Ibrahim (the Prophet) إبراهِيم - عليه السلام
A Messenger,Prophet, Siddique, Khalil and a fearless iconoclast, Ibrahim appeared more than 4000 years ago in Ur, a town in Babil (or, as twisted by the modern historians as Babylonia), present-day Iraq. He was subjected to severe tests, but through and through remained true to his word. He was declared therefore a model for peoples of all times as a man of upright character, unconditionally submitted to the Lord of the worlds. His religion was named the Upright Religion of Ibrahim. (Deen al-hanif )
Abraham in the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Beginning with praises of him as the great monotheist who obeyed his Lord to found a new nation, the Christian and Jewish traditions immediately bring him and his mission down by suggesting that he was rewarded for his great services with a promise of a piece of land to his “seed.” In a short article on him, the Encyclopedia Britannica makes it a point to mention four times the connection between him and the promised land in Canaan. Thus, all the great services and sacrifices were worth, after all, a piece of land, because the Judeo-Christian world wanted to obtain that piece of land in the 20th century through blatant fraud, murder, terror and displacement of millions of people! If such was the function and the end-purpose, then, it is natural that neither the Jews nor the Christians should follow his example of living and dying for one God, not the Lord God of the Judeo-Christian tradition but the Lord God of the universe, who alone deserves to be worshipped and obeyed.
The learned authors of the historical works ignore the fact that if such were the purposes of his life, then he is not worthy of mention in 20 encyclopedias that respect him for the land, but not for the mission. One wonders whether Britannica author had anything else in mind except to remind the world that the land taken from the Palestinians has Divine sanction. Should it surprise then, that after he has served his holy purpose, the Patriarch is discarded by the author as an “unscrupulous liar.” But there are other purposes for his presence in the encyclopedias. According to one of them, he had two sons, a legitimate one called Isaac, and by implication, an illegitimate son called Ishmael:
“He not only has a son, Ishmael, by his wife's maidservant Hagar but has, at 100 years of age, by Sarah, a legitimate son, Isaac.”(Encyclopedia Britannica)
So, this is another function of Abraham: to bestow the world an illegitimate son (whose progeny is known as the Arabs)! The statement also implies that the Judeo-Christian world is still not ready to accept the equality that Islam has granted to slaves. While in Islam a slavegirl’s son is in no way inferior or even different than a son from a free woman, to the Western liberated world, a son out of her is, by implication, illegitimate!
If we are also to believe in Britannica, Abraham was in the service of a people (the Jews) who were to appear one thousand years after him:
Ultimately, the monotheist is reduced to the status of a pagan:
“This was not monotheism but monolatry (the worship of one among many Gods)”
No wonder then that after he has completed his mission of land-promise and racial derogation, the Patriarch could worship one among many Gods, if he so wished.
.As usual, the Qur’an has the last word:
Ibrahim in Islamic Tradition
Ibrahim was neither a Jew nor Christian. He appeared thousands of years before the Jews and Christians. He was a Muslim; but NOT in the sense of a follower of Prophet Muhammad, rather in the sense of one who had surrendered himself completely to the will of God, the word for which is Muslim in Arabic.
He was complete in faith whose every crevice of the heart was removed of any doubt, skepticism, or the slightest of reservation. The following incident reported by the Qur’an tells us about how clean his heart was from any seeds of doubt and the quality of faith he held.
Prophet Muhammad explained the verse above by saying that if Ibrahim was in doubt, then he (the Prophet) deserved greater to be in doubt; by which he meant to say that Ibrahim was never in any doubt, since, as the Prophet's own life demonstrates, he was never in any doubt about God and His powers. (Far from the Prophet, even `Ali b. Abi Talib had the certainty to say, "Even if the veils are removed, it will not cause any increase in my faith"). It was only a demonstration of how exactly, physically, it will happen that Ibrahim had sought quickening of the dead. He was explained that just as the pieces of a bird flew to each other, the atoms will fly to each other to resurrect a man. The request for the 'how' of resurrection by Ibrahim, was to allow him rise to the level of 'Ayn Al-Yaqin from that of 'Ilm Al-Yaqin.
Although Muslims do not own him in the sense the Judeo-Christian claim him, nor in the sense the pagans of the Prophet's time claimed him (as one who had given them their pre-Islamic religion, which they had heavily and joyfully laced with polytheism), they certainly deserve to hold aloft Ibrahim's name, for upholding and preaching his strict monotheistic principles and iconoclastic practices.
