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Monday, June 24, 2024

Such a father and such a mother for such a son

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Fafa Edrissa M’Bai was born in 1942 in Sambang Tuba Wollof village, Niamina Dankunku, in the MacCarthy Island Division of The Gambia, some 150 miles from the capital, Banjul. After village school, he went to Armitage High School in Georgetown, the divisional capital, and on graduation, he worked as a civil servant in Banjul. In 1970, he proceeded to England to study law at Keele and London Universities, where he graduated with BA (Combined Honours) in Law and Political Science in July 1974, an LLB (Honours) in August 1974 and was called to the Bar at The Middtetemple in November 1975. He was also awarded the M.A. Degree in Politics in December 1975. He returned to Banjul in April 1976 to alternately take up an appointment as Magistrate and State Counsel before he turned to private practice in 1979. From 1982 to 1984, he was The Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, a position he reoccupied in the second Republic. A prolific writer, an avid reader and an excellent public speaker, Fafa is the author of several published articles. He still has a number of his book-length manuscripts ready for publication. One of his books, ln the Service of My Beliefs, has been published along with this one. Several of his children have studied Law and Accountancy at Universities in England. One is a very senior lawyer in the Judiciary, one is a recognised international lawyer, and another has been a legal counsel of a prestigious bank in The Gambia.

This is an excerpt of the book under publication.


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1. Allah, the Creator

Before anything was created, there had to be a Creator.  This Creator had to be an Eternal Being without beginning or end and nothing could be like this Creator.  This Unique Being, Whom the Qur’an calls Allah the Lord, is the Only Supreme Being worthy of worship.

Allah the Almighty states this about Himself: He is Allah than Whom there is La ilaha illa Huwa (none who has the right to be worshipped but He), the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen (open). He is the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. He is Allah than Whom there is La ilaha illa Huwa (none who has the right to be worshipped but He), the King, the Holy, the One Free from all defects, the Giver of security, the Watcher over His creatures, the Al-Mighty, the Compeller, the Supreme. Glory be to Allah! (High is He) above all that they associate as partners with Him. He is Allah the Creator, the Inventor of all things, the Bestower of forms. To Him belong the Best Names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorify Him. And He is the Al-Mighty, the All-Wise: (Surah 59(Al-Hashr) verses 22-24.)

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When Allah the Most High decided to create the earth, sun, planets, stars, and galaxies—those that are known and unknown to us—He commanded: “Be!” and they were. Almighty Allah said: Verily, His Command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, “Be!”—and it is! (Surah 36 (Ya’sin) verse 82.)

As for the method of creation, it is unknown to us except what Allah revealed: “Allah it is He Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them in six days.” (Surah 32 (Al-Sajdah) verse 4.)

These six days are calculated as Allah the Almighty’s days. This means they are unlike our days on Earth, as we count the day according to the Earth’s rotation once around its axis and the year according to its orbit around the sun. Perhaps these six days are thousands of years, or even millions of centuries, by our calculation nowadays, or perhaps they are more or less than that.  They might be something different by Allah’s reckoning.

Allah told us that He created the heavens, the earth, and everything between them in six days, then established Himself on the throne of the universe.  Everything submits to His will; everything is indebted to Him; everything prostrates and shows reverence to Almighty Allah. He controls the working of everything, and everything needs Him. He is the One Who needs nothing and no one, but everything and everyone needs Him. All was complete. Allah the Almighty’s will have been accomplished. The universe was created and prostrated to Him as a symbol of its need and desire for sustenance and submission to His will.

2. The Symbol of Goodness

The angels are among the best and most venerable of Allah’s creatures. They are of various orders, each with its noble mission accomplished with immaculate perfection. Among the angels are those whose mission is to communicate with human beings.  One of these conveys Allah’s messages to humanity through His prophets, and that is Gabriel (Jibreel), the chief of the angels in the heavens and the symbol of goodness.

Allah the Almighty called him “the trustworthy”: And truly, this (the Qur’an) is a revelation from the Lord of the Alamin (mankind, jinn, and all that exists), which the trustworthy Ruh (Gabriel) has brought down upon your heart (O Muhammad) that you may be (one) of the warners. (Surah 26 (Al-Shu’ara) verses 192-194.)

