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Ismā'īl (إسماعيل‎ Ishmael) was the son of Ibrahim (Abraham) from the Egyptian concubine Hagar. He is recognized in Islam as an important prophet and patriarch. According to the Islamic tradition, Ismail is the forefather of the "Arabized Arabs" and Muhammad, was the son that Ibrahim attempted to kill in sacrifice, and is credited with building the Kaaba along with his father.

Ismail as the forefather of Muhammad and the "Arabized Arabs"

Islamic traditions consider Isma'il to be the ancestor of Arab people,[1] excluding those who are descendants of Ya'rub. Arabs who are from "Isma'il-descendant" tribes are occasionally referred to as "Arabized-Arabs" to highlight their ancestry. The Prophet Muhammad was of these Arabs. However, there is no archaeological or historical evidence that Isma'il was the ancestor of the Arabs, and there are good reasons to believe this was, in fact, not the case. There does exists, however, a conjecture to this effect based upon writings some 2000 years after his death.

Islamic sources suggest that part of the reason why the Jews and Christians refused to acknowledge the revelation and prophethood of Muhammad was because their prophets (Jesus, Moses, etc.) had come from the progeny of Ishaq (Isaac), whereas Muhammad had come of Ismail's progeny.

Islamic sources similarly teach that Muhammad was the descendant of Ismail that would establish the "great nation" promised by god in the old testament.[2][3]

Contrast with the Judeo-Christian tradition

General Mannerism

The Bible describes him as a "wild donkey of a man" whose hand will be "against everyone" and "he will live in hostility toward all his brothers".[4] The Islamic tradition generally rejects the open attribution of negative character traits to prophets.

With relation to Ibrahim (Abraham)

In contrast with the Biblical account, the Qur'anic narrative places Ismail as the subject of Ibrahim's "binding" (the binding of Isaac thus becoming the binding of Ishmael), or attempted child sacrifice. While a few Islamic authorities (notably al-Tabari[5]) dissented on the matter, suggesting that the Qur'anic account should accord with the previously uncontested Biblical narrative.

The following verses of the Qur'an appear to suggest not only that it was other than Ishaq (Isaac) that Ibrahim attempted to kill in sacrifice, but that Ishaq was, in fact, not born until afterwards:

99. And he [Ibrahim] said: Lo! I am going unto my Lord Who will guide me.

100. My Lord! Vouchsafe [give] me of the righteous [a child].

101. So We gave him tidings of a gentle son.

102. And when (his son) was old enough to walk with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice thee. So look, what thinkest thou? He said: O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. Allah willing, thou shalt find me of the steadfast.

103. Then, when they had both surrendered (to Allah), and he had flung him down upon his face,

104. We called unto him: O Abraham!

105. Thou hast already fulfilled the vision. Lo! thus do We reward the good.

106. Lo! that verily was a clear test.

107. Then We ransomed him with a tremendous victim.

108. And We left for him among the later folk (the salutation):

109. Peace be unto Abraham!

110. Thus do We reward the good.

111. Lo! he is one of Our believing slaves.

112. And we gave him tidings of the birth of Isaac, a prophet of the righteous.

113. And We blessed him and Isaac. And of their seed are some who do good, and some who plainly wrong themselves.

[end of passage]

Relevant Quotations


These verses describe Ismail as having built the Kaaba and praying for the coming of Muhammad alongside his father, Ibrahim:

124. And (remember) when his Lord tried Abraham with (His) commands, and he fulfilled them, He said: Lo! I have appointed thee a leader for mankind. (Abraham) said: And of my offspring (will there be leaders)? He said: My covenant includeth not wrong-doers.

125. And when We made the House (at Makka) a resort for mankind and sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood (to pray). And We imposed a duty upon Abraham and Ishmael, (saying): Purify My house for those who go around and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship).

126. And when Abraham prayed: My Lord! Make this a region of security and bestow upon its people fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day, He answered: As for him who disbelieveth, I shall leave him in contentment for a while, then I shall compel him to the doom of Fire - a hapless journey's end!

127. And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower.

128. Our Lord! And make us submissive unto Thee and of our seed a nation submissive unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and relent toward us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Relenting, the Merciful.

129. Our Lord! And raise up in their midst a messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Thy revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall make them grow. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Mighty, Wise.

External Links


  1. Fredrick E. Greenspahn, Encyclopedia of Religion, "Ishmael", p.4551–4552
  2. Genesis 17:20
  3. Zeep, Ira G. (2000). A Muslim primer: beginner's guide to Islam, Volume 2. University of Arkansas Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-55728-595-9.
  4. "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 all his brothers." - Genesis 16:12 (New International Version)
  5. "Isaac", Encyclopedia of Islam, volume 4