Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis

By Reuven Firestone | Go to book overview

Chapter 15

THE REDEMPTION

According to the qur'ānic narrative, God redeemed Abraham's son with a "MAGNIFICENT SACRIFICE." 1 The traditionists were not all in agreement regarding the exact nature of this sacrifice, although most considered it to have been a ram as in the biblical story. 2 Few narrative traditions were available to support this view, and most exegetes simply relied on the opinions and statements of early traditionists.

The opinion of Ibn 'Abbās is cited thirty-three times by the exegetes, and he is generally credited with the view that the redemption was a ram (fourteen renditions) or a sheep (one rendition), 3 although he is also cited five times as saying that it was a mountain goat. 4 Ibn 'Abbās is credited five times with a tradition that the ram sacrificed in place of Abraham's son was the identical animal that was sacrificed by Adam's son Abel: "The ram that Abraham slaughtered was the ram that the son of Adam offered up (qarrabahu) and was accepted."5 ". . . the ram that redeemed him was the ram that Abel son of Adam offered and was accepted." 6 The only detailed rendition is given by Ibn Sa'd, who recounts an unusual version of the story of Cain and Abel:

Adam had four children from two sets of twins, each set consisting of one male and one female. The sister of the farmer was pretty while the sister of the herdsman was ugly. The farmer said that he had more of a right to the pretty one, while the herdsman said that he had a greater claim on her. The herdsman said: "Fie on you! You desire to have preference over me because of her beauty? Let us each make an offering. If your offering is accepted, you have the right to her, but if mine is accepted, I have the right to her." They each made an offering. The herdsman offered a white dark-eyed horned ram while the farmer offered a pile of food. The ram was accepted and God kept it in the Garden for forty autumns. That is the ram that Abraham sacrificed. The farmer then said: "I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!" (Q. 5:29). The herdsman replied:

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Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Transliterations xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Chapter 1 - Biblicists and Arabs 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Nature of the Literature Islamic Interpretive Literature 11
  • Part Two - The Syrian Prologue 23
  • Chapter 3 - Abraham's Emmigration 25
  • Chapter 4 - The Tyrant 31
  • Chapter 5 - The Birth of Ishmael 39
  • Chapter 6 - Beersheba 48
  • Chapter 7 - The Angels Visit 52
  • Part Three - The Meccan Sequence 61
  • Chapter 8 - The Transfer to Mecca 63
  • Chapter 9 - The Jurhum 72
  • Chapter 10 - Abraham's Visits 76
  • Chapter 11 - Building the Ka'Ba 80
  • Chapter 12 - The Pilgrimage 94
  • Part Four - The Sacrifice 105
  • Chapter 13 - Prelude to Sacrifice 107
  • Chapter 14 - The Sacrificial Act 116
  • Chapter 15 - The Redemption 129
  • Chapter 16 - Isaac or Ishmael? 135
  • Conclusion 153
  • Part Five - Appendices 161
  • Appendix 1 - The Exegetes and Their Sources Ibn Sa'D, KitĀb Al-TabaqĀt Al-KabĪr 163
  • Appendix 2 - Traditionists Naming Isaac or Ishmael as the Intended Sacrificial Victim 170
  • Notes 179
  • Selected Bibliography 245
  • Index 259
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