Abraham (a)

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Abraham (a)
Abraham in fire, by Mahmud Farshchiyan
Abraham in fire, by Mahmud Farshchiyan
Name in
the Qur'an:
Name in
the Bible:
Burial place:Hebron (al-Khalil), Palestine
Well known
Ishmael, Isaac, Sarah, Hagar, Tarah, Azar
Miracle(s):Four birds of Abraham, Cooling of fire
Lot (a)
Religion:Hanif Religion
Repeat in
the Qur'an:
Slaughtering of the Son, Construction of the Ka'ba

Ibrāhīm (Arabic: إبراهيم), or Abrāhām, known as Ibrāhīm al-Khalīl, is the second of Ulu l-'Azm prophets. Abraham was selected as a prophet in Transoxiana, and invited Nimrod, the ruler of his time, and people of the region to monotheism. A few accepted his call, and since he was disappointed with their faith, he immigrated to Palestine.

According to Quranic verses, Abraham's people worshiped idols, and when Abraham (a) broke their idols, they threw him into fire, but the fire became cool at the command of God, and Abraham (a) emerged safe and sound from the fire.

Ishmael (a) and Isaac (a) were Abraham's two sons and his successors. The lineage of the Children of Israel, from whom many prophets emerged, as well as Mary (a), the mother of Jesus (a), goes back to Abraham through Isaac (a). The lineage of the Prophet of Islam (s) goes back to Ishmael (a), the other son of Abraham (a).

The Qur'an attributes the construction of the Ka'ba and the call of people to hajj rituals to Abraham (a), referring to him as "Khalil Allah" (Friend of God). According to Quranic verses, when he was tested with difficulties, such as slaughtering his son at the command of God, Abraham (a) reached the position of Imamate, in addition to that of prophethood.


Birth and Death

The shrine of Abraham in Hebron, Palestine

Most researchers believe that Abraham (a) was born in the 20th century BC, and some of them mention the exact year of 1996 BC.[1] In Islamic sources, a number of cities have been introduced as birthplaces of Abraham (a). According to al-Tabari's history, some people take Babylon or Kutha, a region in Iraq where Nimrod ruled, as the birthplace of Abraham (a), and others take Uruk or Harran as his birthplace, adding that later he was taken by his father to Babylon or Kutha.[2] According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), Kutha is the birthplace of Abraham (a) and the base of Nimrod.[3] Ibn Battuta, a six-century tourist, mentions a place called "Burs" between Hillah and Baghdad in Iraq which was known as the birthplace of Abraham (a).[4]

Abraham lived for 179 or 200 years, and died in Hebron, which is known today as al-Khalil and is located in Palestine.[5]

Abraham's Father

There is disagreement over the name of Abraham's father. In the Bible, he is known as Terah, which is known in Islamic historical sources as Tarukh or Tarah. The Qur'an says: "When Abraham said to Azar, his father."[6] Based on this verse, some Sunni exegetes believe that Azar was Abraham's father.[7] However, Shiite exegetes take “ab” here not to mean father.[8] They believe, instead, that “ab” in Arabic means uncle, grandfather, supervisor, and the like as well.[9]

According to some historical sources, in the year in which Abraham (a) was born, all new-born babies were killed at the command of Nimrud, because soothsayers had prognosticated that a child will be born in that year who will oppose Nimrod's religion and break the idols. Thus, Abraham's mother hid him in a cave near her house, and after fifteen months, she took him out of the cave.[10]

Marriage and Children

The first wife of Abraham (a) was Sarah. According to the Torah, Abraham married her in Ur of Chaldea.[11] The Torah implies that she was Abraham's step-sister.[12] However, according to Shiite hadiths, Sarah was a cousin of Abraham (a) and the sister of Lot (a).[13] On one of these hadiths, Abraham (a) married her in Kutha, and she had a great deal of fortune which was possessed and increased by Abraham (a) after their marriage, such that no one in that region had as much wealth as he did.[14]

