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Did Ibrahim (PBUH) sacrifice Ishmael or Isaac?

When discussing the sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim’s (PBUH) son, my friends insist that the son offered was Hazrat Ishmael (or Ismail). He was the elder son of Ibrahim (PBUH) by Hagar. Therefore, what the Qur’an says about this surprised me when I consulted it.  It surprised my friends also.  Sign 3 of Ibrahim looks at this important event, and the Qur’an is quoted in full here.  So what does it say?  We repeat the specific ayah again.

Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy! 

Al-Saffat 37:102

The Qur’an does not name the son who Ibrahim (PBUH) offered in sacrifice.  So let us undertake a more thorough search and study.  Searching through the entire Qur’an you can verify that it mentions his name 12 times.

  • Two of these times mention him along with Ibrahim his father (2:125, 2:127).
  • Five of these times mention him along with Ibrahim and with his brother Isaac (3:84, 4,163, 2:133, 2:136, 2:140).
  • The remaining five ayat mention him without his father Ibrahim, but in a list with other prophets (6:86, 14:39, 19:54, 21:85, 38:48).

The two times that mention him alone with his father Ibrahim (PBUH) talk about praying with him. They do not discuss the sacrifice.

Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).

The Cow 2:125

And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.

The Cow 2:127

The Holy Qur’an never specifies that Ibrahim offered Ishmael for sacrifice. In the only ayah discussing the event, it just says ‘the son’. So why do so many insist that Ibrahim offered Ishmael rather than Isaac (who was the younger son, of Sarah)?

Commentary on the Sacrifice of the Son of Ibrahim

Yusuf Ali is a respected commentator of the Qur’an as well as a translator of the Qur’an.  His commentary for Surah As-Saffat is available at

The commentary on the passage of the sacrifice has the following two footnotes on the son sacrificed:

4096  This was in the fertile land of Syria and Palestine. The boy thus born was, according to Muslim tradition, the first-born son of Abraham, viz., Ismail. The name itself is from the root Sami’a, to hear, because God had heard Abraham’s prayer (verse 100). Abraham’s age when Ismail was born was 86 (Gen. 16:16)., page 27, C4096

Yusuf Ali’s only reason here is ‘Muslim tradition’.

4101 Our version may be compared with the Jewish-Christian version of the present Old Testament. The Jewish tradition, in order to glorify the younger branch of the family, descended from Isaac, ancestor of the Jews, as against the elder branch, descended from Isma’il, ancestor of the Arabs, refers this sacrifice to Isaac (Gen. 22:1-18). Now Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old (Gen. 21:5), while Isma’il was born to Abraham when Abraham was 86 years old (Gen. 16:16). Isma’il was therefore 14 years older than Isaac. During his first 14 years Isma’il was the only son of Abraham; at no time was Isaac the only son of Abraham. Yet, in speaking of the sacrifice, the Old Testament says (Gen. 22:2): ‘And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Issac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah : and offer him there for a burnt offering…”, page 29, C4101

In this footnote, he notes the Taurat says, “take your son, your only son…”(Genesis 22:2). Then he argues that since Ishmael was 14 years older than Isaac, therefore only Ishmael could be offered for sacrifice as an ‘only son’.  But he does not mention that just previously, in Genesis 21, Ibrahim (PBUH) had sent Ishmael and Hagar away.  Thus, in Genesis 22 Ibrahim’s ‘only son’ remaining is Isaac since Ibrahim had banished Ishmael.  See more details on this here.

Ibrahim’s son sacrificed: Testimony of the Taurat

So the Qur’an does not specify which son, but the Taurat is very clear.  You can see that the Taurat in Genesis 22 mentions Isaac by name six different times (in 22:2, 3, 6, 7 (2 times), 9).

The Taurat supported by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Haddiths clearly state that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) supported the Taurat that we have today. The article on this mentions several hadiths, one of which states that

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar: ..A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) to Quff. …  They said: ‘AbulQasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them’. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) who sat on it and said: “Bring the Torah”. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: “I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee.” 

Sunan Abu Dawud Book 38, No. 4434:

The Taurat supported by the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH)

The prophet Isa al-Masih (PBUH) also affirmed the Taurat as we saw here.  He taught:

18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law (i.e. Taurat) until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:18-19

The Warning: Never Tradition over Taurat

It would not be wise to dismiss the Taurat of Musa for the sake of any tradition.  In fact, the Prophet Isa al-Masih (PBUH) criticized the religious leaders of his day precisely because they put their ‘traditions’ ahead of the Law. We read:

Jesus (i.e. Isa) replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites!

