Sidna Ibrahim (‘alayhi-s-salaam) and the other prophets we are discussing in this series were all sent to re-balance their communities, and hence our world. They are not just bringing a message; they are contravening this misbalance, ignorance, and savagery that exist in the world to this day, as we know. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid ON THE PROPHET IBRAHIM (as). (Links to full speech below)
Intro to Prophet Ibrahim
The Prophet Ibrahim’s life exemplifies one who lives in complete submission and trust in Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa), one who chooses Allah over himself, over family, and even over his own life. Who among us can say we would do that? We can see affirmation of his submission to Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) at very key stages in his life, which also tells us something. Throughout our lives are key crossroads, axial points. As a young man, as a son, as a husband, and as a father, at each stage, the Prophet Ibrahim faces mortality, making choices of life and death. While it might seem to the ignorant observer that in these situations he chooses “death,” the reality is that he chooses Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa)—he chooses to obey and submit to Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa), not knowing the consequences, and accepting that it may even be death. There is a profound subtlety of the submitted soul that can be found in his example, a theme and an attitude that I hope to explore today, both in an historical context, and as it applies to us in a practical way.
Submission and Aqeedah
This teaching of the efficacy of developing a character of faith, sacrifice, and submission is little understood in its applicability to our lives today. Few have even the ability to grasp the subtleties of establishing this as one’s disposition. Yet it is my firm belief that in our tradition, the tradition of Tasawwuf, we can both find and live the meaning and eternal metaphor for life, conscious decisions, and the interface between the inner world and outer world through the progressive establishment of such character. I hope that we can understand from the stories and example of the Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayi-s-salām), more of what is required for us to develop the trust and trustworthiness, love and self-sacrifice needed to be the friend of the friends of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) and to follow, in our meager ways, in the footsteps of a True Friend of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa). I hope our hearts are awake enough to really appreciate the essential uniqueness of the Prophets and the sacrifices they made.
The transformation from confusion to certainty, using thinking, but also using something deep and questioning inside the soul is the point…. Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) says that He showed the Prophet Ibrahim His dominion over Heaven and Earth so that he might be certain. Through the Prophet Ibrahim’s own experiences—seeing the stars, the moon, the sun rise and then set—the Prophet Ibrahim graduates to a place of certainty, certainty in his belief, in his faith, and in his submission to Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa). In this example we can take the celestial bodies (star, sun, moon) both as reality and metaphor for the transformation of his faith. What happens in a metaphor is exactly that. Something, through some process that doesn’t look or sound exactly like it, appears to be something else. You get an understanding of the first thing through something that doesn’t appear at all to be like it.
The Liberating Power of Sacrifice
Like Sidna Ibrahim (‘alayi-s-salām) and Sidna Ismail (‘alayi-s-salām), we too are afforded the opportunity to have faith. We too are tested, and we too can try to rise above selfish desires to the level of love that transcends what is common and acceptable. I hope that as we recount these stories and lessons today, you do not hear it any way other than as deeply personal. I pray to Allah we can all apply these lessons to our life today and to our decisions tomorrow. At some point, we are all asked to give something up, to choose what we value over what we want, to choose between our self and Allah, between this life and the next. And like the Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayi-s-salām), sometimes the more we choose Allah, the more opportunities we are given to re-choose, to re-focus—to re-affirm our certainty.
Finding the Inner Prophet Ibrahim
The stories of the sacrifices of Sidna Ibrahim have many facets. Remember that this is not theoretical today. We must learn to participate in the greater struggle; we must find the inner Ismail and the inner Ibrahim. We must truly understand how to see the life we have been given, and moreover to see the place we have been placed, and the service we have been receiving and giving as the greatest means to personal and spiritual, collective and individual fulfillment, maturity, and awakening. These opportunities that we are afforded by Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) should not be turned away from. Don’t avert your eyes from those opportunities. Even the smallest and seemingly most individual ways – ways that asks of us limited sacrifice, limited discomfort – may very well be the ultimate keys to our happiness and overcoming of our most basic weaknesses.
Giving and Receiving
Striving dominates this process of perseverance, as we realize it is an impossible task in material and even metaphysical terms to actually ‘see’ Allah. We can learn to ‘see’ by the light of Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa), the Divine Presence, the light in all creation and within our self. As I have pointed out many times, this process is an inner process that results from our intention, our attitude, our practices (salah, etc.), and then manifests outwardly quite naturally as our character, caqeedah, and akhlaaq. To be an enlightened being according to the Qur’an is to be a muhsin (a doer of good). Enlightenment? If you talk about enlightenment to a Buddhist, they say it is through suffering. A Hindu says that it is through tapas / austerities. But to a Muslim, it is muhsin, being a doer of good. It is recorded in this ‘aayah:
وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ دِينًا مِمَّنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلَّهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ وَاتَّبَعَ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَاتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ خَلِيلًا
WA MAN AHSANU DĪNAM-MIMMAN ASLAMA WA JåHAHU LI-LLĀHI WA HUWA MUHSINUÑW-WA-TTABAcA MILLATA IBåRĀHĪMA HANĪFAÑW-WA-TTAKhADhA-LLĀHU IBåRĀHĪMA KhALĪLĀ.
And who can be better in religion than one who submits his essential being to Allah; and he is a muhsin and follows the religion of Abraham—hanifa. And Allah did take Abraham as an intimate friend. (4:125)
Seizing the Small Opportunity for Sacrifice
What is sacrifice? It wards off evil. Your willingness wards off evil. This is the message of Sidna Ibrahim: to make a small or large sacrifice, to affirm our trust and trustworthiness, to remove a weight or a worry, to uplift a friend or a loved one, to serve our community, brothers, sisters, shuyukh. I used to rack my brain and tear my heart apart to find ways to serve my Hazrat, materially and spiritually. The material part was easier. The greatest joy I had was to relieve a burden from his heart and mind. So please don’t discount any small sacrifice you may make. Don’t compare it with someone else’s. May Allah enable us all to sacrifice in His Way to the best of our ability, and to remember the depths of the story of the Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (peace and blessings be upon them both)! Inshaa’a-Llaah, we can reach to that point each day where we wake up and realize that life is not about accumulating; it is about sacrificing, and we can re-define sacrifice without that aura of pain and loss that comes always with it.
Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Prophet Ibrahim (as) in the following venues: