Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

I am a very devout Christian who was recently introduced to Islam. I enjoy reading The Islamic Bulletin very much and look forward to each issue. There is just one question, however, that has been bothering me from your last issue. It was stated that it was the Prophet Ismael who was going to be sacrificed by his father, Prophet Abraham. I have been taught in Christianity that it was Prophet Isaac. I never knew until reading the Islamic Bulletin, that Islam believes that it was the Prophet Ismael. Now I am confused. I don't know which one is right. Please clarify it for me.

Your Christian Brother,
Carlos Rodriquez, San Francisco


First of all, I would like to thank you for writing and in response to your statement, please refer to the following sections from the Bible: "After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham! And he said, Here am I.' God then said, 'Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Genesis 22:1-2). There is a glaring contradiction in this statement. It says that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac for Him and also emphasizes that he is the only son. Other statements of the Bible clearly show that Isaac was not the only son, "Now Sarai, Abraham's wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar; and Sarai said to Abraham, 'Behold now the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go into my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.' And Abraham harkened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abraham had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abraham's wife took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abraham, her husband, as a wife. And he went in Hagar, and she conceived.' (Genesis 16:1-4). And in the same chapter we find, "And the angel of the Lord said to her, 'Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael!' (Genesis 16:1-4) And in the same chapter we read, 'And Hagar bore Abraham a son; and Abraham called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abraham was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abraham." (Genesis 16:15-16).

Thereafter when Abraham was a hundred years old he was given the good news of the birth of his second son, Ishaque from Sarai, "And God said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai, your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her... and you shall call his name Isaac..." Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael, his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin." (Genesis 17: 15-25). Another section of the Bible mentions the time of birth of Isaac in these words, 'Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.' (Genesis 21-5).

A cursory glance at the above statements of the Bible will show that Ishmael was the only son of the Prophet Ibrahim right up to the age of fourteen. If Prophet Ibrahim was commanded to sacrifice his only son, it could be only Ishmael and not Ishaque because the latter was not his only son but second son.

The statements in the Qur'an discussed above explicitly point out that The Almighty asked Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael when he was his only son and also establish first; that when Ibrahim had no children, he prayed to The Almighty for a virtuous child (Qur'an 37:100) and was given the good news of the birth of a gentle and patient boy (Qur'an 37:101). And second; when that child was able to run and play, then Prophet Ibrahim was asked to offer him in sacrifice (Qur'an 37:102). Third; it leaves no doubt that the good news was the birth of his first child and sacrifice was also of the first child who was the only child of Prophet Ibrahim. That child was Ishmael beyond any shadow of doubt. Fourth; the words used by the Qur'an when giving the good news of the birth of his two sons, Ishmael and Ishaque (Isaac), also seem to point out the different qualities of the two boys. For Ishmael it uses the words "gentle and patient boy" (Qur'an 37:101) and for Ishaque "boy possessing wisdom and knowledge" (Qur'an 15:53). Fifth; it seems more rational and reasonable to deduce from the language used in the Qur'an regarding the good news of the birth of Ishaque that he could not be the boy who was demanded in sacrifice.

When the Qur'an gives the good news of the birth, it also gives the good news of Ibrahim's grandson, Yakub (Jacob), from Ishaque (Isaac) (Qur'an 11:71). It seems very illogical that the prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) is given good news of the birth of a son and also a grandson from him and, at the same time, he is asked to sacrifice the same son. This totally rules out the birth of a grandson from the same son. Besides, when the news of the birth of Ishaque (A.S.) was given, Ibrahim (Abraham) (A. S.) was told that he would be a prophet and one of the righteous (Quran 37:112) and also that his grandson would be of the righteous and would receive revelation for human guidance. (Qur'an 21:72-73). This clearly points out that the Command of sacrifice was not for Ishaque (A.S.) but for the other son who was patient and was born many years before him. I hope this will answer your question.


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July / August 1991
Moharram 1412
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