The Prophet Abraham’s arguments with his people for rejecting the idolatry-Part 1
The Prophet Abraham’s arguments with his people for rejecting the idolatry-Part 1
Abraham’s arguments for rejecting the idolatry have been mentioned in the following verses: Al-'An`am 74, Maryam 42, Al-'Anbya' 52, Ash-Shu`ara' 71 to 73, Al-`Ankabut 17 and 25, As-Saffata 85, Az-Zukhruf 26. In addition, his arguments for rejecting the worship of celestial bodies have been mentioned in verses 76 to 79 of surah Al-'An`am.
The Prophet Abraham’s argument for rejecting the idolatry
1- Uselessness of worshiping the idols
In this regard the Quran says: “O my father, why do you worship that which does not hear and does not see and will not benefit you at all?” (Surah Maryam-Verse 42).
Explanation of the argument
The act of worship is considered as an act of humility along with supplication and asking for making profit and preventing the loss or it is regarded as the acknowledgment of the blessings which have been bestowed upon us by our Creator. But the idols lack the most obvious characteristics of God including the knowledge and power. As a result, they are neither able to give their servants benefit nor prevent them from harm nor they are aware that their worshippers are worshiping them. Hence, worshiping them is useless and if the purpose was acknowledgment, it would be a useless and wrong action. In another statement, arguing that the idols are not able to give provision to human beings and referring to the fact that it is only Allah who can give provision to the people, Abraham (a.s) stated that worshiping the idols is useless. In this regard the Quran says: “You only worship, besides Allah, idols, and you produce a falsehood. Indeed, those you worship besides Allah do not possess for you [the power of] provision. So seek from Allah provision and worship Him and be grateful to Him. To Him you will be returned” (Surah Al-`Ankabut-Verse 17). It has to be said that possession is dependent upon the creation and as you acknowledge, it is only Allah who is able to create. Consequently, God who has created you and provided sustenance for you is your creator and He is the possessor of your provision and not the idols. Therefore, worshiping the idols for seeking provision is considered as a useless act.
Mankind’s indivisibility from wisdom
In this regard the Quran says: “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, who created me, and He [it is who] guides me. And it is He who feeds me and gives me drink. And when I am ill, it is He who cures me” (Surah Ash-Shu`ara'-Verses 75-80). Accordingly, the argument which has been stated by the sentence “Who created me, and He [it is who] guides me” indicates that undoubtedly as the polytheists themselves have acknowledged, the creature and the creation is dependent upon the one and only God, creator and sustainer of the universe. Form the other hand, it is not possible that mankind be divisible from the wisdom because the worldly creatures are gradually evolved, hence, it is never wise to say that mankind is dependent upon one thing and wisdom is dependent upon another thing and since it is God who is able to create, the wisdom is also dependent upon him. According to some commentators Abraham’s statement in verse 95 and 96 of Surah As-Saffat who said: “Do you worship that which you [yourselves] carve, While Allah created you and that which you do?” refers to this very argument. God is the creator of the mankind and if we look at it through human’s will, we can say that God is the creator of mankind’s actions and his creation is not indivisible from wisdom, so God is regarded as the Creator of the mankind and it is only Him who deserves to be worshiped and not the objects which are made by man. According to some commentators the interpretation of this verse is that you and your handmade idols have a common feature. The feature is that they are all creatures. The question is that how a creature can be regarded as the god of other creature and if it is so, why you worship them while they do not worship you? In other words, this verse implies that woods and stones are not worshiped by man before they are being carved, however, when they are carved, their only difference will be that they have been changed by man. As a result, how can man worship the things which are made by wood and stone?
Abraham’s use of preaching and warning
In addition to his argument, to guide his people Abraham (a.s) also made use of preaching and warning. Accordingly, he warned Azar that idolatry had its root in the temptations of the Satan and it would separate man from the Divine Wilayah and finally would lead him to the Wilayah of Satan and annihilation. (Surah Maryam-Verse 45). In verse 17 of Surah Al-`Ankabut, Abraham (a.s) had also warned the polytheists because they worshiped their gods and believed that in this way they could make them happy and hence they could seek provision from them. Accordingly, Abraham warned them that man would return to God and it is God who would reward or punish them. He also stated that man must worship God and be grateful to Him because he will return to Him and not merely because of seeking provision. The reason is that worshiping Allah or other than Him, will have direct impact on man’s fortune and misfortune in the Hereafter and that before God, the idolaters will be punished due to their idolatry. In this regard the Quran says: “and worship Him and be grateful to Him. To Him you will be returned.” (Surah Al-`Ankabut-Verse 17). Additionally, in verse 25 to 29 of Surah Al-`Ankabut, Abraham has warned the polytheists that in the Day of Judgment the idolatry will lead to people’s enmity and aversion toward each other and their refuge will be the Hellfire. Some commentators have also interpreted Abraham’s statement in verse 87 of Surah As-Saffat “Then what is your thought about the Lord of the worlds?” as a warning to the idolaters which means: “what do you think about the way God will treat you?” In the verse 77 of Surah Ash-Shu`ara', having talked to the idolater, Abraham considered the idols as his enemies. Abraham’s purpose of stating that idols can be regarded as someone’s enemy was that worshiping the idols will lead to annihilation. As a result they are regarded as man’s enemy. The verse 80 of Surah Al-'An`am indicates that the polytheists also warned Abraham (A.s) against the consequences of his opposition to their gods. Against them, Abraham (a.s) also emphasized that you would be secure only if you would seek refuge in God.
