By January 10, 2023 Read More →

The Story of Abraham in the Quran – part 2

Continuing with our study of the story of Abraham in the Quran where he is searching for observable witnesses for his belief. This teaches me my searching for observable evidence as well for my belief.

فَلَمَّا رَءَا ٱلْقَمَرَ بَازِغًۭا قَالَ هَـٰذَا رَبِّى ۖ فَلَمَّآ أَفَلَ قَالَ لَئِن لَّمْ يَهْدِنِى رَبِّى لَأَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلضَّآلِّينَ

6:77 Then, when he saw the moon rising he said, “This is my Lord” but when it set, he said, “If my Lord does not guide me, I will definitely become one of those lost people.”

Abraham was looking for an explanation for his existence in a culture that had no idea about God or had any concept of God, which is why he is using the word “Lord” symbolically. That is, he wanted to understand who is the owner of this world, the one who provides, takes care of this world by organizing and arranging perfectly. This formed the basis for his search for answers.

I also need to be on this search to seek answers to my human questions. Rather than using my previous belief, I must ask from scratch: who is responsible for my existence, for the events in the universe, who is taking care of each and everything? When I make this search then I will look for options as to who is responsible for taking care of everything. Who or what is responsible for all the qualities that I observe in the universe? 

The verse mentions that prophet Abraham looked at the moon while looking for his “Lord”. This does not mean that he has never seen the moon before in his life.  All of us have been witnessing this event many times while we live in the universe. By questioning the moon to be my “Lord”, I am being taught here to start from all possible ways to find out who is giving existence to things, organizing this universe. 

At his time, prophet Abraham was in a culture where most people were idol worshipers, had no religious tradition from their ancestral heritage, and were ignorant of any kind of religious tradition. What is God telling me here by mentioning this? I wonder, as if Abraham saw the moon for the first time and starts with it to be his “Lord”. What is meant by “Lord”? Based on my fresh observation, the one responsible for the existence of things, taking care of them. The verse is not necessarily introducing me to “Lord” being one of the attributes of God but the human journey of exploration. The human search for an explanation as to who is giving existence and taking care of things. 

The phrase “فَلَمَّآ أَفَلَ “, translated as “But when it set” – When the moon set, means that it lost its qualities to be the source of existence of this universe. At first, as we discussed previously, the moon may seem to be overlooking everything around us being high above the earth. It was an option but failed to be responsible, to be the source of the existence of the universe. Anything in the universe can be seen as an option to be the “Lord” but they fail.

Nowadays, the culture is based on laws invading everywhere using “nature” as operating in the universe. Let me investigate if “nature” has the power to give existence, to control, regulate the universe where everything is subject to an order in the way they come into existence. None of the parts of the universe have the qualities to give existence to what is going on in the universe. They cannot be the source of existence of anything at all, can’t decide but themselves need to be created. They can’t get out of the limitations of the order of the universe. Everything is a slave to the order of the universe, therefore, to its Creator’s Will. 

The phrase “لَئِن لَّمْ يَهْدِنِى رَبِّى “, translated as “If my Lord does not guide me” – whoever has given these qualities to me must provide a satisfactory answer to my human questions. Prophet Abraham is searching for the source of existence of the universe with no concept of God so far. The Quran is teaching me, ‘O man, whoever gave you existence, should provide the answers to your existential questions.” I will continue to search with the capacity given to me, using the universe until I get the satisfactory answer which I understand would be from my Lord, the one who gives me existence.  The source that gives me existence along with the rest of the universe must answer my human questions as I find myself with the capacity to wonder, question, seek a satisfactory answer that satisfies my being, the way that I am created. The verse in Quran 43:27, “إِلَّا ٱلَّذِى فَطَرَنِى فَإِنَّهُۥ سَيَهْدِينِ” translated as “None do I worship but Him who has created me and behold, it is He who will guide me!” 

Per prophet Abraham’s experience, I have to start my journey from “scratch” by not taking anything for granted, any notions or concepts borrowed from civilization, things that I may have learned from my environment. Prophet Abraham sets up the example for me as my leader (imam).


