This is the first part of a 4 part article from Qur’anic Exegesis ‘Nizam-ul-Qur’an’ (نظام القرآن), written by a gifted Qur’anic Scholar from Indian Sub-Continent Sheikh Hamiduddin Farahis ( 1863-1930 AD) aguing that prophet Ismail (pbuh) as was sacrificed.
(Adaptation to English from Arabic by Nadir Aqeel Ansari)
This treatise is one of the prologues of my exegesis of the Qur’an, ‘Nizam-ul-Qur’an’, wherein I have tried to demonstrate as to which of his two sons—Ismail or Isaac—did Abraham offer to Allah as sacrifice. There are special reasons for setting down this treatise.
1. At first, I was motivated to write this tract by the extraordinary significance of this issue in Islam. This deserves elucidation: God, the Almighty, at first tested Abraham’s faith and when Abraham was not found wanting, he was blessed, chosen and appointed the patriarch (Imam) of the people. This has found mention in the Qur’an both explicitly and implicitly.
“And when his Lord tried Abraham by enjoining on him certain commandments and Abraham fulfilled them, He announced: I have appointed you Leader of mankind.” (2:124)
On another occasion, the Almighty has pointed out:
“We chose Abraham in this world, and in the world to come, he shall dwell among the righteous. When his lord asked him to submit, he answered: I have submitted to the Lord of the Universe.” (2:130)
That is to say that Abraham was chosen because of this submission to God and obedience to His commands. In other verses, the meaning of this submission to God and the nature of his trial have also been revealed ie, he was asked to sacrifice his son in the name of God.
“So when they [Abraham and his son] had both submitted to God and Abraham had laid his son prostrate on his forehead [for sacrifice]…” (37:103)
Later on, it has been made abundantly clear that the trial (ibtilaa‘) mentioned in 2:124 refers to this very test.
“This is indeed the manifest trial.” (37:106)
This is to say that the test referred to above established Abraham’s complete submission and surrendering of will to God, which is the real essence of absolute monotheism and devotion to faith.
Now, when we talk in terms of nations (Ummah) and religions (sharaai`), this submission (Islam) has been reserved by God for the Ummah of the Prophet (sws). No one else has been allowed any share in it because the Shariah (code) is granted only to those who can bear it. Only the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (sws), could bear the responsibility, and, therefore, it was entrusted to it. This is the reason why Abraham, while constructing the Ka’aba prayed to God to raise a people from the barren valley of Mecca which may uphold the Shariah that embodies true faith, and to send a prophet who may enable this Ummah to discharge this responsibility through teaching and training:
“And recall when Abraham and Ismail were raising the foundations of the House praying: O Lord, accept this [service] from us. You hear all and You know all. Lord! make us submissive to You, and out of our descendents raise a nation that will be submissive to You. And tell us the way to worship You and forgive us. Verily, You are forgiving and merciful. Lord! send forth to them a Prophet from among themselves who shall convey to them your message and instruct them in law and wisdom and purify them of sins. Verily you are exalted in might and truly wise.” ( 2:127-129 )
Abraham’s prayer was heard by God, and out of his progeny rose an Ummah capable of upholding the Shariah, marked by absolute submission to God sacrificing themselves for the sake of God. As a result, this Ummah is ever ready to offer itself in sacrifice for Allah in the footsteps of its forefathers, Abraham and Ismail. This is revealed in a prayer taught to the Prophet (sws):
“Say: Behold, my Sustainer has guided me onto a straight path through an ever true faith—the way of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false, and he was not one of those who ascribe divinity to others besides Him. Say: Behold my prayers, and [all] my acts of worship, and my life and my death are for God [alone], who is the Sustainer of all the universe, in whose divinity none has a share: for thus have I been bidden—and I shall always be foremost among those who surrender themselves unto Him.” (6:161-163)
Here `foremost among those who surrender’ denotes this particular meaning of Islam. Otherwise, the word “Islam” has been applied in its general connotation to all divine religions, but as a proper name it has been used for the following of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) only. This is because the adherents of this Ummah are at the pinnacle of absolute submission to God. As indicated above, they have committed their lives to God and, consequently, God Almighty has chosen them and charged them the responsibility to bear witness to the truth before mankind:
“And strive hard in God’s cause as you aught to strive [with sincerity and discipline]. It is he who has selected you [to carry his message] and he has laid no hardship on you in [matters of] religion, [and has chosen for you] the creed of your forefather, Abraham. It is he who has named you in bygone times: `Muslims’ and you have been named so in this [scripture also]—so that the Prophet might bear witness to the truth before you, and that you might bear witness to it before all mankind.” (22:78)
It is he who named you Muslims before this’ refers to Abraham’s prayer in which he has used the phrase Ummat-i-Muslimah. His words were: “And raise from my progeny an Ummat-i-Muslimah“. An Ummah was raised for this very purpose so that this blessing (the religion of Islam) may pervade throughout the world and the progeny of Abraham may become a source of blessing and bounty for the world. That is why when the Torah relates the instance of the sacrifice by Abraham, it points out:
“By myself I have sworn, says the Lord because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son. That in blessing I will bless you and multiplying I will multiply your descendents as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore… In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:15-18)
The last sentence means that the Muslim Ummah will proclaim pure faith and absolute monotheism in the world, and in this manner the blessings of God will permeate all the nations of the world. The same theme is reiterated in the Qur’anic verses quoted above, wherein it is ordained `Bear witness to the Truth before all mankind’ and `strive hard in God’s cause with sincerity and discipline, He has chosen you’. That is to say that God has selected it for the realization of this noble and lofty cause, and so it should concentrate its efforts and aspirations on it: the people of this Ummah have sacrificed their lives in the name of God; their life and death are for him. These traits have won for them the status of witnesses to the Truth before mankind and they have been appointed to lead them.
