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Home » Islam » Ibrahim, A”S, and the Idolaters, the Quranic account

Ibrahim, A”S, and the Idolaters, the Quranic account

BS”D

As stated earlier I have to be focused in my attempt to get to a closer understanding of Ibrahim as a (early) monotheist, so I have – besides my focus on Ibrahim being a Hanif and what that means – chosen to focus on a certain part, namely his meeting/conflict with the idolaters, the Mushrîkin, in his homeland, which also includes his father.

I have found the account being mentioned six times in the Quran, namely in the suwar An-Nabiya (21), Ash-Shuara (26), Al-Ankabût (29), As-Saafat (37), Az-Zukhruf (43), and Al-Mumtahina (60). They don’t all deal equally extensive with the matter, An-Nabiya being the one covering the most, but all of them deal with parts of the account.

I have found seven parts in the account, all of them only being dealt with in An-Nabiya, which can be named as “Discussion with the idolaters,” “Confronting the idols,” “In the court,” “Thrown into the fire,” “Saved by Allah,” “Further Scheeming,” and “Leaving the country.” All the Suwar deals with the discussion, while only Surat An-Nabiya deals with all the parts. I have attached a PDF, Comparative Analysis of the Account in the Quran, where I have systemized the account and the Suwar. The translation used is Yusufali.

The Discussion with the idolaters.

As said, all the Suwar deals with this part. Ash-Shuara is the longest with eight verses (âyât, âyah in singular), followed by An-Nabiya and As-Saafat with six âyât each, then Al-Ankabût (three âyât), Az-Zukhruf (two âyât), and Al-Mumtahina (one ayah). The three longest of the Suwar present an actual discussion with a dialogue between Ibrahim and the idolaters, while the three shortest let Ibrahim be the only one speaking, more stating an opposition to idol worship than entering a discussion. Among the three shortest there is another difference, one of them (Al-Ankabût) having Ibrahim encouraging the idolaters to give up their idol worship, whereas the two others (Az-Zukhruf and Al-Mumtahina) shows a more hostile Ibrahim, declaring himself to be “clear” of them, that is, he distance himself totally from their idol worship.

If we take a look on the three longest Suwar, An-Nabiya, Ash-Shuara and As-Saafat, we can find even more parts in the discussion, though they differ in them. I have tried to organize it in order to see which parts are present, as well as which parts they have in common.  It can be organized like this:

An-Nabiya (21)
Ash-Shuara (26)
As-Saafat (37)
Ibrahim inquires
52: Behold! he said to his father and his people, “What are these images, to which ye are (so assiduously) devoted?”
Ibrahim inquires
70: Behold, he said to his father and his people: “What worship ye?”
Ibrahim inquires
85: Behold! he said to his father and to his people, “What is that which ye worship?
86: “Is it a falsehood- gods other than Allah- that ye desire?
Idolaters answer
53: They said, “We found our fathers worshipping them.”
Idolaters answer
71: They said: “We worship idols, and we remain constantly in attendance on them.”
Idolaters questions him
87: “Then what is your idea about the Lord of the worlds?”
He corrects them
54: He said, “Indeed ye have been in manifest error – ye and your fathers.”
Ibrahim questions the idols
72: He said: “Do they listen to you when ye call (on them)?”
73: “Or do you good or harm?”
Ibrahim wonders
88: Then did he cast a glance at the Stars.
89: And he said, “I am indeed sick (at heart)!”
They question him
55: They said, “Have you brought us the Truth, or are you one of those who jest?”
They confirm him
74: They said: “Nay, but we found our fathers doing thus (what we do).”
The idolaters leave him
90: So they turned away from him, and departed.
He points to Allah
56: He said, “Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He Who created them (from nothing): and I am a witness to this (Truth).
He corrects them
75: He said: “Do ye then see whom ye have been worshipping,-
76: “Ye and your fathers before you?-
He focuses on the idols
57: “And by Allah, I have a plan for your idols – after ye go away and turn your backs”..
He focuses on the idols
77: “For they[1] are enemies to me….

There are differences when we put these three Suwar next to each other, one of them having less parts than the other two, while the other two don’t have the same parts. But I don’t think that they are contradicting each other, rather they supplement each other. One fills holes found in the others, and so on.

In all three of these Suwar it ends with the idolaters leaving Ibrahim, and him turning his attention to the idols.

Confronting the Idols.

