Abraham

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(part 1 of 2) Description:  This lesson covers the most important events of the life of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) based on the Quran and Sun...

(part 1 of 2)

Description: This lesson covers the most important events of the life of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) based on the Quran and Sunnah.

Prerequisites
·       None
Objectives
·       To learn the most important events of the life of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) based on the Quran and Sunnah.
Prophet Abraham, known as Ibrahim in Arabic, was born around 2,000 years before Jesus close to Ur, 200 miles from Baghdad.  The young Ibrahim questioned the religion surrounding him.
Like those around him, his father Azar was an idol worshipper, possibly even a sculptor of them; hence Abraham’s first call was directed to him.  Born with a child’s uncorrupted belief that the world has a Lord, Ibrahim was instinctively aware of the truth about Him. 
“And mention in the Book (the Quran) Abraham, indeed he was a man of truth, a Prophet.” 
Ibrahim began questioning his father’s idol-worship,
“When he said to his father: O my father!  Why do you worship that which neither hears, not nor sees, nor can avail you in anything?  O my father!  Lo!  There has come to me of knowledge that which came not to you.  So follow me, and I will lead you on a right path.  O my father!  Worship not Satan.  Lo!  Satan is a rebel to the Beneficent.  O my father!  Lo!  I fear lest a punishment from the Beneficent should overtake you so that you become a comrade of Satan.”[1] 
“Do you take idols as gods?” (Quran 6:74) 
The reply from his father was natural rejection of a challenge by another not only much younger than him, but also his offspring, a challenge made against years of tradition and norm.
He (the father) said: “Do you reject my gods, O Abraham?  If you do not stop, I will indeed stone you.  So get away from me safely before I punish you.” (Quran 19:46)
Ibrahim stayed firm in his stance on misdirected worship of his father and those that surrounded him.  In his rejection of idolatry Ibrahim began his spiritual journey to the Lord of the Worlds.  Contemplating on the universe shifted his attention from the creation to the Creator, and with it came the opportunity to further his call that the only deity which deserved worship was God, Almighty.  The Quran tells us:
“When the night grew dark upon him, he beheld a star, and said, ‘This is my Lord!’  But when it set, he said: ‘I love not things that set.’” (Quran 6:76)
Ibrahim had presented the example of the stars to them, so incomprehensible to them as to be seen as something greater than man with attributes of various powers he has not.  But in the setting of the stars Ibrahim saw their inability to appear as they desired, but rather only at night.
Another example of something even greater is a heavenly body more beautiful, and larger, visible in daytime as well!  However, the horizon cut off its majesty:
“And when he saw the moon rising up, he exclaimed: ‘This is my Lord.’  But when it set, he said: ‘Unless my Lord guides me, I surely shall become one of the folk who are astray.’” (Quran 6:77)
Then as his culminating example, he brought forth to contemplate something even bigger, one of the most powerful objects of creation, without which life itself was an impossibility.
And when he saw the sun rising, he cried: “This is my Lord!  This is greater!”  But when the sun set, he said, “O my people!  Surely I am free from that which you associate with God. Verily, I have turned my face towards Him Who has created the heavens and the earth, away from idolatry, and I am not of those who associate others with God.” (Quran 6:78)
Thus Ibrahim proved to his satisfaction and the consternation of his peers that the Lord of the worlds was not to be found in the creations that their idols represented, but was, rather, the entity who created them and everything which they could see and perceive; that the Lord does not necessarily need to be seen in order to be worshipped.  He is an All-Able Lord, not bound by limitations as the creations found in this world are. 
 “And We verily gave Ibrahim of old his proper course.”[2]
However, despite these proofs his people still argued with him.[3]  They said:
 “Nay, but we found our wise fathers acting in this way.”[4]  
He denied that one’s ancestors are necessarily right, or that we should slavishly follow their customs, by saying:
“Verily you and your fathers were in plain error.”  
His message was simple:
“Worship God, and keep your duty to Him; that is better for you if you did but know.  You worship instead of God only idols, and you only invent a lie.  Lo!  Those whom you worship instead of God own no provision for you.  So seek your provision from God, and worship Him, and give thanks to Him, (for) to Him you will be brought back.”[5]
Then the time came when preaching had to be accompanied with physical action.  Ibrahim planned a bold and decisive blow at idolatry, a plan which had hinted involved their idols,
“And, by God, I shall circumvent your idols after you have gone away and turned your backs.” (Quran 21:57)  
