Ishmael & the Abrahamic Covenant

In yesterday’s article I addressed Abraham and the Child of Sacrifice from an Islamic perspective. Today we are going to examine Ishamel (a.s) and God’s covenant in response to an article titled, The Quran’s Mistakes regarding the Biblical Patriarchs, by Sam Shamoun.

He wrote in the last paragraph of the article, “…the Bible rejects the claim that God gave Ishmael revelation and prophethood since it expressly says that Ishmael was not included in God’s covenant blessings that were given solely to Isaac, Jacob and his children. Thus, if the Bible is used to confirm the Quran then the same Holy Bible can also be used to falsify it. It’s as simple as that.”

God made a promise to Abraham before any children of his children were born (Genesis 12:2-3). He married Sarah who turned out to be a barren woman, so she gave Abraham a handmaid named Hagar to be his wife (Genesis 16:1) in the hopes that she could conceive a child with Abraham. Hagar fell pregnant with their first child, and the Angels told her to name him Ishmael (Genesis 16:11). God promised to bless the families of the earth through Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 17:4). Ishmael was an only child for 14 years until Abraham’s wife Sarah bore him a son named Isaac (Genesis 21:1-5). 

Many Christians and Jews mistakenly believe that Abraham’s descendants through Ishmael were excluded from God’s promise and covenant with Abraham because Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, was not a legitimate wife, thus, her son Ishmael was not a legitimate son.

According to the Bible, only Isaac was the son of promise and covenant (Genesis 17:18-21) (Genesis 21:12), but Ishmael was also blessed and included in the promise (Genesis 21:13, 18) and addressed by God as the seed of Abraham (Genesis: 21:12-13). 

Deliberate effort appears to have been made in the Bible to exclude Ishmael, but he is still found to be addressed by God as a legitimate seed. God’s covenant was given to Abraham and to all his descendants. He was the father of many nations, not only one, which can be seen.

It now becomes evident that someone decided that they did not want the Arab descendants of Ishmael to be included in God’s covenant with Abraham. They wanted it exclusive to the Israelite branch, therefore, the Torah was rewritten in order to show that God’s intent was that his covenant be with the Jews only. We can now see that God’s original covenant was given to Abraham and to all his descendants (Genesis 17:3-6) without exception.

The Qur’an corrected the falsehood about Ishmael and mentions the grant of revelations to the family of Abraham:

… We had already given the family of Abraham the Scripture and Wisdom… (4:54) Also mention in the Book the story of Ishmael. Indeed, he was true to his promise, 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. (19:54-55) and (6:84-89).

The Qur’an confirms that the Israelite people descended from Abraham and Allah conferred on Abraham the status of religious leader of mankind. He responded with a request that his seed should also share in that status conferred upon him. Allah’s response to his request was to grant it conditionally (2:124).

The condition was that this status would not be conferred on those of his seed who were ‘wicked in conduct’. Allah went on to fulfill that favour unto Abraham by choosing Prophets from his seed, hence the continuous line of Prophets chosen from the seed of Abraham who were all sent to the Israelite people. This continued uninterruptedly until the birth of Jesus.

In regards to the Bible, the covenant is found in Genesis 12:1–3. The ceremony recorded in Genesis 15 indicates the unconditional nature of the covenant.

God preserved Ishmael’s life and blessed him, but he was not the son through whom the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant would pass, not as the one through whom Messiah would come (Genesis 49:8-12).

The Muslim version is that after the Jewish rejection of Jesus, and their boasting of killing him (4:157), Allah shifted the leadership of mankind from the Children of Israel to the children of Ishmael (2:143), In fulfillment of his covenant with Abraham (2:124), by appointing Muhammad as the last prophet for mankind til eternity. Thus the role of leadership of mankind to convey the message of God is now the responsibility of Muslims. Due to the disobedience and continuous transgression, the Children of Israel proved themselves to be unworthy of leadership of mankind.

According to the Bible, the Abrahamic Covenant also includes the promise of land (Genesis 12:1) with the territory specified in Genesis 15:18–21 and recorded in Deuteronomy 29:129 and Deuteronomy 30:1–10. In Genesis 13:15, we find that the gift of land is declared to be “forever.”

The Islamic view is that the Israelites (before prophet Muhammad) rewrote the Torah to falsely proclaim that the Holy Land was given to the seed of Abraham through Isaac, and Ishmael was falsely excluded as a legitimate seed.

Not only was he excluded from God’s covenant so that the Israelite branch could claim exclusive title to being the ‘chosen people’ of God, they also changed the title deed of the Holy Land to unconditional so it remains valid regardless of whether or not they are righteous in conduct (Deuteronomy, 9:6).

The Biblical and Qur’anic explanation is clear, the land was given conditionally to the Israelites (Psalm 11, 29) and (Matthew, 5:5) which is also supported by the Qur’an (21:105).

The conditions of inheritance were faith in God, submission to him (i.e., as Muslims) and righteous conduct.

So we come to the conclusion that the following are false as they exclude righteousness and faith as conditions for inheritance of the Holy Land Deuteronomy, 11:24, Genesis, 15:18, and Deuteronomy, 9:6.

The above claim of Judaism is deliberately aimed at denying their Arab brethren any right to the land of their birth. The Torah itself clearly states that the firstborn should get double portion of his father’s share, even when his mother has a lower status (Deuteronomy 21: 15-17).

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