[2:124] And when his Lord tested Abraham with certain words, and he fulfilled them,
The trial (balāÌ) is the verification of friendship (walāÌ), and the most sincere in friendship are tested the most. The Real (s) tested His friend (khalīl) (ʿa) by what He imposed upon him and prescribed for him, and [Abraham] upheld the necessary conditions and fulfilled the requirements decreed. So He (s) praised him, saying, 'And Abraham, who fulfilled (waffā)' (53:37), [which is] from tawfiya, i.e., he did not fall short in any way whatsoever.
It is said He imposed the burdens of prophecy on him and sought from him the properties of friendship (khulla). The most intense trial for him was upholding the conditions of friendship and being singled out for avoidance of everyone and everything. He performed what made that sound, withdrawing from everything other than Him secretly and publicly. Because of that, he paid no attention to Gabriel (ʿa) when he appeared to him as he was being thrown into the depths of destruction. [Gabriel] said, 'Do you need anything?' He said, 'From you? No'. It was part of the perfection of his trial that Gabriel (ʿa) appeared to him in this state. What would there have been left of him that would leave a place for any created being, whoever that might have been?
In this there is a subtle allusion to the difference between the state of our Prophet (ṣ) and the state of Abraham (ʿa) because Gabriel appeared to the friend and showed himself to him and [Abraham] said, 'From you? No'. But Gabriel was not capable of companionship with the Prophet (ṣ) and thus expressed his weakness, saying 'If I were to come closer so much as a fingertip, I would be consumed by fire'. What a difference between the state in which Gabriel (ʿa) has the power to show himself to the Friend (ʿa) and the state in which he acknowledges his weakness before the Beloved (ṣ).
[2:124 cont'd] He said, 'I make you a leader (imām) for the people'. Said he, 'And of my seed?' He said, 'My covenant shall not reach the evildoers'.
The leader (imām) is the one who is to be emulated. This had already been confirmed regarding [Abraham] in that [God] told all men up to the Day of the Resurrection to emulate him. He said: The creed of your father Abraham [is yours] (22:78), i.e., they followed the creed of Abraham, meaning the declaration of God's unity (tawḥīd). [God's] saying: Take to yourselves Abraham's station for a place of prayer [2:125] is verification of this leadership (imāma). The station of leadership is that one understands from the Real, and then gives that understanding to created beings, so as to be a mediator between the Real (ḥaqq) and created beings (khalq). In his outward situation he will be with created beings, not being listless in conveying the message. In his inner situation, he will be witnessing the Real. The clarity of his state will not waver, and he will say to mankind what the Real says to him.
'And of my seed?': [Abraham] spoke out of compassion for them and he asked for that which would bring them honor, but [God] informed him that worthiness has nothing to do with lineage or connection. Rather these are allotments that [God's] decrees bring about, and He said to him, 'My covenant shall not reach the evildoers'. This is not like the blessing of this world, which is all encompassing in its provisions, for it is not withheld from anyone, even if he is a disbeliever. Because of that He said, 'And when Abraham said, 'My Lord, make this a land secure and provide its people with fruits; such of them as believe in God...'[2:125] and 'whoever disbelieves, to him I shall give enjoyment, a little...' [2:125]. This means that the present world is not so important that it should be denied the disbelievers. But 'My covenant will only reach those whom I have chosen from the elect of My servants'. Food and drink are not kept from anyone (ammā'l-taʿām wa'l-sharāb fa-ghayru mamnūʿin min aḥad) but Islam and love are not offered to everyone (ammā'l-islām wa'l-maḥābb fa-ghayru mabdhūlin li-kulli aḥad.)