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Chapter-3: Abraham (pbuh) & Decendents


Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim, peace be upon him) is estimated to have lived in early 2nd Millennia B.C (around 1800 BC) at Ur (Mesopotamia) Iraq. He is the common ancestor and spiritual leader of Muslims, Christians and Jews alike, also revered by people of other faiths. He discovered the existence of One God through his intellect, thought process and with grace of God. Allah says: “So also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth that he might (with understanding) have certitude. When the night covered him over he (Abraham) saw a star: he said: "this is my Lord!"  But when it set he said: "I love not those that set." When he saw the moon rising in splendor He said: "This is my Lord!" but when the moon set he said: "Unless my Lord guide me I shall surely be among those who go astray." When he saw the sun rising in splendor he said: "This is my Lord! this is the greatest (of all)."  But when the sun set he said: "O my people! I am (now) free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah. "For me I have set my face firmly and truly toward Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah."(Qur’an;6:75-79);“And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.”(Genesis:15:6). Once he was appointed the Messenger of Allah, he was blessed with special favours. Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) invited the people to Islam (submission to one God):" When his people started arguing with him, he told them: "Will you argue with me about Allah, whereas He Himself has guided me? I do not fear those whom you take for gods besides Him, none can harm me unless my Lord so wills, the knowledge of my Lord encompasses everything, why don't you get admonition?(Qur’an;6:80). Allah says: "It is those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrong that are (truly) in security for they are on (right) guidance. That was the reasoning about Us which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.”(Qur’an;6:82-83).
Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was successful in the trial, he was childless, he was granted sons at old age, Ishmael, from his second wife Hager, and later Isaac (Ishaq) from his first wife Sara. According to an Islamic tradition he left Ishmael at Makka while he was older enough. The other tradition narrates that he had to leave the infant Isma’il and his mother at a far off place in desert (Makka). They miraculously survived due to water of spring (Zamzam). Abraham's faith was so great that later he went to obey God's com­mand to sacrifice his only son (Ishmael), however at the last minute; God permitted him to substitute a ram. Muslim tradition identifies the son to be sacrificed as Ishmael (Biblical traditions claim, Isaac). Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) again came to Makka to rebuilt the first house of Allah, Ka’ba with Isma’il as a sign of God's covenant with them and established the rituals of pilgrimage (Hajj). Allah says: “And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower.”(Qur’an;2:127).
A controversy has raged between the followers of the Bible and the adherents of Islam as to which of the sons of Abraham, Ishmael or Isaac was offered as a sacrifice. It is important to note that, a peculiar sanctity was attached to the first-born both of man and of cattle among people right since the time of Adam, it was especially of great importance among the Israelites. God claimed that the first-born males of man and of animals should be consecrated to him, the one as a priest (Exodus;19:22,24), representing the family to which he belonged, and the other to be offered up in sacrifice (Geneis;4:4). The laws concerning this redemption of the first-born of man are recorded in Exodus;13:12-15; 22:29; 34:20; Numbers;3:45; 8:17; 18:16 and Leviticus;12:2,4. Even the first-fruits of the ground were offered unto God just as the first-born of man and animals. Ishmael, without any doubt was first born son of Prophet Abraham  (peace be upon him). The Bible is quite clear in designating the offering: “He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori'ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."(Genesis;22:2). If at anytime, an offspring of Prophet Abraham  (peace be upon him) can be described as "thine only son: it could only be Ishmael, because for more than thirteen years, he was the only son and seed of Abraham. God Almighty acknowledges Ishmael as the "son and seed" of Abraham in no less than twelve places in the Book of Genesis alone. At no time was Isaac the only son and seed of Abraham. The false pen of the scribe was in the hand of the Hebrews who edited the Books of Moses, as the prophet Jeremiah lament: “How do ye say, We are wise, and the law (the Torah) of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribe is in vain.”(Jeremiah;8:8). When the Hebrews are found to convert an Israelite into an Ishmaelite when no motives are involved, then how much easier for them to change the word "you only son Ishmael" to : your only son Isaac!"
Covenant and Iniquitous Decedents: Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) is the original monotheist in the known history, purifier of God's house, builder of the Ka’ba, and a Muslim (having surrendered to the will of God), who preached against idolatry and sin. The scripture of revelations to Abraham is mentioned in Qur’an;53:36-37 & 87:18-19, which is now extinct, though ‘Testament of Abraham’ had been popular among Christians. He destroyed the idols and survived attempt by the king to burn him alive. After successful trials he was rewarded by God for his faith and given a position of spiritual lead­ership of the mankind, to be passed down to his descendants, excluding the wrong doers (Qur’an;2:124). Allah says: “Do they, perchance, envy other people for what God has granted them out of His bounty? But then, We did grant revelation and wisdom unto the House of Abraham (aal Ibraahem- Descendants), and We did bestow on them a mighty dominion:”(Qur’an;4:54). The descendants obviously include the progeny of Ishmael and Isaac (peace be upon them). The claim of the children of Israel as “Chosen People of God” by virtue of their decent from Abraham, who was made “a leader of mankind” by God, was totally negated. God makes it clear that the exalted status of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was not something that would automatically confer a comparable status on this physical descendants, and definitely not on the sinners among them. God also took solemn pledge from the Children of Israel and those call themselves as Christians, but they broke it. Allah says: ““Remember Allah's favor to you and the covenant by which He bound you to Himself when you said: "We hear and we obey." Have fear of God; surely God knows the secrets of your hearts.”