The Advent of Ibrahim (Abraham):
Long ago Almighty Allah gave the honor of His choice to a man called Ibrahim. He became the Prophet. His native Mesopotamia is the present southern 'Iraq. He was an ideal model for mankind. Speaking highly of him the Holy Qur'an says:
﴾Ibrahim was indeed a paragon of virtue, obedient to Allah, ever inclined to Him and he was not of those who set up equals to Allah. He was ever grateful for His favours, We chose him and guided him to a straight path; and We bestowed on him good in this world and in the Hereafter, he will surely be among the righteous. (16: 121-123) ﴿
His Nation was Staunch Worshippers of Idols:
In the days of the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) ignorance prevailed upon the minds of the people. Most of the people had no knowledge of Allah and His teachings. They worshipped the sun, the moon and the stars. They were astronomers and maintained the records of the movements of the planets. They prayed to the idols made of wood and stone and made many offerings for them. The priests enjoyed a prominent place in the society. They commanded respect among their followers. They were paid well. The poor people were ruled by the chiefs. They were subjected to their cruelty and injustice.
The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was the son of Terah whose surname Adhar was popularly known. He was a doll carver and a staunch worshipper of idols. He did all he could to compel Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to worship the handicrafts of man but flatly refused to do so. He hated even an idea of worshipping the idols which could neither see, nor hear, nor speak.
The Prophet Ibrahim's Preaching:
The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) received the message of Allah through a special angel Gabriel (Jibra'il). Gradually he was commanded to start preaching. As he was a strong man in his will and determination, he worked very hard. He began his mission in the teeth of opposition. He argued with his people with great vigour regarding the folly of worshipping the idols. The Holy Qur'an says:
﴾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: Then you as well as your fathers have indeed, been in manifest error. They said: Is it really the truth that you have brought for us or are you jesting? He replied: Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth; He brought them into existence and I am of those who bear witness to this, and by Allah, I will certainly plan against your idols after you have gone away and turned your backs.﴿(21: 53-58
Opposition by the People and Discussion with the King:
The people paid no heed to his teachings. They insisted on their ways. They did not refrain from worshipping the twinkling stars, shining moon and ugly idols. The priests kept on encouraging the people to disbelieve in the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). They were afraid lest they should be deprived of their priesthood if the people abandoned idol-worship. As a matter of fact the king Nemrud in that area thought himself to be god. He had a big castle and many soldiers at his disposal. He desired to argue with the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) one day. They met to hold discussions: The king looked at the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) mockingly for a while. Then he said: What is this thing you are calling the people for? Why do you persuade the People to worship God Who is invisible? The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) replied boldly: My God is the One: Who gives and takes away life. Nemrud answered arrogantly: I have also the power to do that. I can kill the persons and can spare them also. The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) asked a clever question that caught every one by surprise. He said: My God causes the sun to rise from the East and set it in the West. Can you make it come from the east? On hearing the king remained silent because he knew that no man had the power to do so.
Breakage of the Idols:
After a few days a special event took place. There was a grand ceremony outside the locality and every one had to participate in the celebrations. Most of the evil-doers drank; liquor and became noisy and wild. They were losing their balance of mind in a state of intoxication. There was a great hustle. Almost every one from the town attended the ceremony except the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). He had a special plan in his mind. He proceeded towards the Temple escaping the sight of others. When he entered the Temple, he saw there many statues which stood motionless and helpless.
The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) lifted his heavy axe and began to smite the idols turn by turn. The idols fell to the ground with a big thud. The floor was loaded with numerous noses, ears, heads, arms, legs and other parts of the idols. He broke all the idols in the sanctuary but spared the Chief one. He did so to demonstrate that the idols had no power to cause harm to any one or bestow benefits upon others. They were as helpless as mere stones and it is against the dignity of human beings to pay homage to them. When the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) finished his job, he left the Temple cautiously making sure that no one had seen him.
