Abraham: The Muslim Prophet

Abraham: The Muslim Prophet

By Sarah Joseph

Abraham is a central figure to three faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – but the scriptural differences can cause deep divisions. So here we examine how Abraham’s story can heal our fractured world.

He defied his father and his community; he had to flee for his life; he abandoned his family in the wilderness; he was prepared to kill his son. With such a background, Abraham would not appear to be a good role model. Yet, he is revered by billions of people over thousands of years, and his life is a testament to pure monotheism, great sacrifices and devotion to

kabah_Makkah

“Muslim” is not a noun introduced from the time of Muhammad; rather it is a way of being and thinking that has existed since the beginning of creation.

God. The Qur’an speaks of Abraham with great admiration:

And who could be of better faith than the one who surrenders utterly to God, and is a doer of good and follows the faith of Abraham, the upright one? ( An-Nisaa’ 4:125)

Abraham was born in a society steeped in the worship of idols. Early on in his life, he tried to persuade his father to reject this practice and submit himself to the One True God. But his father’s business centered on crafting idols of worship, and so he rebuked Abraham, “I shall most certainly cause you to be stoned to death!” (Maryam 19:46)

Abraham’s reply is a perfect lesson in gentleness and politeness:

Peace be upon you! I shall ask my Lord to forgive you: for, behold, He has always been kind to me. (Maryam 19:47)

Idol-worship was seen by Abraham as something self-degrading and enslaving. He saw no greatness and experienced no awe in the worship of statues that his father and other human beings crafted with their own hands. So he tried to free his community from this harmful practice.

In the Qur’anic narrative, he sets a testing scenario for the people by destroying all their idols except the largest one. When the people remonstrated with him, Abraham mockingly told them to ask the big idol for answers. The people were confounded, but only momentarily, and soon they demanded his death: “Kill him… burn him”. (Al-`Ankabut 29:24). But God saved him by cooling the flames.

By this point, the young Abraham had defied his father, enraged his community, and derided their beliefs. He had challenged the centers of power and upset the status quo with his persistent reasoning and logic. He even won the public debate with Nimrod, the king. By doing so, he became a dangerous dissident.

Though he had won the intellectual arguments against his father, his community, and his king, he had been unable to win their hearts, and they threatened him with death. So Abraham was forced to flee with his wife Sarah and nephew Lot.

But his trials and tribulations were not over. Having committed his life to God, he was tested still further. He was commanded to leave his wife Hagar and son Ishmael in the wilderness, and later to sacrifice Ishmael.

On the sacrifice, it is written in Genesis that, “Sometime later, God tested Abraham… ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac… Sacrifice him as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’” (Genesis 22:1-2)

In the Qur’an, however, it intimates that Ishmael is the one whom God had commanded for sacrifice.

The Qur’an tells us, after the story of sacrifice was finished, that as Abraham showed his faith in God and his willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isma`il, then God gave him the news that Isaac was to be born. So this whole event took place before the birth of Isaac.

And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet,- one of the righteous. (As-Saffat 37:112)

The fundamental lesson for us here is our willingness to give up that which is dearest and closest to us; whether we have the resolve and willpower necessary to achieve the higher spiritual goals.

The Qur’an praises Isaac, and his son Jacob, calling them “righteous men” (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:72), and explains how God “made them leaders who would guide in accordance with Our behest: for We inspired them to do good works, and to be constant in prayer, and to dispense charity: and Us alone did they worship.” (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:73) And Jacob’s son, Joseph, is also a prophet blessed by God.

The Qur’an reveres all the prophets, named and unnamed, and as such, it is an amazingly inclusive religious text. It even insists on equality, stating that “no distinction is to be made between them.” (Al-Baqarah 2:285)

However, some factual differences with other religious texts are paramount to Muslim theology, as the following example of ‘informed consent’ shows. The Bible informs us that Isaac had no idea what his father was intending, “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7).

