Prophet Ibrahim - Father of Islam, Judaism and Christianity
Faith, sacrifice, commitment and patience:
These are just some of the qualities that characterized Prophet
Ibrahim or Abraham as he is called in English (peace be upon him).
So it should come as no surprise that he is revered not just in
Islam, but in Christianity and Judaism as well. Prophet Ibrahim is also
a great personality to discuss in dialogues between Muslims, Jews and
Christians. Here is some basic information about him from the three
“Salam (peace) be upon Abraham!” God says in the Quran (37:109).
View of Prophet Ibrahim Mosque and Hebron in an old painting
In Islam, Prophet Ibrahim is the friend of God and the father of
Prophets (Ismail or Ishmael in English and Ishaq or Isaac and the
grandfather of Prophet Yaqub or Jacob). He is also one of the ancestors
of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Anyone who rejects Prophet Ibrahim is not a true believer in Islam.
Prophet Ibrahim plays a key role in this regard.In terms of beliefs, a
Muslim must believe in all of the Prophets. This includes not just
Prophet Ibrahim, but his sons Ismail, Ishaq, his grandson Yaqub and of
course his descendant Prophet Muhammad.
When it comes to the five pillars of Islam, the importance of Prophet
Ibrahim becomes even more evident.The second pillar of Islam is Salah,
the obligatory five daily prayers. Every Muslim who has reached the age
of puberty is accountable for their prayers, be he male or be she
female, whether they live in the desert of northern Arabia, a village of
northern Pakistan or an urban centre of North America.
During one part of each of these five prayers, Muslims must ask God
to send His blessings upon Prophet Ibrahim. Now calculate this: you’ve
got more than a few million Muslims, every day, five times a day, in
virtually every time zone on this planet asking God to send His
blessings on Prophet Ibrahim in the course of his/her prayer.
More importantly, the direction in which every Muslim must face when
praying is towards a structure Prophet Ibrahim built with his son Ismail:
the Kaba, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Prophet Ibrahim Mosque under Israeli occupation, in Hebron
about 20 miles
With regards to the Kaba, God says this about it: “The first House
(of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka (another name for
Makkah); full of blessings and guidance for all kinds of beings: in it
are signs manifest, the station of Abraham - whoever enters it attains
security; pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to God - those who can
afford the journey; but if any deny faith, God stands not in need of any
of His creatures”(Quran 3:96-97).
This leads to the second way in which this Prophet, described as the
intimate friend of God (Quran 4:125), is revered: Hajj. Hajj is the
pilgrimage every Muslim must make to Makkah at least once in his/her
lifetime. Hajj is also an obligation no Muslim is allowed to reject or
ignore. It is in this rite that Prophet Ibrahim’s importance becomes
even more prominent.
In general, Prophet Ibrahim’s centrality to this fifth pillar of
Islam is indicated by the Prophet Mohammed’s statement, You must adhere
to the traditions and rituals (of Hajj), for these have come down to you
from (your forefather) Ibrahim in heritage (Tirmidhi).
First, the Kaba is the central structure around which the Hajj takes
No Hajj is valid without going around this structure built by
Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail in counterclockwise fashion seven times.
Second, Muslims who perform the Hajj or Umra must run in the middle
portion of the distance between Safa and Marwa (two hills close to the
Kaba) seven times. This is a commemoration of the sacrifice of the wife
of Abraham, Hajira (may God be pleased with her) for her son Prophet
Ismail. Prophet Ibrahim had settled his wife and son in the valley of
Makkah by God’s order to pioneers a civilization. It was from this
civilization that the Prophet Mohammed was born.
Finally, Prophet’s Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son
Ismail for the sake of God exemplifies not only his sincere devotion to
God. The commemoration of this sacrifice is practised with the sacrifice
of an animal during Hajj and one of the two Islamic holy days:
Inside view of Prophet Ibrahim’s mosque
Both father and son willingly submitted to God’s command. God
substituted a ram in Ismail’s place at the last moment. God talks about
this incident in Quran 37:100-107.
The sacrifice that is offered by Muslims all over the world every
year (at Eid-ul-Adha) is in commemoration of the supreme act and spirit
of sacrifice offered by Prophet Abraham in lieu of his son Ismail.
