Munasabah: Lessons from Prophet Ibrahim
إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً قَانِتًا لِلَّهِ حَنِيفًا وَلَمْ يَكُ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
Verily, Ibrahim was a nation, obedient to Allah, worshipping none but Allah, and he was not one of those who joined partners with Allah.
Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was a messenger of Allah worthy of emulation. Allah declared him as a good role model for true believers; his life is full of lessons for every believer to emulate. He was one among the five messengers of strong will and determination along with Nuh, Musa, Isa and Muhammad; may the peace and blessings of Allah be on all prophets and messengers of Allah.
A light in the midst of darkness (the search for guidance)
Contemplation on the signs and verses of Allah is a good means of purifying the soul. A careful examination of objects in nature either through documentaries or direct observation is an appropriate recommended method.
At his youthful age, prophet Ibrahim had a natural disbelief for the idolatrous religion of his people, he had the feeling that idolatry must be a clear misguidance, so he turned away from his people and started to contemplate on observable objects in creation in his search for true guidance, as prophet Muhammad later did, he did this until Allah showed him true guidance. The story was narrated in the Qur’an as follows:
وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ لأبِيهِ آزَرَ أَتَتَّخِذُ أَصْنَامًا آلِهَةً إِنِّي أَرَاكَ وَقَوْمَكَ فِي ضَلالٍ مُبِينٍ (٧٤) وَكَذَلِكَ نُرِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ مَلَكُوتَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأرْضِ وَلِيَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُوقِنِينَ (٧٥) فَلَمَّا جَنَّ عَلَيْهِ اللَّيْلُ رَأَى كَوْكَبًا قَالَ هَذَا رَبِّي فَلَمَّا أَفَلَ قَالَ لا أُحِبُّ الآفِلِينَ (٧٦) فَلَمَّا رَأَى الْقَمَرَ بَازِغًا قَالَ هَذَا رَبِّي فَلَمَّا أَفَلَ قَالَ لَئِنْ لَمْ يَهْدِنِي رَبِّي لأكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الضَّالِّينَ (٧٧) فَلَمَّا رَأَى الشَّمْسَ بَازِغَةً قَالَ هَذَا رَبِّي هَذَا أَكْبَرُ فَلَمَّا أَفَلَتْ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِمَّا تُشْرِكُونَ (٧٨) إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذِي فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأرْضَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (٧٩) وَحَاجَّهُ قَوْمُهُ قَالَ أَتُحَاجُّونِّي فِي اللَّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانِي وَلا أَخَافُ مَا تُشْرِكُونَ بِهِ إِلا أَنْ يَشَاءَ رَبِّي شَيْئًا وَسِعَ رَبِّي كُلَّ شَيْءٍ عِلْمًا أَفَلا تَتَذَكَّرُونَ (٨٠) وَكَيْفَ أَخَافُ مَا أَشْرَكْتُمْ وَلا تَخَافُونَ أَنَّكُمْ أَشْرَكْتُمْ بِاللَّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ عَلَيْكُمْ سُلْطَانًا فَأَيُّ الْفَرِيقَيْنِ أَحَقُّ بِالأمْنِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (٨١) الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إِيمَانَهُمْ بِظُلْمٍ أُولَئِكَ لَهُمُ الأمْنُ وَهُمْ مُهْتَدُونَ (٨٢) وَتِلْكَ حُجَّتُنَا آتَيْنَاهَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَلَى قَوْمِهِ نَرْفَعُ دَرَجَاتٍ مَنْ نَشَاءُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ حَكِيمٌ عَلِيمٌ (٨٣)
- And (remember) when Ibrahim said to his father Azar: “Do you take idols as gods? Verily, I see you and your people in manifest error. “
- Thus did we show Ibrahim the kingdoms 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 people who went astray.”
- when he saw the sun rising up, he said: “This is my lord; this is greater.” but when it set, he said: “O 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, inclining toward truth, and I am not among those who associate partners with Allah”.
- And his people argued 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 wills. My Lord encompasses all things in knowledge; then will you not remember?
- And how should I fear what you associate while you do not fear that you have associated with Allah that for which He has not sent down to you any authority? So which of the two parties has more right to security, if you should know?”
- They who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice – those will have security, and they are [rightly] guided.
- And that was Our [conclusive] argument which We gave Abraham against his people. We raise by degrees whom We will. Indeed, your Lord is Wise and Knowing.
Whoever strive to Allah, He will show him the path to guidance and grant him victory over misguidance.
وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
And those who strive for Us (seek for Our Guidance) – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.
A notable prophet sincere in worship
No prophet has been as widely accepted as prophet Ibrahim; a claim to him is a claim to true guidance. He excelled in worshiping Allah without associating any partner with Him; whenever Allah describes him in the Qur’an, he is always being qualified as not associating any partners with Allah, and that is the secret of his high rank among the servants of Allah.
