What is it we all need from Allah? There are several answers to that, but the Sign of Adam reminds us that our first and greatest need is righteousness. We reviewed that ayah which addressed us directly, i.e., the children of Adam:
O you Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness – that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition.Surat 7:26
What is Righteousness?
So what is ‘righteousness’? The Taurat says about Allah:
I will proclaim the name of the Lord.Deuteronomy 32:4
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.
This is the picture of the Righteousness of Allah given in the Taurat. Righteousness means that one is perfect. It means that all (not just some or most but all) one’s ways are just, that one does no wrong (not even a little); that one is upright. This is righteousness and this is how the Taurat describes Allah. But why do we need righteousness? We jump ahead to a passage in the Zabur to give the answer. In Psalm 15 (written by Dawood) we read:
Righteousness: Required for Entry to Paradise
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,Psalm 15:1-5
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent…
Asking who may live on Allah’s ‘Holy Mountain’, is another way of asking who may be with Allah in Paradise. The answer states that it is the one who is blameless and ‘righteous’ (v2). Such a person can enter Paradise to be with Allah. This is why we need righteousness. Righteousness is required to be with Allah since He is perfect.
Now we consider the second sign of Ibrahim (PBUH). Click here to open the passage from the Books. We see in the reading from the Taurat and Qur’an that Ibraham (PBUH) followed ‘his Way’ (Surat 37:83). In so doing he obtained ‘righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6). This is the very thing that the Sign of Adam told us we need. So the important question for us is: How did he get it?
How Ibrahim obtained Righteousness
Many think we can get righteousness in one of two ways. The first way to get righteousness is by believing in or acknowledging the existence of Allah. We might say, “I believe in Allah”. But notice that this was not what Ibrahim PBUH believed. No Allah had given him a firm promise – that he would receive a son. And it was that promise that Ibrahim (PBUH) had to choose whether to believe or not. Think about it further, the devil (or Shaytan or Iblis) believes in the existence of Allah. But he certainly does not have righteousness. So simply believing in the existence of Allah is not ‘the Way’. That is not enough.
The second way many hope for righteousness is by meriting or earning it from Allah through the good and religious things they do. Having more good intentions over bad ones, prayers, fasting, or doing a certain kind or amount of religious work allows us to earn or merit righteousness. Ibrahim proves this idea false.
The Righteousness of Ibrahim: Credited not Earned
Notice what the Taurat says that Ibrahim did
Abram believed the LORD, and he [i.e. Allah] credited it to him [i.e. Ibrahim] as righteousness.Genesis 15:6
Ibrahim did not ‘earn’ righteousness. Allah ‘credited’ it to him. What is the difference? If you earn something you work for it – you deserve it. It is like receiving wages for the work you do. But when something is credited to you, it is given to you. You do not earn or merit it, but you do need to receive it.
Ibrahim (PBUH) was a man who believed deeply in the existence of one Allah. And he was a man of prayer, devotion, and helping people (like helping and praying for his nephew Lut/Lot). It is not that he discarded these activities. But ‘the Way’ describing Ibrahim is so simple that we can almost miss it. He did not try to earn righteousness. He simply chose to believe the promise offered to him, and then righteousness was given to him as well.
This overturns the common understanding that we obtain righteousness either by believing in Allah’s existence, or by doing enough good and religious obligations to earn or merit righteousness. This is not the way that Ibrahim chose. He simply chose to believe the promise.
The Way of Ibrahim: Believing the Promise
Choosing to believe in this promise for a son was simple but it was not easy. When he was first promised a ‘Great Nation’ he was 75 years old and he had left his home country and travelled to Canaan. Almost ten years had now passed and Ibrahim (PBUH) still did not have a child – let alone a nation!
“Why has Allah not already given us a son if he could have done so?”, he would have wondered.
Ibrahim believed in the promise of a son because he trusted Allah. He did so even though he did not understand everything about the promise. Nor did he have all his questions answered.
Believing the promise required active waiting. His whole life was interrupted while living in tents waiting for the promise. It would have been much easier to make excuses and return home to Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). His brother and family still lived there. Life was comfortable there.
His trust in the promise took priority over normal goals in life – security, comfort and well-being. He could have disbelieved the promise while still believing in the existence of Allah. He could have given up on the promise and still continued with prayers, fasting, religious activities and good deeds. Then he would have maintained his religion but not have been ‘credited’ righteousness. Believing the promise showed both his trust in and love for Allah.
The Sign of Ibrahim for all Children of Adam
Thus ‘believing’ the promise went far beyond just mental agreement to it. Ibrahim had to stake his life, reputation, safety, actions in the present and hopes for the future on this promise. Because he believed he actively and obediently waited. And as the Qur’an tells all of us children of Adam – “the raiment of righteousness – that is the best”. This was the Way of Ibrahim.
So Ibrahim (PBUH) believed in the promise from Allah of a son. In doing so, Allah also gave or credited, him righteousness. This is a Sign for us. The rest of the Bible treats Ibrahim as our example to follow. Abraham’s belief in the promise from Allah, and the crediting of righteousness, is a pattern for us.
We have learned much. Righteousness, the very thing we need for Paradise is not earned but credited to us as a gift. Ibrahim shows that Allah gives righteousness as a gift. When you get a gift you do not pay for it – otherwise, it is not a gift. The giver of the gift is the one who pays. Allah, the giver of righteousness, will have to pay for righteousness. How will He do it? We continue with Sign 3.