When I first heard a politician say, “We can rule from beyond the grave,” I didn’t respond very positively. “What does that mean?” I exclaimed in confusion. However, as it dawned on me that he was actually referring to great men and their immortal ideas about transcending our limited ideas, I gradually began to appreciate his meaningful words. As he continued, he mentioned Rumi and quoted his words, “Come, whoever you are; ours is not a caravan of despair.” I then realized that this wise politician’s words were a subtle yet powerful invitation to unity and brotherhood.
The greatest challenge ever known to humankind will probably always be that of transcendence. Surpassing one’s biases, expanding one’s horizons and striving toward universal brotherhood, thereby existing above the cherished limits of one’s comfort zones is probably the toughest virtue to cultivate and practice. The more we choose to identify solely with our primary reference groups, the more we become divided. When these sources of identity are closer to us in time and space like those of political parties, provincial and ethnic group memberships, we only become even more constrained. This parochial mentality will sooner or later give birth to fear and hatred for those unlike us, or those who do not share our ideas and experiences. Inevitably, hostility and bitterness will be generated as consequences of these narrow and circumscribed reference points. In contrast, the farther we traverse beyond the “grave,” beyond space and time, the more our horizons expand and inch toward universal brotherhood. Rumi touches upon this very lesson in transcendence calling all of us passionately to his caravan. It was in the same light that Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, addressed all of humankind with these timeless words: “Those who believe in One God are but brothers and sisters.”
Scientists today will vouch for the fact that technology has shrunk the boundaries of our world, ensconcing us in one big global village. This extraordinary sense of the compression of time and space has made it possible to imagine ourselves in the prophet Adam’s time again. However, the relevant question to ask ourselves at this juncture is whether or not our outlooks and mentalities have developed to a degree, so as to embrace and accept the virtue of togetherness that prevailed during that time. The bitter truth remains that although materially superior, we are far from the solidarity that was typical during the time of Adam. There is however a light at the end of this dreary tunnel. If we cannot bridge the gap that exists between our differences, perhaps tracing our roots back to common fathers will help reconcile some of these discordances. It is at this key juncture that the acknowledgement of great prophets and their messages becomes mandatory. It is through the legacy of such distinguished messengers that we shall endeavor to reconstruct our spiritual world. Abraham is the best example of one such prophet who is still accepted as a common father and loved by all believers whose heritage is intrinsically connected with him.
The Prophet Abraham: The Beloved Patriarch
Abraham is the beloved prophet of the members of three great religions, who take him as an exemplar, dutifully venerating this revered patriarch. Sacred texts of the three monotheistic religions make many deferential references to the prophet Abraham. For instance, a verse from the Old Testament reads:
Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto a land that I will show you: And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing; And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)
Likewise, the New Testament makes the following mention of the great prophet: . . . Abraham, who is the father of us all (Romans 4:16). Another verse of the Bible states, For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:13). The Holy Qur’an similarly proffers an exceptional place upon the prophet Abraham. In response to the dispute between the Jews and Christians and their tendency to appropriate him to themselves, it clearly indicates that Abraham was a Hanif (Follower of the Truth). It further explicates that he was essentially Muslim and joined not gods with God (Al Imran 3:68). What is even more wondrous is that while referring to Islam, the Qur’an describes it (at least seven times) as Your father Abraham’s religion. 1
One may ask, “Isn’t it an incredible mistake to call someone who lived 2,600 years before Prophet Muhammad a ‘Muslim,’ which is a derivative of ‘Islam’ ?” The answer to this objection is that the Holy Qur’an clearly elucidates the fact that the religion before God is Islam (Al Imran 3:19) indicating that the essence of all the religions brought by the many prophets since Adam has remained the same. In the same light, Islam is but a reinforcement of these very principles. Most importantly, in Arabic the word Islam means, “submission to God’s will.” Islamic scholars hence summarize the following four essential principles that have remained constant in all religions:
Unity of God: The belief that there is one God Who is the creator of existence.
Belief in the Afterlife: The belief that after death we will be resurrected and asked to account for our actions in this world.
Complete faith in the Prophethood: The firm belief in all prophets and God’s message they brought to humankind.
Adherence to Justice: The fulfillment of man’s responsibilities to God, to others around him, and his responsibility to himself: his thoughts and actions (worship, law, morality).
