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Isma'il (a)

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Isma'il (a)
Name in
the Qur'an:
Name in
the Bible:
Place of Birth: Mecca
Burial place: Hijr Isma'il
Before: Isac
After: Abraham (a)
Well known
Abraham (his father) and Isac (his brother)
Religion: Hanif
Age: 130
Repeat in
the Qur'an:
11 times
Building of Ka'ba, Sacrifice of Isma'il

ʾIsmaʿīl (a) or Ishmael (Arabic: إسماعيل), son of Abraham (a), was a prophet known among Muslims with the title of Dhabih (lit. sacrifice). Based on Islamic hadits, the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad (s) reaches Isma'il (a).

Immigration to Mecca along with his mother, Hajar, emergence of Zamzam Spring as a blessing because of him, being commanded by God to be sacrificed by his father and the construction of Ka'ba are among the most important events in his life.


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!").[1] Some have said that at the time of asking God for a child, Abraham (a) called God with these words.[2] In a research on this name, Arthur Jeffery has mentioned an old root for it and has mentioned similar names in Hebrew, Ethiopian and other Semitic languages.[3]

In Qur'an

The name Isma'il is mentioned in the Qur'an eleven times including the cases of building up Ka'ba by Ibrahim (a) and Isma'il (a) [4], his receiving of revelations, mentioning his name beside the names of other prophets (a)[5], his birth as a blessing of God for Ibrahim (a)[6] and mentioning his virtues and good attributes[7].

In the Qur'an 21:85 [8], Isma'il (a) is mentioned beside the prophets Idris (a) (Enoch) 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.[9]

Isma'il (a), the Sadiq al-Wa'd

Some exegetes have considered Isma'il (a), the Sadiq al-Wa'd (who was true in his promise)[10] the son of Abraham (a) and have mentioned a story of the truth of his promise.[11]

Story of Ishmael (a)

In hadith references, it is mentioned that since Sarah, wife of Abraham (a) was infertile and saw that Abraham (a) was wishful to have children, she asked her servant Hagar marry Abraham (a). Hagar became pregnant and delivered a boy who was called Ishmael.[12]

In many hadiths, the good news of giving a knowledgeable and forgiving child to Abraham (a), mentioned in some verses of the Qur'an[13], is considered to be the good news of giving Ishmael to Abraham (a) and regarded Ishmael having those virtues.[14] Although, there is an agreement over that the birth of Ishmael happened when Abraham (a) was old, there are different opinions about Abraham's (a) age at that time and some have mentioned his age 99 years old at the time of Ishmael's birth.[15]

Ishmael and Isaac

Main article: Isaac (a)

After Ishmael's (a) birth, Sarah who did not have a child felt desirous about Hagar and her child, but after a while God gave her and Abraham (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 Abraham (a) loved Ishmael (a) so much; once Isaac (a) was sitting on Abraham's (a) lap but when Abraham (a) saw Ishmael (a), laid him on the place of Isaac (a).[16] This annoyed Sarah who told Abraham (a) of her dislike about the presence and living Hagar and her son with them and asked Abraham (a) to move them away from the region of Syria; then God ordered Abraham (a) to take Hagar and Ishmael (a) to Mecca.[17]

Entering Mecca

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

Zamzam Spring

Main article: Zamzam

The story continues that when the provisions of Hagar and Ishmael (a) 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 Ishmael (a), so she rushed to him fearing that a wild animal had attacked the child, but astonishingly found that water flew under the feet of Ishmael (a) from a spring which was later called Zamzam.[18] In some references, the spring is also called "the Well of Ishmael (a)."[19]

Learning Arabic

In Islamic Arabic sources, there is a point which links Ishmael's (a) 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 Ishmael's (a) 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.[20]

