Ibrahim in the Quran

Ibrahim in the Quran

Ibrahim in the Quran is usually associated with emotive stories that storm into the minds, like the story of idols breaking and being cast into a huge fire, remaining barren until old age, taking his wife and child to the barren land of Arabia and leaving them there with no water supply, hosting three angels who had come to give him the good tidings of the birth of a child, rebuilding the house of Ka’ba, being called by God to sacrifice his son and the story of the four birds he was commanded to kill and put on different mountain tops. All are insightful stories demonstrating Ibrahim’s success in all the trials set by God to examine his level of monotheism and finally depicting him as God’s friend, an elevated rank, honoring Ibrahim. He is identified as a role model, exemplar and not an idolater. (Quran 16:120)  

Ibrahim (AS) is mentioned 69 times in the Quran , in 25 Surahs and 63 verses. That’s quite a few times! But why? Have you ever pondered on what has made Ibrahim a perpetual figure carved in the heart of history? What are the features cited in the Quran so unique about him that others usually lack? 

Facts about Ibrahim in the Quran

No. of times “Ibrahim” is mentioned in the Quran69 times
No. of Surahs which mention “Ibrahim” in the Quran25 Surahs
No. of verses which mention “Ibrahim” in the Quran63 verses
Father’s nameTarukh/Taruh
Uncle’s nameAzar
Mother’s nameNuna/Buna
Wives’ namesSarah and Hajar
Son’s namesIsma’il and Is-haq (Isaac)

Names and titles attributed to Ibrahim in the Quran

Grateful, chosen, guided to the straight path, Given good in this world and is among the righteous in Hereafter, a nation obedient to Allah, Imam, Khalil, Hanif, forbearing, tender-hearted, penitent, hospitable, generous, truthful, a prophet, a follower of Noah, Of strength and vision, chosen for an exclusive quality

A Minute to Ponder

We know that the stories in the Quran are not simply historical accounts related to us for leisure and pleasure. The Quran is a book of wisdom. We read in it: 

  • Allah desires to explain [the laws] to you, and to guide you to the customs of those who were before you, and to turn toward you clemently, and Allah is all-knowing, all-wise. (4:26)
  • A Book, whose signs have been made definitive and then elaborated, from One [who is] all-wise, all-aware. (11:1)

Attributes of Ibrahim in the Quran

Life is not so complicated in the eyes of the Quran. It’s a simple equation. There is always the matter of making a choice in the two paths laid in front of us in life: darkness or light, gratefulness or ungratefulness, monotheism or polytheism. One of the personalities mentioned in the Quran as a role model who can help guide us in life’s various situations is Ibrahim.

قَدْ كَانَتْ لَكُمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ فِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ ﴿4﴾

There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him [60:4] 1

Ibrahim in the Quran is revered by beautiful titles and qualities. He is referred to as “A nation obedient to Allah, Imam, Khalil, Hanif, forbearing, tender-hearted, penitent, hospitable, generous, and so on.

Monotheist

God says in the Quran that most of those who claim to be believing in God are in fact polytheists (Mushrikun مشرکون), ascribing partners to Him. (12:106). In other words, these people do say that there is only one God and consider themselves servants of Him, yet when it comes to practicing monotheism , they ascribe others with Him. For instance, they say, “If it weren’t for you I couldn’t have continued my education” or “If you weren’t there in the meeting, I couldn’t have had this much self-confidence.” This is a kind of hidden polytheism (شرك) that many of us are afflicted with in our hearts. I mean, at the end of the day, in the turbulences of life, we seek other’s help first, without even remembering God as the one with ultimate power.   

One of the distinct qualities of Ibrahim in the Quran is a sincere “monotheist”. (6:79) He is not only honored as a true monotheist but as a preacher of monotheism when unfolding the secrets of his excellence.

Hanif

The Noble Quran quotes Ibrahim saying:

إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذي فَطَرَ السَّماواتِ وَ الْأَرْضَ حَنيفاً وَ ما أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكين ﴿79﴾

Indeed I have turned my face toward Him who originated the heavens and the earth, as a Hanif, and I am not one of the polytheists [6:79] 2

What Does Hanif Mean?

The word Hanif (حنیف) has occurred 10 times in the Quran: [2:135]; [3:67], [95; 4:125]; [6:79, 161]; [10:105]; [16:120, 123]; [30:30].  Seven of these instances directly mention the name Ibrahim and associate Hanif with this great Prophet.

Different definitions have been provided for the term “Hanif”, some overlapping others:

  • Literally meaning “to incline” towards a direction.
  • “A true believer; one who scorns the false creeds surrounding him and professes the true religion”. 3 A true monotheist, not a Jew, Christian, or idol worshipper.