Consequently, Islamic scholars do not accept as celestial any religion that does not include these four points. These issues endure in the Old and New Testaments, as well as in the Qur’an. So much so, that the names, deeds and miracles of prophets in the Old Testament are found in Christianity and Islam as well. It can therefore be argued in accordance with the above explanation that in essence, Judaism and Christianity are nothing but “Islam.” It must be reinforced that this Islam, which has prevailed over a constantly evolving humankind since the time of the prophet Adam, has essentially been the same. It is precisely due to this unchanging core that it was easy and natural for some of the peripheral details of the religion to become modified in accordance with the constantly evolving social conditions as and when each prophet was sent to propagate a specific message.
Rediscovering the Most Important Prophetic Link
Abraham represents a very important link in the chain of prophets, each of which accentuates some kind or degree of human development. According to the Qur’an, Abraham’s book does not take into precise consideration detailed matters of right and wrong or, in other words, issues of human law and punishment. The Divine Will therefore consigned appropriate books and divine messages to other prophets. Upon examining the chapters in the Qur’an related to Abraham’s book such as A’la and Najm, (verses 36-54 or others2 related to Abraham), we see they are all related to faith, worship, and virtue. This offers further proof of the fact that as in the Old Testament, legal decrees, as far as the prophet Abraham is concerned, are absent in the Qur’an. This, however, should not be understood as a misgiving or an aberration. It is supremely important to acknowledge that a prophet like Abraham on whom members of the three major monotheistic faiths all confer respect, appreciation and love, emphasized faith, worship and virtue rather than legal judgment. This can be argued for the following reasons:
Judicial matters are subject to constant change depending upon the socio-political situation of the existing people. It is because of this that Muslim scholars collectively adopt that “changes in time and legal matters cannot be denied.”3 It would therefore be a colossal task to attempt to unite these three religions, under the umbrella of a common law.
With some exceptions, spiritual and moral values are predominantly universal. The values represented in Abraham’s character and actively realized in his life, are values that can be adhered to by all of humankind. The conscious implementation of these values is necessary for both individual and communal spiritual evolution.
Furthermore, these values transcend the boundaries of religion. Values form the inner framework of anyone intent upon leading a life of righteousness and decency. It is precisely because of this all-embracing nature of Abrahamic messages that they render themselves the perfect tools for the arduous task of propagating unity and brotherhood.
Abrahamic Messages: Enduring Lessons in Unity and Brotherhood
There are innumerable Abrahamic virtues mentioned in the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet (hadiths) which carry timeless lessons for humankind. It is interesting to note that most of these lessons imparted by Abraham are those that were reinforced emphatically on more than one occasion by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. It is hence evident that a journey into the essence of the three faiths will reveal but one beating heart! It is the purpose of this text not merely to enumerate these virtues, but also to explain how these can be used as founding stones upon which to build the palaces of unity and brotherhood.
Abandoning meaningless imitation of ancestors
The Qur’an mentions that one of the greatest obstacles encountered by the prophets in conveying the divine message was the meaningless imitation of tribal ancestors. When the prophets attempted to expound the divine word, one of the commonest excuses offered by the tribes for not accepting the call was the inexplicable fear of abandoning the path of their ancestors. Whether it was worshipping idols or indulging in other despicable rituals, the very fact that it was practiced by their ancestors was given as evidence of its purity and necessity.4
One of the matters in his calling that the prophet Abraham constantly dwelled upon was humankind’s enduring struggle with this particular weakness. In the following verse, it can be seen that he cried out to both his father and his nation about this. From the very fact that “father” and “nation” are mentioned, it is clear that Abraham reiterated to his father the mistake of imitating ancestors blindly from his initial call until the very end of his life. He said to his father and people:
“What are these images to which you are (so assiduously) devoted?” To this they replied, “We found our fathers worshipping them.” When Abraham stated, “Indeed you have been in manifest error-you and your fathers,” they answered, “Have you brought us the truth, or are you one of those who jest?” To which he replied, “Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. He who created them (from nothing): and I am a witness to this (truth).” (Anbiya 21:52-56)
Verification of faith
This is probably one of the first messages that comes to mind when Abraham is mentioned, especially today. Just as he opposed the tradition in former pagan societies of continuing the religion of their forefathers or being satisfied with what they had learned from their ancestors about faith and worship, he also took the verification of revealed faith as a reigning principle. The Holy Qur’an does not mention the verification of all matters involved in faith; however, it does clearly put forth the verification of two of faith’s most important principles. One of these is related to God’s existence and unity and the other to resurrection (or the dead being raised to life in the afterlife). If humankind can instill these two principles as the edifices of faith, it is believed that other matters can be easily accepted.
