The War in Abrahamic Religions: Obedience Vs Faith Vs Birth
There are millions of books, articles and essays in the world that seek to understand and prove religious ideologies about the Geneses of humanity; none of them more sustainable than those that are based on the varying versions posed by the Abrahamic sects. These versions of monotheistic belief have become so fervently ingrained in our minds and makeup that humanity seems unwilling to accept any other form of belief beyond these traditions; still choosing to fight wars and write laws that are founded within them.
The primary sects of Abrahamic religion; Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, though originating from the same lore, cannot seem to reconcile themselves beyond Abraham’s life span. While all agree on Abraham’s importance, none can agree on the importance of his offspring. This is the most prevalent when talking about the binding incident where Abraham was told to sacrifice his son to God. This sacrifice seems to be the center of the divide that the three sects have still not reconciled. This small discrepancy of the binding between the sects sets the future tone for numerous divides that would appear later on. The reason why the binding is such a good example is because while Christians and Jews believe that during the binding Isaac was the sacrificed child, Islamists believe that Ishmael (Abraham’s first son with Sarah’s servant Hagar) was the child sacrificed. That seemingly small difference marks the first bend that the religions make against one another. It also gives a little bit of insight into what the followers truly believe in terms of how they worship.
The Irreconcilable Points of Abrahamic Religions
In Judaism, Isaac’s binding is the beginning of Abraham’s covenant with God. Isaac being the first legitimate son born to Abraham and Sarah is a matter of significance because it shows that Jews are children of Abraham through blood. The Christians believe that Abraham’s willingness to do as God commanded by binding Isaac was a mark of Abraham’s faith, in that he was willing to do so without having seen God. Islamists however, believe that when Abraham agreed to sacrifice the child, the child was in fact Ishmael as he was the first son born to Abraham. The binding of Ishmael was also a show of Abraham’s obedience to God. The easiest way to see how the differences start between the Abrahamic religions is to see it through their eyes:
Judaism: You are considered a Jew by Birth
Christian: Mark your religion through Faith
Islam: Display your religion through Obedience.
I fail to understand how these 3 perspectives on the same topics cannot be joined in one frame of worship which is what all of these prophets seem to be asking in the first place. If God’s goal was to unite everyone under one method of belief, his efforts began in a manner that is less than supreme when he first encouraged the division of Ishmael and Isaac. In promising Hagar that her son (by Abram) would father a great nation God seemed to ensure division among Abram’s children. It also appears to me that God encouraged it. But to what end? This is the second point of division among Jews, Christians and Islam which makes no sense since God wanted all people on earth to worship him under the same mode of belief.
While Jews, Muslims and Christians all agree on the story of Ishmael and Isaac’s births, things start to change a bit when talks of the sacrifice come up. Jews and Christians have long believed that Isaac (father of Esau and Jacob) was meant to be the sacrifice to God as their descendency shows afterward. Muslims believe that this honor belonged to Ishmael (probably because he was Abraham’s first born). One reason for Jewish and Christians to believe it was Isaac (the true son) to have been sacrificed is because he was born in wedlock, while Ishmael was born of a mistress and disinherited from Abraham’s wealth because of it. Muslims currently believe in Ishmael as the sacrificial (the true son) because he was first born son of Abraham. So the question isn’t which child was sacrificed, it is whether the true son of Abraham is considered by order of birth order or legitimacy, and who is “first” in the father’s heart.
With God having encouraged Hagar to leave Abraham’s home with her son it would seem as if legitimacy won the argument. The argument in favor of Isaac also holds credence when you consider that it was Isaac’s son Jacob who would eventually become the father of the Israelites. Another point in favor of Isaac is Abraham’s covenant with God that Ishmael would not inherit Abraham’s. God also told Abraham that he would make his covenant with Isaac, but that Ishmael; (as the result of Abraham’s seed) would have 12 sons and be made a great nation. So God himself preferred Isaac as Abraham’s seed and stated to Hagar before she was exiled to Egypt that Ishmael would be an “ass” of a man. All that is known of Ishmael is that he had 12 sons after settling in the desert of Paran and became an expert archer. His wife was an Egyptian (like his mother). His children once grown spread out all over the desert in the Middle East and populated the area with their descendants. The book of Jubilees states that the Ishmaelites live in Arab territories. Ishmael attended Abraham’s funeral.
The Jewish and Christians believed Ishmael was wicked (because he was an ass), but it is only the Jews that believe that he was repentant. Christianity does not acknowledge his repentance at all. For the Islamics, Ishmael is considered a patriarch and prophet of his era. (The Qur’an say: XIX: 54 “And make mention in the scripture of Ishmael. He was a keeper of his promise, and he was a messenger, a prophet. He enjoined on his people worship and almsgiving (giving of charity), and was most acceptable in the eyes of the Lord.”
The Qur’an also mentions how Ishmael was with Abraham during their effort to set up the Kaaba in Mecca as the site for monotheistic pilgrimage (11: 127- 129), Abraham thanks god for both Isaac and Ishmael in his old age. (XIV: 35-41). His name also comes up when patriarchs received revelations (11:136). When Jacobs sons agreed to follow the faith of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, their forefathers, during their testifying (11: 133). In the end, it may well be that it doesn’t matter which child was sacrificed since the point of story was about Abraham’s devout faith and obedience to God.
Many use the argument for both children of the “Good News” given to Abraham of a son (of a forbearing son) as their focal point but to be fair a childless and aging Abraham would view both sons as good news. Elation for first born Ishmael and elation for first born to his long suffering wife Sarah. That act of sacrifice told about Abraham marked the start of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions, but as I explained, it also marks the onset of the Abrahamic religious divide. This matters because that divide continues to cause friction between the sects, and forces one to fully examine the merits of each when trying to decide what to believe in regards to creation of all things insofar as religion allows.