The Prophet Abraham’s arguments with his people for rejecting the idolatry-Part 2

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The Prophet Abraham’s arguments with his people for rejecting the idolatry-Part 2
C- According to Abraham’s way of speaking with polytheists, it is said before facing with the polytheists he had probably been living in utter isolation. As a result, it is said that at that time Abraham lived like a primitive man, a man who was not aware of the human society, its complexities, its customs and the traditions which governed it but he suddenly became familiar with all these issues. The same issue can be observable in the verses which are related to Abraham’s arguments with the idolaters. Accordingly, about the idols, he asked his people: “what are they”. As if he had never observed people who worshipped the idols. Since he always respected Azar, this way of speaking (especially in the first time he had encountered him) could not be considered as humiliation of the gods Azar believed they were sacred. According to commentators and the historians since Nimrod intended to kill Abraham (a.s), his mother gave birth to him in a cave and for a period of time he lived alone in this hideout. It is said that in this regard, there is no disagreement between the Hadith scholars of the historians. But according to the following reasons, a group of the commentators have rejected the possibility that before Abraham’s argument as it was mentioned in the Surah Al-'An`am, he had not been familiar with the celestial bodies and the idols.
1- It seems very unlikely that a man live in the cave for a long time and he does not leave the cave even for a dark night.
2- It is likely that while speaking with Azar and his people about the idols, Abraham had humiliated them and it is not inconsistent with his reverence for Azar either.
3- Abraham’s statement in verse 74 of Surah Al-'An`am “And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said to his father Azar, "Do you take idols as deities? Indeed, I see you and your people to be in manifest error” is similar to the statement of a person who is familiar with his audience and that is why he was criticizing him. This indicates that he had not been unfamiliar with the celestial bodies because after his argument with Azar, he had argued with the star worshippers. Moreover, according to a narration from Imam Sadiq (a.s), Abraham (a.s) showed his opposition to the idols after staying with Azar for a period of time and according to the verses of Surah Al-'An`am, Abraham’s Argument with the star worshippers had been after his argument with the idolaters. Event according to some commentators, Abraham’s argument with star worshippers had possibly been after his departure from Babel for Levant. Accordingly, they held that he had argued with those who lived in Harran because there the people worshipped the celestial bodies and Babylonians were idolaters and Abraham was aware of the fact the polytheists who lived in Babel were very obstinate. Consequently this time having dealt with those who worshipped the celestial bodies, Abraham decided to compromise with them and to pretend that they were like-minded. Hence, the story of Abraham’s argument had happened long after he had left his hideout but this possibility was inconsistent with a narration from Imam Reza (a.s) and according to some commentators it was even contrary to the verses of the Quran.
Abraham’s responses to polytheists’ arguments and their excuses
In the Quran, two of polytheists’ arguments and one of their excuses against Abraham as well as Abraham’s responses have respectively been mentioned which are as follows:
A- Abraham’s response to King Nimrod’s Argument which has been related in verse 258 of Surah Al-Baqarah and it is briefly as follows:
The king argued with Abraham about the Lord. Abraham said: My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death," the king said, "I give life and cause death" Abraham responded, "Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west." So the King was overwhelmed by astonishment. It has to be mentioned that the name of this king has not been mentioned in the Quran but according to narrations and interpretations, this king’s name was Nimrod ibn Kanan. The Quran states that Abraham’s Argument with Nimrod about the deity was due to the kingship and Nimrod’s arrogance. In this regard the Quran says that: “Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship?” (Surah Al-Baqarah-Verse 258). Some commentators believe that in this verse the pronoun “him” refers to Abraham and the Arabic equivalent for the term “kingship” refers to legal Wilayah, however most of the commentators have rejected this interpretation. Regarding the exact time of this argument there are controversies among the commentators. Some of them believe that after Abraham broke the idols there happened an argument and it was before they had intended to burn him in the fire. But some other commentators hold that it was when he was saved from the fire and it has to be said that a narration from Imam Sadiq (a.s) also proves it. The reason is that Nimrod argued with Abraham due to the fact that he had broken the idols and accordingly he treated him like a king who would reprimand a guilty person and during a trial there was no opportunity for Abraham to argue with Nimrod and to prove him that the Lord was Allah and not Nimrod. Accordingly, if we imagine that at that time there was an argument, it was related to the deity of the idols and not the deity of Nimrod. As it is said, when Abraham (a.s) argued with Nimrod, he was seventeen years old. In the verse 258 of Surah Al-Baqarah, there is an omitted question by Nimrod and the question is that: “Who is your Lord?” and hence the sentence “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death” is the answer to this question. Abraham (a.s) first based his argument on giving life and causing death and then he changed his argument and referred to moving the sun’s orbit. To explain this argument, three interpretations have been made which are as follows:
