismail, and both the Prophet Yaqub (AS) and the Prophet Yusuf (AS) came subsequently from the progeny of Ishaque.
12) Our greatest enemy (the Shaytan), who tried to sway Prophet Ibrahim (AS) from obeying Allah (SWT), ended up being stoned by Prophet Ibrahim (AS). This practice of stoning is one of the major manasik (rituals) of Hajj. Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s disobedience to Shaytaan and his obedience to Allah (SWT) qualified him to be the friend of Allah (Khalil Ar-Rahman).
Dhul Hijjah is always remembered by this story of sacrifice, and almost all the manasik (rituals) of Hajj are an application of the events that took place in this story. We should take note that the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and the Prophet Ismail (AS) has set forth so many great lessons and examples for us to follow during times of great trial and tribulation.