Many of us have read the story of prophet Ibrahim over and over again . We are very much familiar with the story of his sacrifice and the test that Allaah gave him. But do we really understand what ibrahim went through? Do we appreciate what it was like to be Ibrahim ?Can we grasp in thought what happened? Why is it that we regard Ibrahim as the father of faith? What was it that he achieved? Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) is distinguished in the Quraan with the title of Khalil-ul-Allaah (the intimate friend of Allaah) Allaah says:And who can be better in religion than one who submits his face (himself) to Allaah (i.e folows Allaah's religion of islamic monotheism) .
And Allaah did take Ibrahim as a khalil (intimate friend (Q4[Nisaa]:125). He is also described as a model:Indeed there has been an excellent example in Ibrahim``(Q60[Mumtahina]:4) Allaah as described him as an ummah. Allaah says:`` verily ,Ibrahim (Abraham) was an Ummah( a leader having righteous qualities or a nation ),obedient to Allaah,Hanifah (i.e to worship none but Allaah), and he was not one of those who were Al-mushrikun.``(Q16[Nahl]:120)
Why and how did he earned these noble and enviable epithets? Ibrahim was born among the star-and idol-worshipping people of Chaldea , in the home of Azar , his father ,the idol-maker of the tribe. ,Ibrahim was among the kuffar ,but not of them,like a spring of tawheed (monotheism)arising out of the swamp of shirk (polytheism).the Qurﾒaan tells us his encounter with his father. And mention in the book (Qur'an) Ibrahim .Verilly ! 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 come not unto you. So follow me.
I will guide you to a Straight Path. 0 my father! Worship not Shayton. Verily! Shayton has been a rebel against the Most Beneficent (Allah). 0 my father! Verily! I fear lest a torment from the Most Beneficent (Allah) overtake you, so that you become a companion of Shayton in the Hell-fire.He (the father) said: "Do you reject my ods, 0 Ibrahim? If you stop not (this), I will indeed stone you. So get away from me safely before I punish you. Ibrahim said: "Peace be on you! I will ask Forgiveness of my Lord for you. Verily! He is unto me, Ever Most Gracious." (Q 19[Maryam1:41-47) One of the most difficult dawoh is the one directed towards ones family and close relatives.
Naturally, we do not like to rock the boat so we allow kufr, shirk and sinfulness to reign free in our families. One of the first jobs the Messenger of Allaah was saddled with is warning his close relatives: "And worn your tribe (0 Muhammad SAW) of near kindred" (Q26[Shuaraa1:214) From the dowoh and revolt against the dominant shirk in the house of Azar, his father, Ibrahim went on to challenge the polytheism of his people.
Indeed Ibrahim is known as historys great idol- smasher, as the founder of Monotheism and the crusher of ignorance. There are numerous verses in the Quran which describe how Ibrahim argued against idol worshippers, his rational arguments against skeptics and those who worshipped celestial bodies, how he deals with unbelievers, how he preaches to his people. For instance, Allaah says:"Have you not looked at him who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord (Allaah), because Allaah had given him the kingdom? When Ibrahim said (to him): "My Lord (Allaah) is He Who gives life and causes death." He said, "I give life and cause death." Ibrahim said, "Verily! Allaah causes the sun to rise from the east; then cause it you to rise from the west." So the disbeliever was utterly defeated. And Allah guides not the people who are Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.)" (Q2[Baqarah]258)
In another example in the Quran, Allaah says: "And indeed We bestowed aforetime on Ibrahim his (portion on guidance, and We were Well-Acquainted with him (as to his Belief in the Oneness of Allaah, etc.) When he said to his father and his people: What are these images, to which you are devoted?They said:We found our fathers worshipping them.He said: "Indeed you and your fathers have been in manifest error. They said: "Have you brought us the truth, or are you one of those who play about?He said: Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, Who created them and of that I am one of the witnesses. And by Allah, I shall plot a plan (to destroy) your idols after you have gone away and turned your bocks.So he broke them to pieces, (all) except the biggest of them, that they might turn to it.