Although a son of an idol-maker, Ibrahim showed early signs of moral uprightness and intellectual maturity. He was made a Prophet in his early youth. Yusuf Ali wrote:
Immediately thereafter he denounced false Gods and spoke in the strongest of terms against their presence in any form, real or metaphorical, tangible or intangible. There was no freeing men from the slavery of each other and of the stone-gods but through submission to one God.
Beginning his mission with his father, he denounced the deities in no ambiguous terms:
The Message was as fresh as the tree-leaves after a rain, and as lucid as spring-water in a glass container. The messenger, under observation since childhood and tested for his truthfulness, was no less than Azar's own son. The respectful tone cannot be missed: 'O my father.' Who is his father? An awfully ignorant man, deaf to every profound idea. But Ibrahim puts it softly although factually: a piece of knowledge has come to him that has not come to his father. What knowledge is it? It is the knowledge that there is no God worthy of worship but the Lord God of the known and unknown world. It is a profound piece of knowledge. Whoever strayed away from this idea, slipped on to the Devil's trail, no matter how learned otherwise. Lifelong he will remain in the service of the Devil. He may claim to love God, but actually he is Satan's ally.
What's the answer from Ibrahim's father? None. How could there be any answer to simple logic: there is one God, serve Him? So, the response is the age-old policy: if you cannot argue it out, banish
The young man could leave his father. But he was not yet over with his people. He must try on, until they are unanimous over his expulsion; he will not be the one to back out.
Here is one stint of the several he had with his people:
Philosophical discussions are pastime of the idle. Ibrahim seemed to say: Let us do some plain thinking. What's the point in adhering to the stone-gods? Let us count the benefits.
So, the cat is out. All that they can say is: our ancients; old is gold. Every follower of a false religion follows the religion of his parents, family, society and nation. The question of right or wrong does not surface. He argues: I am right because we all cannot be wrong: generation after generation.
Ibrahim invites them to open their minds. Blind following will lead to blind alleys. They have no reason for treading the footsteps of their misguided forefathers and national leaders, however respectful otherwise. These idols, these are a means of blocking the minds from reaching out to truths .. to ideas that will take them through the gates of Paradise.
So far as Ibrahim is considered:
Of the multitudes that are paid homage to, only one is his Lord.
In contrast to their ways, he is not a blind follower. He has good reasons to abandon the deities – all and every one of them – save the Lord of the world. Why should he not serve Him?
The Prayer was granted. Even though his message is distorted, he is remembered by the posterity in the 21st century. But, of course, he was not through with his people yet. He thought he will take another route to penetrate their closed minds. He had also to take the important deities one by one: the stars, the moon and the Sun. He waited until it was a dark night in which their Star-god appeared most bright:
His comment at the disappearance of the bright deity, while its devotees in the field would have been saying farewell to it with palms against palms, must have disturbed at least a few. Are those that fade away, they and their fame, worthy of worship?
Then, perhaps it was another night, the night when the full-moon drew its own devotees, when he decided to taunt them, wake them, shake their beliefs, drive sense into their heads:
He put it as if it was his personal problem; another strategy to draw attention and escape unpleasant response if he criticized their devotees as they stood heads down, folded hands. But, Moon-worship, as ancient as man on earth, had for them its own justification: the older the devotions, dearer the deity to the devotees. It does not seem his taunt had any effect.
Then there was the fearful Sun-god, the ruler of the upper and lower worlds. He has the light of guidance, and is the unquestioned benefactor of humanity. He is also All-seeing. And, as against other forces of nature, the Sun is, to its worshippers, never as destructive, as water or wind. Not surprisingly, the Sun is the universally acknowledged God: ("The feast of Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) on December 25 was celebrated with great joy (by the Romans) and eventually this date was taken over by the Christians" - Encyclopedia Britannica). Ibrahim decided to target the Sun-god, open the eyes of his people to a mere cosmic object, with no power of its own, going down on order and rising up on order:
As the light disappeared from hill-tops, the priests began to fold their business, and the people set to start back home, Ibrahim's announcement that he could not be blamed for discarding those that go down, some under the horizon, others into the dust, could have sounded like a new perspective, but, ideas planted during childhood are like roots of a fig-tree, several times deeper than the trunk outside. Disputations started: they argued for their national deities and personal Gods, he spoke of one God:
What they might have said, as pagans usually do, is that, alright, there was one Supreme God, but can He operate single-handedly, without the subordinate deputies? Can He control the vast universe, all alone, or did He not depend on the deities who worked for Him, helped Him? Could these deities not take on Ibrahim if he insulted them, banished them, refused their existence? Surely, their curse would fall upon him. Ibrahim's answer was an invitation to get out of the old mind-set and look into the facts:
But Ibrahim's were not the words that had any meaning for a people deafened - like the modern man, who can hardly distinguish the songs of crickets from the din of evening traffic.
