Abraham in Islam

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Abraham prepares his son for the sacrifice, Gabriel intervenes at the last moment. Illustration from a Turkish manuscript from the 16th to 17th centuries. century

Abraham , Arabic Ibrāhīm ( Arabic ابراهيم), is considered one of the most important prophets in Islam and the founder of the monotheistic cult on the Kaaba in Mecca . He is mentioned by name 69 times in 25 suras of the Koran , the 14th sura is named after him. The common nickname of Abraham is "friend of God" ( Ḫalīl Allāh ). It goes back to Sura 4: 125 , where it says that God made Abraham a friend.

Abraham in the Koran

Koranic statements

Even in the Koran, Abraham's name appears consistently as Ibrāhīm, but there was also a different reading from Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī , according to which the name was pronounced as Ibrāhām .

In the suras of the Meccan period it is described how Abraham became the proclaimer of the monotheistic faith, against the resistance of his father Azar, whose idols he destroyed ( Sura 6 : 74; Sura 21 : 52–58; Sura 37 : 88–96). Thereupon he is thrown into the fire by his own people, but saved in a miraculous way (Sura 21: 68f., See Balıklıgöl ). This miracle causes some of the countrymen, including Lot ( Sura 29 : 26), to convert to faith in God. It is also Abraham who asked God to make Mecca a protected place so that his descendants, as future inhabitants of the sterile area, can find their livelihood under the protection of God's peace ( Sura 14 : 35-41). Similar to Genesis , in Sura 37: 101-107 it is reported that Abraham was subjected to a severe test by God when he was instructed to sacrifice his son. When Abraham shows his willingness to make this sacrifice, God intervenes; Abraham's son is replaced by a sacrifice (37: 107).

In the suras of the Medina period, Abraham becomes the prototype of the new religious community. In several passages from the Koran from this period there is an invitation to follow the religion of the "community of Abraham" ( millat Ibrāhīm ) (cf. e.g. Sura 2: 130; 4: 125). It is emphasized that Abraham was not a Jew, a Christian or a Mushrik , but a Muslim and Hanīf who recognized long before Mohammed that there is only one God (cf. Sura 3:67; 95). The Qibla's realignment away from Jerusalem to the ancient Arabic sanctuary in Mecca could also be justified with the Koranic passages relating to Abraham . It is explained that Abraham and his son Ishmael built the foundations of this “house” (Sura 2: 127). This Meccan sanctuary is referred to in two places in the Qur'an (2: 125; 3:97) as the "standing place of Abraham" ( maqām Ibrāhīm ). In sura 22 : 26f, Abraham is asked to call on people to hajj so that they can come to him from everywhere on foot or on camels.

Religious historical background

In the older research on the Koranic Abrahamic narratives, the main focus was on the proof of a literary dependence of the Koran on the biblical tradition; today comparative comparisons tend to work out the different intentions of biblical and Koranic preaching in their respective historical context. Apart from religious Jewish, Islamic etc. traditions there is no historical evidence of the existence of an Abraham.

The statements that can be found in the Koran about Abraham are partly based on ideas that were associated with this figure in pre-Islamic Arabia. In verses narrated by ʿAbd al-Muttalib ibn Hāschim , the grandfather of Muhammad, it says:

Naḥnu ahlu Llāhi fī baldati-hī
lam yazal ḏāka ʿalā ʿahdi (A) braham

We are the people of Allah in his city,
this still applies after the covenant of Abraham

There was also the concept of a monotheistic religion of Abraham ( dīn Ibrāhīm ) among the Hanīp circles , which was contrasted with the pagan idolatry that was prevalent in these cities and which was believed to have been transmitted directly from Abraham through Arab ancestors . The Hanīf Zaid ibn ʿAmr claimed to be the only one among the Quraish who had adhered to this "religion of Abraham". He prayed towards the Kaaba and saw it as a structure built by Abraham and Ishmael. Some traditions even describe him as the mentor of Muhammad. But Abū ʿĀmir ar-Rāhib, a Hanif opponent of Muhammad in Medina, saw himself as a follower of the "religion of Abraham". He accused Mohammed of having falsified this religion through innovations.

The rules of Fitra

In the Qur'an it is reported that God put Abraham to the test "with words" ( bi-kalimāt ), and after Abraham had fulfilled them, God made him Imam of men (Sura 2: 124). In Islam, this is linked to the idea of ​​certain norms that were already introduced into Islam by Abraham. There are different statements about the number and type of these norms about which Abraham was asked by God. According to a tradition that is traced back to ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAbbās via Hanasch , there are a total of ten norms. Six of them concern the human being, namely shaving the pubic hair , circumcision , plucking the armpit hair , cutting the fingernails, cutting the mustache and the washing on Friday , the others concern the rites ( mašāʿir ) during the pilgrimage , namely the tawaf , running between Safa and Marwa, throwing stones in Mina and pouring out ( ifāda ) from the plain of ʿArafat on the evening of the 9th Dhu l-hijjah . These rules are also known as the Sunan al-Fitra ("Rules of Fitra ").

