Lessons from the Life of Prophet Ibrahim AS (Part 1)

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This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque on 05th January 2020. It is a continuation of the verses of Surah Maryam. Summaries of the previous lectures on Surah Maryam containing lessons from the lives of Prophet Yahya, Sayidatina Maryam and Prophet Isa AS can be found here.

Verses Explained

Introduction

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا

Mention too, in the Quran, the story of Abraham. He was a man of truth, a prophet. [19:41]

 

In this verse, Prophet Muhammad SAW is requested to mention a story that is relevant to the people of Quraysh. The previous prophets mentioned in this surah (Prophet Yahya and ‘Isa AS) had been mentioned in the context of Prophet Muhammad SAW’s conversations with the People of the Book. The people of Quraysh were idol-worshippers. They did not relate to the Jews and Christians. However, they did take pride in being descendants of Prophet Ibrahim AS. Amongst the Quraysh, there were people who denounced idol worship. These people followed the religion of Prophet Ibrahim AS.

The following verses address the idol worshippers of the Quraysh who claim to be following the worship of their descendants. These verses remind them of the truth: The Prophet they claim to descend from (i.e. Prophet Ibrahim AS) believed in Allah and spoke against idol worship. Islamic monotheism is in fact the true religion of their forefathers, not idol-worship.

إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ يَا أَبَتِ لِمَ تَعْبُدُ مَا لَا يَسْمَعُ وَلَا يُبْصِرُ وَلَا يُغْنِي عَنكَ شَيْئًا

[Remember] when he said to his father, “O dear father! Why do you worship what can neither hear nor see, nor help you in any way? [19:42]

On Prophet Ibrahim AS’ Father

In previous Tafsir sessions some years back, we had covered the conversation between Prophet Ibrahim AS and his father in Surah At-Taubah. We know that the man referred to as “his father” in the Qur’an was called Aazar. The question was raised if was Aazar was Prophet Ibrahim AS’ biological father. Some people hold onto the principle that Prophets cannot descend from fathers and forefathers who are idol worshippers. They claim that only a man whose bloodline consisted of only monotheists can be worthy of being a Messenger of Allah.

We mentioned that the scholars of tafsir, including Imam Fakhruddin Ar-Razi in his book, Mafatih al-Ghayb, have discussed this matter. There are two main opinions concerning this matter. The first, that Aazar was truly his biological father. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, as mentioned by Sheikh Wahbah al-Zuhayli in his book Tafsir al-Muneer. The second opinion holds that it is impossible for Aazar to be his father; He was in fact Prophet Ibrahim AS’ uncle who had raised him. Prophet Ibrahim AS called him his father because of their close relationship, as is common practice in the Arab culture. We will not get into discussion concerning this matter, but for the purpose of this discussion, we will refer to him as his father.

This verse mentioned that Prophet Ibrahim AS addressed his father as “Abatii” instead of “Ab” or “Abii”. The title given indicates a level of respect, love, intimacy and kindness that Prophet Ibrahim AS had towards his father. He conversed with his father as such despite knowing Aazar’s serious Aqidah issues which could lead him to hellfire. He did not use harshness and firmness, instead he dealt with his father with gentleness and kindness. This can be similarly seen in how Prophet Musa and Prophet Harun AS, when dealing with the Pharaoh, used words of graciousness. It does not benefit you to use harsh words to soften a hard heart.

يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي قَدْ جَاءَنِي مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَمْ يَأْتِكَ فَاتَّبِعْنِي أَهْدِكَ صِرَاطًا سَوِيًّا

O dear father! I have certainly received some knowledge which you have not received, so follow me and I will guide you to the Straight Path.

يَا أَبَتِ لَا تَعْبُدِ الشَّيْطَانَ ۖ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ عَصِيًّا

O dear father! Do not worship Satan. Surely Satan is ever rebellious against the Most Compassionate. [19:43-44]

On Satan and Iblis

Idol worshippers would never claim to be worshipping Satan, they claim to be worshipping the idol gods. Prophet Ibrahim AS makes it clear that the worship of idols is in fact the worship of the Satan, because idol worshippers are following his teachings, whispers and guidance.