فَلَمَّا رَءَا ٱلشَّمْسَ بَازِغَةًۭ قَالَ هَـٰذَا رَبِّى هَـٰذَآ أَكْبَرُ ۖ فَلَمَّآ أَفَلَتْ قَالَ يَـٰقَوْمِ إِنِّى بَرِىٓءٌۭ مِّمَّا تُشْرِكُونَ

6:78 Then, when he saw the sun rising he said, “This is my Lord! This is even greater!” But when it [too] set, he said, “My people, I disown all that you worship [anything of this universe].

After the first object failed to be the source of existence, the next big thing mentioned here as the sun is questioned. Can the sun be the one that is giving existence and taking care of everything? The phrase “when it sets”, again refers to the fact that this idea of the sun being the “Lord” fails as well.

Nowadays, someone may come up with a comprehensive theory that explains the existence of the universe. They may say that the universe is eternal!  Is it? Whatever the idea, does it have the power, knowledge to give existence to the things, arrange those things, organize them in perfect order, balance and harmony?

I have to stop following the people around me that encourage me not to search for the answers to my human questions. The phrase “قَالَ يَـٰقَوْمِ إِنِّى بَرِىٓءٌۭ مِّمَّا تُشْرِكُونَ”, translated as “he said, ‘I disown all that you worship’”. Instead of worshiping the source that gives existence, takes care of everything in the universe, the “Lord” of the universe, you people are coming up with strange ideas, things that don’t have the qualities to be the source of existence. 

The word “تُشْرِكُونَ” which is a derivative of “shirk” is used in the verse which can be understood as worshiping anything other than the source that has the qualities to be a Lord. For example, if one says that I cannot live without air, which gives me life then that is associating the power of giving life to air which it doesn’t have. Any idea which claims that they will explain the existence of the universe which does not refer to the Absolute source that gives existence to each and everything would classify into “shirk”. For example, a theory comes up that we are going to explain how the universe exists but does not refer to the one who has power, knowledge and will to give existence to everything.


إِنِّى وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِىَ لِلَّذِى فَطَرَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ حَنِيفًۭا ۖ وَمَآ أَنَا۠ مِنَ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ

6:79 I have turned my face to Him who brought into existence the heavens and the earth, and I have turned away from all that is false. I am not one of the idolaters.”

Prophet Abraham’s way of searching for reality is very human which you and I can relate to. I am looking for the one who can be the source of the heavens and the earth, the entirety of the universe. I am looking for an explanation to the way the universe is coming into existence that would satisfy me. I am looking for that authority, that being who is the source of all this existence.

My intention is to be “حَنِيفًۭا”, which is usually translated as being pure, submitting to goodness, being kind, humble, not dominating other people, not harming anyone. The Quran uses the word to express the innocent search, with no prejudice, being unbiased, in looking for an answer to my human questions. Looking for the truth that would explain the source of the existence of the universe.  The translation uses “turned away from all that is false” which means that I am not satisfied with assigning the quality of Lordship to anything in this world. 

The word “ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ “, is used in this verse as well, translated as “idolaters”, although “idols” is not used in the verse. What is an idol? Anything in this universe cannot be the responsible agent for the existence of the universe. A part of something cannot be responsible for its whole. We have to explain every single being where it would make sense to me. We have to search similarly and be “hanif”. It’s not easy these days to be “hanif”, we all have our own religious tradition and follow it as we find it. Those who decide not to follow the religion of the society follow the fashion in the society; nowadays trusting science to explain the purpose of this life on earth. Being a “hanif” means searching for the truth with no biased attitude, not taking anything for granted but searching. I have heard a lot of concepts on God, angels, prophets. I should leave them aside, not reject them but leave them aside and start the Abrahamic search process: Who is my lord, owner? Who is the provider here, the one taking care of this universe? See how much I have inherited from the legacy of my culture, see if this “hanifan” search for the truth justifies what I have inherited from my legacy. The Quran is very severe to those who follow their customary life, ancestral religion. I have to search and make sense and be the “hanif”, that is to follow the Abrahamic process of searching for the truth.

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