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Isma'il (a)

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Ismaʿīl (a) (Arabic: إسماعيل), son of Ibrahim (a), was a prophet known among Muslims with the title of Dhabih (lit. sacrifice). He and his father founded Ka'ba by the order of God. The lineage of the Prophet of Islam (s) reaches him.


In Islamic sources, the origin of the name is considered non-Arabic and made of the two parts "Isma'" and "Il" (literally meaning "heared the God!"). Some have said that at the time of asking God for a child, Ibrahim (a) called God with these words. In a research on this name, Arthur Jefri has mentioned an old root for it and has mentioned similar names in Hebrew, Ethiopian and other Semitic languages.

In the Qur'an

The name Isma'il is mentioned in the Qur'an 11 times including the cases of building up Ka'ba by Ibrahim (a) and Isma'il (a) (Qur'an 2:127)[Note 1], his receiving of revelations, mentioning his name beside the names of other prophets (a)[1], his birth as a blessing of God for Ibrahim (a)[2] and mentioning his virtues and good attributes[3].

In the Qur'an (21:85)[Note 2], Isma'il (a) is mentioned beside the prophets Idris (a) and Dhu l-Kifl (a) among the patient and some exegetes have mentioned his obedience in laying his head down for sacrifice a sign of his patience.

Isma'il, the Sadiq al-Wa'd

Some exegetes have considered Isma'il, the Sadiq al-Wa'd (who was true in his promise)[4] the son of Ibrahim (a) and have mentioned a story of the truth of his promise.

Story of Isma'il (a)

In hadith references, it is mentioned that since Sarah, wife of Ibrahim (a) was infertile and saw that Ibrahim (a) was wishful to have children, she asked her servant Hagar marry Ibrahim (a). Hagar became pregnant and delivered a boy who was called Isma'il.[5]

In many hadiths, the good news of giving a knowledgeable and forgiving child to Ibrahim (a), mentioned in some verses of the Qur'an[6], is considered to be the good news of giving Isma'il to Ibrahim (a) and regarded Isma'il having those virtues. Although, there is an agreement over that the birth of Isma'il happened when Ibrahim (a) was old, there are different opinions about Ibrahim's (a) age at that time and some have mentioned his age 99 years old at the time of Isma'il's birth.

Isma'il and Ishaq

Main article: Ishaq (a)

After Isma'il's birth, Sarah who did not have a child felt desirous about Hagar and her child, but after a while God gave her and Ibrahim (a) the good news about a child and Sarah too delivered a child while she was old and they called the boy Isaac (Ishaq). It is mentioned in hadiths that Ibrahim (a) loved Isma'il so much; once Isaac was sitting on Ibrahim's (a) lap but when Ibrahim (a) saw Isma'il, laid him on the place of Isaac. This annoyed Sarah who told Ibrahim (a) of her dislike about the presence and living Hagar and her son with them and asked Ibrahim (a) to move them away from the region of Syria; then God ordered Ibrahim (a) to take Hagar and Isma'il to Mecca.

Entering Mecca

According to Islamic traditions, Ibrahim (a) accompanied Hagar and Isma'il on the way using the guidance of Gabriel until they arrived at a barren land of Mecca; then Gabriel informed Ibrahim (a) that God's promised land was there. After entering Mecca, Ibrahim (a) left Hagar and Isma'il there and returned to Syria.

Zamzam Spring

Main article: Zamzam

The story continues that when the provisions of Hagar and Isma'il finished, the child became very thirsty and Hagar rushed and searched around for water and ran the distance between Mount Safa and Mount Marwa seven times but did not find any water.

The last time on the run, she heard a voice comes around Isma'il, so she rushed to him fearing that a wild animal had attacked the child, but astonishingly found that water flew under the feet of Isma'il from a spring which was later called Zamzam. In some references, the spring is also called "the Well of Isma'il."

Learning Arabic

In Islamic Arabic sources, there is a point which links Isma'il's destiny with Arabs' destiny and that is his joining to Jurhum tribe from Ba'ida Arabs which made him Arab and then he was known as an Arabized immigrant.

According to historical traditions, a while after Isma'il's coming to Mecca, that barren land became habitable thanks to Zamzam spring and the Jurhum tribe who either passed by that place on their way for annual immigration or, according to some, lived near Mecca, inhabited there when they found out that there is water there.

It is also mentioned in traditions that Isma'il learned Arabic socializing with the people of Jurhum tribe and even when he spoke with his father at the time of building Ka'ba, Ibrahim (a) spoke in Aramaic in their own language and Isma'il answered him in Arabic and they somehow could understand each other. Isma'il's competence over Arabic has been so much focused in traditions that sometimes he has been mentioned as the first person who spoke Arabic! In some traditions, even the first writings in Arabic has been attributed to him.

