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Friday, October 7, 2011

Ishmael: Call him Prophet

Hagar & Ishmael in the Desert (By Ugrumov)
Although Ishmael is honored by Judaism, Christianity, and the Bahai Faith – he seems to have been especially revered within Islam.

According to Wikipedia, the Hebrew name Yishma’el
means “God has hearkened” – which suggests that the
bearer of this name “was regarded as the fulfillment of
a divine promise.”  Although all of the abovementioned
religions agree that Ishmael was the son of Abraham and
Hagar, as well as the older brother of Isaac – that is often
where the overlapping interpretations end. 

Judaism is filled with differing details about Ishmael’s life. Some Jews have believed that Ishmael is the ancestor of
northern Arabs, whereas others (such as Maimonides) have
believed that northern Arabs are the descendants of Keturah,
Abraham’s third wife.   Some rabbinical interpretations say
that Hagar was the Pharoah’s daughter, and explain Genesis
17:20 (“he shall be the father of twelve princes”) in light of
this.  Other Jewish interpretations hold Hagar and Keturah
to be one and the same. 

Both Judaism and Christianity tend to consider Isaac, rather than Ishmael, to be the true heir of Abraham.  Some Christian interpretations deem Ishmael to be symbolic of the (“old”) Sinai covenant, and Isaac to be symbolic of the (“new”) covenant of grace.  The Bahai teachings consider both Ishmael and Isaac to be emblematic of holy sacrifice.

Islam, however, considers Ishmael to be an esteemed prophet.  According to Rosemary Pennington, “Ishmael is highly regarded in Islam for his goodness and wisdom.”  Muslims believe that it was Ishmael, rather than Isaac, who was almost sacrificed to God.  The Qur’an states that it was Allah, rather than Sarah, who had Ishmael and Hagar sent into the desert.  Pennington also states that “Muslims believe they are the inheritors of Ishmael’s legacy – that they, along with Jews and Christians, are the ‘children of Abraham.’”

It is said that Abraham and Ishmael rebuilt the Kaaba on the foundation of the one originally built by Adam.  It is also said that the Black Stone which they placed there was given to Abraham by the angels.  That is why the Kaaba and its Black Stone are such integral parts of the Hajj experience.


Copyright October 7, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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