7.5 Abraham

7.5 Abraham

The Qur’an contains a large number of verses on Abraham, and I start with a few:

(2:124) And (remember) when his Sustainer tried Abraham with (His) commands, and he fulfilled them, He said: Lo! I have appointed thee a leader for mankind. (Abraham said): And of my offspring (will there be leaders)? He said: My covenant includeth not wrong-doers.

(37:100-110) O my Sustainer! Vouchsafe me of the righteous. So We gave him tidings of a gentle son. And when (his son) was old enough to walk with him, (Abraham said) O my dear son, I have seen a dream that I must sacrifice thee. So look, what thinkest thou? He said: O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. Allah willing, thou shalt find me of the steadfast. Then when they had both surrendered (to Allah), and he had put his forehead down, We called unto him: O Abraham! Thou hast already fulfilled the vision. Lo! thus do We reward the good. Lo! that verily was a clear test. Then We redeemed him with a tremendous (azim) sacrifice, and left him thus to be remembered among later generations. Peace be unto Abraham. Thus do we reward the good.

The word azim‘ means ‘tremendous’ or ‘mighty’. Thus, it is highly improbable that this sacrifice refers to the ram which Abraham found and slaughtered in place of Isaac (Ishaq) (see Genesis 22:13; also chapter 18 below). The following two verses state clearly the duty or the responsibility  which both Abraham and Ishmael were to undertake, in view of their total submission to the Will of Allah. The tremendous sacrifice asked for by Allah is that both should work for the cause of Allah. Unfortunately, Muslims believe the Biblical story, involving a ram, and think that they will be able to redeem themselves by sacrificing millions of animals at the end of Hajj (pilgrimage). By ignoring the Qur’an, they fail to realise that the real sacrifice required by Allah from the believers is to work for the cause of Allah, steadfastly.

(2:125) And when We made the House (at Mecca) a resort for mankind and a sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood (to pray). And We imposed a duty upon Abraham and Ishmael, (saying): Purify My House for those who go round and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship).

(2:127,128) And Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Sustainer! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower. Our Sustainer! make us submissive unto Thee and our seed a nation submissive unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and relent towards us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Relenting, the Merciful.

(22:27) And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine.

(19:54) And make mention of Ishmael in this Scripture. Lo! he was a keeper of his promise, and he was a messenger (of Allah), a Prophet.

To fulfil his obligations Abraham settled some of his family near the Kaba.

(14:37) O our Sustainer! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by the Sacred House in order, O our Sustainer, that they may establish regular prayer: So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits in order that they may be thankful.

Abraham was further blessed by another son in his old age as shown in the following verse.

(37:112,113) And We gave him tidings of the birth of Isaac, a prophet of the righteous. And We blessed him and Isaac. And of their seed are some who do good, and some who plainly wrong themselves.

We also see from the Qur’an that with Abraham some important landmarks of ‘Islam’ took place. He was instructed to build the House of Allah (Kaba) with his son Ishmael, and to introduce the religious practices such as Prayer (Salat), Fasting, Pilgrimage (Hajj), and Zakat. In fact all our main religious practices originated with Abraham. The belief in Allah alone, Who has no partner, remained the primary condition of Faith, and the code of life (‘religion’ in the comprehensive sense) to be practised by mankind was given the name Islam.

The meaning of the word Islam is ‘submission’ and ‘peace’ – ‘submission’ in the positive sense of committing oneself ‘to live in peace’ by bringing one’s likes and dislikes and behaviour in harmony with the Divine Will. A Muslim is one who surrenders himself to Allah. Thus, the terms Islam and Muslim both originate from the very first contact of God with Man, and pre-date Muhammad by many centuries.

(3:19) With Allah the Deen is Al-Islam[…]

(3:67) Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters.

(2:130,131) And who forsaketh the religion of Abraham save him who befooleth himself? Verily, We chose him in the world and lo! in the Hereafter he is among the righteous. When his Sustainer said unto him: Surrender! he said I have surrendered to the Sustainer of the Worlds.

(22:78) And strive for Allah with the endeavour which is His right. He hath chosen you and hath not laid upon you in religion [this code of life] any hardship; the faith of your father Abraham (is yours). He hath named you Muslims (those who have surrendered) of old time and in this (Scripture), that the messenger may be a witness against you, and that ye may be a witness against Mankind. So establish worship, and invest in Zakat, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protecting Friend. A blessed Patron and a blessed Helper!

It should be borne in mind that the traditional use of the terms ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ for the followers of the Prophet Muhammad is a contradiction with the Qur’an. Both these terms are universal in connotation and are meant for the whole of Mankind through all the ages of the history. Thus according to the Qur’an, Allah’s reward is not reserved for any particular group or ‘denomination’ but is open to anyone who consciously accepts the oneness of Allah, surrenders himself to his Will, and by living righteously gives practical effect to this attitude.

(2:62) Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee Muhammad) and those who are Jews, and Christians and Sabians — whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – their reward is with their Sustainer, and there shall no fear come upon them and neither shall they grieve

The Sabians are a monotheistic religious group which to this day can be found in Iraq.

(2:111,112) And they say: None entereth Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian. These are their own desires. Say: bring your proof (of what you state) if ye are truthful. Nay, but whosoever surrendereth his purpose to Allah while doing good, his reward is with his Sustainer; and there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.

Islam, therefore, is a continuation of original code of life (deen) as established by the first prophet. All succeeding prophets preached the same code of life (deen). From Abraham came a long line of prophets through his two sons, Ishmael (Ishmael) and Isaac (Ishaq). Ishmael was the progenitor of the Arab peoples and Muhammad was among his descendants. From Isaac came a number of prophets, including his son Jacob (Yakub), his grandson Joseph (Yusuf), Moses (Musa), David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulaiman), John the Baptist (Yahya) and Jesus (Isa).

(2:132-134) The same did Abraham enjoin upon his sons and also Jacob, (saying): O my sons! Lo! Allah hath chosen for you the (true) religion [this code of life]; therefore die not save as men who have surrendered (unto Him). Or were ye present when death came to Jacob, when he said to his sons: What will ye worship after me? They said: We will worship thy God, the God of thy fathers Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, One God, and unto Him we have surrendered. Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which ye earn. And ye will not be asked of what they used to do.

(2:136) Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Sustainer. We make no distinction between them, and unto Him we have surrendered.