It was time for a religious festival, for which they would leave town, and   Ibrahim was invited to attend. So, when he glanced up at the stars and excused himself, saying;
 “Lo!  I feel sick!” (Quran 37:89)
his peers left without him.  As the temple was deserted, this became his opportunity.  He made his way their, approaching the gold-plated idols, which had elaborate meals the priests had left in front of them.  Mocking them in disbelief:
“He turned to their gods and said: ‘Will you not eat?  What ails you that you speak not?’” (Quran 37:91-2 )
After all what could delude man to worship gods of his own carving?  
“Then he attacked them, striking with his right hand.”  (Quran 37:93)
The Quran tells us,
“he reduced them to fragments, all except the chief of them.” (Quran 21:58)
When the temple priests returned, they were shocked to see the sacrilege, the destruction of the temple.  They were wondering who could have done this to their idols when someone mentioned the name of Ibrahim, explaining that he used to speak ill of them.  When they called him to their presence, it was for Ibrahim to show them their foolishness:,
“He said: Worship you that which you yourselves do carve when God has created you and what you make?” (Quran 37:95)
Their anger was mounting; in no mood for being preached to, they got straight to the point:
“Is it you who has done this to our gods, O Ibrahim?” (Quran 21:62)
But Ibrahim had left the largest idol untouched for a reason:
“He said: ‘But this, their chief has done it.  So question them, if they can speak!’”(Quran  21:63)
When Ibrahim so challenged them, they were cast into confusion.  They blamed each other for not guarding the idols and, refusing to meet his eyes, said:
“Indeed you know well these speak not!”(Quran 21:65)
So Ibrahim pressed his case.
“He said: ‘Worship you then instead of God that which cannot profit you at all, nor harm you?  Fie on you and all that you worship instead of God!  Have you then no sense?’”(Quran 21:67)
The accusers had become the accused.  They were accused of logical inconsistency, and so had no answer for Ibrahim.  Because Ibrahim’s reasoning was unanswerable, their response was rage and fury, and they condemned Ibrahim to be burned alive,
“Build for him a building and fling him in the red hot fire.” (Quran 37:97)
The townspeople all helped in gathering wood for the fire, until it was the largest fire they had ever seen.  The young Ibrahim submitted to the fate chosen for him by the Lord of the Worlds.  He did not loose faith, rather the trial made him stronger.  Ibrahim did not flinch in the face of a fiery death even at this tender age; rather his last words before entering it were,
“God is sufficient for me and He is the best disposer of affairs.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Here again is an example of Ibrahim proving true to the trials he faced.  His belief in the True God was tested here, and he proved that he was even prepared to surrender his existence to the call of God.  His belief was evidenced by his action.
Their anger was mounting, in no mood of being preached at; they got straight to the point,
“Is it you who has done this to our gods, O Ibrahim?”
  But Ibrahim had left the largest idol untouched for a reason, and said:
 “But this, their chief has done it.  So question them, if they can speak!”  
When Ibrahim so challenged them, they were cast into confusion.  They blamed each other for not guarding the idols and, refusing to meet his eyes, said:
“Indeed you know well these speak not!”
So Ibrahim pressed his case.
 “He said: Worship you then instead of God that which cannot profit you at all, nor harm you?  Fie on you and all that you worship instead of God!  Have you then no sense?”  
The accusers had become the accused.  They were accused of logical inconsistency, and so had no answer for Ibrahim.  Because Ibrahim’s reasoning was unanswerable, their response was rage and fury, and they condemned Ibrahim to be burned alive.
 “Build for him a building and fling him in the red hot fire.”
The young Ibrahim submitted to the fate chosen for him by the Lord of the Worlds.  He did not loose faith, rather the trial made him stronger, and he did not flinch in the face of a fiery death at young age.  Rather, the last words of Ibrahim before entering it, were:
“Allah is sufficient for me and He is the best disposer of affairs.”[6]  
God had not willed that this be the fate of Ibrahim, for he had a great mission ahead of him.  Thus He saved Ibrahim as a sign for him and his people as well.. 
“We said: ‘O fire, be coolness and peace for Ibrahim.  And they wished to set a snare for him, but We made them the greater losers.”  
Ibrahim escaped the fire unharmed.
After years of persecution, Ibrahim and his family likely migrated to Harran in southeastern Turkey to continue preaching the truth.  While in Harran, Ibrahim continued to preach to his father, but his father was equally persistent in his rejection.  Finally, he said,
“If you cease not, I shall surely stone you.  Depart from me a long while!”
  Banished by his father, Ibrahim parted with kind words,
“Peace be to you!  I shall ask forgiveness of my Lord for you.  Lo!  He is ever gracious to me.  I shall withdraw from you and that to which you pray beside God, and I shall pray to my Lord.  It may be that, in prayer to my Lord, I shall not be unblessed.”