Now let us sum up our findings. Our discussion has revealed that this Zibh-i-Azeem (The Great Sacrifice) is the very faith which signifies the essence of Millat-i-Ibrahim. The Prophet (sws) was sent to elaborate and consummate it. God named this faith Islam and its devotees were designated as Muslims. A special Ummah was raised from amongst the progeny of Ismail, settled around the center of Abraham’s nation—the venerated Ka’aba of Mecca, to propagate it. All these signs have been beautifully summed up in the following verses:
“Therefore, stand firm in your devotion to true faith which Allah Himself has ordained, after which He modelled man’s innate qualities. There is no altering God’s creation. This is surely the true religion, although most men do not understand.” (30:30)
Now consider, how oblivious are they of the purport of the great mission of the Prophet (sws) and how ignorant are they of the significance of this momentous sacrifice in Islam, who reckon that this trial was held on the Mountain of Jerusalem and Isaac was sacrificed instead of Ismail !
2. The second consideration before me to write this book is the fact that there are a number of verses in the Holy Qur’an whose true sense cannot be understood and their placement in the coherence of the Qur’an cannot be accounted for, unless the subject of this Great Sacrifice is grasped in depth. A few illustrations of this premises above might have been found above and more will follow. Dealing with these matters under every relevant verse in my exegesis “Nizam-ul-Qur’an” would have resulted in unnecessary repetition and protraction. Therefore, I have attempted to resolve all the related difficulties in this book. It may be considered as the preface of my commentary of the Qur’an. I would keep on referring to this tract in my commentary as and when required.
3. The third factor which prompted this work is that the Jews have made more efforts to conceal the reality of this event than they have attempted in any other case. There is no limit to the textual distortions and lies introduced in the scriptures when it comes to Ismail and the Ka’aba. Some of these textual manipulations will be revealed in due course. Although this incident has been reported in the Torah, it has been enveloped in so many textual corruptions and interpolations that the facts stand completely distorted. The Qur’an has revealed the truth by removing the fog of human interventions. The Qur’an has adopted a unique strategy of discussion and reflection in this regard; the following two aspects of this approach are noteworthy:
- All Jewish scriptures are unanimous that God had categorically commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. But the Qur’an has given a different version: It states that Abraham saw in a vision that he was offering his son Ismail in sacrifice. This shows that the Qur’an is above any plagiarism from the corrupted scriptures of the Jews and Christians. In fact, the Qur’an introduces corrections in the Torah by reforming and improving the scriptures. It reveals the textual distortions introduced by the Jews.
- In the Torah (Genesis, Ch 22), where the incident of the Great sacrifice of Abraham has been reported, the Jews have placed the name of Isaac instead of Ismail’s in a very preposterous manner without any rhyme or reason. This is one of the ugliest and the most despicable examples of Jewish tampering with the holy scriptures. It was deemed inappropriate by the Qur’an to comment on interpolation of this sort due to a number of reasons and, therefore, it did not contradict them. A contradiction was not even required. Although the Jews had inserted the name of Isaac in place of Ismail in some verses but the other indications in the text were sufficient to expose this insertion. They managed to remove a few signposts of the path but could not altogether close it down. This tampering, being in tune with their desires, found wide acceptance among all the earlier and later generations of Jews and Christians and not a single dissenting voice survived. The general masses are not well versed in Holy scriptures and they find it easier to yield to the prevailing beliefs. The same happened in this case. The Jews proclaimed it in unision so vehemently and vociferously that all and sundry conceded chorus. This fervid propaganda also influenced some of the Muslim scholars, such as Ibni Jareer (may Allah bless him), who did not mind trusting Jewish scriptures and held them in high esteem. Ibni Jareer has admitted in his celebrated “History of the Nations and Kings” that while recording the history of a people he prefers to rely on their statements. In my view, this lapse on the part of these historians owes to their failure in estimating the real worth of the Jewish scriptures and in distinguishing the extant versions of the Torah from the original one. But only a few of the scholars had this misconception. Others who were proficient in the critical appreciation of the scriptures demonstrated from the Torah itself that it was Ismail who was offered by Abraham in sacrifice to Allah and not Isaac. However, due to these differences, the significance of this issue has receded into the background, or, one may say that it was the underestimation of the incident that led to these differences. Had they known what importance this event enjoys in our religion, they would have investigated the matter thoroughly and this event would not have fallen victim to their negligence.
These three factors motivated me to clarify this controversy for which this book was written. It consists of a prologue, three chapters and an epilogue.
In the first chapter, evidence has been drawn from the Torah and the statements and admissions of Judaeo-Christian scholars so that the Jews and Christians are left with no excuse.
The second chapter discusses the relevant Qur’anic arguments and sanctions.
In the third chapter, evidence has been presented from the traditions of the Prophet (sws), reports of the Companions of the Prophet (sws), citations from celebrated Muslim scholars, customs and history of the pre-Islamic Arabia.
Finally, these discussions have been summed up and reviewed in the epilogue.
(To be Continued)