Prophet Ibraheem (Alayhis salaam)
His lineage according to the Torah and history is as follows:
Ibrahim, son of Tarikh, son of Nahur, son of Saruj, son of Ra’oo, son of Faleh, son of Aabir, son of Shaleh, son of Irfkishaaz, son of Saam, son of Nuh (Alaihis salaam).
The Quran has mentioned his father’s name as Aaazar. (6:74) Tarikh is either an incorrect name or the translation of Aazar.
In the Quran
Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) has been mentioned in the following verses of the Holy Quran:
2:124-127, 130, 132, 133, 135, 136, 140, 258, 260; 3:33, 35, 67, 68, 84, 95, 97; 4: 54, 125, 163; 6:74, 75, 83, 151; 9:70, 114; 11:69, 74-76; 14:36; 16:120, 123; 21:51, 60, 62, 69; 26:69; 33:70; 38:45; 43:26; 53:37; 60:4; 12:6, 38; 15:51; 19:41, 46, 58; 22:26, 43, 78; 29:16, 31; 37:83, 104, 109; 42:13; 51:24; 57:26; 87:19
According to the Torah, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) was from the area of Aur in Iraq. He belonged to the tribe of Faddaan who were idol-worshippers. It is mentioned in The Gospel of St. Barnabus that his father was a carpenter who used to make idols and sell them. Allah granted Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) insight and guidance from the very outset. He had firm conviction that the idols can neither see nor hear anything. He used to observe his father making the idols and forming them as he pleased. He used to ponder how these man-made idols could be deities. When he was conferred with the mantle of prophethood, this was the first aspect he turned the peoples attention to.
“We bestowed rectitude on Ibrahim before and we were well acquainted with him.”
“Behold! he said to his father and his nation. What are these statues to which you are so assiduously devoted?”
They said, “We found our fathers worshipping them.”
He said, “Undoubtedly you and your forefathers have been in manifest error.”
They said, “Have you brought us the truth or are you one of those who mock?”
He said, “Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and He is the one who created them. I am a witness to that.” (21:51-56)
When he saw that his nation was so engrossed-in idol-worship and star-worship that even the thought of Allah’s power and unity did not remain in their hearts, he mustered up some courage, placed his trust in Allah and announced the message of the true Deen:
“O nation! How can you worship idols which you make with your own hands? Are you in such a dream of negligence that you construct idols with wood and if the idol is not made according to your wishes, you break it and make another one. You regard these man-made idols as gods that can benefit or harm. Refrain from such futility and accept the unity of Allah. Bow your heads in obedience to the true Lord who created you, and the entire creation.”
The people did not heed his advice and began mocking the message of truth. They reached the extremes in obstinacy and recalcitrance.
The debate between father and son
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) first addressed his father in his bid to initiate the propagation of the true religion. This incident has been eloquently portrayed in Surah Maryam:
“Also mention in the book (the story of) Ibrahim. He was a most truthful messenger. Behold, he said to his father, “O my father! Why do you worship that which does not hear, see nor can it profit you anything.
O beloved father! Knowledge which has not reached you has come to me. Therefore follow me. I will guide you to the straight path.
O my father! Do not worship satan. Indeed satan is a rebel against Allah the Most Gracious.
O beloved father! I fear that a punishment from the Most Gracious may afflict you so that you will become a friend of Satan.”
He (the father) replied, “Do you turn away from my gods, O Ibrahim? If you do not refrain, I will undoubtedly stone you. Leave me alone for a long while.”
Ibrahim said, “Peace be upon you. I will seek forgiveness for you from my Sustainer. He is most gracious to me. I am leaving you and those who you invoke besides Allah. I supplicate to my Sustainer. Perhaps I will not be wretched by supplicating to Him.” (19:41-48)
In Surah ‘Araaf, Ibrahim’s advice to his father is mentioned thus:
“When Ibrahim said to his father Aazar, “Do you take idols as your gods? I regard you and your people in manifest misguidance.” (6:74)
Propagation to the people
When there remained no possibility of unanimity between father and son and Aazar did not accept Ibrahim’s guidance, he separated from Aazar and expanded the circle of his propagation to include the entire nation. But when were the people going to discard the religion of their forefathers? They did not listen to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) and became deaf, dumb and blind to the message like their idols.
They possessed ears but were deaf to the sound of truth. The pupils of their eyes moved like that of any normal person, but they were deprived of observing the truth. Their tongues spoke but they were dumb to the words of truth.
The Quran says: “They had hearts but they do not understand by them. They possess eyes by which they do not see and ears wherewith they do not hear. They are like animals, nay more misguided. They are negligent.” (7:179)
The advice which Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) rendered to his people has been described in Surah Shua’raa thus:
“Relate to them the story of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) when he asked his father and his nation, “What do you worship?”
They replied, “We worship idols and remain constantly attached to them.”
He asked them, “Do they listen to you when you call them or benefit or harm you?”
They replied, “Nay, but we found our forefathers practising thus.”
He said, “Inform me as to what you and your forefathers have been worshipping? They are my enemies, not so the Cherisher of the universe who created me and it is He who guides me. He grants me food and drink. And when I am ill, it is He who cures me. He will grant me death and then resurrect me. I have hope that He will forgive my sins on the day of Reckoning. O my Lord, bestow wisdom on me and join me with the righteous. Grant me an honourable mention among the later generations. Make me one of the inheritors of the garden of bliss. Forgive my father for he is of the misguided ones. Do not disgrace me on the day when the people will be resurrected, the day when neither wealth nor sons will avail. Only the one who comes with a sound heart will prosper.” (16:70-89)
Aazar and his nation did not succumb to accepting the truth. Their rejection continued exceeding all bounds.
