Prophet Abraham is a pivotal figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is through his offspring that individuals such as Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon, arose. Abraham is not just significant from a spiritual perspective, but also a genealogical one. Arabs trace their lineage back to his first son Ishmael, who is considered the father of the Arabs, and Jews trace their lineage back to his second son Isaac, who is considered the father of the Jews.
Ishmael’s story starts out very promisingly in the Old Testament. God promises to establish His covenant with all of Abraham’s “seed” (‘zera’ in Hebrew) without exception:
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. [Genesis 17:7]
God informs Abraham that the sign of the covenant shall be circumcision:
“This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.” [Genesis 17:10]
We are told that Abraham immediately circumcised himself and Ishmael, thus establishing God’s covenant with Ishmael:
On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. [Genesis 17:23]
We can see that the Bible sets up a promising picture for all the offspring of Abraham. Strangely, Ishmael’s story culminates in him and his mother being cast into a barren desert to the advantage of his brother Isaac:
and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” [Genesis 21:10]
Strange still, we are told that Ishmael’s crowning achievement will be that he will have many descendants:
And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. [Genesis 17:20]
The picture presented by the Bible is that God’s blessings amounted to nothing more than being successful at procreation. Did not disbelieving people, those outside of the lineage of Abraham and outside of the fold of the covenant, also make up large numbers and have great nations? Perhaps strangest of all, we are told that Ishmael would grow up to be “a wild donkey of a man”:
He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers. [Genesis 16:12]
Therefore, we can see that the Bible presents a greatly juxtaposed picture of Ishmael: on the one hand, he is included in the covenant of Abraham and told that he will be blessed by God, and on the other, an anti-climactic, and somewhat negative picture, is painted of him. Something does not quite add up here. You may be wondering to yourself, why does any of this matter?
Well, the Bible’s negative portrayal of Ishmael is a barrier for Christians and Jews to Recognising that prophecies such as Deuteronomy 33 and Isaiah 42 are about the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. This is due to misconceptions that Ishmael and his descendants have been excluded from God’s covenant with Abraham, and therefore Isaac’s descendants have a monopoly on Prophethood.
Our next few posts will deal with clarifying such misconceptions about the family of Abraham. In doing so, we are going to uncover what is perhaps the biggest cover-up in the Bible, the role of Ishmael in God’s plan of salvation for mankind, so stay tuned
Almighty Allah is the highest and most knowledgeable, and the attribution of knowledge to him is the safest.
Right from Almighty Allah and wrong from me and Satan
Prepared by Mohamad Mostafa Nassar- Australia.
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Arrogance is not only a sign of insecurity, but also a sign of immaturity. Mature and fully realised persons can get their points across, even emphatically without demeaning or intimidating others.