1. IBRAHIM THE CHAMPION OF MONOTHEISM
The object of giving an account of the life of Prophet Ibrahim is to make known the ancestors of the Holy Prophet of Islam for he was a descendant of Ismail who was the son of Ibrahim. And as these two venerable persons as well as many other noble forefathers of the Holy Prophet have a great share in the history of Arabia and Islam it is appropriate that a brief account of their lives may be given here because the events of the history of Islam have like the rings of a chain a perfect relationship with the events simultaneous with the dawn of Islam as well as those which are somewhat remote from it. For example the protection and support accorded to the Holy Prophet by Abdul Muttalib the favours bestowed upon him and the hardships suffered for his sake by Abu Talib the greatness of the family of Hashim and the origin of the enmity of Bani Umayyah (with the family of Hashim) are considered to be very important events on which the history of Islam is based. It is for this reason that a chapter of the history of Islam is allocated to the discussion of these events.
We come across some very prominent and outstanding incidents in the life of Prophet Ibrahim. It is not possible to forget his struggles to uphold the standard of monotheism and to uproot the worship of idols and men. Similarly his significant and elegant debates with star-worshippers which have been quoted by the Holy Qur'an with the object of education and guidance of the people are the most sublime instruction in monotheism for the seekers of truth.
WHY WORSHIP OF CREATURES CAME INTO EXISTENCE?
The factors which occasioned worship of created things by man were no other than his ignorance coupled with the absolute commandment of nature (which as a general rule believes in a cause for every phenomenon). On the one hand man being controlled by nature was obliged to take refuge in some locality to consider a subduing and powerful authority effective in creating this unique system and to imagine the beautiful paintings in the shape of different phenomena to be the work of a skilful painter. On the other hand however as he wanted to traverse this path without the guidance of the Prophets who are the Divine guides and have been appointed to ensure the completion of the spiritual journey of man he took refuge in inanimate objects as well as in animals and men before he could reach his real object (i.e. the One Allah) and find His trace by observing the signs of creation and seek refuge in Him. He therefore imagined that these were the objects which he had been seeking. In view of this the scholars have acknowledged after studying the Heavenly Books and the manner of the invitation extended to the people by the Prophets and their debates with them that the object of the Prophets was not to make people believe in the existence of the Creator of the Universe. In fact their basic role in the society was to free the people from the clutches of polytheism and idol-worship. In other words they had come to tell the people O people! Allah in whose existence all of us believe is this and not that; He is One and not two. Don't give the creatures the place of Allah. Accept Allah as One. Don't accept any partner or peer for Him .
The sentence 'There is no god but Allah' bears a glowing testimony to what we have stated above. This was the starting point of the preaching of the Holy Prophet. The purport of this sentence is that there is no one fit to be worshipped except Allah and this necessitates that the existence of the Creator should evidently be an admitted fact so that the people may be invited to accept His 'Unity'and 'Oneness'. This sentence shows that in the eyes of the man of that time the first portion (i.e. the Universe has Allah) was not a matter of dispute. Besides this the study of Qur'anic stories and the conversations of the Prophets with the people clarify this point further.
BIRTHPLACE OF PROPHET IBRAHIM
The Champion of 'Monotheism' was born in the environments which were permeated with the darkness of idol-worship and man-worship. Man expressed humility before the idols made with his own hands as well as before the stars. In these circumstances the thing which elevated the position of Ibrahim and crowned his efforts with success was his patience and fortitude.
The birth-place of the standard-bearer of monotheism was Babylon. The historians have considered it to be one of the seven wonders of the world and have recorded many narrations about the grandeur and magnificence of the civilization of this territory. The famous Greek historian Herodote (484 - 425 B.C.) writes thus: "Babylon was constructed in the shape of a square. Each of its sides was 120 leagues long and its perimeter was 480 leagues". This statement howmuchsoever exaggerated it may be reveals an undeniable reality (when read along with other writings).
Of those attractive scenes and lofty palaces however nothing can be seen today except a mound of clay between the Tigris and the Euphrates which is covered by the silence of death. This silence is at times broken by the orientalists through the excavations which they carry out in order to gain information about the civilization of the Babylonians.
Prophet Ibrahim the architect of monotheism was born during the reign of Namrud son of Kan'an. Although Namrud was an idol-worshipper he also claimed to be a deity and taking advantage of the ignorance of the credulous masses imposed his beliefs on them. It may appear somewhat strange that a person should be an idol-worshipper and should also claim to be a deity. However the Holy Qur'an provides us an example of this belief. When Musa son of Imran shook Firaun's authority with his forceful logic and gave the lie to him in a public gathering the supporters of Firaun said to him: Will you allow Musa and his people to commit evil in the land and to forsake you and your gods? (Surah al--A'raf 7 125).
