Friday, May 14, 2021

SACRIFICE OF ABRAHAM – WAS IT ISAAC OR ISHMAEL?

 

This article is crucial for both Muslims and Christians. This article serves as a decimating factor. It decimates the lies in order for the truth to triumph. It makes a decision based on evidences to reveal wherein lies the truth. Is it in Islam or Christianity? Two opposing system of values cannot be equally true. One or the other has to be. This article is not written as an intellectual exercise in some mind games to amuse ourselves nor is it written for the purpose of criticizing the other for the joy of criticizing. No, it is written for the sole purpose of earnestly securing our salvation – our eternal salvation. If you are Muslim, please read this article objectively with an unbiased mind. This could be one the most important decisions that you ever made in your life. This could be your first step in the right direction in the pursuit of salvation – your salvation. If you believe you have unshakable faith in Islam, then we dare you to read this article right through to the end. We dare you on the basis of love.

Jews, Christians and Muslims agree thatAbraham was a righteous man with outstanding faith. This is clearly seen in Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only begotten son. All three religions do not dispute this fact. While Jews and Christians are unified on the identity of the sacrificial child, Islam disagrees. The Holy Bible clearly identifies the sacrificial child as Isaac.

Genesis 22:1-2:Now after these things it came about that the true God put Abraham to the test. Accordingly he said to him: “Abraham!” AndAbrahamreplied: “Here I am!” And God went on to say: “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love,Isaac, and make a trip to the land of Moriah and there offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall designate to you.”

Muslims say that the sacrificial son wasIshmael. The idea that Ishmael was the sacrificial son is based mainly on the Muslim misunderstanding of the phrase “only son”in the Genesis account. They assert that since Abraham was asked to offer his only son, it has to be Ishmael since he was the only son of Abraham for fourteen years. As such, they claim that it would be impossible for Isaac to be addressed as the only son of Abraham. Is their claim true?

But before we get to the bottom of this misunderstanding of Muslims and touch on the issue of the identity of the sacrificial son, it must be emphasized that no matter who the son was that Abraham offered as a sacrifice, Muslims are in error. They are in error if it was Isaac. And they are still in error if it was Ishmael. In fact, Muslims will do well if they did not raise this issue in the first place. It is a lose, lose situation for Muslims. Why do we say that? Carefully consider the shaky position of the Muslims when they challenge the authority of the Holy Bible regarding the identity of the sacrificial son.

THE MUSLIM DILEMMA

The sacrificial account of Abraham’s son is found in the Book of Genesis.Genesis is the first of the five Books of Moseswhich are collectively known as the Torah. Let us now see what theQur’an testifies about theTorah:

Surah 5:44: “Lo!We did reveal theTorah, wherein is guidance and a light.” (Pickthall)

Surah 5:68: Say (O Muhammad SAW) “O people of the Scripture(Jews and Christians)! You have nothing as regardsguidance till you act according to the Taurat(Torah), theInjeel(Gospel).”(Hilali-Khan)

The Qur’an clearly testifies that the Torahwas revealed byAllahAccording to the Qur’an, the Torah is the inspired “Word of Allah.” And the Qur’an also commands Jews andChristians to abide by the teachings of the Torahand the Gospel. It tells them: “You have nothing as regards guidance till you act according to theTorah and the Gospel.”

Well, what do Christiansfind when they obey this commandment of Allah to follow the teachings of theTorah and theGospelThe Torahdistinctively identifiesIsaac as the sacrificial son offered by Abraham. The sacrificial choice of God is clearly identified as Isaac.

To counter this clear identity of Isaac as the sacrificial son in theTorah, Muslims came up with the blasphemous allegation that the Torahand the Gospel in our present Bible are not the originals but are corruptions of the originals. Without any evidence whatsoever to substantiate their claim, they say that some Jewish scribes changed the original reading fromIshmael to Isaac in theTorah. The change was supposedly carried out to glorify their Jewishheritage through Isaac. Well, let us see what Allah has to say on this matter. The Qur’an testifies:

Surah 10:64: “None can change the Words of Allah. This is indeed the Supreme Triumph.” (Pickthall)

No change can there be in the words of Allah.This is indeed the supreme felicity.” (Yusuf Ali)

The Qur’an itself testifies:None can change the Words of Allah.” And since the Qur’an acknowledges that theTorah and the Gospel are the “Words of Allah,” it would require a denial of the Qur’an itself to believe that they have been changed through corruption. If the claim of corruption by Muslims is true, then Allah must be a lying impostor for making false claims to the contrary in the Qur’an. In fact, the Qur’an becomes a lie for teaching that theWords of Allah cannot be changed.

If Muslims truly believe that the Qur’an is the Word of Allah, then it is mandatory for them to accept as true that according to the Qur’an it is impossible for anyone to change the Torah or the Gospel. This means the sacrificial son has to be Isaac as the Torahclearly testifies. On the other hand, if Muslims choose to believe that theTorah have been changed through corruption and the sacrificial son was actually Ishmael, then Muslims must also accept as true that Allah is a lying impostor and the Qur’an is a lie. Muslims do not have the luxury to believe that the Bible has become corrupted without first conceding that Allah lied in the Qur’an.

The only possibility for the sacrificial son to be Ishmael is for the “Words of Allah” to be changed in the Torah. Muslims cannot have it both ways. They cannot maintain their sacred belief that the“Words of Allah” will remain unchanged for all eternity and at the same instance believe that the Jews changed the Torah. Muslims are taught to believe that Ishmael was the sacrificial son. Therefore, they are in error if sacrificial son was Isaac. And it has to be Isaac if the Qur’an is to be believed when it says: “None can change the Words of Allah.” And Muslims are still in error if it was Ishmael because it shows that they are actually worshipping a false deity who deceitfully told them that “None can change the Words of Allah” when in reality, the Jews changed theTorah. They changed the name of Ishmael to Isaacin the Torah.

