Knowledge and understanding is not necessarily something that comes with age and just because a person is older does not mean that he or she is someone to emulate. Most of us notice our parents or other elders involved in wrong practices but hesitate to correct them or give them sincere advice out of fear of offending them or upsetting them. Sometimes, even when advised parents would not even admit that what they are doing is wrong, rather, they actually try to convince their young who are adhering to the limits and laws of Allah to instead follow their wrong ways. So how do we react to such a situation?
While analyzing the many amazing qualities of Prophet Ibrahim and extracting lessons from his fascinating life, let’s also try to study about his sincerity in trying to save his own father from eternal loss, by warning him about the destructive sin of shirk (polytheism) that he was indulging in. The way he interacted with his father is a very good example of a person respecting his parent yet rejecting his (the parent’s) ways and lifestyle and calling him to the right path.
Prophet Ibrahim’s father Azar was a sculptor of idols, so from a young age Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) was aware that idols were nothing more than pieces of wood or stone – inanimate objects that could extend no benefit or harm. He tried to convince his father that his practice of idol worship was wrong and ultimately useless. He spoke to him in a gentle voice, using kind and loving words to address him, and he tried to warn him of the dangers inherent in worshiping idols. Allah tells us about the approach that Ibrahim uses in calling his father to Islam, in beautiful ayahs of Surah Maryam:
“[Mention] when he said to his father, “O my father, why do you worship that which does not hear and does not see and will not benefit you at all? 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. O my father, do not worship Satan. Indeed Satan has ever been, to the Most Merciful, disobedient. O my father, indeed I fear that there will touch you a punishment from the Most Merciful so you would be to Satan a companion [in Hellfire].” [Maryam 19:42-45]
- Notice how Prophet Ibrahim says: يَا أَبَتِ In Arabic this is a very endearing term. This is an expression of love for a father. Even though he is a mushrik and involved in an act that is abhorrent to Allah, Prophet Ibrahim’s actions teach us that we should hate the sin and not the sinner himself. He uses the best of loving and kind terms to call his father to Islam teaching us that being gentle, loving and polite is an important factor while addressing the elders.
- Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) then starts of by making him reflect over his actions. He doesn’t start by condemning his wrong actions but instead invites him to reason, use his intellect by asking him how something that does not hear and does not see can benefit him. He then moves from intellect to knowledge and explains how revelation has come to him from the Creator, thus showing him that what he is calling him to is special knowledge given to him from the Lord of the world—Allah. Thus teaching us that it’s necessary to arouse interest in the elderly listener by using logic and by appealing to his sense of right and wrong alluding to the consequences.
- We read that Prophet Ibrahim, then explains to his father about the plot of shaytan and how following his path would lead him to eternal loss and informing him about the extreme mercy of Allah who is merciful even to a disobedient creature like Iblees. Also notice how he juxtaposes the mercy of Allah over his punishment. When people learn about Allah, they shouldn’t learn He is the One who puts them into hell fire but that Allah is the One who has been taking care of them their whole lives, the One who provides for them even when their sin and disobey and the One Who accepts people’s repentance and forgives their shortcomings. So know that from the best way to introduce Allah ta’ala in da’wah is by His Mercy. Muslims who have fallen into sins and non Muslims should be made to reflect about the mercy of their Lord in all the facets of their lives and then they should be reminded that what Ar Rahman commands is for His servants own good.
Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) was wise beyond his years yet his father did not listen perhaps because of extreme ignorance or arrogance and threatened to stone him. But we notice in the continuing ayahs of the Surah Maryam that our dear Ibrahim (alayhissalam) did not lose his temper but instead responded to his father’s threatening attitude with respect and wisdom.
[Abraham] said, “Peace will be upon you. I will ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. Indeed, He is ever gracious to me. And I will leave you and those you invoke other than Allah and will invoke my Lord. I expect that I will not be in invocation to my Lord unhappy.” (Maryam 19:47-48)
Once again Prophet Ibrahim uses the best of speech and tells his father about the mercy of Allah and His generosity showing him he still has a chance to reflect, repent and turn to Him in submission. This teaches us that no matter how rude or unpleasant the attitude of the elderly, we should never be offended by the negative reactions, continue being kind to them, pray for them and never become weary of continuous work for His cause.
We learn from the dialogue between Prophet Ibrahim and his father that the message should be shared with wisdom and gentleness and understand that the outcome is not always positive. We should be prepared for opposition, ridicule and unresponsive behavior. Nevertheless we should do our part, convey the message keeping in mind the instruction from Allah when He says: “O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.” (Al Furqan 66:6)
We must do our duty and then let Allah take care of the rest, believing that we cannot guide the one we love, it is Allah Who guides whomever He wills. Allah (Subhahau wa Ta’ala) says:
“Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided.” (Al Qasas 28:56)
May Allah guide us and make us sources of guidance for our beloved ones and the whole ummah! Aameen!