They said: "Who has done this to our aliha (gods)? He must indeed be one of the wrong-doers.They said: "We Heard a young man talking (against) them who is called Ibrahim.They said: Then bring him before the eyes Of the people, that they may testify. , They said: " Are you the one who has done this to our gods, 0 Ibrahim? Ibrahim said: "Nay, this one, the biggest of them (idols) did it. Ask them, if they can speak!" So they turned to themselves and said: Verily, you are the Zalimun (wrong-doers).Then they turned to themselves (their first thought and said): "Indeed you (Ibrahim) know well that these (idols) speak not!Ibrahim said: "Do you then worship besides Allaah, things that can neither profit you, nor harm you? Fie upon you, and upon that which you worship besides Allah! Have you then no sense?" They said: "Burn him and help your aliha (gods), if you will be doing." (Q21 [Anbiyaa]:5I-68)
As usual, when falsehood is defeated on intellectual grounds it resorts to plotting and oppression. The response of his people to his dawah is to exterminate him. Ibrahim could have given up his message and his beliefs to save himself from the fire of Namrud. But he chose martyrdom. He chose to die so that Allaahs message will live. He chose to step into the fire of ignorance and tyranny in order to save humanity from the fire of ignorance and tyranny. So he was cast into the fire. Allaah had a different plan for Ibrahim and he was unhurt by the grace of Allaah: "Then Allah saved him from the fire. Verily ,in this are indeed signs for a people who believe" (Q29[ankabut1:24) Allaah also says:"We (Allah) said: "0 fire! Be you coolness and safety for Ibrahim! And they wanted to harm him, but We made them the worst losers" (Q21 [Anbiyaa]:51-69-70)
Migration to the land of Promise However, this miracle did not deter the idol-worshippers from continuing for very long years their plots, persecution, abuse, cruelty and isolation against Ibrahim but he remained uncompromising, unshakeable in his beliefs, patient in his suffering, gentle in his manners until he made his hijra (he migrated). He left the land of his fathers to become a stranger in the land of promise. It was indeed a land of promise. A land where Ibrahim continued a lifetime of struggle , da wah, worship, bearing alone the heavy responsibility of the mission of Tawheed (monotheism) in an age of darkness, oppression, prejudice and ignorance.
Ibrahim did not have children. And throughout his century of Prophethood and service to Allaah, as Ibrahim grew older, his desire to have a son grew stronger. The Prophet Ibrahim desperately longed for a son but his wife Hajar was barren. "My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous" (Q37[Saffaat]: 100) Ibrahim made a solemn prayer to Allaah. Against every expectation, Allah fulfill led his promise of making Ibrahim the seed of a great line of Prophets, the root of the great universal religions. "So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy." (Q3 7[Saffaat]: 101) Allaah brought mercy to the agedness, loneliness, hopelessness and anguish of his trustworthy Messenger.
For Ibrahim, Ismail was not just a son for a sonless father, he was the end of a life of waiting, the reward of a century of suffering, the fruit of his life, the hope after despair and the young boy of an old father. Ismail being the promise of future generations was in some sense the whole world for Ibrahim. So there was joy and rejoicing in Ibrahims house as Ismail was quickly growing under the sun of his fathers love. But Allaah decided that it was not to remain so. The old father and the young son would be separated.
The Spring of ZamZam Allaah ordered Ibrahim to relocate the baby and the mother ; not to a well populated and more comfortable locality, but to Makkah, then a desolate and arid territory. Allaahs Messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) told us: "Ibrahim brought her (Hajar]his wife) and her son Ismail while she was suckling him. to a place near the Kaba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque.
During those days there was nobody in Makkah. Nor was there any water. So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates. and a ismail water-skin containing some water. and set out homeward. Ismails mother followed him saying. "0 Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times. but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, "Has AIlaah ordered you to do so?" He said ,"Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Ibrahim proceeded onwards." (Bukhari) Ibrahims heart must have ached greatly, leaving his only son and his mother in an obvious perilous situation but still Ibrahim proceeded, he was carrying out Allaahs order and his trust in Him is will remain unwavering.