The Jews and Christians claim him for themselves but Allah discards their claim because they have associated partners with Allah; the Jews and Christians have joined partners with Allah by exaggerating on two servants of Allah; the Jews took Uzayr (Ezra) as the son of Allah and the Christians took (Isa) Jesus as the son of Allah. Children who deviated from the foundation of their father’s legacy cannot make a legitimate claim to him any longer. Allah said:
مَا كَانَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ يَهُودِيًّا وَلا نَصْرَانِيًّا وَلَكِنْ كَانَ حَنِيفًا مُسْلِمًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
Ibrahim (Abraham) was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true sincere Muslim and He was not among those who joined partners with Allah.
Shirk or joining partners with Allah is the gravest sin unforgivable, it is a determinant of disbelief; the least of shirk is greater than the biggest of any other sins. A believer who seeks forgiveness from his Lord and seeking to attain a higher level of His pleasure should be aware and avoid any acts described as shirk or having traces of shirk in it.
An early messenger and a patriarch of guidance
Prophet Nuh was the first messenger of Allah. Historians recorded that only prophets Solih and Hud came between prophet Nuh and Ibrahim. Thereafter, all other messengers came from his offspring. Prophet Ibrahim was truly a patriarch of faith and guidance for humanity.
Farsightedness is a big lesson from prophet Ibrahim. After he fulfilled the covenants, Allah promised to make him a leader for mankind, immediately he sought the same blessings for his offsprings:
وَإِذِ ابْتَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا قَالَ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي قَالَ لا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ
And (remember) when the Lord of Ibrahim [i.e. Allah] tried him with (certain) commands, which he fulfilled them all. He (Allah) said (to him), “Verily, I am going to make you a leader (i.e. Prophet) of mankind.” He (Ibrahim) said, “And of my offspring (to make leaders).” (Allah) said, “My Covenant (Prophethood) will never include the wrong-doers.”
A messenger of strong will and determination
Messengers of the strongest determination were sent to the most stubborn people and rulers. Prophets Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa and Muhammad were the five most determined among the messengers.
Prophet Nuh spent up to 950 years calling his people to guidance, he suffered the worst of mockery and social isolation, yet he patiently persevered until he became victorious, Allah saved him with those who believed with him and destroyed those who disbelieved with a violent storm.
Prophet Musa was especially strong among the messengers, he was sent to a stubborn ruler and a stubborn people, his encounters with Fir’aun (Pharaoh) and Jews makes his story the most narrated in the Qur’an. The All-Mighty Allah described Fir’aun as a mighty oppressor on the land more than once in the Qur’an. Fir’aun demonstrated his capacity over tyranny and large scale destruction even as prophet Musa admonished him for about 40 years to save the children of Israel. Allah perished Fir’aun in the sea and prophet Musa was victorious with the children of Israel.
Prophet Isa was sent to continue the delivery of the message to the Jews. He was birth was divinely miraculous but the Jews accused his mother of prostitution and declared him a bastard in order to justify their disbelief and reject him as a messenger despite all the convincing proofs that he brought. He patiently bore their worst ridicule and isolation; when they accused him of treason and passed a crooked judgment to execute him, he was ascended to the heaven until an appointed time for his return. His likeness was placed on one of them, they crucified the man and doubted after that.
Like prophet Musa, prophet Ibrahim was sent to a stubborn ruler and a stubborn people; but with patience and true belief, he became victorious over his enemies and his legacies became the standard for later generations.
An intelligent believer with convincing arguments
Among the notable qualities that Allah granted to prophet Ibrahim was high quality intelligence to think ahead of situations, this quality had been very useful for him to overcome his enemies in arguments.
Namrud was a king with wide powers and commands over the land; he claimed divinity before Fir’aun and was defeated the same way as Fir’aun. His false claim and popularity was weakened with open and practical argument before he was perished. The argument of prophet Ibrahim that humiliated the tyrant was narrated in the Qur’an:
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِي حَاجَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي رَبِّهِ أَنْ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ إِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّيَ الَّذِي يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا أُحْيِي وَأُمِيتُ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْتِي بِالشَّمْسِ مِنَ الْمَشْرِقِ فَأْتِ بِهَا مِنَ الْمَغْرِبِ فَبُهِتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ وَاللَّهُ لا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
Did you not see 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 [by astonishment], and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.
A believer who often sought Help from his Lord
Solat and patience are two powerful means of seeking the Help of Allah. It is often recommended in the Qur’an. The Help of Allah is the only way out of the most difficult situation when all means has been cut and all hope lost and the sincere servants of Allah turn to him in solat and patience. Allah said in the Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
O you believers! Seek help in patience and prayer. Truly! Allah is with the patient ones.
Prophet Ibrahim travelled with his wife Sarah to Palestine; on their way they passed through Egypt where there was a king who seized wives of strangers. When soldiers of the king were taking Sarah to him, prophet Ibrahim sought the Help of Allah to protect his faithful wife; he supplicated to Allah in solat and remained patient that Allah will save his wife from the harm of the oppressor. Allah saved Sarah and she returned to him with a slave girl as gift.
