The place of Prophet Ibrahim in Islam, Christianity and Judaism

Faith, sacrifice, commitment and patience.

These are just some of the qualities that characterize Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham as he is called in English (peace be upon him).

So it should come as no surprise that he is revered not just in Islam, but in Christianity and Judaism as well. Prophet Ibrahim is also a great personality to discuss in dialogues between Muslims, Jews and Christians. Here is some basic information about him from the three perspectives:

ISLAM

"Salam (peace) be upon Abraham!" God says in the Quran (37:109).

In Islam, Prophet Ibrahim is the friend of God and the father of Prophets (Ismail or Ishmael in English and Ishaq or Isaac and the grandfather of Prophet Yaqub or Jacob). He is also one of the ancestors of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Anyone who rejects Prophet Ibrahim is not a true believer in Islam. Prophet Ibrahim plays a key role in this regard.

In terms of beliefs, a Muslim must believe in all of the Prophets. This includes not just Prophet Ibrahim, but his sons Ismail, Ishaq, his grandson Yaqub and of course his descendant Prophet Muhammad.

When it comes to the five pillars of Islam, the importance of Prophet Ibrahim becomes even more evident.

The second pillar of Islam is Salah, the obligatory five daily prayers. Every Muslim who has reached the age of puberty is accountable for their prayers, be he male or be she female, whether they live in the desert of northern Arabia, a village of northern Pakistan or an urban center of North America.

During one part of each of these five prayers, Muslims must ask God to send His blessings upon Prophet Ibrahim. Now calculate this: you've got more than a few million Muslims, every day, five times a day, in virtually every time zone on this planet asking God to send His blessings on Prophet Ibrahim in the course of his/her prayer.

More importantly, the direction in which every Muslim must face when praying is towards a structure Prophet Ibrahim built with his son Ismail: the Kaba, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

With regards to the Kaba, God says this about it: "The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka (another name for Makkah); full of blessings and guidance for all kinds of beings: in it are signs manifest, the station of Abraham-whoever enters it attains security; pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to God-those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, God stands not in need of any of His creatures"(Quran 3:96-97).

This leads to the second way in which this Prophet, described as the intimate friend of God (Quran 4:125), is revered: Hajj.

Hajj is the pilgrimage every Muslim must make to Makkah at least once in his/her lifetime. Hajj is also an obligation no Muslim is allowed to reject or ignore. It is in this rite that Prophet Ibrahim's importance becomes even more prominent.

In general, Prophet Ibrahim's centrality to this fifth pillar of Islam is indicated by the Prophet Mohammed's statement, You must adhere to the traditions and rituals (of Hajj), for these have come down to you from (your forefather) Ibrahim in heritage (Tirmidhi).

First, the Kaba is the central structure around which the Hajj takes place. No Hajj is valid without going around this structure built by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail in counterclockwise fashion seven times.

Second, Muslims who perform the Hajj or Umra must run in the middle portion of the distance between Safa and Marwa (two hills close to the Kaba) seven times. This is a commemoration of the sacrifice of the wife of Abraham, Hajira (may God be pleased with her) for her son Prophet Ismail

Prophet Ibrahim had settled his wife and son in the valley of Makkah by God's order to pioneers a civilization. It was from this civilization that the Prophet Mohammed was born.

Finally, Prophet's Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his beloved son Ismail for the sake of God exemplifies not only his sincere devotion to God. The commemoration of this sacrifice is practiced with the sacrifice of an animal during Hajj and one of the two Islamic holy days: Eid-ul-Adha.

Both father and son willingly submitted to God's command. God substituted a ram in Ismail's place at the last moment. God talks about this incident in Quran 37:100-107.

The sacrifice that is offered by Muslims all over the world every year (at Eid-ul-Adha) is in commemoration of the supreme act and spirit of sacrifice offered by Prophet Abraham in lieu of his son Ismail.

JUDAISM

According to A Concise Encyclopedia of Judaism by Dan Cohn-Sherbok (Oneworld Publications 1998), Prophet Abraham is the father of Jewish people.

According to Scripture, he was the son of Terah and the father of Isaac, who was born to Sarah, and he is also the father of Ishmael, who was born to Hagar.

After leaving Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham traveled to Canaan, visited Egypt and returned to Hebron. God appeared to him in a vision. He promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land. God tested Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 11:26-25:10).

When the mother of Isaac, Sarah, died, Abraham bought the cave of Macpelah as a burial place. Abraham died at the age of 175.

According to the Oxford Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion by Louis Jacobs (Oxford University press 1999), the story of Abraham is narrated in the book of Genesis (11:27-25:18). Here is an excerpt from that section (from Genesis 22:2-13) which focuses on the Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac, according to Jewish tradition:

And He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you".

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place which God had told him.

Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.'

So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?'

And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." And the two of them went together.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him.  And Abraham built an alter there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the alter, upon the wood.

And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horn. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

A majority of contemporary scholars think that he lived in approximately the eighteenth-century before the Christian Era.

