Prophet Ibrahim (AS)
CHALLENGING THE WILL OF GOD
Namrud (Nimrod), the son of Kan’an, ruled over the city of Babylon. When he totally dominated over the people and the extent of his influence developed, he forced the people to worship him; the people, who prostrated themselves in front of idols made of wood and stone, easily obeyed Namrud and called him their god. For this reason, the people were in deviation for a long time and forgot God the Great, the One. Therefore, God willed to bring a great leader into existence from among that deviated people to guide them.
One day, a court astrologer told Namrud:
“The position of the stars indicates that a man will soon revolt, uproot idolatry, and invite the people to a new religion.”
Namrud asked, “In which land will this man begin his rebellion?”. The astrologer replied, “In this very land; however, he is not yet born.”
To prevent this from happening, Namrud ordered that men and women be kept separate so that the foetus of such a person would not be conceived and he would not be born. Out of ignorance, Namrud thought that he could, in this way, obstruct the Will of God and prevent the Divine Decree from being executed. However, in that very atmosphere of fear and horror, Ibrahim(Peace Be Upon Him)was conceived and his mother became pregnant. The signs of pregnancy, however, not evident in her.
When the time of delivery drew near, Ibrahim’s mother left the city to find a hidden and private place to deliver her baby. At last, she took refuge in a cave where she gave birth to Ibrahim (AS) who opened his eyes to the world in that cave. His mother wrapped him in a piece of cloth, tightly covered the opening of the cave, and returned to the city. God, the Creator of the Universe, ordered milk to flow from Ibrahim’s thumb and, thereby, provided him with sufficient food. Far from others’ watch, Ibrahim (AS) grew and when he reached the age of thirteen, he went secretly to the city with his mother.
Azar, Ibrahim’s uncle, was one of the famous idol-makers of Babylon and his sons used to sell the idols which he made. When Azar saw Ibrahim (AS), he sent him with his own sons to sell idols. From the beginning, Ibrahim (AS) disliked the idols. He would tie a piece of rope around their necks and pull them along the ground, making them dirty and muddy. He would scream, “O people, come and buy, from me, these idols which neither have life nor comprehend anything and are unable to defend themselves.”
In the eyes of the idolaters, Ibrahim ‘s behaviour toward the idols was very offensive. At last, it reached the point that the people complained to Azar of Ibrahim’s bad behaviour toward their idols. Azar tried to advise him, but it was of no use; so, he was compelled to imprison Ibrahim (AS).
IBRAHIM AND A SIGN OF RESURRECTION
God, the Exalted, created Ibrahim (AS) to guide the misled people and idolaters and granted him the position of Prophethood. Ibrahim (AS) had whole-hearted faith in God and didn’t allow any doubt to enter his heart. However, in order to understand the true essence of things, he asked God to show him how He raises the dead.
There came a call from God, “Do you not yet believe in resurrection, Ibrahim?” Ibrahim (AS) replied, “Surely I have believed, but I want to see it obviously in order to reach the point of perfect certitude.”
Since Ibrahim’s intention was to increase his knowledge and certitude, God accepted his request. He told Ibrahim (AS), “Hunt and kill four birds, cut them up, and mix their parts and pieces together. Then, divide the mixed flesh into several portions; put each portion on the top of a separate mountain; after that, call them one by one until, by the Command of God, they revive and come flying to you.”
Ibrahim (AS) did as was commanded by God. After killing, cutting up, and dividing the flesh of the birds, and putting each portion on a separate mountain, he called them; the pieces of the birds’ dead bodies came together from the different places, spirit was blown into them and they became alive again. Ibrahim (AS) witnessed, with his own eyes, one of the great signs of the Power of God in the revival of the dead; his heart, filled with faith, reached the point of perfect certitude.
In the eyes of the idolaters, Ibrahim’ s behaviour toward the idols was very offensive. At last, it reached the point that the people complained to Azar of Ibrahim’s bad behaviour toward their idols. Azar tried to advise him, but it was of no use; so, he was compelled to imprison Ibrahim (AS).
