Islam

Friday Sermon: Heroes of Faith: Abraham

By Babatunde Jose

One of the prophets given the most attention in the Quran is the prophet, Abraham. The Quran tells of him and his unwavering belief in God; first being called to reject his people and their idolatry, and later to prove true to various tests which God places before him. He was a man of unshakable faith, and one of the all-time heroes of faith and a quintessential father of monotheism.

Abraham is seen as a strict monotheist who calls his people to the worship of God alone.  For this belief, he bears great hardships, even disassociating himself with his family and people through migration to other lands.  He is one who fulfills various commandments of God through which he is tested, proving true to each one.

Due to this strength of faith, the Quran attributes the one and only true religion to be the “Path of Abraham”, even though prophets before him, such as Noah, called to the same faith.  Because of his tireless act of obedience to God, Allah gave him the special title of “Khaleel”, or beloved servant, not given to any other Prophet before.  Due to the fidelity and faithfulness of Abraham, God made prophets from his progeny, among them Ishmael Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and Moses, guiding people to the truth.

The lofty status of Abraham is one shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alike.  The Jews see him to be epitome of virtue as he fulfilled all the commandments although before they were revealed and was the first to come to the realization of the One True God.  He is seen as the father of the ‘chosen race’, the father of prophets due to which God started his series of revelations.  In Christianity, he is seen as the father of all believers (Romans 4:11) and his trust in God and sacrifice is taken as a model for later saints (Hebrews 11).

The Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination, calls Abraham “our father in Faith” in the Eucharistic prayer of the Roman Canon, recited during the Mass. He is also commemorated in the calendars of saints of several denominations: on 20th  August by the Maronite Church, 28th August in the Coptic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, and on 9th October by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. Abraham and Sarah are invoked in the prayers said by the priest over a newly married couple.

Islam regards Abraham as a link in the chain of prophets that begins with Adam and culminates in Muhammad. Abraham is mentioned in 35 chapters of the Quran, more often than any other biblical personage apart from Moses. He is called both a hanif (monotheist) and Muslim (one who submits), and Muslims regard him as a prophet and patriarch, the archetype of the perfect Muslim, and the revered reformer of the Kaaba in Mecca. Islamic traditions consider Ibrahim the first Pioneer of Islam (which is also called ‘Millat Ibrahim’, the “religion of Abraham”), and that his purpose and mission throughout his life was to proclaim the Oneness of God. In Islam, Abraham holds an exalted position among the major prophets, and he is referred to as “Ibrahim Khalilullah”, meaning “Abraham the Beloved of God”.

Besides Ishaq (Isaac) and Yaqoob (Jacob), Ibrahim is among the most honorable and the most excellent men in the sight of God. Ibrahim was also mentioned in Quran as “Father of Muslims” and the role model for the community.

The story of Abraham is a story of dedication and submission to God. Each time God issued a commandment to Abraham, he immediately and willingly submitted himself. God says about Abraham, “His Lord said to him, ‘Devote yourself to Me.’ Abraham replied, ‘I devote myself to the Lord of the Universe.’” 2:131 No matter how difficult the command seemed, from abandoning his family in the desert to sacrificing his son with his own hand, Abraham trusted in God implicitly and his love for God over all else was enough faith. In return, God honored Abraham for his devoutness.

As Muslims, we must learn to devote ourselves to God. This means to love God above all else including ourselves, and by extension to carry out God’s commands even if they clash with our own preferences and desires.

Abraham’s love, faith and dedication to God meant that he did not just accept things without thinking. At this time, we must not accept the status quo. We must change the paradigm of our relationship with our rulers who to all intents and purposes are satanic and idolators (they worship money and power) and are not interested in the welfare of the people. They are anti-God and anti-man. Abraham not only refused the status quo but was also prepared to pay the supreme price for it by being burnt on the stake. He was rescued by God who sent Angels to command the fire not to harm him. Are we prepared to die on the barricades for our rights and freedom from our Pharaonic rulers?

Abraham teaches us the importance of learning and knowledge. As Muslims, are we prepared to learn and improve our knowledge about God and His commandments? Or we are content with following the warped teachings of our half-baked and sometimes illiterate Alfas and Pastors who mis-interpret the holy books blindly, causing more acrimony in society than bringing peace among the various competing faiths?

Are we prepared to be steadfast in our faith and put our trust in God like Abraham?

Sometimes we feel alone, our family and friends may not agree with our devotion to God. Yet we are not alone, we have God with us. Abraham would continuously turn to God for help.

One great lesson from the life of Abraham is his willingness to give up everything for God. Abraham is called the father of the faithful for good reasons. When God calls him to leave his homeland, the land where he grew up and where his family is, he immediately “went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

The test of his faith did not stop there. God asks him to sacrifice his son. Can you imagine the torment, doubt, and fear that could have raced through Abraham’s mind?

Faith is demonstrated through action. Believing is one thing but acting on that belief is completely different. Abraham exemplified what true and living faith is. This coming Hajj and Eid El Kabir, we will be celebrating a ‘Hero of Faith’. Like Abraham, may Allah make us worthy of His grace.

Barka Juma’at and Happy Sallah.

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