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Islamic Voice Logo
MONTHLY    *    Vol 12-08 No:140    *   AUGUST 1998/ RABBI UL AKHIR 1419H

email: editor@islamicvoice.com

COMPARATIVE RELIGION


Ishmael or Issac?


Ishmael or Issac?

By Abkarally .M.

When God decided to test the faith of Abraham, He said; Take now thy son, thine only {son} .................whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of .Gen. 22:2

There happens to be an unresolved debate as to who accompanied the Prophet Abraham and submitted himself to the will of God - the first born - Ishmael - the progenitor of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), or the second born - Isaac - the progenitor of Jesus Christ? The Bible writers had placed the name of Isaac in the blank space above. Muslims believe Ishmael was the one that was taken by Abraham for the Supreme Sacrifice. Every year, Muslims throughout the world celebrate Id al-Adha as a day of festivity, recalling the courage and patience of Ishmael and the unwavering devotion of Abraham. The Muslim scholars have judicious reasons to believe that the event happened in the life of Prophet Abraham when Isaac was not yet born. These scholars are of the opinion that Jews and Christians have systematically and deliberately deprived Ishmael of the honour and glory that is due to him.

We will now examine what the Bible and the Qur’an have to say on this controversial subject. After the sacrificial offering the Bible records; And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only {son} from me. Gen. 22:12 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only {son}, Gen. 22:16

The word “only” is very significant in the above quoted three verses. In the Hebrew text the word used is “yachiyd” (not “echad”), which identifies absolute singularity - the one and only. The logical argument put forward by the Muslim scholars is: God must have used the phrase thine only {son} during the period of fourteen years when Isaac was not yet born and Ishmael was the Only Son of Abraham. The Jews and Christians argue: being born to Hagar, a hand-maid of Abraham’s wife, Ishmael was recognized as the Descendant or the Seed of Abraham, but not as his Son. Muslim scholars contend: if that had been the case, God would not have called Ishmael a son of Abraham in the following verse: And Hagar bore Abraham a son and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bore, Ishmael. Gen. 16:15

Christian scholars going to their second line of defense say: Ishmael, the Son of a bondwoman, was called Abraham’s Son at the time of his birth - but that was only for the time being. Ishmael lost the status of being the Son of Abraham the day Isaac was born to Abraham’s wife Sarah, the freewoman. To read more on the subject of the gap that has been deliberately widened by apostle Paul, between the descendants of bondwoman and freewoman, by misquoting a crucial text of the Scripture.

In their rebuttal, the Muslim scholars say: the Bible nowhere records losing the acquired status. In fact, the biblical text quoted below, proves that in the sight of God, the Creator, Ishmael was the Son of Abraham even after the death of his father. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him (Abraham) in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, the son of Zohar the Hittite, which {is} before Mamre.Gen. 25:9

The idea of a son losing his status probably comes from the cuneiform tablets exemplifying the law of the second and third millennium. The law states that a childless father could adopt a son to serve him in his old age. Should a son be born later to that man, the adopted son’s status as an heir would be altered. The answer to this Law of Adoption is: Ishmael was not adopted, he was fathered by Abraham. The mother of Ishmael was the wife of Abraham. Gen. 16:3=20

The obvious question is, what are the reasons that in spite of these overwhelming evidences the name of Isaac appears in the blank space above? The descendants of Ishmael and Isaac (Arabs and Jews) have fought battles in the arenas of politics and religions since the day of a serious domestic quarrel in the house of Abraham. This domestic dispute led to Sarah driving away Hagar and her son Ishmael.

Tribal pride and deep rooted hatred for the enemy can make a person go to any lengths. In the history of mankind, false pride and jealousy have been the roots of many evils and untold sufferings. The Jewish scribes wrote the Book of Genesis. It is very probable that they would not have liked the idea that this singular honour of being offered for the Supreme Sacrifice go to the

progenitor of their enemy - Ishmael - rather than their own patriarch - Isaac. The unyielding pride of Jewish priests made Jesus call them stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart. The Encyclopedia Judaica, volume 9, under the heading Ishmael, records: It is related that a renowned traditionalist of Jewish origin from Qurayza tribe, and another Jewish scholar who converted to Islam, told Caliph Omar Ibn ‘Abd al-Azizi (717-20) that the Jews were well informed that Ismail (Ishmael) was the one who was bound (for sacrifice), but they conceal this out of jealousy.
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