“O my Lord! Grant me a Righteous (Son)!’ So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.”
(Qur’an, Surah 37, Verses 100-101)
Ishmael is form the root word Sami’a (to hear) because Allah heard the Prophet Ibraheem’s prayer. The boy’s character was to be Haleem (ready to suffer and forbear).
If applied in the biblical sense to Isaac (Ishaq), it falls short on both counts since Isaac means ‘to laugh’ and the bible does not describe Isaac as having any knowledge of or have a strong willingness for sacrifice to God.
The same point is repeated in the next ayah-
“You will find me, if Allah so wills, one Practicing Patience. [Ishmael]’. (Qur’an, Surah 37, Verse 102)
The Qur’an differs from the Bible by emphasising the sacrifice was demanded of both father and son and not just one.
“He (Ibraheem) said: ‘O my son! I see in a vision that I offer you in sacrifice. Now see what is your view!’ (The son) said: ‘O my father! Do as you are commanded.”
(Qur’an, Surah 37, Verse 102)
Unlike as it says in the Bible, the Prophet Ibraheem is straight with his son and informs him of his dream and order from Allah and consults with him over the issue.
“Ishmael: He was (strictly) true to what he promised, and he was a Messenger (and) a Prophet. He used to enjoin on his people Prayer and charity, and he was most acceptable in the sight of his Lord.”
(Qur’an, Surah 19 Verse 55)
Isaac is mentioned as a Prophet, but older brother Ishmael is also elevated to being a Messenger as well as a Prophet. A Messenger, since he was the fountainhead of the Arabian nation and patriarch.
Isaac was one of many Prophets sent to Israel and the progenitor of his time of all of them that succeeded him with the exception of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who descended from Ishmael.
The Prophet Ishmael the Man
The Prophet Ishmael (AS), was the eldest son of the Prophet Ibraheem (AS) from his second wife, Hajira (Hagar), the maid of the first, and according to Islamic theologians, she was also the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt.
Ishmael grew up among the tribe of Jurham, a wandering tribe originally descended from Yemen, who adopted him as one of their own and after his mother’s death gave him one of their women in marriage to him.
Ishmael married twice and was the father of twelve sons and one daughter. He himself was the treasurer to the keys of the sacred house in Makkah, its keeper and supreme guardian. As the son of a Patriarch and Prophet himself he was the best choice for spiritual administrator and arbitrator.
People from all over the Arabian Peninsula and beyond came to see him, learn from his wisdom, erudition and spiritual insight and acumen and seek his advice, opinions and vast knowledge.
As he grew up and was raised among Arabs, he spoke and preserved the richness, beauty, purity and splendour of the Arabic language among his progeny and later descendants that extends to the present day.
In his early life, he along with his father, Ibraheem, rebuilt the Ka’aba in Makkah and prayed to God to send one Prophet among his descendants to the Arabs within the Peninsula.
This was later answered through Muhammad (SAW) from a son of Ishmael, Kedar, mentioned specifically by name in the Bible both as an individual and separate entity but also as the chief reference to Arabs alone.
His descendants remained custodians of the Ka’aba, the precincts of the Arabian Peninsula and controlled and subjugated the surrounding areas as individual empires over and against larger and more powerful adversaries.
This included defeating and overwhelming their cousin rivals-the Isaaacites; namely the Jews. Later his only daughter married Esau [Al-Eis], the older brother of Prophet Jacob [Yaqub].
ISHMAEL IN THE BIBLE
Ishmael’s descendants came to be known as Arabs, a term which in Hebrew meant those who inhabited the Arabah or desert. Ishmael, the progenitor of the Arab race, had twelve sons, one of whom was Kedar [(in the Bible), Qaydar (in Arabic) and Qedar in (Hebrew)].
One such race, the Nabeateans, a class of people in South Arabia, specifically in the Hejaz close in proximity to the Cities of Makkah and Medina, has been traced to Ishmael through Qedar
In some verses Kedar is synonymous with Arabs in general. The 42nd Chapter of Isaiah is interesting in that accurately refers to and speaks of Muhammad and Kedar both from the family of Ishmael. Jesus was neither.
Chapter 42 Isaiah impresses on the Arab line of Abraham’s progeny. Isaiah points out a chosen ‘Servant of the Lord.’ Whose Prophethood is to all mankind. God’s spirit would guide him and he would establish justice on earth. This Prophet would serve long enough to ‘set right in the earth.’ [to establish a society or community based on divine truth and justice]. He would be ‘a light of the nations.’
What is even more significant about this servant is that he alone is identified with Kedar in verse 11-
“Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My chosen one in whom I delight, I have bestowed My Spirit upon him, and he will make justice shine on the nations. He will not call out or lift his voice high, or make himself heard in the open market.
He will not break a bruised reed, or snuff out a smouldering wick; he will make justice shine on every race, never faltering, never breaking down, he will plant justice on earth, while coasts and islands wait for his teaching.
