Featured Prophets

Prophets of God – Part 2

40 The Review of Religions –February 2006 Hadrat Ibrahim (Abraham) (as) The followers of three principle religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, hold Abraham(as) in great reverence. He was a native of Ur. Ur in present day is called Al-Muqayyar (or Mughair), and is about two hundred miles south east of Baghdad in Iraq. Abraham(as) was brought up in the house of his uncle Azar. The Bible mentions different name of A b r a h a m ’s father that is Te r a h (Genesis 11:26) Tharah (Luke 3:34) and ecclesiastical history mentions Athar as his father. The Holy Qur’an mentions Azar as his Ab (Ch.6:V.75). Ab in Arabic is equally applicable to father, uncle and grandfather. His paternal uncle ran a shop where idols were sold and Abraham(as) observed the crafting of idols at his uncle’s home. The idols were made by humans and sold to public as their gods. One day his uncle left Abraham(as) at the shop to attend to customers. An old man came to the shop and said: ‘I want to buy an Idol.’ Abraham(as) asked him, Which one would you like to h a v e ? A b r a h a m( a s ) showed that idol to him. He was about to buy that idol when Abraham asked the man: ‘How old are you?’ The man replied: ‘Seventy years.’ Upon this Abraham(as) told him: ‘This idol was made only yesterday. Won’t you feel ashamed while bowing down before a day-old idol?’ These words of Abraham(as) had a great effect on the old man and he did not buy the idol and went home. Such was the dislike of idols to Abraham(as) even during his youth. He would voice his displeasure time and again. In the beginning he discussed this issue very politely but later had bitter G o d PROPHETS of Part 2 By Daud A Hanif – USA A brief introduction to some of the major prophets. Last month we looked briefly at the life of Prophet Noah(as). In this issue, we look at Hadhrat Ibrahim(as). 41The Review of Religions – February 2006 discussions with his uncle. His uncle mostly ignored such religious discussions but at the end warned Abraham(as) of severe consequences. However, A b r a h a m ’s( a s ) uncle was very much impressed by his noble character and offered him his daughter Sarah in marriage. A b r a h a m(as) Appointed as Prophet Abraham(as) lived a pious life and was always engaged in doing of good. He walked on the path of righteousness but most of the people of his time were bent towards the world. The unity of God taught by Noah ( a s ) h a d vanished from the surface of the world and people were groping in darkness, engaging themselves in the worship of idols. God appointed Abraham(as) a Prophet to stamp out the worship of idols from the society. Since his childhood, Abraham(as) had abhorred idols and now he was commissioned to uproot the worship of idols from society. He wasted no time and embarked on the task in full earnest. He went to his father and said: ‘Dost thou take idols for Gods? Surely I see and thy people in manifest error.’ (Ch.6:V.75) Abraham(as) spoke in public and private about the futility of idol worship. His method of a rgumentation was mostly sarcastic. During his evening meetings, Abraham( a s ) used to invite those who worshipped the sun and the moon and other heavenly bodies as their gods to his house. During one of these discussions, on seeing a star he observed: ‘O this is my Lord.’ But when it set, he said: ‘I do not like those who set’ (Ch.6:V.77). Then he saw the moon rise with spreading light, he said: ‘Can this be my Lord?’ But when it set, he said: ‘If my Lord guide me not, I shall surely be of the people who go astray’ (Ch.6:V.78). ‘And when he saw the sun rise with spreading light, he said: ‘Can this be my Lord? This is the greatest.’ But when it also set, he said: ‘O my people! Surely I am clear of that which you associate with God’ (Ch.6:V.79) Thus he exposed the false beliefs of his people. He spoke ironically to taunt them of their folly. PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 42 The Review of Religions –February 2006 Discussion with the King A b r a h a m( a s ) was a great iconoclast. His people wor- shipped the sun and the stars, their chief god being Merodach (Madruk), originally the god of the morning and the spring sun (Enc. Bib. & Enc. Rel. Eth, ii p. 296). They believed that all life depended on the sun. Abraham(as) very wisely asked the infidel King that if he, as he claimed, controlled life