1. Some commentators have regarded all his statements as one argument with two examples and considering the fact that before proving an issue, the person who has proposed the argument should not propose another reason, they have made an attempt to state that in Abraham’s statement there were two related reasons. It means that this argument is based on the fact that the creatures are not able to create the objects and hence, inevitably the creation of the objects must be attributed to another creator. He must be the one who gives life and causes death as well He must be the creator of the clouds, thunderstorms, and the One who moves the heavens and the planets. Consequently, this Abraham’s statement “Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east…” was not a departure from one reason and proposing another reason but it was bringing a new example. Some commentators have objected to this statement and stated that the uncertainty about giving life and causing death has not yet been removed and in this condition, using another creates the illusion that Nimrod has rejected his first argument and therefore, it will undermine the position of the prophet. Additionally, Nimrod could say, “I am the one who brings up the sun from the east and if you have another Lord, tell him to bring it up from the west” and as a result Abraham (a.s) had to deal with a more complex sophistry and if for instance God brought up the sun from the west then bringing up the sun from the west would be the reason of the existence of the Creator. But his argument was based on the fact that Allah would have brought up the sun from the east, otherwise his second reason was rejected.
2. It is only the Almighty God who has the power to give life and cause death because if the deity was attributed to anyone but God life and death could have never been changed to each other. In repose to Abraham, Nimrod said: “I give life and cause death” and this statement means that if giving life and causing death which is regarded as the basis of this argument refer to giving life and causing death without the interference of the worldly affairs, then it is so clear that it will be counterfactual and if giving life and causing death was made by these affairs, any person would be able to do so. However, anybody knows that a child is born as a result of intercourse and a person will die when he is poisoned. Abraham (a.s) replied that it is only God who can give life and cause death and giving life and causing death is not due to the constellation movements but these movements require a resourceful agent because He is the one who brings up the sun from the east and if you do not accept it, bring it up from west. When it is revealed that the constellation movements are made by the Almighty God, then giving life and causing death which are made possible for mankind in the light of these movement and are attributable to God and not to the mankind. Consequently, firstly Abraham’s statements are two related arguments and secondly, it is unlikely to say that after Abraham’s statements, Nimrod executed one of the prisoners and released the other one and stated: “I give life and cause death”. There is an uncertainty about this statement. Accordingly, it is said that in this argument, Nimrod intends to prove his deity and hence he says that “I give life and cause death”. As a result it can be said that he does not mean an ordinary giving life and causing death which occur for all people during their daily lives but he refers to a kind of giving life and causing death which no one except Him is capable to do and this issue confirms the narrations based on which it is said that Nimrod executed one of the prisoners and released the other one. Perhaps for this very reason and considering this verse, the commentators have stated that Abraham’s statement contained two arguments and that he had left his first reason and mentioned another reason because Nimrod used a sophistry and consequently, the reason why he did insisted on his first reason was that those who were there might not have distinguished the reality. Therefore, considering the fact that the prophets have been chosen by God for clarification, he used a clearer argument. Although, due to people’s ignorance, it was not reasonable that Abraham explain to the people that Nimrod had used the sophistry and if Abraham did so, no one would acknowledge his words.
3. Abraham’s argument is based on the life (the nature of which is unknown) and the death of the living things. It means that the nature and the living things can have no effect on giving life especially on animal life in which the creatures have wisdom and certainly is considered to be a non-material affair, because the nature itself has no life and the life of the living things refers to their existence and their death refers to their non-existence and none of them has the power to create or destroy itself. As a result, giving life and causing death which are regarded as the most obvious and crucial issues in the human affairs cannot be attributed to any of the creatures and it is only attributable to the Almighty God. It is so clear that in this argument giving life and causing death refer to real the life and the death (in which giving life refers to entering the soul into the body of a baby and causing