It was mentioned earlier that Ibrahim’s nation not only worshipped idols, but stars as well. They believed that the life and death of mankind, their sustenance, their benefit and harm, drought, victory, defeat and all the proceedings of the universe are due to the effects of the stars and their movements. These effects are their inherent qualities. Therefore it is essential to please them and this cannot be achieved without their worship.
Just as Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) revealed the falsehood of their earthly deities, he felt it essential to clarify the falsehood of their heavenly gods viz. the stars. He explained to them the incorrectness of believing in the stars having any power of their own. It was no easy task trying to explain this belief to a nation that regarded any person who mocked their idols as being totally condemned by them and liable for destruction. How much superior they must have held the stars to be? Therefore Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) chose an interesting manner of elucidation which conformed to their way of thinking.
It was a starry night. One star had an exceptional lustre. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) observed it and said, “This is my Lord.” However when it disappeared and was unable to reappear, he said, “I do not love those who are concealed.” How can something which accepts change so rapidly be a god? Then he raised his sight and saw the moon in full illumination. He said, “This is my Lord.” It is so radiant and has illuminated the entire world. Thus it is more entitled to be a god than the other stars.
Now the time of dawn approached and the moon began losing its lustre. As the time of sunrise came into close proximity, the moon began disappearing from the sight of the observers. Observing this, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) uttered such a statement which not only negated the deification of the moon, but implicitly turned their attention to the one Almighty without them even perceiving it. He tacitly brought the belief of unity in their hearts. He said, “Had my Lord not guided me, I would have been of the misguided.” (6:77)
He said this much and remained silent. The people still had one more weapon to use. Therefore it was inappropriate to say anything further at this stage.
The starry night terminated and the moon also disappeared. Now it was the time for the sun to appear. The day began with the sun shining in its full glory. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) looked at it and said, “This is my Lord because it is the greatest.” However when the day passed, the sun also lost its glimmer and eventually disappeared from sight. Now was the time for Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) to announce the actual reality and make the people speechless. If these stars are deities then why do they change so often? They accept external effects more rapidly than humans. Why do they not remain shining all the time? Why did the moon enfeeble the lustre of the stars and why did the sun make the light of the moon disappear?
When the sun set, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) said, “O my people! I am free from your guilt of ascribing partners to Allah. I have turned my attention to the Being who has created the heavens and earth. I am not of those who ascribe partners to Allah.” (6:79)
“His nation disputed with him. He said, “Do you dispute with me about Allah when He himself has guided me. I do not fear the beings you associate with Allah unless my Lord desires so. The knowledge of my Lord encompasses everything. Don’t you heed my advice? How can I fear the partners you ascribe (to Allah) when you do not fear ascribing partners to him of which you have no revealed proof. Which of the two parties is more entitled to safety? If only you knew. They are the ones who believe and do not besmirch their belief with wrong (ascribing partners to Allah). They are the ones who will obtain safety and they will be rightly guided.
That was the proof which we granted to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) against his people. We raise whom we desire in stages. Indeed your Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.” (6:80-83)
Although it is unanimously accepted that Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) never worshipped stars and his entire life remained free of polytheism, the scholars of Tafseer (exegesis) have differing opinions regarding the above-mentioned verses of Surah An’aam. Our explanation in the introduction to these verses is according to one of these opinions. This conversation of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) was to counteract his nation’s belief in the stars. When two parties debate any issue, one of the methods which can be used to vanquish the opposition is to present an observed phenomenon as proof instead of merely regurgitating theories and facts. In this way the truth is revealed and the opposition is left answerless. If the antagonists are of sound intellect and impartial, they will accept the truth, otherwise they will dispute without proof. In this manner, truth and falsehood can be easily distinguished.
Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) was a great messenger. Therefore his propagating mission was not based merely on logical deductions but his distinguishing characteristic was to present the reality with the simplicity of natural evidence. Thus he chose this method and clarified the belief to the people that the stars, even though they be the sun or moon, are not worthy of being worshipped. The one worthy of worship can only be the one who is the creator of the entire universe. Because the people had no answer to this evidence, they became vexed and instead of accepting the truth, began quarrelling.
According to this explanation of these verses, there neither remains a need for obscure interpretation nor for implied words. The context of these verses also corroborates this elucidation. For example, in this regard the first two verses are:
Remember the time when Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) said to his father Aazar, “Do you take idols as gods. Indeed I regard you and your nation to be manifestly misguided.”
“Similarly we showed Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) the kingdom of the heavens so that he becomes certain.” (6:74,75)
These two verses indicate that the incident of observing the stars occurred at a time when Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) was engaged in debate with his father and his people to convey the truth to them. The second verse begins with the word “similarly” and the third verse with the particle “Faa” which clearly indicates that all three verses are interlinked.
Furthermore, just as Allah granted Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) clear evidence to combat idol-worship and vanquish Aazar and his people, He also gave him the opportunity of observing the kingdom of the heavens and the earth in order that he becomes aware of the reality of all these creations and obtains complete conviction to combat star-worship. In this way he would be able to present manifest proofs against the star-worshippers and guide them to the path of truth. This was the precedent to the verses of observation of the stars. Now it is worth noting the subsequent verses.