Abraham (a) could not have a child from Sarah. Thus, she donated her concubine, Hagar, to Abraham (a), from who he had a son called Ishmael (a).[15] After a few years, Abraham (a) had a child from Sarah as well, who was called Isaac (a). Isaac (a) was allegedly born five or thirteen years after Ishmael (a).[16] On some accounts, when Isaac (a) was born, Abraham (a) was over 100 years, and Sarah was 90 years.[17] And on another account, Isaac (a) was born 30 years after Ishmael (a) when Abraham (a) was 120.[18]

Allegedly, after the death of Sarah, Abraham (a) married two other women, from one of whom he had four sons and from the other he had seven sons, and thus the number of his children amounted to thirteen sons.[19]

Abraham in the Qur'an

Abraham (a) is mentioned sixty-nine times in the Qur'an.[20] A sura in the Qur'an is called “Ibrahim” because it is concerned with the life of Abraham (a).[21] The Qur'an refers to Abraham's prophethood, his invitation to monotheism his imamate, the slaughtering of his son, the miracle of the revival of four dead birds, and the miracle of the fire being cool.

Prophethood, Imamate, and Friendship with God

In a number of Quranic verses, Abraham's prophethood and his invitation to monotheism are mentioned.[22] Moreover, verse thirty-five of Qur'an 46 talks about Ulu l-'Azm prophets, which according to hadiths, include Abraham (a) as the second such prophet after Noah (a).[23] According to verse 124 of Qur'an 2, God appointed Abraham (a) as an Imam after a number of tests. According to 'Allama Tabataba'i, the position of imamate here refers to inner guidance, which requires an existential perfection and a peculiar spiritual status that can be obtained after a lot of struggles.[24]

According to Quranic verses, God selected Abraham (a) as His friend (Khalil).[25] Thus, he came to be called “Khalil Allah.” According to hadiths cited in 'Ilal al-shara'i', he became God's friend because he prostrated so frequently, he never rejected anyone's request, he never requested anything from anyone except God, he gave food to the poor, and he worshiped at night.[26]

According to the Qur'an, Abraham was the ancestor of a number of his subsequent prophets.[27] Thus, he came to be known as Abu l-Anbiya' (the Father of Prophets). His son, Isaac (a), was the ancestor of the Children of Israel, in whose progeny there were prophets including Jacob (a), Joseph (a), David (a), Solomon (a), Job (a), Moses (a), Aaron (a), and other prophets.[28] Moreover, Jesus's lineages goes through his mother, Mary (a), back to Jacob (a) the son of Isaac (a).[29] According to Islamic narratives, the lineage of Muhammad (s) goes back to Ishmael (a).[30]


According to Quranic verses, miracles of Abraham (a) included the cooling of fire and the revival of four birds:

  • The cooling of fire: according to verses fifty-seven to seventy of Qur'an 21, when Abraham saw that his people do not stop worshiping idols, he broke the idols and attributed the act to the great idol, saying that “if the idol talks, then ask him who did this.” Idol worshipers were speechless, but they did not abandon their beliefs, throwing him into fire because of breaking the idols. The fire was, however, cooled at the command of God.[31]
  • The revival of four birds: according to verse 260 of Qur'an 2, in response to Abraham's request of seeing how the dead come back to life, God commanded him to slaughter and then mix four birds, and then put parts of the mixture on top of different mountains. He did so and then called the birds. The birds came back to life and flew towards him.


Verse seventy-one of Qur'an 21 says about Abraham (a): “We delivered him and Lot toward the land, which We have blessed for all nations.”[32] Some Quranic exegeses take the land referred to in this verse to be Syria[33] or Palestine and Jerusalem.[34] In a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), Jerusalem is said to be the place Abraham (a) immigrated to.[35]

Construction of the Ka'ba

According to verse 127 of Qur'an 2, Abraham (a) and his son, Ishmael (a), constructed the Ka'ba, and then at the command of God, he called people to hajj rituals.[36] According to hadiths, the Ka'ba was first constructed by Adam (a) and then reconstructed by Abraham (a).[37]

Slaughtering of the Son

In one divine test, Abraham (a) was ordered to slaughter his son. According to the Quranic account, Abraham (a) saw in his dream that he was slaughtering his son. He told his son about the dream and the son asked him to comply with God's command. However, when Abraham (a) laid his son on the altar in order to slaughter him, there was a call: “O Abraham! You have indeed fulfilled your vision! Thus indeed do We reward the virtuous! This was indeed a manifest test.’ Then We ransomed him with a great sacrifice.”[38]

The Qur'an does not name Abraham's son whom he was ordered to slaughter. There is a dispute over this between Shi'as and Sunnis. Some people say that it was Ishmael (a) and others take him to be Isaac (a).[39] Al-Shaykh al-Tusi maintans that Shiite hadiths imply that it was Ishmael (a).[40] In his commentary on Furu' al-kafi, Mulla Salih Mazandarani takes this to be the predominant view among Shiite scholars.[41]

Abraham in the Two Testaments

In the Old Testament, Abraham is mentioned as "Abram," [42] however, in section 17 of Genesis, we read: "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations."[43]

According to the account in the Old Testament, the lineage of Abraham goes back to Aramean tribes who had migrated from the Arabian Peninsula to the banks of Euphrates in Northern Syria.[44] According to section 11 of the Book of Genesis, Terah the father of Abraham intended to immigrate together with Abraham, Sarah, and Lot from Ur of Chaldea to Canaan, but when he arrived in Harran, he stayed there and then died.[45] From this, some people have concluded that Abraham was born in Ur of Chaldea. However, the birthplace of Abraham and his motherland are introduced in the opening of section 12.[46]

According to the Torah, Abraham stayed in Harran until the age of 75, when he immigrated from Harran to Canaan at the command of God. He took with him his wife, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot, and some people of Harran. There, they camped in Eastern Bayt 'Il (Bethel), and built a place for slaughtering.[47] Then, because of starvation, they had to immigrate to Egypt.[48] They later moved back to Bayt 'Il,[49] and then moved to Hebron (al-Khalil) where they resided.[50]

According to the Torah, when Abraham entered Egypt, he first introduced his wife, Sarah, as his sister so that he remains immune to harms out of eagerness to capture his wife. Thus, the Pharaoh of Egypt who was infatuated with the beauty of Sarah married here without a hindrance, and because of her, he was very kind to Abraham. However, God inflicted catastrophes on the Pharaoh and his household.[51] 'Allama Tabataba'i takes this story to be evidence for the distortion of the Torah because it does not fit the position of prophethood and the spirit of piety.[52]

The Old Testament takes Isaac as the slaughtered son of Abraham.[53] In some cases, the slaughtered is merely referred to as Abraham’s child. Moreover, the Torah suggests that God made a covenant with Abraham in Canaan to the effect that the lands from the Nile to Euphrates will be given to his children from the progeny of Isaac.[54]

The New Testament mentions Abraham in 72 cases, and the lineage of Jesus is said to go back to Abraham through Isaac with 39[55] or 54 intermediaries[56]. In the New Testament, Abraham’s faith is said to be the highest degree of faith, because he lived in exile in Palestine, which was not his own land, at the command of God, and then took his son to the slaughtering altar.[57]

