Author [EN] [PL] [ES] [PT] [IT] [DE] [FR] [NL] [TR] [SR] [AR] [RU] Topic: The Sacrificial Son of Abraham - Ishmael or Isaac?

Offline Reader Questions

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 505
    • View Profile
The Sacrificial Son of Abraham - Ishmael or Isaac?
« on: November 29, 2011, 12:28:02 AM »
Reference article:

Salaam dear brother Joseph,
I  went through your article on Prophet Abraham and the other links. You feel that it was Isaac that was taken to be sacrificed and you feel that Surah 37:101-112  was referring to Isaac. I went through the ayats several times from many translations, and it seems to me that ayats 101 - 111 are referring to Abraham's first born son Ishmael though the name isn't mentioned. I feel this way for two reasons. First, while going through the above mentioned ayats Allah narrates how he answered Abraham's prayers by giving him a righteous and patient son, He then goes on to narrate how Abraham had a dream and then with his sons knowledge and submission takes him to be sacrificed. Then goes on to say how he stopped him from sacrificing his son and instead provides him with an animal. Then concludes the incident by praising Abraham for his faith and submission and says he will be remembered and blessed by generations to come. With this we can clearly see the story comes to an end. Then Allah in ayah 102 starts with the word 'And' and goes on to say that he blessed him with Isaac. I personally feel this is in reference to a second son.
My second reason is --- Even though I was born a Christian and grew up with the story about Abraham sacrificing Issac, I never bothered to check it out from the Bible. However, Just before embracing Islam and when going through many articles, I did read about the sacrificial son being Ishmael. This came as a surprise to me and motivated me to investigate the matter further in the Bible and I was surprised to find that what I read was in fact true. I'm sure you must be having knowledge of the Biblical account, but kindly allow me to share with you my thoughts on the topic. Kindly go through the following verses from the book of Genesis:   
Genesis  ch 16:15 'Later on Hagar bore to Abraham a son and Abraham called the name of his son whom Hagar bore Ishmael. 16-And Abraham was eighty six years old at Hagar's bearing  Ishmael to Abraham.'

Genesis ch 21:3 'Accordingly Abraham called the name of his son who had been born to him, whom Sarah had borne to him, Isaac. 4- And Abraham proceeded to circumcise Isaac his son when eight days old, just as God had commanded him. 5- And Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac his son was born to him.'

Genesis ch 22:1 'Now after these things it came about the true God put Abraham to the test. Accordingly he said to him: 'Abraham!' to which he said: 'Here I am!' 2-And he 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.'

From the above verses it would be logical to come to the following conclusions:

     1. Abraham's first born son is Ishmael.

     2. His second son Isaac was born 14 years later.

     3. For God to tell Abraham to take his 'only son', to be sacrificed, it would have to be before Isaac was born, when he had only Ishmael.

     4. The name 'Isaac' appearing in Gen. 22:1 seems to be an error.

The argument that Christians put forward is that Ishmael was the illegitimate child of Abraham and cannot be counted as his first son is absolute nonsense to me because nothing on earth can change the fact that Ishmael was Abraham's first born son irrespective of the status of his mother. Further, God would never show such discrimination.

Kindly let me have your thoughts on the above issue.

Saalam brother,

[A sister in faith]

Offline Joseph Islam

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1858
    • View Profile
    • The Quran and its Message
Re: The Sacrificial Son of Abraham - Ishmael or Isaac?
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2011, 01:00:29 AM »
Salamun Alaikum Sister,

Thank you for your email.

I note two main contentions that you have advanced:

     (a) The 'wa' (and) gives good news of a new boy
     (b) Biblical support

I'll respond with (b) first:


When analysing the Quran, I do not scrutinise it through the lens of Ahadith (Islamic secondary sources) or Biblical narratives. This I avoid with a view so as not to be compromised when analysing a matter wholly from the Quran's perspective. Therefore, you will have to forgive me when I pass over the Biblical perspective you have advanced for the purposes of analysis that I have advanced from a Quranic perspective.


"And (wa) We gave him the good news (Arabic: wabasharna) of Isaac, a prophet (Arabic: Nabiyyan) among the righteous (Arabic: Salihina)"

There is no mention of the birth of a 'new' child in this verse. This is assumed by virtue of the 'wa' (and) conjunction and is not conclusive. (i.e. the Quran does not say we gave Abraham news of another son whose name was Isaac) as in ...

019.007 (part)
"... "O Zakariya! We give thee good news of a son: His name shall be Yahya..."

The above would be more conclusive or a statement such as 'We gave Abraham tidings of another son, Isaac..." would be conclusive 'without doubt'.

The 'wa' (and) conjunction in my opinion does not separate the narratives with a view to deal with two separate personalities which runs as one theme from 37:100 to 37:113. The 'wa' (and) in my view only separates the time periods.

Before the 'wa' (and), the narrative was focused on Prophet Abraham's test and after the 'wa' (and), his original prayer in 37:100 was answered in 37:112.

The link is strong. The original prayer was for a 'saliheen' (righteous son) in 37:100. In 37:112 we note the conclusion of that prayer. This connection in my humble view, transcends the 'wa' (and) conjunction particle.

Questions and contentions with your understanding:

•   Why are only two blessings advanced in verse 37:112, when there were 3 of them captured by the theme of the verses? (Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael).

•   Why is a name advanced of a boy in 37:112 and is absent in 37:101 when this would be the perfect opportunity to clarify and to correct any Biblical understandings? After all the Quran calls itself 'tibiana lekulli shaye' (clear explanation of all things 16:89) so such an expectation of clarification is not unreasonable.

•   Why is Prophet Abraham's original prayer in 37:100 for a 'saliheen' never answered?

•   Why is Isaac mentioned as a prophet in 37:112 and Ishmael is not mentioned as a prophet from 37:100 to 37:112 when we know Ishmael was a Prophet from 6:86 and 6:89?

For me to accept any viable alternative from a Quran's perspective (and not be unduly influenced by Ahadith or a Biblical perspective), I would need to be satisfied with cogent responses for the above contentions.

Finally, with a view to clarify. I am not contesting that Prophet Ishmael was not Prophet Abraham's first born. In fact the Quran confirms Prophet Ishmael as Prophet Abraham's first born such as in verse 14:39. I have only posited that Prophet Ishmael was not the son involved in the incident of near sacrifice which was Prophet Isaac. There is no evidence in the Quran that the 'first born' was involved in the incident from the narrative descriptions that accrue from 37:100 to 37:113.

In the end of course, we can always agree to disagree as honest and mature thinkers. I say in a forum post of mine:

"It is a complex web of acquiring information and I believe that God takes us past what I call are 'watering places' if He intends to guide and 'water' those that truly seek His way. It is often a case of traversing these stepping stones with an open mind / heart and indeed moving on when the time is right.

My work (my humble effort) is merely a small piece in this immense web. Please take anything from it that is good and move on from anything that you do not find convincing.

Let us race (fa-is'tabiqu) with one another in good works (2:148)".

I hope this helps, God willing.
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell