Prophet Ibrahim (2)

As you may recall, most of the people at the time of Ibrahim (alayhis salam) were idol worshippers. There were very few people who heeded the words of Ibrahim (alayhis salam). One of the people who did follow in the way of Allah was his wife, Sarah. She and Ibrahim (alayhis salam) had been married for many years but did not have any children. As they became more elderly, it seemed apparent that they would never have a family. Sarah therefore gave Ibrahim (alayhis salam) her slavewoman, Hajra, as a wife, in the hopes that she would be able to bear a child for him. Ibrahim (alayhis salam) prayed for a righteous son and his prayer was answered. To him and Hajra was born the son Ismail (alayhis salam).

Ismail (alayhis salam) grew up strong in the belief of Allah. When he had become old enough to have become helpful, Ibrahim (alayhis salam) saw in a vision from Allah that he was to sacrifice his son. You can imagine how heavy-hearted he was at the thought of giving up that long-awaited son. But he never thought to go against the command of Allah. He went to his son and told him of the vision and asked him what he thought of it. Now Ismail (alayhis salam), although very young, never hesitated. If it was Allah’s will, he said, he would go along with it.

Ibrahim (alayhis salam) and Ismail (alayhis salam) prepared for the sacrifice and just as Ibrahim (alayhis salam) was about to perform it, Allah intervened. Allah provided a ram for sacrifice in place of Ismail (alayhis salam), for Ibrahim (alayhis salam) and Ismail (alayhis salam) had passed the test of faith which Allah had set for them.

Some time later, the angels who were being sent to Lut (alayhis salam) stopped at Ibrahim’s (alayhis salam) home. When he saw the two strangers, he roasted a calf in order to entertain them. When he saw that they did not eat, he mistrusted and feared them. But they told him not to be afraid. Sarah was there and she laughed when they told her she would have a son. She couldn’t believe it. She was an old woman and her husband an old man. They told her not to wonder at Allah’s decree, for he can do all things.

Ibrahim (alayhis salam), too, couldn’t believe his ears when they told him that he would father another son endowed with wisdom. He asked the messengers how they could say such a thing when he was such an old man. But they assured him that they were telling the truth.

Just as the angels had foretold, a son was born to Sarah and Ibrahim (alayhis salam). He was named Ishaaq (alayhis salam) and he later became the father of Yaqub (alayhis salam). It is from Ishaaq (alayhis salam) that the children of Israel trace their roots.

It is from Ismail (alayhis salam), Ibrahim’s (alayhis salam) first-born son, that the people of Arabia trace their lineage. Thus can two peoples, the Jews and the Arabs, trace their beginnings back to a single ancestor, Ibrahim (alayhis salam), the father of Ismail (alayhis salam) and Ishaaq (alayhis salam).

You can read about Ibrahim (alayhis salam) and his sons in the following surat of the Qur’an 11:69-76, 15:51-56, and 37: 99-111.

Prophet Ibrahim (1)

We often see the term “role model” in newspapers and magazines. It refers to someone who leads the sort of life that you would like to live. Many of us choose our favorite sports star or film star as our role model because we are impressed by the glitter and flair of these wealthy people. However, if we stopped to think about what kind of lives the stars really lead, perhaps we would have second thoughts about our choice of role model. How many of these stars have never known or have forgotten Allah in their quest for fame and riches! How often are they consumed by hate, envy, violence, drugs and other evils! Who really wants that kind of life? Certainly not we Muslims.

The Qur’an tells us that the prophets should be our role models, and Ibrahim (alayhis salam) in particular is frequently mentioned. He was obedient to Allah, upright, and he did not worship any god but Allah. He turned away from those who worshipped idols, even from his own father. He was grateful to Allah for the blessings which were bestowed on him. He was rewarded with good in this world and he is among the righteous in the hereafter.

Ibrahim’s (alayhis salam) father, Azer, was a stone carver. He carved the images of the idols which his people worshipped. Ibrahim (alayhis salam) grew up in an atmosphere of paganism, in which Allah was just one of many gods worshipped by his people. But Allah chose Ibrahim (alayhis salam) to be His prophet. Ibrahim (alayhis salam) saw a star when it rose and called upon it as his lord, but when it set he realized that it was powerless. He called upon the moon when it rose in the sky, but it too disappeared as it set. Then he decided to worship the sun when it rose, but even the sun with all its brilliance had to set each evening. It was at this point that Ibrahim (alayhis salam) was ready to acknowledge the supremacy of the Creator of all the heavenly bodies, the Lord of all creation, and a being without equal and without partners. He tried unsuccessfully to persuade his father and his people to discard the useless idols and to submit themselves wholly to Allah. He promised his father that he would pray for forgiveness for him, and since he had promised, he did pray. But we are told in the Qur’an that we should shun pagans and we should not pray for them (Qur’an 9:113-114).

