“And who turns away from the faith of Ibrahim (Abraham) except the one who has debased himself in folly. And indeed We have chosen him in this world, and in the other world he is certainly among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, “Submit!” He said, “I submit myself to the Lord of the worlds.” And Ibrahim exhorted the same to his sons, and so did Ya’qub: “My sons, Allah has certainly chosen for you the Faith. So, let not death overtake you but as Muslims.” [Surah Baqarah: 130 – 132]
The above verse speaks of the superiority of the religion of Sayyidina Ibrahim alayhissalaam (Biblical Abraham), from which arises his own spiritual station and glory in this world and in the other. This being so, anyone who turns away from this religion only displays his own stupidity. Anyhow, the point is that only he can turn away from this religion who does not possess any understanding, or has totally lost it, for this alone is the religion of “Nature”, and no one can deny it so long as his “nature”, in the essential and integral sense of the word, remains intact. The superiority of this religion is shown by the simple fact that Allah conferred a special honour on Sayyidina Ibrahim alayhissalaam (Abraham) in this world and in the next on account of this very religion. As for the honour and greatness he received in this world, everyone knows how Namrud (Nimrod) with all his might failed to impress him, how he accepted gladly to be thrown into the fire rather than give up the worship of the One God, and how the Lord of the worlds changed the fire into a garden for him, so that believers and non-believers alike finally came to recognize his uprightness and his unalloyed faith. The associators of Arabia were, after all, his progeny, and had, inspite of their idol-worship, always continued to hold him in great esteem, and even claimed to be his followers. Certain remnants of his religion were still present among them, though somewhat distorted by their ignorance – for example, the Hajj, the annual sacrifice of animals, hospitality etc. These are the manifestations of the special divine grace which had designated “the Friend of Allah” (Khalilullah) as the ‘Imam’ (Leader of the True Faith) of people. (2:124) So much for his greatness in this world. As to the next, Verse 130 has announced the exalted station Allah has granted him in the Hereafter.
It defines the basic principle of the religion of Sayyidina Ibrahim (alayhissalaam). Allah asked him to submit himself, and he willingly and gladly agreed to submit himself to “the Lord of the worlds.” Let us add that the word of command employed in this verse is Aslim, which Surah Al-Baqarah 2: 130 – 132 comes from the same root as the word Islam. It is difficult to find an exact English equivalent, for the word signifies “to obey, to submit oneself, to surrender one’s will.” Anyhow, we should notice that in reply to the divine command, he did not say, as one would have expected, “I submit myself to you,” but, more elaborately: “I submit myself to the Lord of the worlds.” This particular form of reply expresses the attitude of respect and awe proper to the occasion, and includes the praise of Allah which the moment of receiving the honour of divine address demanded. It also carries a recognition of the fact that in submitting himself to the Lord of the worlds he was only performing the essential duty of a servant towards the Master of All, and doing it for his own benefit. The reply makes it clear that the basic principle of the religion of Sayyidina Ibrahim alayhissalaam (Abraham), and its very essence is contained in one word, Islam, which signifies total obedience and willing submission of oneself to Allah. It was to show to the world his perfect adherence to this principle that he was made to pass through all the trials before attaining his exalted station. Islam, or submission to Allah, is what the world has been created for; it is the end all the prophets and all the divine books have been sent to serve.
We also learn from this verse that the religion common to all the prophets and the point on which all of them come together is Islam. Beginning with Sayyidina Adam upto the Last Prophet every messenger of Allah and every prophet has called men to Islam alone, and enjoined upon his followers to keep to this Straight Path. The Holy Qur’an is quite explicit on this subject:
“Certainly, in the eyes of Allah the only religion is Islam” (3:19)
”Whoso desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him.” (3:85)
In order to put the question in the proper perspective as also to avoid the risk of misunderstanding let us add a few remarks. All the religions which different prophets brought to the world had a divine sanction behind them, were essentially instituted by Allah Himself, and each of them was, in its own time, “accepted” in the sight of Allah. Consequently, each of these religions – whether one calls it Judaism or Christianity or something else – must in its essence be Islam (Monotheism), in the general sense of the word – namely, total submission to Allah.
