of Abraham and his Family
Some of the People of the
Book stated that his name was Abraham Ibn Tarikh, Ibn Nahur, Ibn
Sarough, Ibn Raghu, Ibn Phaligh, Ibn Aher, Ibn Shalih, Ibn Arfghshand,
Ibn Sam, Ibn Noah.
They said that when Tarikh
was seventy five years old, he had Abraham, Nahor (Nohour) and Haran.
Haran had a son named Lot (Lut). They also said that Abraham was the
middle child and that Haran died in the lifetime of his father in the
land where he was born, the land of the Chaldeans (Al-Kaldanieen), also
known as Babylonia. At that time some people worshipped idols of stone
and wood; others worshipped the planets, stars, sun and moon; still
others worshipped their kings and rulers.
Abraham was born into that
atmosphere, into a typical family of that ancient time. The head of the
family was not even an ordinary idolater, but was one who totally
rejected Allah and who used to make the idols with his own hands. Some
traditions claimed that Abraham's father died before his birth and that
he was raised by an uncle whom Abraham called father. Other traditions
said that his father was alive and was named Azer.
Into that family Abraham was
born, destined to stand against his own family, against the entire
system of his community. In brief, he stood against all kinds of
He was endowed with
spiritual understanding from an early age. Allah enlightened his heart
and mind and gave him wisdom from childhood. Allah the Almighty stated:
And indeed We bestowed aforetime on Abraham his (portion of) guidance,
and We were Well-Acquainted with him (as to his Belief in the Oneness of
Allah, etc.). Surah 21: 51
During his early childhood
Abraham realized that his father made strange statues. One day, he asked
him about what it was he made. His father replied that he made statues
of gods. Abraham was astonished and he spontaneously rejected the idea.
Being a child, he played with such statues, sitting on their backs as
people sit on the backs of donkeys and mules.
One day, his father saw him
riding the statue of Mardukh and he became furious. He ordered his son
not to play with it again.
Abraham asked: "What is
this statue, father? It has big ears, bigger than ours."
His father answered:
"It is Mardukh, the god of gods, son! These big ears show his deep
This made Abraham laugh. He
was only seven years old at that time.
Hatred for Idols
Years passed and Abraham
grew. Since his childhood his heart had been full of hatred for these
idols. He could not understand how a sane person could make a statue and
then worship what he had made. He noticed that these idols did not eat,
drink, or talk, and that they could not even turn themselves
right-side-up if someone turned them up-side down. How, then, could
people believe that such statues could harm or benefit them?
Abraham's people had a big
temple full of idols, in the middle of which was a niche accommodating
the biggest gods which were of different kinds, qualities, and shapes.
Abraham, who used to go to the temple with his father when he was a
child, greatly despised all that wood and stone. What surprised him was
the way his people behaved when they entered the temple: they bowed and
started to cry, begging and imploring their gods for help as if the
idols could hear or understand these requests!
At first, such a sight
seemed funny to Abraham, but later he began to feel angry. Was it not
astonishing that all those people could be deceived? What added to the
problem was that his father wanted him to be a priest when he was grown.
He wanted nothing more from his son than that he revere those statues,
yet Abraham never stopped displaying his hatred and disdain of them.
One night Abraham left his
house to go to a mountain. He walked alone in the dark until he chose a
cave in the mountain, where he sat resting his back against its wall. He
looked at the sky. He had hardly seen it when he remembered that he was
looking at planets and stars which were worshipped by some people on
earth. His young heart was filled with tremendous pain. He considered
what was beyond the moon, the stars and the planets (i.e. Allah) and was
astonished that these celestial bodies were worshipped by men when they
had been created to worship and obey their Creator, appearing and
disappearing at His command.