3. The Symbol of Evil

Along with the angels, Allah has created the jinn.  They are part of the Ghaib (the unseen) and have no visible or tangible bodies. This is the only similarity between them and the angels. The angels and the Jinn are totally different even in the stuff they are made of, for Allah created the former from light and the latter from fire.

The angels are Allah’s soldiers who are created to worship Him and to realise His commands in the universe. They are pure and absolutely good. As for the jinn, they are assigned a certain nature: some of them are good, while others are corrupt.

It is revealed in the Qur’an that a small group of jinn had listened to the Qur’an. Some of their words are revealed therein: “There are among us some that are righteous, and some the contrary; we are groups each having a different way (religious sect etc.). And of us some are Muslims (who have submitted to Allah after listening to this Qur’an) and of us some are Al Qaasitun (disbelievers, those who have deviated from the Right Path); And whosoever has embraced Islam (i.e., have become Muslim by submitting to Allah), then such have sought the right path.” (Surah 72 (Al-Jinn) verses 11, 14-15.)

One of the notorious names among the jinn is that of Iblis (Satan), who was standing with the angels when they received a command to prostrate to Adam. When Iblis refused to prostrate, he became a symbol of evil in the universe.

Allah the Almighty revealed: And (remember) when We said to the angels: “Prostrate to Adam.” So, they prostrated except Iblis. He was one of the jinn; he disobeyed the Command of his Lord. (Surah 18 (Al Kahf) verse 50.)

 4. Allah’s Prophets

Allah’s prophets are His messengers to humanity.  Their essence is human, and they are the purest of human beings. Allah sent each prophet as a warner to his community until the advent of the final prophet, Muhammad (SAW), who came as a mercy to all of Allah’s creatures. Allah the Almighty declared: And we have sent you (O, Muhammad) not but as a mercy for the Aalamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists).  (Surah 21 (Al-Anbiya) verse 107.)

The prophets and messengers have different levels and degrees. Allah the Almighty stated: Those messengers!  We preferred some to others; to some of them Allah spoke (directly); others, He raised to degrees (of honour). (Surah 2 (Al-Baqarah) verse253.)

Despite the difference in degrees of prophets in the sight of Allah the Exalted, Muslims are commanded to respect them all and not to discriminate among them.

Allah the Exalted said: Each one [of the believers] believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. They say, “We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers” – and they say, “We hear and we obey.” (We seek) Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the return (of all). (Surah 2 (Al-Baqarah) verse 285.)

Before approaching the wonderfully exciting life of the Prophet Ibrahim, one of the six great Prophets (SAW) to whom Allah (SWT) delivered special laws, and the account of his overwhelmingly successful struggle to fulfil against heavy odds the mission with which his Lord entrusted him, and to whom were revealed twenty portions (SahFah) of Scripture, it is necessary to have an overview of the nature of prophethood and human history in general.

To start with it is necessary to jettison the commonly held modern superstition that we have now reached the summit of a slow and laborious process of evolution in the course of which the human creature somehow emerged out of a remote bestial past into a savage pre-human and then into the supposedly “advanced”, “civilized” creature of this time. As with many superstitions of this kind, quite the reverse is true.

The earth’s surface was made ready to receive the human being, which happened in several clearly defined stages. The human creature was created complete and perfect and with a different function to anything else. Everything else was created to fulfil a limited defined role in creation in unconscious submission to the complex network of laws that governed its existence. The human being on the other hand, by faculties not present in any other creature, has the capacity to comprehend existence and therefore by extension worship the Creator of the universe. Human beings were created to recognize and worship their Creator and Lord. That is why we are here. Everything else was created to make this possible.

However, it is like things that human beings are prone to lose sight of their true nature and fall prey to a short-sighted absorption in the world that surrounds them, becoming virtually indistinguishable from animals and occasionally considerably worse. But because Allah is inexhaustibly merciful and desires the best for His creatures, human history was punctuated by the expression of that mercy in the form of Messengers and Prophets from Allah to His human creatures. These were men inspired directly by Allah Himself to recall their fellow men to the Truth, reminding them that the worship of Allah is the cornerstone of their existence, and restoring the harmonious and just social situation is the inevitable outcome when human beings live in tune with their real nature.

