The People of Hazrat Ibrahim and Namrud

Next in importance after Thamud are the people of Hazrat Ibrahim (Abraham, may peace be upon him), and the significance of their case is that it is commonly thought that their King, Namrud (Nimrod), did not believe in God but claimed himself to be God instead. The fact, however, is that he did believe in God, and also believed Him to be the Creator and the Regulator of the affairs of the universe, and his own claim to be a rabb was only in the third, fourth, and fifth senses of the term. Another common misconception is that these people had no belief in God nor in his being the Ilah and the Rabb, although in fact their beliefs on these points were little different from those of the people of Hazrat Nuh and the Thamud. They did believe in the existence of God, and also knew Him as the Rabb, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and the Supreme Ruler of the universe. Nor, for that matter, did they deny His right to man's worship. Where they were mistaken was in regarding the heavenly bodies as partners with him in rububiyyah in the first and second senses of the term and hence in associating them with God to that extent. As for the third, fourth, and fifth meanings of the term, here it was their kings whom they treated as the rabbs. The Holy Qur'an is so clear on these points that it is surprising how the misconceptions just mentioned originated and came to be so widely accepted. Take for example the story of Hazrat Ibrahim's search for the truth as told in the Qur'an:

When night came upon him, he saw a star, and he said, "This is my rabb;" but when the star set, he said to himself, "I do not like those who set." When he saw the shining moon he said, "This is my rabb," but when the moon also set, he said "If my Rabb does not guide me, I am afraid I too will become one of those who have bone astray." Then, when he saw the sun he said, "This is my rabb; this is the biggest (of them all);" but when the son also set, he cried out, "O' my people, I disown all those whom you associate with God; I turn away from them all and towards Him who created the heavens and the earth, and I shall not be of those who associate others with Him" (Quran 6:77-80)

The above verses clearly show that the people among whom Hazrat Ibrahim (on whom be peace) had been born did have a conception of a Being Who had created the heavens and the earth and of His being a Rabb as distinct from the heavenly bodies. And how could it be otherwise, considering the message of Hazrat Nuh, and that other Prophets had continued to be raised after him, in particular among related or neighboring people, the 'Aad and the Thamud. One can therefore safely presume that Hazrat Ibrahim owed his belief in God as the Creator to his own people. What puzzled him, however, even at the tender age at which the above incident occurred, was the validity of the belief in the heavenly bodies as being partners in divinity and hence worthy of men's 'Ibadah along with God.

[It might be mentioned in this connection, that according to architectural excavations in Ur - which was Hazrat Ibrahim's home-it seems that the people of that area worshipped the moon whom they called "Nannar." In the land next to theirs, it was the sun which was worshipped, and was called "Shammash." Hazrat Ibrahim's country had been founded by a King called Uranmuw, a word which was arabicised into Namrud, and this word later came to be the title of the Kings in just the same way as, for example, much later, the successors or Nazam-ul-Mulk, who founded the state of Hyderabad India, came to be called Nizams. A. A. Maududi]

And it was his own search for the truth and His observation of the stars and the moon and the sun and of the phenomenon of their rising and setting, which, helped of course or strengthened by Divinely inspired intuition, provided the answer, and led him rightly to conclude that there is no Rabb at all other than the Creator of the universe.

[Maulana Maududi has, to his Tafhim-ul-Qur'an also dealt with the point which puzzled some as to why, since the rising and the setting of the heavenly bodies is a daily phenomenon, the Qur'an says, - "When night came upon him...' and why did not Hazrat Ibrahim notice the phenomenon earlier; and, in order to get over the point, the story was made out that he had been born and brought up in a cave and that is why he had not seen the stars and the moon and the sun until the event described occurred. The fact, however, is that there are many daily occurrences which one sees but whose significance escapes one until, at some moment chosen by God, it suddenly strikes one, and then, afterwards, the whole world also accepts the same explanation. After all, the apple is not the only fruit which falls from a tree, and all the various fruits had surely been falling from trees-as also all other objects thrown up-for God alone knows how long, and yet it was left to Newton to infer the law of gravity. And surely no one can say that Newton had not himself before that seen any apple or other fruit to fall from a tree. Abu Asad]

That is the reason why, when he had seen the moon to set, he had said he was very much afraid that if his Rabb, that is, Allah Almighty, did not give him His own guidance, he too might fail to get at reality and be deceived by the heavenly phenomenon as had been hundreds of thousands of others around him.