Ibrahim (alayhis salam) asked his people why they worshipped those idols which they themselves had made, instead of the true God who had created everything and everybody. The people answered that they worshipped the idols because their fathers had done so. One day, when no one was about, Ibrahim (alayhis salam) took his right hand and smashed the idols to pieces, all except the biggest. The people came running, asking who had destroyed their gods. Ibrahim (alayhis salam) pointed to the big god and said, “He did it. Why don’t you ask them?” But of course those fragments of stone were not able to speak and the people knew in their hearts that the big stone could not have destroyed them. So Ibrahim (alayhis salam) asked, “Why do you worship these powerless rocks instead of Allah who is all powerful?” Then the people were very angry and they seized Ibrahim (alayhis salam) and threw him into a blazing fire. But Allah was with Ibrahim (alayhis salam) and made the blaze feel cool to him. Ibrahim (alayhis salam) emerged from the fire unharmed.

In Arabia at the time of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), three religious groups claimed ancestry to the prophet Ibrahim (alayhis salam). They were the Christians, the Jews, and the pagan idol-worshippers. But the religion of Ibrahim (alayhis salam) was none of these three. His religion was truly that of Islam, a total submission to the will of Allah. It is he who should serve as our role model, a man of unswerving faith in troubled times.

You can read about Ibrahim (alayhis salam) as a role model and about his disputes over the idols in the following suras of the Qur’an: 2:130, 135, 258; 3:67; 6:74-83; 16:120-123; 19:41-50; 21:51-71; 26:70-82; 37:83-98; 60:4-6.

Prophets Hud and Salih

Since their purpose was often the same, the stories of many of the prophets are very similar. They were all raised up among their own people, to warn their people against their sinful ways and warn of Allah’s pending punishment. Their message was the same, to worship Allah and heed the words of His prophet. The prophets emphasized that they had nothing to gain from their people; that they were merely conveying Allah’s message. And all the prophets were deeply compassionate men, who became frustrated that so few heeded their words, but who never stopped trying to convey Allah’s message, until the people’s deeds exceeded limits set by Allah. 

The response to each prophet’s message was also very similar. A very small number of his people would heed his message and follow his advice. But most of his community would refuse to listen. They would say that their prophet was crazy. They would laugh at him, scorn his followers, and threaten him. They would challenge him to bring on the punishment with which he was always threatening them. But only Allah knew when the punishment would strike and what it would be. When the punishment did strike, the prophet and his believers would be saved, and all the nonbelievers would be destroyed.

The type of punishment differed: it was a great flood at the time of Nuh (Peace be upon him) and a shower of brimstones among the people of Lut (Peace be upon him). In this issue we will see what happened to the people of the prophet Hud (Peace be upon him) and the people of the prophet Salih (Peace be upon him). These two prophets are not mentioned in the Bible.

Hud (pronounced “who’d”) (Peace be upon him) was a member of the ‘Ad (rhymes with “rod”) tribe, a powerful Arab tribe which lived in the southern Arabian peninsula. (Muhajir, A.M.R. 1975. Lessons from the Stories of the Quran, Sh. Muhammed Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan, pp 45-46). They were descendants of Nuh (Peace be upon him). They were tall in stature and were skilful builders. They were all idol-worshippers. The prophet Hud (Peace be upon him) was raised up to bring them back to the worship of Allah.

Hud’s (Peace be upon him) message and his people’s reaction to it followed the usual pattern. They called him an idiot and a liar. He implored them to listen to him, but they rejected him. And so Allah sent down His terrible penalty, from which only Hud (Peace be upon him) and his followers were saved. The penalty in this case was a great wind which destroyed everything in its path. It raged for seven nights and eight days, and when it had passed, nothing could be seen but the ruins of the houses. It picked the people up and flung them to the ground.

Nothing and nobody could withstand its force. Thus was the tribe of Ad, a powerful nation of skilful and intelligent people, destroyed because it would not listen to its prophet.

The tribe of Thamud existed about 200 years after the tribe of ‘Ad. They lived in an area which is now near the border between Syria and Arabia. They carved their homes out of rocks. Some of those rock habitations, called asalib, are still in existence (Muhajir, pp 49-50). They are often mentioned in the Qur’an in conjunction with the tribe of Ad. The prophet who was sent to them was named Salih (Peace be upon him). 

