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By Rebecca Abrahamson:


The rectified relationship between Ishmael and Isaac as recorded in Genesis is the key to peace between the children of Ishmael and the children of Israel. Ishmael and Isaac have different roles to play in rectifying the world. Recognizing and celebrating our differences is essential in order to work in harmony. Musical harmony only happens when different notes are played, so too as humanity works towards perfection, as we "strive as if in a race", we must play out our different roles to perfection.

I have been asked by a Muslim sheikh to share this Ishmael-Isaac paradigm with other sheikhs, and am also posting here

(For the longer version with more sources, send me your email and I can send it to you)

In the book of Genesis, chapter 25, we read that Ishmael and Isaac buried their father Abraham together. Ishmael deferred to Isaac and let Isaac lead, though Isaac was the younger. In this dignified act of allowing Isaac to lead, Ishmael publicly showed appreciation for Isaac’s role as Torah learner. This was a respectful and protective gesture.

Ishmael’s role is to protect his younger brother Isaac. Ishmael is out fixing the world, “his hand on everything”, while Isaac is essentially a studious tent-dweller.

Rashi, 11th century Torah commentator, tells us that Ishmael became completely righteous before Abraham passed away. (Genesis 15:15. 25:9) Indeed, the expression “vayigveh” is used to describe the death of Ishmael, this term is only used in regard to tzaddikim (completely righteous people). (Genesis 25:17) Some commentaries explain that Ishmael thus transformed all his past deeds into virtues, thus his entire life was ultimately redeemed.(Maskil l’Dovid on Chayei Sarah)

The Torah says that God made a covenant with Ishmael (pbuh) that "I will multiply thy [Hagar's] seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude" (Genesis 16:10) and "And he will be an unrestricted man; his hand will be opposite every man, and every man's hand opposite him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." (Genesis 16:12) which reflects a character trait that goes beyond boundaries. When the Children of Ishmael submit to God, they challenge the whole world to come to repentance, if his descendants are righteous, it will be to make the whole world return to God.

God approved of Abraham's (pbuh) request that the descendants of Ishmael (pbuh) should submit to God (Genesis 17:18) and his peoples’ covenant with God should be everlasting (Genesis 17:19).

The Children of Israel were chosen to keep the revelation of Torah because they were suited to the purpose of Torah. The shari'ah of Torah required setting up a Temple, a priesthood, and many detailed laws intended to teach in a physical way how God deals with the world. God revealed to Sarah that the Torah required someone who "sat in the tents [and learned]". In other words it would be a complex revelation, which required study and preserving. For this, God needed a nation of "dwellers of Tents" that had a tendency towards study, allegory and perhaps a bit of legalism.When these character traits are used in submission to God and for the performance of His will, the result is very beautiful. If some of the Children of Israel reject God, then these character traits fall into legalism and hypocrisy. The religious among us strive very hard to humbly submit to God with all of our being.

In the Talmud, Rome was said to have a mission to bring Godly hygiene, heath, and commerce to the world, Persia was to bring Godly culture, government, to the world, Greece was to bring Godly philosophy, etc. Some of these nations listen to the Prophets (pbu them) that were sent to them, most did not. In the end of days there will come a rightly guided one, who will bring justice, peace and knowledge of God to all the nations. At this time, believers will recognize, encourage and support each other.
In the Qur'an Allah SWT says: وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صَادِقَ الْوَعْدِ وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَّبِيًّا
"He was (strictly) true to what he promised, and he was a messenger (and) a prophet." (Surat Maryam 19:54_
وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
"And remember Ibrahim/Abraham/Abram(AS) and Isma'il/Ishmael(AS) 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." (Surat al Baqara 2:127)

Protecting Holy Sites

Islam, as the extension of Ishmael, has already shown itself to be protective of Jews and Christians in their worship. Here are some examples from history which will be elaborated upon below:

Caliph Umar cleaned the Temple Mount with his own hands after conquering it from the Roman Byzantines. Saladin found the Kotel and told the local Jerusalem residents to clean the waste that had been dumped there under Byzantine rule. He employed Christians and Jews in running the worship services there. Abd Malik built the Dome of the Rock according to the dimensions of Ezekiel’s prophecy.

