Prophet Ibrahim (AS) – Part I
Prophet Ibrahim AS is one of the greatest Prophets and the father of us all. He is described by Allah as being an Ummah (Qur’an 16:120-123). Muslims, Jews and Christians all trace roots back to him. Ibrahim AS is mentioned in our prayers, at least 5 times a day, such an honoured position has he, and he was described as Khalil-ullah – the Friend of Allah SWT (Qur’an 4:125). In Islam, Ibrahim AS is seen as a strict monotheist who calls his people to the worship Allah. For this belief, he bears great hardships, even disassociating himself with his family and people through migration to various lands. He is one who fulfills various commandments of Allah though which he is tested, proving true to each one.
Due to this strength of faith, the Qur’an attributes the one and only true religion to be the “Path of Ibrahim”, even though prophets before him, such as Nuh, called to the same faith.
From Ibrahim’s AS two sons lie the lineage of the Muslims and the Jews. Due to the excellence of Ibrahim AS, Allah made prophets from his progeny, from them Ismail, Ishaq, Yaakub and Musa, guiding people to the truth.
Many Qur’anic verses revealed concerning him suggest that his outstanding importance and high rank among prophets was because of the purity and sincerity of his relationship with his Lord, to whom he totally surrendered his will. It is essential that Muslims know of the story of Prophet Ibrahim AS as much of Islam refers to him.
The greatness of Ibrahim’s AS standing with Allah is confirmed in a number of hadiths. The Holy Prophet SAW referred to him as “the best of creation” (Muslim) and mentioned him as one of the prophets whose intercession the believers would seek on the Day of Judgement (Bukhari). Prophet Muhammad SAW also reported meeting Ibrahim AS in one of the heavens during the Night Journey Me’raj, saying that he found Ibrahim AS seated in al-Bait Al-Ma’mur, the Populated House, in which 70,000 angels pray in successive groups never to return to it again (Bukhari, Mishkat).
HONOURS AND FAVOURS GRANTED TO IBRAHIM AS
- He was singled out as the exemplar of al-dina hanifa, the path of belief and worship of Allah and His absolute attributes (Qur’an 3:67).
- Allah chose him to be His close friend, one of the most impressive indications of Ibrahim’s AS high rank (Qur’an 4:125).
- He ranks among the five greatest prophets, ulu-l-azm, with Nuh, Musa, Isa and Muhammad, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them all (Qur’an 42:13; 33:7).
- Due to the depth of his faith, Allah made Ibrahim AS one of the greatest religious figures of all times, according to His promise (Qur’an 2:124).
- Allah answered Ibrahim’s AS prayer, “My Lord, grant me authority and join me with the righteous. And grant me a reputation of honour among later generations.” (Qur’an 26:83-84), by granting him the highest honour and repute among all the generations of believers who came after him. The followers of all three monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, deeply revere Ibrahim AS.
- Allah answered his prayer for a son from among the righteous (Qur’an 37:100) by granting him Ishaq as well as Ismail AS. Ismail AS was also a prophet from whose line of descent came the last and greatest of prophets, Muhammad SAW.
- Ibrahim’s AS prayer for the people of Mecca, (Qur’an 2:129) was also fulfilled through Muhammad SAW. His prayers for Mecca and its inhabitants (Qur’an 14:35-41) was similarly answered.
- Allah revealed to him a sacred scripture, mentioned in (Qur’an 87:18-19). No trace of the scripture remains. However it is mentioned in hadith.
- Ibrahim AS was granted the honour of establishing many of the basic practices of Islam prior to Muhammad’s SAW time, which were later followed by Prophet Muhammad SAW and which continue to be followed by Muslims up to today.
- Allah further honoured Ibrahim AS by ordaining that Muslims recall him and important events in his life in the rites of the pilgrimage Hajj and Umrah. Connected with this is also the commemoration of Ibrahim’s AS sacrifice of his son during Eid-ul-Adha.
- All the prophets mentioned in the Qur’an who lived after Ibrahim’s AS time were his descendants.
Let’s now begin an exciting, eventful journey through the life of the Friend of Allah, Prophet Ibrahim, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.
THE PEOPLE OF IBRAHIM AS
Ur, which is now part of southern Iraq, according to tradition is the place where Ibrahim AS began his mission as a prophet. In his time, the city of Ur was a flourishing industrial and business centre. The people who lived there were a community of idol-worshippers, ruled by a proud, tyrannical king Nimrud. It is said he was one of the four greatest kings of ancient times amongst prophet-king Sulaiman AS, Dhul-Qarnain and Nebuchadnezzar. In addition to being the supreme ruler, Nimrud had established himself as a god who was worshipped by his people, together with their other gods.
THE BEGINNING OF IBRAHIM’S AS LIFE
It said by Qur’anic narrators that before Ibrahim’s AS birth, a star appeared, of such shimmering brightness that it outshone the sun and moon. This frightened the king and he called his magicians and astrologers to ask them the meaning of this occurrence.
They replied that a man would arise in his territory who was destined to destroy him and his rule. Hearing this, Nimrud left and moved to another town, compelling everyone to move with him and ordering the killing of any boy to be born to them.
Ibrahim’s AS father Azar placed his pregnant wife in cave, fearing for his unborn.
After a while, when the soothsayers’ prophecies were not fulfilled, Nimrud decided that they had been merely lies of the magicians. He ordered his people to return home and soon forgot about the matter.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim AS was born in the cave, where he spent his early years. He grew up quickly, without seeing any human beings besides his parents.
When Azar was assured that there was nothing to fear from the king, he went to the cave and took his boy out. It is said that Ibrahim AS was about 10 years old at that time.
ENLIGHTMENT AND PROPHETHOOD
Azar was an idol-worshipper and thus would have taught Ibrahim AS about the religion of deities and temples. At a time of life when other children are occupied with childish pursuits, Ibrahim AS had already concluded about the idols his people worshipped. It is also suggested that he may already have begun to discuss and debate the matter with his father Azar, as suggested in the Qur’an 6:74.
When night fell, he saw a star and exclaimed it to be his Lord (Qur’an 6:76) and likewise when he saw the moon rising (Qur’an 6:67). But the star and the moon set and Ibrahim AS reconsidered the matter. A disappearing object could not be his Lord or the Lord of anything else. And with the innate understanding of his pure fitrah, he turned to the true Lord for enlightenment asking for guidance and not to stray (Qur’an 6:77).
When day dawned and he saw the sun rising, he claimed the sun to be his Lord but then the sun too set (Qur’an 6:78).
Thus Ibrahim AS concluded that his people, with their worship of heavenly bodies and images made by their own hands, were in the gravest error and confusion. There could be no God except the Creator all things including those heavenly bodies which were the greatest of all material objects and which his people unthinkingly worshipped in place of the One who had created them.
Ibrahim’s AS heart was now firmly fixed upon his Lord with deep certainty. The heart of the young prophet-to-be was guided and illuminated by his Lord, expanded and deepened, as Allah revealed to him the secrets of His divine Essence, the mysteries of creation, and the great, all-wise workings of His Will (Qur’an 6:75).
Consequently, Ibrahim AS came to his Lord with a sound heart, free of any trace of doubt or questioning. He surrendered with deep and absolute faith to Allah at the command of the Lord of the worlds.
Ibrahim AS made a request of his Lord. The deep loving familiarity between him and his Lord is shown in his manner of making the request.
“My Lord,” Ibrahim AS said humbly, “show me how You give life to the dead” (Qur’an 2:260).
“Do you not have faith?”, came the response (Qur’an 2:260)
“Yes,” Ibrahim AS replied firmly, “but my heart may be satisfied” (Qur’an 2:260)
Then Allah most Gracious gave Ibrahim the answer.
“Then take four birds and make them attached to you,” Allah instructed the young prophet. “Then put part of them on each hill and call them. They will come to you quickly. And know that Allah is Almighty and Wise” (Qur’an 2:260)
It is reported that Ibrahim AS carried out the order, cutting the birds into pieces, mixing together their flesh and feather, keeping the birds’ heads with him, and then called the birds to him. The part of the birds, including the feathers, came together, and when he reattached their heads, they became as they had been before.
Through this deep parable, Ibrahim AS was shown the limitless power of the One who creates and recreates as He wills. And through Ibrahim’s AS question and the divine response, Allah most High informs mankind that just as trained birds are attached to their master by invisible bonds, so, when He calls us on the Day of Resurrection, regardless of how long we may have been dead and the condition of our earthly remains, we will respond to Him and return to life.
In Part II of Ibrahim’s AS story, we will follow him through his mission and his call to his people and the many tribulations he faced thereafter.
Acknowledgement: Most of the information for this work has been obtained from:
“A History of Prophets of Islam”, Volume I, by Suzanne Haneef
“Stories of the Prophets”, by Ibn Kathir (Translation by Rashad Ahmad Azami)