Salih (Peace be upon him), too, had only a very small band of followers. The remaining townspeople were very much against Salih (Peace be upon him) and his teachings. A group of them were even plotting to secretly do away with Salih (Peace be upon him), but that was not part of Allah’s plan so the plot failed.

A sign of Salih’s (Peace be upon him) prophethood was sent by Allah to the people of Thamud in the form of a she-camel. Salih (Peace be upon him) instructed the people of Thamud to allow the camel to pasture freely and to have its share of water. It was when they killed the camel that they overstepped the limits placed by Allah, and their destruction was inevitable. Salih (Peace be upon him) foretold that within three days of having slain the camel disaster would come upon them. It is not clear exactly what the disaster was. Some sort of earthquake activity and some storms are mentioned. But the result was the total destruction of the people of Thamud, with the exception of Salih (Peace be upon him) and his followers.

Thus we see again in the stories of these two prophets, Hud (Peace be upon him) and Salih (Peace be upon him), how two powerful nations were totally destroyed, because they did not heed Allah’s warning. Only the faithful were saved. 

You can read about Hud (Peace be upon Him) in the Qur’an, Sura 7:65-72, Sura 11: 50-60, Sura 26:123-140, Sura 41:15-16, Sura 46:21-26, Sura 51:41-42, Sura 54:18-21, Sura 69:6-8, and Sura 89:6-8. You can read about Salih (Peace be upon Him) in the Qur’an, Sura 7:73-79, Sura 11:61-68, Sura 26:141-159, Sura 27:45-53, Sura 41:17, Sura 51:43-45, Sura 54:23-31, Sura 69:4-5, Sura 85:17-20 and Sura 91:11-15.

Prophet Lut

The stories of the prophets which are told to us in the Qur’an are not just tales of devout and God-fearing people. They are meant to serve as a warning to us of what happens to people who do not follow in the way of Allah.

The society in which Lut (A.S.) lived must have been very much like the society in which we live, where natural laws governing the behaviour of men and women toward each other are not any longer respected. What is naturally right has become wrong and what is naturally wrong has become right, and all types of dishonesty and wickedness abound. Somehow, people who try to live in the way of Allah, who try to be clean and pure, honest and trustworthy, who are fearful of Allah, these people are scorned and disliked and made fun of. As you read the story of Lut (A.S.), remember that Allah’s punishment for wrongdoers is never far away and that those who fear Allah are surely rewarded.

Lut (A.S.) attempted to get his people to turn from their wicked ways. He would say to them, “Won’t you fear Allah? I am a trustworthy messenger, so fear Allah and obey me. I don’t ask for any reward from you. My reward is from the Lord of the Worlds. Of all the creatures on this earth, you alone approach males, and leave the women whom Allah has created for you to be your mates. You are people who sin beyond all limits.”

The people knew that Lut (A.S.) and his followers were leading a much cleaner and purer life than their own. Deep down in their hearts they knew that what he said was true, but they didn’t like being told so. So they would say, “If you don’t stop your preaching, you will surely be driven out of town!”

He in turn would reply, “I do detest your doings. O my Lord! Deliver me and my family from such things as they do!”

Now, at about the same time that Allah sent angels as messengers to Ibrahim , to foretell the birth of Ishaq , the angels also told Ibrahim that they had been sent to destroy the people in Lut’s (A.S.) township. His immediate reaction was, “But there is Lut there!” They replied, “We well know who is there. We will certainly save him and his following, except his wife. She is among those who lag behind.”

When the same messengers came to Lut (A.S.) , he was deeply concerned for their safety at the hands of his fellow townspeople, and he felt powerless to protect them. But they said, “Don’t be afraid and don’t grieve. We are here to save you and your followers.”

Just as Lut (A.S.) had feared, the townspeople came after his guests. He even tried to offer them his daughters for them to marry, if they would only leave his guests alone. But they tried to snatch away his guests anyway, until Allah blinded their eyes and they heard, “Now taste my anger and my warning.”

Then the angels conveyed their message to Lut (A.S.) . They said, “O Lut! We are messengers from your Lord. Travel with your family while yet a part of the night remains. You bring up the rear and don’t let anyone look back. But your wife will remain behind and to her will happen what happens to the people. Morning is the appointed time and it is not far off, so go!”

And Lut (A.S.) had faith in Allah and left his home and all he had ever known, for the sake of his Lord.

When morning came the cities were turned upside down. Brimstones as hard as baked clay rained down upon the cities and spread, layer on layer. Everyone and everything in the towns were destroyed. That was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime.

