ii) Muslims believe that Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) offered his son Ishmael (A.S) for
sacrifice in the name of God, but in the Bible which I have read, it is written that
Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) offered Isaac (A.S) as sacrifice. Prophet Isaac has been
mentioned in the Bible instead of Ishmael. Please tell me which is true?
(Chaman Shaikh N.S; Dist. Sangli)
Ans i) Qur’an enjoys the unique distinction among all the religious scriptures of the world
that not a single verse of it is against the proven and established principles and phenomenon
of science. The topic, you mentioned is very lengthy and a number of books have been
published on the subject. The charge mentioned by you is hypothetical with no specific
instance. Had you quoted an alleged discrepancy or mentioned a verse, which according to
you is said to contradict the proven scientific facts about orbiting the Sun, Moon and earth,
your misunderstanding could have been removed.
ii) In the portion where the Bible describes the sacrifice of Hazrat Ishaq (Isaac) (A.S), there
are many discrepancies and contradictions. Let us recall the events stated by the Bible.
“Hagar (Hajirah) bore Abraham a son, and he named him Ishmael. Abraham was eighty six
years old at the time.” (Gen. 16:15-16) “Abraham was hundred years old when Isaac (Ishaq)
was born”. (Gen. 21:5)
We can deduce from the above two verses that Ishmael was 14 years old when his younger
brother Ishaq was born and for 14 years before Ishaq was born, Ishmael was the only son of
Now, the Bible states that Ishmael and his mother Hajirah were sent to the wilderness after
Ishaq was born (Gen 21:9-13). It means, according to Bible, Ishmael was at least 14 years old
when he and his mother were left alone in the wilderness. On the other hand Islamic traditions
say that Ishmael was an infant when Prophet Ibrahim left him in his mother’s lap to live alone
in the Makkan desert. Before we analyse the next sequence of the event in the Bible, it is
worth noting here that Hajirah and Ishmael were left in the wilderness of Parang (Gen 21:20)
which is a name of Makkan in Bible. The Bible narrates ahead: “Early the next morning
Abraham gave Hagar some food and a leather bag full of water. He put the child on her back
and sent her away. She left and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the
water was all gone, she left the child under a bush and sat down about a hundred meters away.
She said to herself, ‘I cannot bear to see my child die’. While she was sitting there, she began
to cry. God heard the boy crying and from heaven the angel of God spoke to Hagar, What are
you troubled about, Hagar? Do not be afraid, God has heard the boy crying. Get up, go and
pick him up, and comfort him. I will make a great nation out of his descendants”. Then God
opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went and filled the leather bag with water and gave
some to the boy. God was with the boy as he grew up; he lived in the wilderness of Parang
and became a skilful hunter”. (Gen.21:14-20)
Please read the above paragraph again. Many a detail differs from the Islamic description of
the event, but one thing is crystal clear. The description of the child in the above paragraph is
not of a 14 plus old boy. Ishmael’s mother was an old lady and a 14 plus boy is quite young.
The child Hajirah helplessly put in the bush was certainly an infant. A boy of more than 14
years would rather look after the old mother, instead of needing her care.
The Bible and the Islamic traditions agree here that Ishmael was in infant when left alone with
his mother in the Arabian Desert. This deduces that Ishmael was the only son of Prophet
Ibrahim when he was left in the wilderness, as Isaac was born only after Ishmael had become
Now, immediately after the account of Ishmael attaining the age of boyhood when he was old
enough to learn the use of arrows for hunting say 13-14 years, the Bible starts narrating the
event of sacrifice. The context and the sequence of events betray that the name Ishmael has
been replaced by Isaac by some ancient copier of the Old testament.
Another important clue of the son involved is found when the Book of Genesis relates the
event of sacrifice. The boy who was going to be sacrificed was old enough to carry the load of
woods: “Abraham made Isaac carry the wood for the sacrifice..” (Gen. 22:6). In the account,
immediately preceding the occurrence, Isaac had just been born while Ishmael had attained
the age of boyhood. If Ibrahim took Isaac with him to the altar, and made him to carry the
wood, then the story of more than a decade is missing from the Bible. All things fall in place
if the son accompanying Ibrahim, was Ishmael instead of Isaac.
This analysis will not be complete if I do not relate the most important evidence so far. The
Bible reads: “Take your son, God said, “Your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much and...
offer him as sacrifice to me”. (Gen 22:2)
From the above references of the Bible, we know that Isaac had never been the only son of his
father. Instead it was Ishmael who was the only son of Ibrahim for 14 years. This proves that
the son asked to be offered as sacrifice, was Ishmael as the Islamic traditions specify. It also
goes on to strengthen the Qur’anic claim of being the only unadulterated word of God, as it
announces its challenge: “Will they not ponder on the Qur’an? If it had not come from Allah,
they could have surely found in it many contradictions”. (4:82)
After your detailed answer I must make it clear that the above discussion was for finding the
truth and straightening the record. We Muslims regard both the Prophets Ishmael and Isaac
with esteem and we do not give one Prophet of Allah precedence over other. It does not really
make any difference to us whether the son of prophet Ibrahim involved in the event, was
Ishmael or Isaac, (Pbuh). What is important for us is that both the father and the son readily
agreed for the sacrifice. We must renew our resolve to completely submit before our Lord
while recalling the event.