The birth of a Great Prophet
Ibrahim was born in a house of idolaters, in the kingdom of Babylon. His father Aazar was a well known idol sculptor that his people worshipped. As a young child, Ibrahim used to watch his father sculpting these idols from stones or wood. When his father was done with them, Ibrahim would use them as toys, riding on their backs, and kicking them at times. Then after a while, he would see these same statues in the temple, and people prostrating in front of them! Ibrahim asked his father: “Why do you take these toys to the temple?” His father said: “They are statues that represent our gods. We worship them, we ask favors from them, and we offer them presents.” Ibrahim’s mind rejected this idea, and he felt a repulsion towards the idols.
In search for the Truth
Time went by, and Ibrahim became a young man. He still could not believe that his people were worshipping the statues. He laughed whenever he saw them entering the temple, lowering their heads, silently offering the statues the best of their food, crying and asking forgiveness from them. He started feeling angry towards his people, who could not realize that these are only stones that could neither benefit nor harm them. They could not be gods, they have no power. God is Greater than what his people were worshipping, Most Powerful, Most Magnificent. One could not find Him sitting on a table in a temple!
One night, Ibrahim went up to the mountain, leaned against a rock, and looked up to the sky. He saw a shining star, and told his people: “Could this be my Lord?” But when it set he said: “I don’t like those that set.” The star has disappeared, it could not be God. God is always present. Then he saw the moon rising in splendor and told them: “Could this be my Lord?” But it also set. At daybreak, he saw the sun rising and said: t “Could this be my Lord, this is bigger?” But when the sun set 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.” Our Lord is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything. He has the power to make the stars rise and set. Ibrahim then heard Allah calling him: “O Ibrahim!” Ibrahim said trembling: “Here I am O my Lord!” “Submit to Me! Be a Muslim!” Ibrahim fell on the ground, prostrating and crying, he said: “I submit to the Lord of the universe!” Ibrahim kept prostrating until night came again. He got up and went back to his home, in t peace, full of conviction that Allah has guided him to the Truth.
Ibrahim invites his father to Islam
A new life started for Ibrahim. His mission now was to call his people to the Truth. He would start with his father who was the closest person to him, and whom he loved so much. He said to him in the softest and kindest voice: “O father! Why do you worship that which doesn’t hear, doesn’t see, and cannot avail you in anything? O father, I have got knowledge which you have not, so follow me. I will guide you to a straight path.” His father replied angrily: “Do you reject my gods, O Ibrahim? If you don’t stop I will stone you. Get away from me before I punish you.” Ibrahim said: “Peace be on you! I will ask forgiveness of my Lord for you.”
Ibrahim confronts his people and rejects their idols
He left his father after he lost hope to convert him to the right path, and directed his efforts towards the people of the town, but they rejected his call and threatened him. By Allah, he said, I shall plot a plan to destroy their idols. He knew that a big celebration was coming soon, where everybody would leave town for a big feast on the riverbank. After making sure that nobody was left in town, Ibrahim went towards the temple armed with an ax. Statues of all shapes and sizes were sitting there adorned with decorations. Plates of food were offered to them, but the food was untouched. “Well, why don’t you eat? The food is getting cold.” He said to the statues, joking; then with his ax he destroyed all the statues except one, the biggest of them. He hung the ax around its neck and left.
How big was the shock when the people entered the temple! They gathered inside watching in awe their gods broken in pieces. They wondered who might have done this? Then they all remembered that the young Ibrahim was talking evil of their idols. They brought him to the temple and asked him: “Are you the one who has done this to our gods?” Ibrahim said: “No, this statue, the biggest of them has done it. Ask them if they can speak.” “You know well that these idols don’t speak!” They said impatiently. “Then how come you worship things that can neither speak nor see, nor even fend for themselves? Have you lost your minds?”
They kept silent for a while, for he got a point there. Their minds and their senses were telling them that the Truth is with Ibrahim, but their pride prevented them to accept it, and reject the idols they were worshipping for generations. This they thought would be total defeat. They started yelling at him and shouting: “Burn him! Burn him! Take revenge for your gods!”
