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The Legacy of al-Khalil; Ibraheem [aleyhi salaam]

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

As the second #Eid of this year approaches, the news fills with stories and images about the upcoming hajj: the logistics, numbers (estimates put the number of pilgrims this year over 2 million), explanations and expectations abound. It’s odd to think that something that sounds so very complicated began as a very simple story, and that what now involves millions of people in the beginning involved two: Ismaa’eel and his father, Ibraahim.

We look up to so many people in our lives, and one of the most influential of those is often our father. Think of the example that Ismaa’eel had in his father, Ibraahim. What a noble upbringing he had, with such a person to guide him with word and deed. The thing is, just as Ibraahim was an incredible example for his son, so he is an amazing example for us. Let’s look at just three instances in the life of Prophet Ibraaheem and see just a small portion of what we can learn from him.

Today we see so many people worshipping other than Allaah, whether that be through following other religions or being held captive by their own desires. We have to remember that this is nothing new. Ibraaheem was born in a time when people worshipped many made up gods; indeed, his own father not only worshipped idols, he carved them and made his living selling them to others. When Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent Ibraaheem to call people to worship Allaah alone, who do you think he started with? His very own father.

“And mention in the Book [the story of] Abraham. Indeed, he was a man of truth and a prophet. [Mention] when he said to 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 ever been, to the Most Merciful, disobedient. 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]." (Surat Maryam, Ayats 41-45)

Ibraaheem started with his own family, hoping to save his father from Allaah’s punishment. So should we begin with our families, those we love the most, when calling to goodness and correct belief and action. And of our families, who deserves our attention more than our parents? In addition, look at how Ibraaheem approached Aazar. He points out the futility of the path his father is on, tells him that he has guidance for him, and expresses his fear that his father will be punished for his wrongdoing. In this we see an excellent example in calling to Allaah: clear, simple speech, gentleness along with truth and surety, and commanding the good and forbidding the evil. He was kind and patient in dealing with Aazar, but he was also persistent and honest. So often others are guided not as much by our words as by our character and actions. Ibraaheem combined all of these things when he called his father to tawheed.

As we mentioned before, the people who lived at the time of Ibraaheem worshipped many false gods. They were content and pleased with their worship of them, and saw no reason to change. On many occasions, Ibraaheem had to use creative and clever ways to open their eyes to the falsity of their beliefs and actions.

Ibraaheem spoke to his father and his people, saying, “What are these images to which you are devoted?” (Surat al-Anbiyaa’, Ayat 52)

They had no real answer for him, replying, “We found our fathers worshipping them.” (Surat al-Anbiyaa’, Ayat 53)

Ibraaheem pointed out to them that they and their ancestors were in error, but this did not stop them or deter them from what they were upon. Ibraaheem had to try other methods to shake them out of their complacency and to change their ideas and beliefs.

He waited until a festival day came in which they would all leave the town. He excused himself from going with them, saying he was ill. When they had all left, he went into the temple in which the idols were kept. He mocked them, knowing they could not reply. Then he took an axe and broke all except the biggest one, putting the axe in its hands so it would look like it had broken the other idols.

When the people returned, they said, “Who has done this to our gods? Indeed he must be one of the wrongdoers” (Surat al-Anbiyaa’, Ayat 59) Others answered them, saying, “We heard a young man talking against him, who is called Ibraaheem.” (Surat al-Anbiyaa’, Ayat 60)

They brought Ibraaheem in front of a crowd of his fellow townspeople and asked him if he was the one who had broken their idols. He replied, “Nay, this one, the biggest of them, did it. Ask them, if they can speak.” (Surat al-Anbiyaa’, Ayat 63)

The people then had to admit that their gods could not speak, and were filled with confusion and guilt. He then asked them why they worshipped that which could not hear nor speak, and could not benefit or harm them. He defeated them in argument and left them with no choice but to see the truth in his words and the message he conveyed.

Again, there are so many lessons to learn from Ibraaheem in this story. We see again how he did not give up when his message did not meet immediate acceptance. Instead, he tried different ways of getting people to realize the truth of what he said. So often we become discouraged when we don’t see the results we desire when calling to Allaah; instead, we should take heart, knowing that we have the truth, and that there are many ways to deliver it, alhamdulillah.

Ibraaheem pointed out the foolishness of their beliefs in a way that they could not deny. He showed them clearly how empty and silly their worship of inanimate objects truly was. In addition, Ibraaheem was not afraid to confront people with that which he knew they would not like. Truth is truth, we should not be afraid to speak it if we are able.

On the authority of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree who said:

I heard the Messenger of Allaah, sal Allaahu aleihi wa salam, say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” (Muslim)

There are, however, conditions of commanding the good and forbidding the evil.

1: That the person is capable of doing so.

Sheikh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahuAllaah, said, “Indeed capability is a condition for commanding good and forbidding evil. So its level of obligation on a particular person is in proportion to his capability, as Allaah, the Most High, said, “Have taqwa of Allaah as much as you are able.” (Surat at-Taghaaboon, Ayat 16) (From Majmoo’ al-Fataawa)

2: The person who is doing so has a measure of security.

Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, rahimahuAllaah, said, “It is obligatory on a person unless he becomes fearful; if he fears for himself, then he does not have to do it.” (From “al-Amr bi al Ma’roof wa an-Nahi ‘an al-Munkar)

The story of Ibraaheem is filled with examples of how he commanded the good and forbade the evil. We see his creativity in doing so, his wisdom, his love for his family and people, his patience and his tenacity. It is not always easy for us to stand up and continue to call people to righteousness, especially when they do not seem to be listening. We must take heart though, and persevere, reminding ourselves of the precedent set by our father Ibraaheem and the other prophets and messengers throughout the ages.

In this month of hajj, I encourage you to revisit the story of Ibraaheem as conveyed to us in the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Not only was he a wonderful example for his son, with whom he built the Ka’ba, but he remains a powerful example for us centuries later, as we strive to learn and live our Islaam to the fullest.

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