Peace, one and all…
In His noble book, Allah Subhanahu wa’a Ta’ala (the Glorifed and Exalted)relates a short episode from the life of prophet Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam):
‘Has the story reached you of the honoured guests of Ibrahim? When they entered his dwelling and said, ‘Peace!’ He said, ‘Peace, to people we do not know. Then he turned quietly to his household, and brought forth a fat [roasted] calf, and placed it before them, saying, “Will you not eat?”‘
This passage relates part of the wider story of Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam). In these passages, we see Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam) greeting some unknown visitors. Shortly afterwards, we learn that these visitors are actually angels, charged with two important missions; firstly, to deliver the good news of a child to the elderly Sarah and Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam) and secondly, to announce God’s imminent judgement on the city of Sodom, in which Ibrahim’s relative Lut (Lot) lived (alaihim al-salam).
We find the same story related in the Book of Genesis:
As I was reading these verses recently, I was struck by the profound teaching they contain. As I reflect upon them more fully, I begin to understand them as a description of prophetic adab. And, because the prophets (God’s peace be upon them all) are our teachers, their example must also become my own way. That is, visitors to my home must be greeted warmly and in an open-hearted manner. They must be offered rest, shelter and food. They must be honoured, and then offered easy-going, appropriate conversation.
‘The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” (Genesis 18:1-5)
In both accounts, Ibrahim’s first act, upon seeing the visitors, is to offer a warm and heartfelt greeting. The Quran has Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam) give his visitors the salam, whilst the biblical account has Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam) ‘bow low to the ground’. In both accounts, we see Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam) accutely concerned to greet his visitors, even though he clearly doesn’t know them. His next act is to have food prepared, and not just any food, but a fat calf, according to the Quran. Once they have accepted his hospitality and have ‘washed their feet’ according to the Genesis account, they explain the purposes of their visit.
Strangely, I found exactly the same idea recently in a sayin attributed to Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya (God sanctify his soul). God willing, I will add it here as soon as I can find the book in which I first read it.
Wa akhiru da’wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.