It is well known that Firaun claimed to be a god and used to declare "I am your supreme lord". However this verse shows that notwithstanding his belief and claim he was also an idol-worshipper.
The greatest defence which Namrud acquired was the procurement of the support of astrologers and fortune-tellers who were considered to be the sages of that age. It goes without saying that their humility before Namrud paved the way for the exploitation of the down-trodden and ignorant classes by him. Moreover some relatives of Ibrahim (for example Azar who made idols and was also conversant with astrology) were amongst the followers of Namrud. This in itself was a great obstacle for lbrahim for besides having to struggle against the general beliefs he had to face the opposition of his own Kith and Kin.
Namrud had plunged into the sea of superstitious beliefs. He had spread the carpet of feasting and drinking when the astrologers rang the first bell of danger and said "Your government will tumble down through a person who is the son of this soil". The latent fears of Namrud were awakened and he said. "Is he born yet or not?" the astrologers replied that he was not yet born. He then ordered the separation of women and men (during the night in which according to the prediction and calculations of the astrologers conception of his fell enemy was to take place). In spite of this however his executioners killed the male infants. The midwives were ordered to send reports about the particulars of new-born children to a special office.
The same night conception of Ibrahim took place. His mother became pregnant and like the mother of Musa son of lmran she kept the fact of her pregnancy secret till the very end. After delivery she resorted to a cave situated near the town in order to protect the life of her dear child. She left her son in a corner of the cave and visited it during day or night as the circumstances would permit. With the passage of time Namrud acquired peace of mind as a result of this oppression and believed that he had slaughtered the enemy of his throne and government.
Ibrahim spent thirteen years of his life in the cave which had a narrow passage and then his mother brought him out. When he appeared amongst the people the supporters of Namrud felt that he was a stranger. Thereupon his mother said This is my son. He was born before the prediction made by the astrologers .
When Ibrahim came out of the cave he strengthened his innate belief in monotheism by observing the earth and the sky the shining of the stars and the verdure of the trees. He witnessed a strange and astonishing society. He saw a group of persons who behaved in a very stupid manner vis-a-vis the shining of the stars. He also saw some people whose level of intelligence was even lower than other. They made idols with their own hands and then worshipped them. The worst of all these things was that a man taking undue advantage of the ignorance and foolishness of the people claimed to be their god and declared himself to be the one who had given life to all the beings and foreordained all events.
Prophet Ibrahim was obliged to prepare himself to combat on these three different fronts. The Holy Qur'an has narrated the story of his campaigns in these three fronts.
IBRAHIM'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST IDOL-WORSHIP
The darkness of idol-worship had completeIy permeated throughout Babylon the bitth-place of Prophet Ibrahim. Numerous terrestrial and celestial gods had deprived different classes of the society of their reason and intellect. Some of these people considered the gods as possessing power themselves whereas others treated them to be intermediaries for obtaining favours of the Almighty Allah.
SECRET OF POLYTHEISM
The Arabs before the advent of Islam believed that every being and every phenomenon must have an independent cause and that the One Allah is not competent to create all of them. This was because of the fact that at that time science had not discovered the relationship which exists between different natural beings and phenomena and various events. Consequently those people imagined all beings and various natural phenomena to be separate from and unconnected with one another. On this account they were obliged to assume an indepedent god for every phenomenon like rain and snow earthquake and death famine and dearth peace and tranquillity cruelty and blood shed etc. They had no idea of the fact that the entire Universe is a unity and all its parts are interconnected and everyone of them has a reciprocal effect on another.
The crude human intellect of those days had not yet realized the secret of worshipping the One Allah and was not aware that Allah who rules over the Universe is an Omnipotent and Omniscient Lord. He is the Creator who is free from every weakness and defect. His power perfection knowledge and wisdom are unlimited. He is above everything which may be assumed for Him. There is no accomplishment which He does not possess. There is no possibility which He cannot create. He is the One Allah who is competent to create all beings and phenomena without the help of any person and without any supports. He can create other beings and phenomena in the same manner in which He has created the present ones. Hence according to reason the existence of the mediation of an authority which may detract from the independence of the will of the peerless Allah is unacceptable.
