Despite the assertion of the Torah (Genesis, Ch 22), this
author is convinced, because of the evidence in hand, that Abraham had in fact
offered his son Ismail and not Isaac to Allah the Almighty.
First Argument: The abode of Abraham and Ismail
It is apparent from the context that when Abraham left to
offer his son, he was accompanied by Ismail and not Isaac. It was Ismail who was
residing with his father. Those who tampered with the text to introduce Isaac's
name failed to comprehend this fact and this shows that Isaac's name is indeed a
Bible affirms that after the incident Abraham returned to
Beersaba which shows that Abraham was already dwelling at Beersaba. This is
explicitly stated in Chapter 21. And this is indeed the truth. Beersaba is the
place where Ismail lived with his mother. This fact is further underlined when
the Torah relates the event of separation of Ismail and his mother from Isaac
and his mother:
"So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and
a skin of water and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar,
and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheva
... So God was with the lad and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness." (Genesis,
This passage refers to `wilderness' and `wilderness of
Beersheba' because Beersheba was an uninhabited wasteland. Abraham had to bore
seven wells and plant trees in it and hence its name. (Beersheba means `seven
wells'). This discussion leads to the following conclusions:
1. Ismail and her mother Hagar dwelt in Beersheba.
2. This place was away from the abode of Isaac and his
3. Abraham also lived here because it was from this place
that he left for the sacrifice and then returned, after the sacrifice.
The abode of Sarah was at a distance from this Beersheba;
that is why Abraham had to undertake a journey when he heard of Sarah's death:
"So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is Hebron) in the
land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her."
This shows that on the day Abraham proceeded to sacrifice
his son, he took Ismail with him who was residing with him in Beersheba and not
Isaac who was living with Sarah far away in Canaan. This is subject to the
presumption that Isaac was born by that time, as claimed by the Jews. Otherwise,
we believe that Isaac was not even born by that time. Isaac was born after the
event of sacrifice as we will show later on.
From the details of the event, it is evident that the son
offered in sacrifice was left there by Abraham and was allowed to settle and
reside beside the altar. This fact is further confirmed by the words uttered by
Abraham on the occasion of the birth of Isaac:`Oh, that Ishmael might live
before you.(ie remain in the service of Lord's House)', (Genesis 17:18). We have
clarified earlier that the phrase, `before the Lord' means `in the service of
the house of the Lord'. The Holy Quran also verifies this statement:
"Abraham said: "Lord I have settled some of my offspring
in a barren valley near Your Sacred House, so that they may observe true
Now who is referred to as the one `living near the Sacred
House of God (Ka'aba)'? He is definitely Ismail, as both the Christians and
Muslims agree that Isaac continued to reside in Canaan along with his mother.
For himself, Abraham selected a place midway between the abodes of Isaac and
Ismail so that he may see his sons frequently and at the same time remain close
to the Holy Ka'aba. That is why when he died, both his sons were with him.
"And his sons Isaac and Ismail buried him." (Genesis,
Second Argument: Ismail was the only son of his father
We have observed earlier that Abraham had been desired by
the God to sacrifice his only son (Genesis, Ch 22). Clearly, the only son was
Ismail because he was fourteen years older than Isaac:
"Abram was eighty six years old when Hagar bore Ismail to
Abram." (Genesis, 16:16)
"Now Abram was one hundred years old when his son Isaac
was born to him." (Genesis 21:5)
It flows from these two verses that a) Ismail was
Abraham's only son till such time that Isaac was born, and b) he was this only
son whom Abraham sacrificed even before Isaac was born because after that Ismail
could no more be referred to as the only son.
Both these conclusions are sufficient evidence from the
Old Testament that Abraham offered Ismail in sacrifice. Here it becomes so
evident that it gets impossible to be denied. But the Jews and Christians have
argued that Ismail had been sent away and Abraham was only left with Isaac, and
in a way Isaac became the only son with Abraham at that time. Thus Genesis
records him to be the only son, in a figurative sense only. This interpretation
is not sustainable because:
a) In fact, Isaac and not Ismail had been sent away.