Not one human community was left without guidance and the stories of those who brought and re-brought this guidance from their Lord – a guidance which was in each case essentially the same but which varied in certain respects according to the particular time and place – follow a largely predictable pattern. They appear in communities which had either not previously received revealed guidance or who had received it in the past and then neglected it and fell into decadence.  Their call to their fellows was largely ignored and frequently ridiculed since they affirmed the power of Allah which is invisible against the power structure of their society which was all that was manifest to their people.

In the face of continual opposition, frequently accompanied by physical persecution, they persevered in their task of delivering Allah’s message that there is no God except Him and that justice and harmony in human society are only possible when this is recognised and put into practice, following the example of the Messenger and those who were sent before him. After a time, they usually succeeded in gathering around them a larger or smaller group of followers, often from among the poor and oppressed in their society. Finally in the face of the continuing obduracy of those who opposed them, they were inspired to deliver warnings of the inevitable destruction of those who stand against the power of Allah. This was generally too little avail with the result that that society was wiped out except for the Messenger and his band of followers who survived to form the basis of a new community.

In its turn, this new community expanded and flourished under the guidance of the Messenger and his immediate successors until it, in its turn, went the way of the previous communities into decline and decadence. Then once more another Prophet would be sent and the story repeats itself again. This cycle of renewal, growth and decay occurring in conjunction with the appearance of envoys from Allah mirroring as it does all natural processes, is the true picture of human history. There is no steady unbroken line of “evolution”, “progress” or advancement as the modern myth makers would have us believe. Rather there have been a great number of these human cycles, some simple and unpretentious, others of unbelievable complexity and sophistication, stretching right back to the very beginning of the human story.

The number of those sent by Allah in the course of the span of human history to bring His guidance and re-imbue human communities with justice and moral parameters is certainly very great and reckoned by some traditional authorities to be 124,000. It is obviously beyond the scope of this or any work to enumerate all of them, but it would be useful to look briefly at those who form, as it were, the landmarks of human history as we know it. This will enable us to see the story of the Prophet Ibrahim in the perspective to which it belongs. These pivotal human beings around whom the whole human story revolves are Adam, Noah, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa and Muhammad, peace be upon all of them.

Adam was the first man, the first prophet, and the progenitor of the whole human race. His story contains and prefigures the story of his descendants.  The story of Adam is the story of the unfolding of the human creature. The important part of Adam’s story is not his fall from the Garden. The important part of his story is his regaining the Mercy of Allah by means of the faculty of language and knowledge of the “Names” with which his Lord had endowed him.

The fall was the necessary manifestation of the frailty of human nature, the process of veiling which must necessarily take place if guidance is to be gained. In this lies the whole secret and indeed the whole point of human existence.

Noah marks the end of the first people, the ancients, and at the same time his story demonstrates in an archetypal way the prophetic pattern referred to above.  He called his people to the truth for nine and a half centuries and was ignored and mocked by them. In the end his guidance took the physical form of the ark and he was literally entrusted with the reintroduction of human life, and animal life for that matter, to the surface of the earth. The people of his time were totally destroyed by the flood while he and his family and those who followed him by virtue of the guidance, he received from his Lord floated free and began literally all over again.

Ibrahim, who is the subject of this study, also plays a vital part in the human story. The people of his time had once more become completely engrossed in and blinded by material existence until there was no one left practising pure worship of Allah. He was chosen by Allah and inspired directly by Him with a true understanding of the nature of the universe until he gained certain knowledge of the one God who is the Creator and Sustainer of everything in existence.  He was the one chosen by Allah to bring back to the earth the knowledge of the Unity of Allah and he is the father both literally and metaphorically of all surviving true religious traditions. Literally because many of those who upheld and defended this Unitarian belief, including both Isa and Muhammad, were his direct descendants, and metaphorically because all teachings contained in the Unitarian doctrine stem from his reaffirmation of Allah’s unity.