The reason why the deity is not granted to others by God
Since the polytheists had accepted the existence of the One and only God but they held that God had only bestowed wisdom upon some of His servants which idols were also regarded as their signs, through various statements, Abraham (a.s) notified them that it was an unreasonable and baseless claim by them. In verse 17 of Surah Al-`Ankabut: “You only worship, besides Allah, idols, and you produce a falsehood”, the Arabic equivalent for the term “idols” has been mentioned with no definite article to show the worthlessness of the idols. This verse shows that the story of deity of the idols is only a baseless claim. Additionally, the sentence “you produce a falsehood” implies that calling the idols as god and then worshiping them is a falsehood. In addition, in verse 86 of Surah As-Saffat: “Is it falsehood [as] gods other than Allah you desire?” calling other than “God” as Allah has been regarded as the most heinous falsehood. In verse 81 of Surah Al-'An`am, Abraham has also emphasized that if God had obliged us to worship some of His creatures, He would have certainly sent down to you an authority and then commanded us to do so, but there were no such obligation. In this regard 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?” Regarding the interpretation of the verse 87 of Surah As-Saffat “Then what is your thought about the Lord of the worlds?” some commentators also believe that it means that: “Do you think that the Lord of the Worlds has allowed you to associate with Him these objects?”
Prophet Abraham’s argument for rejecting the worship of celestial bodies
This argument has been mentioned in the Holy Quran within a sentence. “I like not those that disappear.” (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 76)
To explain this argument, commentators have stated the followings:
1- This argument is based on two introductions: The first is that deity is a concomitant of popularity, because the deity is a real relationship between God and the creature which will cause the creational attraction of the creature toward the Creator and will finally lead to the creature’s love for his Creator. The Second is that the thing which disappears cannot be popular with man because it means that when he achieves it, he will lose it and man cannot have love for something which will disappear, let alone love it to the extent that it is worshiped by him. Considering this introduction, this argument is as follows: God must be popular and since the celestial bodies will disappear, they are not God. This argument not only rejects the deity of the sun, the moon and the stars but it is also a strong argument for rejecting any kind of idolatry. Consequently, the above mentioned criterion in this argument which refers to the fact that there is no relation between popularity and the thing which disappears (including whatever is mortal for the human beings) is true for all worldly issues. It has to be mentioned that through this argument the deity of all creatures or luminous objects which are regarded by some idolaters as superior over the material, nature and worldly affairs and movements will also be rejected, because this argument indicates that all of those which are wrongly worshipped by the idolaters in spite of being luminous, are all negligible against the power of God. Consequently, if there is going to be a love for them, this love must belong to their Creator and not to themselves.
2- A wise man will never love something which will disappear, let alone worship it. Because it is only God who deserves to be worshiped, a God who is always present. As a result, the celestial bodies which are popular with man and are unaware of those by whom they are worshipped, must not be worshiped. Accordingly, the Abraham’s statement is based on the fact that disappearance and deity are inconsistent with each other. Because these objects are unaware of those by whom they are worshipped. Consequently it should be noted that although, rising and appearance were not inconsistent with deity (while like disappearance, rising is a kind of movement), Abraham had not referred to rising or appearance of these celestial bodies.
3- The disappearance argument and its implication is based on the rejection of the deity of the celestial bodies. In addition it is based on the implication of disappearance in what has been created and its possibility.
4- The disappearance is a kind of movement and each movement necessarily requires a stimulus and all stimuli are inevitably originate from an immovable stimulus which refers the essence of the Almighty God. It has to be mentioned that there are controversies regarding the last three explanations of Abraham (a.s). Accordingly, in these explanations the argument has been based on the rejection of the deity of the celestial bodies and hence, it has been proved that the Almighty God has been their Creator. However, in this argument the central point is “the Lord” and in the sentence “This is my Lord”, the Arabic equivalent for the term “Lord” does not refer to the Creator of the world but it refers to the One who has the authority of the creatures’ related affairs. However, the Hadith which has been narrated from Imam Reza (a.s) in which he said: “I like not those that disappear because the disappearance is regarded as one of the features of the things which have been created and not the feature of the Creator” does not mean that this argument is based on the disappearance of the things which have been created but it means that it is based on not liking the things that will disappear. To determine the criterion of not liking, he said: “the disappearance is regarded as one of the features of the things which have been created and such a thing deserves not to be liked by man.”
