The Story of Hajj

Long ago about 5000 years ago, in a faraway place called Ur in Iraq, a child was born whose name was Abraham or Ibrahim. He was so gracious, tender-hearted and of pure in faith that Allah gave him wisdom when he was still a child. Allah was so pleased with him that he made him His best friend.

When Abraham grew up, he became a great prophet, and preached the truth and God’s message in his country. Later he traveled to Syria, Palestine and Egypt.

When a beautiful son was born to his wife Hagar, he was ordered by Allah to travel towards Mecca along with his wife and the little child, whose name was Ishmael or Ismail. They all traveled for a long time till they reached a lonely, barren valley, near two small hills called Safa and Marwa. Abraham asked his wife to stay near one of the hills along with the little Ishmael, and started to go away. But his wife protested "Why are you leaving us alone here? Are you leaving us here to die?"

But Abraham replied, "My Lord has commanded me to do this." Then Hagar, breathing a sigh of relief, said: "If Allah has ordered you to do so, then He will not let us die."

After a while, baby Ishmael began to cry for want of water. But there was not a single drop of water to drink. Hagar ran helplessly from one hill to another, but there was no water, nor any human being to give her water. As the baby was crying desperately with thirst and the mother was running from one mountain to another, Allah caused a miracle—a spring gushed forth beneath the feet of Ishmael.

When Hagar saw this from a distance, she shouted "Zam-zam (stay, stay!)." Hagar came running and gave some fresh spring water to the thirsty child to drink. And so his life was saved. This spring later on became famous as Zamzam.

Ishmael and his mother begin to live in the valley and because of the Zamzam spring more people gradually came to settle in the valley, slowly building up a small town, which was later called Mecca.

From time to time Abraham would visit Mecca to meet his family, especially to see his young Ishmael, growing up in the beautiful surroundings of nature—in a lovely valley surrounded by hills, away from the crowded city—away from people of the city who at that time were mostly idol-worshippers.

One night, Abraham dreamt that he was sacrificing his son, Ishmael. This was an order from his Lord. His son was still a child, but Abraham told him about his dream. Ishmael was a brave boy. He was ready to obey the command of God, who had created him. So, without hesitating, he said to his father, "Do what you are commanded, father. Godwilling, you will find me one of the steadfast."

Abraham took his son away to sacrifice him. As he reached a place, which is now known as Mina—a valley near Mecca—Satan appeared and tried to dissuade him. Abraham picked up a few small stones and threw them at Satan.

As Abraham took a knife to sacrifice Ishmael, Allah sent the angel Gabriel (Jibril) with a ram. "Sacrifice this ram. Do not sacrifice Ishmael," said Gabriel to Abraham. Allah was so pleased with this act—the readiness of Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, that He commanded the believers to observe this day as Id al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. Every year Muslims sacrifice an animal in remembrance of the great act of Abraham.

Ishmael grew up a strong and loving youth. Abraham and Ishmael were ordered by Allah to build the House of God—the Kabah in Mecca. Both took stones from the nearby hills and started building the Kabah. As they laid the foundation, they prayed, "Our Lord, accept this from us! You are the All-hearing, the All-seeing." They also prayed for a prophet to be born in their family who would teach wisdom to the people and purify their faith. Their prayer was answered many years later, when the Prophet Muhammad was born to their descendants.

Abraham was ordered by God to clean the Kabah for those who come there to pray, and to call people to Hajj: "Call all people to make the Pilgrimage, they shall come to you on foot and on the backs of swift camels; they shall come from every deep ravine."

And so Allah made it obligatory for every Muslim male and female to go for Hajj once in a lifetime, provided their means and health and wealth. Since then believers from every part of the world go to perform Hajj to fulfill the command of their Lord and to remember the great act of the Prophet Abraham.