Questions and Answers > Is the Qur'an trustworthy? > Moral

Did the prophet Abraham commit any sin?

Many Muslims think that the prophets, including Abraham did not commit any sin. In the Qu’ran the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) has an exalted position. However, Qur’an mentions his sins. What were the sins of Abraham?

Context of the prophet Abraham in the Qur’an

When we read the Qur’an in a chronological way, we see a first event of Abraham in a surah with Moses (Qur’an 87:19). Second is the story of the mysterious guests of Abraham with the joyful announcement that he will get a son (Qur’an 51:24-30). In Qur’an 37, we have a look at Abraham when he was young and proclaims the unity of God. There are more testimonies about it, such as in Qur’an 6:79, 21:52-70 and 26:69-104. The stories have created Abraham a fighter for monotheism. Abraham became a model as the one who is utterly upright in all of his or her affairs with his pure monotheism, sincerity, and complete submission and obedience to God [1]. In a close relation with Allah, he is even willing to sacrifice his own son (Qur’an 37:102-108). This gives the impression that Abraham submits in a perfect way to God. Abraham is not only a prophet and patriarch, but also the model of the perfect Muslim, and the great reformer of the Kaaba in Mecca according to Islam. Sometimes he is called "Ibrahim Khalilullah" (Abraham the Beloved of God), an indication for a high position under the prophets of Islam. However, there is another side of Abraham, he made mistakes:

“And those who had envied his position the day before began to say on the morrow: "Ah! it is indeed Allah Who enlarges the provision or restricts it, to any of His servants He pleases! had it not been that Allah was gracious to us, He could have caused the earth to swallow us up! Ah! those who reject Allah will assuredly never prosper." (Qur’an 28:82)

Discovering Abraham's mistake

Muslim scholars were curious about the mistakes of Abraham. Tabari (he died in 923 AD) is one of the greatest scholars in Qur'anic explanation. In an attempt to explain the faults of Abraham, Muslim scholar Tabari asked: what were Abraham’s faults? [2] He is able to show three faults:

1. Lying by saying that he was ill

By saying: ’I am ill’ to avoid worshiping idols: “And he said, "I am indeed sick (at heart)!"” (Qur’an 37:89). It is difficult to call this a serious sin, it not a serious candidate for a big mistake.

2. Lying that God destroyed the idols

When he denied that he destroyed statues of idols, because he said God did it: “He said: "Nay, this was done by - this is their biggest one! ask them, if they can speak intelligently!"” (Qur’an 21:63). Like in the case of the first fault, it is hard to call this a lie.

3. Lying that Sar’ai was his sister

He said that Sar’ai was his sister, not his wife. This is a sin against the Law of God. Abraham should know he could trust on God’s protection, because God has been proven to be reliable to him. However, because he was afraid and did not trust God, he made a lie. This event cannot be found in the Qur’an, but in the Previous Scriptures, the Bible, in Genesis 12:11-13: “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.””.

Context of Abraham mistake

Tabari used a best practice of the early Muslim scholars to read the Bible to look for details about God’s revelations with mankind. The Bible is much bigger in size, so it gives a fuller knowledge for serious study of God’s Scriptures. The Bible also mentions another event in which Abraham lied that Sar’ai was his sister and not his wife:

“Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister. ” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.” (Genesis 20:2)

“She is my sister”: This is the same lie Abraham told back in Genesis 12:10-13. He shows that it is all too easy to slip back into sinful habits. Abraham stumbles in a place he stumbled before. Instead of trusting God to keep his marriage together, he came with his own ideas. So Abraham lied. He broke a commandment of the Law of Moses: "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16). Abraham repeated making sin. Therefore the Muslim scholar Tabari concludes: Abraham committed sin by lying about his wife Sarah.

Conclusion

Abraham is one of the greatest prophets in the Qur’an. However he showed to be a human being by doing sin. Therefore he cannot come on the level of Jesus who never sinned (Qur’an 19:19). Abraham committed sin by lying about his wife Sarah. The Qur’an refers to the Bible in many verses and a detailed explanation of the sin of Abraham is given in the Bible.

Notes

  1. John L. Esposito (ed), The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford Islamic Studies Online, 2021.
  2. Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, Al-Qasas 28:82.

Comments

Join Our Community

Follow Questions and Answers that matter to you and connect with those who share your interests. Learn from the experts in our community and ask, comment, and connect.