Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) is recognised as an important Prophet of Allah and is one of the great patriarchs of Islamic faith, belonging among the five prophets of Ulul Azm (strong will). He is held in high esteem in prominent religions such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Ibrahim (AS) is revered for his unwavering faith and love towards Allah (SWT), which drove him to accomplish the trials established by Allah Almighty, to test his faith. Thus, he set an excellent example of complete submission to Allah (SWT). Also, Allah chose him as an intimate friend. Muslims around the world perform Hajj (Pilgrimage) and celebrate Eid-ul-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice), to commemorate the sacrifice of Ibrahim (AS) and his family.
Below, we have put the most significant incidents in the life of Prophet Ibrahim
1. A Prophet is born
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was born in Babylon (currently in Iraq), to a well-known idol-sculptor, Aazar. Although he was born and raised in a house of idolaters, he was endowed with spiritual understanding from a tender age.
During his childhood, a number of his people worshipped idols made of wood and stone, some worshipped celestial bodies (the sun, moon, stars and the planets), while others worshipped kings and rulers. Ibrahim (AS) used to watch his father sculpt strange idols and asked what his father was creating. His father explained that they were the statues of the gods. This astonished the young Ibrahim as he noticed that the statues did not see, hear, speak or rise and stand as it was when overturned. He spontaneously rejected and held these idols and practices in contempt.
The people would gather at the temples containing these idols and honour them, crying and begging the statues for solutions to their problems. These acts surprised Ibrahim (AS) immensely; at first, seeming funny to him but eventually enraging him to a great extent.
2. Ibrahim Discovers the Truth
One night, Ibrahim (AS) saw a star. He asked himself, “Could this be my God?” but the star set and disappeared. So he said, “I don’t like those that set.” He decided this couldn’t be his Lord since God is ever-present. Quran: Chapter 06 Verse 76
Then he saw the moon rising in all its grandeur. He thought, “Could this be my Lord?” but the moon set too. At daybreak, he saw the sunrise and once again said, “Could this be my God? This is the biggest and brightest!” but the sun also set. He then declared, “O my people! I am free from what you associate with Allah. Indeed, I have turned my face toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah.” Quran: Chapter 06 Verse 77-79
The people argued with Ibrahim (AS) on hearing his declaration. He said, “Do you argue with me concerning Allah while He has guided me? And I fear not what you associate with Him [and will not be harmed] unless my Lord should will something. My Lord encompasses all things in knowledge; then won’t you remember? And how should I fear what you associate while you do not fear that you have associated with Allah that for which He has not sent down to you any authority? So which of the two parties has more right to security, would you like to know? They who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice – those will have security, and they are [rightly] guided.” Quran: Chapter 06 Verse 80-82
Ibrahim (AS) elaborated to his people that these celestial bodies are but mere creations, fashioned, controlled and made to serve at the whim of Allah (SWT), thus stating that they cannot be worshipped as deities. He clearly explained that while these celestial bodies appeared and disappeared, out of sight from our world, Allah is everlasting without disappearance and without end. Furthermore, nothing can be hidden from Him. Allah says in the Holy Quran:
It was after the incident at the mountain that Ibrahim (AS) started on his mission to call people to worship Allah and none other. He did his best to reason with his father and his people to no avail. He questioned them, “What are these statues to which you are devoted?” They said, “We found our fathers, worshippers of them.” He said, “You were certainly, you and your fathers, in manifest error.” They said, “Have you brought us the truth, or are you one of those who play about?” He said, “[No], rather, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth who created them, and I, to that, am of those who testify.” Quran: Surah Al-Anbya Chapter 21 Verses 52 to 56
Ibrahim (AS) asked his father, “O my father, why do you worship that which does not hear and does not see and will not benefit you at all? O my father, indeed there has come to me of knowledge that which has not come to you, so follow me; I will guide you to an even path. O my father, do not worship Satan. Indeed, Satan has always been disobedient to the Most Merciful. O my father, indeed I fear that there will touch you a punishment from the Most Merciful so you would be to Satan a companion [in Hellfire].” Quran: Surah Maryam Chapter 19 Verses 42 to 45
This infuriated Ibrahim’s father that he lashed out at Ibrahim (AS) saying, “Have you no desire for my gods, O Ibrahim? If you do not desist, I will surely stone you, so get away from my sight.” Ibrahim (AS) gently responded, “Peace will be upon you. I will ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. Indeed, He is ever Gracious to me. And I will leave you and those you invoke other than Allah and will invoke my Lord. I expect that I will not be in invocation to my Lord unhappy.” Quran: Surah Maryam Chapter 19 Verses 46 to 49
3. Ibrahim and the Idols
Regardless of the dismissal by his father and people, Ibrahim (AS) continued to preach the Oneness of Allah with perseverance, but the people still remained steadfast in their belief in the false gods. He devised a clever plan to reveal to the people how fruitless their worship of idols was. Ibrahim (AS) was aware of a great celebration, which would be attended by the priests of the temple and all the people. He waited till the people thronged to the celebration and the streets were empty.
