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Not Ismail’s But Ibrahim’s Ax – Chilling Parallels?

Given that Cho Seung-Hui died with the words “Ismail Ax” in red ink on the inside of one of his arms and in light of his notes railing against the depravity of the world, the parallels between the Islamic parable of Ibrahim and Cho’s actions are somewhat stark.

The Prophet Ibrahim (the Jewish Abraham) who was the father of Ismail smashed his father’s idols with an ax, while calling on his decadent community to worship God instead. The citizens thereupon cast him into a fire, which miraculously failed to burn him (Qur’an 37:83–98).

The first version is from Islam City’s The Father of the Prophets:

Ibrahim confronts his people and rejects their idols

He left his father after he lost hope to convert him to the right path, and directed his efforts towards the people of the town, but they rejected his call and threatened him. By Allah, he said, I shall plot a plan to destroy their idols. He knew that a big celebration was coming soon, where everybody would leave town for a big feast on the riverbank.

After making sure that nobody was left in town, Ibrahim went towards the temple armed with an ax. Statues of all shapes and sizes were sitting there adorned with decorations. Plates of food were offered to them, but the food was untouched. “Well, why don’t you eat? The food is getting cold.” He said to the statues, joking; then with his ax he destroyed all the statues except one, the biggest of them. He hung the ax around its neck and left.

How big was the shock when the people entered the temple! They gathered inside watching in awe their gods broken in pieces. They wondered who might have done this? Then they all remembered that the young Ibrahim was talking evil of their idols. They brought him to the temple and asked him: “Are you the one who has done this to our gods?”

Ibrahim said: “No, this statue, the biggest of them has done it. Ask them if they can speak.” “You know well that these idols don’t speak!” They said impatiently. “Then how come you worship things that can neither speak nor see, nor even fend for themselves? Have you lost your minds?”

They kept silent for a while, for he got a point there. Their minds and their senses were telling them that the Truth is with Ibrahim, but their pride prevented them to accept it, and reject the idols they were worshipping for generations. This they thought would be total defeat. They started yelling at him and shouting: “Burn him! Burn him! Take revenge for your gods!”

Here is another variation of the story:

Reality of Idol Worship and Buddhism

Even though we live in the 21st century of knowledge and science, the phenomenon of idol worshipping still persist in many of the nations of the world. The Qur’an, the book of Islam, revealed in 620 CE alerts us to the fallacy involved in worshipping idols and in the story of Prophet Ibrahim (‘alaihi salam) trying to show his people how illogical is such an act of ignorance.

And recite to them the story of Ibrahim (‘alaihi salam). When he said to his father and his people “What do you worship?” They said: “We worship idols and to them we are ever devoted” He said: ” Do they hear you, when you call on (them)? Or do they benefit you or do they harm (you)?” They said: “(Nay) But we found our fathers doing so” (Holy Qur’an 26:69-74)

Ibrahim (‘alaihi salam) left his father’s house and abandoned his people and what they worshipped. He decided to do something about their state of disbelief, but did not reveal it to anyone. He knew that there was going to be a great celebration on the other bank of the river, which would be attended by all the people. Ibrahim (‘alaihi salam) waited until the city was empty, then came out cautiously directing his steps towards the temple.

Ibrahim (‘alaihi salam) went there carrying a sharp ax. He looked at the stone and wooden statues and at the food laid in front of them as offerings (dana). He approached one of the statues and asked “the food in front of you is getting cold. Why don’t you eat?” The statue kept silent and rigid. Ibrahim asked the other statues around him “Will you not eat (of the offerings before you?’ (Holy Qur’an 37:91) He was mocking them for he knew they would not eat. He once again asked them “What is the matter with you that you speak not?’ (Holy Qur’an 37:92)

He then raised his ax and started smashing the false deities worshipped by the people and by this he wanted to show his people a practical proof of their foolishness in worshipping something other than Allah, the One True God. He destroyed them all except one, on whose neck he hung the ax. When the people returned, they were shocked to see their deities smashed to pieces, lying scattered all over the temple. They began to guess who had done that to their idols, and Ibrahim’s (‘alaihi salam) name came to their minds.

They said: “Who has done this to our gods? He must indeed be one of the wrong doers”. They said: “We heard a young man talking against them, who is called Ibrahim” They said: “Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may testify” They said: “Are you the one who has done this to our gods, O Ibrahim?” Ibrahim said: “Nay, this one, biggest of them (idols) did it. Ask them if they can speak?”

So they turned to themselves and said: “You are the wrong doer” Then they turned to themselves (their first thought and said): “Indeed you (Ibrahim) know well that these (idols) speak not!” Ibrahim said: ” Do you then worship besides Allah, things that can neither profit you, nor harm you. Fie upon you, and upon that you worship besides Allah! Have you then no sense?” (Holy Qur’an 21: 59-67)

The story of Prophet Ibrahim (‘alaihi salam) and his continuous struggle against idol worship and all other forms of polytheistic practices and his enormous sacrifices to establish the worship of Allah amongst mankind needs lot more pages to explain. The following is the explanation found in the “Fundamentals of Tawheed” by Dr. A.A.B. Philips, how the idol worship found it’s way amongst the mankind.”

Granted there is no apparent Islamic connection to Mr. Cho. And it is probably foolish to speculate about the thinking behind the actions of a madman. But it’s only human to try to make some kind of sense out of such a senseless slaughter.

Put this alongside the theory that Mr. Cho might have had in mind the Ishmael Bush character from James Fenimore Cooper’s The Prairie, whose “axe, which created and transformed through destruction, clears the figurative way for the deflowering of the New World.”

Still, emulating Ibrahim’s destruction of the pagan gods would fit a pattern that we have been seeing quite a bit of lately.

(Thanks to Beefeater for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, April 17th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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