The story of Musa is again of immense significance for us as people of this time. In his confrontation with the monolithic power structure of Pharaonic Egypt there are many vital lessons for us, since the system which confronts us today is based on exactly the same principles. Much insight into our own situation can be gained from examining the details of the encounter between Musa and Fir’awn (Pharaoh). The second half of Musa’s story deals with his relationship with his people, the BanuIsra’il. In the picture of these people which emerges from this story lies the key to the situation existing in the world today. The Jews’ excessive love of this world, epitomised by their making of the Golden Calf and their desire for what they had left in Egypt, has stayed with them throughout their chequered history, and their tireless search for power in the world is largely responsible for the political and economic landscape of our time.  It could be said that Musa marks the beginning of the modern and final age.

Isa was the last of the prophets sent to the BanuIsra’il.  He scaled the prophetic descent from Ibrahim in that line. His real function was to revive and purify the teaching of Musa among the Banu Isra’el but, as we know, after this already perverted version of the prophethood of Isa had been subjected to Greek philosophical principles and Roman pragmatism, it was far removed from its original purity. It was nevertheless based on the prophetic model. From the story of the prophet Isa, we can clearly see how the prophetic inspiration forms the basis of social renewal and how at the same time it becomes corrupted and in need of rejuvenation.

The final renewal of the prophetic tradition was the function of the last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (SAW), and it is in this perspective of constantly renewed Divine guidance that we must view the story of Muhammad’s life. It was not an isolated event but rather the culmination of a lengthy series of constantly renewed Divine Revelations. The finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (SAW) makes it, of course, relevant to us in a way that is not the case in any of the previous revelations, since by virtue of its lastness it contains the final instructions from the Creator to His creatures. Because of this, Allah has ensured that it has remained accessible to us in every detail both as regards the actual revealed Book, the Noble Qur’an, and as regards the implementation of the revelation in the life of Muhammad and His Companions. For this reason, a study of this extraordinary story is necessary for all who want to know their place in human history and to know what a human being really is and how to become one.

5. Ibrahim Khalilu’Llah

And make mention (O Muhammad) in the scripture of Ibrahim. Lo! He was a saint, a prophet: (Surah 19 (Maryam) verse 41.)

Ibrahim is the father of the prophets and the great grandfather of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (SAW), through the progeny of Isma’il, who is the son of Ibrahim. Allah favoured Ibrahim with unique characteristics and virtues. He made him the father of the prophets, the leader of the pious, and an example for the messengers. He selected him from among all the prophets and messengers for honour and rectitude.  He is the Khalil al-Rahman (the close friend of the Merciful) and from him descended all the prophets. All the prophets of the Israelites are his offspring through the children of Ya`qub, who is the son of Ishaq, who is the son of Ibrahim. The tree of prophethood branches out from Ibrahim. Allah says:

And We bestowed on him Ishaq and Ya`qub, and We established the prophethood and the scripture among his seed, and we gave him his reward in the world, and lo! in the hereafter he verily is among the righteous: (Surah 29 (Al-Ankabut) verse 27.)

The Khalil of Allah was subjected to different kinds of tests and put to a variety of trials, but he was patient.  His faith was like the firmly fixed mountains. He was not shaken or unsettled or moved to debility and weakness. The severest of all his tests was when he was ordered to sacrifice his son, Isma`il. But in this test he showed himself to be an exemplar of servitude, obedience and submission to the orders of Allah. Therefore, Allah made him an example for the prophets; rather he made him a nation. Allah says:

Lo! Ibrahim was a nation obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not the Idolaters.  (Surah 16 (Al-Nahl) verse 120.)

It is not strange that Allah praises him highly, for he was the father of the prophets, the leader of the pious, and the symbol of faith. He was put to trial and was patient; he was given victory and gave thanks. He was a faithful slave and, therefore, Allah chose him as His Khalil:

Allah (himself) chose Ibrahim for Khalil (Surah 4 (Al-Nisa) verse 125.).