When the sun began setting, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) looked at it and said,
“O my nation, I am free of those partners whom you ascribe.”
Together with this the following verse is mentioned: “I have turned my attention to the one who created the heavens and the earth. I am not of the polytheists.”
The following verse is: “Ibrahim’s nation began disputing with him. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) asked, “Are you disputing with me regarding Allah?”
The final verse in this context is:
“That was the proof which we granted to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) against his people. We raise whom we desire in stages. Indeed your Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.” (6:80-83)
The following conclusions can be derived from these verses:
(1) The incident of observing the stars was related to the people. It is for this reason that on the third occasion, he directly addressed the people instead of addressing himself.
(2) The people, after hearing all this, instead of answering Ibrahim’s proofs with some evidence, resorted to disputing and fighting.
(3) Allah has regarded this conversation of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) as His (Allah’s) proof. He indicated that Ibrahim’s status is very lofty. His nation were in dire need of his guidance. Furthermore Allah said regarding Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam):
“Undoubtedly we granted Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) guidance before and we are fully knowledgeable about him.” Therefore, this incident was neither of his childhood nor of his own beliefs. It is apparent from the above discussion that the exegesis of the verses which we have narrated is the correct one. The worshipping of the stars and regarding them as deities was a decisive proof which Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) had against his nation. Their beliefs were total misguidance. The stars and other planets are all functioning under a specific system. They accept change as the changing of the night and day. The owner and creator of this entire system is the one who controls it, namely Allah. “Neither can the sun reach the moon nor can the night overtake the day.” (36:40)
After presenting all these vivid proofs, when the people rejected Islam, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) decided to practically prove to them the helplessness of their idols. He wanted them to realise that the idols were lifeless. They could not remove any harm from themselves, let alone others. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) planned a strategy but did not reveal it to anyone. During his conversations with the people he said in passing to them:
“By Allah, I will conspire against your idols in your absence.” (21:57)
In this way he wanted to indicate to them that if their idols had any power, they would stop him from doing anything. The people did not pay much attention to what he said.
Very shortly thereafter the people had an auspicious day of celebration. When they began departing, some of them invited Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) to join them. At first he refused, but when they insisted, he gazed up at the stars and said: “I am not feeling too well.” (37:89)
Because they were star-worshippers, they assumed that he was afflicted by the effect of some ill-fated star. Without asking for an explanation, they departed. When the people were busy reveling in their celebration, Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) decided that this was the opportune moment to execute his plan and reveal the true reality of the idols to the nation. He proceeded to the largest temple. There he saw a variety of foods and fruits placed before the idols. He then turned to the gods and asked: “Will you not eat? What is the matter with you that you do not speak? Then he turned upon them striking them with the right hand. (37:91-93)
He smashed all of them to pieces except the largest one so that they could refer to him (as to what happened). (21:59)
When the people returned from the fair, they found all the idols broken. This agitated them tremendously. They began asking one another who the perpetrator of this vile deed was. They asked: “Who has done this to our gods? He is indeed an oppressor.”
Some of the people said: “We heard a youngster by the name of Ibrahim talking about them.”
They said: “Bring him before the eyes of the people in order that they may bear witness.
(When he was brought before the people), they asked: “Are you the one that did this to our gods, O Ibrahim.” (21:59-62)
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) realised that this was the golden opportunity for which he had prepared his scheme. The masses were present. The majority had observed what happened to their deities. In the presence of the majority, the time had come to make the fortune-tellers and religious leaders regret their false beliefs so that the masses could realise that they were misled all along by these soothsayers. Therefore, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) said:
“Nay, the largest one of them all has perpetrated this sin. Ask them if they can speak.” (21:63)
What answer could the fortune-tellers and worshippers have for Ibrahim’s decisive proof? They were drowned in regret, internally disgraced and they began pondering what answer to give. The majority also understood everything after personally witnessing the scene they were not prepared for. They eventually had to admit that they and not Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) were the oppressors for having such false beliefs.
They turned to themselves and said: “Surely you are the ones in the wrong.”
Then they were confounded with shame and said: “You know full well that these idols do not speak.” (21:64,65)
In this way Ibrahim’s proof was successful. They had to openly admit that their deities were incapable of providing an answer. Now Ibrahim (alayhis salaam) gave them sound advice and reproached them. He said: “Do you then worship things besides Allah which can neither benefit nor harm you? Fie upon you and upon the things you worship besides Allah. Have you no sense?” (21:66,67)
“Do you worship that which you yourselves have carved? Allah has created you and your actions.” (37:95,96)
The effect of Ibrahim’s (Alaihis salaam) advice should have made all the people repent from their false beliefs and accept the correct Deen. However the distortion of their hearts, the recalcitrance of their souls and their internal iniquity did not allow them to come in this direction. On the contrary, they raised the banner of enmity against Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam). They began telling one another that if they desired the satisfaction of their deities, they should severely punish him for his blasphemy by hurling him into a raging fire. In this way his propagation can be finally terminated.
Invitation to the King
While these discussions were in progress, the king came to know about the matter. In that era the kings of Iraq used to be known as Namrud. He not only used to be the king but called himself the Rabb (Sustainer) and Owner of the people. The subjects also regarded him as a god. They worshipped him as they worshipped the other idols. In fact they accorded him much more respect because he had intelligence and was on the throne.
