Allah (SWT) says in Surah Al-Baqarah # 124
When Allah (SWT) tested Prophet Ibrahim (AS), Prophet Ibrahim (AS) passed the test. Allah (SWT)said to him: “I will make you leader of mankind” Prophet Ibrahim asked Allah (SWT) “Is this promise for my children too?” Allah (SWT) replied “Yes, but not for those who will be wrong doers.”
Many questions come to mind. Why should Allah (SWT) test anybody when He is All Knowing? What is the nature of these tests? What was the result of the test of Prophet Ibrahim (AS)? What was the reward, if any, for these tests? We will address these questions one by one.
The purpose of these tests is not to give pass/fail awards or any other credentials. The purpose of these tests is indicated by the word “RUB” in this verse. Allah (SWT) has chosen this word for Himself from all His attributes to indicate that the purpose of this test is to nourish the spiritual and physical faculties of a person and train him for higher and higher goals. A poet said in Urdu.
“O eagle, don’t be afraid of strong opposing wind. It is to raise you higher and higher.” Hence, difficulties train a person for higher goals.
We notice that Allah (SWT) is announcing the result of tests of Ibrahim (AS) stating that he has fulfilled these tests. Allah (SWT) refers to Ibrahim (AS) even more beatifully in Surah An-Najm # 37
That Ibrahim (AS) who fulfilled his promises.
Hence we conclude that Ibrahim (AS) passed all these tests. As a result of this Allah (SWT) said to him “I will make you leader of mankind.” Prophet Ibrahim was not only happy but was concerned about his future generations. Allah (SWT) said “There will be, indeed, leaders of mankind among your future generations except those who are wrong doers.” Hence the People of Book cannot be leaders since they made partners with Allah (SWT).
Now we will describe some of the tests of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). Let us start with the time when he was with his parents and people. He saw them worshipping idols which they had made with their own hands. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) addressed those idols as described in Surah
As-Saffat # 91-98
Then he turned to their gods and said “Will you not eat (of the offering before you)? “What is the matter with you that you speak not?” Then he turned upon them, striking (them) with (his) right hand. Then they (the worshippers of idols) came, towards him, hastening. He said: “Worship you that which you (yourselves) carve? “While Allah has created you and what you make!” They said: “Build for him a building and throw him into the blazing fire!” So they plotted a plot against him, but We made them the lowest.
Prophet Ibrahim said,
Allah (SWT) is enough as my protector and patron.
Allah (SWT) ordered the roaring flames of fire to become cool seasonably and reasonably to comfort Ibrahim (AS).
Now Ibrahim had to leave his father and folks and what they worshipped. He went to Syria with his wife. This scene is also described in Surah As-Saffat # 99- 100
Prophet Ibrahim said, I go to the way of Allah (SWT) who will indeed guide me. My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous.
Scholars inferred from this that it is the sunnah of all the prophets to get married and try to have children who are righteous, so that they can carry on the work of Allah (SWT). Another example of this is prophet Zakariya (AS) who said Al-Imran # 38
At that time Zakariya invoked his Lord: “O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good off spring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation.”
Hence we must pray to Allah (SWT) to grant us pious and righteous Children.
Allah (SWT) did give Ibrahim (AS) tidings of a son who was going to show extraordinary patience and perseverance. Hajira, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), gave birth to Ismail (AS).
Allah (SWT) ordered angel Gibrael to take Ibrahim (AS), his wife and baby boy to a place that is known as Makkah now. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was ordered to go back to Syria as soon as they arrived there. The spirit of submission to the will of Allah (SWT) was so high in the mind of Ibrahim (AS), that he started off immediately towards Syria. His wife asked him, “Where are you going, leaving us behind here?”. He did not answer. She asked again, “Why are you leaving us behind, where there is no habitation, no water and vegetation?” He still did not answer her. Finally she asked, “Is Allah (SWT) sending you?” Prophet Ibrahim (AS) answered, “Yes”. She responded “Fine, He who is sending you will take care of us as well”.
