Characteristics of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) Tribe

You have an excellent example in Abraham and those with him. (Qur'an, 60:4)

God reveals that the first prophet was Prophet Adam (pbuh), who was followed by Prophet Noah (pbuh), and then his descendent Prophet Abraham (pbuh) (Qur'an, 37:83). Many of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) descendents were prophets as well, such as Prophet Isaac, Prophet Ishmael, Prophet Jacob, Prophet Moses, Prophet Aaron, Prophet David, Prophet Solomon, Prophet Zacharia, Prophet John, and Prophet Jesus (peace be upon them all).

The ziggurat of Ur, built by Ur Nammu (2112-95 BCE) to worship the Moon. According to Hammurabi's inscriptions, Ur was Sumeria's most famous city.

Historical sources record that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) lived in Mesopotamia. The Qur'an informs us that he and his son, Prophet Ishmael (pbuh) built the Ka`bah. This confirms the historical accounts that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) did indeed live in the Middle East.

The Qur'an states that Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) tribe followed paganism. In fact, historical sources state that nearly all Middle Eastern tribes at that time either worshipped hand-made idols or various celestial bodies (e.g., the Moon and the Sun). Excavations in Mesopotamia have uncovered information and remains of temples (ziggurats) built for such worship, as well as the remains of many stone and clay statues.

In short, both the historical and archaeological facts show that the Middle East, at the time of Prophet Abraham (pbuh), was a pagan land. God chose Prophet Abraham (pbuh), by honoring him with prophethood, as His pure servant to represent the Divine religion and proper moral virtues in the midst of these misguided pagans.

Our Lord reveals that Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) tribe regarded their idols made of stone or wood as divine and prayed to them for assistance. Although devoid of power and life, these pagans believed that these idols could either harm or help them. Due to these superstitious beliefs, they blindly followed the misguided belief system of their ancestors and passed it on to the next one.

God revealed to Prophet Abraham (pbuh) that He was the Creator of everything in the universe and that those who believed otherwise were utterly mistaken. Although his tribe wanted him to live and think like them, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) turned his back on his tribe's traditional belief system, rejected its false deities, and declared that only God truly existed. In order to deepen and reinforce his faith, God showed Prophet Abraham (pbuh) proofs of His power and dominion:

Because of that, We showed Abraham the dominions of the heavens and Earth so that he might be one of the people of certainty. (Qur'an, 6:75)

Remains found in Mesopotamia depict the local societies' idolatrous and superstitious belief system. In this picture, King Tukulti-Ninurta of Assyria bows before the light and fire-god Nusku, who is symbolized by a throne.

Although he grew up among pagans, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) exhibited such a very different character and such a superior moral understanding that he finally separated himself from them and devoted himself to God. But he did not content himself with this separation alone, for he then sought to explain God's existence to them and called them to belief in Him. The people of the tribe, however, refused to accept the truths he told them out of loyalty to their ancestors' religion. As the Qur'an states:

When they are told: "Follow what God has sent down to you," they reply: "We are following what we found our fathers doing." What, even though their fathers did not understand a thing and were not guided! (Qur'an, 2:170)

One of the reasons why his tribe refused to abandon their traditional paganism is found among all people who are distant from true religion: The ideas of the majority are considered to be right, even if they are not true, rational, and divine. According to this worldview, questioning, researching, or criticizing widely held ideas are unacceptable and even sinful acts. This mistake is so important that God mentions it in the Qur'an and tells all people to avoid it, as follows:

If you obeyed most of those on Earth, they would misguide you from God's way. They follow nothing but conjecture. They are only guessing. (Qur'an, 6:116)

Prophet Abraham (pbuh), like all prophets and believers, did not make this mistake. He never abandoned the truth, even when his relatives and friends-in fact, his whole tribe-opposed him. His belief in God was unshakable, and no difficulty or pressure could turn him from his chosen path.

