The testimony of the Quran is that it is in entire agreement with the Taurat in that the children of Israel are exalted above the rest of mankind by God and that He raised amongst this race prophets and messengers. It testifies that through the race of Israel the world would be blessed in the culmination of the the Messiah, the Word of God.
In this brief study of the relevant verses of the Quran we may conclude that no gift of prophecy or revelation lies in the seed of Ishmael as the Quran itself states, as we will see that Ishmael is lost sight of, and cut off from the prophetical line. We do however recognise that in one passage, Sura Maryam 19:54, we do find this verse: “And remember Ishmael, who was true to his promise; and he was a messenger and a prophet.” How the Quran comes to this conclusion when he is outside the race of prophets can only be explained as a symptom of trying to wedge his descendent Muhammad into a line to which he did not belong.
“And (Abraham) said, Verily I am going to my Lord who will direct me: O Lord, grant unto me a righteous (issue). Whereupon We gave him the promise of a meek youth. And when he had grown up to be a helper to him, Abraham said, O my son, verily, I saw in a dream that I should offer thee in sacrifice; consider therefore what thou seest fit to be done. He said, O my father, do as thou art commanded; thou shalt find me, if God pleases, one of the resigned. So when they had submitted themselves, and Abraham had laid his son prostrate on his face, We cried unto him, O Abraham, verily thou hast verified the vision: thus do We reward the good. Truly this was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a noble victim. And We left for him (this blessing) by the latest posterity: Peace be on Abraham! Thus do We reward the righteous, for he was one of Our faithful servants. And We gave him the good tidings of the promise of Isaac, a righteous prophet; and We blessed him and Isaac. And of their offspring there were righteous doers, and others that manifestly injured their own souls.” ( Al Saffat 37:95-109)
Present day Muslims hold that it was Ishmael, and not Isaac, who was offered for sacrifice. however, there are a variety of opinions. Amongst those that held it was Isaac who was offered were the chief Companions: Umar, Ali, Abbas, Ibn Masud, Ka’b the Jew, and eight others. In favour of Ishmael is the younger generation such as the sons of Abbas and Umar, etc. Those who say it was Ishmael, place the sacrifice at Mina; those who say Isaac, in Syria and Jerusalem; When Abraham departed from his native land to Syria, he begged for a righteous offspring, and Isaac was granted to him; the only son promised to Abraham (“We gave him the promise of a meek youth”). This same son is mentioned as growing up and the same was taken for sacrifice. After the account of the sacrifice, the passage ends as it refers once again to that same son as a righteous prophet; the blessing being awarded for his steadfast faith and patience in the sacrifice. According to this understanding the passage can refer to none other than Isaac.
Israel favoured among all nations and above the seed of Ishmael
“O children of Israel! Remember the favour wherewith I have favoured you and preferred you above all nations (or all creatures)” (Al Baqarrah 2:44)
In this verse Allah calls to mind His former benefits to the Children of Israel as a reason for why they should not now refuse to obey His prophet Muhammad. Muslim commentators say that Israel was superior to all creatures, but only in one thing, that is, in the favour bestowed upon them, not in anything else. They hurry to mention that this was conferred only on the believing part of the nation for the rebellious were turned into apes and swine, and cursed of God. They were to remember with thankfulness and obedience the favour which was bestowed on their forefathers in the world of their time.
The conclusion must not be drawn that now God’s favour was on the seed of Ishmael as the more favoured race, for if a prophet was to arise of the seed of Ishmael, greater than any prophet of the seed of Israel, how then could it have been said that “We have favoured” the latter beyond all the world, including at that moment the seed of Ishmael?
Abraham’s godly seed does not include Ishmael
“And We gave to him (Abraham) Isaac and Jacob, and both of them We directed aright.”
Muslim commentators are uncomfortable that they find here no mention of Ishmael in this passage. They therefore give the explanation that Ishmael is not mentioned with Isaac and Jacob because the Quran is speaking of the long line of descent of the prophets of Israel. They continue to say that as Muhammad came from Ishmael it was not suitable to mention him on this occasion but he is later mentioned but in quite another connection.