In the Jewish tradition, he is the father of the Jews and Judaism.

God's covenant with Abraham is expressed in the rite of circumcision (Genesis 17) and male Jewish children, to this day are, for the most part circumcised.

This act is called 'entry into the covenant of Abraham our father', and the name of the rite itself is the 'berit'; the 'covenant'.

Abraham is also considered the spiritual father of anyone who converts to Judaism. At a Jewish conversion ceremony, a convert is given a Hebrew name and is called a 'child of Abraham our father'.

CHRISTIANITY

It is through the central figure of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) that Prophet Abraham is given prominence in the Christian tradition.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia Volume 1 (1999, Kevin Knight, online version), in the New Testament, the generation of Jesus Christ is traced back to Abraham by St. Matthew.

Similarly, as the New Testament traces Prophet Jesus' descent of Jesus to Prophet Abraham, it does the same of all Jews in terms of "carnal" descent.

However, in the New Testament, it is not this carnal descent from Abraham to which importance is attached but importance is placed on practicing the virtues attributed to Abraham in Genesis. Thus in John, 8, the Jews say (33): "We are the seed of Abraham", and Jesus replies (39): "If ye be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham".

The Catholic Encyclopedia also notes that Prophet Abraham may considered the source of Old Testament religion. From the days of Prophet Abraham, men were accustomed to speaking of God as the God of Abraham, while Prophet Abraham is not found referring in a similar way to anyone preceding him.

According to the A Concise Encyclopedia of Christianity by Geoffrey Parrinder

(Oneworld Publications 1998), Abraham is a great Hebrew patriarch and is considered the common spiritual father of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

Paul wrote of all those who have faith being children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7). Prophet Abraham's faith and example is cited by many Christian authors.

According to Luke 16:22, Jesus spoke of Abraham's bosom as a symbol of Paradise (Luke 16:22).

Christians believe God first gave Abraham a son through a bond woman named Hagar. This son was named Ishmael. God gave him a second son from his barren wife Sarah. He was named Isaac.

According to Christian tradition, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac "to prove that he was 'worthy of becoming the father of a mighty nation, which would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore'" (from A History of God, the 4,000-year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).

Comments

While it is great to be informed about what is the Islamic faith, I am concerned that Catholicism is equated with Christianity. Not all who are Christians, are Catholic. There is Protestant belief that differs from Catholic, in that we exemplify Jesus Christ as the focus of the whole Holy Bible. The life of Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac are told for the purpose of showing God's mercy, and to foreshadow the advent of God's only Son, Jesus Christ. We believe that whenever The Angel of the Lord is shown, that He is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, ie. that Christ visited the Earth on occassion before taking on the flesh of man. Later, by living for 33 years in sinlessness, and dying for the sake of all who accept Him as the Sacrifice, He might save all who believe from their sins. Christ, not Abraham is most revered, and He is the One who held the hand of Abraham from the sacrifice of his son, Isaac.Further, while Abraham is accepted as a large figure in the Bible, we think of him as an example of faith... Faith counted for righteousness. Both Christ, and Paul, speaking to Jews, spoke about Abraham, but for the sole reason of pointing out that his faith is what made him differ from others.I do not need to accept the similarities in the accounts of Abraham's life within Judaism, Islam, and "Christianity". Certainly there are some.... But here is the point that these differ: Jesus Christ is God's Only Begotten Son, and the entire canon of the Holy Bible is centered in and on the revealing of Jesus Christ as mankind's only way of salvation. It is by faith in Christ, as Abraham's faith was counted for righteousness, we have eternal life.

Location

Apopka, Florida

Thank you for the opportunity of being able to comment on your comparison between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In a world of so much religeous conflict it is refreshing to encounter some who desire to unite rather than divide people of differing religeous beliefs; ie., by emphasising our common relationship to Father Abraham.I am Christian but I deeply respect and admire the faith, committment, sacrifice and patience of the adherents of Islam and Judaism.As a contribution to this discussion I would like to suggest that we concentrate not only on our common links to Abraham/Ibrahim but also on our common link to the one True God; the Everlasting Father, Allah, Jehovah, the Creator, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is the Father of us all. He created us all. He rules us all. He is capable of providing us all with the place, peace and future we all desire.All religeons have rituals, and they may be good, but all men have hearts and it is the heart of man that God is looking at.If we desire a better world for ourselves and our children (and/or a place we all call Paradise}, our hearts must desire the things that God desires and we must walk in the way that God walks.At the heart of God is Love, Truth, Justice, Mercy, Compassion, Goodness, Kindness. We are his children if we express the same.The lesson of Abraham/Ibrahim is Obedience rather than Sacrifice. In all things Abraham/Ibrahim obeyed God. He took his son to the mountain. He put him on the alter. He raised the sacrificial knife. But when God said, 'don't sacrifice your son'. then Abraham/Abrahim did not sacrifice his son. Abraham/Abrahim sacrificed nothing of his own. God in his love and mercy provided his own sacrifice. A lamb without spot caught in the bushes. Yes Abraham/Abrahim killed the lamb but perhaps this speaks to us of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was blameless and was provided by God, was slain by man.And I wonder if we haven't all at one time or another in our lives slain the Lamb of God. Like having denied the Truth, perverted Justice, withheld Mercy, hated our brother, done evil? All of which are contrary to the heart of God. All of which are disobedience to God.Is this a message for Christians only? Or is it a message for everyone?I pray that all men regardless of present religeous persuasion seek and obey God. Not man, but God. There is confusion with man but peace and harmony with God.Will mankind one day totally and freely accept the will of God? Or will God himself find it necessary to one day have to come down to earth and put things right himself?One way or another His will will be done on earth. And I hope and pray that that day will soon be near. For on that day there will be peace and harmony forever between all men; and all will serve and worship one God; and there will be forgivness and Justice and Mercy and Truth and there will be no more wars or famine or pestilence. For God will be our King and he will be our ruler and where He is, there will we his creation be also.God bless you and I pray that God will bring us all into the Truth.

Location

Australia

Do u know what i think that i have a new wor d i want to say that word is while jews or christians believe only in their teaching an do not believe in all the holly books,muslims believe in god(Allah)without any condititions,they believe in all prophits of god alla of them(adam,noa,ibrahim,david,soliman,mosa,jesus,ezra,edris,younes,ayoob,haroon,izak,ismaeel,jacob,yousef,and jesus)and we believe also in the other holly books not only quraan (the bible,the gospel,the teaching of david)we belive also in the miracles that happened with all the prophits,and the most wonderfull is that our quraan says in baqara shapter(all who believe in god whether they are jews,christians,muslims)who believe in allah,and the day of judjement and did good things with their lifes ,shall feal no pain,shall feal no grief),and muslims said no lies about Mohammed(peace and prayers over his soul),however no other human whatever the race ,region and language achieved all that success,not only as a prophit but also as leader in the battle field,and as a father ,and as a husband and as a grandson,we as muslims do not need from any one to say good things about our religion because we believe in good so strongly and we believe in all the teachings of other prophits,we do not need any support we believe in all that u believe in except that jesus(peace on him)is a god or the son of god,and we love you because god asked us to love all his creatures and asked us to forgive,but also god(Allah)asked us to defend or beliefs and defend our land and we can not accept what is going in jerusalem(elqods),we may be weak now but for long time,one day when Jesus come from the sky he will show you,as we believe he was not killed but he is living in heaven,salamo alikom wa rahmat Allah we barkatoh(peace on you and god mercy and bless)

Location

egypt

God is God of all Humanity.All Humanity believes in the same God, as is written and explained in this fine article.Why then cannot all Humanity come together, in friendship and peace, under the One God we so worship???

Location

Its strange how much you have to know before you know how little you know.Mr. Daniel Murphy just emphasised the statement 'don't sacrifice your son' and concluded that Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) was the lamb of god and was sacrified by men for our salvation. So we donot have to sacrifice our sons.But please note,IF GOD WONT ALLOW OUR SONS TO BE SACRIFICEDTHENHOW CAN HE LET "HIS SON" TO BE SACRIFICEDANDJESUS "according to Christians" IS THE SON OF GODTHENJESUS CANNOT BE SACRIFICED.please give it a positive thaught.........truth stands clear from error. Al-Quran(2:256)

Location

Pakistan

Really intresting how much reach religion is linked. And What you are expected to know before going to the GREATEST trip on earth HAJJ.God created humanity and religion. We have to learn to respect each faith and each person of God. We all believe in one God and one only.

Location

England

Very pithy -- very helpful. Thank you.However, everyone -- all so-called believers -- need a healthy dose of FORGETTING.

Location

Boston

God is great and his mercy is boundless. He stopped Abrahams son from being sacrificed when he understood Abraham's good true nature. But God didn't intervene, when his own son - Jesus was being sacrificied. Why? If God is so generous then why didn't he just redeem the people from the original sin? Jesus also proved his honesty by hanging on the cross then why did God allow his own son Jesus to suffer a painful death whereas he let go of Isaac or Ishmael. Why? Was God being partial? Who can justify this?

Location

Canada

Assalamu AlaikumPeace Be Upon YouThank you Sound Vision for always giving us the background information not always known about the practices and rituals that we must perform as Muslims, and the reasons for the Holidays we celebrate. They help tremendously in helping to teach our children the "why" of what we do.Thank you to those who responded to your article.InshaAllah the words spoken by so many in answer to this column are truly heard and LISTENED to. We are all the same-humans-from the SAME God-Allah! We must learn to accept one another to survive with one another, and live in peace.InshaAllah, we will see that day!Eid Mubarak!!!!!Happy Eid!!!!!Salam,Peace,Truly

Location

Streamwood, Illinois,USA

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