Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi was a saint and a philosopher. He is world famous for his Masnavi, which is considered to be a divinely inspired book of poetry in six volumes. After the Quran and the Bible, it is the most widely read book in the world. The original Persian text has been translated into many languages.
Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) has been mentioned many times in the Quran. Rumi has dealt with many topics and many prophets in his Masnavi and his verses on Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) are quite interesting. Usually, a prophet is divinely guided to present a new religion, whereas a messenger clarifies the truth of earlier prophets, messengers and divine books. The Quran tells us that the parents of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) and others of their time were idol worshippers. Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) destroyed all these idols except one and was the first to declare that there was only one God and to project Islam as the true religion of Allah. Nimrod, the ruler/king became furious upon hearing that Ibrahim (AS) had destroyed their idols. He ordered his guards to light a huge fire and throw Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) into it.
After this was done, the Almighty turned that place into a lush green garden. The whole exercise propagated wehdaniat (uniqueness/oneness) of Allah. It was more than just a physical destruction of idols; it was a spiritual awakening.
The following excerpt is taken from John Baldock’s ‘The Essence of Rumi’, (Chartwell Books Inc. New Jersey, USA):
“When the mirror of your heart becomes clear and pure, you will behold images from beyond this world of water and clay. You will behold both the image and the image-maker, both the carpet of spiritual reality and the carpet-spreader. The image of the beloved is like Abraham – outwardly an idol, inwardly a breaker of idols. Thanks be to Allah that, when he appeared, the spirit (within me) beheld its own image in His image.” (Masnavi II, 72-75)
Rumi again refers to the paradox of simultaneously idol-breaking and idol-making in verses from the Divan-i-Shams Tabrizi.
“Abraham, who broke idols every year, was by day and night an idol-maker in Thy image-house” (Div. 772). “Every idol you have broken, O Abraham, receives life from the breaking” (Div. D2006).
Hazrat Ibrahim (AS)’s supreme act of idol-breaking is his total surrender to the will of Allah – his Islam – which is illustrated by his willingness to subjugate himself to the divine command and sacrifice his son, Ismael. As a matter of fact, Ibrahim (AS)’s Islam is held up as an example for others to follow and Rumi refers to it in the story of chickpeas being roasted in a pot. By encouraging the chickpeas (true believers) to allow themselves to be cooked (transformed), the cook (their guide/teacher) says to them:
“I am Abraham, you are my son. Lay your head under the knife. I saw in a vision that I must sacrifice you (Quran 37:102). Lay your head under my rigour with an easy heart, so that I may cut your throat like Ismael’s. I will cut off your head, although this head is a head unaffected by cutting and dying. Yet God’s will is that you should submit yourself. Oh Muslim, you must seek to submit yourself to Him (Allah).” (Masnavi III, 4174 – 7).
The site where Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) was planning to sacrifice Hazrat Ismail (AS) was the Kaaba, which father and son had built (Quran 2:127). According to reports, Ibrahim had lived there for a while, but for Rumi it had an inner meaning; it was the spiritual heart of a human being. It was in this context that Rumi said, in the Divan: “Like Ibrahim, I never turn away from the Kaaba – I reside in the Kaaba. I am its pillar” (Div. 1747).
Allah reminds us of the purpose of the Kaaba by saying: “We made the House (Kaaba) a place of assembly for mankind and a place of safety, (saying), take as your place of prayer the station of Ibrahim” (Quran 2:1`25).
In Fihi Mafihi, Rumi explains the outer and inner meanings of Muqam-e-Ibrahim (F44: A173 – 4/T172). But for the mystics, Hazrat Ibraham (AS)’s station means that you should throw yourself into the fire for God’s sake, thereby bringing yourself, through effort and endeavour, to this station, or close to it. He says that, to perform two rakats at Muqam-e-Ibrahim, the prayer should be such that the standing part is performed in this world and the prostration (sajda) in the other world (in the presence of Allah).
The fire to which Rumi refers here is the same fire into which Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) was thrown on the orders of the tyrannical ruler, Nimrod, after he had destroyed the idols worshipped by Nimrod’s people. But it is more than this.
“This fire is the fire of carnality, within which lies the root of sin and error. External fire may be quenched with water, the fire of carnality draws you towards hell. What is the remedy for carnality’s fire? The light of religion: it will extinguish the fire of the unbelievers. What kills this fire? The Light of God. Make the light of Abraham your master. So that your body, which can be likened to wood, may be delivered from the fire of your Nimrod-like self (Masnavi I 3697-3701).”
The negative relationship between Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) (our light-bearing aspect) and Nimrod (our ego-centred self) is echoed in Rumi’s references to the three other messengers – Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them). In the case of Moses, it was Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. In the case of Jesus, it was his donkey and for Muhammad it was Abu Jahl.