Many hundreds of years after the Flood, the valley of the Euphrates was inhabited by a people who built a great empire. One of the rulers of this empire was a tyrant and his people lived in great fear of him. This nation had ceased to worship God and worshipped idols which were housed in huge temples and were guarded by powerful priests.
Abraham was born in a town situated in the southern part of the valley of the Euphrates. Abraham’s father was one of the elders of his tribe, and commanded respect from everybody. He was a skilled craftsman and often carved the statues of the gods that the people worshipped.
Blessed with remarkable intelligence and wisdom, Abraham, even as a child, could not understand how his father could carve a statue with his own hands and then call it a god. The idea confused him and he worried about it day and night. Abrahame would watch the priests lead the people in prayer in the temple, humbly beseeching the gods for help. He would, on many occasions, ask his father, in front of all the worshippers, “Did you not make these statues with your own hands? How then can you worship them and seek their help? Such statues cannot hear or understand anything. They cannot even hear each other.”
“O my father! Why do you worship that which does not hear, nor see, nor can it help you? O my father! I have been given a knowledge which you have not been given. O my father! Serve not the devil. Lo! The devil is a rebel to the All-Merciful. O my father! Lo! I fear lest a punishment from the All-Merciful overtake you so that you become a friend of the devil”.
Embarrassed by his son’s questions, Abraham’s e father would scold him for talking so disrespectfully of the gods. But Abraham would not cease to criticise the gods, and, finally, his father said to him:
“Do you reject my gods, O Abraham? If you cease not, I shall surely stone you. Depart from me a long while”.
Having failed to convince his father, Abraham turned to the people of his tribe, urging them to change the error of their ways:
“What are these images to which you are devoted?” They said: “We found our fathers worshipping them.” He said, “Verily you and your fathers were in plain error”. They said, “Do you bring us the truth, or are you jesting?” He said, “No, but your Lord is the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth, who created them, and I am of those who testify to that.”
Seeing that gentle persuasion had no effect on his people, Abraham e decided to resort to action. A great feast was to be held outside the town on a particular day. Abraham waited until everybody had left for the feast, then he hurried to the temple carrying a large axe. Making sure that no one was nearby, he chopped off the head of one of the statues. Then, he proceeded to destroy all the statues in the temple except for the largest one on which he hung his axe.
When the feast was over, the people returned to the town. The first person to enter the temple was so horrified by the destruction of the statues that he screamed out loud. When the people saw the state of their gods, their suspicion immediately fell on Abraham. They called Abraham and asked him:
“Are you the one that did this with our gods, O Abraham?” He said, “Nay, this was done by their biggest one. Ask them if they can speak clearly!”
Abraham’s words confused them, because they knew only too well that their gods could neither hear nor speak. Angered, they answered him:
“Well, you know that these speak not. He said, worship you then besides God things that can neither be of any good to you nor do you harm? Fe on you and on the things that you worship besides God! Have you no sense?”
Thus Abraham silenced his people. But though they could not answer him, they knew that no one else could have destroyed their gods and they decided to punish Abraham by burning him. A big fire was lit in the town square, and the people were summoned to come and witness the death of the one who dared attack the gods. Abraham’s hands and feet were tied up and he was then flung into the roaring fire.
Everyone waited as the fire burnt for many hours. When it finally died down, they saw that Abraham was sitting calmly in the middle, quite unharmed by the fire. Even his clothes had no trace of ash, only the ropes tying his hands and feet had been burnt away. For God had said to the fire:
“O Fire, be coolness and peace for Abraham.”
The story of Abraham’s miraculous delivery from the fire reached the tyrant King whom everyone feared, and Abraham was summoned to appear before him. When the King asked what his God was like, Abraham replied, “My God is He who gives life and takes it away.” To this the arrogant King declared:
“I give life and cause death.”
For he could arrest any person in his kingdom and order him killed, or could free any man who was condemned to death and thus give him life. Abraham then said:
“Lo! God causes the sun to rise in the east. Can you cause it to rise from the west?”
The King had no reply to this and, angered, he dismissed Abraham. But by now, Abraham had realised that his people would never listen to the truth and he resolved to leave his homeland. Accompanied by his wife, Sarah and his nephew Lot, Abraham travelled to Syria, Palestine and Egypt.
“I will leave home for the sake of my Lord.”