Therefore, Abraham addressed
his people who worshipped celestial bodies, as Almighty Allah revealed:
Thus did We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth that
he be one of those who have Faith with certainty. When the night covered
him over with darkness he saw a star. He said: "This is my
lord." But when it set, he said: "I like not those that
set." When he saw the moon rising up he said: "This is my
lord." But when it set he said: "Unless my Lord guides me, I
shall surely be among the erring people." When he saw the sun
rising up, he said: "This is my lord. This is greater." But
when it set, he said: "0 my people! I am indeed free from all that
you join as partners in worship with Allah. Verily, I have turned my
face towards Him Who has created the heavens and the earth Hanifan
(Islamic Monotheism, i.e., worshipping none but Allah Alone) and I am
not of Al-Mushrikeen (those who worship others besides Allah)."
Surah 6: 75-79
Reasons with Celestial Worshipper
His people disputed with
him. He said: "Do you dispute with me concerning Allah while He has
guided me and I fear not those whom you associate with Allah in worship.
(Nothing can happen to me) except when my Lord (Allah) wills something.
My Lord comprehends in His Knowledge all things. Will you not then
"And how should I fear
those whom you associate in worship with Allah (though they can neither
benefit nor harm), while you fear not that you have joined in worship
with Allah things for which He has not sent down to you any authority.
(So) which of the two parties has more right to be in security? If you
It is those who believe (in
the Oneness of Allah and worship none but Him Alone) and confuse not
their belief with Zulm (wrong, i.e., by worshipping others besides
Allah), for them (only) there is security and they are the guided. And
that was Our Proof which We gave Abraham against his people. We raise
whom We will in degrees. Certainly your Lord is All-Wise, All-Knowing.
Surah 7: 80-83
In that debate, Abraham
clarified to his people that these celestial bodies do not serve as
deities and cannot be worshipped as partners with Allah the Almighty.
Indeed, these bodies are created things, fashioned, controlled, managed
and made to serve. They appear sometimes and disappear at others, going
out of sight from our world. However, Allah the Almighty does not lose
sight of anything, and nothing can be hidden from Him. He is without
end, everlasting without disappearance. There is no other deity but
Abraham made clear to them,
first, that the celestial bodies are unworthy of worship and, second,
that they are among the signs of Allah. Almighty Allah commanded: And
from among His Signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the
moon. Prostrate not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah
Who created them, if you (really) worship Him. Surah 41: 37
Celestial Worshippers Arguments
Abraham's reasoning helped
to reveal the truth, and then the conflict between him and his people
began, for the worshipers of the stars and planets did not stand mute.
They began arguing and threatening Abraham.
Abraham replied: "Do
you dispute with me concerning Allah while He has guided me, and I fear
not those whom you associate with Allah in worship. (Nothing can happen
to me) except when my Lord (Allah) wills something. My Lord comprehends
in His Knowledge all things. Will you not then remember? And how should
I fear those whom you associate in worship with Allah (though they can
neither benefit nor harm), while you fear not that you have joined in
worship with Allah things for which He has not sent down to you any
authority. (So) which of the two parties has more right to be in
security? . . . if you but know! It is those who believe (in the oneness
of Allah and worship none but Him Alone) and confuse not their belief
with Zulm (wrong i.e. by worshipping others besides Allah), for them
(only) there is security and they are the guided." Surah 6: 80-82
The curtains are drawn on
the first category of people, those who were worshipping celestial
bodies. The next situation reveals the second group, those who were
Reasons with the Idolaters - Surah 21
Allah gave Abraham the
reasoning he needed the first time and every time he argued with his
people. Almighty Allah declared: And that was Our Proof which We gave
Abraham against his people. We raise whom We will in degrees. Certainly
yourLord is All-Wise, All-Knowing. Surah 6: 83
Abraham did his best to make
his people heedful to the belief in the oneness of Almighty Allah and to
the worship of Him alone. He bade them to firmly renounce the worship of
idols. He said to his father and his people: "What are these
images, to which you are devoted?" They said "We found our
fathers worshipping them." He said: "Indeed you and your
fathers have been in manifest error." They said: "Have you
brought us the truth, or are you one of those who play about?" He
said: "Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, Who
created them and of that I am one of the witnesses." Surah 21:
reasons with his Father
All was finished between
Abraham and his people and the struggle began. The most amazed and
furious was his father (or his uncle who had raised him), for, as it is
well known, he not only worshipped idols but sculptured and sold them as
well. Abraham felt that it was his duty as a good son to advise his
father against this evil so that he could be saved from Allah's
Being a wise son, he did not
make his father feel foolish, nor did he openly laugh at his conduct. He
told him that he loved him, thereby hoping to generate fatherly love.
