THE VOICE WITHIN
For three nights in a row, Abraham had the same vision – that he was sacrificing his son Ishmael for the sake of Allah. In a vision earlier, he had been commanded to raise the foundations of sacred Kaaba at Makkah. After facing great hardship in the desolate, barren desert, Abraham had barely completed the holy task when he was visited by the new, recurring vision.
After the first night, he sacrificed a herd of camels and distributed the flesh amongst the poor. After the second night too, he did the same, thinking Allah wanted more sacrifice from him.
But when the same vision came the third time, Abraham called for his son and said, “O my son! I have seen thee being sacrificed in a dream. What sayest thou?”
Ishmael knew that his father was a prophet of God, that his visions showed the true path. Without the slightest hesitation or qualm, he replied, “O my father! Do what thou art commanded. If God please, thou wilt find me of the patient ones.”
Abraham’s wife received the news calmly. Her faith in her husband as a man of perfect character and an apostle of God was unshakable. She began making preparations, giving her son a ceremonial bath and new clothes to wear.
The father meanwhile sharpened his knife for the sacrifice. Soon the time came for father and son to depart. The mother gave the young man a farewell kiss on the forehead, her submission to the will of the Lord complete.
As they moved towards the altar, Satan got to work. He first tried to dissuade the young man, asking him why should he sacrifice his life to effect a mere dream of his father. But the youth was pure and resolute in his faith, turning a deaf ear to Satan’s arguments.
Satan then turned upon the mother, upbraiding her for sending her only son to his death to satisfy the mad dream of her husband. She too stood firm, heedless to the devious words that sought to shake and weaken her faith.
At the altar, the son threw himself prostrate. Abraham had blindfolded himself, lest his parental love should come in the way. With a steady and sure hand, he applied the knife to his son’s throat. A divine fervour seized him, his soul and entire being was alight in praising Allah: “My prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death are all for God, the Lord of the worlds”.
Time seemed to stand still. The very angels in heaven stood transfixed at the scene unfolding below. The father was about to cut the throat of his son, when the miracle happened.
In a flash, a huge ram appeared where Ishmael’s neck should have been. A divine voice told Abraham that his vision has been fulfilled and his ‘sacrifice’ accepted. The father and the son fell down in prayer, praising their Lord.
In the midst of his thanksgiving, Abraham realized what his vision truly meant, the ture of the sacrifice that merciful Allah had wanted of him. He had to be ready to give up the highest of love a father can have, which is the love for his son — that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him because his love for the Lord superseded everything else.
And he had emerged triumphant from that trial. Abraham would henceforth be remembered and cherished as the Father of Prophets. Ishmael and his descendents would go on to found a great tion.
The exemplary sacrifice by father and son, their complete submission to the will of God, would inspire the generations after them. They would understand that all blessings come from Allah, which they should be ever ready to share freely and joyfully with others.