And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them. [Allah] said, “Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people.” [Abraham] said, “And of my descendants?” [Allah] said, “My covenant does not include the wrongdoers.”
The following excerpt is taken from “Maariful Quran” vol 1 pg. 309-310:
“The section dealing with the story of Sayyidnii Ibrahim (as) begins with Verse 124. It recounts how he was tried by Allah in different ways, how he came out of these trials successfully, and how he was rewarded. It also tells us that when Allah promised to make him a great guide to men, and their chief, (by conferring prophethood on him, or by giving him a huge number of followers), he prayed for this reward to be bestowed on some from among his progeny too. Allah granted this prayer, but on one condition, which is also to serve as a general principle in this matter — namely, that this dignity shall never be conferred on those who are disobedient and unjust, but on some of those from among his progeny who are obedient and just.”
The following excerpt is taken from “Tafsir As Saranbi” under the commentary of the above verse pg. 203- 205:
“Allah (swt) begins this ayah by saying “And (remember the time) when Ibrahim was tested by His Rabb with words which he fulfilled”. This part of the ayah tells us about some tests that Allah (swt) gave to Ibrahim (as). The scholars differ about the exact nature of these tests. What we can be certain of from the ayah was that it was a test with words. These words could be the words of the dawah. The words that Ibrahim (as) was commanded by Allah (swt) to propagate to his people declaring the Oneness of Allah (swt) and the falsehood of the idols that they worshipped. We know that as a result of these powerful words, Ibrahim (as) was rejected by his own people and he (as) was even rejected by his own father. In addition to that, they also oppressed him (as) by capturing him (as) and throwing him (as) into a great fire. This was a tremendous trial that Ibrahim (as) had to face because of the words that he (as) conveyed to his people. So some of the scholars were of the opinion that these words with which Allah (swt) tested Ibrahim (as) were the words of dawah that he (as) had to convey. The words of dawah were a test because of the difficulty that the dawah entails. Other scholars say that the words with which Ibrahim (as) was tested were the commands that Allah (swt) gave to him (as) to fulfill. These words are the orders to fulfill the duties of Allah (swt), and if we take this meaning then
they are also a test because of the effort and the difficulty involved in fulfilling these duties. Examples of such duties that Imam Qurtubi quotes in his tafsir of this ayah include being humble in prayer, avoiding useless talk and guarding one’s chastity. These are all tasks that require a great deal of striving and effort, and so they were a test for Ibrahim (as). Allah (swt) Knows best what these words were and how they were a test for Ibrahim (as), and it is very possible that both opinions that we have given here are correct.
But the lesson in the ayah comes when Allah (swt) tells us “which he fulfilled”. We should always look for the lesson and the guidance in the ayah instead of delving into the details that are not known to us. The lesson in this ayah is not what the specific words were or how they were a test, but the lesson is that Ibrahim (as) passed this test. Ibrahim (as) was a great man and a noble prophet, and he (as) fulfilled the test that Allah (swt) had given him. So we must strive to emulate Ibrahim (as), and that is the lesson that we can take from this part of the ayah. Whatever test that Allah (swt) gives us we must strive to complete and earn His (swt)’s Pleasure through it.
What was the consequence of Ibrahim (as) fulfilling the test that Allah (swt) had given him (as)? Allah (swt) tells us in the second part of the ayah how He (swt) said to Ibrahim (as) “ I will make you an Imam for mankind”. There are two meanings that the word Imam gives in this
ayah and they are both correct. One meaning is that of leader and the other meaning is that of role model. Allah (swt) made Ibrahim (as) a leader and a role model for all mankind. Ibrahim (as) lived at a time when idol worship was prevalent and widespread, many of the tribes and nations had forgotten about Allah (swt). They had taken up the worship of idols and they did not rule by the Law of Allah (swt). Ibrahim (as) was a beacon of light amongst all this darkness. In all this corruption, Ibrahim (as) called people to the Oneness of Allah (swt), he (as) called people to dedicate their lives to worship and serve Allah (swt) alone. So Ibrahim (as) was both a leader and role model for all mankind to follow and emulate. All those who take up the dawah to Allah (swt) after the time of Ibrahim (as) are his followers, and in their dawah they are treading the path that he (as) had made. Being appointed a leader and role model for all mankind was a special privilege that Allah (swt) had conferred upon Ibrahim (as) because he (as) had passed the tests that Allah (swt) had given him (as).
When Allah (swt) told Ibrahim (as) that he (as) had this special role to carry His Message to mankind and to be their leader and role model, Ibrahim (as) then asked Allah (swt) a question, he (as) said “what of my progeny?”. Here Ibrahim (as) is asking Allah (swt) as to what will be the fate of his children, of his descendants. Because of the time in which Ibrahim (as) grew
up, he (as) saw the corruption and the decadence all around him. He (as) saw how people had forgotten about Allah (swt) and how they worshipped idols and served their desires. Ibrahim (as) had seen how Shaitan could trick the human being and take him away from the Straight Path of
worshipping and serving Allah (swt). So his first question to Allah (swt) was regarding his children. He (as) knew now that he himself would be an Imam for all mankind, but he was not concerned only with himself. Rather he (as) also wanted to know what would be the fate of his children. He (as) was worried that his children would be lead astray like he (as) had seen many around him been lead astray. So Ibrahim (as) asks Allah (swt) in this part of the ayah as to what will be the fate of his descendants.
Look at the beautiful response that Allah (swt) gave. Allah (swt) says “My covenant does not extend to the Dhalimoon ”. The covenant that Allah (swt) refers to in this ayah is the responsibility of carrying this Message to mankind. As we know from Surah Asr, the path of dawah is the only path that will lead to the Pleasure of Allah (swt). This covenant of Allah (swt) is
the path of dawah. Fulfilling this covenant by working in the Path of Allah (swt) leads to the Pleasure of Allah (swt) and His (swt)’s Garden. Walking in this path means that you try to the best of your ability to call the people to Allah (swt) and to that which is pleasing to Him (swt). So here Allah (swt) told Ibrahim (as) and He (swt) tells us as well that this covenant does not extend to those who are Dhalimoon. As we mentioned the Dhalimoon are the evil and unjust people. They are the ones who have forgotten Allah (swt), and who live a life of worshipping and serving their desires. So those who chose their desires over Allah (swt) will not be allowed to work in the path of dawah and they will not be given any reward in the Hereafter.
The following excerpt is taken from “The Message of the Quran” by Muhammad Asad Note # 101:
“This passage, read in conjunction with the two preceding verses, refutes the contention of the children of Israel that by virtue of their descent from Abraham, whom God made “a leader of men”, they are “God’s chosen people”. The Qur’an makes it clear that the exalted status of Abraham was not something that would automatically confer a comparable status on his physical descendants, and certainly not on the sinners among them.”