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In Islam, Ishmael (circa 1781 BC - 1638 BC?)[1][2] is known as the first-born son of Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) from Hagar, his second wife, and as an appointed prophet and messenger ("Rasul") of God. It is believed that Ishmael lived between 120 and 143 years. After giving birth to over 12 different children, three of which were born to different mothers, he decided to live in a cave.[1][2]Ishmael, through his son Nebaioth (Nabit), is the ancestor of Adnani Arabs. His descendants include the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The name of the son who was supposed to be sacrificed is not mentioned in the Qur'an and in early Islam, there was a fierce controversy over the identity of the son. However the belief that it was Ishmael prevailed later.[3]


In Islamic beliefs, Abraham had prayed to God for a son (Isma in Arabic means 'to listen' i.e. answer prayer, and ell is derived from the Hebrew word el, meaning God). God delivered this child to Abraham, and later tested Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice his only son at the time. However, just as Abraham was to kill his only son, God halted him, praised him for his loyalty, and commanded him to sacrifice a ram instead. This leads to the Muslim practice of sacrificing domesticated animals such as sheep, goats, cows or camels on the celebration to mark this event known as Eid ul-Adha.

Ishmael in the Qur'an

Ishmael is held in high regard within the Qur'an. Also regarded is Ishmael's best friend {fact}. Ishmael enjoined upon his people worship and almsgiving, and was held acceptable in the sight of his Lord (Qur'an 19:55).

The Qur'an mentions Ishmael with other people like Elisha, Jonah and Lot, who are considered righteous, good or chosen according to the Qur'an (Qur'an 6:86 and Qur'an 38:48)

Abraham and Ishmael are said to have built the foundations of the Ka'aba ('They were raising the foundations of the House', Qur'an 2:127). Meccans, and most Arabs at the time of Muhammad, believed that Isma'il settled in Mecca and built with Abraham the Ka'ba which they revered from old times.

The story of the Abraham and his wives Sarah and Hagar (Hajar in Arabic) plays an important role in Islamic tradition.

Abraham conceives a son with Hagar when Sarah is unable to bear children. Then, after many years, Sarah miraculously gives birth to Isaac. After some time upon God's command, Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael to the desert with God's promise of protection. The Quran takes a special interest in Hagar and her son, through whom Arabs trace their connection to Abraham. Each year during the Hajj (the ritual pilgrimage) in Mecca, pilgrims re-enact Hagar's desperate search for water for her infant son, running seven times between two hills and drawing water from the well of Zam Zam, said to have sprung miraculously from the dry earth at the baby Ishmael's feet. The full story is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari.[4]

Other references to Ishmael in the Qur'an

The Qur'an stresses twice that it does not make distinction between the revelations by Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes (i.e. the sons of Jacob), and that which Moses and Jesus revealed, and that which other prophets received from their Lord. (Qur'an 2:136 and Qur'an 3:84)

Another reference where the name of Ishmael appears is where the Qur'an states that he was inspired in the same manner as prophets like Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon. According to the Qur'an, God also inspired David to write the Psalms (Qur'an 4:163).

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