Then he gently asked him why he worshipped lifeless idols who could not
hear, see, or protect him. Before his father could become angry he
hastily added: "0 my father! Verily! There has come to me of
knowledge that which came not unto you. So follow me. I will guide you
to a Straight Path. 0 my father! Worship not Satan. Verily! Satan has
been a rebel against the Most Beneficent (Allah). 0 my father! Verily! I
fear lest a torment from the Most Beneficent (Allah) overtake you, so
that you become a companion of Satan (in the Hell-Fire)."
He (the father) said:
"Do you reject my gods, 0 Abraham? If you stop not (this), I will
indeed stone you. So get away from me safely before I punish you."
Abraham said: "Peace be on you! I will ask Forgiveness of my Lord
for you. Verily! He is unto me, Ever Most Gracious. And I shall turn
away from you and from those whom you invoke besides Allah. Surah 19:
debates with the Idolaters
His father's harsh treatment did not stop
Abraham from delivering the message of truth. Angry and sad to see
people prostrate before idols, he was determined to stamp out these
practices and went to the town to debate with the people, knowing full
well that he might suffer harm.
Like a wise doctor searching
for the cause of a sickness so as to prescribe the proper cure, or like
a judge who questions the accused sharply so that he might detect the
truth, Abraham asked them: "Do the idols see you when you prostrate
before them? Do they benefit you in any way?" They quickly tried to
defend their beliefs. They argued that they knew their idols were
lifeless but that their forefathers had worshipped them; to them this
was proof enough for their belief.
Abraham explained that their
forefathers had been wrong. This angered them and they retorted:
"Are you condemning our gods and our forefathers? Or are you just
Abraham showed no fear as he
replied: "I am serious. I come to you with a true religion. I have
been sent with guidance from our Lord Who alone is worthy of worship,
Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and Who regulates all
affairs of life, unlike the dumb idols which are just stone and
To convince them that the
idols could not harm him, he challenged: "I have already condemned
them; if they had any power they would have harmed me by now!"
reasons with the Idolaters, Second Time
Almighty Allah recounted:
And recite to them the story of Abraham. When he said to his father and
his people: "What do you worship?" They said: "We worship
idols, and to them we are ever devoted." He said: "Do they
hear you, when you call (on them)? Or do they benefit you or do they
harm (you)?" They said: "Nay, but we found our fathers doing
He said: "Do you
observe that which you been worshipping, - You and your ancient fathers?
- Verily! They are enemies to me, save the Lord of the Alamin (mankind,
jinn, and all that exists); Who has created me, and it is He Who guides
me; and it is He Who feeds me and gives me to drink. And when I am ill,
it is He who cures me; and Who will cause me to die and then will bring
me to life (again); and Who, I hope will forgive me my faults on the Day
of Recompense, (the Day of Resurrection)." Surah 26: 69-82
In another surah The
Almighty revealed: And (remember) Abraham when he said to his people:
"Worship Allah (Alone), and fear Him, that is better for you if you
did but know. You worship besides Allah only idols, and you only invent
falsehood. Verily, those whom you worship besides Allah have no power to
give you provision, so seek your provision from Allah (Alone), and
worship Him (Alone), and be grateful to Him. To Him (Alone) you will be
brought back. And if you deny, then nations before you have denied
(their Messengers). And the duty of the Messenger is only to convey (the
Say: "Travel in the
land and see how (Allah) originated creation, and then Allah will bring
forth (resurrect) the creation of the Hereafter (i.e., resurrection
after death). Verily, Allah is Able to do all things."