It will be impossible for Muslims to believe that Ishmael was sacrificial son without denying the teachings of Allah in the Qur’an. It will be impossible for Muslims to believe it was Ishmael without accepting as true that the Jews changed the name from Ishmael toIsaac in the Book of Allah. Therefore, the only option left for Muslims to hold on to their cherished assumption that it was Ishmael is to accept that the Jews changed the unchangeable Scriptures of Allah. Thus, no matter who the son was, Muslims are in error. In fact, for Muslims to believe that it was Ishmael is the greater error because it means that they must now accept as true that Allah is a lying impostor. Period.

Muslims should stop spreading lies about the Holy Bible. It will be beneficial for them to seriously consider the stern warning that Allah gives to all those who spread such lies about the integrity of the Holy Bible:

Surah 40:70-72: Those who gave the lie to this Book and all the Books which We had sent with Our Messengersshall soon come to know the Truth when fetters and chains shall be on their necks, and they shall be dragged into boiling water, and cast into the Fire. (Maududi)

It is advisable for Muslims to heed this warning. If Muslims are serious about Allah, then they must also take his warning seriously.

Of course, we do not believe that the Torah or the Gospelwas inspired by Allah as the Qur’an claims. The true inspiration behind the Torah and the Gospelis none other thanJehovah – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Our reason for using the Qur’an to substantiate our argument is not because we believe in it but because Muslims believe in it. We used the Qur’an to prove to Muslims that their own sacred book not only confirms the integrity of the Holy Bible but it also proves their claim that the sacrificial son was Ishmael, is erroneous.

We are assured byJehovah, blessed be his name, that to time indefinite the Holy Bible will be kept pure and it will be kept above the reach of those who intend to corrupt it:

Psalm 119:89:“Forever, O Jehovah, Your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”

For an in depth study on the testimonies of the Qur’an as to why the Holy Bible is not corrupted and cannot become corrupted, please read the article in the following link: THE QUR’AN CONFIRMS THE INTEGRITY OF THE BIBLE

Is it really necessary to discuss the issue of the identity of the sacrificial son any further? The arguments presented above should be sufficient to prove our case. However, for the benefit of our readers, especially our Muslim readers, we will discuss this matter further.

It is commonly believed in the Muslim world today that when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, that son was Ishmael – the son of his slave-woman Hagar. However, finding not a single shred of evidence in the Qur’an to sustain their claim, Muslims try to deceptively use the account in the Bible to support their argument. For example, since the Bible states that God commanded Abraham to offer his “only son” as a sacrifice, Muslims argue that this could not be Isaac as he was never an only child seeing that Ishmael was born fourteen years prior to him.

However, the very verse in the Bible, which Muslims try so desperately to use to support their claim, clearly identifies Isaac by name as the sacrificial son. But Muslims deliberately exclude this vital piece of information in their argument.

Well are Muslims correct in their belief that it was Ishmael who was the one offered by Abraham to be sacrificed? We like to take on a challenge with Muslims. Since the Bible clearly identifies Isaac as the sacrificial son, can Muslims do the same by using the Qur’an only to prove that it was Ishmael? They cannot.

The arguments presented in this article are built progressively. Therefore, it is vital to read through to the end of this article to know for a certainty without a doubt who this sacrificial son of Abraham was. Was it Isaac or Ishmael?

First let us read what the Bible says about this event:

Genesis 22:1-2:Now after these things it came about that the true God put Abraham to the test. Accordingly he said to him: “Abraham!” AndAbrahamreplied: “Here I am!” And God went on to say: “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love,Isaac, and make a trip to the land of Moriah and there offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall designate to you.”

Genesis 22:9-13:Finally they reached the place that the true God had designated to him, andAbraham built an altar there and set the wood in order and bound Isaac his son hand and foot and put him upon the altar on top of the wood. ThenAbraham put out his hand and took the slaughtering knife to kill his son. But Jehovah’s angel began calling to him out of the heavens and saying: “Abraham,Abraham!” AndAbrahamanswered: “Here I am!” And God went on to say: “Do not put out your hand against the boy and do not do anything at all to him, for now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.” At thatAbraham raised his eyes and looked and there, deep in the foreground, there was a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. SoAbraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering in place of his son.

For the full account of this event, please readGenesis 22:1-18. The above Biblical account of the sacrificial offering of Abraham’s son appears in just one passage in the entire Qur’an. It begins with Abraham speaking:

Surah 37:100-113: “O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!” So we gave him thegood news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou wilt find me, if God so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy!”

So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him, “O Abraham! Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial – and We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice: and We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times: “Peace and salutation to Abraham!”

Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For he was one of Our believing Servants. And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet, – one of the Righteous. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.(Yusuf Ali)

Before we analyze the above Qur’anic verses in detail, it is important to note that when we compare the Biblical account with the one in the Qur’an, we find the following omissions in the Qur’an. While the Bible clearly identifies the sacrificial son as Isaac, the Qur’an does not mention the name of the son. And while the Bible mentions the mountainous region ofMoriah as the site of the sacrifice, the Qur’an does not give a slightest hint as to where this sacrifice was to take place.

