When Hagar and Ishmael reached their destination Abraham had still seventy-five years to live, and he visited his son in the holy place to which Hagar had been guided. The Koran tells us that God showed him the exact site, near to the well of Zamzam, upon which he and Ishmael must build a
sanctuary;8 and they were told how it must be built. Its name,
Ka'bah, cube, is in virtue of its shape which is approximately cubic; its four corners are towards the four points of the compass. But the most holy object in that holy place is a celestial stone which, it is said, was brought by an Angel to Abraham from the nearby hill Abu Qubays, where it had been preserved ever since it had reached the earth.
"It descended from Paradise whiter than milk, but the sins of the sons of Adam made it
black." 9 This black stone they built into the eastern corner of the
Ka'bah; and when the sanctuary was completed, God spoke again to Abraham and bade him institute the rite of the Pilgrimage to
Becca-or Mecca, as it later came to be called: Purify My House for those
-who go the rounds of it and who stand beside it and bow and make prostration. And proclaim unto men the pilgrimage, that they may come unto thee on
root and on every lean camel out of every deep ravine.10 Quran
Now Hagar had told Abraham of her search for help, and he made it part
of the rite of the Pilgrimage that the pilgrims should pass seven times between
Safa and Marwah, for so the two eminences between which she had passed had come to be named.
And later Abraham prayed, perhaps in Canaan, looking around him at the
rich pastures and fields of corn and wheat: Verily I have settled a line of mine
offspring in a tilthless valley at Thy Holy House...Therefore incline unto
them men's hearts, and sustain them with fruits that they may be thankful. 11
Quran 14: 37
(Martin Lings was born in Lancashire
in 1909. After a classical education he read English at Oxford where he was a
pupil and later a close friend of C. S. Lewis. In 1935 he went to Lithuania
where he lectured on Anglo-Saxon and Middle English and subsequently he went to
Egypt and and lectured mainly on Shakespeare at Cairo University. In 1952 he
returned to England and took a degree in Arabic and in 1955 he joined the staff
of the British Museum where from 1970-73 he was Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts.
For the following year he held the same post in the newly founded British
Library. In addition to writing many books he is also the author of the chapter
'Mystical Poetry' in Abbasid Belles-Lettres, which is Volume 2 of The Cambridge
History of Arabic Literature, and the chapter on 'The Nature and Origin of
Sufism' in Vol.19 of World Spirituality, as well as articles for Studies in
Comparative Religion, Sophia, The New Encyclopedia of Islam and the Encyclopedia
This article was the first chapter from
Martin Lings Muhammad His Life Based on the Earliest Sources Revised Edition
available for purchase below.
4.According to the traditions of the
Arabs, accepted by most Muslims, Ishmael was still a babe in arms when Hagar
brought him to the valley of Baca.
7 Psalm 84:5-6
8 Quran 22:26
9. Saying of the Prophet Muhammad by
Martin Lings New Revised Edition,
'Muhammad: His life based on the earliest sources' is one of the most widely
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With an unusual gift for narrative, Dr.
Lings has adopted a style that reflects both the simplicity and the grandeur of
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