The belief that the Universe has two creators one of whom is the origin of good and light; and the other is the source of evil and darkness is also not acceptable. And the belief about there having been mediation by some persons like Maryam and 'Isa in the matter of the creation of the Universe or the administration of the physical world having been entrusted to a human being is a manifestation of polytheism and exaggeration. A monotheist is one who with due deference to the Prophets and the saints preserves the position of The Creator of the Universe and does not attribute the work of one to the other.
The method employed by the Prophets for the teaching and guidance of the people is that of logic and reason because they are concerned with the minds of the people. They desire to set up a government which should be established on the basis of faith knowledge and justice and such a government cannot be established by means of violence warfare and bloodshed. We should therefore differentiate between the governments of the Prophets and the governments of Firouns and Narnruds. The object of the second group is security of their rule and government by all possible means although their State may break down after their death. On the other hand the divine people wish to set up a government which should have its way in private as well as in public and whether the ruler is strong or weak at any particular time or is alive or dead. Such an object cannot of course be achieved by use of force and pressure.
In the first instance Ibrahim campaigned against the faith of his kith and kin (viz. idol-worship) amongst whom Azar occupied the top-most position. He had not yet achieved complete success in this field when he had to fight at another sphere of operations. The level of thinking of this second group was somewhat higher and clearer than that of the first for as opposed to the religion of the relatives of Ibrahim these people had discarded the mean and worthless terrestrial beings and they worshipped the heavenly stars. While campaigning against star-worship Ibrahim stated in simple words a number of philosophical and scientific truths which had not yet been conceived by the people of that age and even today his arguments command admiration of the scholars well-versed in the arts of logic and debate. Above all this the Holy Qur'an has also quoted the arguments of Ibrahim and the author of the present book has the honour to reproduce them in these pages with brief explanations.
After coming out of the cave Ibrahim in order to guide the people fixed his eyes one night on the sky at the time of sunset and remained awake till sunset on the following day. During these twenty four hours he debated and conversed with three groups and disproved their beliefs with strong arguments.
The darkness of night approached and hid all signs of existence. The bright star 'Venus' appeared from a corner of the horizon. In order to win the hearts of the Venus-worshippers Ibrahim concurred with them and affected to follow their line and said: "It is my nourisher" However when the star set and disappeared in a corner he said "I cannot accept a god which sets". With this cogent reasoning he rejected the belief of the Venus-worshippers and proved its falsity.
At the next stage his eyes fell on the luminous disc of the moon with its fascinating brilliance and beauty. With a view to win the hearts of the moon-worshippers he outwardly admitted its being the deity but later tore this belief also to pieces with his forceful logic. It so happened that the strong hand of Providence made the moon also sink below the horizon and its light and lustre disappeared from the face of the earth. Ibrahim without injuring the sentiments of the moon-worshippers said with truthful insight "If my real Lord does not guide me I shall surely go astray because this god sets like the stars and is in itself subject to a constant order and system shaped by someone else".
The darkness of the night came to an end and the sun appeared tearing the bosom of the horizon and began scattering its golden rays on the face of earth. The sun-worshippers turned their faces to their deity. In order to observe the rules of debate Ibrahim also acknowledged its god-hood. However the setting of the sun confirmed its being subservient to the general system of the Universe and Ibrahim explicitly repudiated its being fit for worship. (Vide Surah al-An'am 6:75 - 79)
There is no doubt about the fact that while staying in the cave Ibrahim had through an extraordinary divine favour acquired from the fountain of the Invisible that innate knowledge about monotheism which is a speciality of the Prophets. However after perusal and study of these celestial bodies he gave that knowledge the shape of argument. Thus besides showing the right path to the misguided people and providing them with a means of guidance he has left behind a store of invaluable knowledge to be utilized by those who are in search of truth and reality.
IBRAHIM'S LOGIC EXPLAINED
Ibrahim was well aware that Allah rules over the Universe but the question was whether that source of power consisted of these celestial bodies or it was an Omnipotent Being superior to them. After studying the conditions of these itinerant bodies he found that these bright and luminous beings are themselves subject to rising setting decline and disappearance in accordance with a particular system and they rotate on an unalterable path and this in itself proves that they are subservient to the will of someone else and a greater and stronger power controls them and makes them rotate in a specified orbit.
Let us clarify the point further: The Universe entirely consists of 'Possibilities' and 'Needs'. Various creatures and natural phenomena are never independent of the Almighty. They need an Omniscient Allah during every second of day and night - the Allah who should not at any moment be oblivious of their needs. Now as regards the celestial bodies they are present and useful at one time and absent and useless at another. Such beings do not possess the necessary competence to be the gods of other beings and to meet their needs and requirements.