The above Qur’anic verses tell us that Allah“ransomed him(Abraham’s son) with a momentous sacrifice.” Although Islam completely rejects the Biblical doctrine of substitutionary atonement, namely the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we observe that the doctrine of the ransom as a release from death is strongly supported in the above account in the Qur’an. The fact that the Qur’an testifies that Allah redeemed Abraham’s son by means of a substitutive sacrifice, should awaken Muslims to seriously consider the doctrine of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

As to why a momentous sacrifice” has to be paid as a ransom by Allah for the release of Abraham’s son and how does this prefigure the Ransom Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, please read the article in the following link: THE BASIS FOR THE RANSOM SACRIFICE OF JESUS IN THE QUR’AN

Let us now analyze the above Qur’anic verses carefully. Note that at the very beginning of this Qur’anic account, the“good news” or promise of a boy was given to Abraham. (Surah 37:101) The account then continues on saying that when this promised child reached the age of serious work, he accompanied his father Abraham to be offered as a sacrifice. And the account concludes with Allah saying: “And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet, – one of the Righteous. We blessed him and Isaac.”

The account in the Qur’an makes it very clear that the child who was promised as “good news”to Abraham was the very child who later accompanied him to be offered as a sacrifice. And towards the end of the account, the Qur’an specifically names Isaacas the promised child. While Isaac’s name is mentioned twice in this only account of the sacrifice in the Qur’an, there is no mention of Ishmael at all. This isindeed amazing considering how overzealous some Muslims have been in their attempts to prove that the sacrificial son was Ishmael and not Isaac.Isaac is the only one named in the Qur’an as the child specifically promised to Abraham – a fact which the Qur’an agrees with the Bible.

In view of the fundamental truth thatthe Qur’an does not say which son was taken up to be sacrificed, is it not presumptuous for Muslims to fault the Bible’s clear statement that the son who was offered to be sacrificed was Isaac? Muslim readers of the Qur’an can only search in vain for the name of Ishmael in the entire account of Surah 37:100-113 where the story of the sacrifice is told. Therefore, no Muslim can honestly make a dogmatic statement that it was Ishmael in the light of the Qur’an’s complete silence on the actual identity of the son. In contrast, the Bible clearly identifies the son by name:

Genesis 22:2:And He went on to say: “Take, please, your son,your only sonwhom you so love, Isaac, and make a trip to the land of Moriah and there offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall designate to you.

The hypocrisy of the Muslim claim can be seen by the fact that while they hang on desperately to the Bible’s statement that God commanded Abraham to offer his “only son, they deliberately choose to ignore the fact that the very same verse they quote to support their claim, clearly identifies the son by name as“Isaac.” Should not it be either all or nothing? And Allah agrees. He gives the following warning to those who resort to this subtle form of deception:

Surah 2:85: “Then is it only a part of the Book that you believe in, and do you reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? – And on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what you do.”(Yusuf Ali)

This Qur’anic verse was revealed as a warning for all those who commit the grave error of accepting only parts of the inspired Scriptures while rejecting others. And as proven earlier, the Qur’an testifies to the fact that theTorah is the inspired Word of God. Besides the account in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the Christian Greek Scriptures (New Testament) also positively identifies the sacrificial son of Abraham as Isaac:

Hebrews 11:17-18“By faithAbraham, when he was tested, as good as offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only begotten son of whom it was said, “Through Isaacshall your descendants be named.”

James 2:21: Was not Abrahamour father declared righteous by works after he had offered upIsaac his son upon the altar?

In all the passages of the Bible, it is quite plainly stated that Abraham offered up Isaac on the altar. Yet in the only passage in the Qur’an where the sacrifice is discussed, there is not a single mention of Ishmael. In fact, the Qur’an does not identify who the son was. Therefore, while there is a double testimony in the Bible that the son was Isaac, both from the Hebrew and the Christian Greek Scriptures, there is no such testimony in the Qur’an that it was Ishmael.

In fact, this lack of a clear identity in the Qur’an led to wide disagreement among early Muslim commentators as to who the son was. Although for the purpose of expediencythe Muslim world today unanimously acknowledges Ishmael as the sacrificial son, there was much dispute in the early days of Islam on the subject with many renowned scholars of the Qur’an accepting that it was Isaac. A Muslim writer candidly admits:

Haykal, “The Life of Muhammad,” p. 25:

The Qur’an did not mention the name of the sacrificial son, and hence Muslim historians disagree in this regard.

While acknowledging the conflicting views in Islam regarding this very issue,Al-Tabari who is considered as one of the premiere Islamic historians, gave his scholarly view on this matter.

Al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari,” Volume II, Prophets and Patriarchs, p. 32:

The earliest sages of our Prophet’s nation disagree about which of Abraham’s two sons it was that he was commanded to sacrifice. Some say it was Isaac, while others say it was Ishmael.Both views are supported by statements related on the authority of the Messenger of God. If both groups of statements were equally sound, then – since they both came from the Prophet –only the Qur’an could serve as proof that the account naming Isaac is clearly the more truthful of the two.”

This means that if Muslims were to undertake an impartial and honest study of the Qur’an, they would have to agree that it was Isaacwho was the chosen sacrifice. As an aside, please note how the above historical account reveals that Muhammad gave conflicting views. The above account says that“both groups of statementscame from the Prophet.” As a result, Muslims became divided in their opinion as to who the son was. And Muslims are willing to stake their lives by following a man who is unsure about the revelations of God.

Well, what was Al-Tabari’s reason to conclude that the evidences point to Isaacas the sacrificial son? Let us hear from the great Scholar himself.