death is when the soul leaves the body) and not to virtually giving life and causing death like releasing the prisoner or killing him. But Nimrod used the sophistry and pretended that Abraham’s purpose had been the virtual giving life and causing death so he killed a prisoner and released the other one. In this regard a narration from Imam Sadiq (a.s) indicates that Abraham made an attempt to reject his sophistry and asked Nimrod to give life again to the person he had recently killed. But since Abraham was disappointed that people be punished, he decided to leave his first argument and instead, he mentioned a clearer argument. In this regard the Quran says: “Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” (Surah Al-Baqarah-Verse 258). In this verse, the Arabic equivalent for the term “Indeed” indicates that this argument is based on Nimrod’s preceding claim about the deity and the reason why he used this term was to prevent this illusion that Nimrod had rejected Abraham’s first argument. In order to prevent Nimrod from using the sophstry and (attributing the term “Lord” to himself), to explain his second argument, Abraham avoided using the term “My Lord is” and instead he said: “Indeed Allah”. The result of the argument of Abraham is that if you claim that you are my Lord, you must be able to change the world affairs. The Almighty God has the power to bring up the sun from the east, hence to prove your deity, bring the sun from the west. If you do it, you can prove that your deity is superior over the deity of the Lord or it is at the same level as Him. It has to be mentioned that the sun was considered for them as the Lord and one of the goddesses but they believed that it was under the control of the Creator and the sunrise and sunset was attributable to the Lord of the Worlds. Although, Nimrod acknowledged this issue, he tried to prove his unique superiority in terms of the deity (human beings and their affairs). Against this argument, Nimrod was overwhelmed: in this regard the Quran says: “So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment]”, because he could neither say that the sunrise and the sunset need no cause nor could he say that the sunrise and the sunset is caused by the sun itself and it is not related to God (because it was against his people’s belief), nor could he say that the sun is the Lord but it is under my deity and it is I who bring us the sun from the east, because if he said so, Abraham would ask him to bring it up from the west. In addition, the sunrise and the sunset have existed before Nimrod’s birth, therefore how Nimrod could attributed it to himself. Consequently, he was overwhelmed against Abraham’s statement.
B- Abraham’s response to the argument of his people
In this regard the Quran says: “And his people argued with him. He said, "Do you argue with me concerning Allah while He has guided me? And I fear not what you associate with Him [and will not be harmed] unless my Lord should will something. My Lord encompasses all things in knowledge; then will you not remember?” (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 80). In this verse, Although Abraham’s argument against his people has not explicitly been stated, it can be recognized that their statements were based on the wrath of their gods. Accordingly, their purpose had been intimidating him into forcing him to stop believing in the deity of Allah and to accept the deity of the gods of the polytheists. In the verses 80 to 82 of Surah Al-'An`am, there are different ideas regarding any of the five important parts of Abraham’s response. Most of the commentators have stated that thorough the sentence “Do you argue with me concerning Allah while He has guided me?” (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 80), Abraham has referred to the fact that after the truth is revealed, there will be no need to argument. According to them by the sentence “And I fear not what you associate with Him [and will not be harmed] unless my Lord should will something” (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 80), Abraham meant that “he does not fear their gods unless they are given life by God and hurt him and if God gave life to them, it would be revealed that they were objects, then they would be creations and consequently they would be regarded as a sign of Tawhid (Oneness and uniqueness of Allah) or if God intended to punish me for some of my sins or to cause an unpleasant event to occur to me or considering the sentence “My Lord encompasses all things in knowledge” (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 80), Abraham meant that “I do not fear your gods, unless God cause them to hurt me and according to the unlimited knowledge of God I may have such a destiny.” But some commentators have not accepted such an explanation and hold that Abraham’s statement in the previously mentioned verse contains the following four arguments against the polytheists:
1. In the verse “Do you argue with me concerning Allah while He has guided me?” Abraham believes that Allah is his Lord because he has guided him. Accordingly, he holds that God has taught him the reasons required for proving His deity and rejecting the deity of others and in this way he has guided him. Abraham says that except Allah no one is his Lord and Allah’s guidance is regarded as part of His authority. Against this argument the polytheists could not say that some of our gods have guided you to this argument because it will be meaningless to say that the gods have guided someone against themselves.
