The Wisdom in Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) Method

Indicating the Truth by Asking Questions

Prophet Abraham (pbuh) led his pagan people to accept the fact that their idols possessed no power by asking questions:

Do you then worship, instead of God, that which cannot help or harm you in any way? (Qur'an, 21:66)

Posing questions enables people to understand their own situations by using their own logic. This is a most effective means of communication. Those who deny God suffer a huge defeat in the face of wise, sincere questions, because God's existence and the evidence for it are clear. Therefore, it is a serious mistake to close one's eyes to His religion and build a life in which He is forgotten.

Unbiased people who can grasp God's infinite might and power know that He has power over everything and that He possesses infinite knowledge and wisdom, and so build their entire lives on His good pleasure. One effective manner of awakening the heedless and those who fail, under Satan's influence, to think of these things is to ask questions that will focus their minds. Indeed, many verses invite people to think by asking various questions:

Have you thought about the water that you drink? Is it you who sent it down from the clouds, or are We the Sender? If We had wished, We could have made it bitter. So will you not give thanks? Have you thought about the fire that you light? Is it you who make the trees that fuel it grow, or are We the Grower? We have made it to be a reminder and a comfort for travelers in the wild. So glorify the name of your Lord, the Magnificent! (Qur'an, 56:68-74)

As they explain religion's moral values, believers may experiment with several methods depending on the people being addressed, their degree of openness, and how they behave. If they are open to the truth, then it will be easy, if God so wills, for them to comprehend religion's moral values. If, however, believers are faced with an arrogant and cruel society, such as the one facing Prophet Abraham (pbuh), then it is essential to awaken them in some way, defeat their heedlessness, and rock them intellectually.

"Our people, respond to God's caller and believe in Him. He will forgive you some of your wrong actions and save you from a painful punishment. Those who do not respond to God's caller cannot thwart God on Earth and have no protectors apart from Him. Such people are clearly misguided."
(Qur'an, 46:31-32)

He said, "My Lord, I have called my people night and day but my calling has only made them more evasive. Indeed, every time I called them to Your forgiveness, they put their fingers in their ears. Wrapped themselves up in their clothes and were overweeningly arrogant. Then I called them openly. Then I addressed them publicly
and addressed them privately."
(Qur'an, 71:5-9)

Due to their arrogance, such people cannot see the truth and, if they somehow do manage to see it, they still cannot accept it. They will stubbornly maintain the truth of their own beliefs and refuse to listen to any opposing viewpoint. In such a situation, asking questions designed to undermine the unbelievers' ideas is one of the wisest and most effective methods, for unbelievers will be overwhelmed by contradictions and personally witness their irrationality and how they have adopted a superstitious and misguided belief system.

This method also forces the other side to think about what the believers' arguments are, for, as the Qur'an states, "man is argumentative" (Qur'an, 18:54). For this reason, most people will try to defend their own ideas when confronted with a different idea. The way to prevent such unproductive arguments is to ask questions and lead people to question their own beliefs. Since Satan does not want people to think about God's existence, the Hereafter, Heaven and Hell, and other important matters, he always seeks to turn them away from the truth. This question-and-answer method can be used with such people to guide them to consider such questions as God's existence, the purpose of life, what happens after death, and the Day of Reckoning.

Behaving Courageously and Frankly

Prophet Abraham (pbuh), like all messengers, was granted wisdom by God and charged with calling people to religion so that they may earn His good pleasure, live for the Hereafter, and have proper moral values. The messengers' methods of calling and explaining, as well as their styles of dialogue, must serve as examples to all Muslims.

