According to Islamic tradition, approximately four thousand years ago, the valley of Mecca (in what is now Saudi Arabia) was a dry, rocky and uninhabited place. Abraham ('Ibraheem in Arabic) was instructed to bring his Egyptian wife Hagar (Hāǧar) and Ishmael, his only child at the time (Ismā'īl), to Arabia from the land of Canaan (in Palestine as well as parts of Lebanon,Jordan,Syria and Sinai) by God's command.
As Abraham was ready to return to Canaan, Hagar asked him, "Did "Allah" (God) order you to leave us here"? When Abraham replied: "Yes, I was directed by Allah" (God), Hagar said, "then Allah will not forget us; you can go". Although Abraham had left a large quantity of food and water with Hagar and Ishmael, the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and dehydration.
Hagar ran up and down between two hills called Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ishmael and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of baby Ishmael. Other accounts have the angel Gabriel (Jibril) striking the earth and causing the spring to flow in abundance. With this secure water supply, known as theZamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.
Years later, Abraham was instructed by God to return from Palestine to build a place of worship adjacent to Hagar's well (the Zamzam Well). Abraham and Ishmael constructed a stone and mortar structure —known as the Kaaba— which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in God. As the years passed, Ishmael was blessed with Prophethood (Nubuwwah) and gave the nomads of the desert his message of submission to God. After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving desert city and a major center for trade, thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zamzam.
One of the main trials of Abraham's life was to face the command of God to devote his dearest possession, his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God's will. During this preparation, Satan (Shaitan) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God's commandment, and Ibrahim and Ishmael drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.
When Ishmael was about 13 (Ibrahim being 99), Allah (God) decided to test their faith in and submission to Allah in public. Both father and son were put through the most difficult test of their love for Allah. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice – an unimaginable act – sacrificing his son, which God had granted him after many years of deep prayer, the one who had been the centre of his affection and love for all these years. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were inspired by Allah, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. This must be what Allah had wanted him to do. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfil God's command and offer his beloved son in sacrifice.
Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for Allah’s sake, he could not just go and drag his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Isma'el had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life as fulfillment to God's command. This consultation would be a major test of Isma'el’s maturity in faith, love and commitment for Allah, willingness to obey his father and sacrifice his own life for the sake of Allah.
Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael’s reaction was absolutely astounding. He did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, “Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha'Allah (God willing), to be very patient.” His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of dad’s dreams, his commitment to Allah, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of Allah were all unprecedented.
When both father and son had shown their perfect obedience to Allah and they had practically demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice their most precious possessions for His sake—Abraham by laying down his son for sacrifice and Ishmael by lying patiently under the knife – Allah called out to them stating that his sincere intentions had been accepted, and that he need not carry out the killing of Ishmael. Instead, Abraham was told to replace his son with a ram to sacrifice instead. Allah also told them that they had passed the test imposed upon them by his willingness to carry out God's command.
This is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an as follows:
"O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!" So We gave him the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when (his son) was old enough to walk and work with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah wills, you will find me one practising patience and steadfastness!" So when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead, We called out to him saying: O Ibraheem! You have indeed fulfilled the vision; surely thus do We reward those who do good. Most surely this was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And We perpetuated (praise) to him among the later generations. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!" Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. Surely he was one of Our believing servants.
As a reward for this sacrifice, Allah then granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his second son, Is-haaq (Isaac):
And We gave him the good news of Is-haaq, a prophet from among the righteous.
Abraham had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God's command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha.
article taken from : wikipedia.org