6. Ibrahim Father of the Guests

Ibrahim was given the nickname, “Father of the Guests.” This title came to him because of his many guests, for Ibrahim was kind and hospitable. He served generously whoever came to him. He would slaughter sheep and livestock for his guests. Ibn Jarir narrates that As-Sadi said: “Ibrahim had a lot of food and he used to feed and entertain the people.” The Noble Qur’an mentions his hosting the angels who came to destroy the people of Lut. They visited Ibrahim to give him glad tidings of a son. When he saw them, he thought they were men. He rushed to his family, slaughtered a calf, roasted it and offered it to them but they did not eat. He looked at them with curiosity and fear until they told him they were angels. Allah says:

Has the story of Ibrahim’s honoured guests reached you (O Muhammad)? When they came in unto him and said: Peace! He answered: Peace (and thought): Folk unknown (to me). Then he went apart unto his family so that they brought a fatted calf. And he set it before them, saying: Will you not eat? Then he conceived a fear of them.  They said: Fear not! and gave him tidings of (the birth of) a wise son. (Surah 51 (Al-Dhariyat) verses 24-28.)

7. Ibrahim’s Invitation to His Father, Azar

The Noble Qur’an narrates Ibrahim’s call to his father, a pagan who worshipped idols.  His father had the most right to Ibrahim’s sincere advice; therefore, he spared no effort in reminding and advising his father, even frightening him over Allah’s punishment. In his invitation to his father, Ibrahim was the example of an obedient son who wanted nothing but good for the dearest person to him; he was not harsh in his speech or berating. He addressed him with the utmost respect and dignity and argued with him using the kindest words and the best counsel.  He explained to him the irrationality of worshipping idols and images, which neither harm nor benefit their devotee in any way. He reminded his father that these idols cannot ward off evil from them or draw good to themselves, so how can they be expected to help or protect others? But his father did not accept this advice and paid no attention to the logic of his arguments and proofs; rather he persisted in his error and rejection.  He threatened his son with death and beatings if he continued to say unfavourable and evil things about his supposed gods. Allah says in Surat Maryam:

And make mention (O Muhammad) in the scripture of Ibrahim. Lo! He was a saint, a prophet. When he said unto his father: O my father! Why worship you that which hears not nor sees, nor can in anything avail you? O my father!

Lo! There has come unto me of knowledge that which came not unto you. So follow me, and I will lead you on a right path. O my father! Serve not the devil. Lo! I fear lest a punishment from the Beneficent overtake you so that you become a comrade of the devil. He said: Reject you my gods, O Ibrahim? If you cease not, I shall surely stone you. Depart from me a long while! He said:  Peace be unto you! I shall ask forgiveness of my Lord for you. Lo! He was ever gracious unto me.  (Surah 19 (Maryam) verses 41-47.)

Ibrahim asked for forgiveness for his father, as he promised him, and sought his Lord for His pardon and favour, saying: “And forgive my father for he was from those astray.” Ibrahim’s plea for forgiveness was in the hope that his father would accept faith. But when his father’s persistence on paganism and idol worship and his deep-rooted enmity for the religion of Allah became apparent, Ibrahim cut himself off from his father and broke off ties with him, Allah says:

Ibrahim’s prayer for his father’s forgiveness was only because of a promise he had made to him, but when it had become clear to him that he (his father) was an enemy to Allah, he (Ibrahim) disowned him. Lo! Ibrahim was soft of heart, long suffering. (Surah 9 (Al-Tawbah) verse 114.)

In this is a profound lesson for the people of faith and conviction, to follow the perfect and beautiful path of the prophets. Ibrahim washed his hands off his father just as Noah cut off relations with his son. This is the perfection of faith, for there is no bond holier and greater than the brotherhood of religion—the bond of religion is above the bond of kingship. These are perfect examples of the prophetic mission Allah says:

There is a saintly pattern for you in Ibrahim and those with him, when they told their folk: Lo!  We are guiltless of you and all that you worship beside Allah. We have done with you. And there has arisen between us and your hostility and hate forever until you believe in Allah only save that which Ibrahim promised his father (when he said): I will ask forgiveness for you, though I own nothing for You from Allah—Our Lord! In You we put our trust, and unto You we turn repentant, and unto You is the journeying. (Surah 60 (Al Muntahanah) verse 4.)

