Ibrahim (PBUH): Supreme Role Model for Humanity

Maqam Ibrahim (the station of Ibrahim) in Masjid Al Haram, Makkah. Inside the Maqam Ibrahim is a stone block where Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) stood to build the kabah (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

Entrenched priesthood during Ibrahim’s (PBUH) period

Ibrahim (PBUH) started his divine invitation from his own family first. His father was head priest of the kingdom of Nimrod. This was unlike today’s priests. His father’s position as head priest was even more powerful than the king. Unless he was blessed and crowned the king, he could not be allowed to sit on the throne and rule the people. Ibrahim (PBUH) told his father that you carve statues from your hands and worship him as God. This is not right. Why don’t you think that it is totally wrong and unjust? After Ibrahim (PBUH) kept persuading his father to refrain from idol worship, his father warned him to stop, otherwise he would drive away Ibrahim (PBUH) from his house. At this, Ibrahim (PBUH) left his father’s house and continued inviting people to the divine mission. And then he publically confronted the king and debated with him. And then he left his place and migrated to other place:

قَدْ كَانَتْ لَكُمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ فِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ إِذْ قَالُوا لِقَوْمِهِمْ إِنَّا بُرَآءُ مِنكُمْ وَمِمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ كَفَرْنَا بِكُمْ وَبَدَا بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةُ وَالْبَغْضَاءُ أَبَدًا حَتَّىٰ تُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ إِلَّا قَوْلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ لَأَسْتَغْفِرَنَّ لَكَ وَمَا أَمْلِكُ لَكَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۖ رَّبَّنَا عَلَيْكَ تَوَكَّلْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ أَنَبْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ

(60:4) – Indeed, you have had a good example in Abraham and those who followed him, when they said unto their [idolatrous] people: "Verily, we are quit of you and of all that you worship instead of God: we deny the truth of whatever you believe; and between us and you there has arisen enmity and hatred, to last until such a time as you come to believe in the One God!" The only exception was Abraham's saying to his father "I shall indeed pray for [God's] forgiveness for thee, although I have it not in my power to obtain anything from God in thy behalf." [And Abraham and his followers prayed:] "O our Sustainer! In Thee have we placed our trust, and unto Thee do we turn: for unto Thee is all journeys' end. [Asad]

Ibrahim’s (PBUH) role model and his magnificence

Ibrahim (PBUH) told his father:

يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَن يَمَسَّكَ عَذَابٌ مِّنَ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ فَتَكُونَ لِلشَّيْطَانِ وَلِيًّا ﴿﴾ قَالَ أَرَاغِبٌ أَنتَ عَنْ آلِهَتِي يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ ۖ لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهِ لَأَرْجُمَنَّكَ ۖ وَاهْجُرْنِي مَلِيًّا ﴿﴾ قَالَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكَ ۖ سَأَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكَ رَبِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِي حَفِيًّا

(19:45-47) – O my father! I dread lest a chastisement from the Most Gracious befall thee, and then thou wilt become [aware of having been] close unto Satan!" He answered: "Dost thou dislike my gods, O Abraham? Indeed, if thou desist not, I shall most certainly cause thee to be stoned to death! Now begone from me for good!" [Abraham] replied: "Peace be upon thee! I shall ask my Sustainer to forgive thee: for, behold, He has always been kind unto me. [Abraham] replied: "Peace be upon thee! I shall ask my Sustainer to forgive thee: for, behold, He has always been kind unto me. [Asad]

Please note how Ibrahim (PBUH) responded to his father’s brusque behavior. A messenger’s heart always yearns to convey the divine message with the hope that someone may soften his heart to accept it so that he may be saved. Here we see that despite his father’s rude treatment, Ibrahim (PBUH) told him before departing that he will keep praying for him so that he may be guided to the right path.

But now it has become a ritual to recite the famous verse related to Ibrahim’s (PBUH) laser focus attention to the divine mission with total sincerity with the sole purpose of establishing the Sovereignty of Allah’s Laws without associating with it any partnership of anyone’s else’s law:

إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذِي فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ حَنِيفًا ۖ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

(6:79) – Behold, unto Him who brought into being the heavens and the earth have I turned my face, having turned away from all that is false; and I am not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him." [Asad]

Allah declares here that Ibrahim’s (PBUH) life and his companions’ life is a role model (أُسْوَةٌ) for humanity. The root meaning أُسْوَةٌ is: to alleviate human sufferings; to console humans during moments of crisis; to help solve human’s problems – through establishing the divine system of universal sustenance by removing all impediments (all types of tyranny and oppression) in its way. This is what Ibrahim (PBUH) and his companions actually did and that is why their life is role model for humanity. The model must always be kept in front in order to follow it. If the model is not kept in front, then how can one follow it.