The societies to which the prophets were sent generally consisted of stubborn people who refused to listen to others. Nevertheless, the prophets presented God's message in ways designed to earn God's good pleasure and demonstrated superior moral virtues, as God commanded in the following verse: "So call and go straight, as you have been ordered to..." (Qur'an, 42:15). Prophet Abraham (pbuh) had to deal with his tribe, who loved to argue and were devoted to the paganism inherited from their ancestors. When he showed them how illogical and irrational their pagan belief system was, they began arguing with him:

His tribe argued with him. He [Abraham] said: "Are you arguing with me about God, when He has guided me? I have no fear of any partner you ascribe to Him, unless my Lord should will such a thing to happen. My Lord encompasses all things in His knowledge, so will you not pay heed? Why should I fear that which you have associated with Him, when you yourselves apparently have no fear of associating partners with God, for which He has sent down no authority to you? Which of the two parties is more entitled to feel safe, if you have any knowledge?" Those who believe and do not mix up their faith with any wrongdoing, they are the ones who are safe; it is they who are guided." This is the argument We gave to Abraham against his tribe. We raise in rank anyone We will. Your Lord is All-Wise, All-Knowing. (Qur'an, 6:80-83)

One of the most striking elements in Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) method of communication is his sincerity and frankness. While explaining God's existence, he addresses peoples' consciences and speaks effectively. In addition, he openly warns them and calls on them to fear and respect no one but God. This shows how courageous, perceptive, and determined he was when confronting his pagan society. Prophet Abraham (pbuh) exposed the irrational nature of his tribe's misguided belief system with a sincere explanation and an effective style of presentation. God tells all believers to use this method:

God knows what is in such people's hearts, so turn away from them, warn them, and speak to them with words that are effective. (Qur'an, 4:63)

Although he was opposed by his entire tribe, Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) enthusiasm and determination, as well as his striking, sincere, and intelligent style of presentation, represent a superior attitude capable of influencing all unbiased people. However, since his tribe was far from true religion and was unwilling to abandon their paganism even after realizing the truth of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) words, he experimented with other methods. As the Qur'an reveals, he responded in the most pleasing way to his argumentative people. In one verse, God issues the following command to believers:

If they argue with you, say: "I have submitted myself completely to God, and so have all who follow me." Say to those given the Book and those who have no Book: "Have you become Muslim?" If they have become Muslim, they have been guided. If they turn away, you are only responsible for transmission. God sees His servants. (Qur'an, 3:20)

Planned Behavior and Sequential Thinking

We sent a Messenger among every people saying: Worship god and keep clear of all false deities." Among them were some whom God guided but others received the misquidance they deserved. Travel about the earth and see the final fate of the deniers. (Qur'an, 16:36)

As we have shown above, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) used several plans and methods when calling his tribe to belief in God. One method was to consider the likely dangers and reactions in order to prepare effective precautions. The Qur'an reveals that God supported all prophets, gave them superior wisdom and understanding, and enabled them, through divine inspiration, to function as servants who took the most rational and effective precautions and who possessed great foresight. Prophet Abraham (pbuh) had all of these superior characteristics in the most perfect form. Thus, he fulfilled his God-given responsibility in the best possible manner and did his best to call his tribe to the truth.

Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) tribe, which was quite numerous, threatened him with death, stoning, and exile. However, he sought to keep his distance from them by telling them that he was ill:

And [Abraham] asked his father and his tribe: "What are you worshipping? Is it falsehood-deities besides God-that you desire? So, what are your thoughts about the Lord of all the worlds?" He looked at the stars and said: "I am sick." So they turned their backs on him. (Qur'an, 37:85-90)

This method reflects a most wise and rational attitude, for his tribe left him alone out of fear that they themselves might become ill. Left alone, he gained enough time to smash the idols. This clever plan, designed to free his tribe from the sin of ascribing partners to God, is one of the finest examples of acting based upon his love for and fear (respect) of God and personal faith. He made great efforts to carry out his God-given responsibility and, with great courage and determination, refused to give up in the face of all difficulties. He sought no reward from people, responded to evil with good, and sought only God's good pleasure while doing so.