Thus speaks the Lord who is God. He who created the skies and stretched them out, Who fashioned the earth and all that grows in it, Who gave breath to its people, the breath of life to all who walk upon it: I the Lord, have called you with righteous purpose and then taken you by the hand; I have formed you and appointed you to be the light to all peoples, a beacon for the nations.
…Let the Wilderness and its towns rejoice, and the villages of the tribe of Kedar.”
The Prophecy does not fit Jesus-
1) He was not of the Progeny of Ishmael
2) He never established a nation or state based on Divine law.
3) He said he came for the poor and rejected, not for everyone
4) His mission was restricted to the people of Israel e.g. ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15: 24)
Allah says of Ishmael in the Bible-
“I have blessed him… and will make him a great nation.”
(Genesis 17: 20)
Bible scholars disregard Ishmael because, although he was the first son of Ibraheem, he was allegedly illegitimate. Hagar, his mother, they say was not his father’s wife but a maid servant hence she lacks a divine lineage, but-
“And Sarah, Abraham’s wife, took Hagar, her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abraham to be his wife.”
(Genesis 16: 3)
All sons and daughters born out of wedlock were not counted as offspring but as base born and not written as such, you cannot logically have illegitimate children from someone you are married too and the Bible itself is no different in this. In reference to Ishmael at the time of his father’s death the Bible says-
“And his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him [Abraham] in the cave of Machpelah.”
(Genesis 25: 9)
In other instances it says-
“And Abraham took Ishmael his son … and Ishmael was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised.”
(Genesis 17: 23, 25)
Illegitimate children were never circumcised.
Ishmael was fourteen when his younger brother Isaac (Ishaq) was born and until Isaac’s birth was the only child of Abraham. It was before the birth of either boy, the Bible is recorded as saying;-
‘I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and you will shall be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless you and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.’ (Genesis 12:2-3)
The same message was repeated when Ishmael, not Isaac was born. ‘As for Me (God), behold My Covenant is with you and you shall be a father to many nations.’ (Genesis 17:4)
If we are to understand and accept the Biblical teaching as being true, it still ignores the Ishmaelite branch despite God’s repeated blessing to the firstborn of Abraham. Why is this so. It makes less sense to discard their importance and relevance if they have received great and repeated blessings from God before Isaac.
Even if we are to assume they have no share in prophecy relating to the last prophet, should we still not know what happened to them, where are they and what is the exact nature and fulfilment of the promise divinely given to them. Why is it so grossly underrepresented and almost invisible from the Bible?
Ishmael and his descendants in the eyes of the Christians
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.”
(Isaaih Ch 11: 1-2)
The profile given here is of a statesman, a judge as well as a prophet and is one of the descendants of Jesse. Who is Jesse?
According to Encyclopaedia Biblica, Jesse is not the father of the Prophet David, but is contracted from Ishmael. ‘Jesse’ is short for Ishmael, just as Joe is short for Joseph etc. The only one who comes from Ishmael’s stem and fits the above description accurately is the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
If the prophecy had been about Jesus it would have said ‘of the stem of David’ in addition David was a more prominent figure than his father and it would have been more logical to attribute and relate Jesus to David and not his father as the Gospels do calling Jesus son of David and descendant of David. It never once calls him ‘Son of Jesse’.
Paul does however attempt to interpret this prophecy to Jesus in Acts 13: 22-23 whilst ignoring the above rules. Jesus was neither a descendant of Ishmael nor a brethren of the Israelites, he was an Israelite himself.
THE DIVINE PROMISE OF ISHAQ AND YAQUB
“And We (Allah) bestowed upon him (Ibraheem) Ishaq and Yaqub an additional gift. Each one We made righteous. And We made them leaders guiding by Our command.”
(Qur’an, 21: 72-73)
The above verses is the divine response to the Prophet Ibraheem’s request once he left his father and his people for the sake of Allah. In exchange for this sacrifice and those he left behind (his parents, other relatives and his community with whom he had been nurtured and raised), Allah gave him better relations, all of whom were believers and righteous.
The Prophet Ibraheem asked for a son and Allah’s response was to give him offspring from both wives and from his first wife, Allah informed him of an additional gift from the progeny of the then unborn son, a grandson who would also be a prophet and a righteous servant of Allah.
The word ‘nafilatan’ means ‘a gift’. Another meaning is the ‘gift of a son who has a son’. Had Ishaq been the object and son of sacrifice, the promise would not have been mentioned and would also have been inapplicable if he was to be killed as a child before he could become a father.
In addition, Yaqub became a prophet in the lifetime of his grandfather, Ibraheem, who now had the privilege of seeing two sons as prophets and a grandson as a prophet as well. Had the prophecy gone further, Yusuf, Yaqub’s son, would also have been mentioned.
In one narration, the Prophet Muhammad said, ‘The Prophet of Allah, Yusuf, the son of the Prophet of Allah Yaqub, the son of the Prophet of Allah Ishaq, the son of the friend of Allah Ibraheem.’
In another narration he said, ‘Verily the noble one is the son of the noble one, who is the son of the noble one, who is the son of the noble one. That is Yusuf, the son of Yaqub, the son of Ishaq, the son of Ibraheem.’