Footnotes:
[1] Quran 19:41-50
[2] Quran 21:51
[3] Quran 6:80
[4] Quran 26:69-76
[5] Quran 29:16-19
[6] Saheeh Al-Bukhari

Abraham (part 2 of 2)

Description: This lesson covers the most important events of the life of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) based on the Quran and Sunnah.
Prerequisites
·       None
Objectives
·       To learn the most important events of the life of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) based on the Quran and Sunnah.

After years of unsuccessful preaching and anguish at the probable fate of his father in the Hereafter, tenderhearted Ibrahim kept his promise to pray for his father.  It was a promise Allah rejected in the end (Quran 9:113-114).  When Ibrahim left behind Harran and the idolaters, he provided and example for us.  Allah recommends part and warns against part of what he announced:
“Indeed there is for you a good example in Ibrahim and those with him, when they said to their people: ‘We are clear of you and of that which you serve besides Allah.  We disbelieve in you and there has arisen enmity and hatred between us and you forever until you believe in Allah alone’ - except for the saying of Ibrahim to his father, ‘I will surely ask forgiveness for you, but I have not (power to do) for you anything against Allah.’”[1]
Ibrahim migrated to Egypt, where he met the Pharaoh.  Sarah, a beautiful and and charming woman, attracted the attention of the Pharaoh.  When asked about his relationship with Sarah, Ibrahim replied that she was his sister - he meant his sister in faith.  Through her, a statement was about to be made to the Egyptians to submit to Allah.  Thinking she was available for his use, the Pharaoh quickly summoned Sarah who, on Ibrahim’s instructions, kept quiet about her relationship with him.  Sarah, however, was a chaste woman, and she turned to Allah in prayer.  The moment Pharaoh reached for Sarah, his upper body paralyzed.  He cried to Sarah in distress, promising to release her if she would release him!  She, however, simply prayed to Allah for his release, to demonstrate that only He has the power, if He wills, to protect her.  Only after a failed third attempt did he finally let her go.  Sarah returned to Ibrahim, accompanied by Hagar, a gift from Pharaoh to propitiate one so protected by Allah.  She had delivered a powerful message to the pagan Egyptians, yet still the Pharaoh misdirected his propitiation, which should have been directed towards Allah.  
Loaded with gifts, Ibrahim returned to Palestine.  Yet Sarah and Ibrahim continued to be childless, despite divine promises that he will have many descendants.  Driven by altruism, Sarah suggested that Ibrahim take Hagar, her handmaiden, as a second wife to bear him a child on her behalf.  While in Palestine, Ibrahim married Hagar who bore him a son, Ishmael.
While Ishmael was still nursing, Ibrahim was commanded by Allah to take Hagar and Ishmael to a barren valley of Bakka 700 miles southeast of Hebron.  In later times it would be called Mecca.  Ibrahim left them there with a skin of water and leather bag full of dates.  As Ibrahim began walking away leaving them behind, Hagar became anxious about what was happening.  Ibrahim did not look back.  Hagar chased him, ‘O Ibrahim, where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we can enjoy, nor is there anything here?’  Ibrahim hurried his pace.  Finally, Hagar asked, ‘Has Allah asked you to do so?’  Suddenly, Ibrahim stopped, turned back and said, ‘Yes!’ Feeling a degree of comfort in this answer, Hagar asked, ‘O Ibrahim, to whom are you leaving us?’  ‘I am leaving you to Allah’s care,’ Ibrahim replied.  Hagar submitted to her Lord, ‘I am satisfied to be with Allah!’[2]  She traced her way back to little Ishmael.  Ibrahim left with prayers for his wife and child, which he prayed when he was out of sight.
Soon, the water and dates were gone and Hagar’s desperation increased.  Unable to quench her thirst or to breastfeed her little baby, Hagar began searching for water.  She began climbing the rocky incline of a nearby hill.  ‘Maybe there is a caravan passing by,’ she thought to herself.  She ran between the two hills of Safa and Marwa seven times looking for signs of water, and then she heard a voice.  Looking down in the valley, she saw someone standing next to Ishmael.  It was the angel Gabriel,  who hit the ground next to the baby with his heel as she came rushing down the hill, and water came gushing out.  It was a miracle!  Hagar tried to make a basin around it to keep to from flowing out and filled her skin.  ‘Do not be afraid of being neglected,’ the angel said, ‘for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects his people.’[3]  It was not long afterwards that the tribe of Jurham, migrating in its usual pattern from southern Arabia, stopped as they passed the valley of Mecca.  They were unaccustomed to seeing birds flying in its direction, as it was known to be dry and lifeless, so they went to see where it was going.  When they saw the abundant water, they asked the mother and child if they would share it with them. Eventually, they settled in Mecca and Ishmael grew up among them.