Builders of Kabah

When Ibrahim (PBUH) and Ismail (PBUH) were building the Kabah they prayed to Allah:

رَبَّنَا وَابْعَثْ فِيْهِمْ رَسُوْلًا مِّنْھُمْ يَتْلُوْا عَلَيْهِمْ اٰيٰتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتٰبَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيْهِمْ ۭ اِنَّكَ اَنْتَ الْعَزِيْزُ الْحَكِيْمُ

(2:129) – "O our Sustainer! Raise up from the midst of our off spring an apostle from among themselves, who shall convey unto them Thy messages, and impart unto them revelation as well as wisdom, and cause them to grow in purity: for, verily, Thou alone art almighty, truly wise!" [Asad]

Having receptive heart for divine message

The Quran says about Ibrahim (PBUH):

اِذْ جَاۗءَ رَبَّهٗ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِـيْمٍ

(37:84) – Behold! he approached his Lord with a sound heart. [Asad]

There is a very important point for us to ponder on this message. And this is Allah’s law about having the heart which is fully satisfied with His message. One should obey Allah’s message with the full acceptance of the heart. Our hearts and thoughts must be in full harmony with each other.

According to Socrates, “Virtue is knowledge” because through virtue you can live your life in the best possible manner. But this is a necessary but not sufficient condition; because just gaining knowledge does not lead to virtuous life. Many individuals have knowledge that some things are harmful but they keep indulging in them because the knowledge has not penetrated their hearts and transformed their inner self.

Birth of Ismail (PBUH) and the prayer of Ibrahim (PBUH)

For a long time, until Ibrahim (PBUH) reached old age, he didn’t have any children. Then Ibrahim (PBUH) prayed to Allah:

رَبِّ هَبْ لِيْ مِنَ الصّٰلِحِيْنَ

(37:100) – "O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!" [Asad]

Then Allah replied:

فَبَشَّرْنٰهُ بِغُلٰمٍ حَلِـيْمٍ

(37:101) – So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. [Asad]

اَلْحَلِیْمُ (Al-haleem) is an attribute of Allah and is used to mean that neither the disobedience of the unfaithful makes Him flare up nor He is aroused by anger to take some step hastily. Rather, He has framed a law for everything which that thing or being reaches ultimately in any case. This means that every deed has a result, good or bad. Therefore, حَلِیْمٌ (haleem) means understanding, authentic, stable, always one to act according to law and principle, one who does not flare up emotionally.

Prophet’s (PBUH) Ibrahim dream of slaughtering his son Ismail

The very first episode became the test of this solid attribute of حَلِیْمٌ (haleem):

فَلَمَّا بَلَــغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يٰبُنَيَّ اِنِّىْٓ اَرٰى فِي الْمَنَامِ اَنِّىْٓ اَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرٰى ۭ قَالَ يٰٓاَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُــؤْمَرُ ۡ سَتَجِدُنِيْٓ اِنْ شَاۗءَ اللّٰهُ مِنَ الصّٰبِرِيْنَ

(37:102) – Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy!" [Asad]

Ismail said:

فَلَمَّآ اَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهٗ لِلْجَبِيْنِ

(37:103) – So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), [Asad]

This was just a dream, not divine revelation 

Then Allah said:

قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّءْيَا ۚ اِنَّا كَذٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِيْنَ ; وَنَادَيْنٰهُ اَنْ يّـٰٓاِبْرٰهِيْمُ

(37:104-105) – We called out to him "O Abraham! "Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" - thus indeed do We reward those who do right. [Asad]

Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) left and migrated to Palestine from Syria and he established the divine state there and became the head of this dominion. His eldest son Ismail was to inherit it. But Allah had prepared a plan for a great sacrifice on the part of both of them for going through a long term challenging and extremely difficult situation. Allah ordered Ibrahim (PBUH) to take Ismail to Hijaz and leave him there. So, Ibrahim (PBUH) took Ismail there and both built the House of Allah (Kabah). This place was a rocky mountain desert area where nothing grows. This was a bigger and long term sacrifice and extremely challenging situation that Ismail (PBUH) went through and Allah chose him as His Messenger for His divine program in this barren land compared to the lush green area of Palestine. Ibrahim’s (PBUH) second son Isaac (PBUH) inherited the divine kingdom and it continued in progeny with a sequence of messengers.

