IBRAHIM


Makkah Period

This sūrah of 52 verses was revealed in the closing years of the Makkan period of Islam, taking its name from the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, whose prayer concerning Makkah and its future people is mentioned in verses 35–41. In verse 5, Moses’ mission is mentioned as leading his people out of the depths of darkness into the light, while in its initial verse, it declares that the Qur’ān was sent to Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, to lead humankind out of the depths of darkness into the light, thus stressing the universality of his mission.


  1. Alif. Lam. Ra. (This is) a Book which We send down to you so that you may lead humankind, by their Lord’s leave, out of all kinds of (intellectual, spiritual, social, economic and political) darkness into the light, to the Path of the All- Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Praiseworthy (Who provides for them and all other beings and meets all their needs),
  2. God, to Whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth; and woe to the unbelievers because of a severe punishment.
  3. They choose the present, worldly life in preference to the Hereafter and bar (people) from God’s way, and seek to make it appear crooked – those have in- deed gone far astray.
  4. We have sent no Messenger save with the tongue of his people, that he might make (the Message) clear to them. Then God leads whomever He wills astray, and He guides whomever He wills.1 He is the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.
    1. For God’s leading whomever He wills astray, and guiding whomever He wills, see sūrah 2, note 10; verses 26-27, note 23; sūrah 6: 39, note 9.
  5. And, certainly, We sent Moses as a Messenger, with Our Revelations and signs (miracles to support him), saying: “Lead your people from all kinds of darkness into the light, and remind them (thereby preaching Our Message) of the Days of God.2 Surely in that are signs for all who are greatly patient and persevering (in God’s cause) and greatly thankful (to God).

2. The phrase Days of God refers to momentous historical events, such as destructions of previous communities, turning-points in history, and eschatological events.

 
  1. And (recall) when Moses said to his people: “Remember God’s favor upon you when He saved you from the clan (the court and military aristocracy) of the Pharaoh, who were afflicting you with the most evil suffering (by enslaving you to such laborious tasks as construction, transportation and farming), slaughter- ing your sons, and letting live your womenfolk (for further humiliation and suf- fering). In that was a grievous trial from your Lord.3

3. For an explanation of this verse, see 2: 49, notes 56–58.

  1. And (remember also) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you are thankful (for My favors), I will most certainly give you more; but if you are ungrateful, surely My punishment is severe.”
  2. And Moses said: “even if you and whoever else is on the earth were unbe- lieving and ungrateful, surely God is the All-Wealthy and Self-Sufficient (as Owner of everything that is or could be, so independent of all creation), All- Praiseworthy (to Whom belong all praise and gratitude).”4

4. See 1: 2, note 6.

  1. Has any account not reached you of the exemplary histories of those who lived before you – the people of Noah, and the ‘Ad and Thamud – and those who came after them? None save God has true knowledge about them. Their Messengers came to them with clear signs of the truth, but they thrust their hands into their mouths (in derision and anger, and frustrated by their inability to refute them), and said: “We certainly disbelieve in what you have been sent, and indeed we are in serious doubt about that to which you call us.”
  2. Their Messengers said: “can there be any doubt about (the existence, One- ness, and absolute Sovereignty of ) God, the Originator of the heavens and the earth? He calls you so that He may forgive you your sins and grant you respite until a term appointed by Him (not destroying you because of your sins).”5 But they said: “You are but mortals like us; you desire to bar us from what our fore- fathers used to worship: well, then, bring us some clear authority.”

5. For God’s sparing and reprieving a people to a term appointed by God, see 10: 98, note

20. This shows that neither an individual nor a people are subject to some sort of absolute determinism. God Almighty judges them, their lives and the conditions surrounding them as to their own choices, lifestyles, and deeds.

  1. Their Messengers said to them: “We are indeed only mortals like yourselves, but God has been specially gracious to whom He wills of His servants. It is not for us to bring you some authority (for our mission), unless it be by God’s leave; and so it is in God that the believers must put their trust.
 
