Abraham in Islam

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alayhi s-salām ( عليه السلام )
Ibrahim (Abraham)1.png
The name Abraham written in Islamic calligraphy followed by Peace be upon him.
Native name Ibrāhīm - إبراهيم
Born c. 2510 BH
Ur, Iraq
Died c. 2329 BH (aged approximately 175)
Hebron, West Bank
Cause of death
Old Age
Resting place
Ibrahimi Mosque
Religion Islam
Spouse(s) Hajar, Sarah
Children Ismail, Ishaq
Abraham in the Mosque of Abraham in Hebron

Ibrâhîm (Arabic: إبراهيمtranslit.: ʾIbrāhīm, pronounced [ʔibraːˈhiːm]), known as Abraham in the Old Testament, is recognized in Islam as a prophet and apostle [1][2] of God (Arabic: الله Allāh) and patriarch of many peoples. In Muslim belief, Abraham fulfilled all the commandments and trials which God tried him with over his lifetime. As a result of his unwavering faith in God, Abraham was promised by God to be a leader to all the nations of the world.[3] Abraham embodies the type of the perfect Muslim and the Quran mentions Abraham as a model for mankind.[4] In this sense, Abraham has been described as representing "primordial man in universal surrender to the Divine Reality before its fragmentation into religions separated from each other by differences in form".[5] The Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha is celebrated in memory of the bravery of Abraham, and Muslims perform the pilgrimage to pay homage at the Kaaba which Abraham had set up and reformed.[6]

Muslims believe that the prophet Abraham became the leader of the righteous in his time and it was through him that the people of both Arabia and Israel came. Abraham, in the belief of Islam, was instrumental in cleansing the world of idolatry at the time. Paganism was cleared out by Abraham in both Arabia and Canaan. He spiritually purified both places as well as physically sanctifying the houses of worship. Abraham and Ismail (Ishmael) further established the rites of pilgrimage,[7] or Hajj, which are still followed by Muslims today. Muslims maintain that Abraham further asked God to bless both the lines of his progeny, of Ismail (Ishmael) and Ishaq (Isaac), and to keep all of his descendants in the protection of God.


Muslims maintain that Abraham's father was Azar (Arabic: ازرtranslit.: Āzar),[8][9] which could be derived from the Syriac Athar,[10] who is known in the Hebrew Bible as Terah. Commentators and scholars believed that Abraham himself had many children, but Ismail (Ishmael) and Ishaq (Isaac) were the only two who became prophets. Abraham's two wives are believed to have been Sarah and Hājar (Hagar), the latter of whom was originally Sarah's handmaiden.[11] Abraham's nephew is said to have been the messenger Lut (Lot), who was one of the other people who migrated with Abraham out of their community. Abraham himself is said to have been of Semitic lineage, being a descendant of Nuh (Noah) through his son Shem.[12]


Abraham encountered several miracles of God during his lifetime. The Quran records a few main miracles, although different interpretations have been attributed to the passages. Some of the miracles recorded in the Quran are:

  • Abraham was shown the kingdom of the Heavens and the Earth.[13]
  • Abraham and the miracle of the birds.[14]
  • Abraham was thrown into a fire, which became "cool" and "peaceful" for him.[15]

The first passage has been interpreted both literally, allegorically and otherwise. Although some commentators feel that this passage referred to a physical miracle, where Abraham was physically shown the entire kingdom of Heaven (Jannah),[16] others have felt that it refers to the spiritual understanding of Abraham; these latter scholars maintain that the Chaldeans were skilled in the observance of the stars, but Abraham, who lived amongst them, saw beyond the physical world and into a higher spiritual realm. The second passage has one mainstream interpretation amongst the Quranic commentators, that Abraham took four birds and cut them up, placing pieces of each on nearby hills; when he called out to them, each piece joined and four birds flew back to Abraham.[17] This miracle, as told by the Quranic passage, was a demonstration by God to show Abraham how God gave life to the dead. As the physical cutting of the birds is not implied in the passage, some commentators have offered alternative interpretations, but all maintain that the miracle was for the same demonstrative purpose to show Abraham the power God has to raise the dead to life.[18] The third passage has also been interpreted both literally and metaphorically, or in some cases both. Commentators state that the 'fire' refers to main aspects. They maintained that, firstly, the fire referred to the physical flame, from which Abraham was saved unharmed. The commentators further stated that, secondly, the fire referred to the 'fire of persecution', from which Abraham was saved, as he left his people after this with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot.[19]