Surely, the object in naming Isaac and Jacob was to indicate the progeny of Abraham from whose line prophets should arise. As there is an absence of Ishmael’s name then the text suggests that no prophet would arise from amongst his descendents. We are told Muhammad is the greatest of all prophets from out of Abraham so why no mention of him here?
Honours are awarded to Isaac and Jacob not to Ishmael
“And when he (Abraham) had separated himself from them, and from that which they worshipped beside God, We gave him Isaac and Jacob; and We made them both prophets;
and We granted unto them (benefits of) our mercy; and We granted unto them a lofty tongue of truth.” (Maryam 19:49)
Again we find no mention of Ishmael whereas high honours are paid to Isaac and Jacob. When Abraham departed to the holy land God gave him a son and a grandson to live with him and made them both prophets these alone are mentioned as God’s gift to Abraham, as the root and ancestry from which the race of prophets sprang.
The gift of prophecy to be found in the line of Isaac and Jacob not in Ishmael
and We gave him his reward in this world, and in that to come he shall be one of the righteous.” (Al Ankabut 29:25)
Ishmael was one of Abraham’s children but why was he not once again with Isaac and Jacob? The Quran recognises that Isaac and Jacob were the root and ancestry of the race of the prophets, and from them was to spring Him in whom “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Genesis 22:18, 26:4; 28:14); further, Isaac was the child of promise (as we see both in the Taurat and Quran), according to the angelic message to Abraham and Sarah, whereas Ishmael was born of the bondservant Hagar, without promise or heavenly message. Again, the promise of the gift of prophecy to the seed of Abraham, in immediate connection with the mention of Isaac and Jacob as progeny given by covenant to Abraham, is in strong contrast with the absence of any such promise in passages where Ishmael is named.
Further honours awarded to Isaac and Jacob but not to Ishmael
“And We bestowed on him Isaac and Jacob as an additional gift; and We made all of them righteous persons; We made them also leaders, that they might guide others by Our command.
And We inspired them to do good works, the observance of prayer, and the giving of alms; and they served Us.” (Al Anbia 21:69, 70)
This is now the fourth text gathered from different parts of the Quran where each excels that which preceded it in the grandeur of the blessings bestowed on Abraham and his two sons. The Quran recognises along with the Taurat the blessings Isaac and Jacob obtained from God:
1) We guided them aright
2) We made them all prophets
3) We committed to their progeny the gift of prophecy and the Scriptures
4) And all of them We made righteous.
Surely, if Ishmael had been a partaker with Isaac in the promised blessing, his name would have appeared somewhere in connection with it. Here in this section the same conclusion is drawn that Ishmael is not alluded to as the progenitor of any from whom a prophetical race would arise. He must therefore be excluded from the promise given to the patriarch.
Muhammad told to remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
“And remember Our servants, Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, men strenuous and prudent. Verily, We purified them with a perfect purification, through remembrance of the life to come. And they were in Our sight chosen men and good. And remember Ishmael and Elisha and Dhul Kefl, all good men.(Sura 38: vv 43-46).
Muslim commentators say that Muhammad is told to remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for their power in God’s service, their insight in spiritual things, and excellent works. This is now the fifth verse in which Ishmael is not mentioned as being of the family of Abraham. How is it that God bids Muhammad to remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their virtue, knowledge and grace, and not a word of his progenitor Ishmael, who is spoken of as if he “belonged to another generation,” and not to Abraham at all?
Then we read of Ishmael whose inclusion is not alongside the family of Abraham but linked with Elisha and Dhul Kefl:“Remember Ishmael, Elisha, and Dhul Kefl, all good men.” Elisha lived some one thousand years after Ishmael and they are linked with Dhul Kefl who is said to have belonged to a different race completely from the Prophets. It is to be especially noted that the Prophet of Islam is here desired to “remember” the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, without any reference to Ishmael, who had no claim to be associated with them. This is in complete accord with the promise already quoted from the Taurat that in their line the whole earth should be blessed.