2. According to verse “And I fear not what you associate with Him [and will not be harmed]” Abraham states that I fear not your gods because all of your gods are creatures and they neither benefit nor prevent you from harm. Consequently according to Abraham, it is meaningless to say that I fear them. I never fear them and your argument is invalid. The reason is that your argument is based on the insight that I worship them because I fear them and intend to prevent them from harming me. Your argument would be true only if I feared them but when there is no fear, your argument will be baseless. Through this important part of Abraham’s statement, not only Abraham mentioned another argument but he also prevented them from rejecting his first argument. Against Abraham’s first argument, believing in monotheism and rejecting the gods might be attributed by the polytheists to the idols and the celestial bodies and they might say that: “Our gods have raged at you and have inspired you to mention these arguments to separate you from themselves.” Abraham notified them that he was not worried because he knew that the gods of the polytheist were incapable of inspiring and affecting him.
3. In the verse “unless my Lord should will something” the argument is based on an assumption. In other words, according to Abraham, assuming that I fear your god, this fear is something which has been made by God and is based on His providence. Accordingly, the sentence “My Lord encompasses all things in knowledge” proves this claim, because it says that since God is the owner of all the things, He is aware of the things happen in His property, and it is not possible that something happen without His permission. Consequently, if you believe that I fear your gods, this fear has been made by the permission of God and is under His authority, so this fear itself will prove the deity of God and will reject the deity of others.
4. The Quran says: “And how should I fear what you associate while you do not fear that you have associated with Allah that for which He has not sent down to you any authority? So which of the two parties has more right to security, if you should know?” (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 81). According to this verse the Quran says that you have associated with Allah what has no authority and can neither benefit you nor harm you and accordingly how should I fear it and. In addition, there is no reason to prove that the Creator has associated it with Himself and you have also acknowledged that all the living things and even your gods are regarded as His creatures, so He possesses everything and if He had associated someone or something with Himself or had obliged us to worship them, He would have informed the mankind of this issue through the revelation or signs or arguments but in this regard there had not been any revelation, sign or argument. Abraham said that: In such a condition tell me: which of us are more secure? Since the answer to this question was so obvious and his audiences had also acknowledged it, Abraham (a.s) answered his own question: “They who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice - those will have security, and they are [rightly] guided” (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 82). You believe in the existence of the Lord that you have no reason for his deity but I believe in Allah that there are reasons which prove His deity. Although, man should believe in the existence of God, it cannot be said that all kinds of faith will secure him from the eternal punishment. The security which will be made by faith is dependent upon the fact that the positive effect of this faith had not been disappeared by “injustice”. Injustice which refers to the lack of justice has always meant to believe in something which has no external reality and one of the most obvious instances of which is believing in the false gods. The previously mentioned argument of Abraham has revealed that there is no reason to prove the deity of anyone except Allah however, there are reasons by which the deity of anyone except Allah is rejected. So, believing in Allah when there is no injustice will only lead to believing in the deity of our Creator. Consequently, you have security only when you believe in the deity of the One and Only Creator (Allah). The Quran says: “And that was Our [conclusive] argument which We gave Abraham against his people. We raise by degrees whom We will. Indeed, your Lord is Wise and Knowing” (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 83).
C- Abraham’s response to the excuse of his people for justifying the idolatry
The only excuse which was made by the people of Abraham against the arguments of this prophet was confessing to the fact that they imitated their ancestors. “They said, "But we found our fathers doing thus” (Surah Ash-Shu`ara'-Verse 74). In response to this excuse Abraham said: “He said, "Then do you see what you have been worshipping, you and your ancient forefathers? Indeed, they are enemies to me, except the Lord of the worlds.” (Surah Ash-Shu`ara'-Verses 75-77). The fact that people may accept something or reject it, cannot prove that it is true or false and additionally, worshiping the false gods will lead to annihilation and the fact that several generations have accepted and worshipped these gods do not change the truth.


1 – Translation of al-Mizan, vol. 7, pp. 156-185, p. 208 and pp. 239-240, vol. 2, pp. 350-355, p. 378, vol. 7, pp. 192-204, vol. 15, pp. 282-283, and vol, 14, p. 58, vol. 16, pp. 115-116, vol. 17 , pp. 150

2 – Mnshoor Javed, vol. 11, pp. 228-231, p. 258, p. 225

3 - Tafsir Nemooneh, vol. 5, pp. 311-312

4 - Majma' al-Bayan, vol. 2, pp. 635-636, vol. 4, p. 505, vol. 8, pp. 701-702

5 - Encyclopedia of the Holy Quran, Vol. 1, By: Mohammad Salehi manesh


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