It is also mentioned in traditions that Ishmael (a) learned Arabic socializing with the people of Jurhum tribe[21] and even when he spoke with his father at the time of building Ka'ba, Abraham (a) spoke in Aramaic in their own language and Ishmael (a) answered him in Arabic and they somehow could understand each other.[22] Ishmael's (a) competence over Arabic has been so much focused in traditions that sometimes he has been mentioned as the first person who spoke Arabic![23] In some traditions, even the first writings in Arabic has been attributed to him.[24]

Building up Ka'ba

One of the most important events of Ishmael's (a) 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 Abraham (a) and Ishmael (a) which have been mentioned in Qur'an 2 verses 125 to 127. It is mentioned in different sources that Abraham (a) came to Mecca to follow God's order for building up the Ka'ba and Ishmael (a) accompanied his father in that.[25]

There are different traditions about this story and sometimes they have even moved towards dramatizing the story.[26] In some hadiths, emigration of Abraham (a), Hagar and Ishmael (a) to Mecca have been fundamentally regarded with the intention of building the Ka'ba.[27]

According to some verses of Qur'an 2[28], during building the Ka'ba, Ishmael (a) 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.[29]


Main article: Sacrifice of Isma'il

There is a famous hadith from the Prophet (s) in which, he (s) has called himself "Ibn al-Dhabihayn" [Son of the Two Sacrifices] with reference to the stories of Ishmael (a) and his father, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abd al-Muttalib.[30]

In explanation of the story of sacrificing, we find in narrations that after building up the Ka'ba, Abraham (a) had a dream in which God ordered him to sacrifice his son; he (a) told Ishmael (a) about his dream and his son accepted to be sacrificed.[31] It is mentioned in the story that when Satan found that Abraham (a) was about to take his son to mount Thubayr to do God's order, tried to delude Ishmael (a) and when failed, went to Hagar and tried hard to deceive her but failed again.

Abraham (a) and Ishmael (a) arrived at the top of the mountain and when Ishmael (a) found his father worried, tried to comfort him and reminded him of his obedience to the order of God. When Abraham (a) put the dagger on Ishmael's (a) 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 Abraham (a) was then ordered to sacrifice a lamb instead of Ishmael (a).[32]


Hijr Isma'il, the burial place of Isma'il and his mother Hagar

According to the Qur'an, Ishmael (a) was a prophet of God and he invited people to the monotheistic message of Abraham (a) against idol worshipping.[33] His name has been frequently mentioned in the Qur'an as one of the prophets (a)[34].

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.[35]

Isaac, the Successor of Ishmael (a)

Hadith collections have mentioned that Ishmael (a) lived 130 years or more and that he was buried in Hijr Isma'il beside Hagar, his mother. Before passing away, Ishmael (a) made a will saying that his daughter marries with Isau, son of Isaac (a) and that Isaac (a) continues his mission.[36] Ishmael (a) passed his responsibilities about the Ka'ba to Nabit, his son.[37]


Among Ishmael's (a) 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.[38]

It is mentioned in different sources that Ishmael (a) is known as one of the ancestor of Arab tribes and the lineage of 'Adnan, the ancestor of many Arab tribes origins in Ishmael (a) and few genealogical sources even mention him as the origin for all Arab tribes even Qahtan Arabs and called him Abu l-'Arab.[39]

According to some narrations, Ishmael (a) is introduced as one of the Arab prophets together with Hud (a), Salih (a), Shu'ayb (a) and the Prophet of Islam (s)[40]; and the Prophet of Islam (s) is considered as the chosen one in his progeny.[41]

See also


  1. Qāmūs al-mʾāni al-āsmaʾ, under the word Ismāʾil.
  2. See: Baghawī, vol. 1, p. 153.
  3. Gesenius, p. 1035; Breit, p. 90.
  4. Qur'an 2:127, وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
  5. Quran 2:133, 136, 140; 3:84, 4:163, 6:86
  6. Quran 14:39
  7. Quran 21:85; 38:48
  8. وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِدْرِيسَ وَذَا الْكِفْلِ كُلٌّ مِّنَ الصَّابِرِينَ
  9. Fakhr al-Rāzī, Al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr, vol. 22, p. 210
  10. Quran 19:54
  11. Baghawī, vol. 3. p. 624; Rāwandī, p. 189; Ṭabrisī, vol. 5. p. 800; Fakhr al-Rāzī, vol. 21, p. 232.
  12. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 256-7
  13. Quran 15:53; 37:101
  14. Kermānī, p. 163-164; Mujāhid, p. 543; Ṭabrisī, vol. 8, p. 810.
  15. Baghawī, vol. 3, p. 386; Zamakhsharī, vol. 2, p. 381; Ibn Saʾd, vol. 1, p. 25.
  16. Masʿūdī, Ithbāt al-waṣīyya, p. 31, Masʿudi mentioned at this time Isaac was three years old.
  17. Azraqī, Akhbār-i Makka, vol. 2, p. 39; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p.253-254.
  18. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 254-258; Bayhaqī, vol. 1, p. 48; Qummī, vol. 1, p. 60-61; Maqdisī, vol. 3, p. 60-62.
  19. Ibn Hishām, vol. 1, p. 116; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 2, p. 251.
  20. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 258; Ibn Qutayba, p. 34; Qummī, vol. 1, p. 61; Ṭabrisī, vol. 1, p. 383; Maqdisī, vol. 1, p. 60.
  21. Bukhārī, vol. 4, p. 115; Bayhaqī, vol. 1, p. 49.
  22. Thaʿlabī, p. 88; Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, vol. 1, p. 330.
  23. Ibn Saʿd, vol. 1, p. 24; Jāḥiz, vol. 3, 144-145; Masʿudī, Al-Tanbīh, p. 70; Balādhurī, vol. 1, p. 6.
  24. Ibn Fāris, p. 10; Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih, vol. 4, p. 157.
  25. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 259-260; Bukhārī, vol. 4, p. 116-117; Azraqī, vol. 2, p. 32; Balādhurī, vol. 1, p. 8.
  26. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 252; Abū l-Futūḥ, vol. 1, p. 329-330.
  27. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 253.
  28. verses 127-129.
  29. Akhfash, vol. 1, p. 336; Bukhārī, vol. 4, p. 116; Ṭūsī, vol. 1, p. 461-462; Fakhr al-Rāzī, vol. 4, p. 63 and on; Qurṭubī, vol. 2, p. 114.
  30. Ibn Bābawayh, vol. 1, p. 56.
  31. Yaʿqubi, vol. 1, p. 264-267; Ṭabrisī, vol. 8, p. 710-711.
  32. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 274-275; Ṭabrisī, vol. 8, p. 710-711.
  33. Ibn Hishām, vol. 1, p. 79; Azraqī, vol. 1, p. 116.
  34. Qurʾān 2:136; Qurʾān 3:84, Qurʾān 4:163, Qurʾān 6:86
  35. Baghawī, vol. 3, p. 624; Masʾūdī, Akhbār, p. 103; Ṭūsī, vol. 7, p. 133; Ibn Athīr, vol. 1, p. 125.
  36. Masʿūdī, Ithbāt, p. 35; Thaʿlabī, p. 100.
  37. Ibn Athīr, vol. 2, p. 42.
  38. Dīnawarī, p.9; Thaʿlabī. compare it with Genesis 25:13-15.
  39. Ibn Hishām, vo. 1, p. 8; Masʿūdī, Ithbāt, p. 34; Maqdisī, vol. 4, p. 105.
  40. Al-Mufīd, al-Ikhtiṣāṣ, p. 264-265; Ibn Qutayba, p. 56; Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih, vol. 3, p. 405;
  41. Ibn Hishām, vol. 1, p. 4; Ibn Saʾd, vol. 1, part. 1, p. 2; Ahmad b. Hanbal, vol. 4, p. 107; Tirmidhi, vol. 5, p. 583; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, vol. 7, p. 165; Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih, vol. 5, p. 89; Ibn ʿAnda, p. 59.


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