In this post, we will continue to compare the Bible and the Qur’an. Please check out other posts in this series here.
According to the Hebrew scriptures, God appeared to Abraham and told him that he would bless him and make him the father of many nations.
Many years later, thinking God was long in keeping His promise and Sarah being barren, Abraham took matters into his own hands and fathered Ishmael through Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar.
When God informed him that the promised son would yet come through Sarah, Abraham questioned God, wishing that the blessing come through Ishmael instead.
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!
God answered that He would indeed bless Ishmael, but the promise and the covenant would be through a son born to Sarah.
God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
After Isaac was born, Sarah insisted that Hagar and Ishmael leave and that Ishmael would not share in her son’s inheritance.
Abraham was distressed. He loved his son, now fourteen years old, but God instructed him to carry out Sarah’s wishes.
God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away.
Abraham sent Ishmael away, knowing that God would bless him and make from him a great nation. He was now in God’s loving care and no longer a part of Abraham’s life.
Many years after Hagar and Ishmael left, God tested Abraham saying, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)
Abraham and Isaac took provision for the sacrifice, everything they needed except a lamb.
He told Isaac, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (v8)
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
So, we see that Isaac is the promised son, at the time, Abraham’s only son, with Ishmael having left many years before and no longer a part of the picture, and it is through Isaac that God blesses Abraham and all the nations of the earth.
God later confirmed and reiterated the blessing to Isaac many years after his father Abraham died (Genesis 26:1-5) and then to Isaac’s son Jacob (Genesis 28:10-17). Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, fathered twelve sons whose descendants became the twelve tribes of Israel, the Israelites.
The Qur’an deviates from the Old Testament narrative of the promised son and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. It does not specify by name the first son of Abraham nor who God instructed Abraham to sacrifice. Only after Abraham’s testing does God promise him a second son by Sarah.
Islamic history and tradition, along with other teachings within the Qur’an, regard Ishmael as a revered prophet and ancestor of Mohammad.
Abraham and Ishmael travel together to Mecca and construct the Kaaba, and it is through Ishmael that Muslims trace their lineage.
According to the Islamic narrative, Ishmael, not Isaac, is the central figure God instructs Abraham to sacrifice. Some accounts have God providing a substitute ram, mirroring the Biblical account, while others do not. In any case, Abraham fails to sacrifice Ishmael, but not for lack of trying. On the contrary, his effort and attempt satisfied God, knowing Abraham would unconditionally obey His word.
But the Bible is clear. By the time of Abraham’s instruction, God had already instructed Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. The promise of blessing God made to Abraham was to be through Isaac, the promised son born to Sarah, not Hagar.
If the Bible is God’s word, the Qur’an is not, or vise versa.
We will continue this discussion next time.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.