Matthew 15:3-7

The prophet’s warning to never nullify the Message for the sake of ‘tradition’ is very clear.

The Testimony of Today’s Taurat supported by Dead Sea Scrolls

The earliest existing manuscripts of the Taurat, called the Dead Sea Scrolls, date to 200 BCE (more on this here).  See the diagram below. This means that the Taurat which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) referred to is exactly the same as today.

In summary, the Qur’an does not witness to which son Ibrahim offered for sacrifice, while the Taurat clearly names Isaac, the younger son. The prophets Muhammad (PBUH), and Isa al Masih (PBUH), as well as textual criticism all affirm the reliability of the Taurat.

Manuscript copies of Taurat through time
Manuscript copies of Taurat through time

27 thoughts on “Did Ibrahim (PBUH) sacrifice Ishmael or Isaac?”

  1. Nice article…very informative..Ishmail that sacrified tested because the person that have to be sacrified was YOUR SON not Your baby … !!!
    Thank you

    1. Ismael was not born to wife but to a concubine slave woman….Issac was born to wife..tradition says the heirs are of the legally wedded not to them who are outside wedding…And more over God asked for a child who was born of promise…which is difficult to sacrifice than an ordinary child…So it proves it was Issac..

  2. Dear! I am sorry to take so many months to read your article. I do appreciate the research you have done and the pains you have taken to compile it. I,as a Muslim, believe in each and every word of the Holy Qur’an. Had I the time and had I found it necessary to reply logically, I would have done so. But I think that better you have your faith and so should I. It does not make much difference which son was offered for sacrifice. A ‘banished son’ remains a son. Together Father and son built the Ka’aba. Together they prayed. How can we say that Hazrat Ismaiel (PBUH) was ‘banished’. Hazrat Abraham (AS) used to visit his son and wife and lived with them as well.
    Anyhow, Allah Almighty knows the best. It is useless to indulge in debate. You are a very nice fellow. I respect you. One should stand by one’s faith. I true Hindu, a true, Jew, a true Christian a true Muslim is more respectable than a fake one or a hypocrite.

  3. Was Isaac or Ishmael to be sacrificed ?

    As you know, Kedar is a descendent of Ishmael {Genesis 25:13}, and Ishmael is the the base for the Family Tree of Prophet Muhammad through Kedar.

    An important Fact that I would like you to observe now is how the scribes switched names to illegitimize Ishmael.

    The scribes and commentators say that Ishmael is not a legitimate son of Abraham and therefore the covenant was only with Isaac.

    Now I will show you in the Scripture that it was Really Ishmael who was to be sacrificed and the covenant was first done with Ishmael and Ishmael was a legitimate son of Abraham even after Abraham’s death.

    1. The covenant was first made with Abraham and Ishmael;

    Genesis 17:10 This [is] my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

    Genesis 17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.


    2. It was really Ishmael and not Isaac who was going to be sacrificed and the Jewish scribes because of vanity, switched the names;

    Genesis 16:16 “and Abram [is] a son of eighty and six years in Hagar’s bearing Ishmael to Abram.”

    Who’s son? Abraham’s “son”. Now as far as the sacrifice is concerned, Genesis 17:24 “Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.”

    That makes Abraham’s son Ishmael 13, how old is Isaac at this time? Genesis 21:5 “Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.”

    that means during the circumcision/sacrifice, Abraham’s only “begotten” son is Ishmael and not Isaac as the Bible says.

    KJV Hebrews 11:17 “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,”

    Therefore we see that Isaac was not the only son, as a matter of fact, Isaac was not even born yet and Abraham’s Only begotten son was Ishmael. Therefore further confirming the Legitimacy of Prophet Muhammad which God says I will make great Nations from Ishmael.

    Genesis 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.

    3. Ishmael was a legitimate son even after Abraham died;

    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 Abram to be his wife.”