Hanif, meaning a true believer in the oneness of God (a monotheist) is a title given to Ibrahim in the Quran.

In the pre-Islamic Arabia, a Hanif was an individual who was neither a Jew nor Christian, renouncing the old gods and preparing the way for Islam. 4

  • “One who is utterly upright in all of his or her affairs, as exemplified by the model of Ibrahim” 5
  • The creed of Ibrahim is called Hanif. Ibrahim himself has been attributed as Hanif.

The Relation between Hanif and Fatarah

Surah An’am, 79 is the clarification of the term “Hanif” as Ibrahim (AS) exemplifies it in a number of points:

1. He is a worshipper of God alone hence, turns his face to Him in supplication.

2. Who is this God? What religion did Ibrahim follow?

الذی فطر السماوات و الارض

He is the sole originator of the heavens and the earth.

Ibrahim uses the term Fatara (فطر) meaning “first creation” or, “originate”, “initiate”, “innovate” or “break open” and then utters the word Hanif meaning “inclination”. Man’s nature or fitrah (فطره) also comes from the Arabic word Fatara. Fitrah means something novel, superb and unique that God broke open in the universe.

Chapter 30, verse 30 of the glorious Quran eloquently describes this claim:

فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنيفاً فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتي‏ فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْها لا تَبْديلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ذلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَ لكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لا يَعْلَمُونَ

So set your heart on the religion as a people of pure faith, the origination of Allah according to which He originated mankind (There is no altering Allah’s creation; that is the upright religion, but most people do not know.

Putting these pieces of information together, one realizes that the Islamic teachings also affirm Ibrahim’s creed, meaning monotheism and total submission to God and it is inclined to and harmonious with man’s nature. In fact, humans have been gifted with an inborn cognition of God and His signs.

3. Ibrahim then affirms his claim stating that he is not a polytheist: “I reject other deities.”    

A Nation Obedient to Allah

إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً قَانِتًا لِّلَّـهِ حَنِيفًا وَلَمْ يَكُ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ﴿120﴾

Indeed Ibrahim was a nation obedient to Allah, a Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists [16:120].

Chapter Nahl, verse 120, mentions the term Ummah (a nation) referring to Ibrahim in the Quran. Different interpretations 6 have been provided by exegetes of the Quran for this term:

  • A knowledgeable man
  • Teacher, leader and guide
  • Someone whom a nation depends upon for its consistency and stability
  • He was the sole sincere monotheist amongst his people, hence, the nation of monotheism was concluded in him

Imam

The term “Imam”, meaning a guide, has been mentioned four times in the noble Quran, two of which are regarding the book of Moses, one, in a prayer of the believers asking God to make them the Imam of the Mutaqqun and one with regards to Ibrahim. After a series of trials and tests, God grants the status of Imamate and leadership to Ibrahim in the Quran. 

وَإِذِ ابْتَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا ۖ قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي ۖ قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿124﴾

And when his Lord tested Ibrahim with certain words, and he fulfilled them, He said, “I am making you the Imam of mankind.” Said he, “And from among my descendants?” He said, “My pledge does not extend to the unjust” [2:124].

Khalil

Ibrahim was an obedient servant of Allah who refused to ask anybody’s help but God’s and never rejected helping any other servant of God. He spent many days and nights prostrating and supplicating to his God, feeding the needy and guiding people to the way of monotheism. These sincere endeavors attributed the title of Khalil to Ibrahim in the Quran, meaning a close and dedicated friend of God. 

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ دِينًا مِّمَّنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلَّـهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ وَاتَّبَعَ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا ۗ وَاتَّخَذَ اللَّـهُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ خَلِيلًا ﴿125﴾

And who has a better religion than him who submits his will to Allah, being virtuous, and follows the creed of Ibrahim, a Hanif? And Allah took Ibrahim for a dedicated friend [4:125].

Why did God give Ibrahim the Title of Khalil?

To better understand why God gave the title of Khalil to Ibrahim in the Quran, keep in mind that:

  1. We choose our friends based on our own personalities. We are attracted to individuals similar to ourselves. As an idiom says, birds of a feather flock together. Ibrahim had become Godlike.
  2. Who is a friend? A good friend is a sincere one. That’s when we are talking about other fellow human beings. When one wants to befriend God, one goes a level higher. One sees what God likes and dislikes, then he/she would act accordingly. When God is your best friend, you see everything coming from Him, so you thank Him constantly. You wouldn’t turn to anyone else. Every other individual or creation in the universe would seem trivial and small; almost invisible. When you look around, you see only God. All you do is for His sake. You would share with Him alone all your secrets. That’s how Ibrahim was, a true friend of God. 

Ibrahim Had Achieved the Level of Certainty

Certainty is a level attained by very few people. Achieving certainty in God means that God is number one priority in your life; you live and die for God. Your lifestyle and every attempt in life demonstrate your belief in God, the all-wise, all-powerful, all-compassionate. The Quran says about Ibrahim: “Thus did We show Ibrahim the dominions of the heavens and the earth, that he might be of those who possess certitude” [6:75].

Story of the birds

When the word “certainty” is mentioned, one remembers the story of Ibrahim in the Quran, asking God how He brings the dead to life. Chapter Baqarah, 260 beautifully narrates the incident:

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ أَرِنِي كَيْفَ تُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ ۖ قَالَ أَوَلَمْ تُؤْمِن ۖ قَالَ بَلَىٰ وَلَـٰكِن لِّيَطْمَئِنَّ قَلْبِي ۖ قَالَ فَخُذْ أَرْبَعَةً مِّنَ الطَّيْرِ فَصُرْهُنَّ إِلَيْكَ ثُمَّ اجْعَلْ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ جَبَلٍ مِّنْهُنَّ جُزْءًا ثُمَّ ادْعُهُنَّ يَأْتِينَكَ سَعْيًا ۚ وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ ﴿260﴾

And when Abraham said, ‘My Lord! Show me how You revive the dead,’ He said, ‘Do you not believe?’ He said, ‘Yes indeed, but in order that my heart may be at rest.’ He said, ‘Catch four of the birds. Then cut them into pieces, and place a part of them on every mountain, then call them; they will come to you hastening. And know that Allah is all-mighty and all-wise.’ 7

Story of Ibrahim Being Cast into the Huge Fire

One other incidence which demonstrates the level of faith and certainty of Ibrahim is illustrated in the Noble Quran, Chapter Anbiya [21:51-69]. The story narrates the dialogue between Ibrahim and the idol worshipers.

Ibrahim starts a debate with the people of his town, asking them why they worship idols: “What are these statues that you devote yourselves to?” [21:52]

They were idol worshippers for generations and claimed that since their fathers were advocating this belief, they too, were going to follow their footsteps. Ibrahim tells them that they and their fathers were all in manifest error [21:54]. They ask whether he is telling the truth or joking with them [55] He says that what he is telling them is only the truth and that their Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, who created them (from nothing): and that he is a witness to this (Truth) [21:56]

When the Idol Worshippers Had Gone Away

So one day when the inhabitants of that town had all gone out of town, Ibrahim decides to reawaken their conscience and teach them the lesson of their life. He takes an axe and fragments all but the biggest idol into pieces and puts the axe on the shoulder of the remaining idol.   

They return shocked, asking each other who has dared to commit such an act of indecency to their Gods [21:59. Someone says that a man named Ibrahim is to be blamed [21:60] He is called to a gathering where people bear witness to his sin [21:61)]

Ibrahim tells them that the biggest idol has broken all the other idols and that they can ask him, trying to reawaken their conscience by telling them that these idols have no power [21:63]. The people are struck with shame and admit that these (idols) do not speak! [21:65] Hence, he asks them why they are worshipping objects that do not benefit or harm them [21:66].

Ibrahim is Thrown into the Fire

They decide to take a courageous step and burn him in an attempt to support their gods [21:68]. A huge pile of firewood is collected to create an unforgettable scene. But Ibrahim is calm! He fears not. He is certain that God is with Him and He suffices him. He is thrown into the fire… But Ibrahim is safe and sound.

قُلْنَا يَا نَارُ كُونِي بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ﴿69﴾

God says, “O fire, be coolness and safety upon Ibrahim” [21:69].

Hospitable and Generous

Another beautiful description offered for Abraham in the Quran is his hospitality and generosity even to strangers. The glorious Quran beautifully narrates the story of three angels, appearing in the shape of human beings, with important news for Ibrahim. He does not recognize them yet acts hospitably, preparing for them the best food to honor his guests.  

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ ﴿24﴾

“Has the story reached you, of the honored guests (three angels; Gabriel along with another two) of Ibrahim?

إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلَامًا ۖ قَالَ سَلَامٌ قَوْمٌ مُّنكَرُونَ ﴿25﴾

When they came in to him and said: “Salam”, (peace be upon you)! He answered: “Salam”, and said: “you are a people unknown to me”.

فَرَاغَ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهِ فَجَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ سَمِينٍ ﴿26﴾

Then he turned to his household, and brought out a roasted calf (as the property of Ibrahim (as).

فَقَرَّبَهُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَالَ أَلَا تَأْكُلُونَ ﴿27﴾

And placed it before them, (saying): “will you not eat?” [51:24-27]

Forbearing, Tender-Hearted, Penitent

إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لَحَلِيمٌ أَوَّاهٌ مُّنِيبٌ ﴿75﴾

Ibrahim was indeed forbearing, most tender-hearted, [and] penitent [11:75].

Patience

Patience is a quality enjoyed by a limited number of people. Living amid all the idolaters, Ibrahim was tested and trialed with some of the toughest and most excruciating exams one can ever encounter in the different stages of one’s life, yet remained a true servant of God and practically showed that he believed in the oneness of his Lord. The story of him being cast into the huge fire is just a small example. His reaction to the incident is what matters.

Tender-heartedness

Tender-heartedness is yet another characteristic of prophets of God. They were not self-centered and cared about the fate of others. Among the other prophets, Ibrahim enjoyed this trait to the fullest.

Have you ever wondered why Ibrahim was always struggling to invite others to the truth? He could have said, “I am a monotheist myself. Let others worship whatever they desire.” 

In the story of the three angels bringing Ibrahim the good tidings of a son, the Quran says, “When fear had passed from (the mind of) Ibrahim and the glad tidings had reached him, he began to plead with us for Lut’s people” [11:74]. The promised chastisement of God was about to happen to these homosexuals. The tender-hearted Ibrahim tries again to see if there is any way to help them, yet God tells him to stop his plea as the appointed command had finally arrived. 

Prayers of the tender-hearted Ibrahim

One of the manifestations of Ibrahim’s tender-heartedness and compassion are his prayers to God. There are so many verses citing these heartily supplications of Ibrahim in the Quran.

  •  [And he said], “My Lord, grant me authority and join me with the righteous” (26:83)
  • And grant me a reputation of honor among later generations [26:84].

God grants Ibrahim’s request as he was a sincere monotheist, utterly submitted to the will of God. God mentions the story of Isma’il’s sacrifice and gives him the good tidings that from now on, the pilgrims to My house will have to sacrifice an animal in remembrance of my friend, Ibrahim as part of the ritual of Hajj [37: 107-108].

  • And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, And We left for him [favorable mention] among later generations [37:107-108].
    • And We gave them of Our mercy, and we made for them a reputation of high honor [19:50].
  • And place me among the inheritors of the Garden of Pleasure [26:85].
  • And forgive my uncle. Indeed, he has been of those astray [26:86].
  • And do not disgrace me on the Day they are [all] resurrected  [26:87].
  • Our Lord, make us not [objects of] torment for the disbelievers and forgive us, our Lord. Indeed, it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise [60:5]
  • My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous [37:100].
    • Praise to Allah, who has granted to me in old age Ishmael and Isaac . Indeed, my Lord is the Hearer of supplication [14:39].
  • And [mention, O Muhammad], when Ibrahim said, “My Lord, make this city [Meccah] secure and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols” [14:35].
  • Make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful [14:37]
  • My Lord, make me an establisher of prayer, and [many] from my descendants. Our Lord, and accept my supplication [14:40].
  • Our Lord, forgive me and my parents and the believers the Day the account is established [14:41].

Fulfilling his Obligations

Being determined, strong and courageous enough to stand by your word is a highly pleasant trait in a person. When you know that you can count on someone because he/she always sticks to his/her promise, you feel secure and at peace.

Keeping your promise can be looked upon from different aspects; for instance: in terms of punctuality in setting a meeting, in spousal relationships when promising to stand by your spouse’s side in times of ease and hardship, fulfilling your role as a husband or wife, in friendships, parent-child relationships, and so forth. In other words, it is applicable in all facets of life.

When you are talking about a prophet of God, this trait could take on new dimensions. Ibrahim was trialed with his wife and son, taking them to a barren land and leaving them there with no water supply; with his son, Ism’ail, to slaughter him and most important of all, his obligation in guiding people to monotheism which he successfully accomplished. Hence it is said about him:

وَإِبْرَاهِيمَ الَّذِي وَفَّىٰ ﴿37﴾

And of Ibrahim who fulfilled his obligations? [53:37]

Grateful, Chosen and Guided

According to psychologists and common sense, to have a happier, more fruitful and accomplished life, one is to look at the full half of the glass. That is what positive psychology is all about. To focus on your haves rather than don’t haves is synonymous with gratefulness. Life trainers emphasize on the power of gratitude in life. If you do not want to feel depressed and lost in the world, it’s time to change your lens to life.

The result of gratefulness is manifold. Allah says in the Quran, “And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe” [14:7]. 

Appreciation was a key features in Ibrahim. “[He was] grateful for His favors” [16:121]. The story does not end here. “Allah chose him and guided him to a straight path” [16:121].