Still, he raised his hand and prayed solemnly to his Lord: "0 our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Kabah at Makkah); in order, 0our Lord, that they may perform As-Salat (Iqamatas- Salat), so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (0 Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks" (Q 14[lbrahim1:34)
The Command to Slaughter Ismail His prayer was accepted, Allaah provided sustenance for them in a miraculous way and guided people to settle with them to provide companionship. But soon afterwards, Ibrahim was to be tried once more. He had a vision in Which he was commanded by Allaah to slaughter his only son. Brothers and Sisters, why should Ibrahim, whose entire life was devoted to prophethoo , to jihaad, to removing ignorance, to laying the foundations of tawheed be tried once again ?Is it because man should not rest? Is it because man should not be deceived by 100years of Jihad and victories? Is it because he should not think of himself without weakness? Is it for the fact that whatever we fix our eyes upon in this world will blind us? And finally, is it because the Higher the spiritual height we reach, the greater is the danger of falling? It is not possible to convey in words what it must have meant for Ibrahim to be commanded by Allaah to sacrifice his only son Ismail. The magnitude of the pain does not allow the imagination to enclose it. It inspires fear and trembling.
How can Ibrahim take his beloved son, the fruit of his life, the joy of his heart, the meaning of his living and staying, his Ismail, and hold him on the ground, put a knife to his throat and kill him? If it were only the slaughter of Ibrahim at the hand of Ismail, how easy! But no! The young Ismail must die and the old and aged Ibrahim must remain! Ibrahim, the steel-like idol-smasher must have felt torn apart! Within him, there must have been a war, the greatest jihad. The war of choice between Allaahs command and Ismail! A most difficult choice! Who should Ibrahim choose? Love of Allaah or love of self? Prophethood or fatherhood? Faith or emotion? Responsibility or Pleasure? What should Ibrahim choose? Ibrahim did not choose immediately.
He waited not because of doubt but hoping that the command will be reinforced by further confirmation. After the third vision, he finally decide to carry out Allaahs command. When the command of Allaah enhances ones earthly life, most people will rush to carry it out, but when it opposes life and leads to problems, loss and dangers, only very few will buck. lblis works wherever he finds traces of fear, weakness, doubt, despair, envy, selfishness and even great affection towards someone or something. lblis sometimes blows logical reasons, intellectual and religious justifications to achieve his ends.
For instance we may imagine that, under the powerful crush of his pain and distress, Ibrahim could have used many justifications. Perhaps the meaning of dhabh (slaughter) is just metaphorical and means kill yourego. Perhaps Ismailmight be a general noun and not Ibrahims son. Perhaps, slaughter Ismail" actually means , slaughter the love of Ismail". Ibrahim could have also tried many interpretations of his vision. But Ibrahim, khalil-ul-Allaah, the intimate friend of Allaah, had faith in Allaah and he knew that Allaah demanded the sacrifice. \ Ibrahims conscience would make a mockery of all these logical justifications and reasons. Ibrahim chose the Love of Allaah over the Love of self, Prophethood over fatherhood, Loyalty to Allaah over loyalty to family.
Ibrahim chose Allaah and gave up Ismail. In Mina, same one where millions of pilgrims gather each year, an amazing and frightening conversation between a father and a son took place. Ibrahim said to Ismail: "0 my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allaah), so look what you think!" (Q37[Saffaat]: 102) What frightening words for a child to hear! Ismail could have kept silent. He could have asked Ibrahim to refrain or simply just run far away from the reach of his father. But Ismail also had faith. He submitted to Allaahs will. Realising his fathers distress, Ismail gave him these comforting words: "He said: "0 my father! Do that which you are commanded, InshaAllah (if Allah will), you shall find me of As-Sabirin (the patient ones)." (Q37[Saffaat]: 102)
Allaah is great! Ibrahim had consulted his son who willingly offered himself to Allaahs command. The choice of Ibrahim was sacrifice. That of Ismail was self-sacrifice. This gave Ibrahim strength. Ibrahim tied his heart to Allaah, he took the Ismail of his life in one hand and the knife of his faith in the other and he walked until he reached the place of sacrifice. Ibrahim was suffering while believing and at every moment it was possible for him to retract and Turn back.