Al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, Volume II, Prophets and Patriarchs, p. 89:

As for the above-mentioned proof from the Qur’an that it really was Isaac, it is God’s word which informs us about the prayer of His friend Abraham when he left his people to migrate to Syria with Sarah.Abraham prayed, ‘I am going to my Lord who will guide me. My Lord! Grant me a righteous child.’ This was before he knew Hagar, who was to be the mother of Ishmael. After mentioning this prayer, God goes on to describe the prayer and mentions that he foretold to Abraham that he would have a gentle son. God also mentions Abraham’s vision of himself sacrificing that son when he was old enough to walk with him.

The Book does not mention any tidings of a male child given to Abraham except in the instance where it refers to Isaac, in which God said, ‘And his wife, standing by laughed when we gave her tidings of Isaac, and after Isaac, Jacob,’ and ‘Then he became fearful of them.’ They said. ‘Fear not!’ and gave him tidings of a wise son. Then his wife approached, moaning, and smote her face, and cried, ‘A barren old woman.’ Thus, wherever the Qur’an mentions God giving tidings of the birth of a son to Abraham, it refers to Sarah (and thus to Isaac) and the same must be true of God’s words ‘So we gave him tidings of a gentle son’, as it is true of all such references in the Qur’an.”

Al-Tabari had valid reasons to conclude that the son was Isaac. He based his conclusions on the fact that the Qur’an“does not mention any tidings of a male child given to Abraham except in the instance where it refers to Isaac.” And since the account inSurah 37:101-102 clearly states that it was the promised child who accompanied Abraham to be sacrificed, then it must surely be Isaac.

Al-Tabari also stated the following:

That ram remained in custody with God until He let it go as Isaac’sransom.” (The History of Al-Tabari: General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood, Volume 1, p. 310)

Let us look into an incident during the early days of Islam. This incident clarifies who it was that the early Companions of Muhammad believed to be the sacrificial son of Abraham.

Mishkat Al-Masabih, Book 14, Chapter 4, Section 3:

Muhammad b. al-Muntashir told of a man who vowed to sacrifice himself if God rescued him from his enemy. He consultedIbn ‘Abbas who told him to consult Masruq, and when he consulted him he replied, “Do not sacrifice yourself, for if you are a believer you will kill a believing soul, and if you are an infidel you will hasten to hell; but buy a ram and sacrifice it for the poor,for Isaac was better than you and he was ransomed with a ram. He toldIbn ‘Abbas and he replied, “This is the decision I wanted to give you.” Razin transmitted it. (Mishkat Al-Masabih English Translation With Explanatory Notes by Dr. James Robson, Volume I, p. 733)

Ibn Abbas was a paternal cousin of Muhammad and a great scholar of Islam. So we are not dealing here with some stage-entertaining Muslim apologists but with the testimonies of the great Muslim scholars. Scholars who not only lived during the time of Muhammad but who were also his close Companions.

Gibb and Kramers, A Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, p. 175:

As the Qur’an verse does not state which son was to have been sacrificed, many Muslim theologians refer the intended sacrifice to Ismail. …But it may be said that the oldest tradition – al-Tha`labiexpressly emphasises theashab andtabi`un, i.e. the Companions of the Prophet and their successors from `Umar b. al-Khattab to Ka`b al-Ahbar – did not differ from the Bible on this question.

As stated above, the earlier Companions of Muhammad, including the rightly guided Caliphs such as Caliph Umar, believed that it was Isaacwho was the intended sacrifice. While Islam is divided, no such disagreement has ever existed between the Jews and Christians. It is universally believed without dissent by Jews and Christians that it wasIsaac. It is only in Islamic history that one finds confusion regarding the identity of the son.

Now ponder deeply on the following reasoning. If the son to be sacrificed is truly Ishmael, then the omission of the name of the son in the Qur’an is truly a strange anomaly in view of one very important factor. In fact, it is inconsistent with the qualities of an all-knowing God. Why do we say that? Muslims claim that the name of Ishmael was deliberately removed from the Bible and replaced with Isaac. If Allah is the author of the Qur’an, surely he must have known that it is emphatically taught in both the Old and the New Testament that it wasIsaac who was offered as a sacrifice. As a result, this “erroneous teaching” came to be universally accepted. Since the Qur’an was revealed centuries after the completion of the Bible, surely an all-knowing Allah would have corrected the error with an equally emphatic statement in the Qur’an that it was Ishmael. Why was Ishmael’s name not mentioned at all in the sacrificial account in the Qur’an? Why did Allah remain silent?

In other words, since there is a double testimony from both the Old and the New Testament that the son was Isaac and if the Qur’an had come to clarify any previous errors as Muslims claim, it surely would have named Ishmael if he was indeed the chosen victim. In the light of the prevailing belief that it was Isaac, the omission in the Qur’an regarding the identity of the son is inexcusable if it was Ishmael.

Since Ishmael is named directly in the Qur’an in other instances such as he being Allah’s helper in the building of the Ka’ba, is it not strange that Allah omitted his name when it matters most? Is it not strange that Allah missed out on the best opportunity to correct an obvious error in the Bible? Is not the omission of Ishmael’s name in the entire Surah (the 37thSurah in the Qur’an) all the more significant, especially when thisSurah covers a number of the stories of the earlier prophets who are all specifically mentioned by name?

