The Quran speaks highly of the Prophet Ibrahim (Alayhi salam) and tells a dozen stories of his courage, devotion and care for others. He lived among the Babylonians, challenged their emperor, travelled to Egypt and encountered the Canaanites (today’s Palestinians, Lebanese, and Syrians). The Majestic Quran pays a glowing tribute to his character, wisdom, bravery, love of God and dedication to the success of humanity. The book of Genesis in the Old Testament gives a detailed biography of Ibrahim and commentators of the Quran have freely used this to elaborate the Quranic narratives. His legacy is preaching boldly the belief in one God, Tawhid and shunning the idols of the pagans and challenging them to reflect and think about who they worship. He sacrificed everything for the love of Allah, his legendary willingness to sacrifice his beloved son. Here we survey his wonderful life story, a life of devotion and sacrifice.
The story of Ibrahim is mentioned in ten places in the Quran
I am including these references for you to look up and read for yourself. As we are in the Hajj season this would be good reading for the next four weeks, are you up for this small challenge?
- Ibrahim is introduced (Baqarah: 129-134 and Nahl: 120-123).
- Ibrahim debates with his father and his people (Anbiya: 51-65).
- Ibrahim challenges his people’s beliefs (An’am: 74-84).
- Ibrahim’s discourse with Nimrod (Baqarah: 258).
- Ibrahim is condemned and thrown into the fire (Anbiya: 68-70).
- Ibrahim asks Allah to give him the certainty of resurrection (Baqarah: 260).
- Ibrahim is visited by angels (Hud: 69-76).
- Ibrahim builds the Kaaba and prayer for a special messenger (Baqarah: 124-126).
- Ibrahim’s special prayer (Ibrahim: 35-41).
- Ibrahim prepares to sacrifice Ismael (Safat: 99-112).
Prophet Ibrahim lived some 4,000 years ago in what is nowadays Iraq, it was known as the Chaldean Empire, where he grew up in Ur near the present-day city of Mosul. The city was a famous centre for the worship of stars, the moon, the sun, and they believed the celestial bodies had an influence on human destiny. In addition, they worshipped idols made of wood, stone, or any other material they could lay their hands on. They were the household gods and their worship was an essential part of daily life, they believed it gave them better health, good fortunes, a stronger family and a safer city. Ibrahim’s family was at the forefront of idol worship and the manufacturing of idols.
Ibrahim debates with the emperor
A good place to start would be the passage in Surah Baqarah, from his youth Ibrahim believed in one God and rejected the worship of idols. The Quran talks about him challenging his father, family, folks and his debate with Emperor Nimrod: “O Prophet have you not considered the man who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord, because God had given him the power to rule? When Ibrahim said, it is my Lord, who gives life and death, he said I too give life and death. So Ibrahim said God brings the Sun from the East: so bring it from the West. The disbeliever was dumbfounded: God does not guide those who do evil” (Baqarah: 258). He denounced their idolatry and their attempts to associate idols with the Almighty Lord.
The Quran shows Ibrahim’s passion for Allah and his shunning of the idols, how he smashed them: “Ibrahim said. How can you worship what can neither benefit nor harm you, instead of Allah? Shame on you and on the things you worship instead of God. Have you no sense? They said, burn him and avenge your God’s if you are going to do the right thing” (Anbiya: 66-68). This provoked intense opposition from the people, and the authorities decided to punish him by casting him into a bonfire but Allah saved him, “We said fire be cool and safe for Ibrahim” (Anbiya: 69). This was a miracle and proof of his truthfulness but regrettably, the idolaters didn’t see it as such.
Ibrahim had lost hope that they would believe, they were stubborn and arrogant. So, he decided to migrate from Ur with his wife and nephew Lut. He went North West passing through Syria to Canaan present-day Palestine and later to Egypt. Ibrahim travelled widely and lived almost a nomadic life. His aim was to please his Lord and to spread the message of the oneness of God. The Quran describes his commitment, dedication and love of God in these glowing words “when Ibrahim’s Lord tested him with a number of trials, which he fulfilled, He said “I will make you a leader of people.” Ibrahim asked, “and would you make leaders from my descendants too?” God answered, “my promise does not fall for those who do evil” (Baqarah: 124).
Lessons for us
Ibrahim’s life of devotion to Allah and service to humanity is a beacon, the Lord accepted his efforts, rewarded him by multiplying his children and keeping his mission alive to this day. For more than four thousand years Ibrahim has provided inspiration to people all over the globe. Let us resolve to follow his beautiful example.