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Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Qur'an 11:71 Isaac and Ishmael
« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2013, 09:54:31 PM »
Dear 8pider (/all),

As-salam alaykum and thank you all for your comments.

As many of you will know, the debate as to the identity of the sacrificial son is an ancient one which pervades early Muslim literature and scholarship. The opinion is sharply divided. As modern thinker Hamza Yusuf readily admits quite correctly:

"...and there is a difference of opinion about who that child was. The majority of the later scholars say it was Ishmael, many of the early scholars said it was Ishaaq. It should not be a point of contention for the believers; it's not the point of the story. Both are valid opinions..." [1]

Arguably unknown to many Muslims, classical scholars and historian have long wrangled over this question which even permeates the Ahadith corpus. Critics of Islam who often seem better informed than Muslims not conversant with their own literature are often not shy to present this as evidence to support their own theological perspectives [2]

So this is not a matter that I humbly feel we should 'resolve', but to feel content to state our position with citation of the best evidence we possibly can.

The Bible remains emphatic that the son in question was 'Isaac'. (Genesis 22:1-2).

Furthermore, the Quran often states that it is also a 'confirmation' (musaddiq) of the previous scriptures, certainly implying the overlap of narratives and the theological understanding prevalent during the Prophetic ministry amongst the People of the Book.

'tasdiq'“but it is a confirmation of what is before it”  (10:37); 'musaddiq' – “that I have sent down, confirming that which is with you” (2:41), et al.

Therefore, one may ask the valid question whether the Quran was confirming the prevalent views of the Jewish and Christian communities with regards the identity of the sacrificial son (Isaac) or was it challenging it (Ishmael)?

After all, the People of the Book during the Prophetic ministry were also the primary recipient of the Quran's call and they had to be convinced of its origins including the disbelievers amongst them. The Quran clearly states that they were not going to depart from their ways, until clear evidence came to them (98:6).

Undoubtedly, such an explicit challenge that ‘Isaac’ was not the child involved in the incident contrary to the Torah would have attracted strong criticism from the People of the Book, one arguably of ignorance of their scriptures.

However, this is not to say that the Quran does not challenge mainstay beliefs of those that follow their own scriptures. But the Quran does seem to be rather predisposed to challenge fundamental theological issues of variance such as those that question God's essence (as with the Christians) or those that are ‘read into’ scriptures as part of wider theology.

After all, the Quran did not have the intention to deal with each and every narrative of the Bible hence the term 'wa-yafu an kathiran' (forgive, pardon, pass over, relinquish or remit a whole or part or indeed pardon much) in verse 5:15.

Our concern here is of course, the best possible position / interpretation from the Quran.

In the story regarding Prophet Abraham and his son, if we are to take verses 37:101 -113 and understand them to capture three personalities, i.e. Prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, why does the Quran only mention the blessing on two personalities at the end of the narrative (i.e. Prophets Abraham and Isaac - 37:113)? 

Why is this reference 'exclusive' only to Prophets Abraham and Isaac and not 'cumulative' with a view to include Prophet Ishmael, who after all, was ready to be sacrificed and is subject the continuing theme of what the Quran seems to be narrating?

037.113
"We blessed him and Isaac..."

Verse 37:109 even recognises specific salutations on Prophet Abraham for his trial, however there is no mention whatsoever of Prophet Ishmael.

I respectfully note your appeal to verse 11:71 and your comment:

"The verse in the Quran is 11:71 "And his Wife was standing, and she smiled. Then We gave her good tidings of Isaac and after Isaac, Jacob." God states to Abraham that he will have a son called Isaac, and Isaac will have a son called Jacob. How is it possible then that Isaac could be the sacrificial son (as the article on here states) when he hasn't yet had Jacob?"

This is a good question. However, your contention also supports the perspective that the vision therefore could not have been from God but one which was possibly misunderstood as being from God. After all, why would God rescind on a promise He had made earlier and one which guaranteed his son's life at least till the point he had offspring?

One would be inclined to ask, is this why Prophet Abraham asked the son’s opinion due to some element of doubt that had arisen in his mind as to the origin of the dream?  Or was his seeking of an opinion narrated to show the difference between the Biblical perspective which pictures the son as largely unawares of the what was about to transpire till the last moments. What is its purpose?

Only God knows best what questions must have arisen in Prophet Abraham’s mind after he saw such a vision which subsequently became the subject of his immense trial.

Furthermore to your comment with regards names appealing to verses 37:101 and 11:71 you share:

"However we see two other verses referring to births, one with a name the other without"

However, both verses are not following a theme within the same 'narrative scope' of the same Surah of the Quran. Verses 37:101-37:112 arguably are.

You also kindly share:

"Also is it likely that the two verses quoted above are referring to the birth of the same child?? Two completely different situations and different times....also considering the wife is surprised by the news"

The Quran often speaks about the same incident in different ways capturing the narrative from different perspectives. This is well attested from many narratives. Often it provides additional details to a particular narrative or presents the incident with a different underlying message.

Therefore, it is quite possible that this is a reference to the same child and in one of the narratives the 'surprised' demeanour is an elucidatory comment. This with respect and in my humble view, cannot be ruled out and from a Quran's perspective at least, cannot form the basis of an academic or theological contention. 