You can read about Lut in the Qur’an, Sura 7, Ayat 80-84; Sura 11, Ayat 63-83; Sura 15, Ayat 57-77; Sura 25, Ayat 160-175; Sura 25, Ayat 54-58; Sura 29, Ayat 26, 28-35; Sura 37, Ayat 133-138; Sura 51, Ayat 31-37; Sura 54, Ayat 33-39; Sura 66, Ayat 10.

Prophet Nuh

The prophets of Allah often had a tough time getting their people to listen to them, and Nuh (Alayhis Salam) was no exception. His people had been going very far astray, they worshipped idols, and many of them were so involved with their material well being that they forgot about their souls. Therefore Allah sent Nuh (Alayhis Salam) to his people with a message.

The prophet Nuh’s (Alayhis Salam) message was a simple one. He said that they should worship Allah and serve none but Allah. If they wouldn’t change their ways, he feared that Allah would send down a terrible punishment on them. He reminded them of all the beauty and bounty that Allah had provided for them.

There were some people who did believe and they tried very hard to live as Allah had commanded. But most of the people would find reasons for not listening to Nuh’s (Alayhis Salam) message. Often the leaders would say that Nuh (Alayhis Salam) was crazy. At other times the leaders of those who didn’t believe would say, “You are just a man, no different from us, no angel, so how can you carry a message from Allah?”

And Nuh (Alayhis Salam) would remind them that he had never claimed to be anything other than a man, he had never claimed to know anything more than what he knew, and he had never tried to get anything from them in return for what he had to tell them. But he repeatedly told them that he had a message from Allah, which it was his duty to deliver, whether or not they chose to listen to him.

Many of the people who believed in Nuh (Alayhis Salam) were not very high in social status, so the leaders of the people looked down on the followers of Nuh (Alayhis Salam). But he said that no one could save him from Allah’s anger if he drove away any of those who believed, no matter how poor or uneducated they were. Finally the leaders of the people would say in exasperation, “You’ve argued and argued with us for a long time, so bring on this punishment now that you’ve been threatening us with.”

Nuh’s (Alayhis Salam) answer was, “Allah will bring it on you if He so wills, and then you will not be able to stop it.”

These discussions went on for a long time. Nuh (Alayhis Salam) lived for 950 years among his people (Sura 29,Ayat 14). He became very discouraged when not many people would listen to him. He then received a message from Allah, “None of your people will believe except those who have believed already: So don’t worry about the wrongdoers any more. Build a ship under our guidance. Those who are in sin will soon be destroyed.”

Nuh (Alayhis Salam) and his followers built the ship out of broad planks and caulked it with palm-fibre. As they worked the non believers ridiculed them. Sometime after the ship had been completed, water started gushing out of the earth. Allah commanded Nuh (Alayhis Salam) to get into the ship, and to take with him a male and a female of each kind of living thing, and also to take the members of his family who believed and the small number of other believers from the community.

This was Nuh’s (Alayhis Salam) prayer before the flood. “O my Lord! Leave not a single one of the unbelievers on earth. For if any are left, they will only mislead those who worship you, and they will only produce wicked, ungrateful offspring. O my Lord! Forgive me, my parents, all who enter my house in faith, and all believing men and women. And to the wrongdoers grant no increase except in eternal damnation.”

The waters started to rise as water poured out of the earth and rain poured down upon the earth, and the waves were very high, like mountains. But the ship floated safely on the waves. Nuh (Alayhis Salam) saw one of his sons still on the shore and called to him to join them. The son was not a believer and called back that he would be safe on some mountain top. At that moment a wave came along and swept the son away, and he was seen no more.

Now Nuh (Alayhis Salam) was concerned about his son who had been washed away by the waves, because a father never stops being a father, even if the son is not a worthy man. So Nuh (Alayhis Salam) asked Allah, “O my Lord, surely my son is one of my family. And you promised that my family would be safe.

Allah replied, “He is not a member of your family, for his conduct is not righteous. So don’t ask me for things about which you have no knowledge.”  Then Nuh (Alayhis Salam) realized that he had gone too far. He begged Allah to forgive him for asking for something about which he had no knowledge. Only Allah knew why the son had been separated from the others.

When all the earth was flooded, Allah commanded, “O earth, swallow up your water and O sky, withhold your rain!” Slowly the waters receded and the ship came to rest on top of Mount Judi. The only surviving people were in that ship. Thus did Allah do away with those who did wrong.

Then Allah said, “O Nuh! Come down from your ship with peace from us, and blessings on you and on some of the peoples who will spring from those with you. But there will be other people who will lead a life of pleasure for a time, only in the end to be punished by us.”

You can read about Nuh (Alayhis Salam) in the Qur’an, Sura 7,Ayat 59-64; Sura 11,Ayat 25-49; Sura 26,Ayat 105-122; Sura 54,Ayat 9-15; and Sura 71,Ayat 1-28.

Prophet Adam

When Allah had created the heavens and the earth, He said to the angels, “I will create a Khalifa on earth, someone to carry out my orders.” They asked Allah, “Will you place someone on earth who will make mischief and shed blood, while we praise you and glorify your name?” And Allah said, “I know what you know not.”

So Allah created Adam (Alayhis-salam) out of clay, and taught him the names of all things. He placed the things before the angels and asked the angels to tell Him the names of them, but the angels answered, “You are the exalted, and we know nothing except what you have taught us.” Allah then asked Adam (Alayhis-salam) the same question, and Adam (Alayhis-salam) was able to answer correctly.

Allah ordered the angels to bow down to Adam (Alayhis-salam) and they did so. But Iblis, or Shaitan, did not bow down. When Allah asked, “What kept you from bowing down when I commanded you ?” Iblis answered, “I am better than he. I was created from fire while he was made from clay.” 

Upon hearing this response, Allah threw Shaitan out of paradise, but Shaitan vowed that he would lie in wait for Adam (Alayhis-salam) and his descendants, trying to divert them from the Straight Way. To which Allah replied, “If any of them follow you, Hell will I fill with you all.”

Meanwhile, Allah had created a wife, Hawa, for Adam (Alayhis-salam), and he told them to live in the garden of paradise, Jannah, but he warned them to stay away from one particular tree, lest it bring harm to them. Shaitan started whispering suggestions to Adam and Hawa (Alayhis-salam). He spoke in such a clever way that they were convinced he was only concerned for their well-being. He told them that the forbidden tree would make them immortal and that they would live forever like the angels if they ate from it. Shaitan spoke so convincingly that Adam and Hawa (Alayhis-salam) believed him. As soon as they tasted the tree, they realized that they were naked, and started trying to cover themselves with leaves from the garden, for it now seemed wrong to be uncovered.

Then Allah called to them, “Did I not tell you to stay away from that tree, and didn’t I warn you that Shaitan was your sworn enemy?”

Adam and Hawa (Alayhis-salam) were immediately full of remorse and begged for forgiveness and mercy from Allah. Allah ordered them out of Jannah and sent them to live on earth. He said, “Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die, but from it you shall be taken out at last.” Adam (Alayhis-salam) and his offspring began to live on earth according to Allah’s command. 

And so we are all the descendants of Adam and Hawa (Alayhis-salam), the first humans to be placed on earth. Here on earth we shall all live and die, and from here we shall all be made to return to Allah. It is our choice whether we shall be taken to Jannah or join the disobedient and deceitful Shaitan in Hell. Allah, in His infinite mercy, realizes that we will sometimes be led astray by Shaitan. Allah taught Adam (Alayhis-salam) some prayers for repentance and seeking pardon for wrongdoing.

Adam (Alayhis-salam) was the first prophet to bring Allah’s message to mankind, so that we might know how to worship Allah and how to seek forgiveness for our mistakes. This message was completed to perfection by Allah through his last prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The story of Adam (Alayhis-salam) can be found in the Quran, Surah 2, Ayat 30-37 and Surah 7, Ayat 10-27.

Surah al-Qadr

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ ٱلْقَدْرِ
Lo! We revealed it, that is, the Qur’ān, in its entirety, [sending it down] from the Preserved Tablet to the heaven of this world, on the Night of Ordainment, that is, [the Night] of great eminence.

وَمَآ أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ
And what will show you, [what] will make known to you, O Muhammad (s), what the Night of Ordainment is? – [intended] to emphasise its great status and to provoke marvel at it.

لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
The Night of Ordainment is better than a thousand months, in which there is no Night of Ordainment, for a righteous deed on that Night is better than one [performed] for a thousand months without it.

تَنَزَّلُ ٱلْمَلاَئِكَةُ وَٱلرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
The angels and the Spirit, namely, Gabriel, descend in it, on that night, by the leave of their Lord, by His command, with every command, that God has decreed from that year to the following one.

سَلاَمٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ ٱلْفَجْرِ
It is peaceful until the rising of the dawn, until the time it rises: it is peaceful because of the numerous salutations [of peace] (salām) spoken in it by the angels, who, every time they come across a believing man or believing woman, bid him peace.
Surah al-Qadr, Tafsir al-Jalalain