If there is any agreement among the Muslims, Christians and Jews as regards their faiths, it is the Abrahamic story -the story of undiluted faith, sacrifice, commitment and patience. The adherents of Islam, Christianity and Judaism refer to him as the father of faith. It is not surprising then that Prophet Abraham whom the Muslims call Ibrahim remains a great personality and a reference point whenever the faithful of the three religions talk about dialogue. It is ironic that Ibrahim who was born and raised by parents who were idol worshippers is still a reference point in resilience, sacrifice, patience and unshakeable faith many hundred years after his death.
Even the most jaded critics of religions still find his story inspiring. As a young boy, he watched his father, Aazar, sculpturing stones and woods, which were moved to temples as objects of worship. In his childhood innocence, Ibrahim often wondered why the well-sculptured objects some of which he had played with as toys and kicked like balls before they were taken away from his father’s workshop later became what the whole community bowed down before, made supplications to and regarded as their gods.
Out of curiosity and inability to fathom why the people worshipped statues carved by his father, Ibrahim asked his father why the toys were being taken to the temple and his father said: “They are statues that represent our gods. We worship them, we ask favours from them and we offer them presents.”
Ibrahim refused to buy into such reasoning and distanced himself from the idolaters in the kingdom of Babylon, his place of birth. Going by the account of the Glorious Quran, one night, Ibrahim went up to the mountain, leaned against the rock and looked up to the sky. He saw a shinning star and assumed it could be his Lord.
But when it disappeared, he lost faith in it. He did same to the moon, and the sun when it was shinning in the afternoon. Like the star, they also receded under the clouds when it was time for them to recede. He wondered why they appeared and receded if they were God, his creator. So, when the sun set, he said:
“O my people I am free from all that you join as partners with Allah! I have turned my face towards Him who created the heavens and earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah. Ibrahim then reportedly heard Allah calling him: “O Ibrahim!” Trembling Ibrahim then said: “Here I am O my Lord!” “Submit to Me! Be a Muslim!”
Ibrahim fell on the ground, prostrated and cried, saying: “I submitted to the Lord of the universe! (Q6 vs 75)” This marked the threshold of a new beginning for ‘God’s friend’ whose search for the truth yielded a positive result for him. He took his discovery home to his people beginning with his father. The consensus of opinion among Islamic clerics was that he used SOFTEST and KINDEST words to talk to his father:
“O father! Why do you worship that which doesn’t hear, see and cannot avail you in anything? O father, I have got knowledge which you have not, so follow me; I will guide you to a straight path.” His father angrily replied: “Do you reject my gods, O Ibrahim? If you don’t stop I will stone you. Get away from me before I punish you.” Ibrahim did not treat his father with disdain despite disagreeing with his mode of worship.
A few years back, it was learnt that some Nigerian Muslim youths were encouraged to severe their relationship with their parents on account of practising another religion. Some even went to the extent of buying tins of milk for their mothers as a way of paying them back the milk they sucked from their breasts. Such strange ideology is antithetical to the Abrahamic story of the prophet who refused to worship idols with his parents but did not despise them. Another profane group has emerged. It is called ‘Hakika.’ Members are found in Adamawa, Nasarawa and Kano. According to reports, they claimed to be Muslims. But their ideologies are obviously antithetical to the teachings of Islam. Members exchange wives among one another.
In other words, a member can sleep with the wife of another member. They reportedly don’t perform their daily prayers and do not fast during Ramadan. These paradoxical ideologies are alien to Islam and are not part of the Abrahamic story that Muslim faithful all over the world will celebrate on Tuesday.
After a futile attempt to convert his father to the right path failed, Prophet Ibrahim talked to the people of the town who did not heed his calls. He then plotted to destroy their idols before the big celebration of the idolaters on the riverbank. He went to the temple, cut all the statues with an axe and hung the axe on the neck of the biggest statue to give the impression that it was the one which destroyed the smaller statues. All fingers were pointed at Ibrahim, who said:
“The biggest of them has done it. Ask them if they can speak.” “But you know that these idols don’t speak!” They said. “Then how come you worship things that can neither speak nor see, nor even fend for themselves? Have you lost your mind?” Ibrahim said. The father of faith was declared as a heretic who had injured the primordial feelings of the idolaters. Death verdict was passed on him by the King of Babylon, Nimrod.
He was to be burnt. On the day of the execution, the crowd from far and near had gathered. The biggest fire ever seen was lit. It was high up in the sky and the birds wouldn’t fly over it out of fear that they could be burnt. Ibrahim was shackled and catapulted into the raging inferno. But God commanded the fire: “O fire! Be coolness and safety for Ibrahim.” The miracle happened. The fire obeyed God’s commandment, it burnt only the chains and even trace of smoke was not on his clothes. This miracle is for real. But how many of such do we have in our society today? Last month, five people whose job is to claim spurious miracles for some churches during crusades and programmes were arrested by the police in Enugu State.
“Some pastors use us to grow their churches or ministries. We are paid later through our coordinator, depending on our roles, “one of the suspects reportedly told the police. Last year, it was widely reported in the media how a purported pastor and three others were arrested at Nkpor and Ogidi communities in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State for allegedly stealing 30 children. About the same time in Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, an herbalist, Tunde Banjo, a supposed Muslim cleric, Nurudeen Adeniyi, were arrested by the police for allegedly killing a 16-year-old girl, Olayinka. The teenager’s breasts were severed, an indication she was killed for money ritual.
These kinds of stories are found on the pages of newspapers on a daily basis. We have lost count of the number of similar cases this year. Two days ago, it was reported on CNN how some Catholic priests had allegedly over decades sexually abused kids in the United States. Such cases are not new. Clerics caught in such profanity might have had cause to tell congregation about Prophet Ibrahim and what he stood for but their conduct are at a parallel with Abrahamic story. As some genuine clerics are doing the right things, there are others perpetrating evil elsewhere.
There are fake clerics. But not all those who had been caught doing unholy things are fake. Some are genuine before they sold their conscience to the devil. Cases abound where clerics now live sybaritic lifestyles largely funded by poor and gullible congregants whose minds have been manipulated to believe that clerics cannot be questioned just because they wear cassocks and clerical collars, heavy turbans or hold long prayer beads.
Even when certain actions of some clerics are obviously impertinent, it becomes a sacrilege to challenge or even talk about it in the eyes of some religionists. If religious teachings are based on Abrahamic story, why will clerics be involved in money rituals or be prayer contractors for armed robbers as we often see? Like all prophets, Ibrahim is important to the Muslims. He is also central to Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam which every Muslim must make to Makkah at least once in their lifetime.
On Tuesday, the Abrahamic story will resonate throughout the Islamic world as Muslims mark the festival associated with the slaughtering of rams to demonstrate the story of faith, sacrifice, commitment and patience when Ibrahim agreed to carry out his covenant with God that he would sacrifice his son, Ismail (Ishmael). But while on the verge of fulfilling his promise, God replaced Ismail with a white ram. The more of Abraham we have among the Muslims, Christians and the Jews, the better the world will become. Happy Eidel- Kabir to all Muslims and happy holidays to all Nigerians.
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