Rather than resorting to the compulsive instruction of abstract philosophies, Abraham verifies the matter of God’s existence and unity by intelligently illustrating God’s majesty that is clearly visible in the exterior realm of existence such as the impeccable order prevalent in nature and in the universe. Thus, he plants the internal seeds of faith by opening our eyes to the external verification of matters of faith. Abraham explains his message of divine unity through indicating the uselessness of the worship of stars, which was the religion in esteem in his community. In order to guide his people to truth, Abraham takes what they worshipped as a starting point. First he says to the brightest star in the sky, “This is my Lord,” (according to your claims), but when it fades he assumes that the brighter moon might be God. However, when the moon disappears, he says that the sun, which is the brightest of all, must be his Lord. When he sees the sun set, he tries to make his people understand that those things that set cannot be God (An’am 6:75-81).
The Qur’an mentions this even more striking investigation related to the resurrection of the dead (belief in the hereafter):
Behold! Abraham said: “My Lord! Show me how you give life to the dead.” He said, “Do you not then believe?” He said, “Yes! But to satisfy my own understanding.” He said, “Take four birds; tame them to turn to you; Put a portion of them on every hill, and call to them: they will come to you (flying) with speed. Then know that God is exalted in Power, Wise.” (Baqara 2:260)
Razi, a great commentator on the Qur’an, formulated the basic principle presented to humankind in this verse related to the investigation of faith as “the verse that proves that religion must be based on proof, not imitation.”
Investigation of faith: Basing religious precepts upon intelligent rationale
It must be emphasized that “investigation of faith,” one of Abraham’s clearest messages, is a very convincing argument for those today who shy away from religion because they are tired of imitation. This Abrahamic message explains clearly that religion must rest on an intelligent and methodical investigation, and not on blind, heedless imitation. Indiscriminate imitation is construed as a mistake, a crime committed in the name of religion by incompetent men of religion. As a matter of fact, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, comprehending that his community of followers was more in need of seeking verification of faith, said “We are more apt to uncertainty than Abraham.”5 Commenting further on this subject, God’s Messenger said, out of his modesty:
Just as I never wavered (in faith), Abraham never wavered in any way. If prophets had the impediment of doubt, I would have been the most vulnerable, but you know that I have never been uncertain. You should know, then, that he never fell into uncertainty either. ”6
Thus, it is necessary to understand the nature of Abraham’s uncertainty in this light. Of course, it is not possible to doubt the degree of the submission to God of a prophet like Abraham; it has been clearly verified in the Qur’an.7 In this case, this Abrahamic story is a message and lesson for future humankind regarding the necessity of the verification of one’s faith. Moreover, the fact that principles of faith are open to intelligent verification presents a great challenge to atheism.
Watering the tree of divine unity
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Abraham that is mentioned again and again in the Qur’an is his not being from the pagans. This is a striking expression because it is reiterated in six different places regarding Abraham: He is not from the pagans. 8 In one case, he exclaims, I am not from the pagans (An’am 6:79). It is obvious that a prophet will never adhere to the precepts of paganism. Despite this indubitable fact, the repeated assertion about Abraham being not from the pagans must be an emphasis on how sensitive he was on matters regarding the Unity of God. This situation allows us to make this conclusion: just as lack of faith has different degrees, faith has different levels of conviction in the Unity of God.
Willingness and unquestioning obedience to the Divine alone
The other distinguishing attributes of Abraham mentioned in the Qur’an are different reflections of his multi-faceted messengership. He was devoted to the divine and complied with his duties without hesitation or doubt. Abraham is said to have met his Lord willingly, with a peaceful heart, when he was ordered by the Divine in his dream to sacrifice his only son, whom Abraham had so lovingly fathered at a very advanced age, and who had been born as a result of much pleading and prayer. There are several lessons to be learnt from this great apostle and the incredible incidents of his life such as his struggle alone against a whole community including his parents, the king, the law and custom; his disputes with the king; destroying idols; being thrown out of his family; being thrown into the fire; exile and migration: all of these difficult experiences that he faced are expressions of the strength and power of his belief in the Unity of God.