The Miracle: Allah saves Ibrahim from the fire.
The decision to burn Ibrahim to death was affirmed by the priests and the king of Babylon, Nimrod. The news spread like a fire in the kingdom, and people were coming from all places to watch the execution. A huge pit was dug up and a large quantity of wood was piled up. Then the biggest fire people ever witnessed was lit. The fire flames were so high up in the sky that the birds could not fly over it for fear of being burned! Ibrahim’s hands and feet were chained, and he was put in a catapult to throw him into the fire. At that time, Angel Jibreel came to him and said: “O Ibrahim! Is there anything you wish for?” Ibrahim could have asked to be saved from the fire, to be taken away, but no, he said: “I only wish that Allah be pleased with me.” The catapult was released, and Ibrahim was thrown in the heart of the fire. But Allah would not allow His Prophet to be killed, He ordered the fire: “O fire! Be coolness and safety for Ibrahim!” And the miracle happened. The fire obeyed and burned only his chains. Ibrahim came out from it as if he was coming out from a garden, peaceful, his face illuminated, and not a trace of smoke on his clothes. People watched in shock and said: “Amazing! Ibrahim’ s God has saved him from the fire!”
Ibrahim debates the Babylonian king, Nimrod
Ibrahim’s notoriety grew bigger after this event and the king of Babylon felt that his throne was in danger, and that he was loosing power, because he was pretending that he was a god. He sent for Ibrahim. He wanted to debate with him and show his people that he, the king is indeed the god, and Ibrahim was a liar. He asked Ibrahim: What can your god do that I cannot?
-My Lord is He Who gives life and death.” Ibrahim said
-I give life and death. I can bring a person from the street and have him executed, and I can grant my pardon to a person who was sentenced to death and save his life.” The king said proudly
-Well my Lord Allah makes the sun rise from the East. Can you make it rise from the West?
The king was confounded. He was beaten at his own game, on his own territory, in front of his own people! Ibrahim left him there speechless and went back to his important mission, calling people to worship the one and only God, Allah.
Allah blesses Ibrahim with a son to become a prophet
Only a woman named Sarah and a man named Lot believed in Allah, and followed Ibrahim. He realized that nobody else would listen to him, and decided to emigrate for the cause of Allah, and to spread His Message elsewhere. Before leaving, he tried once again to convert his father to Islam, but to no avail. Ibrahim said to his father and his people: “We are free of you and of whatever you worship besides Allah. We have rejected you and there has arisen between us and you enmity and hatred forever unless you believe in Allah and Him alone.”
Ibrahim, Lot and Sarah started their long travel. They crossed Babylon, went through Syria and Palestine calling people to Allah, helping the poor and doing good deeds. By that time Ibrahim married Sarah. Their hope was to have children who would spread the Message of Allah after their death. As for Lot, he emigrated to the land of Sodom and settled there.
Time went by and no children were born to Sarah. She realized she was sterile. She accepted her fate and submitted to the will of Allah. Ibrahim and Sarah moved to Egypt where the king gave Sarah a woman to be her servant. The woman’s name was Hajar. Sarah was seeing Ibrahim’ s hair getting white, and it grieved her to see his chance of having any child slipping away. She offered Hajar her servant as a wife to her husband, and prayed Allah to bless Hajar and Ibrahim with a child. And so came Ismail, a baby boy born to Hajar. How unselfish Sarah was! For her, the need to have an offspring who would carry the Message after Ibrahim was greater than her pride. Fourteen years later Allah rewarded Sarah with a son, Ishaq in spite of her old age.
Young Ismail and his mother alone in the desert of Makkah
Ibrahim woke up one day and asked Hajar to prepare herself and baby Ismail for a long travel. Ibrahim and Hajar kept walking, crossed a fertile land followed by barren mountains till they arrived at the Arabian desert. Ibrahim brought Hajar to a high hill called al-Marwa, made her and her baby sit under a tree, placed a bag of dates and some water near her, and set out homeward. Hajar ran after him and said: “Are you going to leave us in this desert where there is no one to keep us company?” She repeated this many times but he would not look back at her. She asked: “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He said yes. “Then He will not neglect us.” She said. Ibrahim walked away until he got out of their sight, he raised his hands and prayed Allah: “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House, in order that they may offer prayers. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.”