When Namrud was apprised of the situation, he became enraged. He realized that if Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) continued propagating, it would make all the subjects rebel against his godhood and authority. Together with the demise of the religion of the forefathers, it could spell an end to his kingdom. Thus it was essential to terminate the matter from the very beginning. While pondering over it, he issued the command for Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) to be brought before him. When he was brought to the royal court, Namrud asked him why he was opposing the religion of the forefathers and why he did not accept him (Namrud) as a god. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) replied that he was the worshipper of one Almighty and he could not ascribe any partners to him. The entire universe was His creation and He was the creator and owner of everything. He told Namrud that he (Namrud) was an ordinary human being like all the others. How could he then be a god? How can these deaf and dumb wooden idols be god? Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) reiterated that he w as on the correct path while the others were astray. How could he then discard propagating the truth and accept the man-made religion of the predecessors?
Namrud then asked Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) that if there was a god besides him, he should describe some power of his which he (Namrud) does not have. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) replied: “My Sustainer is the one who controls life and death.” Namrud retorted that he also had control over life and death. He immediately ordered an innocent person to be killed by the royal executioner. Then he freed a prisoner who was on death row. He turned his attention to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) and said: “Did you see how I can also give life and death?”
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) realised that Namrud either did not understand the reality of life and death or he was trying to mislead the masses. Giving life does not mean saving one from death but it means bringing a non-entity into existence. Similarly, to kill someone does not imply the giving of death. Granting death means removing the soul of a being and having control of that soul.
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) realised that it was fruitless to dispute this point as Namrud would succeed in deceiving the people. Ibrahim’s aim at this point was to explain the unity and power of Allah. He therefore chose another manner for explaining. He presented such a proof which a person observes daily. There was no need for any logical proofs to drive the point home. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) said: “Indeed Allah brings the sun from the east. You bring it from the west.” Namrud was dumbfounded. He had no reply to this challenge.
The reason why he was left speechless was that Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) explained his belief in the power of the Creator. He is the one that created the entire universe and its system. Everything functions according to His will to such an extent that nothing can move before its appointed time nor can anything be displaced. Examine the sun in this whole system and you will see how much the earth benefits from it. With all that, Allah has ordained a system of rising and setting for it. If the sun desires to go out of this system, it cannot do so because its reins lie in the control of the Almighty and He does only what His wisdom desires.
Thus Namrud had only three possible ways of replying. He could have claimed to have full control over the sun and its entire system. However he did not proffer this answer because he himself did not believe that he controlled the sun.
The second reply could have been that he did not regard the world to be the creation of anyone and he believed the sun to be a deity. Had he presented this belief, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) would have objected by explaining the fact that the sun undergoes more changes than the worshippers themselves. How can a deity undergo so many changes? Can the sun rise and set before its appointed time?
The third possibility was that he accept Ibrahim’s challenge and bring the sun from the west. However, because he had no possible answer to this challenge, he was left speechless. Allah has briefly mentioned this incident in Surah Baqarah. (2:258)
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) firstly invited his father to Islam, gave him the true message and showed him the straight path. Thereafter he propagated the message to the masses. He clarified the truth to them in a clear and decisive manner. Finally he had a debate with Namrud in which he gave a detailed exposition of the unity and power of Allah. The greatest of kings do not have the right to claim godhood. In spite of Namrud, Aazar and the majority realising the truth of Ibrahim’s message and in fact openly admitting it after the incident of the idols, none accepted the straight path. On the contrary, due to their remorse and disgrace, they became agitated and unanimously decided to punish Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) by hurling him into the fire. The punishment for blasphemy and disgracing their idols could not be anything less than the fire. Retribution could only be taken for the deities in this manner.
The cooling of the fire
At this point the efforts of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) terminate. Now force was used against the power of proofs. His father was his enemy, the majority antagonised him and the king wanted to persecute him. Opposition surrounded him from all four sides. Slogans of enmity were raised and there were intentions of a fearful punishment and dreadful revenge full of hatred.
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) was neither perturbed by all these threats nor was he afraid in the least. He continued his propagation of the truth without the apprehension of any reproach. However, on such an occasion when all material means were utilized, he had the support of the Almighty who is the helper of all helpers. He did not leave his messenger helpless. He thrust all the plans of his enemies into the dust. Namrud and the people built a special place in which they lit a fire for several days. The fire was so intense that it scorched all the things around it. When the king and the people were completely satisfied that Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) had no way of surviving, they flung him into the fire by means of a catapult. Allah Ta’ala ordered the fire to cool down and be a means of contentment for Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam). He emerged completely unscathed from the fire.
At this juncture a religious person will regard the cooling of the fire as a genuine realistic act because he knows that the teachings of the Qur’an are divine revelations and the messenger who transmitted these teachings was completely sinless in all aspects of his life. These facts are sufficient to appease a person with Imaan. He knows that although such feats are mindboggling, yet they are possible. Thus the information transmitted by a true messenger is true and cannot be denied as Hercules, the king of Rome said, “The one who does not speak a lie with human beings and does not deceive them will not for a moment attribute any falsehood to God.” Therefore miraculous deeds of this nature that can be possible should be accepted without any philosophical subtleties. One should accept this information of Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) with more certainty than the light of the sun. The Creator of effects in all things has the power to remove those effects when He wants or change them as He wants. If this cannot assuage a person who is engrossed in philosophical subtleties and the materialists, then too there is no reason to reject this miracle because we know that the natural quality of fire is to burn anything that is placed in it. How is it that something which is fireproof does not burn? You may say that the fire still has the effect of burning but because a non-flammable substance was applied, the fire could not burn it.