Note that the gratefulness of a character such as Ibrahim is unmatched with that of ordinary individuals. It surpasses the material outlook that people usually have to life. To Godly personalities, even the hardships and trials of life are positive incidents. They see beauty even in the bitterness of life events as it entails the satisfaction of God. One can say that they have deeply grasped the purpose of creation and see happenings in line with the larger picture.

Other Attributes of Ibrahim in the Quran

There are also some other attributes of Prophet Ibrahim that have been mentioned in the Quran. Some of these are indicated below.

Given Good in this World; Among the Righteous in Hereafter

And We gave him good in this world, and indeed, in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous [16:122].

Truthful, a Prophet

And mention in the Book [the story of] Ibrahim. Indeed, he was a man of truth and a prophet [19:41].

A Follower of Noah

Verily among those who followed his (Noah’s) Way was Ibrahim [37:83].

Of Strength and Vision

And remember Our servants, Ibrahim, Isaac and Jacob – those of strength and [religious] vision [38:45].

Chosen for an Exclusive Quality

Indeed, We chose them for an exclusive quality: remembrance of the home (of the Hereafter) [38:46].

According to exegetes of the Quran, Ibrahim along with Isaac and Jacob had attained a level of purity in this world that led to their constant remembrance of the hereafter. Their entire concentration and efforts were directed to the hereafter, making them take the least from the material transient world. 8

Rectitude

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ رُشْدَهُ مِن قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا بِهِ عَالِمِينَ ﴿51﴾

Certainly We had given Ibrahim his rectitude before, and We knew him [21:51].

Rectitude has been interpreted as the ability to differentiate right from wrong. Now, Ibrahim was granted this level of understanding to distinguish the right path from the wrong in his childhood, prior to attaining maturity and puberty. Rectitude in this verse could also mean that Ibrahim was given prophethood prior to Moses and Aaron as it has been cited by a number of exegetes. 9

Who holds the title of the father of Ibrahim in the Quran

Who is the real father of Ibrahim?

وَ إِذْ قالَ إِبْراهيمُ لِأَبيهِ آزَرَ أَ تَتَّخِذُ أَصْناماً آلِهَةً إِنِّي أَراكَ وَ قَوْمَكَ في‏ ضَلالٍ مُبينٍ ﴿51﴾

When Abraham said to Azar, his father, “Do you take idols for gods? Indeed I see you and your people in manifest error” 10

There is a discussion regarding whether the father of Ibrahim is really Azar mentioned in this verse or if his real father is someone else. According to most commentators, Azar is, in fact, not Ibrahim’s real father.

Ibrahim’s Prayer for Azar

After a long discussion with Azar regarding worship of one God and not the idols, which has mentioned previously, Ibrahim, ends the discussion with a promise in hopes that it might convince him to believe in one God: I shall plead with my Lord to forgive you. Indeed He is gracious to me. I dissociate myself from you and whatever you invoke besides Allah. I will supplicate my Lord. Hopefully, I will not be disappointed in supplicating my Lord. 11

Azar however, turns him away and tell him to stay away from him forever.

How the Prayer of Ibrahim in the Quran shows Azar is not His Father

Another verse narrates this prayer; however, it contains some interesting points that would help us prove he was not his real father:

وَ اغْفِرْ لِأَبىِ إِنَّهُ كاَنَ مِنَ الضَّالِّينَ ﴿86﴾

Forgive my father, for he is one of those who are astray.

وَ لَا تخُزِنىِ يَوْمَ يُبْعَثُونَ ﴿87﴾

Do not disgrace me on the day that they will be resurrected,

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَ لَا بَنُونَ ﴿88﴾

the day when neither wealth nor children will avail. 12

Conclusions Regarding Ibrahim’s Prayer for Azar

When considering the different verses regarding Ibrahim in the Quran, we are able to make the following conclusions:

Not a Serious Prayer
  • The prayer that he made was not a serious prayer, but rather, was made in order to keep his promise of seeking forgiveness for him; since on one hand he says that he is astray, and on the other hand says that Qiyamah is a day when neither children nor wealth will help a person. This has also been clearly indicated in another verse: Abraham’s pleading forgiveness for his father was only to fulfill a promise he had made him. 13
Before the Journey to Jerusalem
  • This prayer was made before he left for Jerusalem, since in the verse leading up to verses 86-88, he asks God to unite him with the righteous 14 and to bless him with children.
  • The Quran then narrates his journey to Jerusalem and being blessed with children. 15
Supplications at the End of Ibrahim’s Life
  • The next event in relation to Ibrahim in the Quran narrates the supplications he made towards the end of his life, after he brought Hajar and Isma‘il to Mecca. One of the supplications he made there was:

رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لىِ وَ لِوَالِدَىَّ وَ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ ﴿41﴾

Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents, and all the faithful, on the day when the reckoning is held [14:41]. 16

Azar the Father of Ibrahim: Yes or No?

