When we think of Eid-ul-Adha, the first things that come to mind are the Hajj pilgrimage, udhiya (sacrifice), and the blessed first ten days of the month of Dhul Hijjah. Eid-ul-Adha is our much-awaited holiday after Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr. It is a festival commemorating everything about the an important pillar of Islam - Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to Makkah performed at least once in a lifetime by able bodied Muslims. But the historical foundations of Hajj are closely tied to a different kind of journey: parenting. The very rituals of the pilgrimage honor the sacrifices of both a father and a mother – namely Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him, and his wife, Hajar, may Allah be pleased with her. However, the story’s deep connection to family begin even further back with a barren couple’s longing for a righteous child.
The Ultimate Gift
The supplication of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, is mentioned in the Quran in Surah As-Saffat:
“My Lord! Bless me with righteous offspring.”
(Surah As-Saffat, 37:100)
Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and his wife, Sarah, were not able to conceive a child and this grieved them both. They were getting older and Sarah understood the importance of an heir to continue the legacy of prophethood. She was a woman who loved her husband but she placed the needs of the believers first. Eventually, Allah would bless Sarah with her own child, but before this, Prophet Ibrahim and Hajar had a baby boy. As any man who yearned to become a father, Ibrahim,, was overjoyed. His son’s name was Ismail (Ishmael), peace be upon him, and he was destined to become a Prophet, too. But before that took place, he and his father would have to face many a grievous trial. Allah says in the Quran,
“So, We gave him good news of a forbearing son. Then when the boy reached the age to work with him, Ibrahim said, ‘O my dear son! I have seen in a dream that I ˹must˺ sacrifice you. So, tell me what you think.’ He replied, ‘O my dear father! Do as you are commanded. Allah willing, you will find me steadfast.’”
When both he and his son, Ismail, peace be upon them, submitted in obedience, Allah sent down a ram to be slaughtered instead. Thus, an integral part of the Eid-ul-Adha celebration is sacrificing livestock to honor the love of a father for his child and vice versa and also to honor their firm obedience to Allah.
One would think that a father would have doubts about carrying out such an act, even if he knew that it was for the sake of Allah. Shaytan tried to tempt Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, as is understood and symbolized by one of the rituals of the Hajj pilgrimage – the stoning of the Jamarat.
Stoning the Jamarat, which represent the Shaytan, is one of the obligatory rituals of Hajj that has been documented in the Sunnah and agreed upon by scholars. Sheikh Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy on him, said,
“As for the stoning of the Jamarat, the purpose behind it is to follow the command and manifest submission and servitude to Allah, and show complete obedience without rational thought or the ego having any part in it. The aim is also to imitate Ibrahim, peace be upon him, when Iblis/Shaytan (may Allah curse him) appeared to him in that place to instill confusion in his mind or tempt him to sin, and Allah commanded him to throw stones at him so as to drive him away and dash his hopes.”
(Ihya Uloom al-Deen, 1/270)
A Mother’s Courage
Parenting is a lifelong trial of ups and downs, and we know that Prophet Ibrahim’s, peace be upon him, tests with his children were plentiful. The incident of the sacrifice happened when Ismail was no more than 13 years old, however, prior to that, Prophet Ibrahim had been ordered to abandon Ismail when he was only an infant. Imagine praying for a baby for years, and when you finally have him in your arms, you are told that you must leave him and his mother in the middle of the desert. That is exactly what happened to Prophet Ibrahim. Ibn Abbas narrated that Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“… Ibrahim brought (Hajar) and her son Ismail while she was suckling him, to a place near the Kaba under a tree on the spot of Zamzam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Makkah, nor was there any water. He made them sit and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small waterskin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ismail's mother followed him saying, ‘O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?’ 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…’”
Hajar, may Allah be pleased with her, displayed her bravery at that moment and placed her trust in Allah. Although she was a married woman, she had to face the life of a single mother. She found herself alone with a baby in the middle of nowhere and was forced to fend for herself. In the distance as he walked away from his wife and the only child he had ever known, Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, prayed for them. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, continued telling Hajar’s story:
“When the water in the waterskin had all been used up, she became thirsty, and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him tossing in agony. She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the mountain of Marwa where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times. This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (Safa and Marwa) during the Hajj…”
Hajar, may Allah be pleased with her, eventually heard the voice of the Angel Jibril (Gabriel), peace be upon him, calling out to her. He dug the earth with his heel and water sprang forth. It was Hajar who built a basin around it to contain the water and this is where the well of Zamzam was born. People began flocking to that area and settling there thanks to the well of Hajar. Pilgrims to Makkah to this day drink from this same blessed water that quenched the thirst of a nursing mother, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim and mother of Prophet Ismail – the ancestors of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them all. What a noble family!