There were other occasions when he tried to make his people realize that their path was as straight as that of the hills and forests.
The last sentence speaks of Ibrahim's complete confidence in himself. When asked to substantiate, he offers himself as the witness. The entire nation, with is king, courtiers, beaureacrats, officials, learned men, priests, businessmen, money-lenders, and every possible free-thinker bound to the nation by the chains of nationalism and loyalty, was on one side, and Ibrahim placed his weight on the other. After all, a gram of gold is weightier than a ton of sand.
Yet, finding them impervious to plain truths, he decided to enact a practical demonstration of their follies. It might cost him his life, but there didn't seem to be other options left. As everyone started off to attend a festival, Ibrahim told them, "I am not well," and stayed back because:
He knew that he would be the first suspect. He had been an open critic. Breaking the idols with his axe was breaking the hearts of the people with an axe. It is impossible for non-pagans to imagine the shock and disgust of those who see their gods lying down in pieces.
So, at the start they had decided that the youth called Ibrahim was to be decimated, just as he had decimated their gods. But it could lead to tribal conflicts, so, let there be people from every side as witness to the trial. But they had not anticipated the answer that Ibrahim would give:
It was to force those into discussion who thought they knew all, by virtue of their high positions in low societies, that Ibrahim had perhaps adopted this strategy. Crude minds needed crude methods.
He had left unhurt the largest of them. Now he turned to it, the massive figure staring into space with blind eyes and tight lips. When the audience knew that it would not answer unto eternity, he addressed the broken smaller, meaner ones. Should they not speak out against the chief-idol who stood erect unremorseful after having broken them?
This stratagem seemed to have worked in that at least the reality of the helplessness of the idols got into their heads.
So, a few were taken by surprise and the truth came out of their mouths inadvertently. But soon they realized that they had fallen into a trap, and so,
This was Ibrahim's moment, and he struck:
And he struck hard:
The invitations, discussions, disputation and practical demonstrations led Ibrahim to direct confrontation with the authorities. He was ordered to appear before the King, Nimrod. The discussions could not have led to any conclusion. Ibrahim spoke of the Kingdom of the Hereafter, Nimrod had the kingdom of Iraq before his eyes. Ibrahim stood by the strength of his Lord, Nimrod had the people's power behind him:
What Nimrod did to demonstrate his power was something necessary for his status to remain unhurt in the eyes of his subjects. He ordered two men sentenced to death brought before him from the prison. He ordered one to be beheaded, and the other set free. This was to demonstrate that he could give life and deal death! He must have known that it was far from a convincing demonstration of his powers. But, he also knew, like the ruling classes in the best of democratic free states know, that the public is not capable of thinking further than the lines drawn for them, and the intellectuals are always where the butter is: is it not they who advise the rulers and set the policies? So, the rulers have their sanction to play the tricks they would. How many presidents of mighty nations have not been who were universally known as unabashed liars, and yet brought back to power through massive votes in their favor?
So, Ibrahim faced this big lie. The courtiers were smiling and the crowd was cheering. He dismissed the argument as no less than a fraud:
That stunned everyone. They were dumbstruck because the policy-makers, the royal advisers, and the speech-writers had not thought that Ibrahim would turn the tables on them this way.
The pagans - the king, the priests and the elite - had lost the battle. But they could not lose the masses; so, the age-old resort to violence. If the mouth of the truth cannot be sealed, cull it.
The real-life drama turned into a trial. Ibrahim should undergo a test. He had committed what was to the unbelievers a huge crime. But was it out of rashness of the youthful age, or out of complete conviction? Was he ready to pay the price of his life? Was he going to yell, sink and sob when burnt alive?
