Which Son did Abraham (sws) offer for Sacrifice?
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

I am a Muslim and I have a friend who is a new Muslim. He wanted to know the name of Abraham’s sacrificed son. The Bible says it was Isaac (sws). Is this true ?


Without doubt, the son offered for sacrifice by Abraham (sws) was Ishmael (sws). The Qur’an bears reference to this established historical fact in the following words:

And he [—Abraham—] said [after being saved from the fire]: ‘Verily, I am going to my Lord. He will guide me!’ ‘My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous.’ So We gave him glad tidings of a forbearing boy. And, when he [his son] was old enough to walk with him, he said: ‘O my son! I have been seeing in a dream that I am offering you in sacrifice [to Allah]. So look what you think!’ He said: ‘O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha Allah, you shall find me of the patient. Then, when they had both submitted themselves [to the will of Allah], and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead, We called out to him: ‘O Abraham! You have made the dream a reality’. Verily, thus do We reward the good-doers. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice [a ram]; And We left for him [a goodly remembrance] among the later generations. Peace be upon Abraham! Thus indeed do We reward the good-doers. Verily, he was one of Our believing slaves. And We gave him the glad tidings of Isaac – a Prophet from the righteous. (37:99-112)

 The underlined portion of the passage clearly shows that glad tidings of the birth of Isaac (sws) were given to Abraham (sws) after he had already offered his first born son for sacrifice. In other words, the italicized verse: ‘So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy’, and all that has been narrated after this verse refer to Ishmael (sws).

As far as the Bible is concerned, it, as your friend has pointed out, does mention a different story: In one of the most blatant examples of interpolation, the Jews have inserted the name of Isaac (sws) in place of Ishmael (sws) to cut off the relationship of Muhammad (sws) with Arabia and his great ancestor Abraham (sws).

However, in spite of this tampering, the Bible contains passages which still point to Ishmael (sws) as the son offered for sacrifice1. The passage which mentions the incident of sacrifice in the Bible reads:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’ Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’ Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am’ ‘he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’ The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’ (Genesis 22:1-18)

 It follows from the underlined portion that Abraham (sws) was asked to sacrifice his only son which means that at that time he had no other son. The fact that this could only be Ishmael (sws) is evident from the following two passages of the Bible:

Abraham was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. (Genesis, 16:16)

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. (Genesis, 21:5)

It is evident from these verses that Ishmael (sws) was fourteen years old at the birth of Isaac (sws), and must have been offered for sacrifice before Isaac (sws) was born because Abraham (sws) had been asked to sacrifice his only son; after Isaac’s birth of course the words ‘your only son’ would be totally inappropriate and against reality.

In the light of this evidence, it is obvious that the word Isaac mentioned in the passage above (indicated by the underlined portion) was inserted in place of Ishmael (sws).






1.Imam Hamidu’l Din Farahi (d:1930) has written a detailed critique on this interpolation and has convincingly shown that the Bible still contains evidence on the fact that the son offered for sacrifice by Abraham (sws) was Ishmael (sws) and not Isaac (sws). This answer summarizes some of his arguments on the issue. For details see ‘Al-Ra’i al-Sahih fi man huwa al-Dhabih  (The Correct View regarding the Sacrifice offered by Abraham (sws)), Damascus, Daru’l-Qasim, 1999.



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