Decision to Burn Ibrahim Alive:
When the celebrations came to an end, the people returned. The priests went directly towards the Temple as usual and some people accompanied them. They saw that the idols were smashed to pieces. The floor was littered with stones and the Chief idol was standing with an axe hanging down along its neck. The priests began to scream and became confused. The people rushed to the Temple on hearing a deafening hue and cry. Every one was in a furious mood. They wanted to know who had dared do this trouble to the idols. They wished to take revenge. Then some one said that the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) would have done so because he consistently spoke ill of our gods and advised the people to worship One God. The Holy Qur'an relates:
﴾Then he broke them into pieces except the Chief of them that haply they may return to him. They said: Who has done so to our gods? Most surely he is one of the evil-doers. We heard a youth called Ibrahim making mention of them.(21:57)﴿
The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was summoned to appear before the king. When he came, he was asked if he had destroyed all those idols. He remained silent for a while. Afterwards he directed the king to ask the chief idol on whose neck was hung the axe with which the havoc was done. The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was mocking and making fun of those stupid people who worshipped helpless, dumb and deaf idols made of stones. The king as well as the priests did not like to prolong their discussions because the arguments of the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) were very sound and convincing. The Holy Qur'an relates:
﴾Then they said to Ibrahim: Is it you who has done so to our gods? He replied: Well, some one has surely done this. Here is the chief of them, so ask them if they can speak. Then they turned towards one another and said: You yourselves are surely in the wrong. Then they were made to hung down their heads out of shame and said to Ibrahim: Certainly you know that they do not speak.(21: 65-68)﴿. Although they felt ashamed yet they remained stubborn. They decided to burn the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) alive for causing destruction to their idols.
Fire does not Burn The Prophet Ibrahim:
A big furnace was prepared for this purpose. The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was tied with a rope and he could hardly move. He was quite calm and cheerful believing firmly that Allah would save him. He did not even resist and the spectators were amazed at his attitude.
The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was thrown in the centre of the furnace. The flames of the fire were blazing. They sizzled and hissed but the Almighty Allah ordered the fire not to harm His friend Ibrahim (peace be upon him):
﴾We said: O' fire! Be thou a means of comfort and security for Ibrahim.(21:70)﴿
The transgressors thought that the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) had burnt to death. They did not hear the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) shouting with pain. Some time later the people saw the prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) walking out of the fire safe as if nothing had touched him. They were much surprised to see him.
Migration to Palestine:
In spite of this miracle the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) could not have a large number of people following his teachings. He went on preaching and underwent a chain of tests and trials to prove his obedience and sincerity. When his people tortured the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), he was ordered to leave that area and go to the blessed land which is now called Palestine. In compliance with the Commandment of Almighty Allah the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) did not lose a moment's rest without getting in touch with the people and teaching them about God and His message. Nothing seemed to discourage him.
Birth of the Prophet Isma'il and Migration to Mecca:
As the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) had no off-spring from his first wife Sarah, he entered into matrimonial alliance with another woman called Hajira (Hagar). He prayed for a son in all sublimity and his prayer was granted. Some time later Hajira announced happy news that she was expecting a baby. As time passed she gave birth to Isma'il (Ishmael). Soon after God ordered the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to take his wife Hajira and the Prophet Isma'il (peace be upon him) to the valley of Batha (Mecca). In accordance with the Divine Commandment he set out on a long and troublesome journey. They arrived at the spot after a long time. It was hilly area without any trees and water. They set up their tents and looked around but nothing was visible except sand. The Prophet Ismail (peace be upon him) had attained the age of a few months only when the event of migration took place. He began to cry because of thirst. His mother began to look for water but it was not available anywhere.
Zam Zam is Discovered:
She ran desperately in quest of water between two hillocks called Safa and Marwa but found no water. She came back to her thirsty infant and was surprised to see the spring of Zam Zam emerged from beneath the foot of the Prophet Isma'il (peace be upon him). She heaved a sigh of relief. She quenched the thirst of her baby with water. Many people from far and wide came to the spot where Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and his family had settled. Gradually this locality named Mecca became the birth place of Islam.