Later events showed that yes, he was ready. After all, you have only one life to offer in the way of God. He did not plead for mercy, showed no signs of weakness. That resolve received approval from on High, and the laws of nature (that the scientists say could be different in another part of this multi-universes), were altered right in this face of Nimrod. He, ordered that Ibrahim be cast into a fire-pit (with the help of a catapult). It was done and He who made the Laws of Nature ordered their reversal:
Ibrahim was hurled into the hugely lit fire, stood up and walked out unhurt perhaps to the thundering noises of "Magic", "magician", etc.
The Qur’an tells us that thereafter they tried to plan against him – perhaps murder – but he was ordered to leave Ur and head for Syria. According to historians he was accompanied by his wife Sarah and nephew Lut. Touching on several towns, including Harran, where all he preached the central pillar of his religion, Oneness of God (Tawhid), he reached Syria. A large part of it was then occupied by the Kan`an tribe. After completing the mission of a call to Tawhid, he moved on and lived for a while in Nabulus. He deputed his work to Lut (who was subsequently declared a Prophet in his own right), and left him in charge of Sodom and surrounding areas near the Dead Sea. Subsequently, he was ordered to travel to Egypt, then a land of the tyrants. Sarah and Lut were with him. A strange incident took place at Egypt, if the incidents of a Prophet's life are not strange events. His wife was spotted by some courtiers who reported to the king that he deserved a woman whose equal in beauty was unseen. She was ordered to appear before the King in his private quarters. When the officials came to take her away, Ibrahim told her that the fact being that the two were the only Muslims in the land, he had declared to the officials that she was his sister, which is what she should maintain. When she was taken away, he stood up in prayer. (It is not clear why he maintained that. It is said that if he had said she was his wife, they would have killed him. But that doesn't sound a good reason).
When the King stretched his hand, it froze. He pleaded her to pray for release, on promise that he would let her free. She did. His hand was freed. But he tried to grab her again, and again it froze. After the third freezing he scolded Sarah for not revealing to him that Ibrahim was her husband; called in the official who had brought her and said, "This is no human. You have brought me a Devil. Expel her from the land and give her Hajar."
"Give her Hajar?" No ordinary woman she must have been to be named from the Royal Court. When she arrived, Ibrahim was in Prayer. He signaled to her to inquire what had happened. She informed him that Allah had preserved her and that she had been gifted a maid.
That she later gifted her to Ibrahim, leads us to wonder whether the whole journey had not been organized but for the sake of Hajar. The bare bone of the story has come to us through Bukhari and Muslim and it is obvious from Ibrahim and his wife's cool attitude that they had assurance sent down from on High, about what was going to happen. A Grand Plan seems to have been in offing to raise a new Ummah through an Egyptian girl to bring the Arabs closer to the Egyptians, a congenial, historical, relationship that lasts to this day. Abu Hurayrah the narrator (underestimated by most of his biographers for his intellectual capabilities) tosses in a hint when he adds his own remark at the end of his narrative, addressing the Arabs, "So, that's your mother, O dependents of the heavenly waters." Hajar, a heavenly, womanly, water?! Historians add that in the meanwhile, Lut was relieved of his mount and belongings by a gang of the tyrants, and enslaved. Ibrahim went after them, reclaimed Lut and his belongings. That he was able to release Lut, but did nothing for his wife when she was ordered presented, should help unravel part of the mysteries hidden in the Divine Plan.
A word on the famous "three lies of Ibrahim" may be placed here. The three lies were:
(1) Ibrahim's statement that Sarah was his sister,
(2) his words "I am unwell," and
(3) his words, "Rather, their chief has done it" (referring to the largest of the idols).
The Hadith in Bukhari and Muslim disturbs many. This is because they understand the Prophet's words without understanding the language of the Prophet. If they could but ask themselves, "Were those any lies?" they would be out of confusion. Wasn't it true that Sarah was his sister in religion, that Ibrahim might not have been unwell, but neither too well, and that when he said, "their chief has done it," nobody cried out, "you lie," because no one missed the satirical insinuation. Those who are confused ought to remember the famous adage: "Virtues of the elect are sins of the select." A minor error coming from the selected ones is major in the sight of Allah. What are no lies for the virtuous are given this harsh term for those who enjoy nearness of their Lord.