وَتَرَكْنَا عَلَيْهِ فِي الْاٰخِرِيْنَ

(37:108) – And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times. [Asad]

سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ

(37:109) – "Peace and salutation to Abraham!" [Asad]

In this way Ibrahim (PBUH) continued receiving blessings and salutations because he bravely surmounted many difficult challenges throughout his life with fortitude and steadfastness. That is why the Quran says:

وَاِذِ ابْتَلٰٓى اِبْرٰهٖمَ رَبُّهٗ بِكَلِمٰتٍ فَاَتَـمَّهُنَّ ۭ قَالَ اِنِّىْ جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ اِمَامًا ۭ قَالَ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِىْ ۭ قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظّٰلِمِيْنَ

(2:124) – And [remember this:] when his Sustainer tried Abraham by [His] commandments and the latter fulfilled them, He said: "Behold, I shall make thee a leader of men [humankind]. "Abraham asked: "And [wilt Thou make leaders] of my offspring as well? "[God] answered: "My covenant does not embrace the evildoers." [Asad]

The prayer of Ibrahim (PBUH) and Ismail (PBUH) during building of Kabah

Ibrahim (PBUH) and Ismail (PBUH) prayed to Allah when they were building the Kabah:

رَبَّنَا وَاجْعَلْنَا مُسْلِمَيْنِ لَكَ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِنَآ اُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً لَّكَ ۠ وَاَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَا ۚ اِنَّكَ اَنْتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيْمُ

(2:128) – "O our Sustainer! Make us surrender ourselves unto Thee, and make out of our offspring a community that shall surrender itself unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and accept our repentance: for, verily, Thou alone art the Acceptor of Repentance, the Dispenser of Grace! [Asad]

But Allah replied that I accept your prayer for only those of your progeny who will follow Our Laws; not for those who will not follow Our Laws (37:113).

And the time had come for the sand grains of the desert of Hijaz to shine. The lucky city of trust has awakened, now that the last Messenger (PBUH) had come for whose arrival Ibrahim (PBUH) and Ismail (PBUH) had prayed during the construction of Allah’s House; and for whose arrival the time had turned its sides millions and millions of times.

Well, yes, that highest personality (PBUH) came; and he came with such grandeur that heavens and the earth announced his arrival with the highest acclaim and magnificence; and the angels paid their tribute with songs of praise and admiration. The infinitely tall branches of the tree of Sidrat al-Muntahā (المنتہ سدرتہ ) swayed blissfully in joy to welcome his arrival; the Angels of the seventh heaven lit Candles in celebration of his arrival; and every shining atom of the Universe started jumping with joy. The entire environment started echoing with the prayers of peace and tranquility.

And, the final messenger (PBUH) came for the entire humankind:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا

(34:28) – NOW [as for thee, O Muhammad,] We have not sent thee otherwise than to mankind at large, to be a herald of glad tidings and a warner; but most people do not understand [this]. [Asad]

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

(21:107) – And [thus, O Prophet,] We have sent thee as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds. [Asad]

This was not an unfamiliar message and its teaching was not new. Wherever there was truth it was a page from the Book that the world received through Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); wherever there was any light it was from the ray of light that descended on his heart from the Heaven; wherever there was any awareness of the divine message it was from that bouquet of the message that was placed in the niche of Kaaba by his hands. What is the message of Muhammad (PBUH)? It is binding together the pages of the same divine Book which the ravages of time had scattered them all around. And what is Muhammad’s (PBUH) position? – It is the culmination of the cumulative effect of the sparkling personalities that came before him, but whose followers had covered the truth of their messages under layers upon layers of misplaced reverence and devotion.

Previously, the chain of messengers – peace be on all of them – had dealt with local issues with their own individual disposition but this final messenger (PBUH) presented the synthesis of all the previous ones. Previously they were separate sparks, but now they were all combined into one holistic form of surreal power and beauty. Previously they were scattered words but, now, together they were turned into a powerful, unique, and unparalleled shining message – that was recoiling to come out from inside the soul of the Universe for millennia. They were individual pearls but now they formed a beautiful crown; they were petals before and now they formed lovely flowers; they were particles before but now they became solid rock; they were individual drops before, and now they became ocean; they were stars before, and now they constituted galaxy; they were individuals before but now they became a community; they were points before, and now they formed a straight line; before it was the beginning, and now this was the end.

Whatever the Almighty Allah had to say to His servants, He said it the last and final time. Whatever laws that were necessary for the advancement of human dignity and character were given in their final form by the last Messenger (PBUH). After this there was no need for any other guidance or any other mentor to guide the human ship to its final destination. Now, the only way to get to humanity’s balanced and straight path of life is the path on which the footprints of the Prophet (PBUH) are still shining – and will always shine – with glitter and high intensity.

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ ۚ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

(33:56) –Verily, Allah and His heavenly forces bless the Prophet: hence, O you who have attained to faith, bless him and give yourselves up to his guidance in utter self-surrender! 

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