Ismail was actually living with his parents in Beersaba.
b) The figurative interpretation of `the only son' is very
far-fetched. The phrase `only son' is used for the son who does not share his
parents' love and affection with any other siblings.
Actually, it must have been `your first born son' in
Genesis Ch 22 which appears to have been changed over to `your only son'. The
change must have been brought about with the motive to exclude Ismail but
instead it went to prove that Ismail was sacrificed even before Isaac was born.
Third Argument: Ismail was his father's beloved son
In Chapter 22, the son to be offered to God was referred
to as `your only son whom you love'. This also goes to show that Ismail is meant
here because the Old Testament on more than one occasion indicates that Abraham
doted on Ismail. Abraham specially prayed to God for him:
"But Abram said: Lord God what will you give me seeing I
go childless and the heir on my house is Eliezer of Damascus ?" Then Abram said:
Look You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir! And
behold the word of the Lord came to him saying: This one shall not be your heir,
but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." (Genesis, 15:2-4)
That is why when he bore the son, he named him Ishmael
which meant Lord has heard your affliction. It is quite imaginable that Ismail
must be his father's favourite and blue eyed son. Let us imagine an old man who
has no offspring and feels dejected on this account, beseeches God for an
offspring and when he is blessed with a son at an advanced age, names him Ismail
which means God has heard the affliction. Then keeps him pressed to his bosom
for thirteen long years. He is all he can pin his hopes on for his old age, and
sees no chances for another child. In these circumstances, it can be well
imagined how the father would dote on his only son!
Then again when Lord the God promises the birth of another
son (Isaac) to Abraham, he utters words which further bring out his special
feelings for Ismail. It appears that after the birth of Ismail he is so indebted
to God that he is not harbouring any more desires.
"Then Abram fell on his knees and laughed, and said in his
heart: shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall
Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child ? And Abraham said to God: Oh ,
that Ishmael might live before you!" (Genesis 17:17-18)
These feelings are pronounced by Abraham when God is
breaking to him the good news of another son. The words, `might live before you'
betray a love that is difficult to fathom. The affection is welling in a fashion
that it is difficult for him to conceal it even before God.
Another instance also illustrates Abraham's love for
Ismail. When Sarah wishes to cast out Ismail and his mother and intends to
disinherit Ismail, Abraham finds it very displeasing:
"And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had
borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore, she said to Abraham: Cast out this
bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my
son, namely with Isaac. And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham's sight becausof his son." (Genesis 21:9-11)
Fourth Argument: The incident occurred at Marwah which is
situated by the Ka`ba
We have read that when Abraham set out for the sacrifice:
`On the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off', (Genesis
22:4). The Jews deem this place to be the Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, while
Christians consider it to be the place where Christ was crucified. But their own
authorities maintain that this idea has no foundation. We quote their
differences on this point from J. W. Colenso a biblical scholar. He has
summarized the varied viewpoints and then summed up by recording his findings,
thereby acknowledging the extent of changes introduced in the Scripture by human
hands. He has pointed out that the place Muriah has been referred to in the Old
Testament on four different occasions, and every time it is rendered differently
in different versions by the Septuagint and Hebrew Bible.
Septuagint Hebrew Bible
Genesis 22:2 high
land the land of Mureh
Genesis 12:6 high terebinth
tree the plain of Mureh
Deuteronomy 11:30 beside the high terebinth beside
the plain of Mureh
Judges 7:1 by the hill of Mureh
by the hill of Mureh
Then even the various translations of the Septuagint do
not agree. The Septuagint reads Genesis 22:2 as "high land" whereas Aquila puts
it as "prominent land" and Symmachus as "The land of the Vision" . Moreover, as
we shall see later, not only is it interpreted differently but is also
transcribed in more than one renditions when it comes to writing it in Hebrew.