This theory may be propounded in the shape of various theoretical and philosophical statements. For example we may say 'These celestial bodies are in motion and move on their respective axes. In case their movement is without any option and under compulsion there must he a stronger hand that controls them. And if their movement is in accordance with their own free will it will have to be seen as to what the object of this movement is. If they are moving to achieve perfection and are like a seed which rises from the earth to grow into a tree and to bear fruit this will necessarily mean that they need a kind powerful wise and independent being who should remove their short-comings and endow them with the quality of perfection. But if their movement and rotation tends towards weakness and deficiency and they are just like a person who is past his prime and has entered the wrong side of age then their movement will be an inclination towards decline and destruction and will not at all accord with the position of the deity who should rule the world and all that it contains.
METHOD OF DISCUSSION AND
DEBATE ADOPTED BY THE PROPHETS
The history of the Prophets shows that they commenced their reformating programme by first inviting their relatives to the true path and later they extended the 'invitation' to others. This is just what the Prophet of Islam did immediately after his appointment to the prophetic mission. First of all he invited his own people to Islam and laid the foundation of his 'call' on their reformation in compliance with the Divine commandment Admonish your nearest kinsfolk (Surah al-Shu'ara 26:214)
Ibrahim also adopted the same method and first undertook the reformation of his own kinsfold. Azar enjoyed a very high position amongst his relatives because besides being an educated man and an artist he was an expert astrologer. In the court of Namrud his word was treated to be authoritative and his astrological conclusions were accepted by all the courtiers to be correct.
Ibrahim was aware that if he could win over Azar to his side he would have captured the strongest fortress of the idol-worshippers. He therefore advised him in the best possible manner not to worship inanimate things. For some reasons however Azar did not accept the message and advice of his nephew Ibrahim. So far as we are concerned however the most important thing in this episode is the method of invitation and the manner of conversation of Ibrahim with Azar. Deep and careful study of the Qur'anic verses in which this conversation has been reproduced makes the method of argument and invitation adopted by the Prophets abundantly clear. Now let us see in which way Ibrahim invited Azar to the true path:
He said to his uncle: Father! how can you serve a worthless idol a thing that can neither see nor hear?
Father the truth has been revealed to me about many mysteries; therefore follow me that I may guide you along an even path.
Father do not worship Satan; for he has rebelled against the Lord of Mercy.
Father I fear that Allah's scourge will fall upon you and you will become one of Satan's minions. (Surah Maryam 19:44 - 47)
In reply to Ibrahim's invitation Azar said "Do you dare renounce my gods Ibrahim? Desist from this folly or you shall be stoned to death. Begone from my house immediately"
Magnanimous Ibrahim bore this ill-speaking on the part of Azar with perfect calmness and replied "Peace be on you. I shall implore my Lord to forgive you".
Could there be a reply more appropriate and a conversation more mild and agreeable than these words of Ibrahim?
WAS AZAR THE FATHER OF IBRAHIM?
The above quoted verses as well as 15th verse of Surah Tawbah and 14th verse of Surah al-Mumtahinah would give the impression that Azar was related to Ibrahim in the capacity of father and Ibrahim too has addressed him as 'father'. However the idol-worshipper Azar's being his father is not in harmony with the concensus of opinion of the Shi'ah scholars who believe that the forefathers of the Holy Prophet of Islam as well as all other Prophets were pious people who believed in monotheism. The distinguished Shi'ah scholar Shaykh Mufid has in his exquisite book  considered this proposition to be one on which all the Shi'ah scholars are unanimous and a large number of Sunni scholars have also concurred with them in holding this belief. The question therefore arises as to what is the real import of the apparent contents of the aforesaid verses and how this problem should be solved.
Many commentators of the Holy Qur'an assert that although the word 'Ab' is usually used in Arabic to mean 'father' this meaning is not exclusive and at times it has been used in the Arabic lexicon and in the Qurtanic terminology to mean 'uncle' as well. For example in the following verse the word 'Ab' stands for 'uncle'.
Were you present when death came to Ya'qub? He said to his children: 'What will you worship when l am gone' They replied: We will worship your Allah and the Allah of your forefathers (Aba) Ibrahim and Isma'il and Ishaq: He is the only Lord. To Him we have surrendered ourselves. (Surah Baqarah 2: 132).
There is no doubt about the fact that Isma'il was the uncle of Ya'qub and not his father because Ya'qub was the son of Ishaq who was the brother of Isma'il. However inspite of this the children of Ya'qub have mentioned him as father of Ya'qub i.e. they have called him 'Ab' vis-a-vis Ya'qub. As this word carries two meanings it is possible that in the verses related to Azar having been invited to the right path by Ibrahim it may mean 'uncle' and especially so in view of the consensus of opinion mentioned by Shaykh Mufid. And possibly Ibrahim called him 'father' because he had acted as his guardian for quite a long time and he (Ibrahim) looked upon him as if he were his father.
