Prophet Ibrahim, or Abraham (AS) as he is commonly called, ranks among the greatest prophets of Islam. The story of his life is surely one that raises questions about the validity of our religious practices and forces us to look at religion from a different point of view.
Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s life was full of incidents that reflected his desire to unite with one’s spiritual side without letting go of reason.
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) lived in a community of polytheists who worshipped idols. In fact, his father too was a well-known idolater. Having seen his father manufacture and worship idols, Prophet Ibrahim (AS), from a very young age, couldn’t understand how people could consider these non-living objects as their gods! People would offer food to and seek forgiveness from those lifeless structures!
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) protested against such practices and rituals many a times, each time receiving reprimand from his fellowmen and anger from his father. Yet, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) insisted that stereotypical practices such as idol worship were of no use, and humans did not need to bow down before lifeless objects.
As such, Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s life inspires us to stand by what we believe is right. Not only did he question the illogical practices of his fellowmen, knowing that his was the voice of reason, he actively made attempts to guide his people towards the right path. And above all, when he was met with hatred and rejection by the people, he never lost confidence in the truth.
This was portrayed so beautifully in the Great Fire incidence. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) beheaded the idols in the temple in order to show the people that the idols which they feared and worshipped were not even capable of fending for themselves. But of course, what has been hardwired in our heads since birth can’t change that easily, so everyone turned against Ibrahim (AS) for insulting their “gods”, and thus decided to burn Ibrahim (AS). They built a fire so huge that it was hard to even go anywhere near it, and chained Ibrahim (AS), and threw him into the fire. But after a while, they saw that the fire did not harm Ibrahim (AS). In fact it had destroyed his binds and they saw a person, identical to Ibrahim (AS), sitting in the fire with him. This was the angel sent by Allah to save him.
Isn’t this episode a wonderful example telling us that Allah is always with us? If we are righteous and stand for the truth, Allah will stand by our side.
At another time, a very powerful king, who proclaimed himself to be god, challenged Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to prove him wrong. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) very calmly asked him if he could make the sun rise from the west. Simple… and just like that, Ibrahim (AS) proved his point that this particular king was nothing more than a mortal human being, just like the rest of us.
Both these incidents highlight Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s confidence and faith. He knew his beliefs were backed by reason, and so he had nothing to fear.
Lastly, the most important lesson that we can learn from Prophet Ibrahim (AS) is that of forgiveness. Yes, he raised questions at the practices of his people. Yes, he had to go against the wishes of his father because his father repeatedly refused to understand his point of view. Yes, he was thrown into fire by his fellowmen for what he believed in. But he never compromised on his virtue of forgiveness. Ibrahim (AS) knew that bearing a grudge against others was not the right way. And thus, he repeatedly tried to help his people, even though they were blinded by tradition and stigma. Of course, our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would do the same, centuries later.
As we approach Eid al-Adha, an event that commemorates Prophet Ibrahim (AS)’s willingness to perform the biggest sacrifice for Allah, it is time we rethink our lives. Amidst the festivities of Eid al-Adha, let us remind ourselves of all that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) stood for, and ponder over lessons that we can learn from his life.