When Abraham took his son to be sacrificed, he did not know that his actions would cause the establishment of the Islamic Center in Kansas City.
Abraham grew up in Mesopotamia, in what is now known as Iraq. Rejecting his father’s religion, he traveled to Syria and married Sarah. They visited Egypt where Sarah picked Hager to be her hand maid before they all settled in Canaan (the Golan Heights in Syria/Israel).
Because Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was not able to bear children, they decided that Abraham should conceive a child through Hager, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid. The child born of this marriage was named Ishmael. Later, Sarah miraculously became pregnant and Ishmael had a little brother called Isaac. From Isaac’s descendants came Prophets Jacob, Moses and Jesus, and Jesus’ mother Mary as well. From Ishmael’s descendants came Prophet Muhammad. Hence, the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
For three nights Abraham dreamed that he was slaughtering his son (Ishmael? Isaac? Depends whom you would ask). He told his son, “Son, I saw in a dream that I was slaughtering you, and I think it is what God is commanding me to do.” Abraham and the child went to the edge of town. The son knelt at the altar with his face down, afraid that Abraham would hesitate if he saw his face during the offering. “Father, do what you have been commanded,” he said.
Abraham began to put the knife to his son’s neck, intending to perform the sacrifice quickly so there would be no pain. At that moment God revealed to Abraham that he had proved himself a true submitter to God’s command.
To this day, Muslims worldwide celebrate this event on the tenth day of the 12th month of the lunar year. This “Sacrifice” festival coincides with the time of “Hajj” or Muslim pilgrimage.
When Ishmael was still an infant, Abraham, took him with his mother Hager and left Syria. After a few months of traveling south in the desert sun and sand, Hager pleaded with Abraham to go somewhere else. Maybe to her hometown in Egypt, or somewhere north. Anywhere but the desert! Abraham offered no answer. Instead, he prepared to leave them when they reached an unmarked valley with no water, no trees, and no people. “Is this a command from God?” she asked. His answer came swiftly: “Yes.” She knew then that she was under an even greater protection.
After a few days under the sweltering sun, Hager and her nursing son Ishmael ran out of water and food. Ishmael’s cries pierced the desert air. They waited… after all, it was the command of God to stay here. Surely He would send someone to save them. But no one came. It looked like they had been left to die. Hager was certain, though, that God would provide for them somehow. She ventured up a nearby hill, hoping to see someone. She saw only sand and heard only the cries of her child. Maybe from the other side? Climbing another small hill, it was similar scene but the cries grew weaker. She became frantic with thirst and worry about Ishmael. She paced back and forth a few times between the two hilltops until she was stopped by the sudden silence of her child. She rushed down to him. As worried, tired and afraid she had been, her emotions switched to the same degree of relief, shock and delight. Ishmael was not dead, but splashing in spring water that was coming from underneath his feet. She formed a small sand barrier surrounding the water and said “zam zam” (stay, stay).
The water never dried out. Birds noticed the new body of water and came to share it with her. Nomad travelers were intrigued by the birds flying over what they knew to be a barren valley. Curiously, they approached the area to find a woman and a child next to a growing trough of fresh water. Hager could not understand their language but she knew that they wanted the same thing the birds did.
The newcomers offered her food and she allowed them to camp and share the water. Ishmael grew up. He learned the settlers’ language (Arabic) and married the daughter of the tribal chief. Soon he was the leader of the new Arabs. And as promised, God would multiply his descendants exceedingly, making of them a “great nation” (Genesis 17:20).
Abraham came a few times to check on his wife and son, and on Ismael’s growing family. One special visit was not like the others. He had yet another command to fulfill: to build a house of worship for God. With the help of his son and family, Abraham dug the foundations, carved the stones, and built the structure that still stands in the same spot today. It is the Ka’abah in Makkah, in the Arabian desert.
During the ground breaking of their Islamic Center in 1981, Muslims in Kansas City recited the same prayer that Abraham and his son said when they broke ground for the Ka’abah, “Our Lord! Accept from us this service. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. Our Lord! Make us submissive unto You and of our offspring a nation submissive unto You, show us the way, and accept our repentance. Truly, You are the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.”