Personality and wisdom[edit]

Abraham's personality and character is one of the most in-depth in the whole Quran, and Abraham is specifically mentioned as being a kind and compassionate man.[20] Abraham's father is understood by all Muslims to have been a wicked, ignorant and idolatrous man who ignored all of his son's advice. The relationship between Abraham and his father, who in the Quran is named Azar, is central to Abraham's story as Muslims understand it to establish a large part of Abraham's personality. The Quran mentions that Abraham's father threatened to stone his son to death if he did not cease in preaching to the people.[21] Despite this, the Quran states that Abraham in his later years prayed to God to forgive the sins of all his descendants and his parents. Muslims have frequently cited Abraham's character as an example of how kind one must be towards people, and especially one's own parents. A similar example of Abraham's compassionate nature is demonstrated when Abraham began to pray for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah after hearing of God's plan for them. Although God told Abraham that His plan was the final word, and therefore Abraham's prayers would be of no effect, the Quran nonetheless reinforces Abraham's kind nature through this particular event.[22]

The Quran discusses a certain conversation between an unrighteous ruler and Abraham. Although identification for the unnamed king has been recognized as being least important in the narrative, many historical sources suggest that it was Nimrod,[23] the king who had ordered the building of the Tower of Babel. According to the narrative, the king became extremely arrogant due to his wealth and power, to the point that he made the claim that he possessed the power of Creation. Claiming divinity for himself, the king quarreled with Abraham but the Quran describes that he only deepened in confusion. According to the Quran, Abraham told the king that it is God who makes the sun rise and set everyday, which rendered the king confounded. This event has been noted as particularly important because, in the Muslim perspective, it almost foreshadowed the prophetic careers of future prophets, most significantly the career of Moses. Abraham's quarrel with the king has been interpreted by some to be a precursor to Moses's preaching to Pharaoh. Just as the ruler who argued against Abraham claimed divinity for himself, so did the Pharaoh of the Exodus, who refused to hear the call of Moses and perished in the Red Sea. In this particular incident, scholars have further commented on Abraham's wisdom in employing "rational, wise and target-oriented" speech, as opposed to pointless arguments.[24]

Abraham, in the eyes of many Muslims, also symbolized the highest moral values essential to any person. The Quran details the account of the angels coming to Abraham to tell him of the birth of Isaac. It says that, as soon as Abraham saw the messengers, he "hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf."[25] This action has been interpreted by all the scholars as exemplary; many scholars have commentated upon this one action, saying that it symbolizes Abraham's exceedingly high moral level and thus is a model for how men should act in a similar situation. This incident has only further heightened the "compassionate" character of Abraham in Muslim theology.[26]



Abraham is given the title Khalilullah (Arabic: خلیل‌ اللهtranslit.: Ḵalīlullāḥ, Meaning: Friend of Allah) in Islam.[2][27] The Quran says:

Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to Allah, does good, and follows the way of Abraham the true in Faith? For Allah did take Abraham for a friend.

—Quran, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 125[28]

This particular title of Abraham is so famous in Muslim culture and tradition that, in the areas in and around Mecca, Abraham is often referred to solely as The Friend.[29] This title of Friend of God is not exclusive to Islamic theology. Although the other religious traditions do not stress upon it, Abraham is called a Friend of God in the second Book of Chronicles and the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)[30] as well as in the New Testament.[31]

Abraham and the Kaaba[edit]

The Kaaba, which remains the most significant mosque in Islam, is believed to have been constructed by Abraham and Ishmael.

