The identity of Prophet Ibrahim‘s father has been a subject of curiosity among many individuals. Renowned as one of Allah‘s greatest prophets, Prophet Ibrahim (a) holds a distinguished position among all the prophets, second only to Prophet Muhammad (s). While earlier prophets like Noah, Idris, and Adam preceded him, the question lingers – who was his biological father? Delve into this article to discover the answer.
Is There Mention of Prophet Ibrahim’s Father in the Quran?
The Quran mentions a man named Azar as the “ab” (father) of Prophet Ibrahim (a). Azar, despite being an idolater who made idols, was not Prophet Ibrahim’s biological father according to narrations from the Ahlul Bait (a). Instead, he served as Prophet Ibrahim’s paternal uncle and guardian, taking responsibility for his upbringing since childhood. It is worth noting that in Arabic, the term “ab” can signify both father and paternal uncle. For instance, when Prophet Jacob’s children were questioned about their future worship after him, they responded:
قَالُوا۟ نَعْبُدُ إِلَٰهَكَ وَإِلَٰهَ ءَابَآئِكَ إِبْرَٰهِـۧمَ وَإِسْمَٰعِيلَ وَإِسْحَٰقَ إِلَٰهًا وَٰحِدًا وَنَحْنُ لَهُۥ مُسْلِمُونَ ﴿١٣٣﴾
They said, ‘We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, the One God, and to Him do we submit.’
It is common knowledge that Ismail or Ishmael was not Jacob’s father, but rather his paternal uncle. However, intriguingly, the Quran also uses the term “ab” to refer to Ismail. Furthermore, the semantic scope of the word “ab” extends beyond just father and paternal uncle; it also encompasses grandfather. Therefore, Prophet Ibrahim was Jacob’s grandfather, not his father. This demonstrates that in Arabic, the term “ab” can signify father, grandfather, and paternal uncle interchangeably.
The reason for our insistence on Azar or any polytheist not being the father of Prophet Ibrahim (a) is based on narrations from the Prophet (s) himself. According to these narrations, the Prophet (s) stated that all of his forefathers and foremothers, going back to Adam, were pure monotheists. The Prophet (s) explained that he was transferred from one pure loin and womb to another, completely unaffected by the impurities of the Arab pagan era. Therefore, it logically follows that Prophet Ibrahim, being an ancestor of the Prophet (s), could not have had polytheist ancestors all the way until Adam. Therefore, the Quran does not mention the name of Prophet Ibrahim’s biological father.
What Was the Name of Prophet Ibrahim’s Father?
In the Quran, the specific name of Prophet Ibrahim’s father remains unmentioned. However, in a lengthy narration, the Prophet (s) refers to his ancestors, identifying Prophet Ibrahim’s father as Tarukh (تارخ), which is known as Terah in English, as mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. It is important to note that while the Bible depicts Terah as an idolater, this portrayal is not accepted in our beliefs, and we consider it to be one of the distortions that have been introduced in the Bible over time.
What About the Fathers of Other Prophets?
When we examine the backgrounds of certain prophets, we find that many of them had righteous and monotheistic fathers, and in some cases, their fathers were prophets themselves. For instance, Shaith’s (Seth) father was Adam, Saam’s (Shem) father was Noah, Isaac and Ismail were both prophets, and their father was Prophet Ibrahim. Jacob‘s father, Isaac, was also a prophet, and Prophet Yusuf’s (Joseph) father was Prophet Jacob. Moreover, Prophet Solomon‘s father was Prophet David. However, this does not imply that the fathers of all prophets were also prophets themselves.
In fact, some prophets, like Moses, the grandfather of Jesus (‘Imran), and even the father of our Noble Prophet (s), were not prophets, at least to the best of our knowledge. Some sources suggest that they may have been “nabi,” which refers to prophets who preached the religion of the previous prophets.
What is essential to emphasize is that, according to our narrations, it is inconceivable for a prophet’s father and forefathers to have been polytheists. Their lineage is depicted as pure and devoted to monotheism, which highlights their righteous and virtuous backgrounds.
Hence, it is evident that not only the father and forefathers, but even the foremothers of Prophet Ibrahim (a) and Prophet Muhammad (s) were monotheists. In fact, this monotheistic devotion extends to all the other prophets as well, as their fathers and forefathers were also devout believers in the oneness of God.
Another Proof in the Quran
Upon inviting Azar, whom he addressed as his father, to worship Allah, Prophet Ibrahim (a) faced refusal as Azar did not accept the invitation. Despite this, Prophet Ibrahim (a) vowed to seek forgiveness for Azar from Allah. True to his word, the Quran attests to Prophet Ibrahim (a) fulfilling his promise, and in verse 86 of Surah Shu’ara, it is stated:
وَٱغْفِرْ لِأَبِىٓ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ مِنَ ٱلضَّآلِّينَ ﴿٨٦﴾
Forgive my father, for he is one of those who are astray.
However, Allah says in two verses that we should not seek forgiveness for polytheists. The verses read:
مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِىِّ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ أَن يَسْتَغْفِرُوا۟ لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ وَلَوْ كَانُوٓا۟ أُو۟لِى قُرْبَىٰ مِنۢ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَٰبُ ٱلْجَحِيمِ ﴿١١٣﴾ وَمَا كَانَ ٱسْتِغْفَارُ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ إِلَّا عَن مَّوْعِدَةٍ وَعَدَهَآ إِيَّاهُ فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُۥٓ أَنَّهُۥ عَدُوٌّ لِّلَّهِ تَبَرَّأَ مِنْهُ ۚ إِنَّ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ لَأَوَّٰهٌ حَلِيمٌ ﴿١١٤﴾
The Prophet and the faithful may not plead for the forgiveness of the polytheists, even if they should be [their] relatives, after it has become clear to them that they will be the inmates of hell. (113) Abraham’s pleading forgiveness for his father was only to fulfill a promise he had made him. So when it became manifest to him that he was an enemy of God, he repudiated him. Indeed Abraham was most plaintive and forbearing.
Hence, after Azar persisted in his disbelief, Prophet Ibrahim (a) disassociated himself from him. However, in another verse, we learn that when Prophet Ibrahim was in his old age and offering multiple prayers, he prayed for his parents. This act occurred long after the incident of seeking Allah’s forgiveness for Azar and after he had distanced himself from him owing to his obstinacy. The verse reads:
رَبَّنَا ٱغْفِرْ لِى وَلِوَٰلِدَىَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ ٱلْحِسَابُ ﴿٤١﴾
Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents, and all the faithful, on the day when the reckoning is held.’ (14:41)
Upon comparing the two aforementioned verses with the current one, it becomes evident that Prophet Ibrahim (a) prayed for his biological parents, which naturally included his father. His prayers were not directed toward Azar. As Allah reveals, Ibrahim had already disavowed his uncle Azar during his middle age. However, as an old man, while offering his final prayers to Allah in the blessed land of Mecca, Prophet Ibrahim (a) earnestly prayed for both his mother and father. This act reveals that both his parents were devout believers.
We have authentic narrations from the Prophet (s) that state that all of his forefathers and foremothers were pure individuals and devout monotheists. However, in the Quran, we read that Prophet Ibrahim calls an idolater his father. How can we reconcile the two? The answer is that the person whom Prophet Ibrahim calls father as mentioned in the Quran was most probably his uncle because in Arabic father could also mean uncle. Apparently, this uncle of Prophet Ibrahim (a) was the one who raised him, which could be another reason he called him father. Based on our narrations, we also learn that the name of Prophet Ibrahim’s father was Tarukh (Terah). Based on verses of the Quran and narrations, we learn that Prophet Ibrahim’s biological father was a righteous individual who believed in one God.