When one looks at the verses that speak of the father of Ibrahim in the Quran, it is clear that Azar and his real father are two different people. Since the verses indicate that Azar was someone he was praying for only in order to keep his promise to him and when he learns that he is from among those who are astray, he walks away from him. How then is it possible that at the end of his life, and in his last supplication mentioned in the Quran, he seeks forgiveness for him and waives aside his previous estrangement?

The Arabic Words for Father and Other Paternal Relatives

Another very subtle point in this last verse where he prays for his parents is that here has used the Arabic word ‘Waliday’ which can only apply to one’s biological parents; whereas in the verses where he speaks of Azar, the word he uses for him is ‘Ab’. In the Arabic language, this word does not necessarily apply to one’s real father and can include one’s uncle, grandfather, father-in-law, the chief of a tribe and anyone who holds authority in one’s affairs.

Therefore, Azar held one of these positions for Ibrahim and this is why he called him Ab (father).

According to Islamic narrations as well as the Torah, his real father was Tarukh/Terah. 17

Prophet Ibrahim’s Sons in the Quran

How many sons did Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) have?

The Quran mentions only two of his sons: Isma‘il (or Ishmael) and Isahaq (or Issac) that God bestowed upon him in his old age and mentions no other children after them.

Birth of Isma‘il and Isaac in the Quran

The Quran narrates the incident of how Ibrahim was given glad-tidings of the birth of his sons.

How is possible for a person who was at the old age that Ibrahim and his wife were, as stated by the Quran, to have children?

The Quran provides us with the answer:

The Birth of Isaac in the Quran

وَلَقَدْ جَاءَتْ رُسُلُنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ بِالْبُشْرَىٰ … ﴿69﴾

There came Our messengers to Abraham with glad tidings…

وَامْرَأَتُهُ قَائِمَةٌ فَضَحِكَتْ فَبَشَّرْنَاهَا بِإِسْحَاقَ وَمِن وَرَاءِ إِسْحَاقَ يَعْقُوبَ ﴿71﴾

And his wife was standing (there), and she laughed: But we gave her glad tidings of Isaac… 18

The Prayer of Ibrahim in the Quran

This gift that was bestowed upon him and his wife was God’s response to the prayer of Ibrahim in the Quran:

رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)! 19

Ibrahim’s Wonder

Even though it was something he had sought from God, yet when he was given this news, he was so amazed that he questioned the angels who brought him the news if they were really giving him glad-tidings of a child despite his age. His intention, however, was not to express disbelief, but simply wonder as is a natural reaction to such news in a situation like his. 20

And this is yet another instance of the power and infinite mercy of God to His servants. And it is upon us as believers to always place our hope in Him.

The Birth of Isma‘il in the Quran

فَبَشَّرْنَاهُ بِغُلَامٍ حَلِيم

So We gave him the good news of a forbearing son. 21

Isma‘il and Ibrahim in the Quran

When we look at the verses of Ibrahim in the Quran, there are many verses that speak of him and his son Isma‘il and how he was tested through him. Hereunder we will look at some of the incidents mentioned in the Quran regarding this topic.

Ibrahim and Isma‘il in the Desert

رَّبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ فَاجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَهْوِي إِلَيْهِمْ وَارْزُقْهُم مِّنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ ﴿37﴾

“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits: so that they may give thanks”. 22

When Ibrahim was blessed with Isma‘il from his second wife, Hajar, his first wife became jealous and was unable to bear them being close. Therefore, she asked him to take them somewhere else. It was here that God, as has been stated regarding Ibrahim in the Quran, commanded him to take Hajar and Isma‘il to the uncultivated land of Mecca and left them there. 23

The Spring of Zamzam

There, in the heat of the sun, and seeking water for her son, Hajar ran between the hills of Safa (صفا) and Marwa (مروه) searching for a source of water. It was here that God, in His infinite Mercy and in accordance to the plan He had for them and the flourishing of the city of Mecca, made water spring up at Isma‘il’s feet. This spring is known as Zamzam (زمزم) and till today is a source of water in the holy city of Mecca.

Passing from near where this event took place, the nomadic tribe of Jarham, upon hearing of this event and Zamzam, took up residence there and the city flourished. 24

The Sacrifice of Isma‘il in the Quran

Which one of the sons of Ibrahim did he take to be sacrificed?

Even though according to the Jewish tradition, it was Isaac that Ibrahim took to sacrifice on God’s orders; according to the Islamic belief, it was Isma‘il that he was commanded to sacrifice.

