Ibrahim (Abraham) was one of the greatest and most influential prophets. Allah bestowed the highest honor upon him by making him a “leader for humanity” (4:125), and taking him as “an intimate friend.” (4:125)
Ibrahim was born about four thousand years ago in the thriving city of Ur, in modern-day Iraq. His community was deeply devoted to the worship of idols – a concept he rejected at a very young age. He argued with his people regarding their erroneous beliefs, but after failing to convince them to serve the only God, he migrated to Palestine with his group of followers, including Lut (Lot) who was his nephew. Ibrahim preached Allah’s word far and wide, laying the foundations of monotheism in various lands.
Ibrahim had two sons, both of whom were later appointed as prophets. His wife, Sarah, gave birth to Ishaq (Isaac), from whom the Tribe of Israel is descended. His second wife, Hajar (Hagar), gave birth to Ismail (Ishmael) from whom many of the Arabs are descended. Ibrahim and Ismail constructed the Sacred House in the valley of Makkah (Mecca), and established the practice of the great annual pilgrimage – a tradition continuing to this day.
- Convey the truth using reason and logic
The proper way of convincing people of the truth is through reason and cognition rather than insisting on blind acceptance of faith. This has been the way of the prophets; they always appealed to people’s intellect with their preaching, and advised them to reflect on the universe and use common sense. Let us briefly consider three stories from the life of Ibrahim that illustrate how reason and logic are essential components in understanding the oneness and supremacy of God.
- Who is my Lord?
As a young man, Ibrahim rejected the worship of idols, seeing no sense in this practice. One night, he observed a star in the sky and thought that could be the lord of the worlds. But when the star set, he became convinced it could not be so. He similarly considered the moon and the sun to be his lords, but when they too set, he realized his Lord was the Unseen One who controls heavenly bodies, rather than being one of them; it was illogical to take physical objects as gods. Allah thus guided him to the truth, and revealed the Scripture to him.
- Broken idols
Ibrahim was eager to see his people abandon idol worship. So, one day, while his people were away, he squashed all their idols except the largest of them. When the people suspected him of the act, he blamed the idol still intact, and challenged the people to question the broken idols if they did not believe him. This made the people realize the folly of their ways, for their gods never could speak! Our egos make us blind to reason, however: his people quickly recovered from their state of embarrassment, and declared, “Indeed, you know well that they do not speak!” (21:65) Ibrahim answered, “Do you then worship instead of Allah that which does not benefit you at all or harm you? Fie on you and what you worship instead of Allah. Will you not then use reason?” (21:66-67)
- The king’s argument
“Have you not considered the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship? When Ibrahim said, ‘My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,’ he said, ‘I give life and cause death.’ Ibrahim said, ‘Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.’ So the disbeliever was overwhelmed, and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.” (2:258)
- Being inquisitive can strengthen your faith
While some aspects of our Creator cannot be grasped by human senses, there is nothing wrong with being inquisitive about His other traits and how He ordains matters. In fact, knowing Allah better makes our belief firm, and enables us to serve Him with greater sincerity and devotion. If you are inquisitive about His ways, it may reaffirm your faith in His creative abilities. Consider the following plea made by Ibrahim to satisfy his heart: “And [mention] when Ibrahim said, ‘My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead.’ [Allah] said, ‘Have you not believed?’ He said, ‘Yes, but [I ask] only that my heart may be satisfied.’” (2:260)
- Treat others with compassion
Compassion is one of the great attributes of Allah which He has also blessed His creatures with. Ibrahim was extremely soft-hearted, forbearing, and kind. When he learned of the approaching punishment for the people of Lut due to their sins and corrupt ways, Ibrahim felt grieved for them, and pleaded with Allah to grant them further respite: “…he began to plead with Us for Lut’s people. Indeed, Ibrahim was, without doubt, forbearing, compassionate, constantly repentant.” (11:74-75) One cannot hope for Allah’s compassion unless one is compassionate towards others.
- Be willing to sacrifice for Allah
We must be willing to make sacrifices, whether great or small, for the sake of obeying Allah. He shall amply reward us for any hardships we bear in His cause. Ibrahim was commanded, as a test from Allah, to sacrifice his son. Both father and son readily accepted this command, and when Ibrahim was fully prepared to make the sacrifice, Allah revealed to him not to proceed further, as they both had emerged successful from the trial: “And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, We called to him, ‘O Ibrahim, You have fulfilled the vision.’ Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.” (37:103-105)
It is important to remember that Allah did not actually want Ibrahim to slaughter his son, nor did He allow it to happen. He gave such a command to Ibrahim merely to test how readily he would respond to it and whether he was worthy of the highest status among humanity. Since the prophets were honored by Allah most, they were also tested most severely.
- Make your children firm upon monotheism
It is our duty to ensure that our children serve Allah alone and associate none with Him. Praying for help or intercession to others – whether idols, angels, objects of nature, prophets, or other deceased individuals – amounts to worshipping them, and is the gravest sin in the sight of Allah. It is, therefore, essential that our children firmly grasp true monotheism as prescribed by the Quran. While Ibrahim could do nothing about his father worshipping idols, he ensured that his children did not stray from the truth: “And [mention], when Ibrahim said to his father and his people, ‘Indeed, I am disassociated from that which you worship, except for He who created me; and indeed, He will guide me.’ And he made it a word remaining among his descendants that they might repent [frequently].” (43:26-28)