and death, then let him reverse the course of the sun on which all life depended. The King was in a fix. He could not say that he could not accept Abraham’s(as) challenge to bring the sun from the west to the east, for that would have demolished his claim of being the controller of life and death. At the same time, if he had said that he could do so, it meant that he claimed to exercise control over the sun which would have been a great blasphemy in the eyes of his people who worshipped the sun. Thus he was completely confounded and did not know what to say. He was defeated squarely. Debate with People Under the guidance of God, Abraham(as) continued his mission d i l i g e n t l y. One of his great debates is recorded in the Holy Qur’an as follows: “When he said to his father and his people, ‘What are these images to which you are so devoted?’ They replied, ‘We found our fathers worshipping them.’ He said, ‘Indeed, you yourselves as well as your fathers, have indeed been in manifest error.’ They said, ‘Is it really the truth that thou hast brought us, or a rt thou one of those who jest?’ He replied, ‘Nay, your Lord is the Lord of heavens and the e a rth, He Who made them; and I am one of those who bear witness to that; and, by Allah, I will certainly plan against your idols after you have gone away and turned your backs.’ So he broke them into pieces, all accept the chief of them, that they may return to it. They said, ‘Who has done this to our gods? Surely, he must be a wrongdoer.’ PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 43The Review of Religions – February 2006 They said, ‘We heard a young man speak ill of them; he is called Abraham.’ They said, ‘Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may bear witness.’ Then they said to Abraham, ‘Is it thou who hast done this to our gods, O Abraham?’ He replied, ‘Aye, somebody has surely done this. Here is their chief but ask them if they can speak.’ Then they turned towards one another and said, ‘Yo u yourselves are surely in the wrong.’ And their heads were made to hang low for shame and they said to Abraham, ‘Certainly thou knowest well that these do not speak.’ He said, ‘Do you then worship, instead of Allah, that which cannot profit you at all, nor harm you? Fie on you and on that which you worship instead of Allah! Can you not understand?’ (Ch.21:Vs.53-68) It should be remembered that Abraham(as) always spoke to idol worshippers with irony and sarcasm. In this debate he ‘seems to have rebuked his people and to have brought home to them the futility of their idolatrous practices, first by breaking the idols and then by challenging their votaries to ask those idols, if they could speak, to tell them who had broken them.’ Abraham(as) Thrown in the Fire This infuriated his opponents. The chiefs, instead of accepting the truth, were enraged and said, ‘Burn him and help your gods if at all you mean to do something.’ But Allah commanded: ‘O fire, be thou a means of coolness and safety for Abraham!’ The Qur’an says: And they had sought to do evil to him, but we made them the worst losers. (Ch.21:V.71) God frustrated their plans and saved Abraham(as) ‘How the fire became cool we are not told. Timely rain or a stormy hurricane might have extinguished it. In any event God did bring about circumstances, which led to PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 44 The Review of Religions –February 2006 A b r a h a m ’s deliverance. There is always an element of mystery in heavenly miracles; and the manner of Abraham( a s ) being saved from the fire was indeed a great miracle. That A b r a h a m( a s ) had been cast into the fire is credited not only by the Jews, but also by the eastern Christians – 25th of the second Canun, or January being set apart in the Syrian Calendar for the commemoration of the event.’ (Hyde, De Rel. Vet Pers., p. 73) A b r a h a m( a s ) was seventy-five years old when God commanded him to migrate. He journeyed from Ur (Mesopotamia) to Harran and from there to Canaan, which God decreed to give to him till p o s t e r i t y. This journey had a precise objective. In pursuance of Divine plan and design, all the great Prophets or their followers, at one time or another, have to migrate from their homes. In the like manner Abraham( a s ) was asked to migrate. A b r a h a m( a s ) migrated from Ur with a few selected members including his nephew Lot. They passed through Egypt. The king was impressed by Abraham ( a s ) a n d o ffered some presents and a royal lady by the name of Hagar to him. A b r a h a m( a s ) and Sarah did not have any child, so when Hagar was presented to Abraham( a s ) by the king of Egypt, Sarah married her to Abraham( a s ) so that they could have a child. Abraham( a s ) w a s eighty-five when he married H a g a r. All of them were earnestly supplicating God for righteous p r o g e n y. The Bible mentions the childless state of Abraham( a s ) a s f o l l o w s : ‘And Abraham said, “Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.” And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, “This man shall not be thine heir, but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine h e i r.” And He brought him forth abroad, and said, “Look now towards heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to count them,” and he said unto him, “So shall thy seed be.”’ (Genesis 15:3-5) PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 45The Review of Religions – February 2006 God heard their prayers. The angel spoke with Hagar and said, says the Bible: ‘And the angel of Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.’ (Genesis 16:10,11) The first child was born to A b r a h a m( a s ) from Hagar. The Bible says: ‘Abraham was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abraham.’ (Genesis 16:16) Promises of God with Sarah and Hagar After the birth of Ishmael, Sarah the elder wife of Abraham(as), was also promised by God of a child. In fact multiple promises were given to them for their progeny. The Bible says: ‘And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.’ (Genesis 17:16-20) Abraham(as) Settles His Only Son in Makkah Abraham(as) did nothing of his own accord, other than what he was PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 46 The Review of Religions –February 2006 commanded by God. He took Ishmael and his mother Hagar to the appointed land in the wilderness of Arabia and while settling them there offered the following prayer: Our Lord, I have settled some of my progeny in an uncultivable valley near Thy Sacred House – Our Lord, – that they may observe prayer. So make men’s heart incline t o w a rds them and pro v i d e them with fruits and that they may be thankful. Our Lord, certainly, Thou knowest what we conceal and what we make known. And nothing whatever is hidden from Allah, whether in the earth or in the heaven. (Ch.14:Vs.38-39) Ishmael was yet a child when in obedience to Divine command and in fulfillment of Divine plan, A b r a h a m( a s ) brought him and his mother Hagar to the bleak and barren tract where Makkah now stands. At that time there was no sign of life and no means of sustenance at the place ( B u k h a r i ). But God had so designed that the place should become the scene of the activities of God’s last message for mankind. Ishmael was chosen as the vehicle for the implementation of this divine plan. The prayer was made at a time when not a blade of grass was to be seen for many miles around Makkah. Yet the prophecy met with fulfillment in a marvelous m a n n e r, for the choicest fruits now reach Makkah in plenty, in all seasons. It is recorded in the history that when Abraham(as) left his child and his wife in that barren land, Hagar ran after him and asked Abraham: ‘A re you leaving us here?’ He did not answer. Then she asked him again saying: ‘Are you leaving us here by the command of God?’ A b r a h a m( a s ) just pointed towards the sky. She understood this and said: ‘Then God will not waste us’ a n d returned to the baby. What a faithful lady she was! She trusted in God and He provided her with all the necessary things and protected them. The child grew in that atmosphere, under those circumstances and in due course this place became a town. PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 47The Review of Religions – February 2006 Abraham(as) Sacrifices His Son Abraham(as) had seen a dream that he was slaughtering his only son. When Ishmael was mature, Abraham(as) came to visit them and mentioned the dream to him. The Holy Qur’an mentions the whole episode as follows: And he prayed, My Lord, grant me a righteous son. So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing son. And when he was old enough to work with him, he said, ‘O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I am sacrificing thee. So consider what thou thinkest of it!’ He replied, ‘O my father, do as thou art commanded; thou wilt find me, if Allah pleases, of those who are patient.’ And when they both submitted to the will of God, and he [Abraham] had thrown him down on his forehead. We called to him, ‘O Abraham. Thou hast, indeed fulfilled the dream.’ Thus, indeed, do we reward those who do good.” (Ch.37:Vs.101-106) On the contrary the Bible says: ‘And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest and get thee into the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt- o ffering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’ (Genesis 22:2) In this self-contradicting state- ment, Isaac has been mentioned as the only son, while the reality is that Isaac was at no time of his life Abraham’s only son. The only son was Ishmael who was thirteen years older than Isaac. It is clear from the Bible and the Holy Q u r’an that the incident took place when the son was able to do some work along with the father. It sets the age of the child at the time of the incident at about twelve years. And it was Ishmael who was the only son of A b r a h a m( a s ) up to the age of twelve as Isaac was not yet born. However, after this incident God gave glad tidings about the birth of Isaac. The Holy Qur’an says: And we gave him the glad tidings of Isaac, a Prophet, and one of the righteous. (Ch.37:V.113) PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 48 The Review of Religions –February 2006 A year later, when Abraham( a s ) w a s hundred years old, Isaac was born. Genesis 22:6 tells us that the son o ffered as sacrifice was not a baby. He in fact carried the wood of the burnt offering on his head, and Genesis 22:12 describes that the son offered as sacrifice was the only son. Here it does not mention any name. At the time of sacrifice, A b r a h a m( a s ) was ninety-nine years old and the only son he had at that time was Ishmael. It seems that the writers of the Bible, while claiming credit of sacrifice, have deliberately changed Ishmael with Isaac, and Marwah (a hillock in the vicinity of Makkah) to Moriah. M o r e o v e r, in the religious ceremonies of the Jews and the Christians, no trace of the supposed sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham( a s ) i s found. Muslims, who are the spiritual descendants of Ishmael, commemorate each year with great fervour his intended sacrifice, by slaughtering rams and goats all over the world on the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah. This universal sacrifice of quadrupleds by Muslims establishes beyond dispute the fact that it was Ishmael and not Isaac whom Abraham( a s ) offered for sacrifice. In reality, Abraham ( a s ) was not required to fulfill his vision in the literal sense. It was only a practical demonstration of his intention and preparedness to sacrifice his son which was desired of him. The vision had already symbolically been fulfilled in Hagar and Ishmael having been left by Abraham( a s ) i n the valley of Makkah, a land of arid and barren waste. That brave act had, in fact, symbolised the sacrifice of Ishmael. The other purpose of the divine command to Abraham ( a s ) first to sacrifice his son, and then to abstain from it, was to abolish human sacrifice, a most inhuman practice prevalent among most nations at the time. Abraham(as) as a Law-Bearing P ro p h e t A b r a h a m( a s ) followed the law of N o a h( a s ) up to fifty years. T h e r e a f t e r, when: God tried him with cert a i n commands, which he fulfilled, God said:… I will make thee a leader of men. Abraham asked, ‘And from among my offspring?’ God said, ‘My covenant does not embrace PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 49The Review of Religions – February 2006 the transgre s s o r s . ’ ( C h . 2 : V. 1 2 5 ) In the great trial of sacrifice of his only son, Abraham’s ( a s ) conduct proved par excellent. The time demanded a new law so God chose Abraham( a s ) for it. The House of God had fallen to ruins and it required reconstruction. Under the command of God, A b r a h a m( a s ) and Ishmael rebuilt it on the old foundations ( C h . 