J. W. Colenso has contested the claim that Moriah is the hill on which Solomon's
Temple now stands in Jerusalem on the strength of the following proofs:
1. The word Moriah has nowhere been used for the Temple.
In the words of Colenso: `The word is not mentioned in any book of the Old
Testament which in chronology is later than Solomon's book. The hill on which
Solomon erected the temple is always recalled as Zion in the books of the
Prophets and Psalms. The word Moriah is never used for the Temple.'
2. The characteristics of Moriah do not agree with those
of the site of Temple.
We find the second statement notably cogent. Colinso
reasons that the Torah asserts that the place was conspicuous from a distance to
which Abraham lifted his eyes, whereas there is no such place at the site of the
Temple which suits this description. It is interesting to note that when Mount
of the Temple is approached from the east through the Valley of the son of
Hinnom, one has to look downhill to behold it, hence the pointlessness of
`lifting the eyes' in Genesis 22. Colinso has also drawn strength from an
excerpt by Stanley:
"In the morning Abraham set out from the camp heading for
the place indicated by the Lord. The Jews claim it was a place in Jerusalem on
the Hill of Moriah, but I do not agree. The Christians insist it was located
near the Church of the Holy Tomb. But this idea is even more flimsy. Muslims
believe that it was a place in Mecca on Mount Arafat. This view sounds even more
odd and baseless. It would be very plausible to look for this place on Mount
Gerizim. Its topography also resembles that of an altar."
It is out of ignorance that this author has ascribed to
Muslims, the view of placing the scene of this historic sacrifice on Mount
Arafat. To my knowledge no Muslim holds this opinion. As goes for Mount Gerizim,
it is believed to be the site of the Altar in question, by the Samaritans, a
Jewish sect, which proclaims a different Torah and has more affinity with the
Christians than any other Jewish sect could have.
We have dilated on these views only to show that there are
wide differences about determining the exact location of Moreh, the site of the
Great Sacrifice. A section of biblical scholars has eliminated the name
altogether, substituting it with "high terebinths" or "prominent land" or "the
land of vision" in subsequent translations. Others have preserved the name but
have corrupted the text by adopting the different pronunciations of Moreh,
Muriah and Moriah. This is the same age old ruse of jumbling up fact and fiction
which has been lamented by the Quran:
"O you People of the Scripture! Why do you confound truth
with falsehood and knowingly conceal the Truth?" (3:71)
The correct word is undoubtedly Marwah (the famous hill
near Ka'aba in Mecca) and not Moriah or Moreh. The word means shining smooth
stone and is precedented frequently in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry.
Now the Hebrew word Moreh is derived either from Yara
(fear or wonder) or Yarah (archery or moistening). Had the original word been Moreh, as the existing text suggests, the biblical translators would have
preferred these meanings instead of "prominent land" or "land of vision". The
scribes of Pentateuch appear to have found it originally in the form Marwah but
being the proper name of an unknown place situated far away in Arabia, it was
difficult for them to translate it. Incidentally, there was a similar Hebrew
word Marah which is derived from Ra'ah (Vision). The scribes mistook Marwah for
Marah and in their effort to make the word meaningful to their predominantly
Hebrew readers, translated it "Vision" and "Prominent". When the translations
became canonized with the passage of time, the original word was lost or
confused and the Biblical scholars ended up with the word Moreh or Moriah.
In translations or versions where the name of the place
has not been translated and the original name appears to have been preserved,
the various extant forms of the word still suggest that it must have been
The confusion was spawned by the fact that the classical
Hebrew script had no indications of vowels. These were introduced later. In the
absence of an oral tradition of transmission where people would commit the text
to memory, the original accents and pronunciations could not be preserved.
Consequently, the erroneous insertion of vowels sometimes completely changed the
form of words and opened a floodgate of textual corruption. The word in question
would have been originally written devoid of vowels but of course with a
definite pronunciation. It suffered transformation later when vowels were
Let us study this transformation in some detail. This
transformation took three forms.
Original Form Changed Form Possible
Marwah Muryah Muriyyah
The mechanism by which these changes came around needs to
be considered. In the first case, the word Marwah was converted to Muryah. This
is because the Arabic letter "w" is usually converted into Hebrew letter "y"
(Yodh); for example Jol was turned into Jyl, Khoh into Khyh. This fact becomes
more transparent when we find that in all roots which are common in Arabic and
Hebrew, the Arabic "w" is changed to the Hebrew "y", for instance we may note
the change from Walo to Waly. It is still more evident when a root which is
common in Arabic and Hebrew begins with "w", such as the conversion of Arabic
Walad to Hebrew Yalad, Ward to Yarad, Waqr to Yaqar and Wa'az to Ya'az. This
shifting of syllables occurred either because of the convenience it offered in
pronouncing the word, or because of the similarity in the way Hebrew alphabets
"Waw" and "Yodh" are written.
The second change from Marwah to Moriyah occurred because
they presumed that the letter "Mem" carried a vowel (sounding like Hebrew letter
"Waw" or English letter O) and carried the presumption too far by replacing the
vowel with letter "Waw". This is not unusual in Hebrew and we have other
examples such as the transformation of Y'tar to Yotar.
In the third case, the word Marwah (Arabic M'rwah) got
converted into Morah (Hebrew Mwrah) when letters "Res" (English letter R) and
"Waw" were allowed to exchange their places. Either it was in consonance with
their habit of making like changes in Arabic words (such as their adoption of
Jar'w as J'wr, Hafi as Yahaf, Alo as Ya'al, Kahal as Kalah) or because of the
close resemblance between letters "Res" and "Waw" in Hebrew script. The latter
probability is always there, particularly when the scribes deliberately intend
to corrupt the text. There are many occasions when the Biblical scribhave
actually thrived on this confusion because of similarity in written form of
these letters. For instance they changed B'r's into Bos.
It remains to be seen where this venue of the Great
Sacrifice is actually located. The Jews consider it to be the place in Jerusalem
where the Temple is situated. Christians place it at the Church of Holy Tomb.
These claims have been sufficiently rebutted by their own intellectuals. As far
as Stanley's claim of identifying Moreh with Mount Gerizim is concerned, it is
only based on conjecture. The mountain assumes the form of a table like plateau
which strikingly resembles the shape of an altar. This led Stanley to believe
that the altar referred to, in Genesis, must be Mount Gerizim. But unfortunately
there are no compelling reasons to believe it. Also there is hardly anyone in
the West who is for Stanley in his unique finding and scholars are hesitant to
We hold that this is exactly the same place in the Arabian
Peninsula where the Children of Ismail have lived since earliest times and which
has always been known as Marwah. The Book of Judges states:
"Then Jerubbaal (that is Gideon) and all the people who
were with him rose early and encamped beside the well of Harod so that the camp
of the Midianites was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the
valley." (Judges, 7:1)
This illustrates that the Hill of Moreh was situated by
the side of the Midianite camp and it is an established fact that by Midianites
the Old Testament means the Arabs. The word is commonly used for the Arabs.
Jewish scriptures are quite loud on it that Midianites were in fact the children
of Ismail. George Sale, who has to his credit the first English version of the
Holy Quran, states:
"Midian was one of the cities of Hijaz (Arabia). It was
situated in the south east of Sinai on Red Sea. Doubtlessly, this is the same
place which is referred to by Ptolemy as Modiana."
The Old Testament further asserts:
"Then the men of Israel said to Gideon: Rule over us, both
you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the
hand of Midian.
But Gideon said to them: I will not rule over you; the
Lord shall rule over you. Then Gideon said to them: I would like to make a
request of you, that each of you would give me the ear-rings from his plunder.