Quietly, he entered the place where the idols were kept, carrying an axe with him. His sight fell on the statues of the gods and the food laid before them as offerings. He asked the statues around him, “Do you not eat? What is [wrong] with you that you do not speak?” Quran: As-Saffat Chapter 37 Verse 91 to 93
Ibrahim (AS) raised his axe and destroyed all the statues in the temple, leaving the biggest one unscathed. He hung the axe on the shoulder of the standing statue, to create an impression that this statue had been the cause of destruction within the temple. He left the temple, in content, at having fulfilled his purpose of teaching the people the foolishness of their beliefs.
When the people returned after the celebration, they were startled to see their gods destroyed to smithereens and scattered all over the temple. They mulled over who could have been behind this chaos until finally reaching the unanimous opinion that it was none other than Ibrahim (AS). They summoned Ibrahim to question him of this act. Quran: Al Anbiya Chapter 21 Verses 59-61
They asked him, “Have you done this to our gods, O Ibrahim?” He replied, “Rather, this – the largest of them – did it, so ask your gods, if they should [be able to] speak.” The people started to bicker among themselves, blaming one another. Then they said, “You already know that these do not speak!” To which Ibrahim (AS) answered, “Then do you worship instead of Allah that which does not benefit you at all or harm you? Woe to you and what you worship instead of Allah. Then will you not use reason?” He went on to comment that all their gods had been destroyed while their greatest god strangely looked on and was neither able to stop the destruction nor narrate what had actually happened. He reasoned with them that something that couldn’t protect themselves, could not protect the people or bring any good to them. Quran: Al Anbiya Chapter 21 Verses 62-67
4. Ibrahim and the Great Fire
The people were not swayed from their beliefs even after Ibrahim’s attempt at teaching them a lesson. Their arrogance prevented them from admitting their foolishness. They decided to plot revenge against Ibrahim (AS) and punish him for his insolence. They agreed to throw him into a pit brimming with fire and let him burn alive. Quran: Al Anbiya Chapter 21 Verses 68
The fire was great to an extent that the flames reached the sky and the birds were frightened to fly over it for fear of being burnt. As Ibrahim (AS) was being thrown into the flames, he made a dua ““Hasbunallaah wa ni’am al-wakeel” – Allah is enough for me, He is the best disposer of my affairs, a very simple yet a powerful dua. In that very instance, Allah (SWT) commanded the fire, “O fire, be coolness and safety upon Ibrahim.” Quran: Al Anbiya Chapter 21 Verses 69
Lo and behold, a miracle occurred, leaving the people in a state of shock. They watched on in amazement at the event that was unfolding before their eyes. The fire obeyed Allah’s command and burned only the chains bound to Ibrahim, leaving him unharmed. The fire was turned into a cool, peaceful haven for Ibrahim (AS) that when the fire subsided, he emerged out of the dying flames, like coming out of a beautiful garden, his face illuminated and his clothes without any trace of smoke.
This miracle shamed the opposing disbelievers. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran:
5. Ibrahim confronts King Namrud
News travelled of this miracle, reaching the ears of the ruling monarch of the time, King Namrud (Nimrod of Babylon), an extremely arrogant and unrighteous ruler who proclaimed himself as god. He was a tyrant who was worshipped by his subjects. The miracle had caused most of his followers to believe in Allah and that Ibrahim (AS) was a Prophet of Allah.