Yet he lay Ismail on the ground, putting his face away from him to give strength to his crushed soul. Ibrahim was set to slaughter his only son in fulfillment of Allaah command but just then Allaah called Ibrahim and commended him for fulfilling His command: "Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allaah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering; and We called out to him: "0 Ibrahim! You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!" Verily! Thus do We reward the Muhsinun (good doers)." (Q37[Safaat1: 103-105) Ibrahim gained everything and kept Ismail. This means that the Lord of Ibrahim is not thirsty for blood. It is the people, the servants of God who are hungry, and hungry of sheep meat. "It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allaah, but it is piety from you that reaches Him." (Q22[Hajj]:37)
This means that from the very beginning Allaah did not want Ismail to be slaughtered. He wanted Ibrahim to be the Slaughterer of Ismail. When he became so, the slaughter became useless. Allaah, from the beginning, wanted Ismail to be the slaughter of Allaah (dhabihullaah). And when it happened, his sacrifice became useless. Mankind has needs but Allaah has no needs. He is Self-Sufficient. Allaah in His Wisdom raised Ibrahim to the highest peak of sacrificing his Ismail without actually sacrificing Ismail. Allaah promoted Ismail to the highest peak of being the great sacrifice of Allaah without bringing any harm to him. This event is not about the torment and torture of mankind but about the perfection of humanity, the freedom from the Prison of instinct and selfishness and about the elevation of spirit.
This momentous event also teaches us, through Ibrahim, that human life, Ismails, Ibrahim's, everyone's, acquires its meaning and value from Allaah The Source of Creation - and not from nature. It signifies that the good things in life, represented by Ismail, derive their value not from the mere fact that they exist and can be valued, enjoyed and delighted in, but from Allaah, The Source of Creation Himself. lbrahim was, in some sense, giving back Ismail to receive him again on the proper basis. Different people organise differently their loyalty to Allaah, to the family and to the nation or the state. A secular mind owes an absolute duty to the nation (and the family) whereas a religious conscience owes absolute duty to Allaah. For a secular mind Ibrahim was willing to MURDER Ismail but for a religious conscience he was willing to SACRIFICE Ismail.
Ibrahim therefore instructs that we should owe absolute duty only to Allaah and it is our relationship to Him which ought to transcend and determine out relation to family/nation and not vice-versa. There still is a lot to understand and discover about this momentous event. These are only a few possible meanings. Only a few, and just possible, because as Ibrahim taught us to be less complacent and more critical about having attained faith, we should be less complacent and more critical about having attained understanding. What is your own Ismail? The Ismail of Ibrahim was his son. But you, who is your Ismail? what is it? Your degree? Your reputation? Your position? Your money? Your home? Your car? Your beloved? Your family?Your knowledge? Your title? Your dress? Your fame? Your soul? Your spirituality? Your Beauty? Your strength? Your career? How does one know ? If you search well into your heart, you will find it right there.
However, still we can give you pointers to who or what your Ismail is. Whatever is in your eyes which holds the place of Ismail in the eyes of Ibrahim! What ever weakens you on the way of faith! Whatever stops you in your movement towards Allaah! Whatever brings doubt to your responsibility as a Muslim! Whatever leads you to compromise and justification! That very thing which deafens your ears to the Message of Truth! Whatever calls you to remain with yourself and abandon your Benefactor! These are a few of the signs of our Ismails. Let us search for them in ourselves and let us slaughter them to move towards Allaah. Let us revolt against the absent minded.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited