Abraham (Ibrahim)

The story of Abraham is rich in historical events and lessons in spirituality and morality. From his long biography we will highlight only a few highlights.

Born in Ur, he was Babylonian, of Semitic race, but not specifically Jewish.

Abraham

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

His father, scandalized by his monotheism, denounced him to Nemrod who, like him, practiced a religion (astrology) very different from Judaism.

All the more so because Judaism is later than its time and because at that time belonging to a religion was confused with belonging to an ethnic group.

The tribulations of Abraham throughout the Near East (Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt) could not make him a myth, or attribute to him an origin other than his own.

In the etymology of the word Abraham, some observations must be made: according to the Bible itself, Abraham was originally called Abram, which means “well-born, noble”, or “the father of the Aramaic people”.

By God’s order, the illustrious patriarch took the name of Abraham (a dialectal distortion of the Aramaic Ab Hamon) which means “the best of all” or even “the spiritual father” of the monotheistic peoples.

It is in this sense that the Koran expresses itself as “Your father Abraham who gave you the name of a Muslim”.

Note, however, that in the common Semite, the term Abram means unwelcome, twisted, and the term Abraham (in the Ethiopian Abrahà) means white, pure.

In our opinion, Abraham means “white”, everything else is only metaphorical. (But God is better informed: Allahu ‘a’lamu).

The three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) rightly claim Abraham as their own and consider him the perfect model of the monotheist.

But they differ in their role, their genealogy and their first descendants.

Therefore, it is advisable to clarify what Islam teaches on this subject and to examine opinions expressed by a good number of Semitic and Arabian scholars about certain passages of the Koran and Muslim traditions that concern it.

Some modern specialists in Semitic studies are dumping all the traditional data of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and questioning their prophecy.

Abraham is a central figure for Christians. He is also central to Jews and Muslims. His life is told in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Abraham is the one who trusts God completely. And yet, his life is not easy:

  • He leaves his country and his tribe to go to a land designated by God. He will even change his name from “Abram” to “Abraham”.
  • Sarah, the woman he loves, has no children. Only very late in life, when all hope seems lost, will God raise the expectations of both.
  • God will prove his faithfulness to the end by asking him to sacrifice this child, Isaac, that he had with Sarah: this is the episode of Isaac’s sacrifice (God holds Abraham’s arm before killing Isaac).

The life of Abraham

Abraham, his name is Abram. He is a descendant of Shem, son of Noah. He married his half-sister Sarai (Sarah), but she was barren.

One day, Abram leaves Ur with his family and moves to Harran. At the request of God, and when he was 75 years old, he left his land again and with his family, went to the land of Canaan, to Shechem and later to the Oak of Mamre.

It is there that God promises to give this land to his descendants.

But his path is full of difficulties. So Abram asks Sarai to make the Egyptians believe that she is his sister.

Because he fears he will be killed if he presents himself as the husband of such a beautiful woman. The pharaoh takes Sarai as his wife, and Abram receives many gifts.

But God inflicts great misfortunes on the Pharaoh, who, after reproaching Abram for his lie, discards them.

When Abram passes through the Negev, he is separated from Lot, his nephew. In fact, his herds are so large that the country no longer covers all his needs.

So Lot is going to settle in Sodom (Abram will later lead an expedition to free Lot who has been taken prisoner).

Abraham makes a child in Hagar

Abram accepts Sarai’s proposal to have a child and gives his Egyptian servant Hagar as his wife…

When Hagar becomes pregnant, she despises Sarai, who complains to Abram. Responding that she can do whatever she wants with Hagar, he mistreats her and makes her run away.

After seeing an angel, Hagar returns and gives birth to Ishmael.

The Abrahamic Covenant

Thirteen years later, Abram is 99 years old. God appears to him and offers him a covenant again...

God calls him Abraham, because he promises him many descendants. In return, Abraham and his descendants will have to recognize him as their God and practice circumcision on male children.

God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah and promises that in one year she will give birth to a son: Isaac.

The fall of Sodom and Gomorrah

God announces that he is going to Sodom and Gomorrah to judge these cities, whose population is misbehaving.

Abraham begs him not to destroy Sodom if he finds 50 righteous people there. God accepts, then Abraham negotiates until he gets 10 righteous people to save the city.

God leaves, and Abraham goes home. But God will not find 10 righteous men, and the next day Sodom will be destroyed, but God forgave his nephew Lot and his sons.

Isaac’s sacrifice

When Isaac was born, Sarah asked Abraham to expel Ishmael. She does not want Isaac to share the inheritance with Ishmael.

Abraham is upset about this, but God tells him to listen to Sarah because the covenant goes through Isaac. So Abraham drives out Hagar and Ishmael.

One day, God asks Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah. After three days of walking, he asks the servants to watch over the donkey and carries Isaac with logs.

On the way, Isaac asks where is the lamb that will be burned. Abraham answers that he trusts in God.

Once there, Abraham raises an altar, places the logs and ties his son to the pyre. As he extends his hand to sacrifice Isaac, an angel, convinced of the fear he places in God, cries out to Abraham to forgive Isaac.

A ram, which Abraham sees trapped in a bush, is sacrificed in its place.

The angel blesses Abraham and commits himself to the proliferation of his descendants, promising that all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him.

When did Abraham live? At this point, both Jewish and Muslim sources are uncertain, contradictory and often implausible.

According to both, Abraham was born in 1263 after the flood, descending through Shem from Noah to the tenth generation.

He died at the age of 175, according to the exaggerated figures of the Bible, and is buried in Hebron, a city of the present Jordan, which since then has become a place of pious visit.

According to the Christian era, he would have lived at a date difficult to specify, but that we could place around the year 2000 BC.

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