  1. “What reason do we have that we should not put our trust in God, seeing that He has guided us to our ways (that we follow)? So, we will surely endure patiently whatever hurt you may do us; and let all those who entrust themselves put their trust in God.”
  2. Those who disbelieve said to their Messengers: “Assuredly we will banish you from our land, unless you return to our faith and way of life.” Then their Lord revealed to the Messengers: “Most certainly, We will destroy the wrongdo- ers,
  3. “And most certainly We will make you dwell in the land after them. That is (My promise) for him who fears Me as (the All-Majestic, All-Powerful) God, and who fears My threat.”
  4. They (both the Messengers and unbelievers) sought a judgment (through test of right and might), and in the end every stubborn tyrant was frustrated (made to fail),
  5. And Hell is awaiting him, and he is made to drink of oozing pus,6

6. In particular, some modern commentators tend to take almost all the expressions de- scribing the other world metaphorically. For example, he renders oozing pus as “water of most bitter distress.” This is due to the presupposition that the other life is a “spiritual” one which will be experienced by the spirit only. But the truth is otherwise. That is, humankind will be both bodily and spiritually resurrected and experience the other life both bodily and spiritually. It is not possible for us to be able to perceive the exact nature of that life accord- ing to this life, so the Qur’ān presents that life with the familiar expressions we use in this life. Ibn ‘Abbās, when interpreting the Qur’ānic expression, every time they are provided with fruits (of different color, shape, taste, and fragrance and that are constantly renewed) therefrom, they say, “This is what we were provided with before.” For they are given to them in resemblance (to what was given to them both in the world, and just before in the Gar- dens, familiar in shape and color so that they may not be unattractive because unknown) (2:25), says that all the provisions of Paradise resemble those in the world, but they are completely different. For example, there are all kinds of drink and food in Paradise (which are fitting for it), including water, milk, honey, fruit, etc., with which we are provided here in this world, but they are completely unique to the other world, and we cannot perceive their exact nature. We will taste them both bodily and spiritually in our existence that is purely unique to the other world. Similarly, in Hell, there will be oozing pus and boiling water and other elements of punishment mentioned in the Qur’ān, but they will also be unique to the other world. For this reason, rendering the rewards of Paradise and forms of punishment of Hell strictly figuratively or metaphorically is not correct. It means “pursu- ing that which we have no knowledge of,” which is forbidden in the Qur’ān (17: 36), and forgetting that “the hearing, the sight, and the heart will be called to account for it.”

  1. Sipping it little by little, yet hardly able to swallow it, and death besets him from every side though he cannot die, and a still harsher punishment lies ahead
 

of him.

  1. An exemplary likeness of those who disbelieve in their Lord: all their works are as ashes on which the wind blows fiercely on a stormy day (and so scatters). They have no control of anything that they have earned (to benefit from). That indeed is utmost error and failure.
  2. Do you not see that God has created the heavens and the earth with truth (meaningfully, and with definite purpose, and on solid foundations of truth)? If He so wills (for the fulfillment of His purpose in creation), He can put you away and bring another generation (of humankind in your place).
  3. And that is surely no great matter for God.
  4. They will appear before God all together. Then those who were weak (in the world and followed the arrogant oppressors in their misguidance) will say to those who were arrogant and oppressed others: “We used to follow your lead: can you now avert from us anything of God’s punishment?” The others will answer: “If God had guided us (to the way to be saved), we would indeed have guided you to it. It is all the same for us now whether we are anguished (about it) or endure with patience; there is no escape for us!”
  5. And Satan will say, when the matter is decided: “Surely God promised you something that was bound to come true; I too promised but I failed you. And I had no power over you, except that I appealed to you, and you answered me. So do not blame me, but blame yourselves. I cannot respond to your cry for help, nor can you respond to my cry for help. I reject your associating me as a partner with God (in belief or worship) in the past.” Surely, for the wrongdoers (who have wronged and ruined themselves by denying God or associating partners with Him) there is a painful punishment.
  6. But those who believed and did good, righteous deeds are admitted to the Gardens through which rivers flow, therein to abide by their Lord’s leave. Their greeting therein (among themselves and from God and the angels) will be “Peace!”
  7. Do you not see how God strikes a parable of a good word: (a good word is) like a good tree – its roots holding firm (in the ground) and its branches in heaven,
  8. It yields its fruit in every season due by its Lord’s leave. So God strikes parables for human beings, in order that they may reflect on them and infer the necessary lessons.
 
  1. And the parable of a corrupt word is that of a corrupt tree uprooted from upon the earth, having no constancy.
  2. God keeps firm those who believe by the true, firm word in the life of this world and in the Hereafter; and God leads the wrongdoers astray. And God does whatever He wills.7

7. The good word is any word uttered and/or any action done purely for God’s sake and in compliance with His commandments. The best of words is the declaration of faith, which is Lā ilāha illa-llāh (“There is no deity but God”).

