Nimrod b. Canaan (Arabic: نَمرود بن کنعان) was the king of Babylon at the time of Prophet Abraham (a). In the Qur'an, the name of Nimrod is not mentioned, but he is mentioned in Quran 2 and Quran 21. He was idol-worshipper and idol-worshipping was common in his kingdom. Since priests had foretold that a boy would born named Abraham and would fight idol-worshipping and conquer Nimrod's kingdom, Nimrod, fearing the birth of Abraham (a), ordered to kill every boy born thereafter, but Abraham (a) was born secretly.
Nimrod judged and debated with Abraham (a) with the charge of insulting the idols and breaking them. After he was defeated by Abraham (a) in debate, casted him into the fire; but, after he found that Abraham (a) was not harmed, released him and made sacrifice for God; however, he did not accept to believe in Abraham (a).
In historical sources, it is mentioned that in order to find Abraham's (s) God and fight with Him, Nimrod used trained eagles, tied a box to them and flew to sky. In some historical reports, it is mentioned that in order to go to the sky and fight with God, Nimrod built a tall tower. This building was known as the tower of Babylon. He died by a fly, which entered his head through his nose and gradually ate his brain.
Nimrod b. Canaan b. Cush b. Sam b. Noah (a) was the king of Babylon at the time of the Prophet Abraham (a). Some sources mentioned Nimrod, grandson of Ham, another son of Noah (a). Nimrod was the cousin of Azar, the uncle of Abraham (a). In some sources, he was mentioned as the Pharaoh of Abraham (a). The name of Nimrod has been mentioned together with Nebuchadnezzar as the only polytheist kings ruled on earth.
Killing Male Infants
One of the measures made during the kingdom of Nimrod was the killing of male infants. After astrologists and priests foretold that a boy would be born in Babylon at a certain time and would fight idol-worshipping and conquer Nimrod's kingdom, Nimrod ordered to gather all pregnant women and kill their babies if they were boys. Based on some reports, Nimrod killed seven thousand boys in 40 years, fearing that one of them would be Abraham (a).
Prophet Abraham (a) was born secretly. When the birth pangs of Abraham's (a) mother began, she secretly went out of the city and gave birth in a cave; then, she covered the entrance of the cave and returned to the city. She went to the cave secretly to see her son everyday.
Fighting with Monotheism
Nimrod who had spread idol-worshiping in his kingdom, fought Abraham's (a) invitation to monotheism. There were golden and precious idols in the kingdom of Nimrod. In addition to believing in idols, he claimed the ownership of the earth and Lordship. Through different approaches, Prophet Abraham (a) invited people to monotheism and worshiping One God.
Debate with Abraham (a)
After the Prophet Abraham (a) broke the idols away from people's eyes, they took him to Nimrod. Abraham (a) debated with Nimrod to prove One God and to reject Nimrod's claim of Lordship. This debate was made in the presence of people. The debate between the Prophet Abraham (a) and Nimrod is mentioned in Qur'an 2. In this debate, Abraham (a) said, "my God brings death and gives life." Nimrod said, "I too give life and bring death." To prove his claim, Nimrod summoned two prisoners and ordered to kill one of them and free the other. Then, the Prophet Abraham (a) said, "my God brings the sun from the east; now, you bring it from the west." Nimrod failed to answer this request of Abraham (a). The Qur'an used the expression "the faithless one was dumbfounded" to show Nimrod's reaction.
Exegetes considered the first answer of Nimrod, a fallacy using which he tried to deceive people. But, Abraham (a) mentioned the second request to make Nimrod's plot ineffective and reject his claim.
Punishing Abraham (a) with Fire
After Nimrod was defeated in debate with Abraham (a) in the presence of Babylonians, Nimrod decided to punish Abraham (a) with fire for breaking and insulting their gods. The decision of Nimrod and the idol-worshipers is mentioned in verse 68 of Quran 21. Nimrod ordered all people to bring firewood in one place. After they set fire to the woods, casted Abraham (a) into the fire using a catapult as no one could approach the fire. After they casted Abraham (a) into the fire, the Qur'an says that it turned cold and harmless by the order of God.
Some days later, Nimrod was passing by the fire which was still ablaze. He astonishingly found Abraham (a) sitting in the middle of fire. To become sure about the condition of Abraham (a), he ordered to build a tower so that he could see inside the fire. After Nimrod became sure that Abraham (a) was not harmed, asked "your God is Great Who protected you from the fire. Can you come out of the fire?" Abraham (a) said, "yes." Nimrod asked again, "Does the fire harm you if you stay there?" Abraham (a) said, "no." After Nimrod asked Abraham (a) to go out of the fire, he (a) went out of the fire while it was ablaze.
Freeing Abraham (a) and Making Sacrifice for God
When Nimrod saw the miracle of turning the fire cold by God, released Abraham (a) and decided to sacrifice four thousand cows for God. Prophet Abraham (a) told him that his sacrifice would be unacceptable without believing in One God and abandoning his claim of Lordship. But, Nimrod made sacrifice without accepting monotheism.
Fighting with God
In historical sources, it is mentioned that in order to find Abraham's (s) God and fight with Him, Nimrod used trained eagles, tied a box to them and flew to sky. In some historical reports, it is mentioned that in order to go to the sky and fight with God, Nimrod built a tall tower. This building was known as the tower of Babylon which was destroyed later by the order of God. Some exegetes considered verse 26 of Quran 16 about this story. Based on this verse, God razed their edifice of the faithless who sought deception from the foundations and the roof collapsed upon them from above.
After Nimrod was disappointed about finding God, an angel went to him in the form of a human and advised and invited him toward monotheism. The angel told him, "O weak servant, do not fight with One God and fear him! His sovereignty and His army are far greater than yours and if He wishes, He will destruct you with the least of His creatures."
Nimrod rejected any sovereignty other than his and invoked the army of God to war. The angel gave him three days to gather his army. After three days, by the order of God, flies went to him and stung his army and all his army fled away. After a while, the angel reminded Nimrod of the defeat of his army and again advised him about believing in God and warned him about being perished. Nimrod did not accept. God sent a fly, which entered the head of Nimrod through his nose and began eating his brain. The headache of Nimrod was so severe that they beat his head to decrease his pain and make the fly calm. Then, anyone who went to meet him, would beat his head to show more respect instead of kissing his hand. According to some sources, this condition lasted for forty years and then Nimrod died.
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- قَد مَكَرَ الَّذينَ مِن قَبلِهِم فَأَتَى اللَّهُ بُنيانَهُم مِنَ القَواعِدِ فَخَرَّ عَلَيهِمُ السَّقفُ مِن فَوقِهِم وَأَتاهُمُ العَذابُ مِن حَيثُ لا يَشعُرونَ: Those who were before them [had also] schemed. Then Allah razed their edifice from the foundations and the roof collapsed upon them from above and the punishment overtook them whence they were not aware. (Quran 16:26)
- Balʿamī, Tārīkhnāma-yi Ṭabarī, vol. 1, p. 149-150.
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