Ibrahim (pbuh), called Abraham in the bible was a Prophet of God and the forefather of many Prophets. He is held in high esteem by many of the major revealed religions. He was given the title ‘khalil-ullah’, which means ‘friend of Allah’ for many reasons.
Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) was born in the kingdom of Babylon during a time when people worshipped idols. His father, Aazar was also an idol worshipper. But even at a tender age, Ibrahim did not believe in the idols. He saw that they looked helpless and weak and could not understand why anyone would worship such things. Ibrahim was constantly in search of the truth. He would look at nature and ponder. One day he was admiring the stars and thought to himself, ‘could that be my god?’ but when morning came and the star faded, he knew that it was not god. Again he looked at the moon and thought it may be god, but that too faded. When the same thing happened with the sun, Ibrahim knew the truth and he said: “O my people I am free from all that you join as partners with Allah! I have turned my face towards Him who created the heavens and the earth and never shall I give partners to Allah” [Q6:75-80]. He knew that the one worth worshipping was the one who created the stars, sun and the moon.
Breaking the Idols
Soon after this revelation, Ibrahim (pbuh) started to preach to his people. He would gently talk to his father about monotheism. He loved his father deeply and wished his father would see the truth and stop worshiping false gods but his father, like the king and the town’s people refused to heed his words. One day, when the people of the town were out celebrating, Ibrahim (pbuh) broke all their idols save one. It was the biggest idol and he placed his axe around the neck of the idol. When the people came back and saw what had happened to their gods, they were furious. Eventually, they figured out that only Ibrahim could do such a thing because he always spoke out against their gods. When they asked Ibrahim if he broke their idols, he told them to ask the biggest idol. “Maybe he did it. He has an axe around his neck. Ask him’’ Ibrahim said. The people got mad. They said, “The idol doesn’t even have the ability to talk or move. How can he break the other idols?” Ibrahim tried to explain to them at that point that if the idols are so useless and powerless, why then were the people still worshipping them? Deep down, they knew Ibrahim was right, but they did not want to follow him. They decided to punish him.
Punishing Ibrahim (pbuh)
The people decided to light a fire like never before. They fetched wood from far and wide and started preparing the bonfire. The fire was so huge that birds could not fly over it due to the intensity of the heat. Even the people could not get close enough to throw Ibrahim into the fire so they decided to catapult him. But Ibrahim never feared. He placed his trust in Allah and his faith never wavered. When they catapulted him into the fire, Allah ordered the fire to be cool for Ibrahim and the plot of the disbelievers failed. They saw that no harm came to Ibrahim and they saw the truth, but their arrogance never allowed them to accept the truth either way.
Only two people accepted Ibrahim’s call- Sarah and Lot. Lot became a prophet and Ibrahim married Sarah. They were happy for many years but their happiness was overshadowed by the fact that they did not have a child. They prayed to Allah very much. As Sarah grew old, she knew she may never have a child for Ibrahim and suggested that he should marry their slave girl Hajar. He did and Allah blessed them with a son called Ismael. Everyone was overjoyed. With time, Sarah became very jealous of Hajar and her child and she asked Ibrahim to take them away to a far off land.
The Spring of Zam-Zam
Ibrahim set out with Hajar and Ismael and they travelled until they reached the Arabian Desert in Hijaz. There he left them with a bag of dates and some water and headed home to Sarah. He was following the commandment of Allah. The water soon finished and Hajar was thirsty. Ismael was crying too so she decided to look for water. As she ran back and forth between the hills called Sarfa and Marwa, water started gushing out from where Ismael was kicking the sand. They both drank from it. This spring is called Zam- Zam and it exists up to this day. With time, more people came to the area and soon enough, Hajar and Ismael were living with a lot of people.
Building the Kaaba
After Ibrahim returned to Sarah, Allah blessed Sarah with a child too. He was called Ishaq and his parents were very happy. Finally, Ibrahim returned to Ismael after Hajar died. It was a happy reunion however and together, they built the ‘Kaaba’, the first house of worship for Allah.
One day, Ibrahim received a revelation through a dream to sacrifice his son Ismael. He had to slaughter Ismael. Ibrahim informed Ismael of Allah’s command and Ismael willingly accepted, but this was a test. When Ibrahim was about to slaughter his son, a ram was sent as a replacement. Hence, he had passed the test of faith. Every year, Muslims celebrate this event and they kill a ram, it is called eid-ul Adha.
From Ishaq’s descendants, there were many great prophets including Yusuf, Yaqub, Isa, Musa, Dawood and Yahya. Similarly, through Ismael, there were many great tribes, the most famous being the Quraish. Prophet Muhammad is a descendant of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) through Ismael. Therefore, the Jews and the Arabs are actually cousins or brethren of each other.
This is the summary of the story of Prophet Ibrahim. He was no doubt a great man, whose faith was strong even when his people disbelieved and even when he was given a hard test. May Allah be pleased with him.