A great optimist
Prophet Ibrahim grew very old before Allah granted him children. Even as he became very old and his wife had reached menopause, he never gave up seeking for children from Allah.
One day, the angels of Allah came to him in the form of men; they gave him the glad-tiding that he will have a child, his old barren wife struck her face in surprise at the strange news; as prophet Ibrahim became sure that they were angels of Allah he never doubted that the information will soon become a reality. Allah narrated the story in the Qur’an.
هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ (٢٤) إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلامًا قَالَ سَلامٌ قَوْمٌ مُنْكَرُونَ (٢٥) فَرَاغَ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ فَجَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ سَمِينٍ (٢٦) فَقَرَّبَهُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَالَ أَلا تَأْكُلُونَ (٢٧) فَأَوْجَسَ مِنْهُمْ خِيفَةً قَالُوا لا تَخَفْ وَبَشَّرُوهُ بِغُلامٍ عَلِيمٍ (٢٨) فَأَقْبَلَتِ امْرَأَتُهُ فِي صَرَّةٍ فَصَكَّتْ وَجْهَهَا وَقَالَتْ عَجُوزٌ عَقِيمٌ (٢٩) قَالُوا كَذَلِكَ قَالَ رَبُّكِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْحَكِيمُ الْعَلِيمُ (٣٠)
- Has there reached you the story of the honored guests of Ibrahim?
- When they entered upon him and said, “[We greet you with] peace.” He answered, “[And upon you] peace; [you are] a people unknown.”
- Then he went to his family and came with a fat [roasted] calf
- And placed it near them; he said, “Will you not eat?”
- And he felt from them apprehension. They said, “Fear not,” and they gave him good tidings of a learned boy.
- And his wife approached with a cry [of alarm] and struck her face and said, “[I am] a barren old woman!”
- They said, “Thus has said your Lord; indeed, He is the Wise, the Knowing.”
A humble servant to his Lord
إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
When his Lord said to him, “Submit (i.e. be a Muslim)!” He said, “I have submitted myself (as a Muslim) to the Lord of the worlds.”
A good adviser to his offspring
The most expensive blessing that Allah grants to a believer is the true guidance; he will be keen to protect it from corruption and want same for his descendants.
وَوَصَّى بِهَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعْقُوبُ يَا بَنِيَّ إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَى لَكُمُ الدِّينَ فَلا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلا وَأَنْتُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ
And this (submission to Allah) was enjoined by Ibrahim upon his sons and by Ya’qub (saying), “O my sons, indeed Allah has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you are Muslims.”
Ya’qub was the son of Ishaq, Ishaq was the son of Ibrahim.
A model of noble legacies
Perhaps the greatest and enviable favour Allah granted to prophet Ibrahim was by making his ways of worship as standard for later generations. Whoever started a good thing will have his reward and the reward of whoever did same thereafter. The rites of hajj as performed in Islam, from taking ihram to the slaughtering of sacrificial animals, are replications of what prophet Ibrahim and his household had done; millions of worshippers are doing same today and similar reward of their worship reaches the founder of this religion.
A role model
قَدْ كَانَتْ لَكُمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ فِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ إِذْ قَالُوا لِقَوْمِهِمْ إِنَّا بُرَآءُ مِنْكُمْ وَمِمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ كَفَرْنَا بِكُمْ وَبَدَا بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةُ وَالْبَغْضَاءُ أَبَدًا حَتَّى تُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ إِلا قَوْلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لأبِيهِ لأسْتَغْفِرَنَّ لَكَ وَمَا أَمْلِكُ لَكَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ رَبَّنَا عَلَيْكَ تَوَكَّلْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ أَنَبْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ (٤) رَبَّنَا لا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (٥) لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِيهِمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الآخِرَ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ (٦)
- Indeed there has been an excellent example for you in Ibrahim and those [believers] with him, when they said to their people: “Verily, we are free from you and whatever you worship besides Allah, we have rejected you, and there has started between us and you, hostility and hatred forever, until you believe in Allah Alone,” except the saying of Ibrahim to his father: “Verily, I will ask for forgiveness (from Allah) for you, but I have no power to do anything for you before Allah.”Our Lord! In You (alone) we put our trust, and to you (alone) we turn in repentance, and to you (alone) is (our) final return,
- “Our Lord! make us not a trial for the disbelievers, and forgive us, Our Lord! Verily, you, only You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.”
- Certainly, there has been in them an excellent example for you to follow, for those who look forward to (the meeting with) Allah (for the reward from Him) and the Last Day. And whosoever turn away, then verily, Allah is rich (free of all want), worthy of all praise.
Prophet Ibrahim was a true role model for the believers and a guide for humanity; a model for faith, worship, patience, steadfastness, reliance and hope. He was truly prosperous in faith and guidance with notable qualities worthy of emulation.