But the religion of Sayyidina Ibrahim alayhissalaam (Abraham) is distinguished from others by a peculiar characteristic – that is, he gave to his religion the name of Islam, and to his followers the name of Muslims. We have seen in Verse 128 how he prayed for himself, his son and his progeny: “And, our Lord, keep us both obedient (Muslimayn) to you, and make of our progeny a people (Ummah) obedient (Muslimah) to you.” And now in Verse 132 we find him advising his descendants not to die without being sure that they have been Muslims. After him this distinction of being specifically called Muslims and “the Islamic Ummah” passed on, according to his own instruction, to the Ummah of the Holy Prophet. Addressing the Muslims, the Holy Qur’an says: “Be steadfast in the religion of your father, Ibrahim. He named you Muslims before this as well as in this (the Holy Qur’an).” (22:78) When the Holy Qur’an was revealed, the Jews and the Christians, and even the idol-worshippers of Arabia used to make the claim, each group on its own part, that they were the followers of the Abrahamic religion, but the Holy Qur’an and its followers have made it quite evident that in this last phase of human history the religion of the Holy Prophet, and this alone, is the religion of Sayyidina Ibrahim (Abraham) – the religion of quintessential “Nature” (fitrah).
In short, the essence of all the divine books, all the shari’ahs and the teachings of all the prophets is Islam – that is, turning away from one’s desires in order to obey Divine commandments, and giving up individual opinion in order to submit oneself to Divine guidance. But we are grieved to see that there are thousands of Muslims today, who have forgotten this basic truth, and wish to pursue their own desires in the name of Islam. What appeals to them is that kind of interpretation (rather, misinterpretation) of the Holy Qur’an and the hadith which should flatter their desires. In fact, what they strive to do is to distort the shari’ah to suit their fancies, and to do it so cleverly that the idols they really worship should appear in the garb of religion. Such men are, indeed, trying to be clever with Allah Himself who knows every particle of the universe and who can look into the deepest recesses of the human heart – the Almighty before whom nothing avails but complete surrender and total submission.
What Islam requires of man is that he should set aside all his desires and inclinations, and seek, in everything he does, the pleasure of his Lord. And he can find this pleasure only when he knows the commandments of his Lord, and also performs these tasks exactly in the manner He has prescribed. This is what ‘Ibadah or worship is, in the real sense of the word. It is the perfection of this total obedience and submission and love which constitutes the final stage of man’s spiritual development. which is known as the Station (Maqaam) of ‘Abdiyyah (Servanthood). This is the station where Sayyidina Ibrahim alayhissalaam (Abraham) received from Allah the title of Khalilullah (the Friend of Allah), and the Last of All the Prophets the title of: ‘Abduna (Our Servant). On the subsidiary levels of the Station of Servanthood stand the Abdal, the Aqtal, the Awliya, the men of Allah – the ‘saints’ of the Islamic Ummah, each in his own degree. This is the essence of Tawhid (the realization of unicity), on attaining which all one’s fears and hopes become bound with Allah, and with no one else.
Thus, Islam signifies total obedience to Allah, and this obedience is possible only when one follows the Sunnah, the Way of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Qur’an has laid down the principle in very explicit words:
“By your Lord, they will never be true Muslims till they make you the judge regarding the disagreements between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your verdict, and surrender themselves in full submission.” (4:65).
In the end let us clarify an important point. As reported in Verse 132, Sayyidna Ibrahim alayhissalaam (Abraham) made his descendants promise that before they died they should make sure that they had been Muslims. It means that one should steadfastly follow the teachings of Islam throughout one’s life, so that one receives the grace of Allah and remains a Muslim upto the last breath. A number of Ahadith too say that one would die in the state which one has maintained in one’s life, and one would, on the Day of Resurrection, rise from the grave in the same state. This is the usual way of Allah with men – if His servant makes up his mind to do good deeds and also strives in this direction as best as he can, Allah helps him and makes the task easy for him. This principle does not in any way stand in opposition to what has been said in another hadith to this effect:-
A man keeps doing the kind of good deeds for which Paradise has been promised and it seems that there is only an arms’s length between him and Paradise, and then all of a sudden his destiny overcomes him, and he starts doing what would lead him to Hell, and finally he reaches Hell; on the other hand, a man keeps doing what would lead him to Hell, and it seems that there is only an arm’s length between him and Hell, and then his destiny overcomes him, and he starts doing what would make him worthy of Paradise, and finally he enters Paradise. We have said that there is no contradiction involved, for some texts of this hadith mention a proviso too – “as it appeared to people.” That is to say, the first of these two men appeared in the eyes of the onlookers to be performing good deeds, while in fact he was doing just the opposite; similarly, the second man had from the outset been doing what would make him worthy of Paradise, though people thought him to be a sinner. [Ibn Kathir]
We conclude this discussion with the remark that the man who has been steadfast in doing good deeds, should trust the divine promise, rely on the usual way of Allah with His creatures, and hope that through the grace of Allah he would depart from this world in this blessed state.
The Abrahamic Way and the People of the Book
O people of the Book, why do you argue about Ibrahim (Abraham) while the Torah and the Injeel were not revealed until after him? Have you, then, no sense?
Look, this is what you are – you argued about what you had knowledge; why then do you argue about what you have no knowledge? And Allah knows and you do not know.
Ibrahim (Abraham) was not a Jew, nor a Christian. But he was upright, a Muslim, and was not one of those who associate partners with Allah.
The closest of people to Ibrahim are those who followed him, and this prophet, and those who believe. And Allah is guardian of the believers. [Surah Aal-Imran 65-68]
The argumentation referred to in verse 65 was to decide whether Sayyidna Ibrahim followed the way of the Jews, or that of the Christians. The futility of their exercise already stood exposed as both these ways in religion appeared long after the revelation of the Old and New Testaments. These just did not exist before that. How, then, could it be claimed that Sayyidina Ibrahim alayhissalaam (Abraham) adhered to these ways?
Verse 66 points out to the hollowness of their approach when they indulged in their argumentation on the basis of incomplete knowledge. That they would venture to do so on the basis of no knowledge could hardly he explained. The truth is that only Allah knows the way of Ibrahim alayhissalaam (Abraham).
That way has been described in Verse 67:
Ibrahim (Abraham) was not a Jew, nor a Christian. But he was upright, a Muslim, and was not one of those who associate partners with Allah.
How the Jews and Christians have Deviated from the Abrahamic Way??
Abraham (Ibrahim alayhissalaam’s) seed was blessed through him, the covenant was the obedience to Allah and to be the guiding light to other nations, ironically, the Jews disobeyed this command and fabricated the obligation to suit themselves as so-called “chosen people” and all the other nations they considered as ‘animals made to serve them”. Add to this their history of hatred of Prophets and malice against them. In this way, the Jews deviated from the true way of Abraham which leads to the true faith of the Creator.
Other the other extreme, the Christians deviated from the Way of Abraham by adding partners to the Wahid Allah and adding pagan heresy to the message of ‘Eesa (alayhissalaam), Abraham was not an idolator like the Christians nor did he despise other Nations like the Jews and he believed in One Allah and obeyed his commands without associating any partners with Him.
Verse 68 declares that the closest of people to Sayyidina Ibrahim were those who followed him during his time and now the closest to him is the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad al-Mustafa (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), and so are the believers in him and in past prophets. These believers are the community of Muhammad and their guardian is Allah and He will reward them for their belief.
It is time for the Christians and Jews to ponder honestly as to what extent do they follow on the footsteps of Abraham and mend their ways.