The controversy over Abraham's son

In contrast to the Bible ( Gen 22  EU ), the name of the son whom Abraham wants to sacrifice is not mentioned in the Koran. Until the early 8th century, following the biblical account, it was generally assumed that it was Isaac , the progenitor of the Jews. In the time of the caliph ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (ruled 717-720) the idea was first raised that this son must be Ishmael, the progenitor of the Arabs. It was argued, among other things, that sura 37 first mentions the intended sacrifice of a son of Abraham (verses 101-107) and only afterwards the announcement of the birth of Isaac (verses 112 f.). From this it was concluded that the previous report on the intended son sacrifice must refer to Ishmael. This teaching later became generally accepted in Islam.

The animal sacrificed in place of Abraham's son is still considered a model for the ritual sacrifice of cattle during the pilgrimage near Mecca and the annual Islamic Festival of Sacrifice .

Islamic Abraham Shrines

Pond of Abraham with sacred carp at the Halil Rahman Mosque in Urfa

Like the Jews , the Muslims also venerate Abraham's tomb in the city of Hebron , which is called al-Khalīl after Abraham's nickname in Arabic . Another place that Muslims associate with Abraham is Şanlıurfa in southeastern Turkey. Local legend has it that Abraham was born here and should also be burned at the stake. However, God turned the fire into water, creating a pond that is still worshiped today. Another shrine to Abraham was located in the citadel of Aleppo for a long time . The Arabic name Aleppo "Ḥalab" is also associated with a visit by Abraham to the city. Abraham is said to have milked his cattle ( ḥalaba ) on the citadel hill .

Abraham in the thinking of modern Muslims

The Egyptian writer Mahmūd derAbbās al-ʿAqqād (1889–1964) is one of those Muslim thinkers who dealt with the figure of Abraham in modern times. He published a biography of Abraham in the early 1960s entitled "Abraham, Father of the Prophets" ( Ibrāhīm, abū l-Anbiyāʾ ).


  • Khalil Athamina: "Abraham in Islamic Perspective Reflections on the Development of Monotheism in Pre-Islamic Arabia" in Der Islam 81 (2004) 184-205.
  • Martin Bauschke: The friend of God: Abraham in Islam . WBG, Darmstadt, 2014.
  • Edmund Beck: "The figure of Abraham at the turning point in the development of Muhammad" in Rudi Paret (Ed.): The Koran . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1975. pp. 111-133.
  • F. Leemhuis: "Ibrahim's sacrifice of his son in the early post-koranic tradition" in: E. Noort / EJC Tigchelaar: The sacrifice of Isaac. The Aqedah (Genesis 22) and its interpretations. Brill, Leiden 2002. pp. 125-139.
  • Reuven Firestone: "Abraham's Son as the Intended Sacrifice. Issues in Qur'anic Exegesis" in: Journal of Semitic Studies 34 (1989), 95-131.
  • Reuven Firestone: Journeys in Holy Lands. The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis . New York 1990.
  • Reuven Firestone: "Abraham's association with the Meccan sanctuary and the pilgrimage in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods" in Le Museon (1991) 365-393.
  • Youakim Moubarac: Abraham dans le Coran, l'histoire d'Abraham dans le Coran et la naissance de l'Islam; étude critique des textes coraniques suivie d'un essai sur la représentation qu'ils donnent de la religion et de l'histoire . Paris 1958.
  • Rudi Paret: Art. "Ibrāhīm" in Encyclopaedia of Islam . Second edition. Vol. III, pp. 980-981.
  • Uri Rubin: "Ḥanīfiyya and Kaʿba. An inquiry into the Arabian pre-Islamic background of dīn Ibrāhīm" in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 13 (1990) 85-112.
  • Heinrich Schützinger: Origin and development of the Arab Abraham-Nimrod legend . Bonn 1961.

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Omar Hamdan: Studies on the canonization of the Koran text. Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrīs contributions to the history of the Koran . Wiesbaden 2006. p. 13.
  2. See for example Abraham Geiger : What did Mohammed take over from Judaism? . 2nd ed. Leipzig 1902. pp. 119–37.
  3. See Johann-Dietrich Thyen: Bible and Koran. A synopsis of common traditions. Cologne 1993, pp. XVIII, 42-65.
  4. Zit after Rubin 107.
  5. See Rubin, 100-102.
  6. See Rubin, 89.
  7. Cf. at-Tabari : Taʾrīḫ . Ed. MJ De Goeje. Leiden 1879. Vol. I, p. 312.
  8. See Leemhuis: Ibrahim's sacrifice of his son in the early post-koranic tradition. 2002, pp. 125-139.
  9. Rudi Paret: Ismāʿīl in The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition Vol. IV, pp. 184a – 185a, here p. 184b.
  10. Cf. Julia Gonella: Islamic veneration of saints in an urban context using the example of Aleppo (Syria). Berlin 1995. pp. 259f.