Then why does not a religious person have the right to answer in the same logical way that the fire in which they hurled Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam), still had the effect of burning but could not affect the body of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam)? The difference is merely that fireproof objects are created by man and that Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) was made fireproof by the Creator. This type of miraculous deed is sometimes manifested to display the truth of the messenger and his superiority over his enemies. In the terminology of Shariah it is called mu’jizah. It is neither an art nor is it in need of means. If the creation of Allah, that is man, has the ability to prevent the effects of a certain thing, why will the Creator of those effects not have the ability to prevent those effects from being manifested at a particular time?
Today science has discovered certain gases in the air which, when in contact with the skin prevent fire from burning it. Thus what is there to prevent the Creator of those gases from protecting Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) from the fire?
“They intended treachery with Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) but We rendered them unsuccessful.” (21:70)
The hadith of Sahih Bukhari
When Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) was asked to accompany the people to the fair, he said, “I am not feeling well”, and when he was asked who broke the idols, he replied, “The largest idol has done it. Ask them if they can speak.”
In a hadith of Bukhari, these two incidents have been mentioned. The hadith begins with the words: “Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) never spoke a lie except three lies…” Thereafter the three incidents are expounded in detail. Two of these have already been mentioned. The third one refers to the journey of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) to Egypt. Before he reached Egypt, he told his wife Sarah, that the Egyptian king was a tyrant. If he saw any beautiful woman, he would snatch her away. If the accompanying male was her husband, he would behead him and if he was some other relative, he left him alone. He told his wife that when she is asked who the accompanying male is, she must reply that he is her brother (in Deen) because there was no other Muslim present at that time. She complied and when the king had evil intentions for her at night, his hand became crippled and he was unable to touch her. On seeing this, he asked Sarah (Alaihas salaam) to make dua to her Lord to cure him. He promised to release her if he recovered. She made dua but he tried his evil act once again and once more his hand became crippled. When this happened for a third time, he commented that she was probably a jinn and commanded that she be taken away. He also handed over a woman, Hajirah to her. When Sarah (Alaihas salaam) took Hajirah (Alaihas salaam) to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam), he asked her what had happened. Sarah thanked Allah for having protected them from the sinful king and told Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) that the king had given him a maid as well. Abu Hurairah (Radiallahu Anhu), after narrating this hadith, said: “O noble Arabs, this is the Hajirah who is your mother.”
The question that arises at this point is that how the word kizb (lie) is used for Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) when he was a prophet of such a high calibre. Allah Ta’ala describes him with many truthful attributes in the Qur’an eg. “Indeed he was a truthful Nabi.” (19:41)
“Indeed Ibrahim was a nation, obedient to Allah and inclining away from deviation. He was not of the polytheists. He was thankful for the favours of Allah. Allah chose him and guided him to the straight path.” (16:120,121)
“Indeed We granted Ibrahim guidance before and We are fully aware of him.” (21:51)
These verses amongst many others make it extremely clear that Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) could not have lied for one moment of his life. Therefore the scholars have two views regarding this hadith:
(1) One group is of the opinion that although this hadith is found in the authentic books of hadith like Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the narrator has erred. The hadith is therefore not acceptable. It is much better to accept the error of a narrator than to attribute a lie to a Nabi. Imam Razi is inclined to this view.
(2) It is a certain and accepted belief that it is incorrect to attribute a lie to a Nabi. In such an instance, the authentic hadith must be interpreted in such a manner so as not to attribute any wrong to the lofty status of the Messengers. In this way there will not be a need for rejecting the hadith. As these ahaadith have been mentioned in Sahihain (Bukhari and Muslim) and are widely accepted, they cannot be rejected. Thus the sentence “three lies” will be interpreted to mean that he spoke something correct with the correct intention but the listeners did not understand the aim of the speaker. This interpretation is not only confined to this incident but is an accepted figure of speech in the science of eloquence. It is called ma’areed (intimation). The hadith of intercession tends to support this view wherein it is mentioned that Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) spoke these words solely for the protection of Deen. This is the view of the majority of the scholars who reject the first view.
The author is of the opinion that although this hadith is authentic and well accepted by the Muhadditheen, but this sentence of the hadith is defective. This could have been caused by the narrator of the hadith who narrated the meaning of the hadith and not the actual words. Therefore, instead of rejecting the hadith in its entirety, only this sentence should be regarded as defective. This incident of Ibrahim, Sarah and the Egyptian king has been mentioned in the Torah as well. Such uncautious sentences abound in the Torah. Accordingly, it is possible that the narrator erred in expressing the correct narration by mixing it with the Jewish version.