Regarding Abraham’s pure belief in God’s unity, it is fitting to quote another verse in the Qur’an. It is stated in the verse 106 of the chapter Yusuf (Joseph): And most of them believe not in God without associating (others as partners) with Him! This verse can be assumed to make an allusion to those who fall into the clutches of shirk, the worship of others instead of God or along with God, the gravest sin in Islam. As a matter of fact, the clear reference to “hidden shirk” expressed in Prophet Muhammad’s sayings warns us that even exemplary Muslims can unconsciously fall into hidden shirk in spite of their belief in God. In a hadith from Al-Mustadrak, the Prophet lays down a guideline that must be thought about seriously: Love. The various objects of an individual’s love and affection which are cherished in the heart are the rightful determinants of a person’s religion. If love is not centered on God, it is denotative of shirk. In order for a person to escape from the grip of shirk, he has to be consciously in control of all the emotions which are generated in the heart. Emotions like love, hatred, appreciation, reprimand, malice, and enmity must be directed solely according to God’s approval. Thus the guideline put forth by the Messenger of God was:
Shirk is more silent than the sound of a small ant’s footsteps while walking on Safa (a small hill nearby the Ka‘ba in Makka) during a dark night. The smallest degree of this shirk is liking someone in spite of oppression and hating someone in spite of justice. Do you think that religion is anything other than love and hate? God said, “If you love God, conform to Me.” 9
In chapter Mumtahana, in the first verse, it is indicated that those who show love to God’s enemies have strayed from the true path precisely because of this misdirected love.
To further illuminate this fact, it is important to recapitulate the hadith about those who are so fond of money that they refrain from giving a small share to the less fortunate. Those resembling the aforementioned are rightly called abd al-dinar (slave to the money) and abd al-kadifa (slave to velvet) and are duly cursed.10 In addition, many other indulgences and vices such as hypocrisy,11 swearing oaths in the way pagans do,12 belief in superstition,13 and sorcery14 are expressed as shirk in the hadiths. Some scholars also consider attribution of divinity by some Jews to Ezra (Uzayr) and some Christians to Jesus, by way of addressing them as “son of God” as shirk, despite their belief in God, the Merciful and the Compassionate, Who created the heavens and the earth.
In this case, Abraham’s belief in the Unity of God, which is repeatedly lauded in the Holy Qur’an, is an uncorrupted conviction in God’s unity that has been purified of the minutest and most hidden of polytheistic tendencies. The late Fahraddin Razi described the station of Abraham’s faith as follows: “Those who are familiar with Qur’anic knowledge know that Abraham drowned in the ocean of tawhid (belief in the Unity of God).15 Abraham’s tawhid is hence presented as a remarkable example to all believers who love him (Jews, Christians, and Muslims).16
Lessons from a true hanif
The word hanif is mentioned almost in the same vein as Abraham. In fact this word is mentioned ten times in the Qur'an and almost all of them in relation to Abraham; most of them are explicit and some are implied. The term Abraham"s hanif religion is mentioned five times. The word hanif is an adjective from the infinitive, hanef. Hanef tends from error to straightness, from crookedness to rightness and from superstition to truth. Thus, a hanif is one who has renounced crookedness and turned to the straight path. Aeons of customary practice have transformed this word into a synonym of Abraham"s religion during the time of ignorance.17 It literally means one who has left other religions and idols and turned toward the one God. According to explanations of the hadiths, it not only refers to the turning away from superstitions to the Truth, it is also laden with the messages of tolerance and acceptance. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “I have been sent with tolerant and easy Hanifism.”18 This hadith was conferred on the people in attendance at a festivity (iyd). Aisha explains that the Messenger of God offered this explanation so that “the Jews would know that there is tolerance in Islam,” and it was also indicated that the Prophet meant “Let Jews and Christians know that there is expansiveness in our religion.”19
Confirming that Hanifism carries the messages of tolerance and easiness (in other words a general, universal acceptance coupled with simply elucidated principles) Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tolerant Hanifism is the most lovable religion to God”20; “Your religion (the path you follow) is the best and easiest.”21 God declares to the Prophet, He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion, the faith of your father Abraham (Hajj 22:78). In the religion of Islam, expressed as Hanifism, tolerance and easiness are among the most basic principles:
