Question For Islamic Tradition on the Feast of Sacrifice- A Response to Online Islamic Apologist

The debate about who among Abraham’s wards he took along for a sacrifice when God asked him to sacrifice his son to him has been one of the most hotly debated issue among Christians and Muslims, and for periods spanning well over a century. Having looked closely at both side of the argument, I consider it important to assess the concern for it is worth, and present a more reliable defense for the best possible coherent account of the two. Put in mind that the essence of such an examination is to ascertain the historical reliability of both the Islamic and Christian source over the event. Essentially, the question of the article would be, who among the two witnesses can we trust its trustworthiness?

More importantly, I have got asked the philosophical question of how rational it is, for the Supremely benevolent God to demand for human sacrifice. Would God have done the same thing, like, demand such sacrifice today? If he wouldn’t, then it is doubt-able that there is consistency on the part of God. More so, such a demand appear bizarre than cool. This sort of question, as difficult as it may appear has relevant answers to it.

I will be dealing with the Islamic narrative viz a viz the biblical story on the one hand, and answering the relevant philosophical question that such a demand by a good and kind God would bring to a skeptical mind. Much as I hope to give constructive answers to these varying questions, it will be far reaching to think of the article as an all encompassing solution to all the raging questions in the human mind about the said event.

A) Islamic tradition or Christianity narrative?
The Eid al-Adha, or ‘Feast of Sacrifice’ celebrates the Prophet Ibrahim, and his purported obedience to the word of Allah, who instructed him to kill his son as sacrifice for him. Here is the Quranic narrative in the chapter called As Saffat, which translates to mean “Ranged in the row”:

“And Abraham prayed: “O my Sustainer! Bestow upon me the gift of [a son who shall be] one of the righteous!” – whereupon We gave him the glad tiding of a boy-child gentle (like himself)

And (one day,) when [the child] had become old enough to share in his [father’s] endeavors, the latter said: “O my dear son! I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice thee: consider, then, what would be thy view!” [Ishmael] answered: “O my father! Do as thou art bidden: thou wilt find me, if God so wills, among those who are patient in adversity.

But as soon as the two had surrendered themselves to [what they thought to be the will of God], and [Abraham] had laid him down on his face.

We called out to him: “O Abraham, thou hast already fulfilled [the purpose of] that dream- vision!” Thus, verily, do We reward the doers of good: or, behold, all this was indeed a trial, clear in itself.” And We ransomed him with a tremendous sacrifice and left him thus to be remembered among later generation. (37:100-108)”

 

It is very much unclear as to who the said son that Abraham took along for the sacrifice was, to take the Quran as face value. The Quran, which happen to be the chief source of the Muslims remain largely silent about the person’s name or unique character that could make for any inference of whatever type. Anyone who read much into it, does so out of his pre-commitment to unfounded and source-less tradition.

But where could the Muslims have derived their much taunted doctrine about Ismael been the one sacrificed? They did from biblical sources of Genesis according to their prominent scholars and apologists. And even pointedly, they did seem to place the affirmation of the doctrine on the “contradictions found in the biblical narrative, and its inherent confirmation of their tradition”. But it only took a pen and common sense to very easily dispel their arguments, which I will consider and reconstruct to make coherent case.

Here are the Muslim’s arguments:

1) Hagar was Abraham’s legitimate wife.

The Muslims argued that since God instructed Abraham to kill his son in the scriptural narrative of Genesis 22, Ismael would have been the one God was referring to seeing Hagar was a legitimate wife to Abraham as Sarah.
Genesis 16:3- And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband TO BE HIS WIFE (NOT A CONCUBINE)

This proposition is fraught with a lot problems. Even if Hagar was a legitimate wife as it’s been supposed, it proves nothing like say, “Ismael was the ONLY legitimate son that was taken to Moriah for a sacrifice. In fact, we can make similar case for Isaac. However, a closer look at the the context of the quoted passage would go about to show the gross misreading of passage. Let look at the page from its broader context:

“1. Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian MAIDSERVANT named Hagar;

2 So she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my MAIDSERVANT; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said

3. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian MAIDSERVANT Hagar and gave her to her husband to be HIS WIFE.

4. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise HER MISTRESS.

5. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put MY SERVANT in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

6. “YOUR SERVANT is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

Notice that even after she gave birth to Ismael, Abraham still called Sarah, her mistress, and Hagar, “Your servant”. Notice also that it was Sarah that gave Hagar to Abraham for a “wife”, and, meanwhile the term was not used exclusively for legitimate wife in the general biblical context. Genesis 25:1 identified someone like Keturah as Abraham’s wife, he was deemed a concubine,or surrogate mother in Genesis 25:6; Judges 19 also chronicled the story of a woman of Gibeah, who was deemed a concubine, and a wife of one man of Gibeah. There is also the sample of 10 Concubines of King David.

They are mentioned in 2 Samuel 15:16, 2 Samuel 16:22, and 2 Samuel 20:3. These 10 women were also sexually violated by a political rival to the throne, Absalom. And this only is but one of the examples of the many concubinage depicted in the old testament of the Bible, in which concubines were so named wife, but never rose to the status of a wife, and hence doesn’t share the privileges exclusive to wives. It is a culture of the ancient Babylonian where Abraham descend. The Hebrew word for concubine, “Piylegesh”, isn’t even of Hebrew origin. It’s “a non-Semitic loanword borrowed to refer to a phenomenon not indigenous to Israel, . More so, the same custom is engaged by Jacob with Lea and Rachel, his wives, and their maidservants Bilhah and Zilpah who both gave slaves to their husband to give him children. (Gen. 29:31 – 30:23).