It is the seed of Islam planted in the believer’s heart, as well as in the ground. This tree of faith grows elaborate through practice, so that it has its branches in “celestial worlds.” It continuously yields its produce of virtue and laudable works, and causes the blossoming of a magnificent civilization, for the heart which is connected to the higher worlds is always receiving the influx of Divine gifts.

The good word or faith is the truth and, therefore, cannot be uprooted from the world. It is well-established and lasting. Like water flowing beneath the scum (13: 17), it causes life wherever it passes and is of great use to people.

The good word, besides its metaphorical meaning, is also used in its first, literal meaning. every good word, in particular when accompanied by good deeds, causes the growth of good “trees” in hearts (35: 10).

What is meant by the true, firm word is also the truth of faith. It is established and un- changing. Therefore, believers are firm in their belief and conduct. They do not waver amidst different currents, and they are also firm and persevering in their endeavors on God’s way. On the other hand, wrongdoers are those who do wrong in their deeds, who waver in their thoughts and stray from true belief. Any “wind” is enough to bend or even uproot them.

  1. Do you ever consider those who exchanged God’s blessing (of thankfulness and faith) for ingratitude and unbelief, and caused their people to settle in the abode of ruin –
  2. Hell – wherein they land to be roasted? How evil a place to settle in!
  3. They have set up rivals to God (as deities, lords and objects of worship), and so they have deviated (themselves and other people) from His way. Say: “enjoy yourselves (in this world). Your journey’s end is the Fire.”
  4. Tell those of My servants who believe that they must establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and spend out of what We have provided for them (of wealth, power, and knowledge, etc.) secretly and openly, (and in God’s cause and to the benefit of the needy), before there comes a Day when there will
 

be no trading nor friendship (that will bring any benefit).

  1. God is He Who has created the heavens and the earth, and sends down water from the sky with which He brings forth fruits for your provision. And He has made the ships serviceable for you, so that they run upon the sea by His command, and He has made the rivers serviceable for you;
  2. And He has made the sun and the moon constant in their courses, (and so) serviceable for you, and He has made the night and the day of service to you.
  3. He has granted you from all that you ask Him. Were you to attempt to count God’s blessings, you could not compute them. But for sure humankind are much prone to wrongdoing (sins and errors of judgment) and to ingratitude.
  4. And (remember) when Abraham prayed: “My Lord! Make this land (Mak- kah) secure, and preserve me and my children (my sons and their descendants) from ever worshipping idols.
  5. “My Lord! They have indeed caused many among humankind to go astray. So, he who follows me is truly of me; while he who disobeys me, surely You are All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.8

8. For a similar prayer of the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, see 5: 118, note 25.

  1. “Our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring (Ishmael and his descen- dants) in an uncultivable valley near Your Sacred House, so that, our Lord, they may establish the Prayer; so make the hearts of people incline towards them, and provide them with the produce of earth (by such means as trade), so that they may give thanks (constantly from the heart and in speech, and in action by fulfilling Your commandments).9

9. While Abraham, upon him be peace, says in verse 35 of this sūrah, “Make this land se- cure,” he says in 2: 126: “Make this (untilled valley) a land of security.” This shows that he made the prayer in 2: 126 before the one found in this sūrah. As can be understood from the relevant verses, he settled Hagar and his son, Ishmael, upon him be peace, in Makkah upon God’s order, and then he returned to Palestine. He came back a while later, and upon seeing that some people had already settled in the valley of Makkah, which was on its way to growing into a settled land, he prayed: “My Lord! Make this (untilled valley) a land of security, and provide its people with the produce of earth, such of them as believe in God and the Last Day” (2: 126). Then he came once more to Makkah and built the Ka‘bah with Ishmael, upon him be peace, and made the prayers mentioned in 2: 127–129. After that, he paid a last visit to Makkah toward the end of his life and saw that it had already grown into a land of residence and said the prayers and supplications mentioned in this sūrah, verses 35–41. either he observed idol-worshipping among some of the people, or he was wor- ried that idol-worshipping might appear there, and he prayed to God to save him and his progeny from it. It seems as if these prayers and supplications are the last prayers he made

 

in Makkah. The Prophet Ishmael, upon him be peace, and his children had already made a home there and had begun to grow in number. This is explicit in that the verb “establish” in “establishing the Prayer” is plural, which in Arabic indicates that the subject is at least three people.

