Retelling the story of festival of sacrifice – Part II
O! Ibrahim, you have indeed fulfilled the vision; this indeed is how We reward the good-doers (Quran 37: 105)
As soon as Prophet Ibrahim departs, baby Ismail began to cry for sustenance, for water. His mother could not bear the sight of pain her child was experiencing. Thus, she began to run in-between the two hills in the area; in between Safa and Marwa. By the time she completed the seventh run, she discovered that some semblance of water had started gushing out from the spot where the heels of her baby was kicking on the ground. She then rushed to the spot. Lo! And behold, it was water. Water was gushing out from under Ismail’s heels. She then knelt beside the spot. She began to dig at the spot. She began to shout, in excitement missed with desperation and laced with hope saying- ‘Zum-zum’ -pour out, pour out’.
Thanks to his (Prophet Ibrahim) departure, or rather disappearance, the search for sustenance was undertaken by He who could provide it. Hajar ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa looking at far distances for water, for sustenance, not knowing that al-Raziq had already decided to provide their subsistence from a spot nearby, from under the hills of her child. Thus, by saying ‘zum-zum’, little spots of water became a fountain. By saying ‘zum-zum’, the water became known as ‘Zam-zam’. Yes. We often embark in long search for solutions to our earthly challenges though the real solutions is very near to us; we often look up to men and women to assist us overcome our challenges not knowing that the real “Solver” of problems had already concluded on lifting us up from the abyss of want and fear.
But that was only an icing on the cake. While running between the two hills of Safa and Marwa, little did Hajar know that her running was going to be memorialized; that nothing goes to waste in service of the Almighty; that the woman who cares for her child in truth and focuses only on the Almighty, shall be given dividends for her ‘investments’ when the ‘moon’ is full. Thus, whenever the Hujjaj go on pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah, whenever pilgrims run between the Safa and Marwa, whenever they drink from the Zamzam water in the Kaabah, they are commemorating and celebrating the miracle that occurred eons and ages ago when water gushed from behind the heels of baby Ismail. While the baby was tapping his heels against the ground, her mother did not know that he was actually knocking on the door of eternal sustenance for Arabia. When the door eventually opened, when water started gushing out from the spot where he was laid, it marked the opening up of Makkah for new subjectivities. It was the beginning of the story in which the baby Ismail, was destined to be, together with his father, Prophet Ibrahim, actors and exemplars for humanity till eternity.
Then all of a sudden, Prophet Ibrahim showed up again. He showed up after baby Ismail had become a teenager. He showed up after his son had reached the age of discernment. The Almighty presents the story thus: “And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am sacrificing you to the Almighty, so what do you think of that!”. Then the son responded: “O my father! Do that which you are commanded, by His will, you shall find me of among the patient ones” (Quran 37: 102).
Father and son soon reached a consensus on the necessity to not ask any question once the desire of the Almighty is at issue. Now what about Ismail’s mother? What was her opinion? How did she react when she heard that her only child was going to be sacrificed?
Her reaction was one of submission and contentment with the Almighty’s desire. Hajar was not and could not have been like women of today. She knew that her family belonged to Him, the Almighty; she knew that the Almighty gives and grants; it is He who gives and withholds. She therefore bore the potential grief of the loss of her only child with equanimity. She held her tongue from muttering imprecations and indecencies. She stood beside her husband, not against him, while he set out to carry out a mission that had been destined to be other than what he thought he saw. In other words, the mission the Almighty actually wanted Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) to carry out for generations after him was the slaughtering of animals as sacrifice to the Almighty, not his son.
Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) could not have known this ahead of time; there is just no way of knowing the unknowable in the works of the inimitable.
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Afis Ayinde Oladosu Ph.D
Professor of Middle Eastern, North African
and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts,
University of Ibadan, Nigeria