Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Bethink thee) have you not been informed (of him who had an argument with Abraham about his Lord) about the Religion of his Lord, (because Allah had given him the kingdom) he is Nimrod Ibn Canaan; (how, when Abraham said: My Lord is He Who giveth life and causeth death) gives life upon the resurrection and causes death by ending the life of this world, (he answered: I give life and cause death. Abraham said) give me proof of what you say. So Nimrod brought two prisoners, killed one and spared the other and then said: this is my proof. When he saw this, Abraham said: (Lo! Allah causeth the sun to rise in the East) from the direction of the East, (so do thou cause it to come up from the West) from the direction of the West. (Thus was the disbeliever abashed) the one who disbelieved kept quiet and could not argue. (And Allah guideth not) to the right argument (wrong-doing folk) the unbelievers, referring here to Nimrod.
Have you not seen him who disputed with Abraham, concerning his Lord, because of the fact, that God had given him the kingship?, that is, his arrogance towards this very grace of God: this was Nimrod (Nimrūd). When (idh is a substitution for hājja, ‘disputed’) Abraham, in response to the other’s question, ‘Who is this Lord of yours to whom you are calling us?’, said: ‘My Lord is He who gives life, and makes to die’, the One that creates life and death in bodies; he [Nimrod] said, ‘I give life, by sparing, and make to die’, by killing. He then had two men brought before him, killed one and spared the other. When Abraham realised that this man was a fool, Abraham, resorting to a more sophisticated argument, said: ‘God brings the sun from the east; so bring, you, it from the west.’ Then the disbeliever was confused, perplexed and amazed; and God guides not the folk who do evil, disbelieving, to the art of argument.
The Debate Between Ibrahim Al-Khalil and King Nimrod
The king who disputed with Ibrahim was King Nimrod, son of Canaan, son of Kush, son of Sam, son of Noah, as Mujahid stated. It was also said that he was Nimrod, son of Falikh, son of `Abir, son of Shalikh, son of Arfakhshand, son of Sam, son of Noah. Mujahid said, "The kings who ruled the eastern and western parts of the world are four, two believers and two disbelievers. As for the two believing kings, they were Sulayman bin Dawud and Dhul-Qarnayn. As for the two disbelieving kings, they were Nimrod and Nebuchadnezzar.'' Allah knows best.
(Have you not looked) meaning, "With your heart, O Muhammad!''
إِلَى الَّذِى حَآجَّ إِبْرَهِيمَ فِى رِبِّهِ
(at him who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord) meaning, about the existence of Allah. Nimrod denied the existence of a god other than himself, as he claimed, just as Fir`awn said later to his people,
مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُمْ مِّنْ إِلَـهٍ غَيْرِى
(I know not that you have a god other than me) 28:38.
What made Nimrod commit this transgression, utter disbelief and arrant rebellion was his tyranny and the fact that he ruled for a long time. This is why the Ayah continued,
أَنْ آتَـهُ اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ
(Because Allah had given him the kingdom. )
It appears that Nimrod asked Ibrahim to produce proof that Allah exists. Ibrahim replied,
رَبِّيَ الَّذِى يُحْىِ وَيُمِيتُ
(My Lord is He Who gives life and causes death) meaning, "The proof of Allah's existence is the creations that exist after they were nothing and perish after they had existed. This only proves the existence of the Creator, Who does what He wills, for these things could not have occurred on their own without a Creator who created them, and He is the Lord that I call to for worship, Alone without a partner.''
This is when Nimrod said,
أَنَا أُحْىِ وَأُمِيتُ
(I give life and cause death.)
Qatadah, Muhammad bin Ishaq and As-Suddi said that he meant, "Two men who deserved execution were to be brought before me, and I would command that one of them be killed, and he would be killed. I would command that the second man be pardoned, and he would be pardoned. This is how I bring life and death.'' However, it appears that since Nimrod did not deny the existence of a Creator, his statement did not mean what Qatadah said it meant. This explanation does not provide an answer to what Ibrahim said. Nimrod arrogantly and defiantly claimed that he was the creator and pretended that it was he who brings life and death. Later on, Fir`awn imitated him and announced,
مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُمْ مِّنْ إِلَـهٍ غَيْرِى
(I know not that you have a god other than me) 28: 38.
(Verily, Allah brings the sun from the east; then bring it you from the west.)
This Ayah means, "You claim that it is you who brings life and death. He who brings life and death controls the existence and creates whatever is in it, including controlling its planets and their movements. For instance, the sun rises everyday from the east. Therefore, if you were god, as you claimed, bringing life and death, then bring the sun from the west.'' Since the king was aware of his weakness, inadequacy and that he was not able to reply to Ibrahim's request, he was idle, silent and unable to comment. Therefore, the proof was established against him. Allah said,
وَاللَّهُ لاَ يَهْدِى الْقَوْمَ الظَّـلِمِينَ
(And Allah guides not the people, who are wrongdoers) meaning, Allah deprives the unjust people of any valid proof or argument. Furthermore, their false proof and arguments are annulled by their Lord, and they have earned His anger and will suffer severe torment.
The meaning that we provided is better than the meaning that some philosophers offered, claiming that Ibrahim used the second argument because it was clearer than the first one. Rather, our explanation asserts that Ibrahim refuted both claims of Nimrod, all praise is due to Allah.