Thus it is due to mercy from God that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you. (Al Imran 3:159)
God"s Messenger announced that “Religion is easiness,”22 and, according to Aisha, he would always choose the easiest way to put forth a command.23 He would say to those extremists, who in the spirit of attaining “the most perfect” in religion, would not be satisfied with perfection and would go to every kind of difficulty and trouble, “This religion of Islam is easiness. Whoever races violently to do the best in religion (will not be successful and) religion will overcome him. So take the middle road, do the best according to your power, and give good tidings.”24
Regard for nature and one"s environment
One of the most noteworthy traits of Abraham was his humble regard for the environment. When Abraham built the Ka"ba and began the Hajj at God"s command, he also took precautions to make it a clean and safe place.25 In light of this, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, declared Makka as haram (sacred, inviolable) as a precaution to guarantee the safety and cleanliness of that holy site.26 This declaration not only prevented bloodshed there, but also prohibited hunting and the cutting of trees, the searing of leaves and uprooting of weeds. Thus, it became the prototype of environmentalism by taking humanity"s first serious decision about the protection of the environment, an issue which is on the top of humankind"s agenda today. Later when the Prophet declared as haram an area of 35 kilometers in diameter surrounding Madina like a green belt, he made a due reference to Abraham"s similar action in Makka.
Faithfulness to promises and conscientiousness in the performance of one"s duties
One of the many attributes that makes Abraham prominent is eloquently expressed in the Qur'an in: Abraham who fulfilled his engagements (Najm 53:37). He was always known for his honesty and his faithfulness toward the fulfillment of any promises made. The Holy Qur'an emphasized this side of him as well: Also mentioned in the Book (the story of) Abraham: He was a man of Truth, a prophet (Maryam 19:41). Due to these attributes, Abraham successfully passed all the tests given to him by God: And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain Commands, which he fulfilled (Baqara 2:124). Islamic scholars say the fact that the number of characteristic attributes possessed by Abraham which were duly tested was thirty27 indicate that approximately thirty virtues of Abraham are mentioned in four different chapters of the Qur'an.28
One of Abraham"s celebrated attributes is hospitality. It is said that he was the first real host actually to entertain guests and was hence given the nickname Abu"l-Adaiaf (father of guests).29 The Qur'an informs us that on one occasion, he slaughtered a fat cow and prepared an elaborate dinner for some unexpected guests with whom he was not even well acquainted.30 From the hesitation of the guests to eat the food that was served, and Abraham"s subsequent apprehension at their shying away from the food, it is assumed that these guests were strangers.
Steadfastness and compassion
Another attribute of Abraham mentioned in the Qur'an is his compassion. Even his name, which is Syriac, is meaningful and befitting to one who showed enormous compassion. It is an expression that means compassionate, merciful father. 31 We also understand from explanations of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, that regarding the matter of being merciful to others, Abraham underwent a special instruction from God.32 After this, Abraham never left this line of mercy in word or in deed until the very end in spite of his being imprisoned (for guiding the people around him)33 or whilst being thrown into the fire34 or whilst being exiled from his homeland.35 In the words of our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, he acted “sweeter than honey” toward his clan36 and did not ask for them to be punished. He said, “My Lord! Surely they have led many men astray; then whoever follows me, he is surely of me, and whoever disobeys me, You surely are Forgiving, Merciful” (Ibrahim 14:36). His sharpest words to those who were going to throw him into the fire were, “Fie upon you, and upon the things that you worship besides God! Have you no sense?” (Anbiya 21:67). Even these words only show Abraham"s uniqueness among God"s messengers in terms of being merciful to his people. We do not encounter any divine revelation or historical account where he is reported to have cursed his nation even under the worst conditions.