IBRAHIM IN THE IDOL – TEMPLE
Ibrahim (AS) began his divine mission. His uncle, Azar, was the first person to receive the invitation to worship the One God. Ibrahim (AS) respectfully presented the proofs of monotheism, but Azar harshly rejected his words and drove him away. Ibrahim (AS), who had failed at the outset of his mission, sadly left his uncle. After that, he tolerated all persecutions and injuries which he received. These injuries did not lessen his will in the least; rather, he became more determined to guide his people.
Ibrahim (AS) went to his people in order to make them understand that idolatry is a wrong path and a deviation. First, he asked them, “What do you worship?” They said, “Our idols are objects of worship. We worship them; ask them all our needs; and, at the time of calamities, we seek refuge in them.”
Ibrahim (AS) asked, “Do the, idols hear your words and accept your requests? Are they able to harm or benefit in any way?” They said, “No, but we follow our fathers who worshipped idols.”
Ibrahim (AS) said, “You and your fathers have been in manifest error. These stone and wood idols, which are your own handicrafts and cannot have any benefit or harm, are not worthy of being worshipped. Worship belongs to God the one who has created us all and is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all creatures; He has power over all things.” Then, Ibrahim went on to explain the Power of God: he said, “The Great Creator is the One Who created me. He guides me; gives me sustenance; when I become ill, cures me. It is He Who destines me to die and brings me back to life. I hope He will forgive me on Resurrection Day.”
With these words, Ibrahim (AS) invited the people to worship God The One. They disputed with him, however, and refused to stop worshipping their idols and worship God the One instead. Ibrahim (AS) therefore, decided to break the idols and make the ignorant people see for themselves that these lifeless idols are incapable of doing anything and do not deserve to be worshipped.
Every year, the people of Babylon celebrated a feast in which they observed special ceremonies. On that day, they would all go out of the city and spend the day in the countryside. That year, when the day of the festival arrived, all the people left the city except Ibrahim (AS) who pretended to be ill in order to remain alone in the city.
When Ibrahim (AS) found the city deserted and the idol-temple without guards, he entered the temple. In a large, decorated room, the idols were placed in order according to their rank. Ibrahim began looking at the idols; then, mockingly and scornfully, he offered them the food that he had with him, saying, “Would you like some food?” He received no reply from the idols. Once again, he mockingly asked, “Why don’t you say anything? Why don’t you speak? Don’t you want to eat anything?” But, again, he didn’t hear any answer. He then took an axe and began breaking the idols. Soon, all of Namrud’s followers’ beautiful and orderly idols turned into little pieces of broken wood and stone. He spared only the biggest idol, which he left to be the base for his further argument to awaken and inform the people.
The idolaters returned to they city after their festivities. When they saw that their temple was in disarray and the idols were broken, they became very distressed and furious. While searching for the guilty person, they asked each other, “Who has committed such a crime and treated our gods in this way; surely he is among the oppressors.” Some of them said, “We heard a young man speak badly of our idols. His name is Ibrahim. He considers idolatry foolish. He might have done this.”
Ibrahim (AS) was soon identified as the criminal and was summoned to trial and punishment. They asked him, “Was it you who broke our idols?” Ibrahim (AS) firmly answered, “Perhaps the big idol has brought this damage on your idols. If the idols can speak, ask them.” Namrud’s followers were confounded in the face of this logic. Being unable to deny it, they said, “Idols are unable to speak.”
Ibrahim (AS) immediately began an argument which would destroy the foundations of idolatry and would uncover the incorrectness of their belief. He said, “Do you worship instead of God the One something that has no benefit or harm for you? Damnation upon you and what you worship.”
In this way, Ibrahim’s trial came to an end, and according to the existing evidence, he was found guilty. Everyone demanded his punishment by shouting, “Assist the gods; burn Ibrahim in fire! Burn the guilty!”