In fact, Surah 37mentions many of the earlier prophets by name. Names such as Noah(Surah 37:75, 79),Abraham (Surah 37:83, 104, 109), Isaac (Surah 37:112, 113), Moses(Surah 37:114, 120),Aaron (Surah 37:114, 120), Elijah (Surah 37:123, 130), Lot (Surah 37:133) and Jonah (Surah 37:139). Therefore, the omission of the name of Ishmael in the only passage in the Qur’an where the event of the sacrifice is recorded is astonishing. It is truly astonishing if Ishmaelwas indeed the chosen son. In fact, in the entireSurah, you cannot find the name of IshmaelThe true fact of the matter is that Surah 37 has nothing to do with Ishmael. Surah 37:100-113 is just a repeat of the account regardingAbraham and Isaac inGenesis 22.

Muslims try to come up with all kinds of excuses to prove that the sacrificial son was Ishmael. Failing to find any, they even try to divide what is otherwise a clear segment in the Qur’an on a single subject of the sacrificial offer of Abraham. For example, some Muslims argue that since “the good news of Isaac” is announced only after the account of the sacrifice, therefore the preceding account of the sacrifice must refer to another son of Abraham, namely Ishmael. In other words, Muslims are saying that while the two verses (Surah 37:112-113) which appears at the conclusion of the account refers to Isaac, the preceding twelve verses (Surah 37:100-111)is actually speaking about Ishmael.

Their argument is seriously flawed for numerous reasons. Firstly,Surah 37:100-111 does not mention the name of Ishmael at all. Additionally, the very mention of Isaac by name, immediately following the sacrifice will only serve to distort one’s understanding of the narrative that precedes it if it really did involve another son. It is hard to believe that the sacrifice refers to Ishmael whenIsaac is promptly mentioned twice by name in the very verses that follow the proposed sacrifice. But there is more.

In fact, there is an unmistakable link between the phrasing of the sentences thatprecedes the command to sacrifice and the phrasing of the sentences that follow immediately afterthe command to sacrifice. Take note of the remarkable similarities in the wordings regarding the promised child thatprecedes the passage of the command to sacrifice with the wordings regarding the promised child immediately afterthe passage of the command to sacrifice. Let us analyze the Qur’anic passage to expose the fallacy of the Muslim argument.

Firstly, we noticed that immediately before the subject of the sacrifice was introduced, a son was promised to Abraham:“So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.” (Surah 37:101).

And immediately afterthe narration of the sacrifice, Isaacis mentioned by name as the promised child to Abraham: “We gave him the good news of Isaac.” (Surah 37:112).

Can you notice the symmetry between the two phrases? Now when we connect the two phrases together it reads as: “So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. We gave him the good news of Isaac.”

Therefore, the claim by Muslims that the stated“good news of a boy” at the beginning of the sacrificial account refers to Ishmael is deceptive. This is all the more true as the name of Ishmael appears nowhere, whereas “the good news of Isaac” is mentioned clearly by name in this account. Furthermore,“the good news of Isaac”is mentioned in three other accounts in the Qur’an while none whatsoever about Ishmael. The three other accounts can be found inSurah 11:70-71 which refers to Isaac as the promised child by name and, Surah 15:53 andSurah 51:28-29 which refers to Isaac as the promised child by clear unmistakable references. Therefore, we have four accounts in the Qur’an that speaks about Isaac as the promised child and none at all about Ishmael in the entire Qur’an.

Secondly there is also a clear symmetry between the phrase before the sacrificial account, “So when they had both submitted their wills.” (Surah 37:103)and the phrase after the sacrificial account, “We blessed him and Isaac.” (Surah 37:113).

Once again when we connect the two phrases together it reads as: “So when they had both submitted their wills. We blessed him and Isaac.”

Thus, it can clearly be seen that the Qur’an is actually speaking of only one single incident and that only one single individual (Isaac) apart from Abraham is involved in the entire account ofSurah 37:100-113. It is also significant to note that there is no word in the text, such as “then”(Arabic: thumma), to denote a separation between the narration of the sacrifice and the narration of Isaac. 

It can clearly be seen that the Muslim argument that Ishmael must have been the sacrificial son because the story of the sacrifice precedes the mention of Isaac is highly erroneous upon closer analysis. It should be noted that the idea that the sacrifice incident is divided into two sections is concocted by Muslims and is not based on facts. Certainly the complete omission of Ishmael’s name in the passage considerably undermines the dogmatic Muslim claim that he was the sacrificial son. We will now discuss the issue as to why Isaac is addressed as the “only son” of Abraham in the Genesisaccount.

WHY ISAAC IS RECOGNIZED AS THE “ONLY SON” OF ABRAHAM

Since Muslims claim that the phrase “only son” can only apply to Ishmael, it is important to explain how this phrase applies exclusively to Isaac and not to Ishmael. It is equally important to explain how Isaac can rightfully be considered as the only son of Abraham for various legitimate reasons. Both the Holy Bible and the Qur’an affirm the unique status of Isaac. Isaac was addressed as the only son of Abraham for the following reasons:

THE ONLY PROMISED CHILD OF ABRAHAM

Both the Holy Bible and the Qur’an testifies that Isaac was the only promised child of Abraham:

Genesis 17:15-21: And God went on to say to Abraham: “As for Sarai your wife, you must not call her name Sarai, because Sarah is her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son from her; and I will bless her and she shall become nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” At this Abraham fell upon his face and began to laugh and to say in his heart: “Will a man a hundred years old have a child born, and will Sarah, yes, will a woman ninety years old give birth?”

After that Abraham said to the true God: “O that Ishmael might live before you!” To this God said: “Sarah your wife is indeed bearing you a son, and you must call his name Isaac. And I will establish my covenant with him for a covenant to time indefinite to his seed after him. But as regards Ishmael I have heard you. Look! I will bless him and will make him fruitful and will multiply him very, very much. He will certainly produce twelve chieftains, and I will make him become a great nation.However, my covenant I shall establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this appointed time next year.”

