The Prophecy Series: Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH)

March 13, 2024

As Muslims around the world arrive for the sacred Hajj pilgrimage or prepare for fasting, prayer and charitable giving during the Dhul Hijjah period, it’s important that we remind ourselves of the story behind Hajj. It all begin with prophet Ibrahim (as), one of the greatest of God’s creations. His life was filled with tribulations, all of which we can learn from, and through which prophet Ibrahim became an exemplar for mankind. Through his sincere submission and unflinching faith, he came to be known as The Friend of Allah. In this article, we will know more about prophet Ibrahim's early, prophecy life and his miracles.

Who Was Prophet Ibrahim?

Early life

In the kingdom of Babylon, idols were worshipped as though they were gods. Ibrahim’s father 'Aazr' was a well-known sculptor and he would craft idols from stone or wood. As a child, prophet Ibrahim would watch his father work, often using the finished idols as playthings. prophet Ibrahim couldn’t understand why people were worshipping these ornaments of stone in the temples. His father explained that the statues represented gods and people would offer them food and other gifts whilst asking for favors. This explanation didn’t satisfy prophet Ibrahim . In his heart, he felt that it was wrong. As he grew older, prophet Ibrahim became even more convinced that the idols his people worshipped were false. He would often question, ‘how could statues of wood and stone be gods?’ Especially considering the statues would have no power to either benefit or harm, being mere objects.

The Beginning of Prophecy

Ibrahim now had a brand new mission – to call his people to the Truth and help them accept Allah as their one true God. First, he turned to his father who he loved so dearly. As mentioned in the Quran {(74) When Abraham said to his father Āzar, "Do you take idols as deities? Indeed, I see you and your people to be in manifest error.} (74 -Al-An‘ām) Angrily, his father rejected Ibrahim’s request and told him to get out of his sight. Undeterred, prophet Ibrahim decided to channel his efforts towards bringing the people of his town towards the message of Allah, but they rejected his words and threatened him with violence. prophet Ibrahim was given inspiration to adopt a different approach to change the hearts and minds of his people.

On the eve of a big celebration, Ibrahim knew that the townsfolk would be leaving to share a huge feast. When they had left, Ibrahim went into their temple to carry out a prophet mission: to demolish their idols, except one, the largest idol, so that he could explain to them the error of their ways. When the townspeople returned, they were horrified. Their idols lay in ruins. They quickly remembered that prophet Ibrahim had been encouraging them to worship Allah alone and to submit to the monotheistic faith of Ibrahim. {(62) They said, "Have you done this to our gods, O Abraham? (63) He said, "Rather, this - the largest of them - did it, so ask them, if they should [be able to] speak. (64) So they returned to [blaming] themselves and said [to each other], "Indeed, you are the wrongdoers. (65) Then they reversed themselves,[893] [saying], "You have already known that these do not speak! (66) He said, "Then do you worship instead of Allāh that which does not benefit you at all or harm you?}  (62 66 Al-Anbiyā’) They were silent, knowing that Ibrahim had made a valid point, but their pride wouldn’t allow them to reject the idols they’d been worshipping for generations. Anger surged in the crowd. 

The Miracle of the Fire  

The crowd bayed for prophet Ibrahim to be burned. They wanted revenge for the damage to their idols and only Ibrahim’s blood would do. The decision to burn him alive was sanctioned by Nimrod, the king of Babylon, and his priests. News travelled fast and thousands of people from all over the kingdom arrived to witness the execution. {(68) They said, "Burn him and support your gods - if you are to act.} (68 - Al-Anbiyā’)

A huge pit was dug in the ground and filled with wood. It was the biggest fire anyone had ever seen. Ibrahim was shackled, his hands and feet chained tightly together, and he was fitted into a giant catapult that would throw him in the fire. At that moment, prophet Ibrahim was visited by the Angel Gabriel, who said: “Is there anything you wish for?”.  prophet Ibrahim replied that his only wish was for Allah to be pleased with him. He could’ve asked for anything, but instead of begging for his life to be saved, he chose to ask for the blessing of God. He ordered the fire to be nothing but cool and peaceful for Ibrahim, and the fire obeyed, burning only Ibrahim’s chains. {(69) We [i.e., Allāh] said, "O fire, be coolness and safety upon Abraham.} (69 - Al-Anbiyā’) Prophet Ibrahim walked out the fire without a bead of sweat upon his skin or hint of smoke coming from his clothing. Spectators gasped in amazement, crying: “Ibrahim’s God has saved him from the flames!”