One of Abraham's most important features in Islamic theology is his role as the constructor of the Kabba. Although tradition recounts that Adam constructed the original Kabba, which was demolished by the Great Flood at the time of Noah, Abraham is believed to have rebuilt it in its original form. The Quran, in the Muslim perspective, merely confirms or reinforces the laws of pilgrimage. The rites were instituted by Abraham and for all Muslims, as they perform the pilgrimage, the event is a way to return to the perfection of Abraham's faith.[32] Just as Medina is referred to as the "City of the Prophet [Muhammad]" or simply the "City of Muhammad", Mecca is frequently cited as the "City of Abraham", because Abraham's reformation of the purified monotheistic faith took place purely in Mecca.[33]

Scrolls of Abraham[edit]

The Quran refers to certain Scrolls of Abraham, which have alternatively been translated as the Books of Abraham. All Muslim scholars have generally agreed that no scrolls of Abraham survive, and therefore this is a reference to a lost body of scripture.[34] The Scrolls of Abraham are understood by Muslims to refer to certain revelations Abraham received, which he would have then transmitted to writing. The exact contents of the revelation are not described in the Quran.

The 87th chapter of the Quran, sura Al-Ala, concludes saying the subject matter of the sura has been in the earlier scriptures of Abraham and Moses. It is slightly indicative of what were in the previous scriptures, according to Islam:

Therefore give admonition in case the admonition profits (the hearer).
The admonition will be received by those who fear (Allah):
But it will be avoided by those most unfortunate ones,
Who will enter the Great Fire,
In which they will then neither die nor live.
But those will prosper who purify themselves,
And glorify the name of their Guardian-Lord, and (lift their hearts) in prayer.
Day (behold), ye prefer the life of this world;
But the Hereafter is better and more enduring.
And this is in the Books of the earliest (Revelation),-
The Books of Abraham and Moses.

—Quran, sura 87 (Al-Ala), ayah 9-19 [35]

Chapter 53 of the Quran, sura An-Najm, mentions some more subject matters of the earlier scriptures of Abraham and Moses.

Nay, is he not acquainted with what is in the Books of Moses-
And of Abraham who fulfilled his engagements?-
Namely, that no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another;
That man can have nothing but what he strives for;
That (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight:
Then will he be rewarded with a reward complete;
That to thy Lord is the final Goal;
That it is He Who granteth Laughter and Tears;
That it is He Who granteth Death and Life;
That He did create in pairs,- male and female,
From a seed when lodged (in its place);
That He hath promised a Second Creation (Raising of the Dead);
That it is He Who giveth wealth and satisfaction;
That He is the Lord of Sirius (the Mighty Star);
And that it is He Who destroyed the (powerful) ancient 'Ad (people),
And the Thamud nor gave them a lease of perpetual life.
And before them, the people of Noah, for that they were (all) most unjust and most insolent transgressors,
And He destroyed the Overthrown Cities (of Sodom and Gomorrah).
So that (ruins unknown) have covered them up.
Then which of the gifts of thy Lord, (O man,) wilt thou dispute about?
This is a Warner, of the (series of) Warners of old!
The (Judgment) ever approaching draws nigh:
No (soul) but Allah can lay it bare.
Do ye then wonder at this recital?
And will ye laugh and not weep,-
Wasting your time in vanities?
But fall ye down in prostration to Allah, and adore (Him)!

—Quran 53 (An-Najm), ayat 36-62 [36]

Yet some scholars[by whom?] suggested it to be a reference to Sefer Yetzirah, as Jewish tradition generally ascribed[citation needed] its authorship to Abraham. Other scholars, however, wrote of a certain Testament of Abraham, which they explained was available at the time of Muhammad.[37] Both of these views are disputed because Sefer Yetzirah is a part of esoteric Jewish mysticism, which originated much later in the 13th century, such scrolls or testaments should not have existed in the time of Muhammad for being referred to. And if those would have existed, according to clear instructions in the Quran and hadith, no verification should take place.

The Quran contains numerous references to Abraham, his life, prayers and traditions and has a dedicated chapter named Ibrahim. Therefore verifying the scrolls of Abraham from other traditions, especially from Judaism has no basis. The advent of Islam was due to the alteration of all previous scriptures. On a relevant note, sura Al-Kahf was revealed as an answer from God to the Jews who inquired of Muhammad about past events. Here God directly instructed Muhammad in sura Al-Kahf, not to consult the Jews for verifying the three stories about which they inquired.

Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, nor consult any of them about (the affair of) the Sleepers.

— Quran, sura 18 (Al-Kahf), ayat 22 [38]

The reason being God declaring He Himself is relating what needs to be verified in another verse of sura Al-Kahf:

We relate to thee their story in truth: they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We advanced them in guidance:

—Quran, sura 18, (Al-Kahf), ayat 13[39]

Regarding consultation with the People of the Book, it is also narrated by Abu Hurairah in Hadith literature:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The people of the Scripture (Jews) used to recite the Torah in Hebrew and they used to explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. On that Allah's Apostle said, "Do not believe the people of the Scripture or disbelieve them, but say:-- "We believe in Allah and what is revealed to us."

Therefore relating to any ascription of the Scrolls of Abraham by the people of the book is not required.

Burial place[edit]

In the mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, this grate allows visitors to look down into the 40-foot shaft leading to the ground level of the cave where Abraham and Sarah are buried.

Muslims believe that Abraham was buried, along with his wife Sarah, at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Known to Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham it is also thought to be the burial site of Isaac, his wife Rebecca and Jacob and his wife Leah.[citation needed]

Narrative in the Quran[edit]

References to Abraham in the Quran[edit]

There are numerous references to Abraham in the Quran, including, twice, to the Scrolls of Abraham;[41] in the latter passage, it is mentioned that Abraham "fulfilled his engagements?-",[42] a reference to all the trials that Abraham had succeeded in. In a whole series of chapters, the Quran relates how Abraham preached to his community as a youth and how he specifically told his father, named Azar,[43] to leave idol-worship and come to the worship of God.[44] Some passages of the Quran, meanwhile, deal with the story of how God sent angels to Abraham with the announcement of the punishment to be imposed upon Lot's people in Sodom and Gomorrah.[45] Other verses mention the near-sacrifice of Abraham's son,[46] whose name is not given but is presumed to be Ishmael as the following verses mention the birth of Isaac.[47] The Quran also repeatedly establishes Abraham's role as patriarch and mentions numerous important descendants who came through his lineage, including Isaac,[48] Jacob[49] and Ishmael.[50] In the later chapters of the Quran, Abraham's role becomes yet more prominent. The Quran mentions that Abraham and Ishmael were the reformers who set up the Kabba in Mecca as a center of pilgrimage for monotheism[51] The Quran consistently refers to Islam as "the Religion of Abraham" (millat Ibrahim)[52] and Abraham is given a title as Hanif (The Pure, "true in Faith" or "upright man").[53] The Quran also mentions Abraham as one whom God took as a friend (Khalil),[28] hence Abraham's title in Islam, Khalil-Allah (Friend of God). The term is considered by some to be a derivation of the patriarch's Hebrew title, Kal El (קל-אל), which means "voice of God".[54][55] Other instances in the Quran which are described in a concise manner are the rescue of Abraham from the fire into which he was thrown by his people';[56][57] his pleading for his father;[58] his quarrel with an unrighteous and powerful king[59] and the miracle of the dead birds.[14]

All these events and more have been discussed with more details in Muslim tradition, and especially in the Stories of the Prophets and works of universal Islamic theology.[60] Certain episodes from the life of Abraham have been more heavily detailed in Islamic text, such as the arguments between Abraham and the evil king, Nimrod, the near-sacrifice of his son, and the story of Hagar and Ishmael, which Muslims commemorate when performing pilgrimage in Mecca. An important Islamic religious holiday, Eid al-Adha, commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead.[61] In some cases, some believe these legends in Islamic text may have influenced later Jewish tradition.[62]