For they had golden ear-rings, because they were Ishmaelites." (Judges 8:22-23)
"And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their
eyes and looked and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with
their camel, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh on their way to carry them on to
Egypt. So Judah said to his brothers: What profit is there if we kill our
brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and
let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh. And his
brothers listened. Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled
Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmailites for
twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt." (Genesis, 37:25-28)
Thus Moreh was a place in the abode of Midianites and
Midianites is only another name for Ismaelites, and Midian is a town situated in
Arabia on the coast of Red Sea. We have also shown that Moreh is in fact the
corrupted form of Marwah and there is no place in Palestine or Syria with the
name of Moreh. The Jews introduced the name Moreh in their scriptures and tried
to identify more than one spots with it, a contention which they could not get
accepted even by their own authorities. This leaves the argument that Moreh is
actually Mount Jerusalem, devoid of any strength.
There are other reasons to believe that Marwah is actually
a hill in Arabia, the land of Children of Ismail. In fact, it is one of the
places with which the Arabs were quite familiar and it was the center of their
religious rites on the occasion of Haj wherein it was mandatory to rally around
it. That is why when the name Marwah is mentioned in the Quran, the details of
its geographical location were deemed unnecessary. It has been indicated that it
is one of the Signs of God and that the People of the Book tried to conceal it
by textual interpolations although Allah had elaborately explained it. The
detail of these statements of the Quran will appear in the second chapter.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sws), while watching the
animals waiting to be sacrificed by Marwah, is reported to have pointed at
Marwah and said: `This is The Altar and all roads to Mecca are altars.' On
another occasion, he is reported to have said that Mina is also an altar. Here
we must note that the Prophet Peace be upon him declares Marwah to be "The
Altar" (with a definite article), whereas the other places are referred to as
"altars" (with indefinite article) which reduces them to the status of merely
being one of the many altars.
The Holy Quran illustrates this fact from another angle.
Referring to the animals brought for offering on Haj it observes:
"In the end, their place of offering is near the ancient
house [The Ka'aba]." (22:33)
"... the offering brought to the Ka'aba." (5:95)
This means that the animals brought for the offering
should reach Ka'aba, because The Altar is situated near the "ancient house"
which was raised in the beginning for this purpose.
"The first house (of worship) ever to be built was that at
Bekka, a blessed place and a beacon for nations." (3:96)
Now Marwah is situated beside Holy Ka'aba and it is The
Altar. However with the passage of time as the followers of Islam spread through
the world, the ambit of The Altar was also expanded around it. The Muslims and
People of the Book concur that The Altar of Abraham was in the proximity of the
Baitullah (House of Allah) which the Bible terms as Bethel (House of the Lord):
"Abraham passed through the land to the place of Shechem
as far as Moreh and the Canaanites were then in the land. Then the Lord appeared
to Abram and said: To your descendants I will give this land. And there he built
an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the
Mountain east of Bethel ( House of Lord) and he pitched his tent with Bethel on
the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on
the name of the Lord." (Genesis, 12:6-8)
Other details of the incident as stated in the Old
Testament, also conform to the surroundings of Marwah and do not agree with the
location of Mount Jerusalem, which is called erroneously as Moreh, Moriyah or
Muriyah by the Jews. A comparison of all statements shows that Abraham, in fact,
came from the East, left both his slaves on a hill nearby, and zealously marched
to Marwah with his only son, Ismail. And as indicated in Genesis 12:1-8, Abraham
lived somewhere around Safa. On this occasion the Torah relates yet another
version of Abraham's journey to Moreh but the incident of the great sacrifice is
not mentioned. (Gen 12:6)
These are the reasons which have given birth to the age
old traditions and religious rites and customs among the Arabian tribe of Ismail
which have survived to our times; and such traditional remnants are
conspicuously absent in respect of Mount Jerusalem.
(Translated by Nadir Aqueel Ansari)