AZAR IN THE HOLY QUR'AN
With a view to find out the verdict of the Qurtan about the relationship between Ibrahim and Azar we should like to invite the attention of the reader to the explanation of two verses:
1. As a consequence of the strenuous efforts made by the Holy Prophet Arabia was illuminated with the light of Islam. Most of the people embraced this religion whole-heartedly and realized that polytheism and idol-worship would end in Hell and torture. Although they were happy to have come within the fold of the true faith they felt grieved to recollect that their fathers and mothers were idol-worshippers. Hearing of the verses which depict the plight of the polytheists on the Day of Judgment weighed heavily on them. To get rid of this mental torture they requested the Holy Prophet to pray to Allah for the forgiveness of their forefathers who had died as infidels in the same manner in which Ibrahim had prayed for Azar.
The following verses were however revealed in reply to their request
It is not for the Prophet or the believers to beg forgiveness for idolaters even though they be related to them after it has become manifest that they have earned the punishment of Hell. Ibrahim prayed for his father only to fulfill a promise he had made him. But when he realized that he was an enemy of Allah he disowned him. Yet Ibrahim was a compassionate and tender-hearted man. (Surah Tawbah 9:113 - 114)
It would appear more probable that the conversation of Ibrahim with Azar and his promising the latter to pray for his forgiveness which ended in the severance of their mutual connections and renouncement of each other took place when Ibrahim was young i.e. at a time when he was still residing in Babylon and had not yet intended to go to Palestine Egypt and the Hijaz. After studying this verse it may be concluded that when Azar persisted in his infidelity and idol-worship Ibrahim while still young severed his connections with him and never thought of him thereafter.
2. During the last part of his life i.e. when he grew old Ibrahim after discharging a great responsibility (i.e. construction of the Ka'bah) and bringing his wife and child to the dry desert of Mecca prayed from the core of his heart for a number of persons including his parents and sought acceptance of his supplication from Allah. At that time he prayed thus:
'Forgive me Lord and forgive my parents and all the faithful (believers) on the Day of Reckoning. (Surah Ibrahim 14 41)
These verses clearly show that the ceremony of supplication took place after the completion of the construction of the Ka'bah when Ibrahim was passing through his old age. If the father for whom he has shown love and devotion in this verse and he prayed for him is the same Azar it would mean that Ibrahim did not remain dissociated from him throughout his life and at times also prayed for him whereas the verse which was revealed in reply to the request of the descendants of the polytheists makes it clear that after some time when he was still young Ibrahim broke off all connections with Azar and kept aloof from him - and aloofness and renouncement means ceasing to be on speaking terms lack of attention and abandoning supplications for each other's salvation.
When these two verses are read together it becomes clear that the person whom Ibrahim came to hate in his young age and with whom he broke off all ties of interest and love was a person other than that whom he remembered till his old age and prayed for his forgiveness and salvation.
IBRAHIM THE IDOL-BREAKER
The time of the festival approached and the neglectful people of Babylon left for the jungle to get rid of their fatigue and to reinforce their faculties and perform the ceremonies of the festival. Thus the city became empty of them. The antecedents of Ibrahim and his reproaches and criticisms had made them anxious. They therefore insisted that Ibrahim should also go with them and partake in the ceremonies of the festival. However their proposal rather insistence coincided with Ibrahim's illness. In reply to their suggestion therefore he said that he was ill and would not participate in the ceremonies of the festival.
Indeed that was a day of joy for the one who was a monotheist as well as for the polytheists. For the polytheists it meant the celebration of a very old festival and they had gone to the foot of the mountain and in green fields to carry out the ceremonies of the festival and to revive the custom of their forefathers. And for the champion of the monotheism also it was the august day of the first unprecedented festival for which he had longed for quite some time so that the city should be cleared of the opponents and he should break up the manifestations of infidelity and polytheism.
