Reflection No. 231 on Q 22:78 – The Father of Religion
مِلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ
Millata abīkum Ibrāhīm
It is the faith of your father Ibrahim
(Sūratul Hajj, No.22, Āyat 78)
Prophet Ibrāhīm (a) is an outstanding personality praised many times in the Holy Quran. He is known as the Father of the Prophets (Q 12:38), Father of the Nation, and recognized and revered by all the monotheistic faiths. He is also Khalīlullāh – the friend of Allah (Q 4:125), a nation by himself (Q 16:120), a strict monotheist who called people towards the worship of God (Q 2:133). His prayers and his sacrifices are treasured teachings for all those who seek God.
In the verse above Allah refers to Abraham (a) as the father of Religion. Commentators of the Holy Quran have given the following reasons why he is given this special status.
1) Submission – Nabī Ibrāhīm submitted wholly to God. According to ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī in Tafsīr al-Mīzān, he was the first person who was a true Muslim. ‘Allāmah quotes the verse; When his Lord said to him, Be a Muslim, he said: I submit myself to the Lord of the worlds (Q 2:131), to prove his point.
Abraham is often known as Hanīf – the obedient, upright and always inclining towards the truth (Q 2:135; 3:67, 95; 6:161 etc.) He accepted whatever God commanded, even if it meant sacrificing what he loved. Such is the attitude of one who is a true servant of God and knows that life is only a gift from God and is to be spent in His obedience and service. This concept of complete submission to the will of Almighty is the foundation of the faith of Islam.
2) Sharī‘ah – The sharī‘ah or code of conduct followed by the Muslims was first started by Nabī Ibrāhīm. Thus the origin of living according to the laws of God started with him. Those who follow it are from him. Prophet Abraham (a) himself said; then whoever follows me, he is surely of me (Q 14:36).
3) Respect – Nabī Ibrāhīm deserves the respect of all Muslims just as a father deserves respect. A biological father is the root of all good that a person has. Imam Ali Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) says in Risaātul Huqūq: The right of your father is that you know that he is your root. Without him, you would not be. Whenever you see anything in yourself which pleases you, know that your father is the root of its blessing upon you. Similarly the good that has been brought by the Holy Prophet (s) in the form of guidance for the Muslims has its roots in Abraham (a).
A Divine leader sent for guidance and assistance to stay on the right path is a spiritual father for those who follow him. He is concerned about them and wants what is best for them. That is why the Holy Prophet said; I and Ali are the fathers of this Ummah.
This verse is a reminder to us that Abraham (a) is the spiritual father of those who follow his path. The path of Islam is rooted in his history and the choices he made. It is no wonder that every year millions of Muslims carry out the rituals of Hajj and keep his name alive.
Sources: Imam Ali Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a), Rislātul Huqūq; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne; ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; www.tebyan.net/newmobile.aspx/Comment/ejtemaii/85/index.aspx?pid=249967