Abraham"s compassionate nature was most pronounced toward his loved ones and the believers. The prayer mentioned below is one that epitomizes the request of all believers for mercy and it is recited by Muslims throughout the world. It reads, My Lord! On the day of reckoning forgive me, my mother and father and the believers (Ibrahim 14:41). Its presence in the Qur'an as one of Abraham"s prayers is monumental proof witnessing his compassion and not a mere coincidence. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, who took pride in identifying himself with Abraham"s Hanif religion, would say to those who asked him to curse the pagans (even though they did terrible things to him): “I was sent as a mercy, not as one to make curses.”37 Even to those who oppressed him most he would avoid any thought of revenge and would say, “My Lord! Forgive my tribe because they don"t yet know the truth” and “Maybe some will come from this generation who worship God.”38 Knowing this, it is easy to appreciate the significance of the verse: We have not sent you, but as a Mercy to the worlds (Anbiya 21:107). He duly received the praise of the Malak al-Jibal (angel of the mountains): “You are Benign (and) Merciful as your Lord made you known.”39
In fact, God"s Messenger was not only compassionate to the Muslims: “Whoever oppresses a dhimmi (non-Muslim living in a Muslim country), I am his mortal enemy, and I will settle accounts with my enemies on Judgment Day.”40 In similar statements, it is seen that he had been commanded to do good and show mercy and compassion to non-Muslims and, in fact, every creature “fresh (plants),” or “carrying a liver (animals).”41 He is rightfully called the Mercy to the Worlds, (Anbiya 21:107) and we say, “This is the way to follow Abraham"s path and be worthy of him.” In essence, apart from the tawhid, Abraham professed many other vital aspects of Islam. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, the last prophet of the Almighty, is said to have perfected this message.
Extensiveness of Abraham"s compassion
The degree of Abraham"s mercy is evident from the Qur'an which details his argument with the angels who were sent to punish Lot"s tribe. The Qur'an does not delve into the specifics, but it is obvious that the reason for Abraham"s argument with the angels, despite the tribe being rebellious and sinful, was in fact that in his heart he did not want them to be annihilated. When Abraham saw that the guests did not reach for the food he had offered them, he became afraid. Even after the angels had introduced themselves and said that they had been sent down to punish Lot"s tribe and, moreover, to give him the good news about his child, he continues arguing with them by saying, “Lot is there, too.” When fear had passed from (the mind of) Abraham and the glad tidings had reached him, he began to plead with Us for Lot"s people (Hud 11:74). It is indicated in the next verse that the angels understood that Abraham was without doubt, forbearing (of faults), compassionate, and that he had objected to them for these very reasons. After this had transpired, the angels adopted a sharper tone and said, “Well do we know who is there,” and they indicated that they would save Lot"s family except his wife. (Ankabut 29:32). In spite of this, Abraham, whose feelings of compassion had by then reached a crescendo, must have continued the argument because the angels concluded the matter by saying, “O Abraham! Seek not this. The decree of your Lord has gone forth: for them there comes a penalty” (Hud 11:76).
Concern for the welfare of the Abrahamic lineage
The Qur'an mentions Abraham"s concern over his family"s welfare in several verses. In response to this genuine interest, God bestowed the Abrahamic dynasty with a blessing and providence that no other dynasty has received so far. A clear example to illustrate this fact is a part of the Muslims" prayer which asks for mercy from God for Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his family at each of the five daily ritual prayers. Included in this is also recourse to God"s mercy toward Abraham and his family:
O Lord! Have mercy on Muhammad and his family just as you show mercy to Abraham and his family!
What an honor and unbounded exaltation it is for Abraham and his dynasty for this plea to receive an allotted space in the ritual prayer, which is the greatest act of worship for Muslims. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi explains this request for mercy in the prayer by the fact that prophets have in fact descended from Abraham"s lineage: “His family are prophets; Prophet Muhammad"s family are saints. A saint cannot measure up to a prophet.”42 Such a chain of light formed by prophets is the direct result and blessings of Abraham"s prayer. The acceptance of this prayer in God"s presence is the direct consequence of the fact that Abraham was Khalilullah (the friend of God).43 When this exalted station of friend to the Lord of the Worlds was conferred upon Abraham as a result of his service and the purity of his tawhid, at every opportunity he persistently used his special position in favor of his family and lineage. It was as a result of this that he procured until Doomsday, the station of physical and spiritual imam for the beneficial people of his lineage and, from divine mercy, the good will and affection that people feel toward them. However, it is necessary to understand that the interest that people feel toward Abraham"s descendants is not a feeling that in any way can be associated with tribalism and ethnocentrism in the sense that people understand it today. It has more to do with a feeling of grace toward human unity.
