Abraham and his family: Three lessons for the 21st century

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Last Updated on 18th July 2021

Eid-ul-Adha recalls the successful sacrifice of a father’s protection, a mother’s inherent love and a child’s life, for the will of Allah.

It is a story that meanders through trust, even when all odds are against you; belief, despite nothing tangible to hold onto; and sacrifice, whether it made sense or not. 

Hazrat Abraham, Hazrat Hajirah and Hazrat Ishmael, peace be on them all, set the stage for the future Muslim ummah and taught us that without utter obedience and sacrifice, we cannot attain the pleasure of Allah the Almighty. 

Ours is an interesting age – rigorous scientific methods and endless technological advancements have brought boundless good and development; however, this “new age” also comes with hidden price tags for believers. 

In a world where everything is questioned, the logic and reason  for all steps are demanded and where materialism and a hedonistic environment flourishes, absolute obedience, sacrifice and trust in Allah become huge tests for believers. 

Eid-ul-Adha is a good time to reflect, refresh our faith and gain inspiration from the great examples of Hazrat Abrahamas and his family.

Here are three lessons to learn on Eid-ul-Adha: 

1. Obedience

Hazrat Abrahamas, on Allah’s command, took his wife, Hazrat Hajirahas and his son, Hazrat Ishmaelas, to “a barren land” in the middle of the desert and left them there with a handful of dates and some water. He didn’t ask questions or demand the logic behind this commandment from Allah, yet he was fully aware of the intensity and danger of the situation. 

Allah commends Hazrat Abraham’s untiring obedience in the Holy Quran and calls him “a nation unto himself”:

اِنَّ اِبۡرٰهِيۡمَ كَانَ اُمَّةً قَانِتًا لِّلّٰهِ حَنِيۡفًا ؕ وَ لَمۡ يَكُ مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِكِيۡنَ

“Abraham was a nation unto himself, always obedient to Allah, [to Him] ever inclined; certainly not belonging to the idolaters.” (Surah an-Nahl, Ch.16: V.121)

Leaving his wife and child, Hazrat Abrahamas called out to Allah the Almighty saying “Our Lord, I have settled some of my children in an uncultivable valley near Thy Sacred House”. (Surah Ibrahim, Ch.14: V.38)

When Hazrat Ishmaelas grows to become a young boy, Hazrat Abrahamas – believing Allah was instructing him (in a dream) to literally sacrifice his young boy – gets ready to place a knife to Hazrat Ishmael’s neck. In fact, he first seeks his son’s approval, who gives full consent. 

Hazrat Abrahamas says to the young Hazrat Ishmaelas:

يٰبُنَيَّ اِنِّيۡۤ اَرٰي فِي الۡمَنَامِ اَنِّيۡۤ اَذۡبَحُكَ فَانۡظُرۡ مَاذَا تَرٰي

 “O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering thee. So consider, what thou thinkest [of it]!” (Surah al-Saaffat, Ch.37: V.103)

Hazrat Ishmaelas, with full obedience, replies:

يٰۤاَبَتِ افۡعَلۡ مَا تُؤۡمَرُ ۫ سَتَجِدُنِيۡۤ اِنۡ شَآءَ اللّٰهُ مِنَ الصّٰبِرِيۡنَ

“O my father, do as thou art commanded; thou wilt find me, if Allah please, steadfast [in my faith].” (Ibid)

Here, Hazrat Ishmaelas demands his father to “do” as Allah commands. He is ever ready to show obedience, without questioning the sacrifice of his own life. All aspirations, familial love and ties and worldly pleasures were worthless for the young Hazrat Ishmaelas, his eyes were set on gaining Allah’s pleasure through absolute obedience.  

Talking of obedience during a sermon on Eid-ul-Adha, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra said that the level of obedience in a Muslim should be such that they:

“[…] find no apprehension in their heart and are every ready to act [on the commandment]. Even the thought of refusing, showing arrogance and disobedience should not pass their heart.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 2, p. 65)

This was the obedience Hazrat Abrahamas and his family showed. 