In the Qur’anic version, Abraham asked his son’s opinion, and Ishmael was fully aware and readily submitted to his father’s obligation:

And when the child had become old enough to share in his father’s endeavors, the latter said: ‘O my dear son! I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you: consider, then, what would be your view!’ He answered: ‘O my father! Do as you are commanded: you will find me, if God so wills, among those who are patient in adversity!’ (As-Saffat 37:102)

Without Ishmael’s consent, to the Muslim mind Abraham’s submission to God is tantamount to human sacrifice; with Ishmael’s consent it is a joint act of submission to God. Of course, God requires no such sacrifice, consensual or otherwise. Abraham could keep his beloved son and more, for God promises Abraham a nation (an ummah).

Much is made of God’s promise. Abraham was indeed concerned for his children and his descendants. Firstly, and primordially, our responsibility to the world begins with our responsibility to our children. But perhaps also because he had a sense of history, and knew that what he wanted to achieve could not be done within one generation. God however tells him, “My Covenant does not include the wrongdoers.” (Al-Baqarah 2:124)

Role Model, Living Lessons

Thus, affirming through Abraham’s story that it is deeds, not birthright that ultimately matter. Much also is made of the fact that according to the Bible God promises to Abraham a land. Thousands of years later, people are still fighting and killing one another because of those disputed claims. This should be an uncomfortable reality for anyone who claims to believe in Abraham’s message of honest and upright conduct.

But Abraham does not have to be a divisive figure. Regardless of who claims him, or makes claims on his lineage, he is a role model for all. As God says in the Qur’an, “I am going to make you a leader for all of mankind to follow” (Al-Baqarah 2:124), it is the message of Abraham that is consistent in all the scriptures, and over which we can unite.

Abraham taught belief in the One God, and urged the leading of an upright life. Abraham’s story, primordial and archetypal, much of which is re-enacted annually through the Hajj, shows us the common, ancient origin of our human roots. Those roots have grown to become different trees, but each is a manifestation of the same reality, namely worship of the One Creator Who created us all; who created us into diverse nations and identities so that we can constructively engage with one another, and compete in the doing of good.

Abraham expressed an archetypal spirituality which is in harmony with our natural inclination towards good. The Qur’an describes how Abraham was “neither a Jew nor a Christian, but a hanif (an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), a Muslim. And he was not of the polytheists.” (Aal `Imran 3:67)

Not being a Jew or a Christian is undisputed from a historical perspective as he pre-dates both, but how could he be a “Muslim” (Aal `Imran 3:67) as he predates that too, does he not? This is where we have to understand that Muslim is not a noun introduced from the time of Muhammad; rather it is a way of being and thinking that has existed since the beginning of creation. It describes the one who surrenders himself to God, and thus all the prophets were in that sense Muslims, for they all surrendered to God.

As for Abraham being a hanif (an upright, righteous person) the word has at its root in the way of Abraham, to incline towards good, to turn away from wrong. Thus, a person without any taught religion would come to the way of the hanif if they were to ponder the revelation of the created world.

Through Abraham’s progeny, we are united by familial ties: Jews and Muslims are often described as cousins. The story of Abraham reminds us of the deep connection of our kinship. We have a shared human experience, and remembering Abraham’s story gives us the opportunity to remember our original spiritual and moral substance.

Remembering his covenant with God gives us the opportunity to remember our own original covenant. When we were souls with God, He asked us, “Am I not your Lord?” (Al-`Araf 7: 172) And our souls affirmed, “Yes, we do so testify.” (Al-`Araf 7:172).

We all have the same essential experience of being human. We will have different physical experiences; of wealth or poverty, of health or illness, of gender and race, but the essence of being human is the same.

We can argue about whom the covenant between God and Abraham is with, or we can fulfill our own covenant with God. We can disagree about whom God asked Abraham to sacrifice, or we can dedicate our own sacrifices to Him.