The last group of the people left the city Ibrahim considered this time to be very opportune and with a heart imbued with confidence and faith in Allah he entered the idol temple. He saw from a distance the sculptured pieces of wood and the lifeless idols. He thought of the enormous food which the idol-worshippers used to bring to their temples as offerings to seek blessing and went in search of it. He took a morsel of bread in his hand and pointing it to the idols said jeeringly Why don't you eat these all kinds of foodstuff? Evidently the artificial gods of the polytheists did not posses power to make the slightest movement not to talk of their being able to eat anything. A deathlike silence prevailed over the spacious hall of the idol-temple which was broken only by the heavy blows which Ibrahim was giving on the hands feet and bodies of the idols. He broke all the idols till a big mound of broken and shattered pieces of wood and metal was formed in the middle of the temple. However he spared the biggest idol and placed the axe on its shoulder. This he did purposely. He knew that on return from the jungle the polytheists would understand the actual position and would regard the apparent situation as artificial and unreal because they would never believe that these blows had been given to the other idols by the big idol which possessed no power at all to move or do anything and in that event he (Ibrahim) would utilize the situation for his 'call' and say that when according to their own admission that idol did not possess the least power how could it be possible that it should be the lord of the world?
The sun moved to the horizon and ceased to throw light on the world. At that time the people began returning to the city in groups. Time for performing the ceremonies of idol-worship arrived and a group of the idolaters entered the temple. The unexpected scene which clearly showed the disgrace and humility of their gods attracted the attention of all of them. There was deathlike silence in the atmosphere of the temple and everyone was impatient. One of them however broke the silence and said ' Who has committed this mischief?" Condemnation of the idols by Ibrahim in the past and his open criticism of idol-worship convinced them that it was only he who had done all this. A tribunal was therefore set up under the supervision of Namrud and young Ibrahim and his mother were brought up for trial.
The mother was charged with the offence of concealing the birth of her child and not reporting it to the special office of government so that he could eventually be executed. She gave this reply to the charge "I found that as a result of the final decision of the government of the time (i.e. killing the children) the human race in this country was being exterminated. I did not inform the government office about my son because I wanted to see how he progressed in the future. In the event of his proving to be the same person about whom the foretellers (priests) had predicted there would have been a reason for me to inform the police so that they might desist from shedding the blood of other children. And if he does not happen to be that person then I have saved a young man of this country from death". The mother's argument fully satisfied the judges.
Now Ibrahim was cross-examined. He said "The state of affairs would show that the big idol has struck all these blows and if the idols possess power of speech you had better ask him". This vague reply tainted with ridicule and contempt was meant to serve another purpose; and that purpose was that Ibrahim was sure that those people would say in reply Ibrahim! You are well aware that these idols do not possess power of speech. They do not also have any will or intellect . In that event Ibrahim could invite the attention of the tribunal to one basic point. By chance the same thing happened which Ibrahim had anticipated. He spoke thus with reference to the statement of those people which testified the weakness humility and helplessness of the idols "If they are in fact like that as you describe them then why do you worship them and why do you pray to them to grant your requests?"
Ignorance obstinacy and blind imitation ruled the hearts and intellects of the judges and in the face of irrefutable reply of Ibrahim they found no alternative but to give a judgement which conformed with the wishes of the government of the time. They therefore decided that Ibrahim should be burnt alive. A large stack was set on fire and the champion of Divine monotheism was thrown into the blazing.flames. However Almighty Allah extended His hand of Kindness and blessing towards Ibrahim and kept him immune from harm. He (Allah) converted the artificial hell made by man into a green and pleasant garden. (Vide Surah al-Anbiya 21:51 - 70).
INSTRUCTIVE POINTS OF THIS NARRATIVE
Although the Jews claim to be the forerunners of the Caravan of those who believe in monotheism this story was not well-known amongst them and it does not find place in their present Torah. Amongst the Heavenly Books it is only the Holy Qur 'an which has undertaken to narrate it. We therefore mention below some instructive points of this story which are in fact the very points which the Holy Qurtan wishes to bring home to the people by narrating the stories of various Prophets.
1. This story is a clear proof of the extraordinary valour and bravery of the friend of Allah (Ibrahim). His determination about breaking the idols and destroying the manifestations and means of polytheism was not a thing which could remain hidden from the people of Namrud because by his reproaches and criticism he had already made his extreme aversion and hatred for idol-worship quite manifest and he used to say openly and clearly: "If you do not desist from your shameful practice I will take a decision about them". And on the day people went to the jungle he openly said: By the Lord' I will overthrow your idols as soon as you have turned your backs. (Surah Anbiya 21:57)
Allamah Majlisi quotes thus from Imam Sadiq: 'The movement and campaign of one person against the rows of the infidels whose number exceeded a few thousands is a living proof of the valour and perseverance of Ibrahim who did not harbour any fear in his mind in the path of the exaltation of Allah's name and strengthening the base of the worship of One Allah ".