The Quran starts the story as follows:

فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ ۚ قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ ۖ سَتَجِدُنِي إِن شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ

When he was old enough to assist in his endeavor, he said, ‘My son! I see in a dream that I am sacrificing you. See what you think.’ He said, ‘Father! Do whatever you have been commanded. If Allah wishes, you will find me to be patient.’ 25

Isma‘il Saved

The event continues with Ibrahim taking his son to the mountainous and dry land of Mina to be sacrificed. But when he started carry out the actual sacrifice, God called out to Him:

وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَن يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ ﴿104﴾

O Abraham! You have indeed fulfilled the vision!

قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّؤْيَا ۚ إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿105﴾

Thus indeed do We reward the virtuous! This was indeed a manifest test. 26

God then replaced Isma‘il with a ram that the archangel Gabriel brought down.

This was one of the tests that Ibrahim had to face and he passed with flying colors. It was not the sacrifice itself that God wanted from him; but rather the willingness to obey the command of God without hesitation and this was one of the tests that earned him the title of ‘Imam’ (leader) over mankind as has been mentioned in one of the verses previously discussed. 27

The Rituals of Hajj in relation to Isma‘il and Ibrahim in the Quran

As we have seen so far, Ibrahim underwent many tests in his life and it is by passing those tests that he earned a high position in the eyes of God. Some of the tests that he underwent were in relation to his son Isma‘il. God appreciated and honored his sacrifices so much that he chose to revere and honor them for all time.

Incumbent Duties of Muslims in Hajj

The following are the actions of Ibrahim that God made part of the rituals of Hajj, thereby keeping them alive and making it incumbent upon Muslims to honor them till the end of time:

  • The running between the hills of Safa (صفا) and Marwa (مروه) by Hajar, the mother of Isma‘il is a part of the Hajj rituals which must be performed by running or walking 7 times between them.
  • Sacrificing an animal like a cow, goat or ram, etc. at Mina on the 10th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul Hijjah (ذوالحجة), also known as Eid al-Ad-ha (عید الأضحی) (one of the days of Islamic celebration), is also one of the necessary rituals of Hajj.
  • ‘Ibrahim’s Station’ is a spot near the Kaaba, where it is incumbent on the performers of Hajj to perform two units of prayer after circumambulation around the Kaaba. This spot is the place where he stood to raise up the walls of the Kaaba when he was rebuilding it. 28 It has also been described as a place of security and safety. 29

The message that we get from this Divine honoring of the actions of Ibrahim in the Quran is that when one sincerely obeys God and submits to Him, God too honors him a thousand fold.

What does the Quran say about Isaac?

Did you know that Israelites were from the progeny of Ibrahim through his son Isaac (peace be upon him)?

That’s right! Let’s read what the Quran says in this regard:

… فَبَشَّرْنَاهَا بِإِسْحَاقَ وَمِن وَرَاءِ إِسْحَاقَ يَعْقُوبَ

…We gave her the good news of (the birth of) Isaac, and of Jacob, after Isaac. 30

The Israelites

The Israelites are the descendants of Jacob from his 12 sons. Many prophets chosen by God were from among the progeny of Isaac, including Joseph, Moses, and so forth.

Another interesting fact is that Jesus (peace be upon him) is the last prophet from among the descendants of Isaac; whereas the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his household), the final and last Divinely appointed prophet, is descended from Isma‘il.

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Why Jesus is the last prophet of Isaac? Click for the answer!

Why did Prophet Ibrahim Rebuild the Kaaba?

وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

As Abraham raised the foundations of the House with Ishmael, (they prayed): Our Lord, accept it from us! Indeed You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing. 31

Various verses of the Quran as well as historical narrations bear witness to the fact that the Kaaba was first built by Adam . It was then destroyed in Noah’s Flood and later on Ibrahim rebuilt it with the help of his son Isma‘il. The abovementioned verse shows, through the expression: raised the foundations, that something of the Kaaba was present, albeit in need of repair. 32

The Prayers of Ismai‘il and Ibrahim after Rebuilding the Kaaba

Following the prayer mentioned in this verse, the father and son also made 5 other very beautiful and important prayers:

  • They asked God to make them submissive to Him
  • To raise from their progeny too, a nation submissive and believing in Him 33
  • To show them the reality of the acts of worship that they performed for Him
  • To accept their repentance 34
  • And to raise from among their descendants a prophet:

…يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

…who shall recite to them Your communications and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them. 35

The prophet referred to in this last verse is the last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him and his household), as has been mentioned in a narration of the Prophet where he says: I am the prayer of Ibrahim. 36

Why is the Kaaba important?

The Kaaba is the direction to which the Muslims turn for prayer; therefore, it has a special importance and respect for them. One of the other names of the Kaaba is also the ‘House of Allah.’

However, the Kaaba has always been important in the history of worship.

