Hajj begins December 18th Insha’Allah and while I won’t be attending this year, I will surely be there with the Ummah in spirit.
That being said as I was reflecting on the Hajj and the importance there of I began to think over my life and the story of Abraham and Ishmael, may the peace and blessings of God be upon them both and the “controversy” around “the story” of who it was that was actually ordered to be sacrificed.
Growing up as a Christian, I was firmly rooted in the belief that it was Isaac (pbuh) and as a Muslim I’m firmly rooted in the belief that it is Ishmael.
I often ponder about the variances in the beliefs I had as a Christian versus those as a Muslim, and I’m willing to bet, many a convert to Islam occasionally has the same introspection from time to time, no matter how long they have been a Muslim.
The one thing that I always ask myself no matter the topic is “How could I have believed that?” Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a broad swipe at Christianity, but I have to admit there is a reason why I am no longer a Bible thumping, believing, saved, born-again, and filled with the holy ghost Christian 🙂
This has always been a controversial subject as I have never truly been direct in my reasons for leaving Christianity. It has always been a very difficult discussion. It’s one of those taboo subjects in my family. For those that know me personally they know why.
Many who do not know me often allege that I must have been a “confused” or “nominal” Christian, but those who know me, can bear witness that I was completely the opposite. The child of a Pastor, the once son-in-law of a Minister, I taught and lived Christianity so much, that I was on the cusp of becoming a Minister myself (I believe my Grandfather thinks I may one day still pick up the torch).
So leaving has always been a difficult discussion, because my conversion to Islam was not as many may think. I had never met a Muslim prior, no one “converted” me or remotely shared Islam with me. My acceptance was purely textual. I read, studied, and believed.
What many don’t know and I rarely talk about is that Allah (swt) in the Quran presented many clear and definitive arguments against many of my central Christian beliefs. The core of my conversion was that Allah (swt) debated me and won!
At that time, I wasn’t debating any Muslim, I was debating a book. In fact, my only reason for picking up the text at that time, was to debate and point out the “fallacy” of the text. This was my number one “mistake” 🙂 that I later learned. See, when Allah (swt) presented an argument my retort as a Christian had to come from the Bible and herein was the hole in my armor. (onward Christian soldier…get it 🙂 )
One of those gaps I felt like I should share today as I reflect on Hajj, Abraham, and Ishmael (pbut).
For us Muslims, we are taught and it is revealed in the Quran that Abraham and Ishmael built the holy house in Mecca, Masjid-ul Haram and since that isn’t specifically covered in the Bible, it wasn’t a big point of contention (although I did want to know why it wasn’t in the Bible). However, the big one in their story was the issue of the sacrifice. Which we Muslims remember and celebrate at the end of Hajj: Eid ul-Adha which Insha’Allah will be on December 20th this year.
As a Christian there was never any doubt or reason for to doubt that Isaac (pbuh) was the son that was ordered by Allah (swt) to be sacrificed. But after reading the Quran……here was one of those points of contention i.e. debate that I lost.
The Quran says:
37:102 “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!”
Now The Bible says:
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.”
This is an obvious contradiction, but the real question is which is right?
See in matters of faith although it’s harsh to say and people don’t like to say it, things are either right or they are wrong. Things are either true in their claims (especially as it relates to the Word of God) or they are not.
This was an obvious dilemma.
So as I reflect today and studied then, there was/is an obvious problem. When one examines carefully the Biblical narrative they find out some “interesting” facts.
1: Ishmael was about 13 or 14 years old when Isaac was born.
2: He was present when Isaac was born.
These two facts contradict the Biblical narrative concerning the two in many ways. It’s almost like pandora’s box. You go looking to debate the sacrifice claim and more stuff keeps on coming.
After reading and rereading the Bible, one has to wonder, how can Isaac be Abraham’s “only son” when he had a 13/14 year old older brother? Genesis 22:2
Now Christian apologists will argue that at this time since Ishmael and Hagar were gone, “technically” Isaac was the only child according to the covenant…… But if this is the case, why would God leave so much ambiguity and leave it up to our imagination and doctrine to come up with these conclusions? Why would God say “only” knowing that Isaac was second born?
Furthermore, on another topic, on the issue of being sent away, without going through the tedious debate of whether or not Hagar was a slave, concubine, wife, etc. or the reason surrounding the “expulsion”, one has to wonder why the Bible says that Hagar laid Ishmael down under the bushes were he was crying like a baby or small child, when the Bible in the same chapter reminds us that he is actually 13/14? Is God confused here? Or was it normal for parents to lay their teenagers down under bushes when they cried? Genesis 21:14-16
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but there are many holes in this story from the Biblical side. The Quranic side is clearer and more concise and given the background history of the compilation and handling of the two, it’s quite obvious why I chose the Quranic narrative and accepted it as the truth…on this occasion.
Also I wanted to note that in Genesis 21:21 The desert of Paran is mentioned…. not to go off on another tangent, but many scholars believe that Paran is the ancient name of Mecca…. I find that “interesting” because it would appear that the Bible is saying that Ishmael grew up and lived in Mecca, but obviously wasn’t too distant from his brother and father and they obviously kept in touch since Ishmael and Isaac did bury their father together….. Genesis 25:9
The entire point of this rant in context is that as one who accepted Islam 6 plus years ago, even today as I reflect on many Islamic ideas, I can’t help but wonder how did I believe a lot of the things I did in the past. More important than that is that I’m never bored or tire from hearing the story and reasons behind the Hajj.