He punishes whom He wills,
and shows mercy to whom He wills, and to Him you will be returned. And
you cannot escape in the earth or in the heaven. And besides Allah you
have neither any Wali (Protector or Guardian) nor any Helper. And those
who disbelieve in the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs,
revelations, etc.) of Allah and the Meeting with Him, - it is they who
have no hope of My Mercy, and it is they who will have a painful
Breaks the Idols
He explained to them the
beauty of Allah's creation, His power and wisdom. Idol worship is
detested by Allah, for Allah is the Lord of the universe Who created
mankind, guided him, provided him with food and drink, and cured him
when he was sick, and Who will cause him to die and be raised up again.
It was He to Whom Abraham prayed and Who would forgive his sins on the
Day of Judgment. However, they would not give up but clung fast to
Abraham left his father's
house and abandoned his people and what they worshipped. He decided to
do something about their state of disbelief, but did not reveal it. He
knew that there was going to be a great celebration on the other bank of
the river which would be attended by all the people. Abraham waited
until the city was empty, then came out cautiously, directing his steps
towards the temple. The streets leading to it were empty and the temple
itself was deserted, for the priests had also gone to the festival
outside the city.
Abraham went there carrying
a sharp ax. He looked at the stone and wood statues of the gods and at
the food laid in front of them as offerings. He approached one of the
statues and asked: The food in front of you is getting cold. Why don't
you eat?" The statue kept silent and rigid. Abraham asked the other
statues around him: "Will you not eat (of the offering before
you)?" Surah 37: 91
He was mocking them for he
knew they would not eat. He once again asked then: "What is the
matter with you that you do speak not?" Surah 37: 92
He then raised his ax and
started smashing the false gods worshipped by the people. He destroyed
them all except one, on whose neck he hung the ax. After this his anger
subsided and he felt at peace. He left the temple. He had fulfilled his
vow to show his people a practical proof of their foolishness in
worshipping something other than Allah.
Idolaters Questions Abraham
When the people returned,
they were shocked to see their gods smashed to pieces, lying scattered
all over the temple. They began to guess who had done that to their
idols, and Abraham's name came to their minds.
Allah the Almighty said:
They said: "Who has done this to our aliah (gods)? He must indeed
be one of the wrongdoers." They said: "We heard a young man
talking (against) them who is called Abraham." They said:
"Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may
testify." They said: "Are you the one who has done this to our
gods, 0 Abraham?" (Abraham) said: "Nay, this one, the biggest
of them (idols) did it. Ask them, if they can speak!"
So they turned to themselves
and said: "Verily, you are the Zalimun (polytheists and
wrong-doers)." Then they turned to themselves (their first thought
and said). "Indeed you (Abraham) know well that these (idols) speak
not!" (Abraham) said: "Do you then worship besides Allah,
things that can neither profit you, nor harm you? Fie upon you, and upon
that which you worship besides Allah! Have you then no sense?"
Surah 21: 59-67
Furious, they demanded that
Abraham be arrested and tried. Abraham did not resist. This was
precisely what he had been aiming for, so that he could show them up in
public for their foolish beliefs.
At the trial they asked him
if he was responsible for breaking the idols. Smiling, he told them to
ask the biggest idol, which was still whole. He told them that he must
be the culprit! They replied that he knew well that the idol could not
speak or move, which gave Abraham the chance to prove the foolishness of
worshipping these lifeless objects.
They then realized the
senselessness of their beliefs; however, their arrogance would not allow
them to admit their foolishness. All they could do was use their power
of authority - as tyrants usually do - to punish Abraham. They kept him
in chains and planned their revenge.