(Qur’an;5:7); “God accepted a covenant from the Children of Israel and appointed twelve chieftains from among them and said: "I am with you; if you establish Prayers (Salah) pay Alms (Zakah), believe in My Messengers, support them and give a generous loan to Allah (spend in charity), I will wipe out from you your evils and admit you to gardens with rivers flowing beneath; However, if any one of you, after this, violates this covenant, he will indeed go astray from the Right Way. Even after that, they broke their covenant; as a result, We laid on them Our curse and hardened their hearts. They tempered with words out of their context and neglected much of what they were enjoined. You will always find most of them deceitful except for a few of them. Yet forgive them and overlook their misdeeds. Allah loves those who are kind to others.”(Qur’an;5:12-13). Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) settled at Palestine, he died at very old age and was buried in Hebron, near Jerusalem.
Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was the true faithful, Allah says: “And who, unless he be weak of mind, would want to abandon Abraham's creed, seeing that We have indeed raised him high in this world, and that, verily, in the life to come he shall be among the righteous? When his Sustainer said to him, "Surrender thyself unto Me!"-he answered, "I have surrendered myself unto [Thee,] the Sustainer of all the worlds." And this very thing did Abraham bequeath unto his children, and [so did] Jacob: when he said: "O my sons! Allah has chosen for you this way of life (Deen), therefore, die not unless you have surrendered yourself un to Him. “Nay, but you [yourselves, O children of Israel,] bear witness that when death was approaching Jacob, he said unto his sons: "Whom will you worship after I am gone?" They answered: "We will worship thy God, the God of thy forefathers Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, the One God; and unto Him w1ll we surrender ourselves.”(Qur’an;2:130-133).
The Biblical Account:
The narrative of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) is given in the book of Genesis, chapter 12 to 36. The childless septuagenarian receives promises. He gets a son, Ishmael, by Hagar, given to him as his wife by his wife Sara: “And Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her handmaid, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife.”(Genesis:16:3). Out of jealously Sara forces her to leave with young son Ishmael in to wilderness, where angel appears to tell her: “Arise, lift up the lad (Ishmael), and hold him in thy hand. For I will make him a great nation.”(Genesis:21:18). (According to a Muslim traditions, infant Ishmael along with his mother Hagar was left in the wilderness at Makka, an uninhabited place at that time, who subsequently become the ancestor of Arabs. Muhammad, peace be upon him, the last Prophet, belongs to the progeny of Ishmael.) 
Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) is awarded with a covenant from God that his "seed" will inherit the land and become a numerous nation: “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.  And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.”(Genesis;17:7-10); “And God said, Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. (Genesis;17:19-22).
At the age of 100 years, Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) gets a son Isaac, by Sarah, who is to be the heir of the promise. Yet Abraham is ready to obey God's command to sacrifice Isaac, a test of his faith, which he is not required to consummate in the end because God substitutes a ram. [Muslim traditions and internal evidence from Bible about age of child and timings support that it was Ishmael not Isaac]. At Sarah's death, he purchases the cave of Machpelah near Hebron, together with the adjoining ground, as a family burying place. Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) dies at the age of 175 and buried in the cave of Machpelah (Genesis;25:9). This place is venerated today in Hebron, at the Haram al-Khalil (Holy Place of the Friend), under the mosque. Abraham is pictured in Bible with various characteristics: a righteous man, with wholehearted commitment to God; a man of peace (in settling a boundary dispute with his nephew Lot), compassionate (he argues and bargains with God to spare the people of Sodom and Gomorrah), and hospitable (he welcomes three visiting angels); a quick-acting warrior as he rescued Lot and his family from a raiding party, however on his return from this expedition, Abraham is honored by Melchizedek, a personality with unique characteristics, portrayed by Bible, even superior to Adam and Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him): “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever. See how great he is! Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe of the spoils.”(Hebrews;7:1-4); “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”(Genesis;14:18-20). “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”(Psalms;110:4). Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) is also depicted as giving wrong statement to save his own skin: “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister. And Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.”(Geneses;20:2). The incidence of Abraham  passing off Sarah as his sister and letting her be picked by the Egyptian pharaoh for his harem, but she miraculously returns unmolested due to her piety and prayers accepted by God, with Hagar given as gift, has also been Narrated by Abu Hurairah in Sahih Al Bukhari Hadith 3.420 & 4.578. Overall Abraham appears as both a man of great spiritual depth and strength and a person with common human weaknesses and needs.

Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon him):

According to Islamic traditions, Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon him), the first born son of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was left in wilderness (now known as Makka), as an infant along with his mother Hagar. Abraham invoked Almighty Allah: “0 our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House (the Ka’ba at Mecca); in order, 0 our Lord, that they may offer prayers perfectly , so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (0 Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. 0’ our Lord! Certainly, You know what we conceal and what we reveal. Nothing on the earth or in the heaven is hidden from Allah.”(Qur’an;14:37-38). The biblical narrative is some what different, but it mentions: “And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. And Abram was eighty-six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.”(Genesis;16:15-16), “And the angel of the LORD said unto her (Hager), I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.”(Genesis;16:10-11). “And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.”(Genesis;13:18), “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” (Genesis;17:20), “And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”(Genesis;16:12).
The whole land of Arabia appears (Genesis;10:1-32) to have been inhabited by a variety of tribes of different lineage, Ishmaelites, Arabians, Idumeans, Horites, and Edomites; but at length becoming amalgamated, they came to be known by the general designation of Arabs. The modern nation of Arabs is predominantly Ishmaelite (decedents of Ishmael or Isma’il), their language Arabic, is the most developed and the richest of all the Semitic languages, and is of great value to the student of Hebrew. Isma’il was also a messenger of God (Qur’an;19:54). He willingly offered himself to be sacrificed in obedience to the command of Allah to his father Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), who was asked to offer the sacrifice of his ‘only son’ as mentioned at Genesis;22:2. Isaac was 13 years younger to Ishmael, hence he can not be called as  only son of Abraham. Allah accepted the gesture of Abraham and substituted ram instead (Qur’an;37:102-107). Ishmael helped his father Abraham in building the Ka’ba (Qur’an;2:127). He called the people around (Arabia) to prayer and charity. Isma’il became the ancestor of Arabs. Allah says: “We blessed him (Abraham) and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.”(Qur’an;37:1130). Once the progeny of Abraham through his second son Isaac deviated from the faith of Abraham, after two and half millennium, God shifted the honor of “Leadership of Mankind” to the decedents of Ishmael by appointing Muhammad (peace be upon him) as His last messenger (610 C.E).