Sources in the Qur’an for Protecting Holy Sites:

Islam guarantees the protection of Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims who reside in Muslim lands. Their houses of worship should be defended from attack and their right to worship according to their choice respected. The right to self-defense was granted in Islam in order to protect freedom of religion.

Were Allah not to check people by means of others, there would have been demolished the monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is often mentioned. 
Surat Al-Hajj 22:40

Hasan Al-Basri comments on this verse, saying:يُدْفَعُ عهThe houses of worship for non-Muslim citizens are defended by the believers.
Source: Ahkam Al-Quran Al-Jassas 5/83

Al-Qurtubi comments on this verse, saying:
Ibn Khuwaiz said: Included in this verse is the prohibition of demolishing the churches of non-Muslim citizens, their temples, and their houses of worship
Source: Tafseer Al-Qurtubi 22:40

This legal requirement is part of the tolerance, compassion, and good will that Islam teaches concerning other religious groups. The Prophet defined Islam as safety and security for people in general.
Abdullah ibn Amr reported: A man asked, “O Messenger of Allah, whose Islam is best?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
Those from whose tongue and hand people are safe.
Source: Musnad Ahmad 6714

And that He might make evident those who are hypocrites. For it was said to them, "Come, fight in the way of Allah or [at least] defend." They said, "If we had known [there would be] fighting, we would have followed you." They were nearer to disbelief that day than to faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. And Allah is most Knowing of what they conceal

Defending a holy site is second to jihad in Islam

Sources in History of Protecting Holy Sites

First of all, the Temple courtyard –

There were three courts: for the Priests, for the Israelites and for the nations, who were referred to as "Muslamai" and "Salamai".

When Herod became king of Judea, first century BCE, he enlarged the area of the Temple Mount to allow for over a million Jewish and non-Jewish pilgrims during the course of the Tabernacles holiday (see illustrations, and Jewish Antiquities, Book 15, Chapter 11, 382-387)

During the holiday, Jews and non-Jewish “Bnei Noah”, who were also called “Muslamai” and “Salamai”, would circle the Altar seven times, outside of the soreg (fence) that separated the court of the Israelites from the court of the nations.

Under the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius

The historian Sebeos in his "A History of Heraclius", explains that in 614 CE the Persians invaded Jerusalem. The city surrendered without a fight and the Persians appointed a son of the Exilarch as Jewish governor of the city. This governor was lynched by a mob, and in retaliation the Persians invaded the city and burned the churches.

Byzantine Emperor Heraclius then persecuted the Jews. He ordered that the Temple mount be used as a latrine. When the Muslims conquered the city in 638 CE, the Islamic histories record that Caliph 'Umar himself helped to clear the Temple mount of filth. Sebeos says that the Jews tried to build a "House of Prayer" on the rock, however the Christians revolted. The Caliph ordered the Jews removed from that place and ordered that the Jews and Muslims should pray together in the area that became the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The Muslims built the Dome of the Rock. It is not a mosque because it has no qibla. The Jews and Muslims prayed together at Al-Aqsa until shortly before the rise of the Umayyad Caliphate.


623 CE, when the Qibla was changed, was the same year that the Byzantine Emperor turned the Temple Mount in Jerusalem into a latrine to punish the Jews for supporting Persia. All the waste of Jerusalem was routed to flow onto the Temple Mount. By 638CE, the Temple Mount had accumulated so much filth that Muslims called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre "kanisat al-qiyamah", the Church of the Dungheap "kanisat al-qumamah" in retaliation. (Mujir al-Din.)