Allah SWT is Most Compassionate even towards someone as rebellious as Satan. He gives Satan the blessings and gifts of freedom, speech and life despite knowing, from the beginning of creation, that Satan was going to be someone who rebels against Him SWT. When we covered the story of Prophet Adam AS, we heard about how Iblis’ clear disobedience and arrogance led to his downfall. When sent to the Hellfire, he had made a request to Allah SWT, asking to be spared from the Fire for a while just so he could lead humankind astray. Allah SWT is Most Compassionate, He granted Iblis’ request despite His clear rebellion.

Notice the vast difference between the response of Prophet Adam AS and Iblis when it came to wrongdoing. Prophet Adam AS, after being reprimanded for a sin he had committed, went immediately to repentance, regret and self-correction. Iblis on the other hand, when reprimanded for a wrongdoing, avoided taking responsibility for it and even requested to do more sin. We need to strive out hardest to stay away from this attitude of Iblis. May Allah make us, the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad SAW, amongst the people who after committing a sin, rush to repentance and seek the Forgiveness of Allah.

يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَن يَمَسَّكَ عَذَابٌ مِّنَ الرَّحْمَٰنِ فَتَكُونَ لِلشَّيْطَانِ وَلِيًّا

My dear father, I fear lest a punishment from the All- Merciful (Allah) should afflict you, and you become a companion of Satan.” [19:45]

Being a companion of Satan implies being with him in the hereafter, in the punishment of the hellfire. There are numerous verses in the Quran which mention that in the hereafter, when the disbelievers are questioned regarding their disobedience, they would claim that Satan had led them into it. Satan would on that day dissociate himself from them, saying that he had only prompted them, but they were the ones who acted disobediently. We need to decide on our own whether we want to be a Waliy (companion, friend and follower) of Allah or a Waliy of Satan.

On Kindness

Prophet Ibrahim AS had used the following line of reasoning with his father:
(1) Why do you do worship that which cannot benefit you?
(2) I know the truth, come with me and I will help you out.
(3) Do not worship Satan, he is rebellious against Allah!
(4) I fear for you that if you do not stop, Allah will punish you.

This conversation had occurred out of love and respect for his father, with kind and gentle communication.

قَالَ أَرَاغِبٌ أَنتَ عَنْ آلِهَتِي يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ ۖ لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهِ لَأَرْجُمَنَّكَ ۖ وَاهْجُرْنِي مَلِيًّا

He (the father) said: “Do you reject my gods, O Ibrahim? If you stop not (this), I will indeed stone you. So get away from me safely before I punish you.” [19:46]

His father responded to his kind speech with harshness. Instead of referring to Prophet Ibrahim by an equally kind title of “Bunayya”, he referred to him by name, ousting him and telling him to leave him alone for a long duration.

قَالَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكَ ۖ سَأَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكَ رَبِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِي حَفِيًّا

Ibrahim said: “Peace be on you! I will ask Forgiveness of my Lord for you. Verily! He is unto me, Ever Most Gracious. [19:47]

As previously mentioned, a true believer, when addressed by the ignorant, responds with “Peace!” and chooses to walk away from the conversation. Prophet Ibrahim AS responded to the harshness thrown at him with kindness and gentleness, wishing his father well and seeking forgiveness for him.

Prophet Ibrahim AS demonstrated humility in saying that Allah SWT had been kind to him. The reality is that the more honourable a person, the more humility he would exude. The same can be seen in Prophet Muhammad SAW, whom we know is the best of mankind. He SAW was known to make Istighfar 70 or 100 times per day, asking for forgiveness from Allah. Prophet Ibrahim AS in this verse, says that in spite of his own faults and limitations, Allah had been kind to him. He wanted his father to know that Allah would likewise do good for his father.

Where did Prophet Ibrahim AS’ compassion come from? Prophet Ibrahim was aware that Allah SWT is Most Compassionate and Most Gracious. Regardless of how disobedient and flawed we are as His slaves, the doors of repentance and mercy are always open for us for as long as Allah gives us another day to live. Knowing this, we should realise that we as humans have no right to treat others unkindly, regardless of who they are and what they do as a person. Whenever we feel tempted to cause harm onto someone, remember, that despite our own wrong actions, Allah has not yet reciprocated our acts with harm. When we are tempted to not forgive someone for their mistakes, remember, that regardless of our own flaws, Allah has never given up on us or closed the doors of repentance for us.