Prophet Isaac (peace be upon him):

Prophet Isaac (Ishaq, peace be upon him) the second son of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was born from his first wife Sarah at the old age, as special blessings from God. He was father of Esau and Prophet Jacob (Yaqub, peace be upon him), who is also known as Israel. Twelve Hebrew tribes, descended from the twelve sons of  Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him), and they  became to be known as the Israelites. Prophet Jacob had settled at Hebron (Palestine) where his father Prophet Isaac and before him Prophet Abraham lived. For almost next fifteen hundred years God kept on sending messengers in the progeny of Jacob (Israel), Jesus (peace be upon him)  being the last. As mentioned above the Biblical traditions attribute the offer of sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, where as Islamic traditions ascribe it to Ishmael.

Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him):

Jacob (called Ya'aqov in Hebrew and Ya'qub in Arabic, also called Israel) was a great messenger of Allah, Hebrew patriarch who was the grandson of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), the son of Isaac and Rebekah. He is the traditional ancestor of the people of Israel. Allah says: “And we gave (Abraham) Isaac and Jacob, and ordained among his progeny Prophethood and Revelation, and We granted him his reward in this life; and he was in the Hereafter (of the company) of the Righteous.”(Qura’n;29:27). Stories about Jacob in the Bible commence at Genesis;25:19. Jacob was the younger twin brother of Esau, who was the ancestor of Edom and the Edomites. It is narrated in Bible that Jacob, by means of an elaborate double deception, managed to obtain his older brother's birthright from their father Isaac. Jacob then fled his brother's wrath, during journey Jacob received a special revelation from God; God promised Jacob lands and numerous offspring that would prove to be the blessing of the entire Earth. Jacob named the place where he received his vision Beth-el ("House of God"). Then is the story of his love with cousin Rachel and substitution of her elder sister Leah, for Rachel by their father Laban at the wedding ceremony. Thus he was compelled to serve Laban for another seven years to get his beloved Rachel as his wife. Jacob then set out with his wives and children to return to Palestine. On the way Jacob wrestled with a mysterious stranger, a divine being, who changed Jacob's name to Israel, Bible narrates: “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for, said he, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”(Genesis;32:24-30) [Jacob wrestling with God and prevailing, is inconceivable!]
The story continues in Bible, Jacob then met his brother Esau, reconciled and settled in Canaan. Jacob had 13 children, 10 of whom were founders of tribes of Israel. Leah bore him his only daughter, Dinah, and six sons--Reuben, Simeon, Levi (who did not found a tribe, but was the ancestor of the Levites), Judah (from whom a tribe and the Davidic monarchy were descended), Issachar, and Zebulun. Leah's maidservant, Zilpah, bore him Gad and Asher, and Rachel's maidservant, Bilhah, bore him Dan and Naphtali. [The children born through maidservants of wives of Jacob are not dealt with contempt in line with the prevalent custom, where as in case of Ishmael, born from Hager, the prejudice and dichotomy of Israelites is too palpable.] Rachel's sons were Benjamin and Joseph (who did not found a tribe, but whose sons founded the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim). The story of Jacob's later years more properly belongs to the story of Joseph, who became a virtual ruler of Egypt under the King. Late in his life, a famine prompted Jacob and his sons to migrate to Egypt, where he was reunited with his son Joseph, who had disappeared some years before, due to mischief of his jealous brothers. According to Bible, Jacob (Israel) died in Egypt at the age of 147 years and was buried in Canaan at Hebron. The stories about Jacob's birth and his acquisition of the birthright (Genesis 25:19-34; 27) provide a thinly veiled apology for the relation between Edom (Esau) and Israel in Davidic times. Edom, the older nation, was made subject to Israel by David (2 Samuel;8:8). The stories of Jacob assume and emphasize that all things occur by divine design. The divine objective is of overriding significance; it is God's will that Esau (Edom) shall live in the desert and be subject to Israel. Qur’an addresses his decedents as ‘Children of Israel’. Like Abraham, Jacob also advised his progeny to be obedient to God: “And this was the Legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; "O my sons! God hath chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the state of submission (to God).”(Qura’n;2:132).

Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him):

Prophet Joseph (Yusuf), peace be upon him, was the favorite son of Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him). In the early age Joseph was cast into slavery due to jealousy of his brothers. The Hebrews version of narrative of Joseph is given at in Bible (Genesis;Chapters:37-50). Qur’an mentions about his story at Chapter 12, named as ‘Yousaf’ (Joseph). According to Qur’an: “There is a lesson in these stories of former people for the men of understanding. This story of Joseph revealed in the Qur’an is not an invented tale, but a confirmation of previous scriptures - a detailed exposition of all things, and is a guidance and blessing for the people who believe.”(Qura’n;12:111).The Qur’anic story is similar to but not identical with the Biblical story however the atmosphere is widely different. The Biblical story is like a folk tale in which morality has no place. Its tendency is to exalt the clever and financially minded Hebrew against the Egyptians, and to explain certain ethnic and tribal peculiarities in later Israeli history. Joseph is shown as buying up all the cattle and the land of the poor Egyptians for the state under the stress of famine conditions, and making the Israelites “rulers” over Pharaoh’s cattle [Historically it is proved that they were Hyksos Kings, of Semites origin and not Egyptian Pharaohs: Qur’an rightly mentions them as king, and in case of Moses Pharaohs.] The Qur’anic story on the other hand is less a narrative than a highly spiritual sermon of allegory explaining the seeming contradictions in life, the enduring nature of virtues in a world full of flux and change, and the marvelous working of God’s eternal purposes in His Plan unfolded on the wide canvas of history.
Allah says: “Verily in Joseph and his brethren are Signs (or Symbols) for Seekers (after Truth).”(Qura’n;12:7), “When Joseph attained his full manhood, We gave him power and knowledge: thus do We reward those who do right.”(Qura’n;12:22). Joseph was a handsome man, the wife of his master, (Egyptian high official-Aziz) tried to seduce him but being a chosen servant of God, he remained steadfast, and did not give in to evil temptations. Despite his innocence he had to spend years in jail, till taken out honorably. Through God gifted ability of interpretation of dreams, prophesies, prophetic wisdom, honesty, chastity and good management abilities he became trusted ad­viser of Hyksos King of Egypt: “Thus did we give established power to Joseph in the land, to take possession therein as, when, or where he pleased. We bestow of Our mercy on whom We please, and We suffer not, to be lost, the reward of those who do good.”(Qura’n;12:56). He saved the people from starvation during the famine with good management. Joseph adhered to the faith of his ancestors and preached to his people as a prophet. He forgave his brothers and used his ac­quired position in Egypt to save them and his father from famine. He is quoted as an example of generosity, mercy, patience, chastity, compassion, and faith in God's control over events in life. Some Israelites settled in Egypt during this period. The Hyksos kings belonged to the Arab race, but had migrated from Palestine and Syria to Egypt in or about 2000 B.C. and taken possession of the country. Being aliens, they were not hostile to the Israelis. Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him) and his sons went down into Egypt (Genesis;45:17-25). This immigration took place probably about 350 years before period of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) (may be, around 1650 B.C). The Israelis prospered until the Hyksos Kings were deposed in Egypt (1570 BC), thereafter once their influence in the court diminished, Israelites were persecuted as aliens and forced into slavery. It was Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), who delivered his people from Egyptian slavery in 13th Century B.C to be later reunited with other Hebrew tribes with whom they retained a sense of kinship.
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