I was recently asked to compile a narrative for the life of one of the greatest Prophets to ever step foot on earth, one who is named as, The Father of the Prophet, in Arabic he is named Ibrahim and also Abraham, in the Bible he is known as Abraham Upon Him be the Eternal Peace and Mercy of God.
Here is will not mention his entire story as it is told to us in the Qur’an but just highlight a few things which came up during my research and discussions with Shaykh Kehlan.
What is perhaps most difficult in compiling an account of Prophet Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) is the fact that he was always moving, and the Qur’an by its nature and style of language does not document the narratives of Prophets as a historical account. The Qur’an focuses upon giving us what we need to know, the lessons which can be derived from the stories and the knowledge we need to take heed and become better worshippers of Allah and the guidance require to take us from this world to the gates of Paradise in the next life.
I began by reading as much as I could from the well-known sources and chose to use Ibn Kathirs book al-Bidayah wa-Nihayah (The Beginning and The End) as a basis due to his use of hadith and selection of opinions. However it quickly became evident that not only was Ibn Kathir unsure but many scholars were posing suggestion as to where exactly Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) was located when specific events took place.
Having compiled what I could I decided to head to my teacher Shaykh Kehlan to get some clarity and discuss what was going on. We sat for around 1 to 2 hours checking the other sources and comparing the statements of the Muslim Historians to achieve an understanding of the places Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) had visited and a chronological understanding of His (‘Alayhi Salam) life.
I won’t present all the research and opinions but give the upshot of what we feel took place in the blessed of this great Messenger (‘Alayhi Salam).
Ibn Kathir and others such as Ibn Athir and al-Waqiti suggest that Ibrahim ‘Alayhi Salam was born in the city of Ur which was south of Iraq towards the boarded which it currently shares with Saudi Arabia. This is where he argued with his father and also where the fire was built into which he was thrown and saved by Allah.
After the fire he left his people and went to Babylon where he debated with the King who controlled that area and Ur along with the ancient city of Nimrud which still exists till today.
Having debated with the king he (‘Alayhi Salam) left to a city nearby called Harran where he debated with the people who worshipped the stars, after his discussion with them it appears he (‘Alayhi Salam) may have stayed for some time and then he (‘Alayhi Salam) left for Jerusalem which is part of the historical area known in hadith literature as ash-Sham which was also called Lebantyne by in historical English literature. Some scholars report a famine which came and destroyed the crops and left the animals almost dead forcing Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) and his wife Sarah to travel to Egypt.
It is in Egypt where most scholars agree that the King tried to harm Sarah (‘Alayha Salaam) and it was during this incident in which she was given Hagar (‘Alayha Salaam) as a slave girl which she then freed and married to Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam). Having gone through such a trauma they could not possibly have been able to stay in Egypt in peace while the King and his guards recognised Sarah and the slave girl he had just given her and so it can be deduced that they returned to Bayt al-Maqdis in Jerusalem.
It is also worth keeping in mind that travel back then was not like now, going from Jerusalem to Egypt could have taken months and so it is possible that the famine which had hit Jerusalem before had gone by now. Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) stayed in Jerusalem and it also appears from Ibn Kathir that he may have had some small business selling and trading in animals. He (‘Alayhi Salam) settled in Jerusalem with his family and was also blessed with Ismail and then he (‘Alayhi Salam) received the command to take Hagar and Ismail to Makkah where he would leave them.
Now it is worth noting that many historians state that Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) was forced to take Hagar away due to her arguing with Sarah and due to Sarahs jealousy towards Hagar having being blessed with a son. However there appears to be a contradiction between this and what we know to have taken place when Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) arrived in Makkah and left Ismail, as Hagar called out, ‘Are you leaving us here in a barren land while we have nothing with us?’ having repeated it twise and getting no response she then asked, ‘Did Allah command you to do this?’ to which Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) replied, “Yes”. Now if we accept this narration then it is clear that Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) did not leave Hagar and Ismail in Makkah due to Sarahs jealousy but due to being commanded by Allah and this would make most sense.
So Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) then leaves Hagar and Ismail in Makkah while Ismail is perhaps no older than 1, due to us knowing he was lying down crying and wanting suckling, a baby of two would have been able to run around etc.
Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) then returns to Jerusalem where it is possible that he travelled again to Makkah several times to see his son and also be just between his wives, but it is known that between 10-13 years later he was blessed with Ishaq. By this time Ismail would be around 12-14 so he is at the age when he can “Walk with his father” as the ayah tells us. It is then that Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) sees a dream and it commanded to perform the sacrifice. Having passed the test he either stays in Makkah or returns back to Jerusalem in either case he builds al-Ka’ba with Ismail and then 40 years later he built Masjid al-Aqsa with Ishaq. Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) then passed away in Bayt al-Maqdis and his exact age is not known but we do know that he attained over the age of 80 as the hadith of the Prophet (sallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) states that Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) circumcised himself when over the age of 80.
So in a sentence Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) travels can be seen as, Ur – Babylon – Harran – Bayt al-Maqdis – Egypt – Bayt al-Maqdis – Makkah – Bayt al-Maqdis – Makkah – Bayt al-Maqdis
It is also worth noting that nothing in this chapter or discussion can be proved 100% as very little to none of this is recorded in Islamic texts such as Hadith or Qur’an except that Ibrahim (‘Alayhi Salam) built al-Ka’ba and Ismail & Hagar were present when the angel brought forth for them ZamZam.