IBRAHIM IN THE FIRE
To assist their gods and to take revenge on Ibrahim (AS), Namrud’s followers decided to burn him in fire. Since, in their view, Ibrahim’s crime was of a social nature, all should participate in taking revenge on him and share in the reward of their act. To put their intention into action, they all began gathering firewood. After only a few days, they had gathered a pile of wood as huge as a hill. Then, they lit the fire; little by little, the fire rose and its flames reached to the sky. There was so much wood that a great and terrifying fire was set in the desert. The heat of the fire was so much that it could burn a person from a distance.
Using a catapult, they threw Ibrahim (AS) into the fire and, thereby, extinguished the flames of their anger and hatred. Ibrahim disappeared from the sight of the people into the middle of the flames. The people exclaimed and cried out with joy, because they thus had taken revenge on the enemy of their gods.
Jibra’il, the esteemed angel, descended to Ibrahim (AS) and said, “O Ibrahim! Do you have any need? Tell me; I will bring it to pass.” Ibrahim (P.B.UH) said, “I am not in need of you; I am in need of my Lord.” Then he asked God to save him from the fire. By God’s Will, the fire became cold and safe, and Ibrahim (AS)was saved from being burned in it.
Namrud and his followers, who were looking at Ibrahim (AS) from around the fire, saw that, much to their surprise, such a horrifying and burning fire did not harm him at all; he was sitting comfortably in the middle of it. They were all staring at him with wonder and admiration. Namrud told those around him, “If someone worships a god, it must be such an able and powerful god like Ibrahim‘s God.”
The people, who saw this great and Divine sign, realised the legitimacy of Ibrahim ‘s invitation. It was proven to them that the right and just path is the very one to which Ibrahim invited them; however, enmity, stubbornness, ignorance, and the love of wealth and position prevented them from accepting Ibrahim s invitation. Most of the people remained idolaters, and only a small group of them joined Ibrahim (AS).
IBRAHIM’S DISPUTATION WITH NAMRUD
Ibrahim’s deliverance from that terrifying fire caused much surprise and wonder among Namrud’s followers. Namrud, himself, was also much surprised and astonished. He, therefore, summoned Ibrahim (AS) into his presence and asked him, “Who is this God to Whom you invite the people? And why have you broken our idols?
Tell me, who is your God?” Ibrahim (AS) replied, “My God is the One Who gives life and death. The life and death of all living creatures are under His Will and Power.” Namrud attempted to cover the truth with fallacy and to confute Ibrahim; therefore, he said, “I am also able to give life and death, in that I release a prisoner who is sentenced to death and kill another prisoner; thus, I have given life to the first one and have taken the life of the second.”
Ibrahim (AS) replied, “If you are truthful, give life to the one whom you have caused to die. Furthermore, my God is the One Who causes the sun to rise from the East every day; if you are a god and have power, cause the sun to rise from the West.”
Namrud was confounded in the face of Ibrahim’s reasoning. Signs of weakness and distress became evident in him, but he didn’t leave off his obstinacy and enmity. Since he realised that Ibrahim (AS) is backed by a Divine power and that a human is unable to destroy him, Namrud released Ibrahim out of fear of becoming disgraced. He ordered, however, that Ibrahim (AS) be expelled from the city lest the people might follow him and convert to his religion.
Ibrahim (P.BU.H.) – who was unhappy with Namrud, his followers, and their land -prepared to depart. He gathered his sheep and began his journey with his family. Because Ibrahim (AS)had many sheep, Namrud ordered that all be confiscated.
Ibrahim (AS) said, “I have spent all my life in this land and I have worked hard, so that I could save these properties; if you want to take my sheep from me, you must return to me the time I have spent for this”. He then went to the judge and complained before him. After listening to Ibrahim (AS), the judge pronounced judgement in his favour. Ibrahim (AS) won his case; he took his sheep and emigrated from that land toward Syria and the city of Jerusalem together with his nephew, Lut (AS).