Abraham"s interest and concern for his family and dynasty are a natural consequence of his immaculate planning and foresight. It is evident from the Qur'an that Abraham developed a regime for the family that reinforced God"s commands with the strict adherence to virtues. This system took into consideration the family"s geographical, socio-economic and even environmental conditions giving precedence to ritual prayer directed toward the Almighty.44
Other Abrahamic Virtues
A few other salient virtues that demand a mention are those of unconditional submission to God"s commands45; thankfulness for blessings46; acts of cleanliness like the circumcision of children, washing the mouth and nose, cleaning the teeth, cutting nails, shaving private parts and under-arms, and washing the front and back private organs with water after using the toilet47; strength in worship, intuition in religion48; good-temperedness; acknowledgement of one"s mistakes and repentance; taking refuge in God49; possessing a peaceful heart50; treating one and all with respect and dignity51; being uncompromising in struggle52; migrating for God"s sake53; etc. As an exemplar of these attributes, Abraham had almost become a community in himself in God"s view: Abraham was indeed a [community] model, devoutly obedient to God, (and) true in faith, and he joined not gods with God (Nahl 16:120).
In conclusion, it must be noted that Abraham is assigned a special place by members of the three monotheistic religions. The many human values identified with his personality are values with which all of humankind can concur, without any discordance. If these values are practiced and upheld, it will contribute to the birth of the much awaited universal peace. A re-configuration of identities in which communities of different colors, languages and cultures begin to see themselves as being connected to Abraham in one way or another is an invaluable proposition, the importance of which cannot be overestimated. Until almost the beginning of the last century, the perception of Muslims as being from “Abraham"s nation” contributed greatly to their living together in unity with members of other religions. This is also true for many Christian peoples who lived for long centuries in peace and contentment under Muslim rule. This is especially true of the ruling Ottomans, for whom this feeling was very pronounced, because the Islamic sharia offered a special place to the Ahl al-Kitab (people of the book) as it referred to the followers of Abraham, guaranteeing their property, lives and honor as well as recognizing their freedom of religion. Universal peace can be realized upon the edifice of these aforementioned arguments with the alliance of the three great world religious communities of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This can be achieved by the inculcation of an all-encompassing attitude, of perceiving ourselves as belonging to the community of Abraham. It is possible to dream of hope once again, hope for peace and happiness through the conscious understanding and practice of Abrahamic tawhid. It is therefore the duty of those who desire peace, to put into action Abraham"s messages of universal unity and brotherhood.
1Baqara 2:130, 135; Al Imran 3:95; Anbiya 21:125; An"am 6:161; Hajj 22:78; Nahl 16:123.
2 All the verses regarding Abraham and their analysis can be found in Hz. brahim"in MesajÂ¦ (The message of the prophet Abraham), Canan, I., Sule Publications, Istanbul: 1998.
3 39th article in the Mecelle-i Ahkam-Â¦ Adliye (Journal of Judicial Provisions), Dersaadet, Istanbul: 1322 (AD 1904), p. 27.
4 See Zukhruf 43:22-23; Baqara 2:170; Maida 5:104; A"raf 7:28; Yunus 10:78; Anbiya 21:53; Shu"ara 26:74; Luqman 31:21; Hud 11:62, 87.
5 Bukhari, Anbiya, 11; Tafsir, Baqara 2:46; Muslim, Iman, 238.
6 Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari bi-Sharh al-Bukhari, Egypt: 1959, 7, 223.
7 See Baqara 2:131.
8 Baqara 2:135; Al Imran 3:67, 95; An"am 6:161; Nahl 16: 123.
9 Hakim, Abu Abdillah an-Naysaburi, al-Mustadrak Haydarabad-Deken. 1335 (AD 1917), 2, 291.
10 Ibn Maja, Sunan, Zuhd 8, (4135, 4136 HI.); Tirmidhi, Sunan, Matbaat al-Andulus, Humus: 1966, Zuhd 42.
11 Ibn Maja, Fitan 16; Tirmidhi, Nuzur, 9; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 4, 126.
12 Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, Cairo: 1313 (AD 1895) 2, 60.