Is this not indisputable proof of the truth of the Khalil’s faith? Doesn’t cutting off the father and openly declaring enmity confirm the break between the father and his son? Isn’t that when the bond of faith between father and son disappears? There is nothing strange in this because Ibrahim, the Khalil, is the father of the prophets, who set the most marvellous example of true faith and conviction; therefore, he is entitled to be The Khalil of the Merciful.

8. Ibrahim’s Early Life among His People

Ibrahim grew up amid a corrupt environment.  The ruler was a despotic king named Namrudh bin Kan’an. He saw the reign of power in Babel when its people were living in luxury and security, except that they were lost in the darkness of paganism and idolatry. They carved idols with their own hands and made them lords besides Allah.

When Namrudh saw himself as the absolute ruler with total power and sovereignty, and the people around him wandering astray in ignorance, he declared himself a god and called the people to worship him. Their idol worship and their ignorance of God’s qualities made him feel justified in this false claim. The idols did not hear or see and did not bring benefit or harm; they did not think, perceive, feel or have any knowledge; they did not bring the people any good or ward off evil from them. So why couldn’t Namrudh be a god? He was more entitled to be a god than the stones   they worshipped besides Allah.

Allah gave Ibrahim understanding and guided him to the truth, so he perceived through his sound intellect and his deep reflection that Allah, the Highest, was the One and only, who does not beget nor is begotten, and Who is the protector of the creation and the Sovereign of the universe. He knew that the idols   they worshipped and the statues they carved did not benefit them in any way. Therefore, he decided to free his people from paganism, and to save them from blind ignorance.

Ibrahim’s heart overflowed with faith in his Lord, filled with conviction and trust in Allah’s promise of victory. Though convinced of what Allah revealed to him about the unseen and matters of faith, he wanted to increase in certitude, faith and conviction in the power of Allah, the Mighty and the Great. So, he asked his Lord to show him the clear signs of resurrection and give him a glimpse. He asked his Lord to show him how He brings the dead to life and resurrects the dead after the obliteration of the body. His Lord responded to him:

He said: Do you not believe? He said: Yes, but I want to set my heart at rest. (Surah 2 (Al-Baqarah) verse 26.)

Ibrahim believed and accepted but his soul longed to be a first-hand witness. He wanted to see the wonders of Allah’s power, to witness the details of the creation and its construction, to set his heart at rest, and to increase his conviction. Allah answered his request and ordered him to take four birds and tame them so that he might know all their parts and study their shapes. Allah then ordered him to slaughter them, cut them into pieces, and scatter them. He had to put on every mountain some of the mixed-up parts of the birds. Allah instructed him that when he called the birds to him, they would come rushing to him by Allah’s order. Each piece joined its counterparts when he called the birds to come to him. The dead pieces returned to their places, after which life quickly returned to them and they rushed to him, by the power of Allah, while he was looking at the manifest signs of His creation and invention. Glory be to the one who when He desires a thing says to it “Be!” and it is.

(His Lord) said: Take four birds and cause them to incline unto you, then place a part of them on each hill, then call them, they will come to you in haste. And know that Allah is Mighty, Wise.

9. Ibrahim’s Debate with His People

Ibrahim persevered in calling to Allah and continued to remind his clan and family to return to Allah. He called his people but they were hostile and mocked his mission. He was merciful and kind, obedient and godly, and he did not want to leave them wandering astray. He resolved to remove these false beliefs from them and to return them to right guidance, even if he had to suffer persecution at their hands or put his life in danger.

Ibrahim was intelligent and wise; he knew that argument and proof are but two words: Even if he made them as plain as the morning light, they could not cause anything good to grow in a barren land if they were not accompanied by reflection and recognition.  Therefore, he wanted to connect the people’s sight with their minds, their senses with their souls. Perhaps that would turn them away from their error and cause them to realize their idiocy in worshipping stones.

During a big day of celebration, it was the custom of his people to go out of the town, spending the day in amusement and entertainment. On one of these occasions, they requested him to accompany them.  Seeing an opportunity to destroy their gods, he pretended to be sick. When they had left and he was alone with their idols, he started to slap and kick them and then he picked up an axe and pounced on them. He reduced them to rubble, scattering pieces everywhere. However, he did not break the biggest idol. He left it to be proof against the others. He hung the axe around its neck.

