View Full Version : Abraham's youth, abandoning error, discovery of true God

04-20-2007, 04:39 AM
Is there anyone who is familiar with accurate extra-Quranic muslim history such as the ahadith, Tha-labi, etc?

I am a christian who would like to gather more history on the Prophet Abraham’s youth, especially his early period while Terah is still manufacturing “Gods” for his town and Abraham is discovering the true character of these idols but has not yet discovered the real God and the later stories from his search for the true God until the time after his test in the fire (of Ur).

I have many of the early Judao-Christian records (Abram smashing the household idols, the idol in the fireplace, Abrams logical discovery of the error of his early beliefs, etc) but would like to correlate these with early Islamic ahadith and early Islamic historians. I am familiar with some of the early Islamic traditions of Abraham's youth, but would like to gather more.

(P.S. : Also, I am also interested specifically in versions of his "dream of the palm tree" later in life as a prelude to Sarai being the means of saving them as they enter egypt.)

I appreciate the effort and time and Thank you in advance


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04-23-2007, 04:30 AM

04-24-2007, 04:05 PM

Thank you for the link, I very much appreciate the link you have given me.

The problem for me was that the data it provided was very superficial to the point that it doesn’t offer much information. The stories in the link are fairly well known in Judao-Christian versions but are merely described in the link.

What I’d like is the translations of the original histories in their entirety by the original authors if possible.

Though the Quran contains many more references to such stories in Abraham’s youth, The Old Testament and Quran are both insufficient to learn much of the details in these stories. One cannot make much sense of Quranic references without already knowing something of the hundreds of these histories in their Jewish, their Christian, or their Islamic versions. I am looking for versions of the more inclusive histories that the Old Testament and the Quran are alluding to.

For example, in Surah 6 74: Abraham asks his Father:
"Takest thou idols for gods? For I see that thee and thy kinsfolk are in clear error. 75. And thus [I] showed Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth so he might be among those having certitude.”
The same quote in in Sales translation reads
“That is, we gave him a right apprehension of the government of the world, and of the heavenly bodies, that he might know them all to be ruled by God”.
These Quranic quotes are sideways references to the many various "Ascension of" and "Apochalypse of Abraham" histories, where God gives Abrahams revelations and vision of the various worlds and other creations of God.

However, since the Quran does NOT give us a full description of the actual revelation and vision themselves, one must read the histories the Quran is refering to in order to have a greater understanding of the quote and the principles behind the quote. I have to refer to Abraham's revelation and vision of the World's that allah created and Abraham's description of the spirits there and the purposes of allah in creating the worlds and sending the spirits into it before I can more fully understand the quranic quote. Does this make sense?

It is the deeper description of Abraham’s experiences such as these revelations and visions that I am looking for. There are many, many Christian and Judaic versions. I would like to correlate these versions with Islamic versions of the histories of Abraham.

Surah 19:42 for another example, has a small reference to the discussion Abraham has with his father :
"...O father, why worshipest thou that which does not hear and does not see and does no do anything for thee? 42....truly there has come to me knowledge that thou hast not received, so follow me. I shall guide thee [in] a straight path....46 He [Terah] said, "Dost thou detest my gods, Abraham? If thou ceasest not, I shall stone thee. Keep away from me for a long while.
Many, many Abrahamic histories contain this thematic criticism of Idols. That is, that they do not seem to “do” anything, nor have any power of their own. Earlier histories contain the multiple experiences Abraham has with idols (they fall into fires and cannot protect themselves from thieves; or from fire; or from water; or from desecration, etc, etc.). These experiences contribute to his rejection of them. What I want to gather is the more complete histories BEHIND the quranic quotes.

I would like to gather several Islamic; Jewish; and Christian version of these stories for comparison and study.

Like the Quran, the Old Testament lacks so many important details that are needed for a greater understanding of such histories.

For example the KJV of Old Testament Joshua 24:2 reports:
”And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
This little bit of information glosses over much of what is important. Terah not merely "served other Gods" as in the quote, but he has a deep financial and political and personal interest in their worship. This is important to Abraham’s upbringing and to the various Abrahamic youth traditions, yet I cannot glean this information from the Old Testament records.