Only two Suwar deals with Ibrahim confronting the idols, namely An-Nabiya and As-Saafat. Âyah 58 in An-Nabiya, being the only âyah dealing with this part, only tells of him smashing all the idols except the biggest of them, in order for him to put a trap for the idolaters, while As-Saafat have three âyât dealing with this incident. In As-Saafat we see Ibrahim mocking the idols, asking why they don’t eat their sacrifices and not answering, knowing fully what he is standing with here, before he smashes the idols. Unlike An-Nabiya we don’t see him leaving the biggest idol here.

The Court.

We also only have two Suwar dealing with this incident, again An-Nabiya and As-Saafat, though only An-Nabiya – which deals extensively with this incident – actually has a court presented.

In An-Nabiya the idolators find the smashed idols, and wonder who could have done this. They soon put their minds on Ibrahim, who are brought in front of “the eyes of the people.” When questioned on whether he did this, smashing the idols, he denies, pointing at the idol still standing and claim that that must have been the one doing it, proposing them to question it, leaving the idolaters in confusion, but soon – shamefully – regain their wits, answering him that he fully well know that the idols cannot talk. Ibrahim answers this by asking why they worship the idols, when they know that they cannot do them neither good nor harm, rebuking them for doing so, something that they – apparently – don’t take so well.

As-Saafat is more concise, only letting the idolaters face him, while he asks them why they worship that which they have created themselves, instead of worshipping Him Who created them.

The Punishment.

Both An-Nabiya, Al-Ankabût, and As-Saafat have the punishment, all of them only mentioning it with one âyah. There are not much of a difference, all three âyât mentioning that they want to burn him, only that An-Nabiya mentions that they should burn him in order to protect their gods (if doing anything at all), while Al-Ankabût gives the option to slay him, besides burning him.

Salvation.

Again only two Suwar mention this, namely An-Nabiya (one âyah) and Al-Ankabût(two âyât). An-Nabiya informs that Allah saved Ibrahim by making the fire cold, in order that it would not burn him, while Al-Ankabût only mentions that Allah saved him, but then informing that this should be a sign for the believers, and that those who do not believe themselves would end in the fire on the Day of Judgment.

The Idolaters Planning against Ibrahim.

Also here only mentioned by two Suwar, An-Nabiya and As-Saafat, we see that the idolaters didn’t become discouraged by seeing Ibrahim surviving the furnace, since they kept on their plotting against him, though Allah again played the upper hand, making the idolaters the “losers.” Exactly what they were planning and how Allah prevented it.

Ibrahim leaving the Country.

Only An-Nabiya has this part, shortly mentioning that Allah made Ibrahim, and Lut with him, leave his home and for the land which Allah had “blessed for the nations.”


[1] I’m fairly sure that ”they” are the idols, since he relates the idolaters towards what they have been worshipping and then – in that respect – mention this as his enemy.


15 Comments

  1. MackQuigley says:

    Mohamed heard Bible stories from Jews and Christians living in Arabia during the seventh century and this influenced his thinking during his epileptic fits – imagining a 600 winged angel talking with him. The story he gives about Abraham is a fictional compilation taken from various accounts of events in the Old Testament, such as Joshua 24:2; Judges 6:27-32; Daniel 3:17-28; 1 Samuel 5:2-7; and Psalm 115:2-8.
    The Bible accounts were recorded as historical facts by the people who saw and heard, but Mohamed gave angel-stories that he imagined. It is folly to pretend an equivalence between such divergent methodologies – the first being historical revelations of facts, the second imaginary fiction from ghosts.

  2. qolyehudi says:

    Dear Mark

    I beg to differ. There are a number of points in your statement here, which I have to disagree with.

    For example the claim that Muhammad merely repeats already existing stories. That would be compared to two persons, both telling the same story, while with some differences. When the first have told his story, one would appreciate it and declare that he likes them, while when hearing the other person’s story, one would accuse him for theft and lack of imagination.

    That Muhammad tell what Judaism told before him, just make him more trustworthy in my eyes. That there are differences, definitely, that’s what I’m pointing out and dealing with.

    The other is the claim of Biblical accounts being rational compared to Muhammad receiving his stories from a “ghost”. First of, the Christian accounts are written down long after they happened, not so with the Muslim accounts, which would make me more critical to the trustworthiness of Christian accounts. Secondly, both in the Jewish and the Christian bible do we see stories given by “ghosts” or by people who saw these “ghosts,” claiming that what they saw was true. The revelation of John is a good example on something that – should we stay consistent to your criticism – might more give the idea of a person being very high on something, that a rational account of whatever he saw.

    That you believe fully and strongly in the Christian bible and its accounts are fine and well, but that you raise your “truth” to be the absolute and unquestionable truth, degrading other truths, which can be said by their believers to be even more true than yours, seems to me rather silly.. What you attacked Muhammad for, anyone can as easily attack Jesus and the Christian bible for, maybe even that much easier.

