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The Great Sacrifice Of Abraham (2)

Reflections

Imam Hamiduddin Farahi

Chapter 2

Admissions of the Torah and Judaeo-Christian Scholars

It would serve our purpose better if the following ten premises of our discussion on the concepts of revelation, inspiration, apocalypse and sacrifice are clearly understood.

(I) It is unlike the divine way to command any of His obedient servants in explicit terms to sacrifice his son. Of course, it can be shown in a dream which allows room for interpretation. If sacrificing one’s son is indicated in a dream, its most plausible interpretation would be to dedicate one’s son to God and to surrender him as an attendant of the house of the Lord. According to the rituals of the Jews’ synagogues, the attendants of the synagogues were considered akin to the animals marked for sacrifice. That is why they were subjected to similar rituals.

“So you shall bring the Levites before the Lord, and the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites; and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord like a wave offering from the children of Israel that they may perform the work of the Lord. Then the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the young bulls and you shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to the Lord to make atonement for the Levites. And you shall stand the Levites before Aaron and his sons and then offer them like a wave offering to the Lord. Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine. After that the Levites shall go in to service the tabernacles of meeting. So you shall cleanse them and offer them like a wave offering. For they are wholly given to me from among the children of Israel; I have taken them for myself instead of all who open the womb.” (Numbers 8:10-16)

It is thus sufficiently illustrated that the children of Aaron were earmarked for the service of the temple and whenever they were nominated for this duty, they were subjected to all the rites meant for sacrificial animals. The Torah abounds with evidence on this subject of which only one instance has been cited; more examples will be brought forth in due course.

(II) The secrets of the unknown are sometimes revealed by God through dreams. Sometimes these dreams are as clear and vivid as the morning sun and sometimes they are clad in allegories. Just like a speech which can either be categorical or it can be metaphorical, wanting elucidation. The second type of dreams needs interpretation and sometimes the interpretation is so farfetched that it even eludes the person who is blessed with it. According to the Holy Quran, the two prison mates of the Prophet Yusuf (sws) and the king of Egypt failed to interpret their dreams. The Torah mentions a number of dreams of the Prophet Daniel and king Nebuchadnazar, the meaning of which was unfolded to them after long.The prophets also face the same situation sometimes. Interpretation of dreams is a specialized knowledge which stems from a god gifted insight and prudence. Prophet Yusuf, in his statement “And my Lord has taught me something of the art of interpretation of dreams and events” (Yusuf 12:101), has hinted at this branch of knowledge.

(III) As explained above, a revelation can be a categorical and unequivocal message like the morning sun and sometimes it can also assume the form of a dream. But whatever form it may acquire, the person receiving it is always convinced about the truth of its contents and has faith in it. In order to realize that one possesses a special gift, its active or passive appearance is sufficient proof. After that no external evidence is required. For instance, we possess faculties of hearing, sight and comprehension. The strongest evidence for their presence is the fact that we can hear, see and understand; no further argument is necessary. Similarly, the person being blessed with revelation has faith in it and does not wait for the confirmation of its veracity. No doubt, it worries him at the beginning but this uneasiness is also remedied with the passage of time by its increased frequency. Thus revelation, whether it comes to the recipient when he is awake or asleep, is accompanied by belief and satisfaction. When we are awake, we are able to differentiate between a concrete reality and a fantasy without any difficulty; similarly, one can distinguish between an ordinary dream and a vision meant to reveal a message of God. This aspect of prophethood has been allowed to continue even after the termination of the series of prophets so that people who are perceptive and discerning may have a glimpse of the way Prophets were revealed upon, although there is a lot of difference between the two.

(IV) When it comes to sacrificing before the Lord or entrusting someone to the service of the temple, it has always been mandatory to present the first born baby, be it an animal or a child. It was followed so closely that in case of land, the first crop or the first plucking of the orchard was offered in the name of God. This was the divine law in the days of Adam and it was also enacted in the Torah.

“Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering.” (Genesis 4:4)

This was the divine command during the Adam’s days and the same law was revealed to Moses in the Torah.

“Because all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast: on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified them to Myself. I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel.” (Numbers 8:17-18)

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.” (Exodus 13:1-2)

(V) The sanctity of the firstborn is of a permanent nature which cannot be annulled. So much so that if the firstborn is from the wife whom her husband hates and the second is from a beloved wife, even then it is the firstborn that retains sanctity because: “he is the beginning of his strength; the right of firstborn is his.” (Deuteronomy 21:17)

(VI) One who is offered to God has no share in inheritance; God is his inheritance.

“At that time, the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to Him and to bless in His name to this day. Therefore, Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 10:8-9)

“The priests, the Levites — all the tribe of Levi — shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and His portion. Therefore, they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 18:1-2)

(VII) It was necessary for the offering to be circumambulated around the altar seven times, and that razor should not have come down upon his head and his hair shall only be removed before the altar.(Numbers Chapter 6)

(VIII) For anything offered for God or anyone earmarked for His service, a special biblical phrase came to be used. It was: “before the Lord”, meaning that the person in question was in the service of the Lord or the synagogue.

“When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abraham and said to him: I am Almighty God: walk before Me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1)

“At that time, the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to Him and to bless in his name to this day.” (Deuteronomy 10:8)

“And it (the robe) shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord.” (Exodus 28:35)

“Then you shall kill the bull before the Lord by the door of the tabernacle of meeting.” (Exodus 29:11)

“This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord.” (Exodus 29:42)

“… from the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the Lord.” (Exodus 29:23)

“Then you shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s consecration and wave it as a wave offering before the Lord.” (Exodus 29:26)

More instances of usage of this phrase can be seen in the Book of Leviticus. The biblical scholars agree with our interpretation of this phrase.