Abraham is born into an Idol-worshiping society : the traditions support Terah not only as a “worshiper” of idols, but as a “manufacturer’ of idols. He has a deep financial interest in selling these idols to others. He also holds an important position to the king (who has his own image that he wishes to be considered a god among the other idols).

Thus the political stakes for him are high if idol-worship is threatened. At some level, his life can be threatened by an out-of-control Son Abraham wanting to go against the Kings entrenched religious practice of idol worship.... Such consideration are why the simple description of Joshua 24:2 does not do the situation justice. There are many deeper levels to the story.

Perhaps I can point out exactly what I am looking for: If I can simply take a couple of themes and expand on them from Christian records, and then expand on a theme from Islamic records you can see what I am looking for.

1) CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS and HISTORIES regarding the Idol worshiping milieu that Abraham is born into:

(Again, I cannot get such details from either the Old or New Testament, nor are the details revealed by the Quran - I must have access to the greater histories of these events.)

Clement points out that
Abraham “was [still] in ignorance” of the true nature of religion before he found the truth. Like us, he was not born with knowledge. (recognitions ch 33)
The 4th century ‘treasures” work hints at the earliest initiation of men in that region into idol worship. (The Book of the Cave of Treasures (Syriac 4th century a.d.) Folio 23b.&2)

The same story is told by Epiphanius that
“from the time of Terah the father of Abraham, they also introduced the imposture of idolatry by way of the statuary.” (Extracts - Anacephaeosis 1, 3.3)
Mahbub of Menbidj (Agapius) extracts tell the same story as above. The Book of the Rolls also confirms this tradition and it’s association with Terah’s generation “
”...In the third year of he life of Nahor, God looked up through His remembrance at his creatures, and they were worshipping idols...” (Folio 119b)
The Conflict of Adam and Eve tells how Abraham was respectful to his father (generally) and :
“paid him all due honour, and did not aggrieve him about his being a maker of idols., For Abraham his son, was a righteous man, and could not bear idols, but he paid him all due respect a being his father...” (4 Adam and Eve, chapter 1, vs 2&3)
The Byzantine scholar George Syncellus (palestine approx 800 a.d.) Also writes in the Chonographia that:
”Terah being an idol worship and probably not going with Abraham...) (1:176) “
Such stories are also confirmed in the syrian Anonymous Christian Chronicle’ of 819 a.d. , it is pointed out among the records that Terah’s “worship” of idols is motivated less by his conviction than by other reasons.

After Abraham asks:
“What use of help is there in those idols you worship? They are such a great service of senselessness and deception to the heart. They are the work of hands and there is no spirit in them......”
Terah then admits :
“I know that too my son. But what am I to do, for all the people have appointed me to minister for them in their presence. And if I speak to them, they will kill me, because their souls are pledged to idolatry. But be silent, my son, lest they murder you....”
(Which is what the later Islamic/Jewish/and Christian histories show that they attempt to do) (this quote is found in paragraph 27 but it’s not numbered, you’ll have to count...)

Such stories are helpful to describe the milieu and attitudes and intractable nature of idol worship that Abraham was born into. But I am getting ahead with Abraham’s attitude, back to the milieu...

George Hamartolos (Earlier than 842 a.d ) also confirms that
“..Terah acted in rivalry with God because, though his own making of statues, he fashioned idols...and he was imitated by his own children..”
(referring NOT to Abraham, but other children of Terahs..)

The Armenian paraphrase of Genesis also includes the complaint against men that:
“And in his day all the earth was worshipping idols”(after Genesis 11:25)
and after Genesis 11:30 it continues
“And at that time men did not know God,for they were worshippers of idols–some of the air and others of the water...”
Such “surveys” of bits and pieces of larger records is like a stone skipping across a large body of recorded history. The only way it can fully immerse itself deeply into such knowledge is to slow down (which I cannot do at this point). I will remind you that the simple verses I quote are from great histories and books that deserve much greater study for any serious student.