Ibrahim’s Uneasiness for the Guidance of his people
Ibrahim’s agitation for guiding his nation can be well estimated from the foregoing lines. Which proofs did he omit in trying to present the truth? Firstly he explained the matter to his father, Aazar. Then he presented the truth before the majority. Finally he debated Namrud, thereby fulfilling the manifestation of the truth in the best possible manner. He urged them every minute that none was worthy of worship besides the One Creator. The result of idol-worship and star-worship was nothing but destruction and disgrace. Thus it was essential to refrain from polytheism and revert to the straight path. The foundation of this path was unity of the Almighty. The wretched nation did not accept the message of guidance. Besides Sarah (Alaihas salaam) and Lut (Alaihis salaam), no one else embraced the faith. The entire nation agreed to burn him in the fire. When Allah saved him from the fire and disgraced his nation, he decided to migrate to another place to continue his mission of propagating the truth. He said: “I am going to my Sustainer. Soon he will guide me.” (37:99)
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) left his father and his nation and went to the village Kaldaniyeen, on the western bank of the Euphrates river. He lived here for a while. Hadrat Lut and Sarah were his companions. After some time he left for Harraan where he continued his propagation. During this entire period he continued seeking forgiveness for his father and supplicating for his guidance. He did this due to his extreme soft-heartedness and forbearance. Eventually Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) was informed by revelation that his father was not going to embrace the faith. He was from among those who destroyed their virtuous capability. “Allah has sealed their hearts and their ears while their eyes are covered.” (2:7)
When Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) realised this, he immediately distanced himself from his father. This incident has been mentioned in the following verses of Surah Taubah:
“Ibrahim’s seeking forgiveness for his father was only due to a promise which he made with him. Then, when he realised that he was an enemy of Allah, he distanced himself from him. Indeed he is most soft-hearted and tolerant”. (9:114)
Migration to Palestine
In this way he continued propagating until he reached Palestine. Sarah, Lut and Lut’s wife accompanied him on this journey. Lut brought faith in him and said: “I am migrating to my Sustainer. Indeed He is powerful and wise.” (29:26)
When Uthman (Radiallahu anhu) migrated to Abysinnia with Ruqayyah (Radiallahu anha), Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Indeed Uthman is the first person after Lut (Alayhis salaam) to migrate with his family.” Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) settled in the western part of Palestine. This area was under the rule of the Kanaanites during that era. Shortly thereafter he left for Shakeem (Nablus). He continued to move westwards until he reached Egypt.
Migration to Egypt
When he reached Egypt, the incident with the king alluded to previously, occurred. The Egyptian government was in control of the Saami nation. In this way they were related by lineage to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam). An incident between Ibrahim and the king must have occurred due to which the king became certain that he (Ibrahim Alaihis salaam) and his family were the accepted servants of the Almighty. He therefore honoured them and showered them with a plethora of gifts. This was not all. He even went to the extent of handing over his daughter Hajirah in order to strenghthen the ancient family bonds. According to the custom of that time, she would be a servant and assistant of the elder wife. The proof of this historical assumption is also deduced from the Jews. In Safr Alishar, an authentic history book of the Jews, it is mentioned that the king of Egypt in the era of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) was his own countryman.
From this it can be also realised that Hajirah was the king’s daughter and not a slave-girl. An authentic Jewish exegete of the Torah, Rabbi Shalom Isaac writes in the exegesis of chapter 16, verse 1:
“When he saw the miracle due to Sarah, he said: ‘It is better for my daughter to live as a slave-girl in his house than to live as a queen in any other house.”
According to this explanation, Hajirah was only referred to as a slave-girl in the Torah because she would serve Sarah. It did not mean that she was a slave-girl. According to the narration of Abu Hurairah (Radiallahu anhu) in Sahih Bukhari, Hajirah was handed over to Sarah to serve and assist her. This lends credence to the exegesis of the verse of the Torah. Thus the accusation of the Jews that Bani Ismaeel (the Arabs) are inferior to them because they (the Arabs) are the progeny of a slave-girl and the Jews are the descendants of Sarah is incorrect and contradictory to the Scriptures and to historical narrations. Just as interpolations have occurred in the Torah in other incidents, here too alterations have been made by deleting all the details and retaining the word ‘slave’.
Hajirah is actually the Hebrew name ‘Hagar’ which means a stranger. She was given this name because she was from Egypt. However, it seems more likely that Hagar means to separate as in Arabic. She was so called due to separating from her homeland, Egypt.
Two Important Aspects
It is essential to mention two important aspects which are very closely related to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam). They are a means of insight for the followers of Ibrahim’s religion and they illuminate his prophetic grandeur.
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) humbly made a specific dua as narrated in Surah Mumtahinah: “O our Sustainer, do not make the disbelievers a test for us.” (66:5)
The word fitnah used in this verse literally means a test. Now the question arises as to what Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) meant by this dua. The learned scholars, according to differing tastes have answered this question in three ways:
(1) Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) supplicated to Allah to grant a him such a life whereby his statements and actions could be an exemplary model to be adopted by others. He requested steadfastness. He did not want to be an evil example giving the disbelievers an opportunity on the day of Qiyamah to say:
“O our Sustainer, we followed our leaders and elders and as a consequence they misled us.” (33:67)
In other words he desired to be a model leader and thus be a member of the group of Allah’s friends and an enemy of shaitaan’s friends. The context of this verse indicates this interpretation in totality because the announcement of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) and his fraternity against the polytheists has been mentioned before this verse:
“Enmity and hatred has appeared between us until you believe in one Allah.” (60:4)
After the verse under discussion, once again the good example of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) and his obedient followers is projected.
(2) Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) has also requested in this concise supplication not to be made the victim of a test on the hands of the disbelievers. They would use all their means to turn the Muslims away from Imaan and make them accept kufr (disbelief).
An indication of this meaning can be gleaned from the preceding verses where the Muslims declared their disbelief for the beliefs of the polytheists. “We have disbelieved in you.” (60:5)
There lies an open challenge for the disbelievers to embrace Islam. In this situation it was extremely essential for a great prophet to look at his human weaknesses and supplicate to the Almighty not to make the believers a source of fitnah (test) by making them overpower the believers.