The Qur'an gives other examples of portraying something as flawed and thus escaping the clutches of the cruel, such as Khidr (pbuh), who traveled with Prophet Moses (pbuh) for a short time. The verses read:

They continued until they boarded a boat, and he [Khidr] caused it to sink. Then Moses said: "Did you cause it to sink so that its owners would be drowned? This is truly a dreadful thing that you have done!" (Qur'an, 18:71)

[Khidr said to Moses:] "As for the boat, it belonged to some poor people who worked on the sea. I wanted to damage it because a king was coming behind them, commandeering every boat." (Qur'an, 18:79)

Khidr (pbuh) was chosen by God and given special knowledge, and his great intelligence and foresight in this instance are worthy of note. The Qur'an praises his profound faith, humility, and submission to God, as well as many of his other qualities, and reveals that he was a servant of God whose every action was founded on guidance and wisdom. By sinking this boat, Khidr (pbuh) prevented the king from taking it and also showed great compassion towards its owners, who were poor. At the same time, he damaged it in such a way that it could be easily repaired.

These verses also describe Khidr (pbuh) as being a wise servant of God who carried out His commands without hesitation, and as being noteworthy for his love and compassion, for his desire to help believers, and for his patience and determination. (For details, see Harun Yahya, Signs of the End Times in Surat Al- Kahf [New Delhi: Goodword Books, 2004].)

"As for the boat, it belonged to some poor people who worked on the sea. I wanted to damage it because a king was coming behind them, commandeering
every boat."
(Qur'an, 18:79)

As we saw earlier, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) smashed all but the largest of his tribe's idols. After seeing what he had done, they sought to punish him. At this point, his plan to show them the fallacy of their pagan belief system emerged:

He said: "No, this one, the largest of them, did it. Ask them, if they are able to speak!" (Qur'an, 21:63)

This reply confronted the pagans, who believed that their idols directed the universe and controlled human beings, with a terrible dilemma. As a result, they were humbled and unable to respond. Seeing that their lifeless idols had no power, they had no alternative but to accept Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) words. However, they could not publicly admit these truths, which they believed in their hearts and minds. One reason for this, as God reveals, was their "wrongness and haughtiness" (Qur'an, 27:14).

Another element of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) method was to undermine his tribe's misguided beliefs before explaining the truth to them. God gave him great wisdom, superior understanding, and the power of effective communication, all of which he employed in the wisest, most effective, and rational style to call his tribe to belief. Under divine inspiration, he exposed the falsity of their pagan belief system and then replaced it, by His will, with a divine perspective based on God's existence and belief in His superior power and might.

This wise method is an important model that all Muslims should use when explaining religion's moral values. By revealing his tribe's pagan belief system as no more than a set of contradictions and inconsistencies, he followed the wisest and most effective mode of guiding his tribe to truth. Such an approach will, if Gods wills, help unbelievers see that their beliefs rest on illogical and irrational foundations, after which they may grasp religion's superior nature and understand that God created the universe from nothing, possesses infinite might and power, and pervades all things.

The Angels Who Visited Prophet Abraham (pbuh)

One of God's greatest blessings to Prophet Abraham (pbuh) was to support him with angels. According to the Qur'an, two angels came to Prophet Abraham (pbuh) in human guise and stayed in his house:

Has the story reached you of the honored guests of Abraham? When they entered his dwelling and said: "Peace," he replied: "Peace, to people we do not know." (Qur'an, 51:24-25)

Our angels brought the good news to Abraham. They said: "Peace," and he too said: "Peace" and brought in a roasted calf without delay. (Qur'an, 11:69)

As we see, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) realized immediately that these guests were not ordinary guests. He showed a superior hospitality to them, although he had never seen before, and immediately offered them pleasant refreshments. Such an act symbolizes his superior moral values. And, offering such refreshments before his unknown guests made any requests is an example of the fine thinking that Muslims need to adopt. Another model worthy of adoption is the way he prepared the refreshments without giving any indication that he was doing so:

So he slipped off to his household and brought a fattened calf. He offered it to them and then exclaimed: "Do you not then eat?" (Qur'an, 51:26-27)

Prophet Abraham (pbuh) did not ask his guests whether they were hungry or tell them that he had made any preparations. This is the height of good manners, for a guest may feel shy to request some refreshments, and his or her self-respect may prevent such a request from being made. Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) handling of this situation indicates his respect for and interest in his guests.

He offered them a roasted, fattened calf, which people of that time considered to be a most pleasing and delicious meal. His request that they eat is one of the finest examples of his superior morality and thought.