I will skip the history of how Abraham was hidden in a cave from infancy due to Nimrod’s ordering of the killing of children his age but will refer to some of Abraham’s experiences from the cave.

Abraham’s early considerations and questions display a maturing desire to know what Allah might be like. The following are two OFTEN repeated stories in ISHAQ IBN BIHR (d 821 a.d) that occur prior to Abraham’s great revelation of the heavens. These take place at the cave of his youth.

”It is said, when the night covered [Ibrahim] and Venus ascended, ...He could no see a brighter star than it. He said, “O mother, is this my Lord/” She silenced him. ....
When it [Venus] set, he said, ‘I do not like those who set. Because it set, this shows that there is a God above it who controls it in accordance with His command.” When it was later in the evening, the moon ascended. [Ibrahim] watched it outside shining its light. He said, ‘O mother, this is brighter! This is my Lord!” He was still watching it when it set, ... he said, ‘Unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.’
‘The stars and [God’s] power in them were seen by [Ibramim]. -This is before he had been shown the kingdom of he heavens. They said that when the night covered Ibrahim, he said one day, “O mother! Who created you?’ She said, “My father.” He asked, “Who created me?” She said, “Your father.” He said, “Who created my father?” She said, “The king.” He asked, “Who created the king?” She exclaimed, “Be silent, my son!” [Ibrahim] asked, “Who is more admirable, I or my father?” She said, “You are.” He said, “Which is more excellent, the face of my father or the king?” She said, “Your father.” He said, “O mother, if the king were able to create a man, why did he create a man that is better than him?” folio 164B
When I say “Oft repeated”, I mean that there are MANY versions of Abraham’s consideration of the stars/moon/and sun by ISHAQ IBN BIHR, by AL-YA’QUBI; by al-tabari; by AL - MAS’UDI, by AL-NISABURI by; IBN AL-ATHIR; by Ka’B AL-AHBAR: and by AL-RABGHUZI to name a few (there are more)

The deep questioning of Abraham regarding the “state religion” has deeper connotations for his Family. Terah is an idol maker, and official in the government whose King demands obedience to this religion which also demands worshiping the king as a God.

AL - MAS’UDI (d. 956 a.d.) Hints at the danger in this line of questioning: After relating the star/moon/sun story he also has Abraham asking his mother :
“who is my Lord?.” She said, “I am.” He said, “But who is your Lord?” She replied, “Your father.” He said, “But who is the Lord of my father?” She answered, “Nimrudh is his Lord.” He asked, “But who is the Lord of Nimrudh?” She said to him, “Be silent!” So [Ibrahim] was silent. Then she returned to her husband. She said, “I saw the boy who speaks of changing the religion of the people of the land, and he is your son.” Then she informed him of what [Ibrahim] had told her.
What Al-Mas’udi simply implys, AL-RABGHUZI explains in much greater detail.

In Al-Rabghuzi's history, after the father hears of Abraham asking “ “who is the God of Nimrod” “His Father said:
“Take him away from here and leave him in the same mountains, lest he should bring clamity upon us.” His mother brought him to the same cave and left him there.”
Thus Terah is starting to see his fate tied to his son’s actions should the King hear of Abraham challenging his religion. The son Abraham may prove a mortal danger to this father. (The later histories show the result of Abrahams’ rebellion against the idol-worshiping religion justifies Terah’s worries)