(IX) The offering had to be presented at the place chosen by the Lord for this purpose.

“Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offering in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses.” (Deuteronomy 12:13-14)

“God said to Abrahamm: Take now your son 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)

“You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you; but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make his name abide.” (Deuteronomy 16:5-6)

(X) The Jewish law provided that special and important sacrifices had to be offered in special directions (Leviticus Chapters 1-8). For instance the sacrifice mentioned in Leviticus 6:17-25 and 7:1-6 was “most holy” and for it one had to face south and had to enter through the northern gate.

“He (Moses) put the table in the tabernacle of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle outside the veil; and he set the bread in order upon it before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He put the lamp stand in the tabernacle of meeting across from the table on the south side of the tabernacle; and he lit the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He put the gold altar in the tabernacle of meeting in front of the veil; and he burned sweet incense on it as the Lord had commanded Moses. He hung up the screen at the door of the tabernacle. And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting; and offered upon it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (Exodus 40:22-29)

A Christian scholar has written a book on the Synagogue titled “The Temple”. While giving the details of all Jewish religious rites and rituals, he has pointed out these aspects also. He has also tried to explain why the door of the tabernacle was located at the northern end. He writes, “We are not sure; may be because it was cold and dark in the North and may be because during their wanderings in Teyah their temple faced Palestine.” Thus it is clear that the door of the tabernacle was to the North whereas the lamp stand was to the South.

Pitfalls In Bible Study

It has been shown beyond doubt that the Jews have effected copious interpolations in their scriptures which stand distorted as a result. Many words have been deleted and others have been added. Just as it is difficult for a jury to sift the truth out of a pile of false evidence, similarly it is very difficult to ascertain the facts out of these scriptures. The scholars have widely complained of these impediments. The matter hardly needs treatment at length because certain evidences from the text itself are sufficient to reveal this fact. Look how Prophet Jeremiah laments over their fabrications:

“My heart within me is broken because of the prophets … For both prophet and priest are profane … I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem; they commit adultery and walk in lies … And the Lord says: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you; they make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart. Not from the mouth of the Lord … In the later days you will understand it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” … Therefore behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal my words every one from his neighbour. I am against the prophets who use their tongues and say “He saith” … For you have perverted the words of the living God. (Jeremiah 23:9-36)

“How can you say: We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us”? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:8-9)

Jesus has also hinted at the same people:

“All who ever came before me are thieves and robbers.” (John 10:8)

There has been some error in reporting or translating this verse. Jesus must have intended to discredit only those who came before Jesus but after the true prophets.

Whoever will examine the Jewish scriptures, will learn that they are conglomeration of reports from various sources and, like all such reports, suffer from inconsistencies. That is why books, which are revered as revealed and inspired scriptures by one sect, are entirely apocryphal for another. This is a known controversy and admitted by the Christian and Jew scholars. Therefore, these texts should not be relied upon; rather their study must be carried out critically and endeavours should be made to tell the truth from falsehood. In our opinion, the following principles of textual criticism must be kept in mind during Bible study to avoid grave errors:

i) Verses favouring Jews in the matters of contested disputes should not be relied upon.

ii) When a deliberate attempt is made to tamper with the text, the intruders succeed in deleting, expunging or corrupting some portions, but usually fail to blot out all related signs. Thus these signs should be sought for diligently and then the expunged facts should be reconstructed on the basis of these hints.

iii) A correct and genuine statement agrees with its context whereas a distorted verse does not. Therefore truth can be brought out by comparison of verses and reports, and collation of all details appearing on the subject.

iv) The modern archaeological and scientific findings regarding biblical age can also prove helpful in this quest.

The Great Sacrifice as reported by the Torah

Let us read the incident of the Great Sacrifice as reported by the Torah and then we will try to analyze it in the light of the principles of biblical textual criticism cited above.

The twenty second chapter of the Book of Genesis begins with the narration of this incident, which is in continuation of the previous chapter which speaks of the land where Abraham dwelt and from where he left with his son for the Great Sacrifice. Herein, it is mentioned that Abraham wandered in Beersaba. The king of the area approached him and made a covenant with him and then returned to Palestine. In the end, the name of Abraham’s dwelling has been hinted at, from where he left for the place of sacrifice. Now, we present the incident in the words of the Torah:

“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham and said to him: `Abraham !’ And he said: `Here I am’. Then he said: `Take now 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. So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men: `Stay here with the donkey, the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you’. So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said: `My father!’ And he said: `Here I am, my son.’ Then he said: `Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said: `My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering’. So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from the heaven and said: `Abraham! Abraham!’ So he said: `Here I am.’ And he said, `Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day: `In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of the heaven and said: `By myself, I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son — blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed My voice’. So Abraham returned to his young men and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.” (Genesis 27:1-19)

References to this event are found elsewhere in the Bible also to which we will refer later on. For the time being, we may note the following in this passage of the Torah:

1. Abraham dwelt in Beersheba before and after the sacrifice.

2. The land of Moriah is three days journey from Beersheba.

3. It is at Moriah where the Great Sacrifice was offered.

4. Moriah could be seen from a distance.

5. Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice.

6. He was the son whom Abraham loved.

7. There was a thicket by the altar.

8. Abraham was blessed for not withholding his only son from God.

9. All the nations of the world were also promised to be blessed through Abraham’s descendants.

10. Abraham’s descendants shall possess the gates of their enemies.

Since the mind behind interpolations in the text was unaware of the fact that despite replacing Ismail’s name with that of Isaac, the context would reveal the truth through other details, therefore the other details were not touched. Now, we will show how these remnants of the original text can be pieced together to reconstruct the true picture.

Translated by Nadir Aqueel Ansari

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