We can dispute with each other about the nature of the tests Abraham faced, or we can face our own tests with fortitude, forbearance and patience. We can fight about our differences, or we can remember that we are united in the singular conviction that Abraham held; there is only One God worthy of worship, and we surrender ourselves to Him.

Abraham’s life was the exact opposite of idol worship. If he is to be relevant today, we have to ask what are the idols which we have crafted with our own hands, and which we take to be our gods.

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Source: Emel Magazine.

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Fruits of Hajj (3/3)

Fruits of Hajj (3/3)

Part 1, Part 2

Pilgrims throw stones at Satan.

They remember the action of the Prophet Ibrahim with the cursed Satan, when he attempted to cast doubts in the heart of Ibrahim.

Allah, the Almighty, has made sublime purposes for the legislation of the acts of worship. For example, regarding Prayer, Almighty Allah says,

And establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing. (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)

Concerning fasting, Allah (glory be to Him) says,

O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

As regards Hajj, Almighty Allah says,

And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass. That they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah…(Al-Hajj 22:27-28)

These verses indicate that the acts of worship have been enacted for certain goal, which is only attainable through performing the worship in conformity with the commands of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Notably, these goals are focusing on the enrichment of morals and ethics and enhancing faith.

In the former articles, we touched on a number of the lessons and messages taken from Hajj. We are going to complete this topic in this article.

Eighth: The Message of Facilitation

While performing his only one time of Hajj, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught his companions the right way to perform the rituals of Hajj. Yet, some companions would mistake the right order of performing these rituals. The Prophet (peace be upon him) responded to this confusion with utmost easiness and facilitation. It is reported that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked on the day of `Eid Al-Adha about anything that has been advanced or deferred he would say, “Do, there is no harm.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) He did not approve negligence at all, but, in forgiven matters, there should be facilitation and pardoning.

It is the message of facilitation and moderation confirmed by the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Almighty Allah says,

Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship. (Al-Baqarah 2:185)

`A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was never given the choice between two things but he would choose the easier of the two, so long as it was not a sin; if it was a sin he would be the furthest of the people from it. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Extremism and intolerance are abhorred by Islam. Keep as much as you can to the orders of Allah and do not overburden yourself because you may lose your enthusiasm and fall short to perform even the basic acts. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” (Al-Bukhari)

Have you got the message!!

Ninth: The Message of Abandoning Erroneous Customs

We all know that the Ka`bah was rebuilt by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Isma`il (Ishmael) (peace be upon them). Since its foundation, people would come to visit and make pilgrimage to it. However, they would make a plenty of acts of disbelief and repugnant acts while performing Hajj. Among the rites of Hajj during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance was to circulate around the Ka`bah fully naked. Also, they surrounded the Ka`bah with the idols they worshipped. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) came, he eliminated all the censured customs of disbelievers and all the forms of disbelief from Hajj and Ka`bah and admitted the only good things, such as providing water to the pilgrims.

It is reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Allah has taken away from you the arrogance of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic period of ignorance) and its pride in forefathers.” He (peace be upon him) refused and disdained the bad habits of the Jahiliyyah, such as pride in forefathers, riba (interest-based dealings) and revenge. He taught us that Islam corrects the Muslim’s way of life, sets his principles aright, improves his good morals, admits the good things with the other even if he is a dissenter and builds the independent Muslim personality.

Have you got the message!!

Tenth: Message of Man’s Enmity with Satan

Stoning the Jamarah is one of the obligatory rituals of Hajj. It was narrated from Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) seated Al-Fadl behind him on his mount, and Al-Fadl said that he did not stop reciting the Talbiyah until he stoned the Jamrah. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (may Allah have mercy on him) said:  “As for the stoning of the Jamarat, the purpose behind it is to follow the command and manifest submission and servitude to Allah… The aim is also to imitate Ibrahim (peace be upon him), when Iblis (may Allah curse him) appeared to him in that place to instill confusion in his mind or tempt him to sin, and Allah commanded him to throw stones at
Satan so as to drive him away and dash his hopes.” (islamqa.com)

So, the pilgrim inspires this fact while throwing the pebbles. They remember the action of the Prophet Ibrahim against the cursed Satan, when he attempted to cast doubts in the heart of Ibrahim (peace be upon him). Actually, the enmity and deceit of Satan never end as he always tries to tempt the human beings to take them away of Allah’s way. So, always remember that Satan is your greatest enemy.