    Genesis 25:9 “Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him (Abraham) in *the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre,”

    Genesis 25:12 “Now these are the records of the generations of *Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham;”

    Copyright (c) 1998 Mohamed Ghounem & Abdur Rahman
    The Authors give Full Permission to Use any of the Above Material As Your Own to distribute for Free.
    “Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” Qur’an 16:125

    1. Salaam wa alaikum Amir
      Thank you for your extensive comments. I understand you are using Genesis (Taurat) to prove Ishmael was a legitimate son. I would agree. But in another comment you say that the Bible (which includes Taurat) has indeed been corrupted. If it has been corrupted why would you quote it to argue your point? If something really is corrupted it is not trustworthy as a source. You cannot have it both ways and the very fact that you quote it shows that it indeed is reliable and trustworthy – why quote it otherwise?
      Now as to Ishmael and Isaac. The Taurat nevers says that Ishmael is ‘illegimate’. It merely says that he is not the son of promise. This is very clearly stated in between the verses that you quoted. The full text reads:

      15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
      17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
      19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” Genesis 17:15-21

      So we see that yes God will bless Ishmael and that he is under the covenant of circumcision as you say. But the covenant of promise is to be established with Isaac whom Sarah ‘will’ (ie in the future – v21) bear. This other covenant of promise was given before his birth. This was to him and his descendants.
      Given the peculiar history of the Jews, with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, the rise of David as their king, and all the other Jewish prophets, it requires willful rejection to deny that the Jews did have (at the very least) a special covenant between them and God. This is not to exclude that others have no covenant (I myself am not a Jew), but they had a unique one. And we see here that it starts with Isaac.
      What you are ignoring is that between Genesis 17 (the covenant of circumcision which included Ishmael and was given before Isaac was born as you say) and Genesis 22 (the sacrifice of the son in question) is chapter 21. In the beginning of that chapter Isaac is born and sets off a rivalry between Hagar and Sarah such that Sarah demands that Hagar leave. Abraham is reluctant but God says

      12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave(ie Ishmael) into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:12-13)

      There was to be a specific ‘offspring’ (this is in the singular not plural so it is talking about an individual male) that was to come ‘through’ Isaac. The sacrifice of Abraham was to foreshadow this coming ‘offspring’. If you look at Sign 3 of Ibrahim you will recognize that the details of the event clearly have a foreshadowing of the prophet Jesus – who we all know was Jewish and thus came from Isaac. Isaac is thus called Abraham’s ‘only’ son because he is the son of this covenant of the coming ‘offspring’.
      So it is not a question of ‘illegitimate’ son or not. Ishmael was legitimate. But it was not through him that this promised ‘offspring’ would come. This goes back even to Adam and Eve where we see in Sign of Adam that an ‘offspring’ was to come from a woman (not woman and man – thus the virgin birth which is Jesus who was Jewish and thus through Isaac).
      If you look at my article on scientific textual criticism you will see that it has been written this way since the Dead Sea Scrolls (ie 200 BC). You need some elaborate plot to imagine how the Jewish scribes would switch names to make it point to Jesus – when they do not even believe in him! That makes no sense.

      1. What is the meaning of covenant of promise,please explain and don’t twist your words onto God. Is the covenant of circumcision the same as covenant of promise. If so where is covenant of promise mentioned in the bible. Why should you Christians twist and lie about the bible and then attribute it God. Remember God said you should add or remove from it,don’t fear the punishment of God for doing so.

        1. Hi Isa
          Thanks so much for your great question. In short, the covenant of promise is different than the covenant of circumcision. If you look at Sign 1 and Sign 2 of Ibrahim you will see the covenant of Promise. Allah simply promised a nation and offspring. These happened in Genesis 12 & 15. The covenant of Circumcision was given in Genesis 17 – many years later. So the Promise came first and circumcision was later. The two work together sort of as a marriage and a wedding ring work together. The marriage comes first. As a sign that we are married we wear a wedding ring, but simply wearing a wedding ring does not make you married. In the same way, the covenant of promise was given first. As a sign of the receiving of this covenant circumcision was introduced years later.

    2. Ishmael was born When he was Abram and not Abraham…Issac was born when he was Abraham and Sarah not sarai….God changes their former names and the gives them the child by when Hagar and Ishmael are sent out of Abrahams sorrounding to Beer Lahai Roi….God accepts what came as Promise after they were transformed …Issac -laughter was born for Sarahs agony…So logically ot is rightful that God can ask of Issac and save him as he is not an unjust God to kill what he gave as promise…

  4. it is Ishmael in Qur’an, no doubt

    you misquoted the verses and left out Isaac in the next verse. great job evangelical liar!

    1. Hi Cool
      I know that my saying that the Qur’an does not mention Ishmael is strange to you because you have been taught otherwise, but it is true. And you need only look to the following verse yourself to check. But I will do better and quote from Yusuf Ali many subsequent verses and you will see that ismael is not mentioned (though Isaac is)

      037.099 He said: “I will go to my Lord! He will surely guide me!

      037.100 “O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!”