    All the best

    Shmuel

    • MackQuigley says:

      It’s “Mack” not Mark. Obviously you don’t read as carefully as you think you do.
      Mohamed died in 632 AD but he tells stories of events that would have happened around 1950 BC. Clearly he would never be allowed to testify in court about what Abraham (or anybody else in the Bible) did or did not do because he never had even the remotest connection to any of the actual historical events.
      The New Testament was written between 30 AD and 98 AD by the men who made first-hand information of the events – thus they are competent witnesses.
      So the New Testament is historical, but Mohamed’s information doesn’t even rise to the level of hearsay – it is pure fantasy. That is unless you take his story about seeing a 600 winged angel seriously – as this “angel” wasn’t a demon or a delusion.
      This is purely a logical and rational analysis, not an emotional “attack”.
      By the way, Mohamed spawned a religion that hates Jews and you are rather naive (to say the least) to entertain the possibility that he is in the line of the Jewish prophets.
      – Mack.

      • qolyehudi says:

        Dear Mack

        Sorry I got your name wrong.

        I don’t remember ever haven stated anything about how careful I think I read, but please point out where I did, so I can correct any wrong information I might have given in that regard.

        If I had been a devote follower of Muhammad’s message, I might probably have believed that he received revelations from Gabriel and that these revelations were true. Had I been a devote Bible-loyal Christian, I might probably have believed that everything that is recorded in the New Testament is true. Since I’m neither, I’m not relating to either as loyal believers of either Islam or Christianity.

        I’m not sure exactly what your problem is? That I do comparative studies in Jewish and Islamic accounts on Abraham, A”S? If so, nobody is forcing you to read my posts. I don’t care much about whether you think that Muhammad would be allowed to testify on Abraham or anybody else, that isn’t my focus here, and – relating to your criticism of my ability (or lack of it) to read – it surprises me that you think that is the focus. Also that you apparently have gotten the idea that I take him or believe him to be a Jewish prophet (!?)

        And you might claim that it is “purely logical and rational analysis,” but you do come out rather emotional nevertheless, sorry to say. Maybe you have some deep hate to Islam, but that’s really not my concern, I don’t.

        Take care

        Shmuel

    • MackQuigley says:

      Shmuel: How about I write some stories that an angel told me about events in your life? The angel said you took a balloon ride to the zoo and taught the monkeys to speak Chinese. That story has as much significance as anything Mohamed ever said about Abraham. – Mack.

  3. qolyehudi says:

    Dear Mack

    Funny story, but you still haven’t gotten the point I see.

    Take care.

  4. […] an idiot Jew who thinks Mohamet’s seventh century epileptic ghost stories to will provide insight on the life of Abraham. He actually equates the grand mal delusions of an antisemetic paedophile […]

  5. muslimsunrise says:

    Hi,

    I enjoyed your article.

    Would be interested to know what you are researching in Jerusalem.

    The Prophet’s love for Abraham (as) is evident from the fact that he considered him to be his forefather. Unfortunately, Christian evangelicals, although they probably have more in common with Muslims than they like to admit, love making things harder for themselves.

    In any case, there is no need for intolerance towards any sacred scripture or tradition.

    Kind regards,

    MuslimSunrise

  6. qolyehudi says:

    Salâm

    Right now I’m studying Judaism and Islam, with focus on law – at least that’s what the focus is going to be. I’m still on my first semester, so I have to go through the basis courses, before I can choose more freely. And why Jerusalem? Well, it is a city of great value to our religions, and I don’t know of another place where you almost breath religion, and also has both Jews and Muslims living together, besides here.

    Later on, if I’m continuing with my PhD, I’m planning to study Islam and Islamic practice in Israel/Palestine, a subject I feel has been greatly overseen, at least from after 1948. It’s sad and somehow disappointing, though to a certain extent understandable. With more than two million Muslims here, Islam plays a great role in Israel, whether people like it or not, so I feel it obvious to focus on it.

    Some people, unfortunately also Jews, have a hard time with people who take other people serious. Mack here has a hard time with me focusing on Ibrahim, A”S, even though he don’t even get my approach. I love our prophet, a person who can be central in bringing understanding between Muslims and Jews, and when I relate to the Islamic accounts on him, then I see that Muslims respect and care for him as much as Jews do. Mack should rather be positive and happy to see that also non-Christians are interested in him, but instead he allows himself to go to the lower levels of human behavior, it’s sad, but I’ve seen this kind of humans before, so not surprising unfortunately. I don’t know what he expects to get out of it, but that’s his deal.