God Bestows Prophethood upon Prophet Abraham (pbuh)

All societies have been aware of God's existence, Oneness, Infinite Might and Power; of the Day of Judgment; and of what God wills from His servants. God reveals this truth in the following verse:

We sent a messenger among every tribe saying: "Worship God and keep clear of all false deities." Among them were some whom God guided, but others received the misguidance they deserved. Travel about the land and see the final fate of the unbelievers. (Qur'an, 16:36)

Prophets are special people whom God selected and endowed with superior qualities. Their powerful faith, pleasing moral virtues, superior character, and exemplary behavior always attracted those around them, and eventually they were forced to move away from their pagan and misguided societies. One of the most important qualities setting them apart is the fact that God revealed the truth to them. As the Qur'an relates:

We have revealed to you, as We revealed to Noah and the prophets who came after him. And We revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Descendents, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon. And We gave David the Psalm. (Qur'an, 4:163)

God's use of prophets to spread His revelation among their people was a great blessing for humanity, for His revelation continues to show people the way to the true path, teach them how to worship, describe proper moral values, and makes His religion known to those people who live after the time of Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace), the last prophet. Our Lord informs us that He has revealed to the prophets how their followers should behave and worship Him:

We made them leaders, guiding by Our command, and revealed to them how to do good actions, perform prayer, and give alms. And they worshipped Us. (Qur'an, 21:73)

Throughout their lives, the prophets sought to gain His good pleasure and compassion, as well as His Paradise. Thus, they lived exemplary lives by fully complying with His commands.

God bestowed prophethood, an honorable position attained by His chosen servants, upon Prophet Abraham (pbuh) after a period of testing. The Qur'an reveals this in the following verse:

Remember when Abraham was tested by his Lord with certain words, which he carried out perfectly. He [God] said: "I will make you a model for humanity." He [Abraham] asked: "And what of my descendents?" He [God] replied: "My contract does not include the wrongdoers." (Qur'an, 2:124)

As stated in this verse, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) obeyed our Lord during this test and perfectly fulfilled all of His commands. Just like Prophet Abraham (pbuh), all believers have the same responsibility. His unconditional obedience to God and submission to His commands are fine models for all believers.

God endowed Prophet Abraham (pbuh) with prophethood at an early age (Qur'an, 21:60), and revealed the truth to him:

Or do they in fact envy other people for the bounty God has granted them? We gave the family of Abraham the Book and Wisdom, and We gave them an immense kingdom. (Qur'an, 4:54)

In other verses, God reveals that He gave texts to Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his descendents:

. although the Hereafter is better and longer lasting. This is certainly [stated] in the earlier texts, the texts of Abraham and Moses. (Qur'an, 87:17-19)

Or has he not been informed what is in the texts of Moses and of Abraham, who fully discharged [his mission]? (Qur'an, 53:36-37)

The broken red line shows Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) route in the light of historical records. He left Ur, in Sumeria, and eventually reached Makkah.

(Overleaf) Excavations outside the city walls of Ur reveal the remains of a settlement dating from 2000 BCE. Historians state that Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) people may have lived in similar houses.

This shows that God had sent down texts to Prophet Abraham (pbuh) before His revelation of the Torah to Prophet Moses (pbuh). These texts contain the true religion, which is based on Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) submission to God. The hadith literature records the following conversation:

I [Abu Dharr] asked: "O Messenger of God, has anything from the pages of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and Prophet Moses (pbuh) been sent down to you?" He replied: "O Abu Dharr," ["Yes," he said, "such verses were revealed," and began to read them:] "Everyone who cleans himself well, recalls the name of the Lord, and performs the prayers has achieved his hopes. Perhaps you hold the life of this world to be superior. But the Hereafter is more auspicious and more constant. These [truths] also exist in previous pages, the pages of Abraham (pbuh) and Moses (pbuh)."1


1.Al-Hafiz ibn al-Dayba ` al-Shaybani, Taysir al-'usul ila Jami` al-'usul, 860.


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