To the Rabbinic Jews, this was an insult. To the Sadducean Jews of Arabia this was a crisis. The Jews of Arabia were particular in cleanliness, equating cleanliness with the biblical concepts of Taharah, purity. The ahadith said that the Children of Israel would cut off their skin, should any waste fall on it. They would not pray in the direction of a bathroom, nor go the bathroom while facing the holy places of Jerusalem or Mecca. The Rabbinic Jews however continued to pray towards Jerusalem. This troubled the Prophet (pbuh). In the end he was answered by Allah SWT that Muslims should not pray towards Jerusalem, only towards Mecca. Further, this would be the mark of distinction between his followers and others.

Allah SWT sent down this ayah, that this would be a defining characteristic of the Ummah that keeps the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh):
“From whencesoever Thou startest forth, turn Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque; that is indeed the truth from the Lord. And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do. So from whencesoever Thou startest forth, turn Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque; and wheresoever ye are, Turn your face thither: that there be no ground of dispute against you among the people, except those of them that are bent on wickedness; so fear them not, but fear Me; and that I may complete My favours on you, and ye May (consent to) be guided”; (Al-Baqara 2, 149-150)

Ezekiel’s prophecy and Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan Dome of the Chain 
Dome of the Chain (قبة السلسلة, Qubbat al-Silsilah) is a free-standing dome located adjacently east of the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. One of the oldest structures on the Haram ash-Sharif (Temple Mount), it is not a mosque or shrine, but is used as a prayer house. It was built by the Umayyads,7th – 8th century, and became a Christian chapel under the Crusaders, restored as an Islamic prayer house by the Ayyubids and has been renovated by the Mamluks, Ottomans and the Palestinian-based waqf.

The Dome of the Chain owes its name to a tradition dating back to King Solomon's (pbuh) rule. When Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan constructed or improved upon the various structures on the Temple Mount, he was in agreement with Ezekiel 40.

'Abd al-Malik opened the Dome of the Rock to Jews and Christians:
Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in the 7th century based the building of the Dome of the Rock on Ezekiel’s prophecy.

Ritual ceremonies in Jerusalem in the Umayyad Period were mainly concentrated on the Haram.

During the time of 'Abd al-Malik, the Dome of the Rock was opened to the public solely on Mondays and Thursdays; on the other days only the attendants entered. Prayers were held after incense was burnt. Ten gatekeepers were responsible for each gate. Jews and Christians were employed in different services on the Haram: they cleaned the Haram, made glass for the lamps and for goblets, and prepared wicks for the Menorah. They were exempted from the Jizya and passed on these tasks as inheritance… (see AI-Wisiti, pp. 43-44, the tradition of the Jerusalem family of 'Abd al-Rahaman. from Raja' and Yazid)

They used to stand by the Rock and circumambulate it as they used to circumambulate the Ka'ba, and slaughter beasts on the day of the feast [i.e., 'Id al-Adha]. (Sibt b. al-Jawzi's Mir'at al-Zaman)

Sultan Suleiman – 16th Century

When Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent had the wall built around Jerusalem, he had the following inscription engraved on a stone on one of the entrance gates; "La ilaha illa Allah, Ibrahim habibullah." Instead of "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad ar-Rasul Allah (There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of God)," seeing that Jerusalem is the center of all religions and they all come from the religion of the Prophet Abraham, he used a statement that embraces all three religions that we know to be the Abrahamic religions, divine religions equally by saying "La ilaha illa Allah, Ibrahim Habibullah (There is no god but Allah, Abraham is beloved of Allah)", by saying Abraham is a very much loved servant of Allah.


Muslims always defended the religious sites for Jews and Christians. Muslims should use their current sovereignty to administer the Temple Mount, making it useful to the children of Abraham. It should in no way be used as a political or nationalist pawn by either side.

Islam does not command Muslims to be sovereign, but to be dafi – defender. From a religious point of view, sovereignty is not the crucial issue concerning the Temple Mount. What is crucial is that all children of Abraham have access, and deportment at holy places must be according to scripture and tradition.

By revisiting the rectified relationship between Ishmael and Isaac, we will have the key to to lasting peace.Picture Credit: ifcj

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