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

Indeed the first house to be set up for mankind is the one at Bakkah, blessed and a guidance for all nations. 37

Bakkah is said to refer to the place where the Kaaba stands 38 and this holy place of worship is the first house of worship to exist in the world where people from previous religions would also gather, until the advent of Islam when it was designated specifically as the place to which the Muslims turn to pray, i.e. their Qibla and perform the rites of Hajj. This is shown by the last part of the verse where it calls the Kaaba a guidance for all nations. 39

Other Verses of Ibrahim in the Quran

Apart from the verses and issues regarding Abraham (peace be on him) that have already been mentioned, there are also some other verses about him.

The Books of Ibrahim in the Quran

An interesting and little known fact about Ibrahim is that he too had books. The Quran bears witness to this:

صُحُفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَىٰ

The scriptures of Abraham and Moses. 40

In a narration, Aba Dhar asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his household): O Prophet of God! How many prophets have there been? He replied: 124, 000… Aba Dhar continued by asking: O Prophet of God! How many books did God reveal? The Prophet replied: 104 books; 10 of which were revealed to Prophet Adam, 50 to Prophet Seth or Shaith, 30 to Idris  or Enoch and 10 to Ibrahim, and the last four are the Torah, Gospel, Psalms of David , and the Quran. 41

The Chapter of Ibrahim in the Quran

Did you know that one of the chapters or surahs in the Quran is named after Prophet Ibrahim?

Chapter no. 14 of the Quran is called Ibrahim. Although not the whole chapter, but a number of verses of this chapter are dedicated to this great prophet.

A major part of the verses that speak of him in this chapter refer to his supplications. His supplications include prayers for his parents, his children, the believers, and for him and his children to be among those who pray to God. The initial verses about him also refer to the incident where he left his wife and son in Mecca.

The fact that a whole chapter was named after him shows the greatness and respect that Ibrahim had in the eyes of God and that there are many lessons that we can learn from him and his life. He is after all, as stated by the Quran, a role model and good example 42 for us to follow.


References

  1. Yusufali translation
  2. Qarai translation
  3. Wehr, Hans. Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, p. 210.
  4. Britannica
  5. Oxford Islamic Studies
  6. Tabarsi, F. (1360). Tafsir Majma‘ al-Bayan. Translated by a group of translators. Farahani Publications. Vol. 14, p. 68.
  7. Qarai translation
  8. Tabarsi, F. (1377 AP). Tafsir Jawami‘ al-Jami‘. Translated by a group of translators. Islamic Research Foundation of Astane Quds Razavi. Vol. 5, p. 343.
  9. Rashid al-Din Mabidi, A. (1371 AP). Kashf al-Asrar. Amir Kabir Publications. Vol. 6, p. 261.
  10. [6:74]. Qarai translation
  11. [19:47 & 48]. Qarai translation.
  12. [26:86-88]. Qarai translation
  13. [9:114]. Qarai translation
  14. [26:83]
  15. [21:71-72]
  16. Qarai translation
  17. The whole discussion on Azar is from: Tabatabai, M.H. (1374). Tafsir al-Mizan. ( Mohammah Baqer Musavi Hamedani, Trans.). Islamic Publication Office of Jamiat al-Mudarresin, Hawza-i Ilmiyya-i Qom. Vol. 7, pp. 229-235.
  18. [11:69 & 71]. Yusufali translation
  19. [37:100]. Yusufali translation
  20. See: [15:54]. Tabatabai, M.H. Ibid. Vol. 12, p. 267.
  21. [37:101]. Qarai translation.
  22. [14:37]. Yusufali translation
  23. Tafsir Namuna. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah Publications. Vol. 10, pp. 362-363.
  24. Ibid.
  25. [37:102]. Qarai translation. Ibid. Vol. 19, p. 118
  26. [37:104-105]. Qarai translation. Ibid.
  27. See: [2:124]
  28. (See: [2:125]). Tafsir Noor. Commentary of Surah al-Baqarah. Verse 125
  29. [3:97].
  30. [11:71]. Qarai translation
  31. [2:127]. Qarai translation
  32. Tafsir Namuna. Ibid. vol. 1, p. 454.
  33. Qarai translation
  34. Tabatabai. Ibid. Vol. 1, pp. 424 & 430.
  35. Shakir translation. See: [2:128-129].
  36. Tabatabai. Ibid, p. 432.
  37. [3:96]. Qarai translation
  38. Tafsir Namuna. Ibid. Vol. 3, p. 12.
  39. Tabatabai. Ibid. Vol. 3, p. 544.
  40. [87:19]. Qarai translation
  41. Tabatabai. Ibid. Vol. 20, p. 453.
  42. See: [60:4]

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