Marriage with Sarah

After defeating the Babylonian king Nimrod in a battle of words, Ibrahim continued his important mission – spreading the word of Allah. Only a woman named Sarah and a man named Lot would listen and followed prophet Ibrahim. The group of three travelled to Syria and Palestine, calling people to the service of Allah and performing good works. Ibrahim and Sarah married, hoping to have children who would help to spread the message of Allah but as time passed, it became apparent that Sarah couldn’t get pregnant. The couple relocated in Egypt, where Sarah was given a female servant named Hajar. Sarah was saddened to see her husband’s hair growing white. She couldn’t bear to watch him age without fathering any children, so she offered Hajar as a second wife to her husband. After praying to Allah, Ibrahim and Hajar were blessed with a baby boy who they named Ismail. 

As-Safa and Al-Marwa

Allah instructed the prophet Ibrahim to prepare Hajar and baby Ismail for a long journey. The family travelled to the Arabian desert, where sand dunes stretched out for miles and there was no sign of human habitation. Ibrahim made Hajar and Ismail climb a hill called al-Marwa and left his wife and child under the shelter of a tree, equipped with a bag of dates and some water. He then set out for home. Hajar and Ismail’s supplies of food and water were soon gone, and mother and son became increasingly dehydrated. In desperation, Hajar ran up the hills of as-Safa and al-Marwa seven times, straining her eyes to see if a passing nomad could be spotted in the distance. Finally, she collapsed, exhausted.

Then Hajar heard a voice. The Angel Gabriel appeared, striking his foot against the sandy ground. A stream of water gushed forth and Hajar scooped up water to drink and fill her water-skin with. The stream was called Zamzam, and to this day, Muslims on the Hajj pilgrimage will drink this holy water. Hajar now had a water source that allowed her to trade with passing travelers. Soon mother and son had all the food and drink they needed. More and more people were drawn to the running water and set up camp nearby. They sent for their families and started a new life in Makkah, turning the barren desert into a bustling settlement.

Eid al-Adha

Years later, Ibrahim returned to Makkah to see his son a grown man. Allah wanted to test Ibrahim’s submission again. In a dream, the prophet Ibrahim was instructed to sacrifice his son Ismail to Allah. Ibrahim told Ismail about the dream, and both agreed to submit to the will of God. Ismail lay prostrate with his forehead touching the ground, while his father laid a sharp knife upon his neck. {(102) And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, "O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think." He said, "O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allāh wills, of the steadfast." (103) And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead} (102 - 103 As-Sāffāt)

At this moment, Allah called down: {(104) We called to him, "O Abraham, (105) You have fulfilled the vision." Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. (106) Indeed, this was the clear trial. (107) And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice} (104 - 107 As-Sāffāt) A large ram appeared as an alternative sacrifice, and instead of killing his son, Ibrahim slaughtered the sheep to the glory of God. We also commemorate the obedience of the prophet Ibrahim (as) by sacrificing an animal (usually a sheep or a cow), or paying for an animal to be sacrificed on their behalf and the meat distributed to the poor. 

The Construction of the Kaaba

Together, Ibrahim and Ismail continued to call people to worship God but there was no place solely for praying to Him. Ibrahim wished that there was a special place for people to find peace and focus completely on the praise of Allah. Soon after, Allah ordered Ibrahim to build the Sacred House, or the Kaaba. 

Ibrahim and his son worked together to build the Kaaba. They chose a hillock, elevated from the surrounding land and began laying foundations. Ismail found the stones, while his father placed them to build high walls. When the construction was finished, the Angel Gabriel came down from heaven to teach Ibrahim the rituals of Hajj. Using a large stone as a platform, Ibrahim addressed his people, urging them to obey Allah. This large stone can still be seen near the Kaaba. It is known as ‘Makam Ibrahim’. Every year, millions of Muslims from all over the world travel to Makkah in Saudi Arabia to circle the Kaaba that Ibrahim (as) and Ismail (as) built and run between the two hills of al-Marwa and as-Safa, just like Hajar did.