His wife, Hazrat Hajirahas also rose up and showed immense levels of obedience to Allah. When she asked Hazrat Abrahamas whether Allah had commanded him to leave them in the barren desert and he replied in the affirmative, she unwaveringly said:

رَضِيتُ‭ ‬بِاللّٰهِ

“‘I am satisfied to be with Allah.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Anbiya)

Just imagine a mother with her baby in the middle of a desert with no continuous supply of water or food, but in obedience to Allah, she is satisfied with the situation. 

It isn’t for no reason that the walks during Hajj between Safa and Marwa remind worshippers of the exemplary level of obedience and sacrifice Hazrat Hajirahas showed. 

In the 21st century – where any hint of belief in the unseen or obedience is sternly looked down on – absolute obedience to Allah, his prophets and Khulafa becomes all the more important.

In fact, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said that an obedient believer was better than a believer who carried out endless worship but had hidden arrogance within themselves and found it difficult to be fully obedient when it came to the commandments of Allah, His prophets and His Khulafa. 

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra says:

“So, a person can offer thousands of prayers, give charity and offer outwardly sacrifices; however, until that pure heart is not present in which it is well established not to compete with God Almighty, not to refuse [his commandments] and not show arrogance and to be ever ready to take up death for God, there is nothing.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 2, p. 65)

Huzoorra said a person who fulfils the outward commandments and rituals to a lower degree as compared to others, but has a deep desire to show immediate obedience and has no arrogance, is “hundreds of thousands of times better” than a person who offers prayers, gives all his wealth in Allah’s way, but does not fully accept every instruction wholeheartedly. (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol 2, p. 65-66)

If we understood the reality and importance of obedience to Allah, His prophets and His Khulafa, Huzoorra said, then in a short amount of time, “such a [strong] Jamaat can be formed that even if it were cut with saws, it would not weaken or fall into trial. In fact, it would not even label great trials as problems and would be perfectly truthful, patient and obedient.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol 2, p. 28)

The world in the 21st century may scoff or laugh at the obedience believers show. Ahmadi Muslims are even labelled, by other Muslims, as followers of a “cult” due to their obedience to Khilafat. However, history has shown time and time again that those who were obedient to Allah the Almighty and His vicegerents, always came out on top. 

Eid-ul-Adha reminds us that without absolute obedience, like that of Hazrat Abrahamas and his family, our faith remains in deep water. 

2. Sacrifice

Hazrat Abrahamas was prepared to put a knife to his son’s neck and slaughter him for Allah’s sake. The mother was ready to endure the harsh and unforgiving conditions of the desert with her baby in her hand and without any sustenance or support. The child was ready to end all life aspirations and his future for Allah the Almighty and willingly placed his neck down to be slaughtered.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said that the prophecy in the Torah about Hazrat Ishmaelas and his future progeny set the stage for the expectation of sacrifice that Muslims should show. 

The Torah foretold:

“[…] his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Genesis, 16:11)

This meant the future progeny of Ishmaelas would bring revolutionary teachings and changes that the world would bitterly oppose. Hazrat Ishmael’s sacrifice was the foundation of greater sacrifices that were to come. The ultimate inheritor of Hazrat Ishmaelas was Prophet Muhammadsa, who had to sacrifice the most for Allah the Almighty. He brought Islam – a teaching that has often been met with fierce opposition since its inception. 

The place Hazrat Ishmaelas migrated to, was where the Holy Prophet’ssa food and water was cut off and the followers of Islam boycotted for six harsh years. It was in this very place – Mecca – where, due to the severe boycott in which Muslims were not even allowed to buy or receive sustenance, the Prophet’s beloved wife, Hazrat Khadijahra passed away from ill-health. Muslims, due to the absence of food and water, became unrecognisable during these six long years. 

Muslims are reminded about these great sacrifices in their history, and it’s no different today. Without sacrifice – following Hazrat Abraham’s family and greater yet, the example of the Holy Prophetsa – gaining the closeness of Allah the Almighty and His pleasure is simply not possible. 

These are actual events and not mere stories. It is a moment to self-reflect as fathers, children and mothers and see how far we are willing to go and how much we are willing to sacrifice for Allah.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“Islam’s core principle is sacrifice. By sacrificing Hazrat Ishmaelas, Hazrat Abrahamas showed the way to success and closeness to God Almighty to coming generations. And by showing perfect obedience, he openly showed what his religion entails; that until a person does not adopt a type of death for God and is ready to endure every kind of humiliation and disgrace for Allah the Almighty’s pleasure and is not thrown into the thorny mountains and plains of tribulations and is not completely cut off by the world, until then, he is not even accepted.