  1. “Our Lord! Surely You know all that we keep secret as well as all that we disclose; nothing whatever, whether it be on earth or in heaven, is hidden from God.
  2. “All praise and gratitude are for God, Who has granted me, despite my old age, Ishmael and Isaac. Indeed, my Lord is the Hearer of prayer.
  3. “O My Lord! Make me one who establishes the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and (likewise) from my offspring (those who are not wrongdoers),10 Our Lord, and accept my prayer!

10. See 2: 124, note 106.

  1. “Our Lord! Forgive me, and my parents, and all the believers, on the Day on which the Reckoning will be established.”11
  1. This prayer of the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, as one of the five greatest Messengers and one whom God praises as a community (16: 120) because of his consid- eration for all people, and as the forefather of the Prophets Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, upon them all be peace, has been fully accepted by God Almighty. Some significant points in his prayer merit special attention:
    • When he prays for himself, his parents, and his progeny, he addresses God Almighty as my Lord, while He addresses Him as our Lord when he prays for all believers. Thus, he teaches us how to address God.
    • He lays much stress on the daily Prescribed Prayer as one of the most important forms of worship, and he regards it as the bedrock of servanthood to God and the purpose for life. This is because the Prayer is, in the words of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the pillar of Islam, without which the building of Islam cannot be erected (al-Bayhaqī, Shu’ab al-Īmān, 3: 39).
    • He sees provision, or being provided by God, as the reason for thankfulness to Him. That is, God wills thankfulness in people when He provides for them. Thankfulness is both the door that opens on faith and its main token. Thankfulness means seeing the source of all that one has and attributing it to its real Owner. This shatters the idol of self-worship and leads one to believe in God and worship Him. The pleasure God has placed in provision – food, drink, clothes and other things – serves to arouse thankfulness to God in people.

The Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, cannot include all of his offspring in his prayer for God to make them of those who establish the Prayer; rather he says, from my offspring. As referred to in note 10 above, this is an allusion to 2: 124, which says: Remember that his Lord tested Abraham with commands and ordeals (such as his being thrown into a fire, the destruction of the people of his kinsman, Lot, and his being ordered to sacrifice

 

his son, Ishmael), and he fulfilled them thoroughly. He said: “Indeed I will make you an imām for all people.” He (Abraham) pleaded: “(Will You appoint imāms) also from my offspring?” He (his Lord) answered: “(I will appoint from among those who merit it. But) My covenant does not include the wrongdoers.” Abraham knew that all of his offspring would not be able to be righteous and establish the Prayer. This shows that being a descen- dant of a righteous one, even if that one be a great Messenger, is not enough to make one of the virtuous; none can claim to belong to a chosen people. This was also explicit in his prayer, “Our Lord! Make us Muslims, submissive to You, and of our offspring a community Muslim, submissive to You” (2: 128).”

  1. Never reckon that God is unaware of what the wrongdoers are doing. He only defers them to a day when their eyes will stare (in terror);
  2. Hurrying on in fear with necks outstretched and heads upraised, and their eyes are fixed on a point from which they are unable to look away, and their hearts are void (as if filled with air).
  3. And warn humankind of the Day when the punishment will come upon them; and those who did wrong (by associating partners with God and other grave sins) will say: “Our Lord! Grant us respite for a short while – we will answer your call and follow the Messengers!” (And their entreaty will get the response:) “Did you not use to swear before that there would be no decline and fall for you?
  4. “And you dwelt in the dwelling-places of those who wronged themselves (by associating partners with God and other grave sins), and it became clear to you how We had dealt with them, and We made examples for you (to enable you to grasp the truth and mend your ways).”
  5. They schemed their schemes, but their schemes were in God’s disposi- tion (entirely encompassed by His Knowledge and Power), even though their schemes were such as to shock mountains.
  6. So do not reckon that God will fail to keep His promise to His Messengers. Assuredly, God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, ever-Able to Requite (all wrongs).
  7. On the Day when the earth is changed into another earth, and the heavens (also), they all appear before God, the One, the All-Overwhelming.
  8. On that Day you will see all the disbelieving criminals linked together in shackles,
  9. clothed in garments of pitch and their faces covered by the Fire,
  10. That God may recompense every soul for what it has earned. God is indeed
 

swift at reckoning.

  1. This is a clear message for humankind, that they may be warned by it, and that they should know that He is One God, and that people of discernment may reflect and be mindful.