Monday, 21 July 2008


Ishmael or Isaac

The following is the text of a TV program presented by Maulana Dr. Waffie Mohammed

Summary of what was said, in previous program

We have been presenting Abraham as a model of the Upright Way of Life, we know that he is the Father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is regarded as being righteous. Can you give a summary of what was presented so far?

Abraham was over eighty and did not yet have any children.

His wife Sarah, give him her handmaid as a wife, with the hope that from her there will be a child or children. (It means that Abraham did not commit adultery)

Hagar became pregnant for Abraham.

God recognized her pregnancy as Abraham’s son. (Gen.21:13)

God ordained that the boy be named Ishmael meaning “God hears”.

Sarah became jealous and decided to cast both mother and son away.

Sarah did not want Ishmael to be inheritor of Abraham’s wealth.

Hagar and Ishmael were exiled and Abraham prayed for them.

God helped them survived and promised Abraham great things for his son Ishmael.

Even though they were not living in the same place as Sarah, Abraham had contact with them and loved his only son very dearly.

Both the father and son were circumcised on the same day as part of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham. (Gen.17:26)

Ishmael was about fourteen years old when Isaac was born

Abraham was tried by Allah in many ways. Did he get any other trial?

The next important event in the life of the family of Abraham is the command to sacrifice his only son. As the reference was to his only son, it means that this incident took place before the birth of Isaac, as, up to the birth of Isaac, Abraham had only one son i.e. Ishmael.

But this is not the view of our Christian brethren, why is there another point of view?

Some commentators of the Bible try to justify a misrepresented picture that it had to be Isaac and not Ishmael, for, as they say, Ishmael was born of the flesh and whereas Isaac came from God, as the fulfilment of a promise.

Isaac was in no way similar to Jesus, as it was only Jesus who had a virgin birth. Abraham was the biological father of both Ishmael and Isaac. As a matter of fact Ishmael enjoys the status of being the first biological son of Abraham. Isaac came much later. And Ishmael was part of God’s original covenant with Abraham, as both father and son were circumcised on the same day in fulfillment of that covenant.

The important point is that even though Hagar the mother of Ishmael was the servant of Sarah; that does not lower the esteem of her son in the sight of God, as it was God who was guiding her and taking care of her and her son all along, and, like Isaac, promised Abraham great things for Ishmael.

Paul is also deceiving the people by saying that the Ishmaelites are persecutors. This philosophy came all the way down to Prophet Muhammad (pboh) as they continue to deceive the people by saying that Islam was spread by the sword.

Why has the Church adopted a different position regarding Ishmael?

The Church has a different view about him. It bases its authority for not recognizing him as a legitimate son of Abraham from the writing of Paul. He wrote as follows:

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children. They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. (Rom.9:7-8)

Now, we, brethren, as Isaac was are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit. (Gal.428-29)

What Paul is saying is that although the two boys are Abraham’s son, one is not human or not considered to be Godly, and as a result is not qualified to be associated with Abraham and Isaac nor is he entitled to inherit from his father.

When you look at the history of both Sarah and Hagar, you cannot help but ask, Who persecuted who? Was it not Sarah who persecuted Hagar? Then Paul cannot justify the elevation of Isaac over Ishmael on the basis of one being of the flesh and the other being of Promise. It is true that Hagar was Sarah’s servant, but she was honorably given to Abraham to be his wife, and the son born out of the union had the blessing of even Sarah.

If according to Paul, the children of the flesh are not children of God, then is it true to say that when the word became flesh it was no longer Godly of part of God?

According to Christianity, the Word became flesh (Jn.1:14). And according to Paul, the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Gal.5:17)

But Jesus was flesh and yet he was pious, just as how Abraham was flesh and was still righteous. So too, Ishmael could have been considered to be flesh and still could have been righteous like his father and mother.

As a matter of fact, Hagar was more righteous than Sarah, as she never questioned God’s decision. But when Sarah was told that she was to have a son she laughed and questioned the message.

Is it really true that Ishmael is lower in status than Isaac?

The attempt to lower the status of Ishmael because of birth cannot stand, as no one doubts the righteousness of Abraham, and as a result, after sincere prayers, if Allah granted him a son willing to forebear, then how can anyone deny that he is from the children of Abraham, when the Bible confirms that Ishmael was Abraham’s son.

Besides, in the eyes of God all human beings are equal. He says:

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered. (Joel 2:32)
In the Qur’an Allah tells us as follows:

For Muslim men and Muslim women, for believing men and believing women, for devout men and devout women, for truthful men and truthful women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise, for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. (33:35)

We see that Sarah persecuted Hagar terribly, and never took her back in the home. Was there a reason for this?

