Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel
In the Quran, Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) says, “I am sick.” This could not have been a sinful lie, I know. However, what is the interpretation?
Some claim he was sick of idol worship or that he faked reading the stars to claim he was about to get sick. Some claim that the lie was justified because he refused to participate in idol worship.
How should we interpret this incident?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
There are a few interpretations and commentaries:
Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Ibraham (peace be upon him) did not tell a lie except on three occasions, twice for the sake of Allah (Exalted and Almighty) when he said: “I am sick,” (when his people were holding a festival in honor of their gods, Ibraham excused himself by saying he was sick, and when he said: “(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it.” The (third was) that while Ibraham and Sara (his wife) were going (on a journey), they passed by (the territory of) a tyrant. Someone said to the tyrant: “This man (i.e., Ibraham) is accompanied by a very charming lady.” So, he sent for Ibraham and asked him about Sara saying: “Who is this lady?” Ibraham said: “She is my sister.” [Bukhari; Muslim; Tirmidhi]
Ibn Kathir (Allah be pleased with him) said, this is not from real lying statement, but from ambiguous statements. The word “he did not lie” has been used metaphorically.
Some say, “saqim” means afflicted with plague. The people of the time were afraid of the plague, so he used this word for them to turn away from him. Some say, it means, a spiritually ill person, from worshipping the idols other than Allah (Most High). [Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir]
I pray this helps in your question.
[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Mawlana Ilyas Patel is a traditionally-trained scholar who has studied within UK, India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. He started his early education in the UK. He went on to complete hifz of Quran in India, then enrolled into an Islamic seminary in UK where he studied the secular and ‘Aalimiyya sciences. He then traveled to Karachi, Pakistan. He has been an Imam in Rep of Ireland for a number of years. He has taught hifz of the Quran, Tajwid, Fiqh and many other Islamic sciences to both children and adults onsite and online extensively in UK and Ireland. He was teaching at a local Islamic seminary for 12 years in the UK where he was a librarian and a teacher of Islamic sciences. He currently resides in UK with his wife. His personal interest is love of books and gardening.