2) Chronology of the said event.
Here is an argument from one Islamic debater for instance: “According to the Bible (Gen. 16:16) Ismail was born when Abraham was 86 years of age: “Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5). This would make ISMAIL 14 years when ISAAC was born. When Ismail was 16 years, Isaac was 2 years old when out of envy Sarah asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ismail away. Genesis 16:16-Abraham sent Hagar and Ismail away into WILDERNESS OF BEER-SHEBA {SAUDI ARABIA} WITH A BOTTLE OF WATER.”

This argument doesn’t look impressive by any stretch of the term for serious Bible students. Abraham sent Hagar away in Genesis 21:14, and the rest of verses laid out how Hagar faired on her way. It is striking however that the clause that started Genesis 22 was, “And it came to pass after these things” implying a beginning of another chronicle sequel to the past events. It was in Chapter 22, after Hagar and Ismael were no more in the house that the event of the sacrifice took place, not after. Meanwhile, it is not known the stretch of years it took from Hagar’s said sent forth and the sacrifice at mount Moriah.

It will only amount to misreading to set an age for Isaac when we don’t know the exact time it was that God asked Abraham to bring him for sacrifice, seeing the Hebrew time reckoning supports such euphemism like, “after some time” or “after all these things” as implying time period, usually in years, months or hours, unspecified. It is doubt-able whether the person making this kind of claim have read the passage at all, and with clear mind, since by every stretch of the term, it reinforces the Judeo Christian narrative than puncture it.

3) The emphasis on “Your only son”.
We have hitherto ascertained that the sacrifice at mount Moriah was no doubt after Hagar sent forth from Abraham’s place. But, how could God have asked Abraham to take his son, with an emphasis on his only son, to sacrifice for him. That leave much to desire perhaps. There are several ways to respond to this. One is in looking at it in keeping with the fact that the son with Abraham at that moment was Isaac, since Hagar had been sent away, with her son. However, the staggering thought lingers: Abraham has more than one son, how would God ask him to bring “his only son” to him for sacrifice?

The answer is, God was as much emphatic about, “the son that you love”. So, the passage wasn’t so much about the loneliness of birth, as it is about the exclusiveness of love, which Abraham had for his child, born out of God’s promise to him for a long time. The Hebrew writer captures this much more better.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. (Hebrews 11:17–19)
The phrase “only begotten son” implies a unique and special son, who came as a fulfillment of God’s promise. This word was also used for Jesus, in which he is termed “the only begotten son” different from Adam in Luke 3:38 and Christians in Galatians 3:26. The Hebrew word used for “only” is yachiyd, which means “unique” or “only begotten” (special).

So the Hebrew clarifies that Isaac is indeed the special, unique, only begotten son of Abraham, been the child of promise. It is also glaring that Ismael wasn’t with Abraham at the time of the sacrifice, as he and his mother had been sent away in the earlier passage. The obvious argument for why it can only be Ismael is then, how could God have command Abraham to sacrifice a son that’s beyond his reach. Isaac was close by, so it make sense to see him as the only one around with Abraham. you

2) THE PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION

Question 1: Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice his son if he is a benevolent God?

Response

1) God wasn’t “proving’ Abraham so he could demonstrate to himself what he didn’t know about him before. By every street of it, God knows what Abraham would do given particular options. Genesis affirms the omniscience of God. But God’s putting forth the revelation of mankind salvation. Imagine Abraham telling his son that God will provide a LAMB ( Christologically signifying Jesus Christ), but God provided a Ram in its stead. Perhaps, because the time for the lamb’s sacrifice wasn’t as yet. That’s a kind of foreshadowing.
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2) Abraham clearly told his servants, “Settle down and stay here with the Donkey, and I and the young man will go yonder and worship and come again to you (Genesis 22:5). Abraham’s belief was that Isaac wouldn’t be dead by the time they come back. Now, that’s faith, you’d not understand the gravity of this till you take a look at what the Hebrew writer said of his act, “For he reasoned that God was able to raise him up even from among the dead.(Heb. 11:17). He likely understood God not as a fiend, but as one who gives live. Abraham was sure he would be back. So he never went in as one weeping for his son, who he was to lose to a fiend(as with the Pagan gods). He went to the mountain with hope of his son’s return. Now, that’s a man who didn’t go in for “human sacrifice’. He trusted God enough to give his son live and not take it.

3) What is it with the command?
God was more likely trying to distinguish himself from the Pagan gods. Deuteronomy 12:31 speaks of the manner of detestable things perpetrated by worshipers of those gods: burning their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifice to their gods. God called it detestable. He was in essence presenting himself to Abraham that he wouldn’t take a live, even in the worst possible case, as a means of reaching him in the form of offering or sacrifice.

In all, the passage wasn’t to be read for some kind of moral instructions. Abraham understood God wasn’t going to take his son away as opposed to say, Molech. To him his son wasn’t going to die. His faith was: If he die, I will have him back. Never that he will be sacrificed and gone to be in the stomach of a fiend of a god. That foreshadows the faith of Jesus too while going to the cross. Christ approached the cross not like one certain of death, but of live. God, by definition is benevolent, and remain so irrespective of seeming event that may appear as if he isn’t.

As I highlighted above, it take only a pen and a common sense, and with your Bible and pad with you for looking up the passage been criticized for yourself. Next time, any critic attack Christianity, be ready to look up the fact, instead of succumbing the weight of dishonesty, and having it crush you.