Hajar went on nursing Ismail and drinking from the water until it was all used up. She became very thirsty and the child was crying. She left him on the al-Marwa hill and hurried to the nearest hill, as-Safa. She stood there and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She descended from as-Safa, crossed the valley running and reached al-Marwa hill. She stood and started looking but could see nobody. She kept running between as-Safa and al-Marwa seven times. When she reached al-Marwa for the last time, she was exhausted, she sat next to the baby. Then she heard a voice. She stood up and said: “O whoever you might be! Have you got something to help me?’ She saw an angel, Angel Jibreel, digging the earth until water flowed! She built a little basin around it. She scooped water with her hands, drank, filled her water-skin, and nursed her baby. The place from which water flowed was Zamzam. Muslims till this day drink from the holy water of Zamzam, and during Hajj they walk between as-Safa and al-Marwa seven times to commemorate this event.
Some Arabs traveling through Makkah saw birds flying around alMarwa. “They must be flying around water.” They said. When they arrived at the water, they found Hajar and asked her: “Would you allow us to stay with you, and use the water from your well?” She agreed and was pleased by their company. The people sent for their families, settled there and became permanent residents. The whole valley became alive. Ismail grew up, learned Arabic, and later married a woman from amongst the Arabs.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim who had not seen his son since he was a baby, came back to Makkah to visit him. Upon arriving, he heard that Hajar had died, but Ismail was still living there. Ibrahim was yearning to see his son whom he loved and missed a lot. He saw Ismail under a tree near Zamzam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw his father, Ismail rose up, hugged him and greeted him. It was the happiest moment for both father and son. But Allah wanted to put them to test, and it was a tough test indeed. During one night, Ibrahim had a dream. He came to Ismail and said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you as a sacrifice to Allah, so what do you think?” They both realized that this was an order from Allah. Ismail said without hesitation: “Do what you are commanded, you shall find me very patient insha Allah.” They had both submitted to the will of Allah. Ibrahim laid his son prostrate, put his forehead on the ground and directed a sharp knife towards his neck. At this very moment, Allah called him: “O Ibrahim! You have fulfilled the dream! Thus do We reward the good doers!” A big sheep was sent down from heaven to be slaughtered instead of Ismail, which Ibrahim did, and they both had a big celebration that day. This event is celebrated every year by all Muslims. It is Eid al-Adha where we slaughter the sacrificial sheep.
Ibrahim and Ismail kept on calling people to worship Allah. At that time there was no place built for the worship of Allah. Ibrahim wished there could be such a place where people would be in peace, and concentrate solely for the worship of Allah. His wish was answered when Allah ordered him to build the Sacred House, the Ka’bah. Ibrahim said to Ismail: “O Ismail, Allah has given me an order, will you help me execute it?” “Yes I will.” Ismail said. “Allah has ordered me to build a house here.” He said, pointing to a hillock higher than the land surrounding it. They went towards the place and started building the foundations of the Ka’bah Ismail brought the stones and Ibrahim built the walls, and when the walls became high, Ismail brought a large stone and put it in front of his father who stood over it and carried on building, while Ismail was handing him the stones. Both of them went on building and going around the Ka’bah, saying: “O our Lord accept this service from us.” When they finished the building, Angel Jibreel descended from heaven and showed Ibrahim the rituals of Hajj. Then Ibrahim stepped on the stone and called on people: “O people obey your Lord.” This large stone which Ibrahim stepped on is still there to this day near the Ka’bah. It is called Makam Ibrahim.
Thus ends the story of Ibrahim, the father of the prophets. From him descended all the prophets who came later, including Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. Ibrahim devoted all his life calling others to the True religion: Islam. Alone he stood against his people, his father, and even the mighty king of Babylon, and never flinched. Yet his method was always to gradually persuade them by bringing irrefutable proofs, that most often embarrassed those who refused to accept the Truth, but as Allah said: “Any whom Allah leaves to stray, there is none to guide!”