 On Seeking Forgiveness for Disbelievers

There was a hadith of a companion of Prophet Muhammad SAW making supplication, asking Allah for forgiveness for his disbelieving parents who had died. Another companion questioned him about it, and he responded by saying that Prophet Ibrahim AS had done the same. When these companions referred the issue to Prophet Muhammad SAW, the following verse was revealed in Surah At-Taubah:

مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِيِّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَن يَسْتَغْفِرُوا لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ وَلَوْ كَانُوا أُولِي قُرْبَىٰ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْجَحِيمِ

It is not fitting for the Prophet and the believers to ask forgiveness for the idolaters- even if they are related to them- after having been shown that they are the inhabitants of the Blaze [9:113]

So how do we reconcile these two verses? There are no contradictions in the Quran. One explanation given by the scholars is that the verse of Surah At-Taubah applies to people who clearly choose to remain in disbelief to the day that they die (i.e. They have died in disbelief). In verse 47 of Surah Maryam, Prophet Ibrahim AS was addressing his father who was still alive. There was still hope for the father’s acceptance of Islam.

وَمَا كَانَ اسْتِغْفَارُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ إِلَّا عَن مَّوْعِدَةٍ وَعَدَهَا إِيَّاهُ فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ أَنَّهُ عَدُوٌّ لِّلَّهِ تَبَرَّأَ مِنْهُ ۚ إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لَأَوَّاهٌ حَلِيمٌ

And in no way was Ibrahim’s asking forgiveness for his father (for any reason) except for a commitment he had promised him; so, as soon as it became evident to him that he was an enemy of Allah, he declared himself quit of him; surely Ibrahim was indeed most plaintive, constantly forbearing. [9:114]

It was known that the father of Prophet Ibrahim AS had previously promised to Ibrahim AS that he would reflect and consider accepting the faith of Ibrahim. As such, it was not wrong for him to seek forgiveness for his father at that point of time. However, the moment his disbelief was clear, Prophet Ibrahim no longer asked forgiveness for him.

Another opinion regarding these verses is that Prophet Ibrahim AS had not asked for forgiveness for his father. Rather, he had asked Allah for the guidance of his father and the softening of his heart towards Islam. There is nothing wrong with that for as long as the disbeliever is still alive and still has hopes of accepting Islam.

On Giving Salam to Disbelievers

There is a question raised on the permissibility of giving Salaam (greeting) to the disbelievers. In verse 47 of Surah Maryam, we can see Prophet Ibrahim AS himself giving Salaam to his father who was in clear disbelief. However, in a hadith of Sahih Muslim, it was mentioned:

اَ تَبْدَءُوا الْيَهُودَ وَلاَ النَّصَارَى بِالسَّلاَمِ

Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you

With reference to these two sources, there are two contrasting opinions regarding this issue. The first is that it is permissible, the second is that it is not.

There is a renowned scholar of hadith named Sufyan ibn Uyaynah, from the generation of the Tabi’ Tabi’in, who was questioned regarding this issue. He had been one of the teachers of Imam Syafi’i. His opinion had been that it is permissible. The first evidence he gave was in Surah Al-Mumtahanah:

لَّا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ

Allah does not forbid you as regards those who did not fight you on account of faith, and did not expel you from your homes, that you do good to them, and deal justly with them. Surely Allah loves those who maintain justice. [60:8]

He explained that the giving of Salaam is included under the act of “doing good” to disbelievers. The second evidence he gave was verse 47 of Surah Maryam, as mentioned above.

Imam Awzai, a great Fiqh scholar who was considered as having a Mazhab of his own, used to give salaam to every person he met, be it believer or disbeliever. When questioned about it, he responded by with saying a phrase which loosely translates to:

“If you do it, there were pious people of the past who have also done it. If you leave it, there were pious people of the past who have also left it.”

The choice of which opinion to follow is completely up to you. It is not a big deal whichever opinion you hold, especially when it comes to matters where there have been differences in opinion even during the times of the companions of the Prophet SAW. In Singapore, it is not a common practice to give Salaam to non-Muslims. This does not make the practice wrong. Be open to differences in opinion, agree to disagree and respect the choice that others make, if they choose to give salaam to non-Muslims.

With that, we will resume with the following three verses of Surah Maryam in the upcoming session. May Allah protect us and grant us the wisdom to derive benefit and put into action the verses that we have covered during this session.

Ameen.

 

——————–

Summary by: Arina Adom

Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables me to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.

Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS and is currently a Research Assistant at Evolutionary Biology Lab ( NUS ). She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.

Arina Adom – Linkedin Profile


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