“Until a person does not adopt the Abrahamic sunnah [practice] and the sacrifice and obedience of Ishmael – the perfect example of which was our Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah the Almighty be on him, who, in Mecca, by showing the epitome of patience and perseverance, presented to us the true example of sacrifice for all times to come […] – one is not accepted by Allah the Almighty, nor do they receive approval [from Him]. (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol.2, pp. 64-65)

Today, we are not asked to give our lives. The most we are asked of is to sacrifice some of our wealth or time for the cause of Allah the Almighty, but we do have the ghost of materialism haunting our lives. 

It is a point to reflect, dig deep and see how much we are sacrificing for Allah’s cause. How close can we get to the sacrifices made by Hazrat Abrahamas and his family and ultimately, the Holy Prophetsa and his Companionsra?

3. Trust

Eid-ul-Adha reminds us to trust Allah, even in the most difficult of situations.

The immense and profound obedience and sacrifice of Hazrat Abrahamas and his family showed they had a deep sense of trust in Allah the Almighty, even when the odds were against them from a worldly perspective. 

Hazrat Abraham’sas trust in Allah was such that he left his wife and child in a barren desert with just some dates and water. He had so much faith that he was even ready to slaughter his own young son and, in turn, the son was ready to be sacrificed at the hands of his own father.  

When narrating the sacrifices of this model family and Hazrat Abrahamas leaving his family in the desert, the Holy Prophetsa said:

“They had a water-skin with them containing some water; Ishmael’s mother used to drink water from the water-skin so that her milk would increase for her child. When Abraham reached Mecca, he made her sit under a tree and afterwards, returned home. Ishmael’s mother followed him, and when they reached Kada, she called him from behind, ‘O Abraham! To whom are you leaving us?’ He replied, ‘[I am leaving you] to Allah’s [care].’ She said, ‘I am satisfied to be with Allah.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Anbiya)

In another narration, Hazrat Hajirahas is reported to have responded by saying:

إِذًا‭ ‬لاَ‭ ‬يُضَيِّعُنَا

Meaning, “Then God will not neglect us”. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Anbiya)

This trust, as we know, bore fruits that we still enjoy today. Hazrat Abrahamas and his family were not only materially blessed; rather, the greatest prophet was sent in their lineage – Prophet Muhammadsa. Even if materialism focuses on always having the upper hand, materially speaking, from Hazrat Abraham’s example, believers can find solace in trusting Allah even when material odds are against them.

In a materialistic world where physical commodities, wealth and status have been advertised as the focus of life, the following verse of the Holy Quran, in relation to sacrificing animals in Allah’s way, speaks volumes on where our focus should be:

لَنۡ‭ ‬يَّنَالَ‭ ‬اللّٰهَ‭ ‬لُحُوۡمُهَا‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬لَا‭ ‬دِمَآؤُهَا‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬لٰكِنۡ‭ ‬يَّنَالُهُ‭ ‬التَّقۡوٰي‭ ‬مِنۡكُمۡ

“Their flesh reaches not Allah, nor does their blood, but it is your righteousness that reaches Him.” (Surah al-Hajj, Ch.22: V.38) 

In his commentary of this verse, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, during an Eid-ul-Adha sermon, said:

“The meat or blood of sacrificed animals does not reach Allah because blood mixes into the mud and the meat does not reach [Him] because you consume it yourselves. Bones are thrown away. Then what is the benefit of this sacrifice? [It is] وَ‭ ‬لٰكِنۡ‭ ‬يَّنَالُهُ‭ ‬التَّقۡوٰي‭ ‬مِنۡكُمۡ – your righteousness reaches God Almighty and its purpose is to sacrifice your nafs [self]. At the time of sacrificing [an animal] a believer testifies that as this goat has put its neck forward, in the same way, ‘O my Lord, I sever with a knife the thoughts of my inner self that are opposed to Yours’ […] This the true Eid that every believer should long for.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 2, p. 13)

(By Ataul Fatir Tahir, Al Hakam)

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