The King feared that his throne and power over his people were endangered. He feared that his claim to divinity was not challenged by an ordinary human. Thus, he set out to prove that he was indeed god and Ibrahim was a liar. He summoned Ibrahim (AS) to court and debated with him. This incident is narrated in the Quran:
The challenge made by Ibrahim left Namrud lost for words. Namrud was beaten at his own game, on his own territory in the presence of his own people. Ibrahim (AS) left the palace and continued on his mission of calling people to worship Allah.
6. The Miracles of Allah
During his lifetime, Ibrahim (AS) encountered several miracles of Allah. Apart from Ibrahim’s triumph over the Great Fire, the Quran brings to light more prominent miracles of the Almighty, which were experienced by him.
On one account, Ibrahim (AS) asked Allah (SWT) about the resurrection. He knew his days on earth were numbered, and he would eventually die and be resurrected on the Day of Judgement. The knowledge of life after death filled Ibrahim with peace. Since his belief was based on the revelation of Allah, he asked his Creator for a demonstration of resurrection, as to elevate his belief further.
Ibrahim (AS) said, “My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.” Allah (SWT) said, “What, do you not believe [in the resurrection]?” He answered, “Certainly [I believe, I ask this] so that my heart may be at ease.” Allah then directed Ibrahim to take four birds and train them in a manner that they return to him (Ibrahim) when called upon. He was instructed to cut these birds into pieces and mix them up, dividing them into four portions. Allah (SWT) asked Ibrahim to place each portion on top of four hills and upon his return, call back the birds in Allah’s Name. Ibrahim (AS) did as instructed and to his amazement the birds flew back to him, full of life and reassembled back to their original forms. After this miraculous event, Ibrahim’s faith in Allah was cemented forever. Quran: Surah Baqarah Verse 260
7. The Migration of Ibrahim
Ibrahim (AS) kept his resolve to call his people to believe in Allah but the people refused to pay heed to him. They did not want to be convinced or relinquished of their wrong beliefs. Only two among the people, heeded the message of Ibrahim (AS) – Lut (Lot), the nephew of Ibrahim, who would later go on to become a Prophet of Allah, and Sarah, a woman who later would become Ibrahim’s wife.
Following the failure of his people to believe in Allah, Ibrahim (AS) decided to leave his people to their beliefs and migrate. Before setting on his journey, he invited his father for the last time to believe in Allah but to his dismay, his father rejected his message yet again. The Holy Quran mentions:
Ibrahim (AS) started on his journey with his wife, Sarah, and Lut (AS), to the Holy land in Palestine.
On his travels, he called people to worship Allah.
8. The Birth of Ismail
Ibrahim (AS) longed for a child and fervently made dua to Allah (SWT) to bless them with a child.
His wife, Sarah, knew that she was getting old and may not be able to provide him with a child. She suggested that Ibrahim (AS) should get married to her slave, Haajar (Hagar), and if Allah willed it, He would bless them with a child through her. Hence, Ibrahim heeded the advice of his beloved wife and married Haajar. Allah blessed Ibrahim (AS) and Haajar with a baby boy, whom they named Ismail.
9. The Trials of Haajar and Ismail
Allah (SWT) commanded Ibrahim (AS) to leave his second wife, Haajar (May Allah be pleased with her) and their newly born son, Ismail alone in an uninhabited, barren valley near the Kaaba.
Narrated by Ibn Anas: Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka`ba under a tree on the spot of Zamzam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward.
Ishmael’s mother followed him saying, “O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not neglect us,” and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka`ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers: ‘O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Ka`ba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.’ (14.37)
Ishmael’s mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times.”
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, ‘O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?” And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zamzam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it.” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael’s mother! Had she let the Zamzam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zamzam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth.”
The Prophet (ﷺ) further added, “Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.’ The House (i.e. Ka`ba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada’. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, ‘This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.’ They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water).” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “Ishmael’s mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, ‘Do you allow us to stay with you?” She replied, ‘Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.’ They agreed to that.”…..Sahih al-Bukhari 3364
The tribe settled there with their families and became permanent residents of the place, teaching the young Ismail (AS) Arabic as he grew up. Thus, Haajar (May Allah be pleased with her) laid the foundation for the holiest site in Islam, Makkah (formerly known as Bakkah) and the House of Allah was later built by her husband and son, on its sacred grounds.