And Isaac was also the only name of a promised child of Abraham that is expressly stated in the Qur’an:

Surah 11:69-71: There came Our messengers to Abraham with glad tidings.They said, “Peace!” He answered, “Peace!” …And his wife was standing (there), and she laughed: But We gave herglad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob. (Yusuf Ali)

Provided below is another Surah that speaks of the“glad tidings of a son.”The angels who visited Abraham and Sarah gave them the good news of a promised son. Even though the following Qur’anic verses do not mention Isaac by name, we can be very certain that this account is in fact about him because the account is actually a repeat of the same incident as the above Surah where the promised child of Abraham is identified as Isaac:

Surah 51:24-30:Has the story reached thee, of the honoured guests of Abraham? Behold, they entered his presence, and said: “Peace!” He said, “Peace!” …They said, “Fear not, and they gave him glad tidings of a son endowed with knowledge. But his wife came forward (laughing) aloud: she smote her forehead and said: “A barren old woman!” They said, “Even so has thy Lord spoken: and He is full of Wisdom and Knowledge.” (Yusuf Ali)

The only “barren old woman” who was given“glad tidings of a son”was Sarah. And she is described here as the wife of Abraham. Therefore, the son mentioned here can only be Isaac and no other. The Bible clearly teaches that Isaac was the only promised child of Abraham and as we can see, the Qur’an agrees with this fact. The important point for Muslims to reflect on is the fact that the Qur’an repeated mentions Isaac as the only promised child of Abraham. And as evidenced earlier, great Muslim scholars such as al-Tabari agree on this fact.

THE ONLY SON WHO WAS CONCEIVED MIRACULOUSLY

Furthermore, it was not Ishmael but Isaac who was conceived with the aid of God’s miraculous power:

Genesis 17:15-17: And God went on to say to Abraham: “As for Sarai your wife, you must not call her name Sarai, because Sarah is her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son from her; and I will bless her and she shall become nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” At this Abraham fell upon his face and began to laugh and to say in his heart: “Will a man a hundred years old have a child born, and will Sarah, yes, will a woman ninety years old give birth?”

Genesis 18:11-14: And Abraham and Sarah were old, being advanced in years. Sarah had stopped having menstruation.Hence Sarah began to laugh inside herself, saying: “After I am worn out, shall I really have pleasure, my lord being old besides?” Then Jehovah said to Abraham: “Why was it that Sarah laughed, saying, ‘Shall I really and truly give birth although I have become old?’ Is anything too extraordinary for Jehovah? At the appointed time I shall return to you, next year at this time, and Sarah will have a son.”

In agreement with the Bible, the Qur’an also recognizes this fact regarding God’s intervention to revitalize the dead womb of Sarah. The Qur’an states the following:

Surah 11:72-73She said, ‘Alas for me!How am I to bear a child when I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would be a strange thing!’They said, ‘Are you astonished at what God ordains? The grace of God and His blessings be upon you, people of this house! For He is worthy of all praise and glory.’ (Abdel Haleem)

The above verses from both the Bible and the Qur’an tell us that Sarah no longer had the ability to have children. A miracle will have to be performed in order for her to have children. Jehovah God will have to bring her womb to life again in order for her to conceive a child. And Jehovah did this by givingSarah and Abraham the ability to conceive Isaacthrough his divine intervention. In contrast, Ishmael was born normally without any divine intervention.

THE ONLY LEGITIMATE SON OF ABRAHAM

Isaac was the only legitimate son of Abraham when God commanded him to make the sacrificial offering. Isaac was begotten through Sarah, the legitimate wife of Abraham. Thus, Isaac was a legitimate son of Abraham. Furthermore, the Bible reveals thatHagar, the mother of Ishmael, was a“maidservant” of the wife of Abraham. It was only because Sarah herself could not bear children that she said to Abraham:

Genesis 16:2-3: “Please have relations with my servant. Perhaps I can have children by means of her.” So Abram listened to what Sarai said. …Abram’s wife Sarai took her Egyptian servant Hagar and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.

The expression here is clearly intended to mean that she gave Hagar to her husband to cohabit with him and not with the intention of making her a second wife as Muslims often claim these verses imply. This fact is clearly seen by how Hagar is addressed by Abraham even after she bore him a son. When Hagar conceived Ishmael and looked in contempt upon Sarah, Abraham responded to Sarah by saying:

Genesis 16:6:“Look! Yourmaidservant is at your disposal. Do to her what is good in your eyes.”

And when Hagar was in the wilderness, an angel of the true God appeared to her. Notice how he addressed Hagar when he spoke to her years after she bore Abraham a son:

Genesis 16:8:“Hagar,maidservant of Sarai, just where have you come from and where are you going?”

And later this angel admonished her:

Genesis 16:9:“Return to yourmistress and humble yourself under her hand.”

Notice carefully, this angel of the true God never once addressed Hagar as the wife of Abraham. He did not say return to your husband but return to your mistress. Ibn Sa’d’s Kitab al-Tabaqát al-Kabir is one of the earliest works on the biographical literature of Islam and a valuable source of information for the students of Islamic history as well as scholars engaged in Islamic research. This Islamic source confirms that Hagar was only a servant in Abraham’s household whom Sarah gave to him solely to bear him a son:

Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 1, p. 41:

Then he called Hajar who was the most trustworthy of his servants and he bestowed her (Hajar) on her (Sarah) and gave her clothes; subsequently Sarah made a gift of her (Hajar) to Ibrahim who cohabited with her and she bore Ismail who was the eldest of his children.