When, later, he was ordained prophet, and began his mission of calling men to God, he ended one of his discourses to them with the words:

And why should I have any fear of those, whom you associate with God while you yourselves feel none at making them His associates even though He has given no sanction for making them sharers in His Divinity. (Quran 6:81)

On other occasions, he said:

I repudiate and reject all whom you pray to others than God (Quran 19:48)

The only rabb there is He, Who is the Rabb of the heavens and the earth, He Who created them. Do you then give your 'ibadah to others than Him, who have not the slightest authority or power to do you any good or harm? (Quran 21:56-66)

Who are these you are giving your 'ibadah to? Wou1d you rather give it to ilahs whom you fancy as such? If that be so, what think you of God, the Rabb of all creation? (Quran 37:85-87)

(As for me and my fellow Muslims), we have nothing at all to do with you and all those others than Allah to whom you give your 'ibadah. We reject your ways as false, and there will henceforth ever be only hatred and hostility between you and us unless and until you change your creed and come to believe in Allah alone (as the 'Ilah and the Rabb) (Quran 60:4)

It is clear from these words that those addressed were not totally ignorant of God nor disbelieved in Him or that they had no idea of His being the Rabb of all creation and the Ilah. Where they went wrong was in assigning to others the role of partners in godhood and, in the first and second sense of the term, in Rububiyyah too. This is the reason why, in the whole of the Qur'an there is not a single address by Hazrat Ibrahim which would show that he had been trying to convince his people of the existence of God or of His being the Ilah and the Rabb. His entire effort lay in emphasizing that God alone is the Rabb and the Ilah, to the exclusion of all or any others in all the senses of both the words.

Consider, for example, the argument between him and Namrud, the king, which is described in the Qur'an as follows:

Do you (O' Muhammad,) know the story of the one who argued with Ibrahim regarding Him Whom Ibrahim believed to be his Rabb, - (argued) because His kingship, a gift from Allah to him, had given him pretensions! When Ibrahim said, "My Rabb is He, Whose power are life and death," he replied "I too have power over life and death." Then Ibrahim said to him "(Granted that that be so; but) Allah makes the sun rise in the East, so, (if you are a rabb) cause it to rise in the West," which completely nonplussed the disbeliever. (Quran 2:258)

The polemic here also appears, from the way it is described, to have been not as to whether God existed or not, but as to who it was whom Ibrahim regarded as his Rabb. The reason was, firstly, that the king came of a people who believed in the existence of God. Secondly, unless his senses had left him entirely, he could obviously not make so foolish a claim as to be the creator of the heavens and the earth or the one who made the sun and the moon to move in their orbits. All he claimed was that within his own domain he was the rabb. And this claim, be it added, was not in the first and second senses of the term, because rububiyyah in those senses was attributed to the heavenly bodies; the senses in which he claimed to be rabb were the third, fourth, and fifth, and that too within the confines of his own realm only. In other words, what his claim amounted to was: "I am the lord of this land. All its people are my bondsmen. I am the sovereign because they all acknowledge me as such, and my word is therefore law for them. There is no higher authority than mine." It is clear from the verses last quoted above that his claim rested solely on the pretensions he had given himself for being the king. When, therefore, he learnt that a youth by the name of Ibrahim (may peace be upon him) believed neither in the rububiyyah of the heavenly bodies in the supernatural sense nor in the king's in the temporal and social sense, he naturally felt surprised, and sent for him and asked as to who, after all, was the one whom he acknowledged as his Rabb. Hazrat Ibrahim's first answer was: "He who has power of life and death." But the significance of this was lost upon the king, who countered with the claim that he too had the same power: he could cause anybody to be put to death, and could spare of the life of anybody he chose. Then Hazrat Ibrahim gave the second reply which, in effect, meant: "I acknowledge only God as my Rabb. For me He alone is the rabb in all the senses of the term. How can there be any rububiyyah for anyone else when no one else can alter in the least the way the sun rises or sets?" This argument opened the king's eyes, and he at once realized that Allah being the Sovereign of the universe, his own claim to be a rabb was nothing but a false pretension. However, his selfishness and vested family interests overcame his better sense and, despite 'the dawning of Truth on him, he could not bring himself to climb down from the high status of being fully his own master and to follow the path he had been shown by God's Prophet. It is on this account that, after recounting the event, the Qur'an add: "And Allah does not show the right path to transgressors," that is, after having seen the Truth the king ought to have bowed to it but since he did not, and chose instead to continue his autocratic rule and proclaimed his word be the ultimate law, against his own real interests, God too did not show him further light, because He does not thrust His guidance on any who does not sincerely seek after the truth.