· Abraham and Sarah belonged to one family tree, while Hagar was an outsider.
· Both were fair skin, while Hagar was a colored woman
· Hagar’s beauty was a cause of concern of Sarah
· Hagar had a son while Sarah was barren
· According to the laws of inheritance Ishmael was entitled to inherit from Abraham’s wealth, this was bitterly opposed by Sarah.
· Hagar was considered to be a Gentile

The persecution started by Sarah against Hagar and Ishmael continues even today with the Israelites persecuting the Palestinians mercilessly. Nothing has changed, and all the evil committed are being justified by misrepresentations found in the Bible. The purpose of Sarah's persecution of Hagar and her son was that the boy should not inherit any part of the Land promised to Abraham. That is the reason why they were sent away. Abraham did not write a will, and as a result, even though Ishmael is his first son, Hagar made sure that nothing from the father should be given to him. So that her priority was to ensure that the land around Palestine remains with the inheritors of Isaac. This was not from a Divine revelation but was her own doing. The Zionist movement is still fighting the Palestines for the lands that were promised to Abraham.

What does the Qur’an and the Bible say about the sacrifice?

The Holy Qur’an gives a very clear picture of what actually took place. It narrates it in the following verses:

Abraham prayed to his Lord as follows:
O my Lord, grant me a righteous son, So We gave him the good 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 a vision that I offer you in sacrifice, What is your view about it? (The son) replied, O my father, do as you are commanded, you will find me, if Allah wills, one practicing patience and constancy. (37:100-102)

If the Biblical words are carefully examined, one will find that according to the Bible, Abraham was not commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac. The verse reads as follows:

Offer him there for a burnt offering. (Gen.22:2)

The Hebrew word (ala) literally means “lift him up” indicating that the victim must be offered whole. No reference is made of slaying the boy.

The other confusing issue from the Biblical point of view is the location where the burnt offering had to be made. The Bible says that is was in the land of Moriah. No exact place was specified. This is what one commentator had to say about this matter:

The place of the sacrifice cannot be positively identified. 11 Chronicles 3:1 seem to locate it on the side of Solomon’s Temple. Tradition has held to this view, and would be difficult to find a more easily acceptable spot. (Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p.27)

The sacrifice of Abraham, has a special place in Muslim belief and practice, can you comment about it?

In Islam the sacrifice is very clearly presented. It can be summarized as follows:

Abraham prayed for a son
Allah granted his prayer
He was given a son named Ishmael
When the boy was beginning to become mature, Allah gave Abraham a vision that he is to sacrifice Ishmael.
Abraham and the son with the knowledge of the mother submitted to the Divine Will
The attempt to sacrifice the boy was actually carried out
Allah substituted a ram in place of the boy, and it was slaughtered
Allah leaves the lesson of submission and sacrifice for future generation
It is rehearsed by Muslims every year at the actual place where Abraham was ordered to carry it out, during the Haj, and by Believers all over the world, during that time.
Allah records about the event as follows:

And We left this blessing for him among generations (to come) in later times. Peace and salutations on Abraham. (37:108-109)

What was the purpose of the sacrifice?

The purpose of the order to sacrifice was to demonstrate willing submission to Allah.

The projection of the sacrifice according to Christianity is completely different for the following reasons:

· It was inaccurately recorded and confusing. If it was Abraham’s only son, it could not have been Isaac, as he was born almost fourteen years after Ishmael.
· The actual command to sacrifice is not in the Biblical words
· The place where the sacrifice took place cannot be located
· The lessons for the sacrifice are lost.
· The momentous sacrifice of Abraham and his son has been replaced by alluding to the alleged crucifixion of Jesus on the cross.
· Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering.
· The alleged crucifixion of Jesus is different from the sacrifice of the ram as the whole animal was burnt, which would have meant that the sacrifice was accepted.
· Jesus was taken down from the cross and hid in a private tomb
· Abraham is known for his righteousness because he submitted to the Will of God without any complaints
· We see where Jesus kept complaining and pleading with God before the alleged crucifixion.

Why was Abraham recognized as a righteous person?

Because he had uncompromising faith in Allah, and he knew Allah to be a friend and helper. Nothing was too much for him to give to his Lord, and he knew that his lord was sufficient for him in this life and in the next.

Paul says:

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom.4:13)

What Paul did not elaborate upon was that Abraham had faith in God and not in any one else. Nowadays the leaders of Christianity project the importance of faith, but not in God. They preach faith in Jesus. Even though Jesus preached faith in Allah he said:

Not everyone who says unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of my Father, which is in heaven. (Mt.7:21)

What must be the Muslims’ attitude towards Abraham?

Allah has preserved the historic event of the sacrifice of Abraham as a lesson for Muslims. Every year millions of Muslims go to the places where Abraham and his family, i.e. Hagar and Ishmael traversed and recount some of what they did as part of the Haj rituals. They stand before their Lord, with the least of the worldly attractions chanting, “Here I come, O Lord, Here I come.” In addition Muslims look up to Abraham as a model.

The Qur’an confirms this in the following verse:

Abraham was indeed a model devoutly obedient to Allah, and true in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah. (16:120)

Muslims are taught to follow the ways of Abraham, as he was true in faith. Christians do not follow him as they prefer to live by Grace.

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