    Anyway, thanks for the kind words.

    All the best

    Shmuel

  7. […] I have obtained from Mack’s blog is his link to a clearly very serious student of religion –  A Jewish Voice – written by a Jew who has examine certain of the Qurʾānic accounts pertaining to Abraham […]

  8. muslimsunrise says:

    I agree – Mack’s comments leave a lot to be desired.

    Interesting subjects – you know there’s a new institute in Scotland, called al-Makhtoum or something (http://www.almi.abdn.ac.uk/) and they have a concentration on a field they call ‘IslamicJerusalem’ studies. I used to know a few people who taught there.

    I currently studying for a PhD in Islamic Law & Theology – I think your subject is not only of interest, but importance in the area of the world where you reside. I think Jerusalem is important for all the traditions that lay claim to it – and I personally feel all should have access to it – of course, it is easier said than done.

    I have contacts in Palestine who may be able to assist you if you proceed with those studies – I am sure they will be more than happy to help.

    Good luck with it.

    Ma’assalaam

    (I’m with you on the laziness people exert in (mis)pronouncing the ‘ayn ع – especially when they can!)

  9. qolyehudi says:

    Finally someone agreeing with me on ‘Ayin:o). It is really horrible sometimes, I’m not sure whether people are telling me that they are working or disappearing (‘Oved – work, Oved – being lost). Well, in general. Stay loyal to the language:o)

    Thanks for the link, that will most likely be of interest and help soon, since one of the courses in the next semester will be on exactly that subject:o). Or, well, archaeological studies of Muslim Jerusalem. Much appreciated.

    And great to hear that I’ve found one studying Islamic Law, please correct me in all my mistakes, when I’ll begin to post on Fiqh. It’s really an interesting subject, and I’m only beginning to understand it slightly. I’ve found Wallaq’s introductory books on the subject, as well as some other books, but if you can recommend material then I would appreciate it. I’m probably mostly going to focus on Hanbali and Shafi’i, because of the area, but I really would like to get some more knowledge on Hanafi.

    And I agree with you on Jerusalem. The situation is sad, but I do remain optimist. On contrary to what the media tend to report on and what our politicians are showing, there seems to be some level of mutual understanding between people here. Of course we won’t have the total mutual acceptance or positive approach to each other as long as the situation is as it is, but still. And the lack of political process (and will) makes me think that we need to focus more on a religious approach.

    And I will keep your offer in mind;o)

    • MackQuigley says:

      You two nuts are both blind as bats.

      The Bible already prophesied the “religious solution” of an world-religion Temple in Jerusalem … and it ends up being the disaster of all time because the clowns trying to bring in world peace by humanism and religious ecumenism didn’t bother to consult God Almighty who happens to be a jealous God (Deut 5:9) and doesn’t think much of “comparative religion” studies. Man’s “minor error” in this regard will only cost about 5 billion people their lives.

      (It’s found in Ezekiel chapter 8, and will probably begin to come to pass within the next 10 years – – it is dated 6-6-5 (verse 1) right before 6-6-6 (Revelation 13)).

      • qolyehudi says:

        Dear Mack

        There are some things I need to clarify for you, and I expect you to accept them, if you want to continue commenting here.

        1: Keep a polite tone, whether you agree with people or not. I allow rudeness to a certain extent when it comes to attacks on myself, basically because they just show how little the attacker now or care to know or get me, but when it comes to my guests my patience is rather small. You are a guest here, as well as all other commentators and readers, and just as I want you to feel welcome here, so do I want it for others. If you cannot behave in a decent way, then you should keep to your own blog. There you can write whatever you feel like, I don’t care much about it, I don’t read it.

        2: Focus and at least try to understand what people are writing. It is obvious from anything you have written so far, that you don’t even care to get the points given you.

        3: Don’t direct criticism at others, if you don’t care to answer to criticism in return. There is a golden rule, which has been formulated in the negative and the formative going like “don’t do to others what is hateful to yourself”. Jesus formulated it as “do to others as you want them to do to you”. At least, as a supposed Christian, follow his guidance, then I’ll stick to Hillel’s, Z”L, formulation, which mean that when or if you insult others again, then you will be banned.

        These three points were more or less expected self-evident from my side, so I haven’t posted them anywhere previous, hence why I still allow you to post here. But now that I have stated them for you, I expect you to follow them.

        All the best.

  10. MackQuigley says:

    Shmuel: Thanks for showing why you won’t read or believe the Bible – it is full of criticism and name calling and negativity. Positivity is a lie – but you prefer it.

    – Mack

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