The Prophet Abraham’s arguments based on Surah Al-'An`am
Regarding the verses 74 to 79 of Surah Al-'An`am, some points have been proposed by the commentators:
A- According to verses of Surah Al-'An`am, a group of the commentators hold that Abraham’s curiosity indicates his stance for compromise with the polytheists in order to argue with them in a more appropriate condition. On the other hand, another group of the commentators believed that it was also possible that Abraham (a.s) had actually been curious and had been doing an investigation into achieving a clear result about the deity and even some commentators had acknowledged this interpretation. But the verse 43 of Surah Maryam “O my father, indeed there has come to me of knowledge that which has not come to you, so follow me; I will guide you to an even path” proves that Abraham was aware of the truth and God Himself guided him. Consequently, the stance Abraham adopted was due to the fact that he intended to compromise with the polytheists so as to clarify their viewpoints. Therefore, the prophet Abraham gradually explained the reality to them in order for them not to escape from the reality. Hence, like a person who is reluctant to use the word “Atheism”, to guide people to believe in Allah, Abraham inevitably said: “This is my Lord”. The verse 83 of Surah Al-'An`am “And that was Our [conclusivee] argument which We gave Abraham against his people, We raise by degrees whom We will. Indeed, your Lord is Wise and Knowing” also explicitly states that this argument had been against the people and it had not been an attempt by which Abraham could reveal the reality. Accordingly, we cannot accept the idea of some of the commentators who refer to Ibn Abbas and Abraham’s statement in verse 77 of Surah Al-'An`am “Unless my Lord guides me, I will surely be among the people gone astray.” The reason is that they think Abraham has accepted the deity of the celestial bodies and in fact he has worshiped them. But like the sentence “I like not those that disappear” Abraham uttered this statement (Surah Al-'An`am-Verse 76) so as to warn the polytheists who had gone astray. Additionally, Abraham’s statement “My Lord, indeed they have led astray many among the people” indicates that he himself has never gone astray. Moreover, in the Quran Abraham has been described as a person who has a sound heart and it shows that he has never gone astray. In addition, in the Quran, about Abraham it has repeatedly been mentioned that: “he was not of the polytheists” which proves this very issue. (Surah Al-Baqarah-verse 135, Surah 'Ali `Imran-Verse 67 and 95, Surah An-Nahl-Verse 123). Hence, to justify Abraham’s statement who said: “This is my Lord”, there is no need to regard it as a ridicule or to say that he himself has not seen the sun, the moon and the stars but he has seen their lights and has imagined that it was the light of God or to say that by the sentence “This is my Lord” Abraham meant that God shows me His light or to say that Abraham original sentence had been “they say that this is my Lord” or “This is the reason of my Lord”.
B- The sentence “And thus did We show Abraham the realm of the heavens and the earth that he would be among the certain [in faith]” refers to the rejection of the deity of the idols in the verse 74. Moreover, since the term “So when” in the verse 76 joins the two verses to each other, it indicates that these verses are related to each other and the argument which was proposed about the celestial bodies and the one which was proposed about the idols were associated to each other. As a result, it reveals that the term “show” refers to an event which has taken place in the past but it still continues and this verse means that We showed Abraham the realm of the heavens and the earth and that is why about the worshiping of the idols, Abraham argued with his father Azar and showed the polytheists that they had gone astray and God helped him by this endowment until at the night he saw a star in the sky… ; As a result, firstly due to Abraham’s arguments against the idolatry and worshiping the celestial bodies, he was shown the realm of the heavens and the earth. Secondly, the order of the verses indicates that the argument against the star worshippers had happened in the same days Abraham had argued against the idolatry. Consequently, it would reveal that from the morning until the night, Abraham had made an attempt to reject the idolatry and from the night until the sunrise, he had tried to reject the worship of the stars and the moon and at sunrise he had rejected the deity of the sun and had invited people to monotheism. Hence, it seems that all of his arguments has taken for almost two days and a night (the night between these two days) and then they have finished. However, some commentators have not rejected the possibility that he had seen the star in one night and the moon in the next night or that this story had happened during three nights. Thirdly, due to the proximity of Venus’ orbit to the Sun, [more than 47 degrees] this planet is always near to the sun and sometimes when there is no eclipse, this planet can be seen in the morning before the sunrise and in the east and sometimes in the evening it appears in the sky after the sunset and in the west. Then, at some nights when the moon faces it, (such as the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth), the interval between the disappearance of the Venus and the appearance of the moon will be one or two hours. Consequently, considering the verse 76 and 77 of Surah Al-'An`am in which it has been mentioned that after the appearance of the moon, the star was disappeared and additionally, due to the specific luminosity of that star which attracts people more than any other stars at night, it seems that among the planets which were worshipped by the Sabians, the features of Venus were more similar to the planet which had been mentioned in these verses. According to the narrations of Ahl al-Bayt (a.s), this star refers to the Venus. But as it has been narrated from Ibn Abbas, it was the Jupiter. In addition, according to the verse 49 of verse An-Najm “And that it is He who is the Lord of Sirius (who is worshipped)” some commentators held that this star was Sirius.
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