Have you got the message!!

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Fruits of Hajj? (2/3)

Fruits of Hajj? (2/3)

Part 1

Hajj_Makkah

You are commanded to keep patient and endure the difficulties and annoyance from others, and do not react to others harassment except in good way and with toleration.

Hajjthe fifth pillar of Islam, is one of the best deeds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was once asked, “Which deed is best?” He said, “Belief in Allah and His Messenger.” He was asked, “Then what?” He said, “Jihad for the sake of Allah.” He was asked, “Then what?” He said, “An accepted Hajj.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

We talked in a previous article about four messages that one catches from visiting the sacred House of Allah, the Ka`bah, for Hajj. We are going to continue this interesting topic as we find it is useful for the pilgrims to take these messages into consideration, having returned from Hajj.

Fifth: Message of Belonging Is to Islam

When one puts the first foot in Mecca, one is get amazed not only by the enormous numbers of people but also by the diversity of their colors, genders, ages and languages. One sees the Arab and the non-Arab, the males and the females, the old and the young, and people with different colors, nationalities, cultures, histories, jobs and life conditions. The common factor between all of those is one thing, namely belonging to Islam. If you want to describe all of them with one word, you can simply say “Muslims”, a designation given to them long ago by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him). The Qur’an says:

And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you “Muslims”. (Al-Hajj 22:78)

They follow this religion because it knows no discrimination on any basis. The only thing with which a human being excels another human being according to Islam is attaining taqwa, a word that means piousness, fear of Allah and obedience to Him.

In his Hajj, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stood on the `Arafat mountain speaking to the masses of people who offered Hajj with him, in his Final Sermon, “No Arab is superior to a non-Arab and no white man is superior to a black man, except in terms of taqwa.”

Affiliation to Islam means to submit to Allah as your God, Muhammad as your Messenger and Islam as your way of life.

Have you got the message!!

Sixth: Message of Humbleness

When commencing Hajj, a pilgrim enters in a state of Ihram (ritual state for Hajj or `Umrah). Every male pilgrim wears a specific dress consisting of two white garments that have no pockets or decoration. It is so simple and reminds of the hereafter.

In Prayer, you stand side by side with someone who may be less than you in rank or position, but still he may wear expensive clothes, watch and fragrant perfume, and with his nails and beard trimmed. Yet in Hajj, once you enter in the state of Ihram, you have to wear only two white garments wrapped around your body, and you are forbidden to wear any sewn clothes, apply perfume or trim your nails or hair. All pilgrims looks the same, with same dress and look, does not this teach you humbleness?

Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Wealth does not decrease because of charity, and Allah increases His slave in honor when he forgives others. And no one humbles himself before Allah but Allah will raise him (in status).” (Muslim)

Have you got the message!!

Seventh: The Message of Forbearance

The great masses of people bring unbearable crowd, annoyance and harassment as well as the calls of help from others. In this atmosphere you offer you Hajj rites with utmost hope that Allah accepts your deeds, and fear that your Hajj may not be accepted. Yet, forbearance is what makes this easy for you. You are commanded to keep patient and endure the difficulties and annoyance from others, and do not react to others harassment except in good way and with toleration. Actually, this is another message of Hajj.

There are three kinds of forbearance: forbearance on performing worship, forbearance on keeping away from sins and forbearance on the decrees of fate. In Hajj, you are experienced to a lot of hardship and fatigue and stay a long time in waiting and you are commanded to endure and tolerate. Almighty Allah says:

O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful. (Aal `Imran 3:200)

Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account. (Al-Zumar 39:10)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever performs Hajj and does not commit any obscenity or commit any evil will go back (free of) sin as on the day his mother bore him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Have you got the Message!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                       To be continued…..

