Monday, September 21, 2015

Prophet Abraham: The Father of Prophets-1

By Kamil Mufti
13 September 2015
One of the prophets given the most attention in the Quran is Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him).
The Quran tells of him and his unwavering belief in God, first calling him to reject his people and their idolatry, and later to prove true to various tests which God places before him.
In Islam, Abraham is seen as a strict monotheist who calls his people to the worship of God alone. For this belief, he bears great hardships, even disassociating himself with his family and people through migration to various lands. He is one who fulfills various commandments of God though which he is tested, proving true to each one.
Due to this strength of faith, the Quran attributes the one and only true religion to be the “Path of Abraham”, even though prophets before him, such as Noah, called to the same faith.
Because of his tireless act of obedience to God, He gave him the special title of “Khaleel” (beloved servant), not given to any other prophet before. Due to the excellence of Abraham, God made prophets from his progeny, from them Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and Moses, guiding people to the truth.
Early Life
In the Quran, Abraham is given the only name “Ibrahim” although in the Bible Abraham, all sharing the original root, b-r-h-m, is known as Abram at first, and then God is said to change his name to Abraham, but the Quran mentioned nothing about it.
Abraham is estimated to have been born 2,166 years before Jesus in or around the Mesopotamian city of Ur, 200 miles southeast of present-day Baghdad. His father was ‘Aazar’, ‘Terah’ or ‘Terakh’ in the Bible, an idol worshipper, who was from the descendants of Shem, the son of Noah. He is likely to have been Akkadian, a Semitic people from the Arabian Peninsula who settled in Mesopotamia sometime in the third millennium BC.
Archeological discoveries from the time of Abraham paint a vivid picture of the religious life of Mesopotamia; its inhabitants were polytheists who believed in a pantheon, in which each god had a sphere of influence. The large temple dedicated to the Akkadian moon god, Sin, was the main centre of Ur. This temple was believed to be the physical home of God, the chief god of the temple was a wooden idol with additional idols, or ‘gods’, to serve him.
God’s Revelation
Prophet Abraham was one of the prophets to whom a scripture was revealed:
{Verily!  This is in the former Scriptures, The Scriptures of Abraham and Moses.} (87:18-9)
Like those around him, Abraham’s father Azar was an idol worshipper. Biblical tradition tells of him actually being a sculptor of them, hence Abraham’s first call was directed to him. He addressed him with clear logic and sense, understood by a young man like himself as well as the wise:
{And mention in the Book (the Quran) Abraham, indeed he was a man of truth, a Prophet.  When he said to his father: “O my father!  Why do you worship that which hears not, sees not and cannot avail you in anything?  O 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.} (19:41-3)
Rejection was his father’s reply, an obvious one by any person challenged by another much younger than them, a challenge made against years of tradition and norm.
Call to God
After incessant attempts in calling his father to leave the worship of false idols, Abraham turned to his people seeking to warn others, addressing them with the same simple logic:
{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 so.”
He said: “Do you observe that which you have been worshipping, you and your ancient fathers?  Verily!  They are enemies to me, save the Lord of 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).} (26:69-81)
In furthering his call that the only deity which deserved worship was God he struck an example for his people to ponder; the stars, a creation truly incomprehensible to humans at time, seen as something greater than humanity, and many times having various powers attributed to them. But in the setting of the stars Abraham saw their inability to appear as they desired, but rather only at night:
{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.'} (6: 76)
He then struck the example of something even greater:
{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.’} (6: 77)
Then as his culminating example, he put forth another one:
{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.’} (6: 78)
Abraham proved to them 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. The 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.} (29: 16-19)
He openly questioned their adherence to mere traditions of their forefathers:
{He said: ‘Verily you and your fathers were in plain error.’} (21: 54)
Abraham’s path was to be filled with pain, hardship, trial, opposition, and heartache; his father and people rejected his message; his call fell on deaf ears; they would not reason. Instead, he was challenged and mocked:
{They said: ‘Bring you to us the truth, or are you some jester?’} (21: 55)
In this stage in his life, Abraham, a young man with a prospective future, opposes his own family and nation in order to propagate a message of true monotheism, belief in the one true God, and rejection of all other false deities, whether they be stars and other celestial or earthly creations, or depictions of gods in the form of idols. He was rejected, outcaste and punished for this belief, but he stood firm against all evil, ready to face even more in the future:
{And (remember) when his (Abraham’s) Lord tried Abraham with (various) commandments, to which he proved true...} (2: 124)
Time for Action
Then the time came when preaching had to be accompanied with physical action.  Abraham planned a bold and decisive blow at idolatry:
{And, by God, I shall circumvent your idols after you have gone away and turned your backs.} (21:57)
It was time for a religious festival, perhaps dedicated to Sin, for which they left the town. Abraham was invited to attend the festivities, but he excused himself:
{And he glanced a glance at the stars.  Then said: ‘Lo!  I feel sick!’} (37: 89)
So, when his peers left without him, it became his opportunity. As the temple was deserted, Abraham made his way there and approached the gold-plated wooden idols, which had had elaborate meals left in front of them by the priests. Abrahammocked them in disbelief.
After all, what could have deluded man to worship gods of his own carving?
{Then he attacked them, striking with his right hand.} (37: 93)
The Quran tells us:
{He reduced them to fragments, all except the chief of them.} (21: 58)
When the temple priests returned, they, shocked to see the sacrilege, the destruction of the temple, were wondering who could have done this to their idols when someone mentioned the name of Abraham, explaining that he used to speak ill of them. When they called him to their presence, it was for Abraham to show them their foolishness:
{He said: ‘Worship you that which you yourselves do carve when God has created you and what you make?’} (37: 95-6)
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 Abraham?} (21: 62)
But Abraham 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!’} (21: 63)
Unwavering Belief
With Abraham so challenging them, they were cast into confusion blaming each other for not guarding the idols and, refusing to meet his eyes:
{And they were utterly confounded, and they said: Indeed you know well these speak not!} (21: 65)
So Abraham 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?’} (21: 66-7)
The accusers had become the accused of logical inconsistency, and so had no answer for Abraham, what made their response rage and fury:
{Build for him a building and fling him in the red hot fire.} (21: 68)
Here again is an example of Abraham proving true to the trials he faced; his belief in the True God was tested here as he proved that he was even prepared to surrender his existence to the call of God. His belief was evidenced by his action.
God had not willed that this be the fate of Abraham, for he had a great mission ahead of him. He was to be the father of some of the greatest prophets known to humanity. God saved Abraham as a sign for him and his people as well:
{We (God) said: ‘O fire, be coolness and peace for Abraham.’  And they wished to set a snare for him, but We made them the greater losers.} (21: 69-70)
Thus, Abraham did escape the fire, unharmed. They tried to seek revenge for their gods, but they and their idols were in the end humiliated.