See Also


  1. Sajjādī. Ibrāhīm khalīl (a). p. 499.
  2. Ṭabarī. Tārīkh al-umam wa al-mulūk. vol, 1. p. 233.
  3. Quṭb al-Dīn al-Rāwandī. Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā', vol, 1. p. 298.
  4. Ibn Baṭūṭa. p, 101.
  5. Ṭabarī. Tārīkh al-umam wa al-mulūk. vol, 1. p. 312. Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa al-nahāya, vol. 1, p. 174.
  6. Qur'an 6:74
  7. Fakhr Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol, 13. p. 31.
  8. Abu l-Futūḥ Rāzī. Rawḍ al-Jinān wa Rawḥ al-Janān. vol, 7. p. 340-341. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol, 5. p. 303.
  9. Ṭabātabā'i. al-Mizān, vol, 7. p. 165
  10. Ṭabarī. Tārīkh al-umam wa al-mulūk. vol, 1. p. 234
  11. Genesis 11:29
  12. Genesis 12:20
  13. Ṭabāṭabā'i. al-Mīzān. vol. 7. p. 229. Ayāshī. Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshī . vol, 2. p. 254.
  14. Ṭabāṭabā'i. al-Mīzān. vol. 7. p. 229.
  15. Ibn Athīr. al-Kāmil. vol. 1. p. 101.
  16. Mas'ūdī. Ithbāt al-waṣiya. p. 41-42.
  17. Mas'ūdī. Ithbāt al-waṣiya. p. 46.
  18. Ibn Sa'd. Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā. vol, 1. p. 41.
  19. Ibn Sa'd. Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā. vol, 1. p. 41.
  20. Fīrūzmehr, Muqāyisa qiṣṣa Ibrāhīm (a) dar Qurʾān wa Tawrāt, p. 88
  21. Khurramshāhī, Dānishnāma Qurʾān wa Qurʾān Pazhūhī, vol. 2, p. 1240
  22. Qurʾān 19:41-48, Qurʾān 21:51-57, Qurʾān 26:69-82, Qurʾān 37:83-100, Qurʾān 43:26,27, Qurʾān 60:4, Qurʾān 29:16-25
  23. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 18, p. 218.
  24. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 1, p. 272.
  25. Qurʾān 4:125
  26. Ṣadūq, ʿIlal al-sharāyiʿ, vol. 1, p. 34-35
  27. Qurʾān 29:27
  28. Qurʾān 6:84
  29. Mughnīya, Tafsīr al-kashif, vol.1, p. 208.
  30. Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 1, p. 2; Ibn 'Abd Rabbih, al-'Iqd al-farīd, vol. 5, p. 182.
  31. Qurʾān 21:57-70
  32. Qurʾān 21:71
  33. Mahalli wa Siyuti, Tafsir al-jalalayn, p.402; Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-Jinān, vol. 15, p. 200.
  34. Kāshāni, Tafsir manhaj al-ṣādiqīn, vol. 6, p. 8.
  35. Quṭb al-Rāwandī, Qiṣaṣ al-'anbīyā', vol. 1, p. 298.
  36. Qurʾān 22:27
  37. Fayḍ al-Kāshānī, Tafsīr al-ṣāfī , vol. 1, p. 189-190.
  38. Qur'an 37:101-108
  39. See: Qurṭabī, al-Jāmi' li ahkām al-Qur'ān, vol. 16, p. 100; Sayyid Hāshim al-Baḥrānī, al-Burhān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, p. 616-622.
  40. Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 8, p. 518.
  41. Māzandarānī, Sharḥ furū' al-kāfī, vol.4, p. 402.
  42. Genesis 11:26, When Terah had lived seventy years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
  43. Genesis 17:4,5
  44. Susa, al-'Arab wa al-yahūd fī al-tārīkh, p. 252.
  45. Genesis 11:31,32
  46. Genesis 12:1-4
  47. Genesis 12:1-8
  48. Genesis 12:10
  49. Genesis 13:1-4
  50. Genesis 13:18
  51. Genesis 12:11-19
  52. Ṭabāṭabā'ī, al-Mīzān, vol. 7, p. 225-226.
  53. Genesis 22:1-14
  54. Genesis 15:18
  55. Mathew, 1:1-7
  56. Luke: 3:24-25
  57. Sajjādī, Ibrāhīm khalīl (a), p. 506.


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