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Fruits of Hajj (1/3)

Fruits of Hajj (1/3)

pilgrims return from hajj

So, the whole worship of Hajj is just to implant in the heart that Allah is the Only God Who has no partner.

Almighty Allah commanded Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him) to proclaim unto people the pilgrimage to Makkah (Surah Al-Hajj 22:27). He (peace be upon him) submitted to the command of Allah and called out people to come to the blessed House of Allah, the Ka`bah, and perform the worship of Hajj. Ibrahim abode by the order and Allah undertake the dissemination of his call to people everywhere.

In Islam, Hajj is the fifth pillar of the religion of Islam. It wipes out the sins and renews one’s relation with God. Moreover, it is a manifestation of the Islamic equity and unity, as all Muslims wear the same dress, repeat the same dhikr (remembrance of Allah), perform the same rites, and supplicate the same God following the same Prophet (peace be upon him).

Those people are truly blessed, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “For an accepted Hajj there is no reward but Paradise.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) There are a lot of other hadiths talking about the great rewards of Hajj.

However, after preforming Hajj, visiting the most sacred places on the earth –for us as Muslims-, standing at `Arafat, circumambulating the Ka`bah, and visiting the mosque and grave of the Prophet (peace be upon him), question now is: “Have you got the message?”

In the following lines, we will share the lessons that we all learn from Hajj.

First: The Message of Monotheism

Muslim, as some may wrongly believe, do not leave to Mecca in order to show more glorification to the Ka`bah, the black stone or the grave of the Prophet Muhammad. They have come to glorify the One and Only God, Allah the Almighty. You can glimpse this from the supplication repeated by all pilgrims, that is: “Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am. You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty. You have no partner.” So, the purpose of the worship of Hajj is simply to implant in the heart that Allah is the Only God Who has no partner by repeating these words for a lot of time that instills in the heart of the believer that Allah is the Only One worthy of worship and other gods are nothing.

Have you got the message!!

Second: The Message of Following the Prophet

The great masses of people, who move in millions to Mecca, are actually following the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They inspire the Prophet’s statement, “Take your rites (of Hajj) from me.” (Muslim) Each pilgrim does their best to keep as much as possible to the very way that the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed Hajj. A similar statement the Prophet said regarding Prayer, “Pray as you have seen me pray.” (Al-Bukhari) In this manner, the whole acts of worship should be offered, i.e. the very way offered by the Prophet.

Have you got the Message!!

Third: The Message of Good Manners

In the context of Hajj, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “Whoever performs Hajj and does not utter obscenities or commit sin, will come back as on the day when his mother bore him (i.e. with his sins forgiven).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) Also, Almighty Allah says,

The pilgrimage is (in) the well-known months, and whoever is minded to perform the pilgrimage therein (let him remember that) there is (to be) no lewdness nor abuse nor angry conversation on the pilgrimage. (Al-Baqarah 2:197)

In the midst of crowds and in spite of the heat of the sun, you are commanded to keep to good morals and Islamic ethics.

Have you got the Message!!

Fourth: The Message of Sacrifice

The Prophet Ibrahim was ordered by Allah to slaughter his only son Isma`el (Ishmael) (peace be upon them both). He decided to carry out the order of Allah and asked his son Isma`el to help him perform that order. The Qur’an relates that story in the following verses:

And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.” And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, We called to him, “O Abraham, You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. Indeed, this was the clear trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice. (Al-Saffat 37:102-107)

Prophet Ibrahim gave precedence to the Command of Allah upon every command, and both of them were ready to sacrifice; Prophet Ibrahim was ready to sacrifice his son, and Isma`el was ready to sacrifice himself.

Have you got the message!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              To be continued…..

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