“There is no god but God”
Poll Everywhere


The Judaic Roots of Islam
Abraham and Sarah

Genesis 16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” ... 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

          “You are now pregnant
          and you will give birth to a son.
          You shall name him Ishmael,[a. God has hearkened]
          for the Lord has heard of your misery.
          12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
          his hand will be against everyone
          and everyone’s hand against him,
          and he will live in hostility
          toward[b] all his brothers.” ... ( [NIV: Genesis 16:1-12])

17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[e]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.5 No longer will you be called Abram[f]; your name will be Abraham,[g] for I have made you a father of many nations. ...

7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” ... 

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. ...

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.[h] 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.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. ( [NIV: Genesis 17:1-22])

21 ... 8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 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[b] will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she[c] began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. ( [NIV: Genesis 21: 8-19])


The Islamic Tradition
According to Islamic tradition, after Ishma’il/Ishmael was born, Ibrahim/Abraham was ordered by God to take Hajar/Hagar and Ishma’il/Ishmael to Mecca. After Ibrahim/Abraham left, Hajar/Hagar ran out of water and started running around frantically in search of water when a spring (known as the Zamzam Well) miraculously appeared.
Ibrahim/Abraham visited them periodically, and according to most contemporary interpretations it was Ishma’il/Ishmael, rather than Ishaq/Isaac, whom God instructed Ibrahim/Abraham to sacrifice:
When Isma’il had grown enough to walk alongside him, Abraham dreamed that God ordered him to sacrifice his only son (Isaac not being born yet) with his own hand.

Abraham knew that the dream was, in fact, a revelation from God and not a satanic whisper; so, he prepared himself, with a heart overflowing with faith, to carry out the command of God. He went to see his son and told him, “I saw in a dream that I sacrificed you for the sake of God. Think about it and tell me your opinion on the matter.” His son replied without hesitation or anxiety, “O father, fulfill what God has commanded. By His will, you will find me among the patient.”[1]

When Abraham took up the knife to slay him, Isma’il said:

Dear father, tie my hands and feet tightly with a piece of rope so that I don’t move them as I am dying, because I am afraid that I would lessen my reward. Keep your clothes away from me so that my blood doesn’t splatter on you; if my mother sees that, she may not be able to tolerate it. Sharpen the knife well and sever my head at once so that I can tolerate it better, because dying is difficult.

Abraham replied, “Dear son, you are a good assistant in fulfilling the command of God.” He put the knife to his son’s throat and, with all his strength, tried to cut; but by God’s will, the knife didn’t cut and didn’t harm his son. Abraham received a revelation from God: “O Abraham, truly you have done your duty, fulfilled the meaning of your dream and shown your submissiveness and devotion.” God then sent the angel Gabriel with a ram, which Abraham sacrificed instead of his son. (

It is also said that Ishma’il/Ishmael helped his father build Islam’s holiest place of worship, the Ka’bah, which was thought to be the site of Adam’s original place of worship; part of the cubic stone building is a venerated black meteorite. According to the Qur’an, God told Abraham that the Ka’bah should be a place of pilgrimage. It was regarded as a holy place by the Arabian tribes. (Living Religions, 375).

The first (form) with which was started the revelation to the Messenger of Allah was the true vision in sleep. And he did not see any vision but it came like the bright gleam of dawn. Thenceforth solitude became dear to him and he used to seclude himself in the cave of Hira’, where he would engage in tahannuth (and that is a worship for a number of nights) before returning to his family and getting provisions again for this purpose. He would then return to Khadija (his wife) and take provisions for a like period, till Truth came upon him while he was in the cave of Hira’.
There came to him the angel (Gabriel) and said: Recite, to which he replied: I am not lettered. He took hold of me [the Apostle said] and pressed me, till I was hard pressed; thereafter he let me off and said: Recite. I said: I am not lettered. He then again took hold of me and pressed me for the second time till I was hard pressed and then let me off and said: Recite, to which I replied: I am not lettered. He took hold of me and pressed me for the third time, till I was hard pressed and then let me go and said: Recite in the name of your Lord Who created, created man from a clot of blood. Recite. And your most bountiful Lord is He Who taught the use of pen, taught man what he knew not (Qur’an 96:1-4). (An Anthology of Living Religions, 270)

    Previous Prophets
    Say: “We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam). (An Anthology of Living Religions, 274 [Qur’an 3:84])
    Behold! The angels said: “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee — chosen thee above the women of all nations. … Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in the world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah; He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.” She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!” (An Anthology of Living Religions, 278 [Qur’an 3:42-7])

    Then will Allah say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! Though makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident magic.’” (An Anthology of Living Religions, 278 [Qur’an 5:110])
    • In light of these passages from the Quran, what is the status of Jesus in the Islamic tradition? Is this an affirmation or a denial of his divinity?
    The Day of Judgment
    Then, on the Day of Judgment, He will cover them with shame, and say: “Where are My ‘partners’ concerning whom ye used to dispute (with the godly)?” Those endued with knowledge will say: “This Day, indeed, are the Unbelievers covered with shame and misery (namely) those whose lives the angels take in a state of wrong-doing to their own souls.” Then would they offer submission (with the pretense), “We did no evil (knowingly).” (The angels will reply), “Nay, but verily Allah knoweth all that ye did; So enter the gates of Hell, to dwell therein. Thus evil indeed is the abode of the arrogant.” To the righteous (when) it is said, “What is it that your Lord has revealed?” they say, “All that is good.” To those who do good, there is good in this world, and the Home of the Hereafter is even better and excellent indeed is the Home of the righteous, Gardens of Eternity which they will enter: beneath them flow (pleasant) rivers: they will have therein all that they wish: thus doth Allah reward the righteous, (namely) those whose lives the angels take in a state of purity, saying (to them), “Peace be on you; enter ye the Garden, because of (the good) which ye did (in the world).” (An Anthology of Living Religions, 279 [Qur’an 16:27-32])
    • How does this vision of Judgment Day compare to those in the Jewish and Christian traditions? What does it suggest about the fate of Jews and Christians?
    Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (An Anthology of Living Religions, 275 [Qur’an 2:62])

    According to James Abdul Rahim Gaudet, Rabia Mills and Syed Mumtaz Ali, authors of the website “Islam and Christianity: Similarities and Differences”:

    Hell is a place of purification, and is [or may be (see below)] permanent. Paradise as a reward, and Hell as a punishment are but graphic terms to make us understand a state of things which is beyond all our notions of life in that world. Paradise will be eternal. Once meriting it, there can be no question of being ejected from it. As to whether Hell is also eternal for the unbelievers, there are two schools of thought:

    (1) A great majority of Muslims affirm that God may  pardon every sin and every crime except disbelief in God. [Qur’an 4:48,116]

    (2) Others believe that even the punishment of disbelief may one day terminate by the grace of God. [Qur’an 11:107, etc.]

    The Qur’an 4:124 declares: “If any do deeds of righteousness - be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them.” In other words no religion has a monopoly on salvation! (; cf. Is Permanent Punishment in Hell Just?)
    Reflection Paper Icon
    What are the most important religious themes common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam? Based on your understanding of these three religions, do you think that Islam is more similar to Judaism or to Christianity … or is it somewhere in between the two?