Vision of the Prophet Ibrahim Regarding the Sacrifice of the Prophet Isma'il:
The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) went back to Palestine to join his first wife, the beloved Sarah. He received a Commandment in his vision to sacrifice his only son, Isma'il. The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) had no hesitation in complying with what he was ordered to do but his son was infant at that time. He had to wait until he grew older. Due to delay the temptation of not doing what he was supposed to do, was certainly there. But the Prophet Ibrahim (peace he upon him) had a solid faith in Allah and his life was all dedicated to His' service. So he kept on waiting until Prophet Isma'il (peace be upon him) became a teenager. One day the father told his son about the dream. To his great surprise he saw that Prophet Isma'il (peace be upon him) had no objection and was willing to be sacrificed as Allah had willed it. He said:
﴾O' my father! Do what you have been commanded to do; then you will find me of the patients. (37: 10, 11)﴿
This was a hard decision for a young man to take and it was a moment of great faith in Allah.
The Ordeal of Sacrifice of Prophet Ismail:
On the tenth of Dhil Hijja the father and his beloved son walked side by side. A young lad possessed forbearance and the old man was full of determination and spirit to complete submission to Allah. Their purpose was to carry out the orders of their Lord. Nothing was dearer to them than the service of Allah. They proceeded towards Mina with a sharp butcher's knife that, the old shaky Ibrahim had in his hand. Many a thought and memories of the past must have crossed in their minds. Finally they reached a special spot. The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) looked at his loving son whereas Prophet Isma'il (peace be upon him) cast a glance at his, father obediently and cheerfully. The father laid his son prostrate on the ground. He was standing beside him. His heart was beating violently. He was shaking with emotions when he drew the knife across the neck of his son. It was a moment of action, an action that was very hard to put into practice.
God highly appreciated them for their obedience and they heard a voice:
﴾O' Ibrahim! you have indeed shown the truth of the vision. Surely do We reward the doers of good.(37:105) ﴿
When Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) fulfilled the command of the dream, he was ordered not to sacrifice his own son. A ram was provided in his stead. The Prophet Isma'il (peace be upon him) stood up and the ram was sacrificed. So the moment of suspense came to an end and both the father and the son expressed a deep sense of happiness and gratitude. From that time until today, the savage custom human sacrifice has been absolutely abolished.
Glad Tidings Regarding the Birth of Prophet Ishaq:
When the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) displayed his unstinted submission to the orders of Allah by trying to sacrifice his beloved son Ismail he was informed of a glad-tiding regarding the birth of baby from Sarah, his first wife. The Holy Qur'an affirms:
﴾And We gave him the good news of Ishaq (Isaac), a Prophet among the good ones and We showered our blessings on him and on Ishaq, and of their offspring are the doers of good and also those who are clearly unjust to their ownselves. (37: 112, 113) ﴿
Time passed by and Sarah, the old lady got pregnant. At last she gave birth to a male baby and they gave him the name of Ishaq. Later on Isma'il (peace be upon him) proved to be the Prophet of the Muslims and Ishaq (peace be upon him) became the Prophet of the Jews.
Re-construction of Ka'bah:
The first House of Allah, the Ka'bah was erected by the Prophet Adam (peace be upon him). It was reconstructed by the Prophet Ibrahim and the Prophet Isma'il (peace be upon them). The Muqam-e-Ibrahim is still outside the enclosure. It is a place of marble-like stone on which he stood to raise the walls of the sanctuary at Mecca. This stone contains the sunken imprints of the feet of the great Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). The Holy Qur'an testifies to the hallowed sanctity of this stone by declaring it to be one of the Signs of Allah. It says:
﴾We made the House a resort for men and a place of security after saying: Take as your place of worship the spot where Ibrahim stood to pray. And We enjoined Ibrahim and Isma'il by saying: Purify My House for those who visit it and those who meditate therein; and those who bow down and those who prostrate themselves. (1:125)﴿
The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) lived for 175 years. His life was full of happenings, tests and trials. He had a firm faith in Allah. He never missed a moment's rest in calling for the message of Allah. He gained thousands upon thousands of believers. When he passed away, he was buried in Hebron, twenty miles south-west of Jerusalem.