2 : V.128). God enjoined on him saying: ‘… Associate not anything with Me and keep My House clean for those who perform the circ u i t s , and those who stand up and those who bow down and fall prostrate in prayer. (Ch.22:V.27) A b r a h a m( a s ) p roclaims pil- grimage (Hajj) for mankind. God instituted pilgrimage (Hajj) for mankind through Abraham(as). He ordered him saying: And proclaim unto men the Pilgrimage. They will come to thee on foot, and on every lean camel, coming by every distant track. (Ch.22:V.28) Thus the pilgrimage as an institution began with the Patriarch Abraham( a s ) and has continued without a break to this d a y. The gathering in Makkah every year of many hundreds of thousands of Muslims from every distant land bears an irrefutable testimony to the fulfillment of this prophecy. Shariah of Abraham (as) The laws introduced through Abraham(as) were contained in the Scriptures, but these have not been preserved as they were intended for a limited period only. However they are mentioned as Scriptures of Abraham(as) in the Holy Qur’an (Ch.87:V.20). The Holy Qur’an tells us that the Scriptures contained the following: Verily, he, truly prospers who purifies himself, and remembers the name of his Lord and offers Prayers. But you prefer the life of this world, whereas the Hereafter PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 50 The Review of Religions –February 2006 is better and more lasting. This, indeed, is what is taught in the former Scriptures. The S c r i p t u res of Abraham and Moses. (Ch.87:Vs.15-20) Abraham(as) taught a simple form of unity of God to his people. The laws of Abraham(as) remained in force till the time of Moses( a s ) when other laws were introduced. Rise and Fall of Abraham’s Progeny Hadhrat Abraham( a s ) was very much concerned about the renaissance of his people. He supplicated to God saying: … ‘My Lord, show me how Thou givest life to the dead.’ He [God] said, ‘Hast thou not believed?’ He [Abraham] said, ‘Yes, but I ask this that my heart may be at rest.’ He [God] answered, ‘Take four birds and make them attached to thyself. Then put each of them on a hill; then call them; they will come to thee in haste.’ … (Ch.2:V.261) This is a vision of Abraham(as) in which he was shown the way to train his followers and regenerate them. The interpretation of ‘taking of four birds’ in this vision meant that his posterity would rise and fall four times, a phenomenon that was to be witnessed twice among the Israelites, and to be repeated twice later on among the followers of the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) who was a descendent of Abraham(as) through Ishmael. The power of the Jews, the progeny of A b r a h a m( a s ) through Isaac, was crushed twice, first by Nebuchadnezzar and then by Titus (17:5-8) (Enc. Brit. under ‘Jews’). Each time God raised them after their fall, the second revival having been brought about by Constantine, the Roman Emperor who accepted Christianity. Similarly, the power of Islam was first rudely shaken when Baghdad fell to the Tartar hordes, but soon it recovered from the crushing b l o w. The victors became the vanquished and the grandson of Hulagu Khan, the despoiler of Baghdad, was converted to Islam. The second fall came when there was a general and wholesale PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2 51The Review of Religions – February 2006 decline of Muslims both in the spiritual and political field ( C o m m e n t a r y, 2:262). God has raised the Promised Messiah(as) in the latter days for the second renaissance of Islam, which is to take place through peaceful means. The Promised Victory The Holy Qur’an states: And already We have written in the Book of David, after the exhortation, that My righteous servants shall inherit the land. (Ch.21:V.106) This is a divine decree and nobody can alter the decree of God. In our assessment, the hearts of dwellers of Palestine will be won over by true Islam, that is, Ahmadiyyat and those truly righteous follow- ers of God will inherit it. Abraham’s(as) Prayer for a Great Prophet Among His Progeny The Holy Qur’an says: And, our Lord, raise up among them a Messenger from among themselves, who may recite to them Thy signs and teach them the Book and Wisdom and may purify them; surely, Thou art the Mighty, the Wise. (Ch.2:V.130) In this verse Abraham(as) prayed for a great Prophet with specific missions. This was later fulfilled in the person of Muhammed(sa) a descendent of Ishmael, on whom the fiery law (Deuteronomy 33:2) for all mankind was revealed in the form of the Holy Qur’an. (Reproduced from The Muslim Sunrise, USA) PROPHETS OF GOD – PART 2