The Angels' Glad Tidings

However, his guests did not eat the food placed before them, because:

When he saw that their hands were not reaching for it, he suspected them and felt afraid of them. They said: "Have no fear. We have been sent to the tribe of Lot." (Qur'an, 11:70)

The way that his guests declined to eat, even though he had treated them very warmly and offered them food, showed Prophet Abraham (pbuh) that something extraordinary was happening. These angels, who came to him in human guise, displayed a most noble and blameless morality. Indeed, he treated them with such enormous hospitality because he realized that they were most worthy guests. The angels then revealed their true identities and gave him the glad tidings of a righteous son:

When they came in to him, they said: "Peace." He replied: "Truly we are afraid of you." They said: "Do not be afraid. We bring you the good news of a boy of great knowledge." (Qur'an, 15:52-53)

Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his wife were astonished, for both of them were quite old. In addition, his wife was barren. Prophet Abraham (pbuh) replied with the following words:

He asked: "Do you bring me this good news despite the fact of old age having reached me? What kind of good news are you bringing me?" They said: "We bring you good news of the truth, so do not be among those who despair." (Qur'an, 15:54-55)

His wife was standing there, and she laughed out loud. So We gave her the good news of Isaac, and beyond Isaac, Jacob. She exclaimed: "Woe is me! How can I give birth when I am an old woman and my husband is an aged man? This is indeed an astonishing thing!" (Qur'an, 11:71-72)

This was news of a great miracle. In response to his wife's question, "They said: 'That is what your Lord says. He is the All-Wise, the All-Knowing'" (Qur'an, 51:30). As revealed in another verse, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his wife were told not to be astonished:

They said: "Are you astonished at God's command? May God's mercy and His blessings be upon you, People of the House. He is Praiseworthy, All-Glorious." (Qur'an, 11:73)

The angels also reminded Prophet Abraham (pbuh) of something else:

They said [to Abraham]: "We bring you good news of the truth, so do not be among those who despair." (Qur'an, 15:55)

Losing faith in God is a spiritual state prevalent among people who live far removed from God. When their expectations fail to materialize, they despair and believe that their wishes will never come true. Thus, they cannot show the requisite appreciation of God. On the other hand, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) always exhibited proper moral values by placing his hope in God.

Believers, who are aware of God's power, seek everything from Him and place their hope in Him. They do this because they know that only God creates causes and the ensuing effects, and only He controls the world through His laws. If He wills something to be, He merely says, Be! and it will immediately come about. Since everything is possible in God's sight, believers make their requests full of hope. The Qur'an reveals His infinite might in following terms:

The Originator of the heavens and Earth. When He decides on something, He just says to it, "Be!" and it is. (Qur'an, 2:117)

People who grasp this great truth know that even apparently insurmountable obstacles exist because of His wisdom. God creates sterility and so can turn it into fertility in a moment. That is what happened to Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his barren wife, despite their great age. Only God, Who gave them a righteous son, can give and take life, and then bring anything to life once again.

In the Qur'an, God relates a miraculous event and reveals that He will cause Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his wife to have a righteous son. There may also be an indication in this verse of present-day sterility treatments and advances in medical science. (God knows best.)

Other News Brought by the Angels

The angels then informed Prophet Abraham (pbuh) that Prophet Lot's (pbuh) tribe would soon be destroyed because of their homosexual lifestyle. (This will be discussed in greater detail later on.) The Qur'an states:

He [Abraham] inquired: "What, then, is your business, O emissaries from God?" They said: "We have been sent to a tribe of evildoers to unleash upon them lumps of clay earmarked by your Lord for the profligate." (Qur'an, 51:32-34)

The Qur'an also gives more details about this conversation in other passages. For example:

When Our emissaries came with the good news to Abraham, they said: "We are going to destroy the people of this city. Truly its inhabitants are wrongdoers." He said: "Lot is in it." They said: "We know very well who is in it. We are going to rescue him and his family-except for his wife. She will be one of those who stay behind." (Qur'an, 29:31-32)

When the feeling of fear left Abraham and the good news reached him, he disputed with Us about the tribe of Lot. Abraham was forbearing, compassionate, and penitent. "Abraham, turn away from this! Your Lord's command has come. A punishment is coming to them that cannot be repelled." (Qur'an, 11:76)

They said: "We have been sent to a people who are evildoers-with the exception of the family of Lot, all of whom We will save, except for his wife. We have decreed her to be one of those who stay behind." (Qur'an, 15:58-60)

The Qur'an reveals that God will never destroy a society that contains believers. For that reason, the angels told Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and Prophet Lot (pbuh) to leave the region.

Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) Sons: Prophet Ishmael (pbuh) and Prophet Isaac (pbuh)

The angels told Prophet Abraham (pbuh) that God had accepted his prayer for a righteous child:

"My Lord, bestow on me a righteous child!" (Qur'an, 37:100)

Prophet Abraham (pbuh) did not ask God for a child from his own line especially, but rather for a righteous son. His prayer was for a devout Muslim who would keep the religion alive after his death. The fact that he was not expecting a son can be seen from his reply: "Do you bring me this good news despite the fact of old age having reached me? What kind of good news are you bringing me?" (Qur'an, 15:54). However, God willed to create a righteous line of descent for Prophet Abraham (pbuh), and so made his elderly and barren wife fertile. As we stated earlier, He sent angels to inform Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his wife of this miracle:

And We gave him the good news of a forbearing boy. (Qur'an, 37:101)

... Originator of the heavens and Earth, You are my Friend in this world and Next. So take me as a Muslim at my death and Join me to people who are righteous."
(Qur'an, 12:101)

This example also applies to Prophet Zachariah (pbuh), one of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) descendents. In the Qur'an, God mentions Prophet Zachariah's (pbuh) prayer and of his being given the glad tidings that his wife will bear a righteous son:

Remembering your Lord's mercy to His servant Zachariah, when he called on his Lord in secret and said: "My Lord, my bones have lost their strength and my head is crowned with white, but in calling on You, my Lord, I have never been disappointed. I fear my relatives when I am gone and my wife is barren, so give me an heir from You to be my inheritor and the inheritor of the family of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing to You." "O Zachariah. We give you the good news of a boy named John, a name we have given to no one else before." He asked: "My Lord! How can I father a son when my wife is barren and I have reached advanced old age?" He [God] replied: "It will be so. Your Lord says: 'That is easy for me to do. I created you before, when you were nothing.'" (Qur'an, 19:2-9)

Like Prophet Abraham (pbuh), Prophet Zachariah (pbuh) asked for a devout son. As stated above, only God can guide someone to the true path. Indeed, God reveals: "... God guides those He wills. He has best knowledge of the guided" (Qur'an, 28:56). Our Lord also gives the example of Prophet Noah's (pbuh) son. This person had such a worthy father, a role model of sincerity, patience, submission, and pleasing moral values. However, since he did not comply with his father's call to the true path, but rather followed the unbelievers, God drowned him in the flood along with the other unbelievers (Qur'an, 11:43).

Our Lord gave Prophet Abraham (pbuh) the glad tidings that he would have righteous children. In the Qur'an, God reveals that these esteemed sons were Prophet Ishmael (pbuh) and Prophet Isaac (pbuh), whom He raised to the rank of prophethood because of their devotion and submission to Him, as well as their pleasing moral values. After receiving this welcome news, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) prayed and thanked God:

Praise be to God Who, despite my old age, has given me Ishmael and Isaac. My Lord is the Hearer of Prayer. (Qur'an, 14:39)

When his Lord said to Him, "Become a Muslim!" he said, "I am a Muslim who has submitted to the Lord of all the worlds." Abraham directed his sons to this, as did Jacob: "My sons! God has chosen this religion for you, so do not die except as Muslims." (Qur'an, 2:131)

The Qur'an describes Prophet Ishmael (pbuh) as being "among the best of chosen men" (Qur'an, 38:48) and "favored over all beings" (Qur'an, 6:86). In addition, he is said to be a man "true to his promise and was a Messenger and a Prophet" (Qur'an, 19:54). Our Lord also reveals His pleasure with Prophet Ishmael (pbuh) to all people.