In the end and indeed, only God knows best.

Warm regards,
Joseph.


REFERENCES:

[1] Hamza Yusuf:  "There is no calamity if there is certainty" [online] http://youtu.be/NIzjKfCA4KY?t=5m10s: Video Decription notes: "This talk was delivered for SBIA on Eid ul Adha at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, January 11th 2006. "Nothing in this world is calamity if you have certainty." - Shaykh Hamza Yusuf." [accessed] 30th August 2013
[2] Abraham and the Child of Sacrifice - Isaac or Ishmael? [online] http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/sacrifice.htm  [accessed] 30th August 2013






'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
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Offline 8pider

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Re: Qur'an 11:71 Isaac and Ishmael
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2013, 05:44:52 PM »
As salaam alaikum brother Joseph, thank you for your response.

However, your contention also supports the perspective that the vision therefore could not have been from God but one which was possibly misunderstood as being from God. After all, why would God rescind on a promise He had made earlier and one which guaranteed his son's life at least till the point he had offspring?

One would be inclined to ask, is this why Prophet Abraham asked the son’s opinion due to some element of doubt that had arisen in his mind as to the origin of the dream?  Or was his seeking of an opinion narrated to show the difference between the Biblical perspective which pictures the son as largely unawares of the what was about to transpire till the last moments. What is its purpose?

I am glad that you agree with me that the contention I put forward raises the above issues. But its important to note that these issues only arise if one believes the sacrificial son was Isaac. I find this conflict a big problem because it imparts directly on the “character/attributes” of Allah swt. However, there would be no conflict if the son was Ishmael.

In the story regarding Prophet Abraham and his son, if we are to take verses 37:101 -113 and understand them to capture three personalities, i.e. Prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, why does the Quran only mention the blessing on two personalities at the end of the narrative (i.e. Prophets Abraham and Isaac - 37:113)?

In your article you asked  “ why a name would be necessary in 37.112 when it is absent in 37.101, if both verses are capturing the birth of new children. ” Since I agree with your point that 37.112 is not capturing a birth but an announcement of Prophet hood, the question to you then is  “ why a name would be necessary in 37.112 when it is absent in 37.101, if entire narrative is talking about the same child.” I find a name is introduced halfway the narrative so we can switch focus from one child to another. If it were the same child the entire narrative, then a name would arguably not be necessary in 37.112. This also shows that all three personalities are rewarded. Abraham and Ishmael in 37.110 “Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.” and Isaac in 113.  I think this cannot be ruled out from a Quranic perspective.


Like you quoted, it doesnt matter to a Muslim if the son was Isaac or Ishmael as both opinions are valid. But in following the best meaning, I find choosing Isaac imparts directly on Gods "character/attributes" (major sin?) while Ishmael doesn't.


Thank you again for your response and I appreciate this opportunity to  share our views.

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Qur'an 11:71 Isaac and Ishmael
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2013, 06:59:03 PM »
Wa alaikum assalam 8pider,

Please see my responses to your comments in blue italics.

I find this conflict a big problem because it imparts directly on the “character/attributes” of Allah swt.

Dear brother / sister (8pider), I am sure you can appreciate that the biggest problem someone may find is why God would 'command' the sacrifice of a human in His name when he has made the killing of a human unlawful bar two exceptional circumstances (5:32) and none of these include human sacrifice in God's name. This is a generic law (applicable to all humans) prescribed in the backdrop of the first murder ever committed. This being the murder of one son of Adam by another (5:27-31). This command was set in stone before Abraham was even born.

These kind of offerings (human sacrifices to Gods) are made in false religions, not a monotheistic religion of truth. Why would a Holy Divine entity set a command to outlaw killing of humans and then go against it and ask for a human sacrifice and that too in an obscure dream!?

We can attempt to harmonise this contention in many ways to support our underlying convictions, but this remains a very serious contention. I trust that you will appreciate this point.

If it were the same child the entire narrative, then a name would arguably not be necessary in 37.112. This also shows that all three personalities are rewarded. Abraham and Ishmael in 37.110 “Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.” and Isaac in 113.  I think this cannot be ruled out from a Quranic perspective.

The reward mentioned in verse 37:110 is tied to a specific personality. This is clear from the preceding verses (37:108-109) that this is a reference to Prophet Abraham.

037.108-109
"And We left for him (alayhi) among the later generations (the salutation)."Peace be on Abraham!""

Therefore, the contention still remains as to why name one child and not another, especially when the Biblical record clearly elucidates the name of the sacrificial son? Why only refer to him as a 'son'? If this was a point where the Quran was to clarify a matter for posterity and show the Biblical perspective was incorrect, why was an explicit reference not stated to settle the issue? These points must be taken seriously in my humble view if a particular viewpoint is to be peddled with conviction.

I find choosing Isaac imparts directly on Gods "character/attributes" (major sin?) while Ishmael doesn't.

With respect, I am not sure I have completely grasped your contention as to how this is the case. Would you care to elucidate this for me dear 8pider?

Thanks for your comments. Truly appreciated.

Regards,
Joseph.
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell