WE DEFEND ISLAM

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The Great Sacrifice Of Abraham (4)

Reflections

Imam Hamiduddin Farahi

Fifth Argument: Only Ismail deserved to be selected for the offering

The Torah states it explicitly that Ismail was the firstborn son of Abraham and it has been the established divine commandment of the law, from the days of Adam to those of Moses, that only the firstborn son can be offered. Nothing could override the superiority of being the firstborn. How can we imagine that Abraham, who was desired by God to be a perfect subject of God in all respects, would flout the oldest dictate of the divine law, in a matter which was meant to help him excel in spiritual perfection? How could he desist from offering his firstborn to God ? How could he offer Isaac

When Isaac was neither his firstborn nor his favorite son ? Recall that Ismail was born to him in response to his prayers to God, and when the second son Isaac was born, Abraham indicated that he was quite contended with his firstborn son, Ismail. Can we think of it even for a moment that Abraham could offer something to God which was not the best and the most beloved? We know that an offering is required to be the best thing out of the available ones.

Sixth Argument: Isaac was to be `ultiplied Exceedingly’ and hence could not be offered in his boyhood

God promised to `multiply Isaac exceedingly’ when the good news of his birth was announced to Abraham. Whereas God’s pomise to `multiply Ismail exceedingly’ was conveyed to Abraham either after the promise to Isaac or at the same time, i.e. after the Great Sacrifice took place.

`And when Abram was ninety years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, `I am almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My convenant between you and me, and will multiply you exceedingly.’… The God said to Abraham, `As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai but Sarah shall be her name and I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.’…. Then God said: Now Sarah your wife shall bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac.’ (Genesis 17:1-19)

Is it pausible that God announce promise of `exceeding multiplication’ to Isaac and at the same time ask Abraham to offer him to Allah? Particularly when we know that on the occasion of the Great Sacrifice, Isaac was only a boy and had not married. He married when `Abraham was old and advanced in age.’ (Genesis 24:1) and Isacc was forty years old when he took Rebecca as wife (Genesis 25:20). And he had children when Abraham had died.

`And it came to pass, after the death of Abraham, ýýthat God blessed his son Isaac.’ (Genesis 25:11)

Also, Abraham died at the age of 175 years (Genesis 25:7). Bible also records that when Jacob was born to Rebecca, Isaac was 60 years odl (Genesis 25:27). It means that when Jacob was born, Abraham was alive (160 years old) because when Isaac was born, Abraham was 100 years old (Genesis 21:6). Even if we overlook the contradication between Genesis 25:11 and the above conclusion, we cannot fial to appreciate that Isaac had children at a very later age whereas the Bible and the Qur’an agree that the son offered as the Great Sacrifice was only a young boy. Therefore, it would be very difficult to carry the argument that Abraham offered Isaac after Isaac had been blessed with children.

Obviously the son could not be Isaac because if he was wanted by God as an offering in his boyhood, God’s promise that Isaac would be `multiplied exceedingly’ would have been rendered meaningless.

It may be asserted that Abraham knew beforehand that though he was offering Isaac, his son would come out alive and he would have descendants in a large number. In that case we would ask that if Abraham knew that the son he was offering to God would not die and would not only live but multiply exceedingly, how could it be termed it trial and a test of his loyalty to God ?

The Jews may still argue that the objection mentioned above valids against Muslim viewpoint as well. If Ismail were offered by Abraham, it would also have constituted an anomaly because God had also promised him a large progeny. Therefore, Ismail could have been sacrified in his boyhood. This analogy with Isaac’s case is not acceptable because of the following reasons:

a) The promise of `exceeding multiplication’ of descendants to Isaac was made by God even before Isaac was born whereas in case of Ismail it was probably announced by God after the incident of the Great Sacrifice.

b) In case of Ismail, the promise was made to Hagar while the command to offer him was addressed to Abraham. Whereas in Isaac’s case, the promise was made to Abraham and the order to offer him was also addressed to Abraham.

c) In case of Isaac, the Jew believe that he was promised an `exceeding multiplication’ even before he was born, but when he was only a boy and had not married or had any children yet, Abraham was asked to sacrifice him.

Seventh Argument: The incident of Great Sacrifice occurred before Isaac’s birth

We have already shown that since the `onlyö son’ was offered for sacrifice and Ismail was the elder son (he was 14 years older than Isaac), it is established beyond any shadow of doubt that Ismail was offered as the Great Sacrifice. But at the same time the phrase `only son’ goes to prove that Isaac was not even born at that time. Had he born, it would have been more appropriate to use the phrase `firstborn’ instead of `only son’.

Here we would contend that not only Isaac was born after the Great Sacrifice had been offered, but his birth was actually one of the blessings that flowed from the Great Sacrifice.

There are other noteworthy facts which need to be noted in the seventeenth chapter of Genesis and which relate to the promise of `exceeding multiplication’ of the progeny of Isaac and Ismail. We also feel sure that they also point to the Great Sacrifice. The most important aspect is that they relate to some of the events of the time, which has assisted us in resolving issues that are closely related with our subject.

In this chapter Abraham is asked to submit to God in totality. At this time he is 99 years old and Isaac is not born yet. Around this time, the command of circumcision is ordained. That is why Abraham and Ismail carry out this command the same day. Ismail was then 13 years old. And God announced an everlasting covenant to Abraham and declared circumcision the emblem of this everlasting covenant and his progeny. Then God promised `exceeding multiplication’ of progeny to Ismail and also heralded the birth of Isaac and `exceeding multiplication’ of his progeny. If the contents of this chapter are kept in mind, it becomes less difficult to understand what we have to contend.

We are unable to understand how the unusual divine acts of command for complete submission and tidings of great blessings and making an everlasting covenant could be the result of a paltry ritual of circumcision. The day of announcing the desirability of circumcision cannot be the occasion of these grand promises. We believe that there was a mention of something much more grand, for which these everlasting and far reaching commandments were given. This point was deleted by the Jews. There can be only one plausible answer. It was God’s command to offer Ismail. When Abraham came out of this test honorably, he was blessed with the news of another son. However, the fact was concealed and later on obliterated from the text by the Jews. This also explains our eariler argument that Isaac’s birth was nothing more than one of the blessings that came upon Abraham as a result of the Great Sacrifice.

This evidence is further corroborated by the other details related to the Great Sacrifice, such as the conclusion that Abraham was blessed because he did not refuse his sons life to please God. We also need to appreciate the fact that the son who was offered to God had not been blessed with the good news of `exceeding multiplication’ till he succeeded in this trial; hence God’s words:

`And the Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, `By myself have I sworn, says the Lord, for because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son your only son, that in blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.’ (Genesis 22:15-18)

This shows that the blessings showered upon Ismail, the trials faced by Abraham and Abraham’s complete submission and making an everlasting covenant form the same chain of events of the same occasion. This is the occasion when Abraham is given the good news of Isaac. One should imagine how could Isaac be offered as the Great Sacrifice when he was not even born !

The good news of Isaac’s birth is itself sufficient testimony that his birth was the result and fruit of Abraham’s total submission before the will of God which he demonstrated by offering his only son. The real spirit of the Great Sacrifice was to dedicate Ismail to God. Abraham is only fulfiling this prophecy when he says, `O that Ismail might live before you.’ The meaning of the phrase `before God’ has adequately been explained in the beginning of this tract.

Ismail was thirteen years old on the eve of the Great Sacrifice. This is the best and the most important age of one’s childhood. And childhood is adorned by all the qualities of head and heart, the beauties of body, and purities of mind and soul, the child becomes priceless and its value boundless. These years must have been the beginning of his maturity and sensibility. He would have started to attract the immense love and deep affection of his father. He must have begun to assist his father in the errands with all his beauty, upbrinning and etiquette. Who can question the fact that he loved his son and cared for him even more than he cared for himself. No doubt, offering such a dear son to God was a great trial since Abraham came out of this trial with honour, he was blessed with the eternal honour of an everlasting covenant and many other bounties. It was not because of carrying out the ritual of circumcision, which would rendered the whole thing meaningless. Indeed, those who, out of prejudice, intentionally want to avoid truth get fatelly trapped in the mire of such erroneous beliefs.

Eighth Argument: Ismail was God’s offering

Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east. This is the sum of the years of Abrahm’s life which he lived: one hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abrahm breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah. (Genesis 25:5-9)

Two conclusions can safely be deduced from these verses of the Old Testament.

First, that Abraham had not sent Isaac or Ismail away from himself to far off places because they kept visiting him and attended his burial. This proximity and intimacy was not granted to the sons of his concubines.

Second, Ismail was not bequeathed any property as Isaac, nor was he given any gifts as the sons of Abraham’s concubines.

It is quite difficult to explain how Abraham could deprive his firstborn son of inheritence, a son who continued to look after him till his death, particularly when the status of the firstborn son could not be stripped of by any means.

This discrepancy can only be resolved by presuming that Ismail had been offerred and dedicated to God. And as we have shown earlier, according to the Torah, a person offered to God had no right of inheritance. (Deutronomy 10:8-9 and 18:1-3)

Ninth Argument : Before the Lord

There are several indications in the Torah which show that Ismail was dedicated to God for his service and was an offering to God. An illuminating evidence is the prayer of Abraham on the occasion of Isaac’s birth:

`Oh that Ismail might live before you.’ (Genesis 17:18)

The words `before you’ show that Ismail had been devoted to the worship of God and the service of `His house’. Otherwise only the prayer `Oh that Ismail might live’ could have sufficed. We showed earlier that the phrase `before the Lord’ means ones dedication to God and presence in and service to the Bait El (House of Lord). This is what forms the cornerstone of the concept of Ismail being sacrificed and offered to God.

(Translated by Nadir Aqueel Ansari)

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