Ibrahim returned to Syria (some say to Jordan) while Lut to Sodom. Soon he had a son through Hajar, called Isma`ili, followed by another named Is-haq, and finally, several children through a third wife Qaturah, whom he took after the death of Sarah. The Qur’an named only two of his children:
which should lead us to believe that the story of a third wife may be accepted with caution. At all events, Ibrahim's trials had not ended. Even the while Isma`ili was in the cradle, he was ordered to take him and his mother to an uninhabited place in Arabia, leave the two there and come back. He was then perhaps in his eighties. But the test did not end there. A decade or so later he was asked to journey to Arabia and slaughter Isma`ili. It could not have been easy for Ibrahim. He was almost now a centurion, and Hajar had none by her side except him. But he accomplished the task, and did it in style: no hesitation, no apprehensions, no requests for reconsideration of the orders from on High – he just went ahead and did it. (See details of that journey under article ‘Hajar’).
Ibrahim returned to Syria where some good and bad news was waiting for him. He had guests. He prepared a feast. But they refused to eat and he discovered that they were angels. They had brought the good news of another son for him: Is-haq. And the bad news was that they were on their way to destroy Sodom, its surroundings and its people. Vainly did Ibrahim plead for them; the time was up. There is no truth in the following:
The supplication was accepted, Makkah and its surroundings have ever since been the most peaceful place on the globe, Makkah enjoys such variety of fruits throughout the year that no other region of the world can boast of, a people submissive to Him were generated (the Companions of the Prophet) and a Messenger (Prophet Muhammad) was raised among them.
When Ibrahim and Isma`ili built the House, there were hardly a few people around. But he was ordered to proclaim the pilgrimage. He said, “My Lord! How far will my voice go?” He was told, “Proclaim! Upon Me is the conveyance.” So Ibrahim proclaimed, “People! Pilgrimage to the Bayt al-Atiq has been written on you, so come down in pilgrimage.” His words were heard in the heavens and the earth. And none of the mankind, the jinnkind, trees, animals and mountains heard him but responded. Abdul Majid Daryabadi wrote:
Little is known about Ibrahim's end; as if the mission was more important than the Carrier. But Islam has preserved his name like no other Prophet's. Each time someone invokes peace for Muhammad's soul in his Prayers, Ibrahim has to be mentioned. On an average 9 times does a Muslim invoke peace for Muhammad and as many times Ibrahim is mentioned during his five Prayers of the day in words,
“O Allah send Your blessing upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad , as You sent peace upon Ibrahim and upon the family of Ibrahim. Indeed, you are Praiseworthy, Most Glorious. O Allah send Your benedictions upon PMuhammad and upon the family of Muhammad , as You sent benedictions upon Ibrahim and upon the family of Ibrahim. Indeed, you are Praiseworthy, Most Glorious.”
Will those who claim him exclusively for themselves learn something from this Prophetic instruction.
Reports tell us that ten Scriptures were revealed to Ibrahim. What was in them? Well, the Qur’an mentioned a piece or two when it said,
So, no piece of land, but rather, "the Hereafter is better and longer lasting." Will somebody learn something?
What else was there in Ibrahim's Scriptures? Prophet Muhammad answered,
“(Allegories and paradigms) such as,
'An intelligent man should divide his time into several parts: A part in which he will address himself to his Lord. A part in which he will take stock of his deeds, another in which he will ponder over the creation of God, and a part devoted to earning his livelihood...’
'An intelligent man might not engage himself except in three things: Preparing for the Hereafter, working for the livelihood or enjoying that which is not forbidden.’
'An intelligent man ought to well understand his times, busy himself with his own affairs, guard his tongue; and surely, whoever realized that his words are equal to his deeds, will speak little but about affairs of importance.’"
People try to connect themselves racially to Ibrahim. It is to steal honor. They may, but in the Real World, salvation will be on the basis of relationship with the Lord of the world and not with His slaves. Ibrahim will meet his father on the Judgment day in a state that he will have a dusty, darkened face. He will say to his father, “Did I not tell you not to disobey me?” He will reply, “Today I shall not disobey you.” So Ibrahim will supplicate, “My Lord! You have promised me that You will not disgrace me on the day they are raised?” Allah will reply, “I have forbidden Paradise unto the unbelievers.”
Then He will say, “Ibrahim, look down at your feet.” He will look down and find a hyena-like creature covered in the filth of slime, blood and feces. It will be dragged by its feet and flung into the Fire.
Another passage of the Qur’an sums up the perennial message sent to man:
See related article