(3) At this juncture, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) meant punishment by the word fitnah. One of the forms of fitnah is that the Muslims suffer torment at the hands of the disbelievers. This would cause the believers who would be in a miserable plight to look at the material wealth, status and progress of the disbelievers and say “Had we been on the right path, we would not have been suffering this plight and had these disbelievers been disliked by Allah, they would not have had such honour and status.” In this way the ability to perceive right and wrong would be removed from the Muslims.
This supplication of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) is a lesson for us. When Muslims are oppressed and their rights trampled, they could easily become the targets of the wrong beliefs just mentioned and thereby lose their Imaan.
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) has been mentioned in Surah Shuaraa where the propagation of the other prophets has been narrated. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) encouraged his nation to accept tawheed (the belief of unity) and to reject kufr and polytheism. During this message to his nation he supplicates to Allah thus: “Do not disgrace me on the day of resurrection.” (46:87)
Imaam Bukhari has quoted the following hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (Radiallahu anhu) under this verse in the chapter Kitabut Tafseer: “Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) will see his father on the day of Qiyamah in a miserable condition. He will ask Allah, “O my Sustainer, You accepted my supplication. Do not disgrace me on the day of resurrection. How am I disgraced now by observing my father in this condition?” Allah will respond, “I have prohibited heaven for the disbelievers.”
The same hadith is narrated in the chapter Kitabul Ambiyaa with the following additions: “When Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) will see his father in a miserable condition on the day of Qiyamah, he will address his father thus: “Did I not frequently remind you not to oppose my path of guidance?” Aazar will reply, “Whatever happened has happened. From today I will not oppose you.” On this Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) will implore Allah: “You accepted my supplication. Do not disgrace me on the day of resurrection, and what can be more disgraceful than my father being extremely distant from your mercy.” Allah Ta’ala will reply: “I have prohibited heaven for the disbelievers.” Then a hidden voice will say (and according to some narrations, Allah himself will say): “Ibrahim! Look under your feet. What is there?” Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) will see a badger messed in filth. The angels will hold it by the legs and hurl it into hell.
The condition of Aazar as mentioned in this hadith, is an explanation of the following Qur’anic verse: “On that day (Qiyamah) how many faces will have dust on them. They will be covered in blackness. They are the disbelieving sinners.” (80:40-42)
Hafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalani (the exegete of Sahih Bukhari), comments on this hadith as follows: “Allah will transform Aazar into an animal to remove the grief of Ibrahim.(Alaihis salaam) which was caused as a result of seeing him in his human form and being destined for the fire. By observing him in this animal form, he will have an aversion for him. The wisdom of transforming him into a badger is that according to biologists, the badger is a dirty and stupid animal. Aazar was also involved in filth due to his idol-worship and he was foolish not to accept the clear signs and proofs which Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) presented to him. Thus, he was entitled to be divinely transformed into an animal that is filthy and stupid as a direct consequence of his actions.”
However, the famous muhaddith (scholar of hadith) Ismaeeli, regards this hadith as defective in text even though its chain of narrators is authentic. The ‘defect’ in this hadith is that Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) is accused of doubting the promise of Allah whereas he was a noble prophet of Allah and knew fully that Allah does not go against his promise. Therefore it is incorrect to attribute such a statement to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam). He could not have asked such a question after having full knowledge of Aazar’s polytheistic life and his death as a disbeliever.
Besides Ismaeeli, other muhadditheen have also expressed their reservations regarding this hadith. They have commented: “This narration apparently contradicts the Quran because Allah Ta’ala says with regard to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) in Surah Tawbah: “Ibrahim’s repentance for Aazar was only due to a promise which he made with his father. Then when he realised that he (Aazar) was an enemy of Allah, he distanced himself from him. Indeed Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) is gentle, forbearing.” (9:114)
This verse clearly indicates that Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) knew already in this world that his father remained an enemy of Allah till his last breath. He therefore announced his separation from him in this world already. He indicated that Khalilur Rahman (the friend of Allah) could have no relationship with Aduwur Rahman (the enemy of Allah). Accordingly, this narration cannot be correct in the light of the above-mentioned facts.
Hafiz Ibn Hajar, after quoting the above objections, answers as follows: “There are two narrations regarding when Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) exonerated himself from Aazar. Ibn Jareer has narrated with a correct chain of narrators from Abdullah bin Abbas that when Aazar died a disbeliever, then Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) became certain that he died an enemy of Allah. He therefore discarded seeking repentance for him and announced his exoneration.
The second narration which Ibn Jareer narrates is that this exoneration will take place on the day of Qiyamah as mentioned in the detailed hadith above i.e. when Aazar was transformed, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) became certain that now there was no scope for seeking repentance.”
Thus the two narrations can be reconciled by stating that although Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) had announced his absolution from Aazar in this world due to his death on polytheism, but when he saw the wretched condition of his father, his compassion was aroused and he attempted to seek forgiveness for him. However, when Allah Ta’ala transformed Aazar’s form, he (Ibrahim) lost hope in his salvation and realised there was no scope for his forgiveness. He therefore announced his exoneration once more on that day of reckoning.
Allah’s response to Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) of prohibiting heaven for the disbelievers was to draw his attention to the fact that the world of deeds had terminated and now it was time for retribution. Now the scales of justice had been established and Allah’s unchangeable law of not allowing any disbeliever into heaven had taken effect. The disgrace of a polytheist can never be a means of disgrace for the believer even though they may have a very strong material relationship.
