Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:124, Part-II)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Imamat, Pinnacle Honor of Prophet Ibrahim, Part-II
Ibrahim received the news of being Imam while He was a prophet
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَإِذِ ابْتَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا ۖ قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي ۖ قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿١٢٤﴾
Translation: 2:104 When his Lord tested Abraham with certain words (commands) and he fulfilled them, He said, ‘I am making you the Imam of mankind.’ Said he, ‘And from among my descendants?’ He said, ‘My pledge does not extend to the unjust.’
Commentary: Allah (SWT) tested Prophet Ibrahim (AS) with a series of difficult and strenuous assignments [كَلِمَاتٍ]. With sincerity and brilliance, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) fulfilled his missions. After this, Allah (SWT) appointed him as the “Imam” for mankind:
…..قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا …….﴿١٢٤﴾
In this analysis, a synopsis of Ibrahim’s (AS) divine assignments will be reviewed and the narration of these events will prove that the news of being Imam reached Ibrahim in his old age, after the birth of Isaaqh (Isacc) and Ismail (Ishmael). By this time, Ibrahim had been prophet for many decades.
Therefore, being Imam is not the same as prophet. If being Imam was the same as prophet, Allah (SWT) would not remind Ibrahim at an old age that “I am going to appoint you the Imam of mankind”, when he had already been a prophet for many decades.
Fight against idolatry: At a young age, he preached to Babylonians against worshipping idols. Soon, he realized that Babylonians were oblivious of their own ignorance. Therefore, he decided to make them understand that idols are merely stone statues not worthy of being worshipped.
One day, when people went to the city outskirts to celebrate an annual festival, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) picked up an axe and went to the temple where all the idols were kept. He broke all the idols except the biggest one and left the axe on its shoulder. When the town residents returned and saw the desecration of the temple and their gods, they guessed that it was the work of Ibrahim.
When the news of the desecration reached Namrud, the king of Babylon, he summoned Ibrahim and asked him, “Have you done this to our gods, O Ibrahim?” Ibrahim pointed to the biggest idol and said evidence showed that “it was this biggest one of them (idols) that did it. Ask them (the broken idols), if they can speak.” The Babylonians looked at each other and said “Idols don’t speak.” Babylonians in their soul acknowledged their faults, but their bigotry and arrogance made them sentence Ibrahim to burning in a fire.
The Babylonians prepared a huge fire, which took them 40 days to collect all the firewood for. The fire was kindled and shortly after, the horrible roar of the fire deafened the ears and the intensity of its heat burned the skins of its spectators.
The Babylonians then tied Ibrahim to a catapult and threw him in the middle of the fire. The fear of death neither weakened Ibrahim’s faith in Allah (SWT) nor made him doubt his divine mission. Instead, he put his trust in Allah (SWT) and calmly whispered:
یا أَحَدُ یا أَحَدُ یا صَمَدُ یا صَمَدُ یا مَنْ لَمْ یَلِدْ وَ لَمْ یُولَدْ وَ لَمْ یَکُنْ لَهُ کُفُواً أَحَدٌ تَوَکَّلْتُ عَلَى اللّهِ
With the command of Allah (SWT), the fire became a safe and cool place for Ibrahim. Consequently, he emerged safely from the fire [Al-Inbiya 21:51-72] and left Babylon for Palestine.
وَقَالَ إِنِّي ذَاهِبٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ ﴿٩٩﴾ رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ
37:99-100 He said, ‘Indeed I am going toward my Lord, who will guide me.’ ‘My Lord! Give me [an heir], one of the righteous.’
Birth of Ishaq and Ismail: At an old age, Allah (SWT) blessed Prophet Ibrahim with two sons named Ishaq (Isaac) and Ismail (Ishmael). The birth of Ishaq and Ismail was depicted in the Chapter of Al-Hihr:
When angels were missioned to destroy the nation of Lut, they stopped to visit Prophet Ibrahim and his wife and give them the good news that they would be blessed with children very soon [Al-Hijr 15:51-55, Hud 11:71-73]. Prophet Ibrahim and his wife were both astounded by the news. Would they really be able to have child at their old age?
Prophet Ibrahim asked the angels, “Do you give me good news (of a son) when old age has come upon me?” The angel saw the surprised look on Ibrahim’s face and said, “We give you good news with truth, therefore be not of the despairing.”
The wife of Ibrahim, who was listening to the conversation with a smile, said, “This is certainly strange. How can I have a baby when I am barren and my husband is very old?” The angel replied, “Would you be surprised at God’s decree? O! People of the house, may God’s mercy and blessings be with you. God is Appreciative and Glorious.”