Idolaters Try to burn Abraham
Anger was burning in their
hearts. They decided to throw Abraham into the biggest fire they could
build. All the citizens were ordered to gather wood as a service to
their gods. Ignorant, sick women vowed that if they were cured they
would donate so much wood to burn Abraham. For several days they
They dug a deep pit, filled
it with firewood and ignited it. They brought a catapult with which to
cast Abraham into the fire. Abraham was put on the catapult, his hands
and feet tied. The fire was ready with its flames reaching the sky. The
people stood away from the pit because of the great heat. Then the chief
priest gave his order to cast Abraham into the fire.
The angel Gabriel came near
Abraham's head and asked him: "0 Abraham, do you wish for
anything?" Abraham replied: "Nothing from you."
The catapult was shot, and
Abraham was cast into the fire, but his descent into the blaze was as a
descent on steps in a cool garden. The flames were still there, but they
did not burn, for Allah the Almighty had issued His command: "0
fire! Be you coolness and safety for Abraham." Surah 21: 69
The fire submitted to the
will of Allah, becoming cool and safe for Abraham. It only burned his
bonds, and he sat in the midst of the fire as if he were sitting in a
garden. He glorified and praised Allah the Almighty, with a heart that
contained only his love for Allah. There was not any vacant space
therein for fear, awe, or worry. It was filled with love only.
Fear and awe were dead, and
the fire was turned into coolness, making the air pleasant. Those who
love Allah as Abraham did do not fear.
Faith of the Believers
Almighty Allah declared:
Those (i.e., believers) unto whom the people (hypocrites) said:
"Verily, the people (pagans) have gathered against you (a great
army), therefore, fear them." But it (only) increased them in
Faith, and they said: 'Allah (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the
Best Disposer of affairs (for us)."
So they returned with Grace
and Bounty from Allah. No harm touched them; and they followed the good
Pleasure of Allah. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty. It is only
Satan that suggests to you the fear of his Auliya supporters and friends
(polytheists, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger
Muhammad), so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are (true)
believers." Surah 3: 173-175
People's reaction to the Fire
The throng, the chiefs, and
the priests sat watching the fire from a distance. It was burning their
faces and nearly suffocating them. It kept burning for such a long time
that the disbelievers thought it would never be extinguished.
When it did burn out, they
were greatly amazed to find Abraham coming out of the pit untouched by
the fire. Their faces were black from the smoke, but his was bright with
the light and grace of Allah. The raging fire had become cool for
Abraham and had only charred the ropes which held him. He walked out of
the fire as if he were walking out of a garden. Cries of astonishment
were heard from the heathens. They wanted to harm him, but We made them
the worst losers. Surah 21:70
This miracle shamed the
tyrants, but it did not cool the flame of anger in their hearts.
However, after this event many of the people followed Abraham, although
some kept their belief a secret for fear of harm or death at the hands
of the rulers.
Dialogue with Namrud
Abraham had established a
definite reasoning against idolators. Nothing was left for him except to
reason against the people who proclaimed themselves gods.
When the king, Namrud, heard
of Abraham's safe exit from the fire he became very angry. He feared
that the status of godhead he had proclaimed for himself was now
challenged by an ordinary human being. He summoned Abraham to the palace
and held a dialogue with him, which Allah the Almighty recounted: Have
you not thought about him who disputed with Abraham about his Lord
(Allah), because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Abraham said (to
him). 'My Lord (Allah) is He Who gives life and causes death." He
said: "I give life and cause death." Abraham said:
"Verily! Allah causes the sun to rise from the east; then cause it
you to rise from the west." So the disbeliever was utterly
defeated. And Allah guides not the people who are Zalimeen (wrongdoers,
etc.). Surah 2: 258
Abraham's fame spread
throughout the entire kingdom. People talked about how he had been saved
from the blazing fire and how he had debated with the king and left him
speechless. In the meantime, Abraham continued calling people to believe
in Allah, exerting a great effort to guide his people to the right path.
He tried every means to
convince them. However, in spite of his love and care for his people,
they felt angry and deserted him. Only one woman and one man of his
people shared his belief in Allah. The woman's name was Sarah and she
became his wife. The man's name was Lot (Lut), and he became a prophet.