      037.101 So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.

      037.102 Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said:
      “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!”
      (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if God so
      wills one practising Patience and Constancy!”

      037.103 So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had laid him
      prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

      037.104 We called out to him “O Abraham!

      037.105 “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those
      who do right.

      037.106 For this was obviously a trial-

      037.107 And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

      037.108 And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later

      037.109 “Peace and salutation to Abraham!”

      037.110 Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

      037.111 For he was one of our believing Servants.

      037.112 And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet,- one of the Righteous.

      037.113 We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and
      (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.

        1. Hi Riza
          You are correct. The quran is very clear. As you can see the name is not mentioned. Please read the entire Surah in Arabic here.

    2. Really, this ragner is a great liar. He is misinterpreting the verses from bible, torah and quran.

      Don’t waste your time! Read Quran only. All the other scriptures were already corrupted.

      1. HI Riza
        How can this have anything to do with ‘misinterpreting’ when the name is clearly not there. Please read the passage. If the name was there and I ‘interpreted’ it in a way to explain it away then I would agree with you. But the name is not mentioned. And I have quoted the entire passage. This is not a case, as Cool, thought, where I may have stopped too early. Here is the link in Arabic if you want to check that.

        1. Hi Ragner,
          You may not see the name of Ismail in the Quraan in the sacrifice verses but God blessed Ibrahim a son (that is Isaac) due to successful in submitting their (Ibrahim & Ismail) will to God. This means Issac was not born while sacrifice was carried out, therefore name was not necessary to mention when there was only a son available during sacrifices.

          Its logical too, ex. if you have one son present then you can call him as just son but if there are two sons then you need to call them by name when both are available.

          1. Hi Hameed
            Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that this could be an explanation if we knew for sure that it was Ishmael. But if one steps outside of tradition, then the scriptures (all of them) taken together make not a compelling case that it was Ishmael to begin with. Regardless of what we believe in the end, it is worth recognizing that

  5. i have spend days reading all ur posts. it helped me understand so many things but confused me with only one thing. Y R U REPEATING THE HISTORY OF JEWS? THEY DENIED MASIH(PBUH) AND THAT HE BROUGHT WITH HIM AND U DENIED MUHAMMAD (PBUH) AND WHAT HE BROUGHT WITH HIM.

    1. Yes, they did deny Masih pbuh. They are on a long journey. To understand that journey it is helpful to read the warnings of prophet Musa pbuh (link here). Most of the rest of us also deny the Masih pbuh. But we do it in different ways then they do. For example the Masih asked

      “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

      That is how we often deny the Masih pbuh

  6. The main problem is: we CAN NOT believe that the present Torah is an original text (unlike Al Qur’an, Torah has not been guaranteed its originality), as it was unclear/ unknown who wrote it, when/ where it was written, AND especially the content itself is very confusing (or disgusting) on many verses in which Torah discredits the holy prophets. Example: (in Genesis) prophet Noah fell asleep in drunk, prophet Noah curse his own son Ham, prophet Isaac wrong blessed to prophet Jacobs instead of Esau, prophet Jacobs cheated his father by acting as Esau, prophet Jacobs bought the birthright by a plate of soup from Esau, prophet Lot slept with his daughters and had children (oh my God) … etc. How come such a sacred book humiliates our holy prophets like that??? (You may know that God through Qur’an praises all that holy prophets).
    To me, it is no contest, no point at all to compare the present Torah to the Holy Qur’an, in which Qur’an has very different in every fundamental aspects (originality/ authenticity, the beauty of its grammatical, the unity and simplicity, its logic and many others). To me the present Torah is more like a hilarious folklore edited from time to time (since hundred years after prophet Moses) by silly people who had certain motives for doing it (editing). No need to compare, it is finished by itself.

  7. Ragner …Your exposition is astounding…Hope these Muslim brothers take the veil off and see the fact even in the Quran to understand…Great work..Well done

  8. 037.100 “O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!”
    [Abraham prays for a son when he is yet to get one, and to this son does Abraham say:

    “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!”

    (And it is this son that) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if God so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!”

    037.103 So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

    [and it is here God calls out to Abraham]

    037.104 We called out to him “O Abraham!

    [and God says:]

    037.105 “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    [and only then God gives the good news of Isaac to Abraham:]

    037.112 And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet,- one of the Righteous.

    [It is clear that it was Ishmael who was the son put to the test.]

  9. Islam is simple, logical, practical and perfect. May Allah bless all Muslims and enlighten those who cover their eyes with the blood of Jesus to see and know the truth

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