Four thousand years ago, the valley of Mecca was a dry and uninhabited place. According to Islamic history, the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was instructed to bring Hajar and their child Ismael to Arabia from the land of Palestine- Canaan - by God's command.
As Ibrahim made ready to return to the land of Canaan, Hajar asked him, "Who ordered you to leave us here"? When Ibrahim replied: "Allah"(God), Hajar said, "then Allah will not forget us; you can go". Although Ibrahim had left a large quantity of food and water with Hajar and Ismael, the supplies quickly ran out and within a few days the two were suffering from hunger and dehydration.
According to the story, a desparate Hajar ran up and down between two hills called Safa and Marwa seven times, trying to find water. Finally she collapsed beside her baby Ismael and prayed to Allah for deliverance. Ismael struck his foot on the ground, and this caused a spring of water to gush forth from the earth. Other accounts have the angel Jibral (Gabriel) striking the earth and starting a spring to flow. With this secure water supply, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies. When the Prophet Ibrahim returned from Canaan to check on his family, he was amazed to see them running a profitable well.
The Prophet Ibrahim was told by God to build a shrine dedicated to him adjacent to Hajar's well (the Zamzam Well). Ibrahim and Ismael constructed a small stone structure–-the Kaaba--which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in Allah. As the years passed, Ismael was blessed with Prophethood and he gave the nomads of the desert his message of surrender to Allah. After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving city and a major center for trade, thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zamzam.
In his life, one of the main trials of Prophet Ibrahim was to face the command of Allah to kill his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to Allah's's will. When he was all prepared to do it, Allah revealed to him that his "sacrifice" had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others, that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him in order to submit to God.It is this superior act of sacrifice which Muslims commemorate in Eid al-Adha.