Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) was one of the great prophets of Allah. His father was Ibraheem (alayh as-salaam), himself a great prophet and the Friend of Allah. When Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) was just a young boy, his father was commanded by Allah to offer Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) as a sacrifice to Allah.
This was a very difficult test for both of them. For Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam), it meant willingly and knowingly accepting death, and for Ibraheem (alayh as-salaam), it meant killing his beloved son—and that too by his own hands. Most people would have refused to carry out such a difficult commandment, but these two were different.
When Ibraheem (alayh as-salaam) described the dream that he had been shown and asked his son what he thought about it, Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) very simply said, “Do as you have been commanded. If Allah wills, you will find me patient.” Of course, when the two actually went out to proceed with the sacrifice, Allah saved Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) and revealed to Ibraheem (alayh as-salaam) that Ibraheem had passed the test.
At a very young age, Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) along with his mother Haajar (alayha as-salaam), was brought to live in the city of Mecca by Ibraheem (alayh as-salaam). Mecca was a desolate place at the time. When Haajar was worried about running out of water in that deserted land, Allah miraculously caused a spring to gush forth from the earth. This spring sustained Ismaeel and his mother (alayhuma as-salaam), and was a sign from Allah. Later, Ibraheem and Ismaeel (alayhuma as-salaam) built the holy Ka’ba and dedicated it to the pure worship of Allah, just as Allah had commanded.
Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) married a lady from the Arab tribe of Jurhum. When his father met this girl upon visiting Makkah, she made some ungrateful comments which showed that she was not thankful to Allah for His bounties in the way that a good Muslim should be. Ibraheem (alayh as-salaam) instructed his son to divorce her, which is what Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) did. Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) then married another lady from the same tribe. When Ibraheem (alayh as-salaam) came to visit them the next time, he asked the new daughter-in-law how she was doing, and she praised and thanked Allah. Ibraheem (alayh as-salaam) was very happy to hear this answer and instructed Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) to keep this wife.
Allah blessed Ismaeel with twelve sons through this wife. The descendants of these twelve sons became twelve whole tribes with the passage of time. These descendants of Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) spread throughout the Arabian peninsula and are known to historians as the ‘Arabized’ Arabs. (They are called by this name to distinguish them from the other, original Arab tribes that were living in Arabia since before the time of Ismaeel, alayh as-salaam.)
Ismaeel (alayh as-salaam) has been praised in the Qur’an by Allah for his habit of keeping promises and for commanding his family members to pray and spend in charity. His whole life is an example of worship and dedication to Allah. He was a man who trusted Allah, and Allah granted him success despite the lack of physical means.