His clan returned from their celebration and, as was their custom, went directly to their temple to fulfil their devotions to the idols. But they were horrified by what they saw when they entered the temple. Pieces of their gods were scattered all over the temple floor.  They felt disgrace and humiliation. They shouted out with one voice that shook the whole earth. They exclaimed: “Who did this to our gods? Verily he is a transgressor.”

They remained silent for a while, perplexed and in a stupor, in front of the shattered gods. Then a voice cried out from amongst them, reminding them of the threat Ibrahim had made against their idols.  “They said we heard a young man mentioning them, called Ibrahim.” He must be the destroyer of the idols.  The people were determined to inflict the severest punishment on him for what his hands had done, and to make him an example to others. It was announced that he would be brought in front of the people so that they could witness what he said and so that they could see the severe punishment that befell him.

Undoubtedly, gathering all the people on one plain was Ibrahim’s desire. By this gathering he planned to prove to them the falsehood of that which they were devoted to. The delegations arrived in great numbers, the crowd grew, all wishing to take revenge on him, all yearning to see his punishment. Their hearts were thirsty for revenge. Into the middle of this teeming crowd, they brought him and started his trial.

10. Ibrahim is Brought to Trial

Ibrahim was brought to trial and everyone was eager to witness the debate. The first question put to him was: “Did you do this to our gods, O Ibrahim?” Ibrahim was wise and intelligent; he intended to move the trial in another direction to achieve his goal and convey his message regardless of the outcome.  He drew them through wisdom to an answer they did not expect. He forced them to accept his argument so that they might perhaps return to the right path. Ibrahim said:

Rather this, the biggest of them did it. Ask them if they could speak. (Surah 21 (Al-Anbiya) verse 63.)

With this cogent argument he roused them from their forgetfulness. They turned to each other and started to blame each other, saying: “You are the ones who are the wrongdoers.” You left them with no one to guard them and no watchman over them, so someone who does not believe in them smashed them. Then they were overtaken by bewilderment, became tongue-tied, and bowed their heads in reflection. Then they addressed Ibrahim: “You know that these do not speak. These idols do not answer questions or hear speech, so how do you order us to ask them when they are inanimate and deaf stones.” Ibrahim’s argument became apparent when they admitted the powerlessness of the gods and their inability to know

what happened around them. They acknowledged that they lacked all power to defend themselves against aggression or ward off attackers. He saw an opportunity to convince them with sound and accurate logic. He started to reproach them for their ignorance and to rebuke them for holding firm to falsehood after the truth had become manifest.

He said: Worship you then instead of Allah that which cannot profit you at all, nor harm you? Fie on you and all that you worship instead of Allah!  Have you then no sense? (Surah 21 (Al-Anbiya) verses 66-67.)

When they were defeated, they feared that their condition would be exposed. There remained no pretext for argument, so they were forced to hide their defeat and conceal their falsehood. They said, “Burn him and assist your gods if you have to do something.”


Fafa Edrissa M’Bai was born in 1942 in Sambang Tuba Wollof village, Niamina Dankunku, in the MacCarthy Island Division of The Gambia, some 150 miles from the capital, Banjul. After village school, he went to Armitage High School in Georgetown, the divisional capital, and on graduation, he worked as a civil servant in Banjul. In 1970, he proceeded to England to study law at Keele and London Universities, where he graduated with BA (Combined Honours) in Law and Political Science in Jssuly 1974, an LLB (Honours) in August 1974 and was called to the Bar at The Middtetemple in November 1975. He was also awarded the M.A. Degree in Politics in December 1975. He returned to Banjul in April 1976 to alternately take up an appointment as Magistrate and State Counsel before he turned to private practice in 1979. From 1982 to 1984, he was The Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, a position he reoccupied in the second republic. A prolific writer, an avid reader and an excellent public speaker, Fafa is the author of several published articles. He still has a number of his book-length manuscripts ready for publication. One of his books, ln the Service of My Beliefs, has been published along with this one. Several of his children have studied Law and Accountancy at Universities in England. One is a very senior lawyer in the Judiciary, one is a recognised international lawyer, and another has been a legal counsel of a prestigious bank in The Gambia.

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