When Abraham realized that
no one else was going to believe in his call, he decided to emigrate. He
left his people and traveled with his wife and Lot to a city called Ur,
then to another called Haran, and then to Palestine.
Allah the Almighty told us:
So Lot believed in him (Abraham's message of Islamic Monotheism). He
(Abraham) said: "I will emigrate for the sake of my Lord. Verily.
He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. Surah 29: 26
After Palestine, Abraham
traveled to Egypt, calling people to believe in Allah wherever he
traveled, judging fairly between people, and guiding them to truth and
about Abraham, Sarah, and Hajar
Abu Hurairah narrated that
Abraham did not tell a lie except on three occasions, twice for the sake
of Allah (Exalted and Almighty) when he said: "I am sick,"
(when his people were holding a festival in honor of their gods, Abraham
excused himself by saying he was sick; see Surah 37: 89), and when he
said: "(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it."
The (third was) that while Abraham and Sarah (his wife) were going (on a
journey), they passed by (the territory of) a tyrant. Someone said to
the tyrant: 'This man (i.e., Abraham ) is accompanied by a very charming
lady." So, he sent for Abraham and asked him about Sarah saying:
"Who is this lady?" Abraham said: "She is my
Abraham went to Sarah and
said: "0 Sarah! There are no believers on the surface of the earth
except you and me. This man asked me about you and I have told him that
you are my sister, do not contradict my statement." The tyrant then
called Sarah, and when she went to him, he tried to take hold of her
with his hand, but (his hand got stiff and) he was confounded. He asked
Sarah: "Pray to Allah for me, and I shall not harm you." So
Sarah asked Allah to cure him and he got cured. He tried to take hold of
her for the second time, but (his hand got as stiff as or stiffer than
before and) he was more confounded. He again requested Sarah: "Pray
to Allah for me, and I will not harm you." Sarah asked Allah again,
and he became all right. He then called one of his guards (who had
brought her) and said: 'You have not brought me a human being but have
brought me a devil."
The tyrant then gave Hajar
as a maid servant to Sarah. Sarah came back (to Abraham) while he was
praying. Abraham, gesturing with his hand, asked: "What has
happened?" She replied: "Allah has spoiled the evil plot of
the infidel (or immoral person) and gave me Hajar for service." Abu
Hurairah then addressed his listeners saying:'That (Hajar) was your
mother, 0 Bani Ma-is-Sama (i.e., the Arab, the descendants of Ishmael,
Abraham's wife Sarah was
sterile. She had been given an Egyptian woman, Hajar, as a servant.
Abraham had aged, and his hair was gray after many years spent in
calling people to Allah. Sarah thought that she and Abraham were lonely
because she could not have a child. Therefore, she offered her husband
her servant Hajar in marriage. Hajar gave birth to her first son Ishmael
(Ismail) when Abraham was an old man.
Abraham lived on earth
worshipping Allah and calling people to monotheism, but he was
journeying to Allah, knowing that his days on earth were limited and
that they would be followed by death, and finally, resurrection. The
knowledge of life after death filled Abraham with peace, love, and
One day, he begged Allah to
show him how He brought the dead back to life. Allah commanded Abraham
to take four birds, cut them up, mingle their body parts, divide them
into four portions, and place them on top of four different hills, then
call back the birds in Allah's name. Abraham did as he was told.
Immediately the mingled parts of the birds separated to join their
original bodies in different places, and the birds flew back to Abraham.
Almighty Allah revealed: And
(remember) when Abraham said: 'My Lord! Show me how You give life to the
dead." Allah said: "Do you not believe?" Abraham said:
"Yes (I believe), but to be stronger in Faith." He said:
"Take four birds, then cause them to incline towards you (then
slaughter them, cut them into pieces), and then put a portion of them on
every hill, and call them, they will come to you in haste. And know that
Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise." Surah 2: 260