10. The Sacrifice of Ibrahim
Ibrahim (AS) experienced a dream, in which he was instructed by Allah to sacrifice his only son, Ismail. Usually, the dreams of Prophets are real, and Ibrahim realised that this was indeed a message from Allah (SWT). Ibrahim (AS) loved his son dearly. Yet he prepared to follow Allah’s command. He approached his son and said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so tell me what you think.” To which Ismail (AS), being the obedient son that he was, immediately obliged saying, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.” Quran: Surah Saffat Chapter 37 Verse 102
When both had submitted to sacrifice Ismail (AS) for the sake of Allah and when Ismail AS prostrated on his forehead, Allah called out to him “O Ibrahim, 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, And We left for him [favorable mention] among later generations: “Peace upon Abraham.” Quran: Surah Saffat Chapter 37 Verse 103 to 109
By the Glory of Allah, a divine miracle had taken place. Ibrahim (AS) and Ismail (AS) had just passed a difficult test from Almighty Allah. Since this important event in Islam occurred, every year, during the month of Dhul-Hijjah, Muslims from all around the world perform Qurbani (Sacrifice, preferably goat, cow or camel) using special rules and practices, as ordained by the religion. This deed is performed to remember Ibrahim’s sacrifice on that fateful day and to inspire devotion and submission to Allah (SWT) in our own lives.
11. The Building of the Kaaba (The House of Allah)
Allah (SWT) guided Ibrahim (AS) to the site of the House and entrusted it to him. The Exalted ordered him to build the Kaaba.
Ibrahim (AS) stayed away from Haajar and Ismail for a period as long as Allah wished, and called on them afterwards. Ibrahim (AS) saw Ishmael under a tree near Zamzam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw Abraham, he rose up to welcome him (and they greeted each other as a father does with his son or a son does with his father).
Abraham said, ‘O Ishmael! Allah has given me an order.’ Ishmael said, ‘Do what your Lord has ordered you to do.’ Abraham asked, ‘Will you help me?’ Ishmael said, ‘I will help you.’ Abraham said, Allah has ordered me to build a house here,’ pointing to a hillock higher than the land surrounding it.” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “Then they raised the foundations of the House (i.e. the Ka`ba). Ishmael brought the stones and Abraham was building, and when the walls became high, Ishmael brought this stone and put it for Abraham who stood over it (which is known as the station of Ibrahim or Maqaam Ibrahim) and carried on building, while Ishmael was handing him the stones, and both of them were saying, ‘O our Lord! Accept (this service) from us, Verily, You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.’ The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “Then both of them went on building and going round the Ka`ba saying: O our Lord ! Accept (this service) from us, Verily, You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” (2.127) Sahih al-Bukhari 3364
Allah sent down the the Hajar al-Aswad (Black Stone) from heaven and it was whiter than milk, but the sins of the sons of Adam made it black. This black stone marks the starting point of Tawaf (circumambulation).
Allah (SWT) ordered Ibrahim (AS) to announce and call mankind to perform the pilgrimage to this House. The Holy Quran asserts:
Indeed, Allah answered his supplications and sent Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who was born in Makkah.
12. An Imam to the Nations
The significance of Ibrahim (AS) as a patriarch is highly emphasised in Islam. He qualified in all the trials of Allah (SWT), that He, the Almighty declared Ibrahim an Imam (Leader) and an example for the people to come. He pleaded to Allah to make his descendants Imams as well. Allah responded that He will keep this promise but His Promise will not reach the evil-doers amongst his descendants. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran:
When our beloved Prophet PBUH was taken to paradise in the night journey, it is reported that in the seventh heaven, he met Ibrahim (AS) – Sahih al-Bukhari 3207
Other Prophets who lived at the time of Ibrahim (AS) were Loot (niece of Ibrahim), Ismail, Ishaq (sons of Ibrahim) and Yaqoob (grandson of Ibrahim). Then came Prophet Yousuf, then Shu’ayb, Ayyoob and then Dhul Kifl. Then Allah sent Musa and Haroon, and the rest peace be upon them all.
Ibrahim (AS) acquires great respect and honour in the hearts of Muslims. It is customary, as ordered by Allah, to send blessings on our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Prophet Ibrahim (AS), at the end of Salah (Prayer). A Hadith narrated by Abdur-Rahman bin Abi Laila states:
And Allah Knows Best