by: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Translated by: Fatema Makki
Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) was indeed the man of God who shouldered the responsibility of being ultimately true to God in all his actions and words, and despite all of the difficulties and obstacles standing in his way. He was an authentic servant of God who lived for His sake. This is what we infer from God's words, “and God took Ibrahim (a.s.) as a friend (4:125).” The nature of the relationship between God and Ibrahim (a.s.) was that of friendship, based on the mutual love between the two: “He loves them and they love Him.” (5:54). This kind of relationship is considered as the highest connection that a mortal can have with his Lord. It is a relationship of servitude that transcends into friendship.
Accordingly, this friendship between Ibrahim (a.s.) and God, being based on Ibrahim (a.s.)’s feeling that his very existence depends on Allah, led Ibrahim (a.s.) to the evidence of God’s existence, and thus asks God to bring back the dead to life: “Show me how You give life to the dead. [God] said: Do you not believe? [Ibrahim (a.s.)] said: Most certainly! But only that my heart be at ease.” (2:260)
This indicates that in Ibrahim (a.s.)’s relation with his Lord, he was open to Him and lived with Him a life of spontaneity, in which faith and creed complement love and obedience to Allah.
From this perspective, we infer that Ibrahim (a.s.) lived an absolute submission to Allah; inspired by the verse: “The milla of your father Ibrahim (a.s.), who called you Muslims from before.” (22:78) “When his Lord told him: Submit [aslim], he said: I submit to the Lord of all the Worlds. And Ibrahim (a.s.) left a legacy to his children, as did Jacob, saying thus: O my children! God has chosen for you the religion, and die only as Muslims,” (2:131-32) we tend to believe that the he was the first to use the term al-Islam. Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) was the first to derive the term “Islam” (meaning the submission to Allah) after hearing it from God, Almighty. The term “Islam” encompasses all succeeding religions asserting oneness and calling for monotheism: “Verily the religion with God is al-Islam.” (3:19); “And whoever follows other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him” (3:85).
Naturally, we may note that Ibrahim (a.s.), being the man who lived with God in all his being, words, actions, sentiments, and intellect, worked hard to create an educational atmosphere in his community. He meant to propagate this spiritual empathy with God, and transcendence to all of his descents. He also meant to transmit this Islam to all of humankind. This is the message of the glorious verse: “And Ibrahim (a.s.) left as a legacy to his children, as did Jacob, saying thus: O my children! God has chosen for you the religion, and die only Muslims.” (2:132).
God wanted the experience of prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) and his son Ismael to be an example of the transcendental relation which embodies Islam in its highest forms. The father’s affection towards his son was tested. Ismael was to be sacrificed by his own father. Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) was to sacrifice his son by his bare hands and not stand by and watch the deed be done by others. Ibrahim (a.s.) had to bend his sense of fatherhood and subdue his love, affection, and empathy towards his only son.
On the other hand, Ismael's love for himself was also challenged. The faith of both, the father and the son, was tested. The father was required to subdue his affection towards his beloved son, and the son had to subject his sense of self. Eventually, they were both capable of achieving qhat God ordered them to do. Ibrahim (a.s.) addresses his son: “O my son, I see in my sleep that I sacrifice you, so what do you think? (37:102) Instantly, Ismael responded without pausing a while to contemplate the action and said: “O my father! Do as you are commanded; You will find me, God willing, among the forbearing.”
We infer, after reading the story of Ibrahim (a.s.) and his son Ismael, that Ibrahim (a.s.) was successful in rearing his son in accordance to the principles of Islam, according to which one sacrifices his sense of self for the sake of God. We can also conclude that Ibrahim (a.s.), unlike other fathers who are blessed with sons after a long period of time, did not spoil his son, while the son becomes untouchable; his mistakes are holy, his bad deeds not to be punished. Such a blind affection has very negative consequences.
We tend to believe that on the part of Ibrahim (a.s.), there was a dedication to the prophetic message, and a tendency on the part of Ismael. In other words, Ibrahim did not perceive his son from an emotional or sentimental perspective, but rather from a prophetic perspective. He realized that all of his actions must be for the sake of God and must dedicate both his sense of fatherhood and brotherhood in servitude for Allah. He was aware of the fact that instead of being self- consumed and view the matter selfishly, he had to be selfless, and that it was his duty to come out of his experience with a more profound faith.
* Edited excerpts from “Dunya Ash-Shabab”