The Story of Abraham (Ibrahim)
Imam Ibn Kathir Ad-Dimashqi
eBook: Stories of the Prophets
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He was mocking them for he knew they would not eat. He once again asked then: "What is the matter with you that you do not speak?" [Ch 37:92]
He then raised his axe and started smashing the false gods worshipped by the people. He destroyed them all except one on whose neck he hung the axe. After this his anger subsides and he felt at peace. He left the temple. He had fulfilled his vow to show his people a practical proof of their foolishness in worshipping something other than All.
When the people returned, they were shocked to see their gods smashed to pieces, lying scattered all over the temple. They began to guess who had done that to their idols and Abraham's name came to their minds.
Allah the Almighty said: they said: "Who has done this to our aliah (gods)? He must indeed be one of the wrongdoers." They said: "We heard a young man talking against them who is called Abraham." They said: "Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may testify." they said: "Are you the one who has done this to our gods, O Abraham?" Abraham said: "nay, this one, the biggest of them (idols) did it, Ask them, if they can speak!"
So they turned to themselves and said: "Verily you are the Zalimun (polytheists, and wrongdoers)." Then they turned to themselves (their first thought and said): "Indeed you (Abraham) know well that these idols speak not?" Abraham said: "DO you then worship besides Allah, things that can neither profit you nor harm you? If upon you, and upon that which you worship besides Allah! Have you then no sense?" [Ch 21:59-67 Quran]
Furious, they demanded that Abraham be arrested and tried. Abraham did not resist. this was precisely what he had been aiming for, so that he could show them up in public for their foolish beliefs.
At the trial they asked him if he was responsible for breaking the idols. Smiling, he told them to ask the biggest idol which was still whole. He told them that he must be the culprit! They replied that he knew well that the idol could not speak or move which gave Abraham the chance to prove the foolishness of worshipping these lifeless objects.
They then realized the senselessness of their beliefs; however, their arrogance would not allow them to admit their foolishness. All they could do was to use their power of authority as tyrants usually do to punish Abraham. They kept him in chains and planned their revenge.
Anger was burning in their hearts. They decided to throw Abraham into the biggest fire they could build. All the citizens were ordered to gather wood as a service to their gods. Ignorant, sick women vowed that if they were cured they would donate so much wood to burn Abraham. For several days they collected fuel.
They dug a deep pit, filled it with firewood and ignited it. They brought a catapult with which to cast Abraham into the fire. Abraham was put on the catapult, his hands and feet were tied. The fire was ready with its flame reaching the sky. The people stood away from the pit because of the great heat. Then the chief priest gave his order to cast Abraham into the fire.
The angel Gabriel came near Abraham's head and asked him: "O Abraham do you wish for anything?" Abraham replied: "Nothing from you."
The catapult was shot and Abraham was cast into the fire. But his descent into the blaze was as descent on steps in a cool garden. The flames were still there, but they did not burn for Allah the Almighty had issued His command: "O fire! Be you coolness and safety for Abraham." [Ch 21:69 Quran]
The fire submitted to the will of Allah, becoming cool and safe for Abraham. It only burned his bonds, and he sat in the midst of the fire as if he were sitting in a garden. He glorified and praised Allah the Almighty, with a heart that contained only his love for Allah. There was not any vacant space therein for fear, awe, or worry. It was filled with love only.
Fear and awe were dead, and the fire was turned into coolness, making the air pleasant. Those who love Allah as Abraham do did not fear.
Allah declared: Those (believers) unto whom the people (hypocrites) said: 'Verily! the people (pagans) have gathered against you (a great army), therefore, fear them.' but it only increased them in Faith, and they said: Allah Alone is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs for us."
So they returned with Grace and Bounty from Allah. No harm touched them; and they followed the good Pleasure of Allah. Allah is the Owner of Great bounty. It is only Satan that suggests to you the fear of his Auliya (supporters and friends, polytheists, disbeliveers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger Muhammad) so fear them not but fear Me if you are true believers." [Ch 3:173-175 Quran]
The throng, the chiefs, and the priests sat watching the fire from a distance. It was burning their faces and nearly suffocating them. It kept burning for such a long time that the disbeliveers thought it would never be extinguished. When it did burn out, they were greatly amazed to find Abraham coming out of the pit untouched by the fire. Their faces were black from the smoke, but his was bright with the light and grace of Allah. The raging fire had become cool for Abraham and had only charred the ropes which held him. He walked out of the fire as if he were walking out of a garden. Cries of astonishment were heard from the heathens. They wanted to harm him, but We made them the worst losers. [Ch 21:70]
This miracle shamed the tyrants, but it did not cool the flame of anger in their hearts. However after his event many of the people followed Abraham, although some kept their belief a secret for fear of harm or death at the hands of the rulers.
Abraham had established a definite reasoning against idolaters. Nothing was left for him except to reason against the people who proclaimed themselves gods.
When the king, Namrud, heard of Abraham's safe exit from the fire he became very angry. He feared that the status of godhead he had proclaimed for himself was not challenged by an ordinary human being. He summoned Abraham to the palace and held a dialogue with him which Allah Almighty recounted: Have you not thought about him who disputed with Abraham about his Lord (Allah) because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Abraham said to him: "My Lord (Allah) is He Who gives life and causes death." He said: "I give life and cause death." Abraham said: "Verily, Allah causes the sun to rise from the east; then cause it you to rise from the west." So the disbeliever was utterly defeated. Allah guides not the people who are Zalimeen (wrongdoers etc). [Ch 2:258 Quran]
Abraham's fame spread throughout the entire kingdom. People talked about how he had been saved from the blazing fire and how he had debated with the king and left him speechless. In the meantime, Abraham continued calling people to believe in Allah, exerting a great effort to guide his people to the right path. He tried every means to convince them. However in spite of his love and care for his people, they felt angry and deserted him. Only one woman and one man of his people shared his belief in Allah. The woman's name was Sarah and she became his wife. The man's name was Lot and he became a prophet.
When Abraham realized that no one else was going to believe in his call, he decided to emigrate. He left his people and traveled with his wife and Lot to a city called Ur, then another called Haran, and then to Palestine.
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