Quite clearly Hagar was never regarded as the wife of Abraham but only as the maidservant of Sarah. This would make Ishmael an illegitimate son of Abraham. Thus it was quite proper for God to speak of Isaac as Abraham’s only son, namely his only legitimate son through his legitimate wife Sarah.

For Muslims who claim that Hagar was legitimate wife of Abraham, we challenge them to produce a single verse from the Qur’an to back their claim. As shown above, Hagar was no more than a maidservant of Sarah. She was given to Abraham by Sarah herself for the single purpose of bearing a child for Abraham and Sarah. However, what makes the Muslim claim a preposterous lie is the complete absence of any mention of Hagar in the Qur’an – even of the slightest reference to her. It is truly astonishing how Muslims can come up with this claim. In actual fact, the entire Qur’an has no reference to Hagar whatsoever, let alone by name. Is not the complete silence about Hagar in the Qur’an, a clear testimony that the Qur’an recognizes Sarah alone as the wife of Abraham?

Surah 11:71:“And his wifewas standing there, and she laughed: But we gave her glad tidings of Isaac,and after him, of Jacob.”

As the son is specifically named here as Isaac, there can be little doubt as to the identity of his mother. Why did not the Qur’an say, “And one of his wives was standing there”? If Hagar had also been one of Abraham’s wives, would it not be more appropriate to say,“And one of his wives was standing there.” Or would it not be more proper to identify her as“his wife Sarah.”However, when the Qur’an purely speaks of Abraham’s wife in the singular, without any form of identification, it recognizes the fact thatAbraham had onlyone wife and that wife was Sarah.

A very important fact to bear in mind is that when the promise of Isaac was made to Abraham and Sarah, Ishmael had already been born. Therefore, for Surah 11:71 to refer to Sarah at this point in time as Abraham’s only wife is a clear testimony that Hagar was not one of his wives. It must be remembered that there is no mention whatsoever neither by name nor by reference of Hagar in the Qur’an. This is indeed a strange omission if she was also a wife of Abraham. In fact, if a Muslim were to read through the entire Qur’an without reference to any external source, he would not be able to guess that there was another woman in Abraham’s life.

The only woman mentioned in the above Qur’anic account is described as the single wife of Abraham and she is expressly described as the mother of Isaac. If Sarah is mentioned alone as the wife of Abraham in the Qur’an and also described as such in the Bible, can there be any objection to the description of Isaac as“your only son” inGenesis 22:2? Since Sarah is the only legitimate wife of Abraham, is it not perfectly in order to describe their son Isaacas Abraham’s only son?

Additionally, since Sarah alone is mentioned in the Qur’an as the single wife of Abraham, would God announce to Abraham the birth of a righteous boy conceived through an illegitimate union with a slave woman. (Surah 37:101) This is especially true as no mention whatsoever of this woman appears in the Qur’an. The only son promised to Abraham in the Qur’an isIsaac and Surah 37:102makes it quite plain that it was this very same promised son who was commanded to be sacrificed. Therefore, the only conclusion we can draw is that the sacrificial son has to be Isaac and no other. It is only the popular sentiment of the Muslims that it was Ishmael and that for obvious reasons. We have seen just how the promise of a son to Abraham was inextricably linked to the subsequent command to sacrifice him. Where do think these evidences point to? Do they point to Isaac or Ishmael? The answer is obvious.

THE ONLY SON WHO LIVED WITH ABRAHAM

Isaac was the only son who lived with Abraham. Many years before the event when Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah, Ishmael and his mother Hagar had already been sent away. Ishmael was no longer a member of Abraham’s household.Thus Abraham was left with Isaac as his only son.

Genesis 21:14:So Abraham got up early in the morning and took bread and a skin water bottle and gave it to Hagar, setting it upon her shoulder, and the child, and thendismissed her. And she went her way and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba.

Since the Qur’an completely omits any mention of Hagar, Muslims are in no position to dispute the above stated Biblical statement.

THE QUR’AN RECOGNIZES ISAAC AS THE ONLY SON

In fact, there are many verses in the Qur’an which prove that it only recognizes Isaac as the only unique son of Abraham. Surah 29:27 is one such verse. It is one of most significant verses in the Qur’an. It is significant because it shows from the descendants of which son of Abraham will God select to establish the Prophethood and the Scriptures.

Surah 29:27:And We bestowed upon Abraham(a son) Isaac, and (a grandson)Jacoband caused Prophethood and Revelation to continue among his progeny. And We gave him his reward in this world, and verily, in the life to come he shall be among those who have perfected their personality. (Shabbir Ahmed)

And We bestowed on (Abraham)Isaac and Jacob, and We established the Prophethood and the Scripture among his seed, and We gave him his reward in the world, and lo! In the Hereafter he verily is among the righteous.” (Pickthall)

Why was the name of Ishmael completely left out in this Qur’anic verse? This is very significant in view of the fact that Ishmael was the older son – the firstborn. Notice the order of the genealogy in this Qur’anic verse –Abraham (Father), Isaac(Son) and Jacob(Grandson). Does not this Qur’anic verse clearly identify and recognizeIsaac as the only son of Abraham? Why? Is it not because he is the only legitimate son of Abraham? Is it not because he is the only promised son who is worthy for theProphethood and the Scripture to be established through his genealogy?

This Qur’anic verse states emphatically that the“Prophethood” and the“Scripture” will be established to only those who came from the lineage Abraham through Isaac. Thus the Qur’an itself confirms the superiority of Isaac over Ishmael. Is it not strange that Ishmael is completely disregarded in this blessed privilege of God? Why was he not recognized as the son of Abraham when it matters most. Does not this prove that it is therefore perfectly legitimate forIsaac to be addressed as the “only son” in the Holy Bible?