While Prophet Abraham (pbuh) was still alive, our Lord presented Prophet Isaac (pbuh) with a son, Jacob (pbuh), who was also a sincere believer endowed with prophethood. God reveals that He has perfectly fulfilled His blessing on this elect servant (Qur'an: 12:6). Prophet Jacob (pbuh) is a blessed person, one praised for his sincere faith in God, and for being a sincere servant with pure remembrance of his true home in the Hereafter (Qur'an, 38:46). God reveals Prophet Isaac's (pbuh) and Prophet Jacob's (pbuh) superior moral qualities in the following verses:

We purified their sincerity through sincere remembrance of the abode. In Our eyes, they are among the best of chosen men. (Qur'an, 38:46-47)

And in addition to that, We gave him [Abraham] Isaac and Jacob and made both of them righteous. We made them leaders, guiding them by Our command, and revealed to them how to do good actions, perform prayer, and give alms. And they worshipped Us. (Qur'an, 21:72-73)

We gave him [Abraham] the good news of Isaac, a Prophet, one of the righteous. (Qur'an, 37:112)

The Qur'an praises Prophet Abraham (pbuh) for turning to God in everything he did, his sincere and genuine prayers, and his determined faith. Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) submissive attitude in the face of all troubles and difficulties is an example for all believers. His sincere prayer for his children is a clear indication of this:

"Our Lord, I have settled some of my offspring by Your Sacred House in an uncultivated valley. Our Lord, let them perform prayer. Make the hearts of humanity incline toward them and provide them with fruits, so that, hopefully, they will be thankful." (Qur'an, 14:37)

God describes the great blessing He has placed on Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) descendents in the following terms:

"Accordingly, your Lord will pick you out and teach you the true meaning of events and perfectly fulfill His blessing on you, as well as on the family of Jacob, just as He fulfilled it perfectly before upon your forebears Abraham and Isaac. Most certainly, your Lord is Knowing, Wise." (Qur'an, 12:6)

In other verses, God reveals the following information about this blessed line:

We gave him [Abraham] Isaac and Jacob, and placed prophethood and the Book among his progeny. We gave him his reward in this world, and in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous. (Qur'an, 29:27)

And remember Our servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, men of true strength and inner sight. We purified their sincerity through sincere remembrance of the abode. In Our eyes, they are among the best of chosen men. (Qur'an, 38:45-47)

When he [Abraham] separated himself from them and what they worshipped besides God, We gave him Isaac and Jacob, making each of them a prophet. We endowed them with Our mercy and made them highly honored. (Qur'an, 19:49-50)

Our Lord further informs us that He has made Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) family superior to the worlds, supported them with wisdom and the Book, and provided them with considerable assets:

God chose Adam and Noah, as well as the family of Abraham and the family of `Imran, over all other beings. (Qur'an, 3:33)

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)

"Those who believe and do not mix up their faith with any wrongdoing, they are the ones who are safe; it is they who are guided." This is the argument We gave to Abraham against his tribe. We raise in rank anyone We will. Your Lord is All-Wise, All-Knowing. (Qur'an, 6:82-83)

And left the later people saying of him: "Peace be upon Abraham." That is how We recompense good-doers. Truly, he was one of Our believing servants. (Qur'an, 37:108-111)

God rewarded Prophet Abraham (pbuh) with a pleasing, guided, and unsullied line of descent. Although his tribe was disobedient, proud, and insistent upon denying God, his sons, whom God selected as prophets, were his true legacy:

We gave him Isaac and Jacob, each of whom We guided. And before him We had guided Noah. And among his descendents were David and Solomon, Job and Joseph, Moses and Aaron. That is how We recompense the good-doers. (Qur'an, 6:84)

Prophet Abraham (pbuh), Prophet Ishmael (pbuh), and Prophet Isaac (pbuh) all called on people to believe in God. Prophet Ishmael (pbuh) and Prophet Abraham (pbuh) built the Ka`bah.