According to A Concise Encyclopedia of Judaism by Dan Cohn-Sherbok (Oneworld
Publications 1998), Prophet Abraham is the father of Jewish
people.According to Scripture, he was the son of Terah and the father of
Isaac, who was born to Sarah, and he is also the father of Ishmael, who
was born to Hagar.
After leaving Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham travelled to Canaan,
visited Egypt and returned to Hebron. God appeared to him in a vision.
He promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land. God
tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen.
11:26-25:10).When the mother of Isaac, Sarah, died, Abraham bought the
cave of Macpelah as a burial place. Abraham died at the age of 175.
According to the Oxford Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion by
Louis Jacobs (Oxford University press 1999), the story of Abraham is
narrated in the book of Genesis (11:27-25:18). Here is an excerpt from
that section (from Genesis 22:2-13) which focuses on the Abraham’s
sacrifice of his son Isaac, according to Jewish tradition: And He said,
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the
land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the
mountains of which I shall tell you”.
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took
two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood
for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place which God had
Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar
off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the
lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.’
So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac
his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of
them went together.But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My
father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire
and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’
And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for
a burnt offering.” And the two of them went together.Then they came to
the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an alter there
and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on
the alter, upon the wood.
And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his
son. But the Angel of the Lord called him from heaven and said “Abraham,
Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him;
for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son,
your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and
there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horn. So Abraham
went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of
A majority of contemporary scholars think that he lived in
approximately the 18th century before the Christian Era.In the Jewish
tradition, he is the father of the Jews and Judaism.
God’s covenant with Abraham is expressed in the rite of circumcision
(Genesis 17) and male Jewish children, to this day are, for the most
This act is called ‘entry into the covenant of Abraham our father’,
and the name of the rite itself is the ‘berit’; the ‘covenant’.
Abraham is also considered the spiritual father of anyone who
converts to Judaism. At a Jewish conversion ceremony, a convert is given
a Hebrew name and is called a ‘child of Abraham our father’.
It is through the central figure of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him)
that Prophet Abraham is given prominence in the Christian
tradition.According to the Catholic Encyclopedia Volume 1 (1999, Kevin
Knight, online version), in the New Testament, the generation of Jesus
Christ is traced back to Abraham by St. Matthew.
Similarly, as the New Testament traces Prophet Jesus’ descent of
Jesus to Prophet Abraham, it does the same of all Jews in terms of
However, in the New Testament, it is not this carnal descent from
Abraham to which importance is attached but importance is placed on
practising the virtues attributed to Abraham in Genesis. Thus in John,
8, the Jews say (33): “We are the seed of Abraham”, and Jesus replies
(39): “If ye be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham”.
The Catholic Encyclopedia also notes that Prophet Abraham may
considered the source of Old Testament religion. From the days of
Prophet Abraham, men were accustomed to speaking of God as the God of
Abraham, while Prophet Abraham is not found referring in a similar way
to anyone preceding him.
According to the A Concise Encyclopedia of Christianity by Geoffrey
Parrinder (Oneworld Publications 1998), Abraham is a great Hebrew
patriarch and is considered the common spiritual father of the Abrahamic
religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Paul wrote of all those who
have faith being children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7). Prophet Abraham’s faith
and example is cited by many Christian authors.
According to Luke 16:22, Jesus spoke of Abraham’s bosom as a symbol
of Paradise (Luke 16:22).
Christians believe God first gave Abraham a son through a bond woman
named Hagar. This son was named Ishmael. God gave him a second son from
his barren wife Sarah. He was named Isaac.
According to Christian tradition, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his
son Isaac “to prove that he was ‘worthy of becoming the father of a
mighty nation, which would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the
grains of sand on the seashore’” (from A History of God, the 4,000-year
Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong published by
Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).
Islam: simple or complicated?
Islam is simple as philosophy, complicated as
They say in Persian: Shud pareeshaa(n) khwaab-e man az kasrat-e
ta’beerhaa (my dream got spoilt by so many interpretations), and it sums
up the case of Islam very well. May be our ta’beer of Islam is
complicated while Islam is in fact quite philosophical i.e. very simple.
Islam will be complicated when we will consider “interpretation of
Sharee’ah laws or Hadeeth or Fatwas or Personal laws or matters dealing
with madrasas” as ‘religious’ and matters like “Muslim educational
institutions, or reservation for Muslims in educational institutions and
jobs, or the need to address the community’s socioeconomic and
educational uplift, or the political situation of the community, or the
civil liberties, or the situation of Muslim women” as ‘non-religious’.