Ibrahim (AS) was an ardent man. To conceal his wife, Sara, from the sight of others during the journey, he put her in a trunk, closed the lid, and loaded it onto a camel. When they reached a land which was under the reign of an Arab king, the king’s agents stopped them at the border to search their belongings in order to evaluate the appropriate taxes. They searched all his belongings. When they got to that trunk, they asked Ibrahim to open it. Ibrahim (AS) said, “Suppose that this trunk is filled with gold and silver; lake whatever tax you want, but do not open the lid.”
The chief agent didn’t accept; Ibrahim (AS) was obliged to open the trunk. When the chief beheld Sara’s astonishing beauty, he said, “I will not permit you to leave here until I inform the king of your story and of this woman.” He then sent someone to inform the king.
The king summoned them. When they came into his presence and the king beheld Sara, he involuntarily stretched his hand toward her to take hold of her arm. Ibrahim (AS) became very upset; he turned his face away and said, “O my Lord, keep the hand of this stranger away from my wife.” The king’s hand withered up. The king said, “Did your God wither up my hand?”
Ibrahim (AS) answered, “Yes, my Lord is strict and hates forbidden acts.” The king said, “Ask your God to heal my hand and I won’t bother your wife anymore.” Ibrahim (AS) prayed and his hand was healed.
The oppressive king again looked at Sara and stretched his hand toward her. Again, his hand withered up. Once again, he sought help from Ibrahim (AS). Ibrahim said, “I will pray on the condition that you do not aggress anymore.” The king agreed not to disturb them anymore; so, Ibrahim (AS) prayed, “O my Lord, heal his hand if he is telling the truth.” The king’s hand was healed.
A fear of Ibrahim (AS) entered the king’s heart. He honoured Ibrahim and to Sara, he gave a maidservant by the name of Hajar. He told them, “Go anywhere that you want now.”
IBRAHIM AND THE STAR – WORSHIPPERS
On the way from Babylon to Palestine, Ibrahim (AS) met a group of people who worshipped stars instead of God the One. Having knowledge of the deviation of those people, Ibrahim (AS) wanted to guide them to the worship of God and save them from depravity.
As it is the way of the prophets to use kindness, gentleness, and tolerance in guiding ignorant and misled people, Ibrahim (AS)used a special method in this instance. He first agreed with their religion while, in the meantime, he shattered the foundations of their beliefs.
When night fell and darkness covered every place and the shining stars appeared in the sky, Ibrahim (P.B.UH) said, in agreement with those people, ‘This star is my god. “After some hours, the stars set and disappeared from sight. Ibrahim (AS) said, “I don’t like a god that sets.”
After a while, the moon rose from the horizon and threw light everywhere. Ibrahim (P.B.UH) took a look at the moon and, since he realised that the people were staring at him, he said, “This is my god because it is bigger than that star.” The moon also set after some time, and Ibrahim (AS) said, “If my Lord guides me not, certainly I will be among those who go astray.”
That night ended and the shining sun rose, in perfect beauty, from the East. Ibrahim (AS)looked at the splendour and radiance of the sun and said, “This is my god; this is bigger than and superior to all the stars.”
When the day ended, the sun, like the moon and the stars, disappeared from sight. Ibrahim (AS) expressed his aversion to polytheism and idolatry, saying, “I am weary of these beings which constantly change and are subject to different states. I turn to God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all the creatures. I worship only Him, and I am not among the polytheists.”
In this way, Ibrahim (AS) completed his reasoning and directed the people toward the True Deity. The ignorant people, instead of welcoming his guidance and accepting it whole – heatedly, began to argue and dispute with him. Ibrahim said, “Do you dispute with me about God? God has guided me to the right path.”
When the people saw that their altercation had no effect on Ibrahim (AS), and that Ibrahim didn’t stop worshipping God, they threatened him with the wrath of the stars. Ibrahim (AS) looked upon these threats with scorn, because it was clear to him that there is no god but God the One, that the stars are beings lacking will and are under the Command of the God of the heavens and the earth.