Lessons in Fatherhood from Ibrahim alayhis salaam

When the Prophet ﷺ was blessed with a baby boy in Madinah, he had to make the decision that every new parent must make–choosing a name. Out of all the names that he could have chosen, the Prophet ﷺ chose a name that had a special place in his heart. He chose the name Ibrahim, saying “I have named my son Ibrahim after my father Ibrahim”. Allah ﷻ‎  says in the Qur’an “And Allah took Ibrahim as a friend.”

Recent comments by a self-proclaimed “Muslim activist” have denigrated Ibrahim (as), referring to him as a “deadbeat dad”. In light of that, we’ve moved up publication of this article which was originally scheduled for Eid ul Adha. As Allah ﷻ‎ says in the Qur’an “There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham”.

Family comes first….after Allah

One of the most striking features of the story of Ibrahim (as) is his utter devotion to Allah ﷻ‎. The devotion outstripped even his love for his family and children. Paradoxically, it is precisely that conscious decision to put deen over fatherhood that made him the best father.

Allah ﷻ‎ says in the Qur’an:

إِنَّمَآ أَمْوَلُكُمْ وَأَوْلَـدُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَاللَّهُ عِنْدَهُ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ

And know that your possessions and your children are but a trial (fitnah) and that surely with Allah is a mighty reward

Love for his child may entice a man to act against the pleasure of Allah ﷻ‎. It is not unheard of for someone to abstain from riba their entire life but then rack up credit card debt by buying things they can not afford just to see their children happy. For Ibrahim (as), however, his love for his son and his desire to see him happy was always secondary to the pleasure of Allah ﷻ‎. When Allah ﷻ‎ revealed to Ibrahim (as) to take Hajar and Ismail and leave them in the barren deserts of Arabia, he did so without hestitation. His complete trust in Allah ﷻ‎ precluded any other action. That devotion to Allah ﷻ‎ was transmitted to his children, showing them that no matter what else happens, Allah ﷻ‎ comes first.

Putting Allah ﷻ‎ first, even before fatherhood, makes a man a better father and raises sons to become better men. Ibn al-Qayyim writes about this in his book Tuhfatul Mawdood bi Ahkaam al-Mawlud.

How many people have caused misery to their own children, the apples of their eyes, in this world and in the Hereafter, by neglecting them, not disciplining them, encouraging them to follow their whims and desires, thinking that they were honoring them when they were in fact humiliating them, that they were being merciful to them when in fact they were wronging them. They have not benefited the child, and they have made the child lose his share in this world and in the Hereafter.

Build up your children

Ibrahim (as) was a man who unflinchingly, unhesitatingly obeyed the command of Allah ﷻ‎. When he was ordered to leave his family in the desert, he did so without question. Yet we find something interesting when he was ordered to sacrifice his son. The Qur’an mentions:

فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ

When the boy was old enough to work with his father, Abraham said, ‘My son, I have seen myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think?’ 

This ayah is very interesting because it begs the question: Why? Why did Ibrahim (as) ask his son what he thought when Ibrahim (as) had already shown that he would obey Allah ﷻ‎’s command without question? In other words, based on the character of Ibrahim (as), there is no doubt that he planned on sacrificing his son after receiving revelation to do so. Why then did he bother asking Ismail (as) for his input when nothing Ismail (as) said could have changed his course of action?

The answer is self-evident. The question was not for himself but for his son. Even in the midst of such a momentous decision, he took the time out to utilize a teaching moment to engage in parenting. Ibrahim (as) gave his son the chance to articulate what he thought was the right decision. It was a moment to guide him if he articulated the wrong one. Instead, he responded with unwavering iman:

قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ سَتَجِدُنِي إِن شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ
He said, ‘Father, do as you are commanded and, God willing, you will find me steadfast.’

Spend time doing religious activities

Allah ﷻ‎ says in Surah Baqarah:

وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

As Abraham and Ishmael built up the foundations of the House [they prayed], ‘Our Lord, accept [this] from us. You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing.

We often remember the fact that Ibrahim (as) build the Ka’bah. What we often forget, however, is that he built it with his son. The Ka’bah was built as a team effort by Ibrahim (as) and Ismail (as). When you look at fathers who raise successful children, a constant theme is their involvement in their children’s religious activities. Praying salah together at home, breaking iftar together, attending halaqahs at the masjid together, driving to the masjid together for ‘Isha. All of this cultivates a future generation who remains upon the deen.

Concern for them

Allah ﷻ‎ says  in the Qur’an that He made Ibrahim (as) an imam, a leader for the people. When Ibrahim (as) was told this, his response was very interesting. His immediate response as mentioned in the Qur’an was,

قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي

And from my descendants [as well]?

What about my descendants? When given such a high honor by Allah ﷻ‎, Ibrahim (as)’s first concern was his progeny. What would happen to them? Would there be a righteous leader from them as well? Would they be believers?  A good father is always concerned about his children. Ibrahim (as), even in the midst of being given the highest honor by Allah ﷻ‎ was thinking about his children.

Du’a for them

While building the Ka’bah, Ibrahim (as) engaged in du’a. Imagine how intense an act of devotion to Allah ﷻ‎ this was. Building the Ka’bah itself. We can make any du’a at any time but when we’re in special circumstances we make the most important du’as to us. For example, when someone goes to hajj and they’re making du’a, they don’t make du’a for a new phone (most of us, anyway). Instead, knowing that they have limited time, they make du’a for the absolute most important things in their life.

Ibrahim (as) was not just at the Ka’bah, he was building the Ka’bah. And what did he make du’a for?

رَبَّنَا وَاجْعَلْنَا مُسْلِمَيْنِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنَا أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً لَّكَ وَأَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ رَبَّنَا وَابْعَثْ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful. Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.”

He made du’a for his children and for their descendants. He made du’a that they be Muslim. He made du’a that from his descendants come a prophet to guide them to the truth.

One of the greatest acts of love that a father can do for his children is to make du’a for them.  In a hadith collected in Ibn Majah, The Prophet ﷺ said “Three prayers are undoubtedly answered: the prayer of one who is wronged, the prayer of the traveller and the prayer of a father for his child.”

Love for them

The famous Hanafi scholar from Turkey, Imam Badr al-Din al-Ayni was asked why we single out Ibrahim (as) in our tashahhud over all the other prophets (when we say Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad wa ‘ala aali Muhammad kama sallayta ‘ala Ibrahim wa ‘ala aali Ibrahim).  He responded by mentioning a narration from the Isra and Mi’raj.

When the Prophet ﷺ ascended through the heavens and met each of the previous prophets, they greeted him with the greeting of peace, “As Salaamu ‘Alaikum”. Each and every one of them greeted the Prophet ﷺ and the Prophet ﷺ alone except for Ibrahim (as).

Ibrahim (as) not only greeted the Prophet ﷺ but he also added, “Iqra ummatika minni as-Salaam”. “Convey to your nation my salaam.” Even after death, Ibrahim (as) was thinking about his descendants. Each and every Muslim who follows the Prophet  ﷺ was included in this greeting by Ibrahim (as). A du’a, a greeting of peace from Ibrahim (as) to you and me. The Prophet ﷺ was a father to his nation and while we may not be the physical descendants of Ibrahim (as), we are all his  spiritual descendants.

Conclusion

There is no better way to end this article than with this ayah from the Qur’an:

وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِلَّا مَن سَفِهَ نَفْسَهُ وَلَقَدِ اصْطَفَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

Who but a fool would forsake the religion of Abraham? We have chosen him in this world and he will rank among the righteous in the Hereafter.

 

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