The theme of Abraham seeking revelation from the true God is also an oft repeated theme. And one that he uses as proof that the idols are not the real God, for the “real” God will listen to what we pray for, the idols do not hear, the idols cannot talk or communicate to anyone yet the true God will communicate to anyone who seeks him.. Thus, AL-YA’QUBI’s history (a.d. 897) again quotes Abraham’s important observation that “Unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.” before he continues the story of Abraham’s consideration of the heavenly orbs:
“the daylight approached, the sun arose. So he said, “This is my Lord; this is lighter, brighter!” When the sun set he said, “The sun set, but my Lord does not set!”...
When [Ibrahim] became older, he began to be astonished, seeing his people worshiping idols. He asked, “You worship what you have made?” They said, “Your father taught us this.” He said, “Indeed, my father is among those who strayed.’
Gradually, Abraham is confirmed in the principles he is taught and in AL TABARI’s (840-923 a.d.) Version of this story, after Abraham perceives that the sun is not Lord, he says:
“O my people! I am free from all the things which ye associate (with him). I have turned my faced toward Him that created the heavens and the earth, as one upright by nature; I am not an idolotor.”
At some point, God answers Abraham’s prayer and sends Jibril [Gabriel] to him, and he [the angel] teaches Abraham religion. It’s difficult to tell how much religion he learns from Gabriel and how much influence Noah’s family have on him since Abraham has contact with both during his early years. Despite Abraham’s growing intense dislike for idols, he stil cannot escape their influence. Abraham is coerced by his Father to assist in the family business of selling Idols.

Al-Kisa’i ( oldest manuscript a.d.1220) tells of the pressure Abraham was under. Terah says:
“My son, since you are in my debt, I want you to vend idols as your brother does.” “But how can I sell what I despise?” asked Abraham. Nonetheless he was given a large and small idol to sell. He would go out with two boys to carry the idols and would say, “Who will buy that which neither harms nor benefits?” and no one would take them from him.

Then he would immerse the idols in water and say, “Drink!” and pull the ropes attached to their legs to draw them out of the water. The people would stare, but no one dared to say anything to him.”....

“When an old man came asking him to sell one of the idols to him, Abraham said, “Old man, I have been sitting here scoffing at them. They are not to be worshipped.”...
So the old man bought the idol from his brother.

“Then an old woman came to Abraham and asked him to sell her an idol. He tool out the two idols for her and said, “Take the big one. There is more of it for firewood and kindling.”...
another story has Abraham saying to a customer:
“I see no use either in the large or the small [idol], nor how they can help either themselves or others. And the large idol that you bought yesterday from my brother”, asked Abraham, “what has happened to it?” “Thieves came during the night and stole it from me while I was in the bath.” ”If so,” Abraham told her, “why do you serve an idol that doesn’t know how to save itself from the hand of thieves and that would know less how to save others from their evil? Go away, old fool! How can you maintain that the idol that you serve is a god? ...”
Whether the story comes from the Islamic or Jewish or Christian versions, the disdain Abraham shows idols is equal in all the similar histories. Abraham is purposefully a poor salesman, and worse that this, he will ultimately become the enemy of the popular, state-supported religion and somewhat of an enemy to his father.

I suppose you will be bored if I continue to labor the point that the very superficial and heavily edited versions of these stories are not what I am looking for.

Many many of these stories are from a much, much larger ancient library that is the source of Old Testament texts (and thus all later religious texts from the area) and it is the “source histories” that are common to Islamic, Judaic, and Christian history that I would like to study.

Thank you again for your time


04-24-2007, 04:15 PM
Wow.. sorry about that... yes the previous link was meant to be very basic understanding.. Here is a link though in Arabic, about the secrets of the Quran

Will not be very useful to you I assume unless you speak Arabic?... the second link, would be

http://tafsir.com/Default.asp which is in English
Where the scholars go into deep detail, you might check out suret Abraham (Ibrahim) which is number 14.. see if they might answer some of your Q's
sorry I couldn't be of more help... we have a few scholarly members here who hopefully can shed some light if the sites fail you. Most of the books of the prophet I have/and read are in Arabic... it would be an impossibility to distil that kind of research in a post... if the sites are unsatisfactory I'd start with an Islamic book store for an in depth interpretation..
thank you


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04-26-2007, 06:47 PM
Purest Ambrosia - The links you provided have the same limitations as the prior link. I am very much in your debt for your efforts however. It is not that I am beyond the superficial histories, but they simply do not contain much depth.

Thank you very much for all that you have done for me in trying to help me.


04-26-2007, 06:50 PM
I am sorry I couldn't be more of help... I enjoy the sincerity in your quest.. May Allah guide you unto the path of the righteous and point you in the direction where you can receive the answers you seek


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