2. While the smashing blows by Ibrahim were apparently an armed and hostile revolt but as is evident from his talk with the judges this movement had actually a propagandistic aspect because he considered the last means of awakening the wisdom and conscience of those people to be that he should break all the idols except the big one and place the axe on its shoulder so that they might make further investigations into the causes of this incident. And as eventually they would consider the scene to be a mere mockery and would not at all believe that the blows had been struck by the big idol he could utilize this thing for propagating his views and say: "According to your own admission this big idol does not possess the least power so why do you worship it?" This shows that from the very beginning the Prophets have used only logic and argument as their sharp weapons which have always borne results. Or else what was the value of breaking a few idols as compared with the danger to life with which Ibrahim was confronted? It was necessary that this act should have carried a great service for his mission in its lap so that it should have been admirable for him from the point of view of reason to sacrifice his life for it.
3. Ibrahim was aware that as a consequence of this act his life would be finished. As a rule therefore he should have become agitated or should have hidden himself somewhere or at least refrained from witticism and humour. Nevertheless however he had complete control over his spirits and nerves. For example when he entered the idol-temple he approached every idol and asked it mockingly to eat food. After becoming desperate he reduced the idol-temple to a heap or broken wood and treated all this as something quite ordinary as if it were not to be followed by his own death or execution. When he appeared before the tribunal he replied to their questioning "Surely (some doer) has done it the chief of them is this therefore ask them it they can speak.". Such witticism before the court could be expected only from a person who was prepared for all eventualities and did not feel any fear or awe in his heart.
Even more wonderful is the study of the attitude of mind of Ibrahim at the time when he was stationed on the catapult and knew it for certain that he would soon find himself amidst the flames of fire - the fire for which fire-wood had been collected by the people of Babylon to perform a sacred religious rite and whose flames were rising with such intensity that even a falcon dared not fly around or above it. Just at that time the celestial angel (Archangel Jibreel) descended from the heavens expressed his readiness to render him (Ibrahim) every assistance and said: "Tell me about your heart's desire". Ibrahim replied to him: "I do have a desire. However it cannot be made known to you but to my Lord only". This reply clearly manifests the nobility and spiritual greatness of Ibrahim.
In a big palace situated a few miles away from the scene of the fire Namrud waited anxiously and impatiently for venegeance being wreaked upon Ibrahim and wished to see how the flames of fire devoured him. The catapult was put into operation. With one jerk the body of the champion of Divine monotheism fell into the fire. However the penetrating will of the Lord of Ibrahim converted that artificial hell into a garden in a manner which surprised them all so much so that Namrud turned involuntarily to Azar and said ''lbrahim's Lord holds him dear"
In spite of all these incidents Ibrahim could not preach his faith with complete freedom. Eventually the government of the time decided after holding consultations to send him in exile. This opened a new chapter in his life and became the beginning of his journeys to Syria Palestine Egypt and the Hijaz.
A NEW CHAPTER IN THE LIFE OF IBRAHlM
The court of justice in Babylon banished Ibrahim from the country and he was forced to quit his birth place and to proceed to Egypt and Palestine. 'Amaliqa' who ruled those territories accorded him a warm reception and gave him many presents one of them being a slave-girl named Hajar.
Ibrahim's wife Sarah had not borne any child till that time and the above-mentioned developments stimulated her sentiments for her honourable husband. She therefore suggested to Ibrahim to marry Hajar so that possibly she might be blessed with a son who should become a source of their joy and happiness. The marriage took place and after some time Hajar gave birth to a son who was named Isma'il. It was not long before Sarah too become pregnant; and bore a son who was given the name of Ishaq.
After some time Ibrahim as commanded by Allah took Isma'il and his mother Hajar towards south (Makkah) and stationed them in an unknown valley. This valley was uninhabitated and only the caravans which travelled from Syria to Yemen and vice versa pitched their tents there. For the remaining days of the year this place remained absolutely isolated and was only a burning desert like other parts of Arabia.
Residence at such a dreadful place was very trying for a woman who had spent her days in the the territories of Amaliqa.
The scorching heat of the desert and its extremely hot winds presented the scene of death before her eyes. Ibrahim himself was also much conerned about these developments. While he was holding the bridle of his riding animal with the intention of saying good bye to his wife and child a flood of tears began to flow from his eyes and he said to Hajar: "O Hajar! All this has been done according to the command of the Almighty and His command cannot be defied. Rely on Allah's blessings and rest assured that He will not humiliate us". Then he prayed to Allah in these words with perfect concentration: Lord! Make this a land of peace and bestow plenty upon its people those of them that believe In Allab and the Last Day. (Surah Baqarah 2:126)
When he was descending the hill he looked back and prayed to Allah to shower His blessings on them.