When Prophet Ibrahim (AS) went around the hill, he paused momentarily and made a supplication “O Allah (SWT), I have stationed my family in a place where there is no sign of vegetation whatsoever. Please provide them with fruits of life so that they can establish prayer and be truly submissive to you.”
It is interesting to note that this is the way the prophets make balance between the rights of Allah (SWT) and the rights of the people. On the other hand sufi is totally submerged in fulfilling the rights of Allah (SWT).
This was a big test for the whole family of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). Hajira (RU) found her baby boy crying for water. She rushed to nearby hillock called Safa in search of water. She was disappointed and came running back to the child who was still crying. She ran to the other hill called Marwa to find any signs of water. She was disappointed again. Hajira ran seven times between Safa and Marwa in search of water for her child. As she returned to her child after seventh round she found her child rubbing his feet on the ground. To her surprise a fountain of water gushed out from that place which is now called ZAM ZAM. This fountain of water is flowing till today providing water to the mankind.
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) used to visit his family time to time. When his son Ismail became teenager, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) said to him “O my dear son, I see in dream that I sacrifice you. What do you think about it?”. This explains us how a father should communicate with his son. Prophet Ibrahim informed him politely and waited for his response. This left scope for any counseling if necessary. This also tested the level of sense of submission of his son to Allah (SWT). We further note that this is the age when a child becomes a helping hand for his parents and all parents are anxiously waiting for this stage. Allah (SWT) ordered Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice his son in this prime age. This was another big test for the whole family. The answer of the son is very fascinating. He said “O my dear dad, go ahead do what you are ordered”. This young man clearly understood that even the dream of the prophet is like a revelation from Allah (SWT) and hence an order from Allah (SWT). Young Ismail further added “InshaAllah you will see me among those who are patient”. This answer has many lessons for us. First of all we must use InshaAllah in our communications as we have been instructed in Surah Al-Kahf and Surah Noon. Secondly, young Ismail recognized that there have been many people before him who were extremly patient. He instead of boasting about his patience, humbles himself further and says that “You will, God willing find me among those who are patient”.
Both father and son walked towards a site called Mina. On the way Satan tried to persuade the father saying “You have only seen a dream. Why should you slaughter your son in his prime age?” Prophet Ibrahim threw pebbles on Satan to overcome him. Then Satan similarly tried to persuade young Ismail and his mother. They treated Satan the same way and overcame Satan with their strong belief.
Father and son were now ready for the sacrifice. A very touching dialogue took place between them. Son said to his father,
v “O my dad tie my hands and feet so that I don’t jump around.
v Please sharpen the knife and run it fast on my throat so that my soul can leave me fast. Death is a very difficult thing.
v Save your clothes from my blood so that my reward is not decreased and my mother may not be grieved to see this blood.
v Say my salam to my mother and give her my shirt. It may console her.”
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) listened to this touching speech from his son and the Prophet Ibrahim was not carried away. He said to his son “O my dear son, how helpful you are in carrying out our duty of Allah (SWT)”.
This is all described in As-Saffat # 103- 107.
“When both of them surrendered to Allah (SWT), the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) laid down his son on his face. Allah called Ibrahim “O Ibrahim you have fulfilled the vision. We reward the goodness like this. It was indeed a clear test. We replaced it with a bigger sacrifice”.
A lamb was sacrificed in place of young Ismail (AS). Allah further recognized Ibrahim (AS) by instructing all the coming generations to salute him. Allah (SWT) not only saved Ismail but granted him another son, Isaac. Both were prominent prophets of Allah (SWT).
Allah (SWT) loved the submission of every member of the family of Ibrahim so much that He made it a symbol for the coming generations by making it a part of Hajj.
May Allah (SWT) give us sense, spirit of submission and sacrifice to Allah’s will like the family of Ibrahim(AS). Ameen