The Sacrifice of Ibrahim and Isma’il

The Sacrifice of Ibrahim and Isma`il

By Dr. Munir El-Kassem

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

All the Praise is to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. Peace and Blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad His Messenger.


The syi’ar of the sacrifice during `Eidil-Adha takes us back in history about 4000 years ago to the time of a 97-year-old man when he saw in his dream as a command to sacrifice his 13–year-old son.

Who is that man? And who is that boy? And who is the one who is making this request? If we know who the three points in this equation are, we would have a better perspective on life and on what life is all about.

The man who was asked at 97 years of age to take the life of a 13-year-old boy is none other than the Khalil (close friend of Allah), the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), and the father of the prophets and messengers of nations. And the 13-year-old boy whose life Ibrahim was asked to take is none other than his own son, Isma’il by his wife Hajar. Ibrahim had waited for 83 years to see him walk around him, touch him, and give him the pleasure of being a father.

All of us know what that means; all of us know what it really means for your son or daughter to come and show his or her love that he or she possesses for you.

But when the boy reached the age when he was able to run and play around his father, Ibrahim went to him and said, “My son, I saw in my dream that I was sacrificing you.”  In respond Isma`il (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

 “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the patient”

[As-Saffat, 37:102].

Now, we know that Allah, who made that request?  The One Who created life had asked Ibrahim to take the life of his son away. And we know that His decree was that Ismail’s life would not be taken away, but it was a lesson for humanity to understand what life is all about.

We know that the dreams of prophets and messengers are forms of revelation from Allah Almighty. So it was the truth.

Allah wanted Ibrahim to teach humanity a lesson. Thus, we have to understand this lesson and reflect upon it. We are reminded that there is no room for sentiments that go against the commands of Allah which Ibrahim submitted to the command of Allah even though he had only dream it but took it as a command from Allah to sacrifice his own son. The submission of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail made Allah substituted with a sheep that become hallmark of Muslim sacrifice today.

We should note that there are two things in life that Allah Almighty made beautiful in this life. These two things are mentioned in the Qur’an more than once:

“Wealth and children are an ornament of the life of the world.”

[Al-Kahf, 18:46]

That is it! Wealth and children make life beautiful. Look what happened! Allah Almighty chose one individual to sacrifice one of these two things, and He did not ask any other human being to do the same. One individual was enough to sacrifice one of these two things, and that is his child, and He asked all of us to sacrifice the second one, wealth, so that by seeing how one man was able to do something which we cannot, we are able to sacrifice the second of the ornaments of life. It was because Ibrahim passed the test, Allah Almighty called him an ummah (one man equal to a whole nation, a whole ummah).

Why one individual was became an ummah? This is because Ibrahim passed the test of a whole ummah. He was asked to sacrifice one of the two things that are ornaments of life, and all of us have been asked to sacrifice the second. It was because of that, he indeed, is an ummah in the same way that we are an ummah. He truly deserves that title:

“Lo! Abraham was an ummah, obedient to Allah.”

[An-Nahl 16:120]

This is the spirit of `Eidil-Adha. We have to sacrifice, when we are called upon to sacrifice what we really like to keep:

“Ye will not attain unto Birr (piety and perfect goodness) until ye spend of that which ye love.”

[Al `Imran 3:92]

If you have a lot of money and you take a thousand dollars and give it, this would not be birr. Birr is to have two dollars and to give one of the dollars away although you need the two dollars and would like to keep them for essentials. This is a sacrifice. Sacrifice is to do something that is difficult to do. It is not a sacrifice when one chose to do an easy thing and then to appear at the surface as if you did a lot. No, only Allah Almighty knows what it is all about. So, after the conclusion of this Solah Eidil-Adha, let’s go and consider what we really need to sacrifice. Each one of us has an Isma`il in his or her life that needs to be sacrificed—each one of us!


The Article is based on a Friday sermon delivered by Dr. Munir El-Kassem on January 21, 2005 at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, Ontario, Canada, published in Islam Online on 26 Dec. 2005             

Dr. Munir El-Kassem is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, Canada. Since his arrival in Canada from Beirut in 1976, Dr. El-Kassem has been actively involved in Islamic da`wah. He has also participated in interfaith dialogue and appeared on numerous radio and TV programs. He hosts a weekly radio show, Islamic Perspectives, on 1290 CJBK. He is also the author of many Islamic books, and is a visiting imam at a number of Islamic centers across Ontario, Canada. He is also the Muslim chaplain at the University of Western Ontario.

[Excerpted from Islam Online]


About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

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