As-Suddi stated that the debate between Ibrahim and Nimrod occurred after Ibrahim was thrown in the fire, for Ibrahim did not meet the king before that day.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
In the foregoing verse it was declared that Allah is the Helper and Protector of a believer and brings him out of darkness, and taghut is the helper of the unbelievers and misleads them into darkness. Now three events are cited as a proof thereof. The first is the instance of a person to whom the Truth was presented with so clear arguments that he could not find any answer against them. But in spite of this, he did not accept it because he was misled by taghut and so he went on wandering in the darkness. ?he other two instances are of those who had full confidence in Allah, so Allah not only took them out of darkness into light but also made them eye-witnesses of the unseen Reality to enable them to give testimony concerning it.
The person referred to is Nimrod who was the king of `Iraq, the land of the birth of Abraham. The Bible does not mention this dispute but the Talmud relates it in detail and its version is substantially the same as that of the Qur'an. It says that Abraham's father was the chief officer of king Nimrod and a great favourite with his royal master. His son Abraham was a lover of the Lord from his earliest childhood. When he grew up he began to preach openly the "Oneness" of God and condemn the association of any partner or rival with Him. In order to demonstrate this, he broke the idols and his father hastened before king Nimrod and denounced Abraham, saying, "He has acted so and so; let him be brought before thee for judgement." Abraham was summoned before the king and the dispute mentioned here took place between them.
The point at issue in the dispute was as to whom Abraham acknowledged as his Lord Allah or Nimrod. The dispute arose because of the arrogance of Nimrod whom Allah had given kingdom. In order to understand the true nature of the dispute the following should be kept in view
(1) It has always been a common characteristic of all the mushrik societies to accept Allah as the God of gods and the Lord of lords but, at the same tune, to associate other gods and lords with Him, so as not to acknowledge Him exclusively as the Lord and God and worship Him as the Deity.
(2) They have always divided Godhead into two parts the supernatural Godhead and the sovereign Godhead. They assign to God the supernatural Godhead which controls every kind of cause that produces an effect: so they turn to Him for help in their needs and difficulties but in their ignorance they set up spirits, angels, jinns, stars and many others as partners with the Supreme God, and pray to them, worship them and present offerings to them at temples dedicated to them. As to the sovereign Godhead, which really belongs to God and entitles Him alone to prescribe the way of life and to demand obedience to His commandments and to have absolute authority over all the affairs of the world, the mushrikin have in every age either totally usurped this rank of Godhead from God and handed it over to royal families, priests, guides, elders of society, etc., or divided it between these gods and God. That is why the royal families have often claimed the rank of Godhead in the second sense, and in order to strengthen their claim, have declared themselves to be descendants of gods in the first sense, and the priests have always strengthened and supported them, in their evil designs of becoming gods.
(3) Nimrod claimed to be a god possessing the rank of sovereign godhead. He did not deny the existence of God nor did he claim to be the creator of the heavens and the earth nor the sustainer and ruler of the universe. He only claimed to be the absolute lord and sovereign of `Iraq and its inhabitants. His claim was that whatever he said was law and there was none over him to whom he might be held accountable: therefore any inhabitant of 'Iraq who did not acknowledge him exclusively as his lord was a rebel.
(4) The dispute referred to arose when Abraham declared, "I acknowledge the Lord of the universe exclusively as my Lord and God of worship and I disown categorically the lordship and godhead of everyone else." Obviously, the declaration of this creed not only struck at the root of the national religion and religious gods but at the national state and its central power, king Nimrod, who claimed to be the absolute lord of 'Iraq. That is why it was not tolerated and the Prophet Abraham was brought before Nimrod for trial as a rebel.
Although Abraham had made it quite clear in his very tirst sentence that there can be no other lord than Allah, yet Nimrod impudently tried to refute his argument. But after the second argument, Nimrod was so non-plussed that he could not find any further argument to continue the dispute, as he himself knew and acknowledged that the sun and the moon were under the command of that God Whom Abraham acknowledged as Lord. He, however, would not accept this Truth which had become quite clear even to him because to accept it meant the giving up of his claim to despotism. As the rebel within him was not ready for this, he would not come out from the darkness of self - worship into the light of the Truth, even though he was dumbfounded. If he had made Allah his patron instead of his own "self," he would have found the right guidance from Abraham's preaching.
The Talmud says that after this dispute the king sent him to prison, where he remained for ten days. Then the king and his council sentenced him to be burnt alive and cast him into the flaming furnace. This incident has been mentioned in the Qur'an in Surah Al-Anbiya (XXI:51-74).
Have you not seen him who disputed with Abraham concerning his Lord that God had given him the kingshipḍ When Abraham said “My Lord is He who gives life and makes to die” he said “I give life and make to die.” Abraham said: “God brings the sun from the east; so bring it from the west.” Then the disbeliever was confused; and God guides not the folk who do evil. The Real سبحانه hastened the punishment of separation furqa for His enemies before He punished them with burning ḥurqa. This punishment [of separation] was in actuality more powerful in its effect if they had had the eye of insight [to see this]. The Real سبحانه relates that Abraham عليه السلام moved from one sound proof with the accursed enemy to another which was clearer not because there was anything wrong with the [first] proof but because of the shortcomings in the understanding of the disbeliever. The touchstone of one whose sight is blocked from recognizing the truth is the wasting of time without any useful benefit. It is not about the quality of the proof for a matter about which there is no question.