This tone of conversation showed that Prophet Ibrahim and his wife both were in disbelief at the thought of having children at their old age. The angels assured them with this statement:
قَالُوا بَشَّرْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ فَلَا تَكُن مِّنَ الْقَانِطِينَ ﴿٥٥﴾
15:55 They said, “We have given you the glad news for a true reason so do not despair”.
Migrating His Family to Mecca: Ismaeel was still an infant when Allah (SWT) commanded Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to move his wife Hajer, along with their son Ismail, to a barren desert land, which today is Mecca. This mission was to prepare the grounds for rebuilding the Kaaba.
When Prophet Ibrahim reached the harsh and barren desert of Mecca with Hajer and Ismail, there were no basic necessities such as food and water, to survive in the area. At that time, no tribes lived in the area either.
Despite Prophet Ibrahim’s love for Hajer and Ismaeel, he left them alone in the barren land of Mecca as God had commanded, and returned alone to Palestine. This test was arguably heftier than facing the fire of Babylon. Upon returning to Palestine, he pleaded to Allah (SWT) and said:
رَّبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ فَاجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَهْوِي إِلَيْهِمْ وَارْزُقْهُم مِّنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ ﴿٣٧﴾
14:37 Our Lord! I have settled part of my descendants in a barren valley, by Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may maintain the prayer. So make the hearts of a part of the people fond of them, and provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.
His separation from Hajer and Ismaeel was difficult for Prophet Ibrahim. So, he visited them often.
Fulfilling Vision: Ismaeel phased out his childhood in Mecca and became physically strong and a mentally mature young boy. Allah (SWT) once again tested Prophet Ibrahim, this time with his love for Ismaeel.
Prophet Ibrahim, in a vision, saw that he was sacrificing Ismaeel. He shared his vision with Ismaeel, and Ismaeel, without questioning his father’s vision, said: “Father! Do whatever you have been commanded. If Allah wishes, you will find me to be patient.” [as-Saffat 37:102]
فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ ۚ قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ ۖ سَتَجِدُنِي إِن شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٠٢﴾
37:102 When he was old enough to assist in his endeavour, he said, ‘My son! I see in dreams that I am sacrificing you. See what you think.’ He said, ‘Father! Do whatever you have been commanded. If Allah wishes, you will find me to be patient.’
When the time of the sacrifice came, Allah (SWT) called Ibrahim and said to him:
وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَن يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ ﴿١٠٤﴾ قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّؤْيَا ۚ إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿١٠٥﴾ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَهُوَ الْبَلَاءُ الْمُبِينُ ﴿١٠٦﴾
37:104-106 We called out to him, “O Abraham! You have indeed fulfilled your vision! Thus indeed do We reward the virtuous! This was indeed a manifest test.”
After Prophet Ibrahim fulfilled all these breathtaking tests, Allah (SWT) appointed him as “the Imam of mankind.”
……. قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا ……﴿١٢٤﴾
2:104 ….. He (Allah SWT) said, ‘I am making you the Imam of mankind.’ ….
The narration of these events attest that the news of becoming Imam reached Ibrahim at:
An old age
After the birth of Ishaq (Isaac) and Ismail (Ishmael) and,
After Ibrahim had been a prophet for many decades.
That is, Ibrahim received the news of being Imam while he was a prophet. Hence, being Imam is different than being a prophet. If it was the same, Allah (SWT) would not remind Ibrahim at an old age that “I am going to appoint you the Imam of mankind”, when he had already been a prophet for many decades.
Appendix: When Prophet Ibrahim received the news of being an Imam to mankind, without hesitation he pleaded with Allah (SWT) to appoint Imams amongst his descendants, [(وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي)].
The tone of the verse implies that Prophet Ibrahim either already had Ismail and Ishaq at that time or at least he was expecting them. For instance, his wife was pregnant at that moment. Otherwise, he should have simultaneously pleaded for children as well by saying for instance; O Allah, grant me children and continue the position of Imamat through my descendants.
It is important to add that after Prophet Ibrahim (AS) received the news of having children in the near future, he learned that these angels were missioned to punish the nation of Lut. The Quran says that the Prophet Ibrahim pleaded with the angels to spare the nation of Lut for divine chastisement. The angels replied:
يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ أَعْرِضْ عَنْ هَـٰذَا ۖ إِنَّهُ قَدْ جَاءَ أَمْرُ رَبِّكَ ۖ وَإِنَّهُمْ آتِيهِمْ عَذَابٌ غَيْرُ مَرْدُودٍ ﴿٧٦﴾
11:73 “O Ibrahim, refrain from this. The command of your Lord has come; they have incurred an irreversible punishment.”
The above narration is a testimony that Ibrahim (AS) was a divine prophet before the birth of Ismail and Ishaq.