The message inSurah 29:27 is certainly an emphatic statement. This Qur’anic verse is very important because it establishes the identity of the sacrificial son with utmost certainty. In order to understand the importance ofSurah 29:27, we must first consider the Covenantthat God made with Abraham immediatelyafter he proved faithful to the sacrificial test:

Genesis 22:15-18: And Jehovah’s angel called to Abraham a second time from the heavens, saying: “‘By myself I swear,’ declares Jehovah, ‘that because you have done this and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand on the seashore, and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will obtain a blessing for themselves because you have listened to my voice.’”

Because of Abraham’s obedience, God promised to bless his off-spring. AndSurah 29:27 confirms that in keeping with his promise, God blessed the nation who came through the lineage of Isaac. It emphatically states: “And We bestowed on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and We established the Prophethood and the Scripture among hisseed, and We gave him his reward in the world.”

Centuries before the arrival of the Qur’an, the Holy Bible confirms this vital truth that God in keeping true to his Covenant with Abraham established it through the Nation of Israel – the descendents of Isaac: 

Romans 9:4-5:Who, as such, areIsraelitesto whom belong the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the sacred service and the promises; to whom the forefathers belong and from whom the Christ sprang according to the flesh: God, who is over all, be blessed forever. Amen.

And the Qur’an agrees once again with this profound truth:

Surah 45:16:And verily We gave theChildren of Israel theScripture and the Commandand theProphethood, and provided them with good things andfavoured them above all peoples.” (Pickthall)

Hence, it must be concluded that the intended sacrificial victim could only have been Isaac and not Ishmael. The Qur’an confirms the superiority of Isaac over Ishmael. It may surprise Muslims to learn that in many instances where Abraham is mentioned along with his son and especially so when it stated in a genealogical manner, the name of Ishmael is completely ignored in the Qur’an. In these instances, Isaac is recognized as the only son of Abraham in the Qur’an. So not only the Bible but the Qur’an also recognizes Isaac as the only son of Abraham in many of its verses. We will now provide a few examples of such verses in the Qur’an:

Surah 6:84: We gave (Abraham) Isaac and Jacob. Both had received Our guidance. Noah received Our guidance before Abraham and so did his descendants: David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron. Thus is the reward for the righteous people. (Muhammad Sarwar)

Surah 19:49-50:When (Abraham) rejected his people and what they worshipped instead of God,We gave him Isaac and Jacoband made both of them Prophets. We granted them Our blessing and high renown. (Muhammad Sarwar)

Was not Ishmael the firstborn son of Abraham? Was he not given as a son to Abraham? Why then do the above Qur’anic verses totally discount Ishmael as one of the sons given to Abraham? Is it not ironical that these Qur’an verses completely ignore the older son of Abraham and instead mentions the younger son as the immediate son of Abraham? What is the Qur’an’s reason for doing so?

Surah 38:45-47:(Muhammad), recall Our servantsAbraham,Isaac, andJacob, all of whom possessed virtuous hands and clear visions. We gave them this pure distinction because of their continual remembrance of the Day of Judgment. In Our eyes they were of the chosen, virtuous people. (Muhammad Sarwar)

Again we notice that the Qur’an does not take Ishmael into account as one of the sons of Abraham. The younger son is mentioned once again as the immediate son of Abraham and even the name of the grandson is included but not the name of the firstborn son. Why? There are other more verses such as these in the Qur’an but the above is sufficient to prove our point.

Thus, taking all the evidences into consideration, we can see that the Muslim claim that Ishmael was the sacrificial son has no solid evidence to substantiate it. The plain statements in the Bible that it was Isaacmust obviously be preferred to the Qur’an’s vague and confusing treatment of the identity of the son whom Abraham was commanded to sacrifice.

The Qur’an’s own teaching to a large extent underlines the superiority of Isaac over Ishmael. His lineage was God’s choice for the fulfillment of his eternal promises. This leads us to the conclusion that it was Isaac who was commanded to be sacrificed as a sign of the coming sacrifice of Abraham’s greater son,Jesus Christ. The offering of Isaac served as a sign of the greater sacrifice in the person of Christ Jesus. A sacrifice which was to serve as God’s way of opening the doors of his salvation to the world of mankind. As Isaac was preferred over Ishmael, likewise Jesus Christmust be preferred over Muhammad. Jesus Christis the true son ofAbraham – the true Sacrifice of God whomIsaac prefigured.

Matthew 1:1:“The book of the history of Jesus Christson of David, son of Abraham.”

As stated earlier, Islamic sources themselves testify that owing to the lack of a clear identity in the Qur’an, there were disagreements among early Muslims as to who the sacrificial son was. If you, as a Muslim, still have doubts regarding the identity of the sacrificial son, then we encourage you to consider the advice given in your own sacred text:

Surah 10:94: So if you are in doubt, (O Muhammad), about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. (U. Muhammad, Sahih International)

Muhammad was commanded by Allah to consult the people “who have been reading the Scripture” that was revealed “before” him when he had doubts. Those who have been reading the Scriptures before the time of Muhammad were the Christians. They read theHoly Bible. Yes, even your Prophet was directed by Allah to seek spiritual assistance from the Christians as a means of clearing his doubts. You should do the same. And Christians will be glad to assist you. They will gladly enlighten you that it was Isaac – without a doubt.

Shalom

Max Shimba Ministries

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