During a reunion with his family in Mecca after years of separation, Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son through a dream; the son he had recently met again after a decade of prayers and separation.  Ibrahim consulted his son to see if he understood,“(Ibrahim) said: ‘O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice you.  So look, what think you?’  He said: ‘O my father!  Do that which you are commanded.  God willing, you shall find me of the patient.’”[4]  The pious son of a pious father was committed to submit to Allah and willingly agreed to be sacrificed.  Ibrahim was commanded to take his son to Mina, about four miles east of Mecca, where he laid him out for slaughter.  Just as Ibrahim’s knife was poised to descend, a voice stopped him, “We called to him: ‘O Ibrahim: You have already fulfilled the vision.’  Lo!  Thus do We reward the good.  Lo!  That verily was a clear test.”[5]  Ibrahim was guided to ransom Ishmael with a ram, ‘then We ransomed him with a great sacrifice.’
Upon Ibrahim’s return to Palestine, he was visited by the angels, who gave him and Sarah the good news of a son, Isaac, with the words “Lo!  We bring you good tidings of a boy possessing wisdom.”[6]
In one of his later trips to Mecca the two built the Kaabah on Allah’s command.  While the father and son were building the Kaabah, they prayed:
“Our Lord!  Accept from us (this duty).  Lo!  You, only You, are the Hearer, the Knower.  Our Lord!  And make us Muslims (submissive to You) and of our seed a Muslim nation (submissive to You), and show us our ways of worship, and forgive toward us.  Lo!  You, only You, are the Forgiving, the Merciful.  Our Lord!  And raise up in their midst a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Your revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall purify them of their sins.  Lo!  You, only You, are the Mighty, the Wise.” (Quran 2:127-129)
Before leaving Mecca, Ibrahim made a special prayer to Allah.  He asked for Mecca to be blessed, protection for his family from false worship, blessing for Ishmael and his descendants, regular salah for his descendants, and forgiveness for himself, his parents, and all believers (Quran 14:35-41).  Ibrahim’s prayer for a Messenger, and for Ishmael’s descendents, was answered several thousand years later when Allah raised Prophet Muhammad among the Arabs.
He was now to proclaim an obligation binding on every believer in One God to make pilgrimage to the Kaabah (Quran 22:27).  Why this is not mentioned in Judaism and Christianity in the present day is puzzling,  but may be due to deliberate omission from their religious teaching as it moves the focus of their belief from ‘the Promised Land’ to a land where ‘the chosen people of the ‘Bani Israel’ were not settled.

Ibrahim and Hajj

Several rites of Hajj commemorate events of  Ibrahim and his family.  After going around the Kabah, a Muslim prays two rak’ah salah behind the Station of Ibrahim, the stone on which he stood to build the Kabah.  After the prayers, a Muslim drinks from zamzam, the miracle water provided by Gabriel that saved the lives of Hagar and Ishmael.  The rite ofsaa’i – walking between Safa and Marwa – commemorates Hagar’s desperate search for water when she and her baby were alone in Mecca.  The sacrifice of an animal in Mina is after Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah’s sake.  Lastly, the stoning of the three pillars - jamaraat - at Mina exemplifies Ibrahim’s rejection of satanic temptations to prevent him from sacrificing Ishmael.
Ibrahim, ‘The one whom Allah chose for His love’ – khaleel-ullah – about whom Allah said, “I will make you a leader to the nations.”[7] returned to Palestine and died there.


Footnotes:
[1] Quran 60:4
[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[3] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[4] Quran 37:101-102
[5] Quran 37:104-106
[6] Quran 15:53
[7] Quran 2:125

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Jama Masjid: Abraham
Abraham
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