Building up Ka'ba

One of the most important events of Isma'il's life was his assistance to his father for building up the Ka'ba. Islamic narrations have extensively discussed the story of building up the Ka'ba as the house of God and purifying it from all impurities by Ibrahim (a) and Isma'il (a) which have been mentioned in Sura al-Baqara verses 125 to 127. It is mentioned in different sources that Ibrahim (a) came to Mecca to follow God's order for building up the Ka'ba and Isma'il (a) accompanied his father in that.

There are different traditions about this story and sometimes they have even moved towards dramatizing the story. In some hadiths, emigration of Ibrahim (a), Hagar and Isma'il (a) to Mecca have been fundamentally regarded with the intention of building the Ka'ba.

According to some verses from the Sura al-Baqara[7], during building the Ka'ba, Isma'il followed his father when he (a) prayed to God for directing his progeny to the right path and his request for rising a prophet among them.


There is a famous hadith from the Prophet (s) in which, he (s) has called himself "Ibn al-Dhabihayn" [Son of the Two Sacrificesw] with reference to the stories of Isma'il and his father, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abd al-Muttalib.

In explanation of the story of sacrificing, we find in narrations that after building up the Ka'ba, Ibrahim (a) had a dream in which God ordered him to sacrifice his son; he (a) told Isma'il about his dream and his son accepted to be sacrificed. It is mentioned in the story that when Satan found that Ibrahim (a) was about to take his son to mount Thubayr to do God's order, tried to delude Isma'il and when failed, went to Hagar and tried hard to deceive her but failed again.

Ibrahim (a) and Isma'il (a) arrived at the top of the mountain and when Isma'il found his father worried, tried to comfort him and reminded him of his obedience to the order of God. When Ibrahim (a) put the dagger on Isma'il's neck, an unseen voice ordered him to stop. Then, the order of God revealed to him that God put a lamb as sacrifice in return for their patience and honesty and Ibrahim (a) was then ordered to sacrifice a lamb instead of Isma'il.


According to the Qur'an, Isma'il was a prophet of God and he invited people to the monotheistic message of Ibrahim (a) against idol worshipping. His name has been frequently mentioned in the Qur'an as one of the prophets (a)[8].

According to narrations, the purpose of his prophethood was to guide people of Jurhum, Yemen tribes, and Amalek. During 50 years, he preached his divine mission among them and invited them to perform prayer and give zakat and prohibited them from worshipping idols but just few of them accepted his guidance.

Isaac, the Successor of Isma'il

Hadith collections have mentioned that Isma'il lived 130 years or more and that he was buried in Hijr Isma'il beside Hagar, his mother. Before passing away, Isma'il made a will saying that his daughter marries with Isau, son of Isaac (a) and that Isaac (a) continues his mission. Isma'il passed his responsibilities about the Ka'ba to Nabit, his son.


Among Isma'il's twelve sons, Qaydar, Madyan, and Adbil are more famous. Madyan emigrated to a land in North which was later known with his name as Madyan (Midian) and Shu'ayb (a) was chosen among his children as a prophet.

It is mentioned in different sources that Isma'il is known as one of the ancestor of Arab tribes and the lineage of 'Adnan, the ancestor of many Arab tribes origins in Isma'il and few genealogical sources even mention him as the origin for all Arab tribes even Qahtan Arabs and called him Abu l-'Arab.

According to some narrations, Isma'il is introduced as one of the Arab prophets together with Hud (a), Salih (a), Shu'ayb (a) and the Prophet of Islam (s)[9]; and the Prophet of Islam (s) is considered as the chosen one in his progeny.

See also


  1. Quran 2:133, 136, 140; 3:84, 4:163, 6:86
  2. Quran 14:39
  3. Quran 21:85; 38:48
  4. Quran 19:54
  5. Al-Tabari, al-Tarikh, Vol.1, P.256-7
  6. Quran 15:53; 37:101
  7. Verses 127-9
  8. Sura al-Baqara:136; Sura Al 'Imran:84, Sura al-Nisa':163, Sura al-An'am:86
  9. Al-Mufid, al-Ikhtisas, PP.264-5
  1. وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
  2. وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِدْرِيسَ وَذَا الْكِفْلِ كُلٌّ مِّنَ الصَّابِرِينَ


  • Al-Quran al-Karim
  • The material for this article is mainly taken from اسماعیل (ع) in Farsi Wikishia.
  • Al-Mufid. Al-Ikhtisas, Ed. 'Ali Akbar Ghaffari, Qom, Jami'at al-Mudarrisin