Although apparently this journey was very difficult and vexatious but later it became evident that it carried momentous happenings in its lap amongst them being the construction of the Ka'bah which provided a great base for the monotheists flying the flag of the worship of One Allah in Arabia and laying the foundation of a great religious movement which was to take shape in future viz. the great movement which came into operation in this land through the last of the Prophets.
HOW THE FOUNTAIN OF ZAM-ZAM CAME INTO EXISTENCE?
Ibrahim took the bridle of his riding animal and with tears in his eyes bade farewell to the land of Makkah as well as Hajar and his son. After a short time however food and water available with the child and his mother was exhausted and the breast of Hajar also became dry. The condition of her son too began to deteriorate. A flood of tears flowed from the eyes of the banished mother and moistened her lap. In utter confusion she got up on her feet and reached the Safa mountain. From there she saw the spectacle of a mirage near Marwa mountain and ran towards it. However the bitterness of the deceptive landscape disappointed her very much. The lamentations and uneasiness of her dear child made her run more fanatically in all directions Thus she ran seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa to locate water but eventually lost all hopes and returned to her son.
The child must have reached his last breath by that time and must have lost the capacity of weeping or crying any more. However at that very moment the prayer of Ibrahim was granted. The tired and weary mother saw that limpid water had begun gushing out from beneath the feet of Isma'il. The mother who was looking towards the last breaths of her son and believed that he would pass away after a few moments felt extremely happy on seeing this water. Both the mother and the son drank their fill and the clouds of despair and hopelessness which had cast their shadow on their lives were driven away by the zephyr of Divine blessings.
The appearance of this fountain which is called "Zam Zam" since that day made the birds of air fly over it and spread their broad wings like a cover on the heads of the afflicted mother and son. People of a tribe named "Jarham" who lived at a distance from this valley saw the birds going to and fro and came to the conclusion that water had become available in the vicinity. They sent two of their men to verify the position. After a good deal of wandering those persons reached the centre of Divine blessing. When they drew near they saw a woman and a child sitting by the side of a pool of water. They returned immediately and reported the matter to the chiefs of their tribe. The members of that tribe soon pitched their tents around this blessed fountain and Hajar was thus relieved of the hardship and bitterness of loneliness which she had been suffering. The growth and perfect sociability of Isma'il became the cause of his making a matrimonial alliance with the Jarham tribe and thus benefit from their support and society. Isma'il soon married a girl of that tribe. From their mother's side therefore his descendants are related to that tribe.
THEY MEET AGAIN
After leaving his dear son and wife in the land of Makkah under the command of Allah Almighty Ibrahim thought at times of going there to see his son. During one of his journeys which was perhaps his first journey he reached Makkah and found that his son was not present in his house. By that time Isma'il had grown up to manhood and had married a girl of the Jarham tribe. Ibrahim asked Isma'il's wife "Where is your husband?" She replied He is gone out for hunting . Then he asked her whether she had anything to eat. To this she replied in the negative.
Ibrahim was very much grieved to observe the rudeness and unkindness of his son's wife and said to her "When Isma'il returns home convey my greetings to him and tell him to change the threshold of his house" He then returned to his destination.
When Isma'il returned he smelt the odour of his father and realized from his wife's account that the man who had visited his house was Ibrahim himself. He also understood from the message left by his father that he had desired him to divorce his present wife and choose another because he did not consider his present wife to be a suitable partner of his life.
It may perhaps be asked as to why after having performed so long a journey Ibrahim should not have waited till the return of his son from hunting and why he went back without seeing him. The historians explain that he returned hastily because he had made a promise to Sarah that he would not stay there longer and his early return was with a view to keep the promise. After this journey he was also ordered by Allah Almighty to perform another journey to Makkah to construct the Ka'bah there and to attract to that point the hearts of those who believe in monotheism.
The Holy Qur'an testified that in the last days of the life of Ibrahim Makkah had grown into a city because having performed his task he had prayed to Allah in the following words:
Lord! Make this (Makkak) a land of safety. Preserve me and my descendants from worshipping idols. (Surah Abraham 14:35)
And at the time of his arrival in the desert of Makkah he bad prayed: Lord! make this a land of peace (Surah Baqarah 2: 126).
In order to complete the discussion it would have been appropriate to narrate the circumstances in which the Ka'bah was constructed and also to give a brief history of it. However lest we should minimize our real object we give below the particulars of some of the reverenced forefathers of the Holy Prophet who are well-known in history.
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