"He (Abraham) said: 'Indeed I am going toward my Lord, who will guide me.'" (37:99)
"Say (O' Abraham): Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds; No associate has He; and this am I commanded, and I am the first of those who submit." (6:162-163)
The late Martin Luther King has said: "I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, then he isn't fit to live."
As we continue in our journey through the narratives of the Noble Qur'an and the men and women that Allah has given us as role-models, we come to the life of one of the world's most famous prophets. He is a man who is revered by at least half of the population on Earth and whose daily remembrance is an obligation upon every Muslim – especially during the pilgrimage to Mecca. He is none other than Prophet Ibrahim, also known as Abraham (peace be upon him).
This Prophet is unique within the Qur'anic narrative in that he has a chapter named after him (chapter 14), and we know more about him through the verses of the Qur'an than we know about almost any other prophet or spiritually enlightened individual.
The Qur'an offers us Prophet Abraham's biography as a child growing up in Iraq, and then as a young adult in what is today's occupied-Palestine. We follow him in his trek to present-day Saudi Arabia with his son Ishmael and wife Hagar. The post-Meccan events and his death are not discussed in the Qur'an, and thus the Qur'anic narrative of Abraham ends with his rebuilding of the Ka'ba with his son.
Each of these three stages of his life presents us with important lessons to better understand his message and mission in life, and for us to be able to follow in the footsteps of the one referred to as the 'Friend of Allah' (Khaleelullah).
One of the realities of the Qur'an and its address towards those who claim "Islam" is the fact that we need to be constantly upgrading and strengthening our connectivity with the Almighty through various means.
Today in the 21st century, in this age of technology and advancement, people find it to be a "natural progression" to go from one version of an OS to another on their home computer – spending hundreds of dollars and countless hours backing up and installing the new software. We always look for the fastest Internet connection at home and on the road; we constantly "need" to upgrade our SmartPhone to the latest model which we are told will offer us the "ultimate mobile experience" with live video conferencing, the ability to download killer apps and carry our entire collection of (halal) MP3 files with us wherever we go. Those who live opulent lifestyles feel the urge to constantly update their cars, ensuring that they always have the latest model of BMW or Mercedes in their driveway. While we indulge in such obsessive devotions of the flesh, we must also realize that we must also increase and strengthen our connectivity with God – and that too, in "new" and "innovative" ways!
In this regard, we have the tradition from the Commander of the Faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon him) has said, "Renew your seeking of repentance (to God) and enliven your worship." This tradition and its commentary by the scholars of Islam explain that when it comes to our daily acts of worship – such as through prayers and supplications – we should introduce variety into our routine and seek to learn new supplications to recite in and out of the prayers. If we are habituated to a particular supplication in the month of Ramadan, we should "experiment" with ones which we have not recited before – ensuring that whatever we read comes from reliable sources of course! Engaging in our worship in this manner will help us focus on the Most High and give us a much-needed change in how we live our lives!
These words from the Master of the Believers, as well as other such traditions and verses of the Qur'an show us that we cannot remain stagnate at the level of Islam and merely being Muslims. Rather, there are higher levels to our faith and we need to work to attain them if we want to reach to a higher ground.
In fact, there is an article entitled Differences Between Islam and Iman which highlights eighteen differences which exist between "al-Islam" (mere submission) and "al-Iman" (true faith and conviction) – one should consult this piece to better understand the ranks of submission.
However, not to detract from the main theme, let us focus on Prophet Abraham and his levels of submission which took him through an extensive spiritual journey to "find" God, and to cement the foundations within himself and those around him – that too, from the most uncanny of sources.
To begin with, Prophet Abraham's spiritual migration took him through three phases – something which we also need to work through in our lives:
One of the first things which the young Prophet Abraham enacted in his life – which is something that each and every one of us needs to seriously consider – is our belief system. Is it enough to simply say, "I believe"? Is it enough to go through the motions alongside those who "believe," or is our belief system something much deeper? If we were to be thrown into an ocean of those who openly and directly reject any notion of a Supreme Creator, would our faith waver or would we be able to not only tread water but also bring others to the shores of salvation?
Prophet Abraham shows us that early in his life, he was able to hang out with those who had the most incorrect of belief systems, yet he did not let them influence him; rather, he became the one exerting peer pressure:
"And thus did We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and that he might be of those who are sure. So when the night over-shadowed him, he saw a star; said he: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: I do not love the setting ones. Then when he saw the moon rising, he said: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: If my Lord had not guided me I should certainly be of the erring people. Then when he saw the sun rising, he said: Is this my Lord? Is this the greatest? So when it set, he said: O my people! surely I am clear of what you set up (with Allah). Surely I have turned myself, being upright, wholly to Him Who originated the heavens and the earth, and I am not of the polytheists. And his people disputed with him. He said: Do you dispute with me respecting Allah? And He has guided me indeed; and I do not fear in any way those that you set up with Him, unless my Lord pleases; my Lord comprehends all things in His knowledge; will you not then mind? And how should I fear what you have set up (with Him), while you do not fear that you have set up with Allah that for which He has not sent down to you any authority; which then of the two parties is surer of security, if you know?" (6:75-81)