After finding true faith and refuting the false nature of paganism in his community, Ibrahim ('alayhi salam) found that he had very few followers. They were a woman named Sarah and his nephew Lot ('alayhi salam).
With Sarah, who he took as his wife, and nephew Lot ('alayhi salam), he was inspired to migrate to another place to continue his mission work. His travels led him to the holy land, Palestine, for some time, then to Egypt, and eventually to Makkah.
What happened along that journey is what I want us to look at because it has everything to do with family.
Along their way to Egypt, Sarah was gifted a handmaid, named Hajar, by the tyrant ruler who accosted her. Because Sarah was unable to have children, she suggested that Ibrahim ('alayhi salam) marry her as a second wife so they could start a family.
Ibrahim ('alayhi salam) married Hajar, who was much younger than Sarah, and they were blessed with a son, Isma’il ('alayhi salam). This led to some serious feelings of jealousy in Sarah. It was so profound that Allāh instructed Ibrahim ('alayhi salam) to take both Hajar and Isma’il ('alayhi salam) to Makkah and to leave them there.
This story highlights a very important lesson from the life of Ibrahim ('alayhi salam).
In the ḥadīth collection of al-Bukhari, Ibn Abbas narrates that Ibrahim ('alayhi salam) brought her and her son Ishma'il ('alayhi salam), while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka`bah under a tree at the location of Zamzam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water. He made them stay there leaving only a leather bag of dates and a small water-skin. He then set out homeward.
Ishma'il's ('alayhi salam) mother followed him saying, "O Ibrahim! Where are you going? You are leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything else?" She repeated that several times. He did not respond. Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us".
Done, that’s it! Case closed. Hajar needed nothing further.
Did Allāh command you to do it? Yes. Then, it will all work out!
Because of Ibrahim’s unwavering faith in and dedication to Allāh, Hajar, a woman of strong faith herself, was fully confident in her husband’s actions when she was reminded of the source of his inspiration.
Though the environment didn’t look the part, she felt safe and secure knowing that Allāh was ultimately behind the decision. And because of her husband's strong devotion to Allah, she had no reason to doubt his response.
It was there in the desert with her newborn son, that she uncovered the well of zamzam. Not only did that provide her with the sustenance they needed to survive but it allowed them to establish themselves and build the city of Makkah. Because of that well, the Arabic-speaking people of Jurhum were attracted to the region. This would go on to create the Arabic-speaking environment essential to Allah's revelation of the Qur'an to our Prophet Muhammad (sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam).
After learning the Arabic language, Ismāʿil married into this very tribe. It is through this bloodline that our Prophet's lineage is traced.
Think about the relationship between Ibrahim, his wife Hajar and son Isma’il. The time they spent together was not near as much as he spent with Sarah. That did not however detract from the richness of their relationship.
This incident reveals a deeply profound relationship not only between the members of this family but between each family member and Allāh.
It is obvious that they not only had certain faith in Allāh but complete trust in one another.
After all, he who is not trustworthy has no faith!
The lesson we can learn here is as follows.
Having strong faith in Allāh, leads others to have faith in you.
This is what forms the bedrock of a strong family.
I’m not suggesting that this is all you need for an enriching family experience, but it certainly is a fundamental element.
Each family member’s unwavering faith in Allāh is what gave them confidence in one another.
When someone is devoted to Allāh, especially within a family setting, the other trusts that they will not be harmed nor betrayed. They are confident that the other will always have their best interests in mind and will want for them what they want for themselves. They can trust that the other's heart is in the right place and that their decisions are guided by revelation and not mere lust and desire.
Having strong faith in Allāh creates a sense of responsibility that is needed to keep each other accountable to not only Allāh but to one another.
That accountability creates the sense of security needed to trust each other.
There is a connection between these three things; faith, trust, and safety.
And it has everything to do with the supplication of Ibrahim ('alayhi salam) to make that land a secure place when he said what means,
"My Lord, make this city [i.e., Makkah] secure and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols. (Ibrahim 14:35).
It’s not that the land is secure in itself, but it’s the people who dwell there. Ibrahim ('alayhi salam) knew that safety and security, are the result of mutual trust inspired by true faith and so he sought refuge in Allāh from the worst form of treachery, idolatry.
Worshiping Allāh without partner is the greatest trust that we as human beings have. It is a trust that even the earth and mountains refused to shoulder.
Indeed, We offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they ˹all˺ declined to bear it, being fearful of it. But humanity assumed it, ˹for˺ they are truly wrongful ˹to themselves˺ and ignorant ˹of the consequences˺, (al-Ahzab 33:72).
What we can conclude from this is that if someone is willing to break their trust with Allāh by denying and disobeying Him after all the benevolence He has shown them, then it is highly likely that they could just as easily betray those around them jeopardizing their safety and security.
When we break the trust that we have with Allāh, it shakes the very core of our relationships.
When we sin, and even more so when it is witnessed, there is a feeling of fear that family members experience, which may go unrecognized at times, that they can just as easily be victims of betrayal. It strips away trust and destabilizes the relationship based on the degree of the other's betrayal.
And so, by fortifying our faith and safeguarding our trust with Allāh and then those around us, we will gain others’ confidence and provide the safe environment needed for the relationship to thrive.
Allah knows best.
We ask that Allāh increase us in faith and certainty. We ask that He continue to bless us in this life with healthy and enriching marriages, strong families, and righteous offspring.
(Adapted from a Friday sermon delivered at GCLEA.)