And we will do so with utmost self-confidence and with no room for
Islam is a ‘way of life’ - very simple. It sounds complicated because
it is divorced from life. It gives a direction and greater sense to all
that we do. Without it we will not be able to satisfactorily reason any
higher purposes of our actions. It gives the complete answer. If I were
to meet Charles Darwin I would ask him, “Thanks a lot for taking the
pain of explaining to us where we have come from. Kindly tell us more
about the origin of species and how the fittest survive.
After having done the above, please do one more favour and tell us
what are we supposed to do on this earth and what is our ultimate
objective and destination - after having successfully evolved from all
the named and unnamed species”. If, however, we settle down for an
incomplete answer then the simplicity of Islam will elude us.
Islam guides the human beings in every aspect of life with its
beautiful principles - without dividing it into the categories of
‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’ or Deeni and Dunyaawi. You divorce it
from life and it will become extremely complicated. It will become
difficult to understand and explain. Because it will not have a frame
It will lose the ground which is where it was supposed to be
standing. When you keep it in suspended animation it will not be itself.
It will certainly complicate the situation. When we hear a lecture
dealing only with what is beneath the earth or above the heavens we are
certainly going to say, “Islam is really complicated, my friend”.
Islam does not make the lawful unlawful and the unlawful lawful. It
is between transgression and monasticism. Islam is not about speeding
when the signal is red. It is not about remaining stationary even when
the signal is green. (For an assessment of the current situation we only
need to ask a few people about the percentage of Halaal and Haraam in
Islam and then analyze the answers.) This is what is meant by the
‘middlemostness’ (wasatiyyah), which is inherent to Islam. As soon as we
utter ‘Islam’ it immediately implies wasatiyyah. This is the
‘bi-polarity’ of Islam which combines the East and the West (soul and
body) - seamlessly. If, however, we do not combine the two despite
believing in Oneness then Islam will certainly be complicated. Islam and
truth are one and the same thing.
If instead of walking all the way to the truth we start urging the
truth to follow our path it will not remain simple anymore. Because it
will not remain truth anymore. An incomplete truth is anything but
Truth has never been complicated. Our perception of Islam has, in
fact, been partial and distorted. Truth is not easily recognized due to
the conditioning effects of generations after generations. Hence, truth
has become extremely ‘complicated’ and highly ‘philosophical’.
Islam is a religion of common humanity. It is as simple for that
humanity as air, light and water within everyone’s reach and satisfying
everyone’s need in all walks of life (whether public or private). If it
remained like that it was simple. But it has become a private affair.
Becoming a private affair and a matter of personal preference, it has
immediately become complicated. Now it is so complicated that we don’t
know in which aspects of our life we can refer to this manual and in
which situations there isn’t any need, in fact! In many a matters of
life it is obviously non-applicable!! Being applicable at one time and
non-applicable at another and a constant switching between the two is a
sure recipe for making it complicated.
For commonsense to become common and for philosophy to become simple
we will have to change our discourse. We will have to redefine the
terminologies which we frequently use in a borrowed sense. We are not
going to use new words for a change in the discourse.
We are only going to assign new meanings to the already existing
words. Or more correctly, to regain the lost meanings. If we do not do
so, Islam will not become as simple as philosophy and as complicated as
Saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
Antidote for harshness
It was narrated that Hudhaifa said: “I was harsh in the way I spoke
to my family, but not to others. I mentioned that to the Prophet (PBUH)
and he said, ‘Why don’t you ask for forgiveness? Ask Allah to forgive
you, seventy times each day.’” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
In this hadith Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) tells us what to do if we find
it difficult to be gentle and loving with those closest to us. He (PBUH)
told us to seek forgiveness from Allah many times a day.
This can be a sincere, heart-felt, ‘Astaghfirullah,’ or one of the
longer versions mentioned in Ahadith, such as ‘Astaghfirullaha wa atubu
Repenting and asking for Allah’s forgiveness are good deeds in
themselves because they are a way of feeling and demonstrating servitude
to Allah which He loves most. When we consider how small and
insignificant we and our Allah-gifted talents are, in comparison to Him,
it removes false pride from inside us that hardens our hearts and makes
us arrogant and harsh.