Verses in the Quran[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Quran 87:19
  2. ^ a b Siddiqui, Mona. "Ibrahim – the Muslim view of Abraham". Religions (BBC). Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Quran 2:124
  4. ^ Quran 16:120
  5. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, p. 18
  6. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Kaaba
  7. ^ Quran 2:128
  8. ^ Prophet, Ibrahim. "Father". Islamicity. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Ibrahim, Prophet. "Father". Haq Islam. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Geiger 1898 Judaism and Islam: A Prize Essay.,p. 100
  11. ^ Lings, Martin. "Muhammad". House of God Chap. I (cf. Index: "Abraham"), Suhail Academy Co.
  12. ^ "Ibrahim". Encyclopedia of Islam, Online version.
  13. ^ Quran 6:75
  14. ^ a b Quran 2:260
  15. ^ Quran 21:68–70
  16. ^ The Book of Certainty, M. Lings, S. Academy Publishing
  17. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Kisa'i/Kathir, Story of Abraham
  18. ^ Quran: Text, Translation, Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, note. 285
  19. ^ Quran: Text, Translation, Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, note. 2703
  20. ^ Quran 11:75
  21. ^ Quran 19:46
  22. ^ Lives of the Prophets, L. Azzam, Suhail Academy Co.
  23. ^ History of the Prophets and Kings, Tabari, Vol. I: Prophets and Patriarchs
  24. ^ Book 1: The Prophet Abraham, Harun Yahya, The Unbeliever Advised By Abraham, Online. web.
  25. ^ Quran 11:69
  26. ^ Book 1: The Prophet Abraham, Harun Yahya, Angels Who Visited Abraham, Online. web.
  27. ^ "Title". Answering Islam. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  28. ^ a b Quran 4:125
  29. ^ Mecca: From Before Genesis Until Now, M. Lings. Archetype Books
  30. ^ Isaiah 41:8 and 2 Chronicles 20:7
  31. ^ James 2:23
  32. ^ Mecca: From Before Genesis Until Now, M. Lings, pg. 39, Archetype
  33. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Kaaba, Suhail Academy
  34. ^ A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B. M. Wheeler, Abraham
  35. ^ Quran 87:9–19
  36. ^ Quran 53:36–62
  37. ^ Tafsir and Commentary on 87: 18-19 & 53: 36-37, Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad
  38. ^ Quran 18:22
  39. ^ Quran 18:13
  40. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 6:60:12
  41. ^ Quran 87:18–19 and 53:36–37
  42. ^ Quran 53:37
  43. ^ Quran 6:74
  44. ^ Quran 37:83–89, 26:68–89, 19:41–50, 43:26–28, 21:51–73, 29:16–28 and 6:74–84
  45. ^ Quran 52:24–34, 25:51–60, 11:69–76 and 29:31
  46. ^ Quran 37:100–111
  47. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Ishmael
  48. ^ Quran 25:53
  49. ^ Quran 29:49, 21:72, 29:27, 6:84, 11:71 and 38:45–47
  50. ^ Quran 2:132–133
  51. ^ Quran 2:123–141, 3:65–68, 3:95–97, 4:125, 4:26–29 and 22:78
  52. ^ Quran 2:135
  53. ^ Quran 3:67
  54. ^ Weinstein, Simcha (2006). Up, Up, and Oy Vey! (1st ed.). Leviathan Press. ISBN 978-1-881927-32-7
  55. ^ World Jewish Digest (Aug, 2006; posted online 25 July 2006): "Superman's Other Secret Identity", by Jeff Fleischer
  56. ^ Quran 37:97 and 21:68–70
  57. ^ 21:51–73
  58. ^ Quran 28:47
  59. ^ Quran 2:58
  60. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, Ibrahim; Tales of the Prophets, Kisa'i, Ibrahim
  61. ^ Diversity Calendar: Eid al-Adha University of Kansas Medical Center
  62. ^ J. Eisenberg, EI, Ibrahim


Further reading[edit]


  • P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. 
  • Cyril Glasse, Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Pgs. 18–19 (Abraham), Suhail Academy

Abraham and the Kaaba[edit]

  • Martin Lings, Mecca: From Before Genesis Until Now, Archetype
  • Leila Azzam, Lives of the Prophets, Abraham and the Kaaba, Suhail Academy

Abraham's life[edit]

External links[edit]