Although Hafiz Ibn Hajar’s answer to the other Muhadditheen has somewhat lightened the objections, it cannot be rejected that some parts of the lengthy hadith of Kitabul Ambiya in Sahih Bukhari remain points of contention. It is for this reason that Hafiz Ibn Katheer in his exegesis of the Quran has, after quoting both these ahaadith of Sahih Bukhari, accepted the brief narration of Abu Hurairah (Radiallahu anhu) and has regarded the lengthy narration of Kitabul Ambiya as an isolated hadith (tafarrud).
Muhaddith Kirmani has also attempted to answer the objections raised on this hadith.
Search for the truth
Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) had a natural inclination to search for the truth. It was his life’s ambition to ponder over the reality of any entity and thereby reach certainty in his belief of unity of the Creator. This inclination of his can be clearly gleaned from his debates with his father, Namrood and the masses. It was for this reason that he asked the Almighty how he resurrected things. Allah asked him: “Do you not believe?” to which his response was: “I certainly believe but I would like to pacify my heart.” He wanted to witness resurrection with his naked eye in order to achieve complete certainty. Allah ordered him to take four birds, tame them to turn to him and place pieces of them on the mountain. Then he was asked to call them. When he complied, the pieces came together, formed a full shape once again and came flying to him. (2:260)
This is the accepted exegesis of these verses as explained by the pious predecessors. Those who have expressed surprise at this incident have attempted to make interpretations of their own which are far-fetched. To proffer incorrect interpretations of the miracles of the prophets mentioned in the Quran or authentic narrations or to reject them in order to appease the rationalists is misguidance.
Besides Sarah and Hajirah, Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) married Qaturah (Keturah). She bore him six sons.
Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were As’shurim, and Let’ushim, and Le’ummim. And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eld’ah. All these were the children of keturah. (Genesis 25:1-4)
Madian’s progeny called the area where they lived, Madian after their father’s name. They were called As-haabe Madyan. Shu’ayb (Alaihis salaam) was deputed as a prophet to this nation.
The perseverance adopted by Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) when he was requested to abandon his family in a desolate and barren land; then he was commanded to sacrifice his only son; thereafter the third major test was when he was threatened that he will be thrown in the fire if he did not terminate his propagation and the matchless obedience which he portrayed on every occasion for Allah’s command clearly indicates that he was a Mujaddid (reformer) among the Messengers.
(1) When a person firmly believes something in the light of knowledge and certainty, when it penetrates his heart, soul and bosom, his thoughts regarding such a belief become so entrenched in him that no calamity, no matter how severe, can move him. He will be able to offer his life by fearlessly jumping into a fire, or leaping into the sea without hesitation or be hanged without any trepidation. The steadfastness of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) is a living example of this.
(2) To uphold the truth, proofs that penetrate the depths of the enemy’s heart have to be presented. Although he may not verbally accept the truth, but his heart must incline towards it. In fact, sometimes the tongue involuntarily utters the truth.
This is the method of the Messengers. They do not tread the logical and philosophical methods of debating. Their proofs are based on observable objects or simple facts. Ibrahim’s debate regarding the worship of stars and his debate with Namrood are clear examples of this.
(3) To hypothetically accept the incorrect belief of the opposition in order to establish the truth is a method of forcing the opposition to admit his error. It is neither a lie nor is it an acceptance of the wrong belief, but merely a proposition. Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) used this method in his debate with the majority. This forced the idol-worshippers to admit that their idols could neither hear nor reply.
(4) If a Muslim has non-Muslim parents, he should treat them respectfully in his dealings and advice while remaining aloof from their polytheistic lives. He should neither be harsh nor vulgar. Ibrahim’s treatment of his father and Nabi’s (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) practice with his uncle Abu Talib are a certain testimony to this.
(5) If a Mumin’s heart contains true Imaan with the correct beliefs, but he queries to obtain certainty by witnessing with the naked eye or he wants to be absolutely certain to pacify his soul, then such a search is not kufr (disbelief) but pure Iman. Ibrahim’s reply, “so that my heart can be pacified”, is a revelation of this reality.
(6) If one feeds the guests sincerely – not for fame and one does it willingly, it is a most virtuous act. This is termed as true hospitality. This attribute had become a natural trait of Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) and honouring the guests was one of his most distinguishing characteristics.
There is a very interesting incident regarding Ibrahim’s generosity mentioned in some books. Once he was waiting in the forest for a visitor as was his normal habit. His table was never without any visitor and he never ate if no visitor was available. He saw an old man whose back was bent due to old-age and he was leaning on a stick – barely able to walk. Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) helped him along and took him home. He laid out the food and when they had completed, Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) remarked, “Thank the One Almighty who has provided us with these bounties.” The old man became enraged and retorted, “I do not know who your One God is. I will thank the idol which I have at home.”
This reply annoyed Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) and he immediately dispensed with his guest. Not long thereafter he felt remorse at his treatment of the old man. Ibrahim (Alayhis salaam) thought to himself that he was trying to make the guest thank Allah, whereas Allah is so compassionate that notwithstanding his idol-worship for so many years, not once did He deny him his sustenance. He has continued showering him with His bounties. What right do I have to expel him from the house if he did not accept my statement?
This incident may be historically correct or questionable, but it nonetheless provides us with a glimpse of Ibrahim’s (Alaihis salaam) hospitality which was proverbial.
(7) Allah illumates the hearts of his chosen ones with such brilliance that besides the love for truth, nothing else remains their desire. They become distinguished with this capability from childhood. They bear trials and tribulations in the path of truth with extreme forbearance. Ismaeel’s (Alaihis salaam) incident bears ample testimony to this fact.