13 Tirmidhi, Seerah, 46.
14 Abu Dawud, Sunan, Humus: 1969, Tib 17; Ibn Maja, Tib, 39.
15 Razi, Tafsir, 20, 135.
16 Mumtahana, 60: 4.
17 Ibn al-Asir, an-Nihaya, Cairo: 1963, 1, 451.
18 Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 6, 116, 233; 5, 266.
19 Ibn Hajar, al-Matalib al-Aliya, Kuwait: 1973, 3, 30.
20 Bukhari, Imam, 29; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 1, 236.
21 Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 4, 338.
22 Bukhari, Iman, 29; Nasai, Iman, 28; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 5, 69.
23 Bukhari, Manaqib 27; Adab 80; Muslim, Fadhail, 77, 78; Abu Dawud, Adab, 4; Malik Ibn Anas, Al-Muwatta, Egypt: 1951, Husn al-Khulk 2; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 6, 85.
24 Bukhari, Iman, 29: Nasai, Iman, 28: Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 4:422; 5:350, 351.
25 See Baqara 2:125-128.
26 Bukhari, Jihad, 71; Muslim, Hajj, 458-472; Abu Dawud, Manasik, 96, Balazuri, Futuh al-Buldan, Beirut: 1958, 1, 16-17; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 5, 58, Ibn al-Asir, Usd al-Gaba, Cairo: 1970, 6, 388. For more information on this subject see my book Cevre Ahlak (Environmental Ethics), Nesil. Istanbul: 1995, pp. 72-81.
27 Bayzawi, Anwar al-Tanzil (Tafsir), Egypt: 1955, 1, 35; Tabari, Tarih al-Muluk val-Umam, Beirut: 1967, 1, 279.
28 Ahzab 33:35; Tawba 9:112; Muminun 23:1-11; Maarij 70:22-35.
29 Ibn Kathir, Tafsir 6, 69, Beirut: 1966; Ibn Sa"d, at-Tabakat al-Kubra, Beirut: 1960, 1, 47.
30 Dhariyat 51:25-30; Hud 11:69.
31 See Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 7, 196; ElmalÂ¦lÂ¦ Hamdi YazÂ¦r, Hak Dini Kur"an Dili, Istanbul: 1960, 1, 491.
32 Suyuti, al-Durr al-Mansur, 3, 24.
33 This subject was mentioned previously.
34 Anbiya 21:68.
35 Maryam 19:46.
36 Waqidi, al-Maghazi, Oxford: 1966, 1,109.
37 Muslim, Birr, 87.
38 Halabi, al-Sirat al-Halabiyya, 1,357; 2,256.
39 Halabi, ibid., 1, 357. Although the revelation praising the Prophet as “Benign” and “Mercy” came much later, the Malak al-Jibal said this before his prophecy. Zurkani explains this by saying, “It is possible that the angel knew of these attributes,” and he says that there"s nothing strange about it. (Sharh al-Mawahib al-Ladunniyya, Beirut: 1973, 1, 298). Note: The Malak al-Jibal said this when the Prophet was leaving Taif, where he had gone for calling people to Islam.
40 Suyuti, al-Fath al-Kabir, 3, 144.
41 Bukhari, Mazalim, 23; Muslim, Salam, 153.
42 Nursi, S., Sualar, Sozler Publications, Istanbul: 1992, p. 81.
43 Nisa 4:125.
44 I prepared and presented a paper on this subject entitled Hz. Ibrahim"de Aile Terbiyesi (Abraham"s Family Training) at a symposium related to Abraham, which was organized by the Journalists and Writers Foundation and held on April 20-22, 2000 in Urfa, Turkey.
45 Baqara 2:131.
46 Nahl 16:120-121.
47 Muslim, Tahara, 56; Abu Dawud, Tahara, 29, Tirmidhi, Adab, 14; Nasai, Tahara, 1; Ibn Maja, Tahara, 8.
48 Sad 38:45-46.
49 Hud 11:75.
50 Saffat 37:84.
51 Suyuti, al-Jami al-Saghir (Fayz al-Qadir commentary) 3, 71.
52 Mumtahana 60:4.
53 Saffat 37:99.
Paragon of Unity: Discovering The Essence of the Abrahamic Messages
- By Dr. Ibrahim Canan
- Category: Issue 48 (October - December 2004)
- © Blue Dome Press. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.