Father and Son Working Together
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, continued his narration of the story:
“Ibrahim stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them afterwards. He saw Ismail under a tree near Zamzam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw Ibrahim, he rose up to welcome him. Ibrahim said, 'O Ismail! Allah has given me an order.' Ismail said, 'Do what your Lord has ordered you to do.' Ibrahim asked, 'Will you help me?' Ismail said, 'I will help you.' Ibrahim said, Allah has ordered me to build a house here, 'pointing to a hillock higher than the land surrounding it.’ Then they raised the foundations of the House (the Kabba). Ismail brought the stones and Ibrahim was building, and when the walls became high, Ismail brought this stone and put it for Ibrahim who stood over it and carried on building, while Ismail was handing him the stones, and both were saying, 'O our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily, You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing' (recorded in Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:127). They circled the Kabba repeating the same.”
Prophet Ismail, peace be upon him, loved and respected his father even though he was raised until that point by his mother. It was Allah’s Will that he settle in Makkah, learn Arabic, and become a leader to prepare him to help Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, later. The father and son duo had the honor of building the Kabba, as a House of worship for the sake of Allah. As they worked together, they prayed asking Allah to accept it and make it a means of blessings for future generations. Allah says in the Quran:
“And (remember) when Ibrahim raised the foundation of the House with Ismail, (both praying), ‘Our Lord! Accept this from us. You are indeed the All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Our Lord! Make us both (fully) submit to You and from our descendants a nation that will submit to you. Show us our rituals and turn to us in grace. You are truly the Accepter of Repentance, Most Merciful.’”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:127-128)
Indeed, Allah responded to their supplications and outlined the Hajj rituals in the Quran (especially in Surah Al Hajj, 2:1-18).
Hajj Rituals Tied to Family
We know that Eid-ul-Adha is our holiday and a time for celebration. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“The day of Arafat, the day of sacrifice, and the three following days of al-Tashriq are celebrations for the people of Islam. They are days of eating and drinking.”
Many of us spend these days with our families and we celebrate those who were able to go on the annual pilgrimage to Makkah. But family has more to do with Eid-ul-Adha than just the people we are gathering with now.
Look at the following Hajj rituals and what they have to do with beautiful family bonds in the Quran:
- Traveling to Makkah: Makkah is the place where Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, left his wife, Hajar, and their son, Ismail. They settled there despite it being a barren desert. Then Allah blessed them with the well of Zamzam and Arabs who gathered and settled there.
- The Call for Hajj: Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail – father and son, peace be upon them – built the Kabba together. Allah orders them to proclaim the Hajj pilgrimage.
- Tawaf around the Kaba: Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail – father and son, peace be upon them – circumambulate the Kabba after building it. Allah says in the Quran:
“And We commanded Ibrahim and Ismail that they should purify My House (the Kabba at Makkah) for those who are circumambulating it, or staying (I‘tikaf), or bowing or prostrating themselves (there, in prayer).”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:125)
- Running between Safa and Marwah and the water of Zamzam: Hajar’s desperate search for water to quench her thirst and feed her infant nursling, Ismail, peace be upon him, when they were left in the valley of Makkah alone.
- Standing at Arafah: It is said to be the place where Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, reunited with his wife, Hawwa (Eve), the place where Ibrahim was to sacrifice his son, Ismail, peace be upon them, and where he stood to call the people to Hajj. It is also where the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, gave his Last Sermon.
- The companion, Yazid ibn Shayban, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
“We were standing in Arafah… Ibn Mirba’ al-Ansari came to us and said, ‘I am the messenger of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who says to you: ‘Stay where you are (for it is also the place of standing), for you are standing in the area where your father Ibrahim stood.’”
- Stoning the Jamarat: This ritual is a reenactment of Prophet Ibrahim’s fight against the temptations of Shaytan to disobey Allah regarding the sacrificing of his son, Ismail, peace be upon them.
- Slaughtering the sacrificial animal (Udhiya/Qurbani): Symbolizes the ram that took the place of Ismail when Prophet Ibrahim was commanded to sacrifice him, peace be upon them. This whole incident proved their sincerity in submitting to Allah alone despite their love for one another.
Leaving Behind a Legacy
When we think about the Prophets and Messengers of Allah, we do not always remember that before and during prophethood, many were also parents. Their stories included throughout the Quran are lessons for those of us who are caregivers. Likewise, the Sunnah is rich with examples of good parenting practices as demonstrated by the best of mankind, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Eid-ul-Adha is a celebration of his forefather, Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, who was an exceptional prophet, leader, son, and father. It is also a salute to those great women, Sarah and Hajar, may Allah be pleased with them, who sacrificed their own comforts for the greater good. This family understood the importance of building for the future in the hopes of obtaining the pleasure of their Lord and the best recompense of Paradise in the Hereafter.
When we are celebrating this Eid together with our families, let us remember their legacy and say a prayer for them as they did for us.
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.