Prophet Isaac was the son of Prophet Abraham and Lady Sarah, the brother of Prophet Ishmael, the father of Prophet Jacob, the grandfather of Prophet Joseph and the forefather of the children of Israel.
Though Christianity and Islam concur on honoring Prophet Isaac, his character in the Old Testament is associated with various forms of racial discrimination in his favor and in favor of the children of Israel who account for only some of his descendants.
Such racial discrimination is one of the most pivotal manifestations of distortion caused to the message of Prophet Moses. As a result, it was derailed as a fair heavenly message and transformed into a discriminatory, racist, ethnic one wrongfully proclaiming the superiority of the children of Israel over all other ethnicities.
Therefore, the final message of Islam came towards the end of the world to establish racial equality among prophets and among all mankind and to deny any claim of superiority by anyone over any other one except based on piety and good deeds.
Prophet Isaac in Christianity
In the Bible, Christianity honors and praises Prophet Isaac. For example, we read: “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.” (Genesis 25:11)
However, there are multiple forms of racial discrimination in favor of Prophet Isaac and his descendants from among the children of Israel only.
The Bible tells us that the covenant God had had with Prophet Abraham was bequeathed to Isaac and his descendants to the exclusion of Ishmael and his descendants, despite the firstborn right established and promoted by the Old Testament.
For example, we read: And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” (Genesis 17:18-21)
As one of the most blatant forms of discrimination against Prophet Ishmael, the Bible claims that it is Prophet Isaac along with his father Prophet Abraham who starred in the historic slaughter and sacrifice incident. It is ironic that the Bible involves evidence for the falsehood of this claim.
In the Bible, we read: And it came to pass after these things, that God tested Abraham and said unto him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Behold, here I am.” And He said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” (Genesis 22:1-2)
The above biblical verses tell us that God commanded Abraham to slay his “only son”, though Isaac was never an only son of Abraham. Rather, Ishmael remained Abraham’s only son until he gave birth to Isaac.
Supposing that the intended meaning is “the only son loved by Abraham”, nothing in the Bible indicates that Abraham loved Isaac but did not love Ishmael or that he loved Isaac much more than Ishmael.
As for the discrimination in favor of the children of Israel, i.e. the descendants of Jacob, against the descendants of Esau, the Old Testament tells us that Isaac discriminated in favor of his son Jacob and his descendants against his son Esau and his descendants. We read:
And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, “Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him. And what shall I do now unto thee, my son?” And Esau said unto his father, “Hast thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, “Behold, thy dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” (Genesis 27:37-40)
Prophet Isaac in Islam
Islam honors and praises Prophet Isaac. For example, he is described as a prophet with a reputation of high honor. In the Qur’an, we read:
So when he had left them and those they worshipped other than Allah, We gave him Isaac and Jacob, and each [of them] We made a prophet. And We gave them of Our mercy, and we made for them a reputation of high honor. (Maryam 19:49-50)
He is also described as a righteous leader. In the Qur’an, we read:
And We gave him Isaac and Jacob in addition, and all [of them] We made righteous. And We made them leaders guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them the doing of good deeds, establishment of prayer, and giving of zakah; and they were worshippers of Us. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:72-73)
The Qur’an tells us that God blessed Isaac and made him a prophet from among the righteous. We read:
And We gave him good tidings of Isaac, a prophet from among the righteous. And We blessed him and Isaac. But among their descendants is the doer of good and the clearly unjust to himself. (As-Saffat 37:112-113)
The Qur’an also tells us that Prophet Abraham, as well as his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob are among the chosen and outstanding servants in the sight of God. We read:
And remember Our servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – those of strength and [religious] vision. Indeed, We chose them for an exclusive quality: remembrance of the home [of the Hereafter]. And indeed they are, to Us, among the chosen and outstanding. (Saad 38:45-46)
The Islamic handling of Prophet Isaac’s character is much more logical and acceptable than the biblical one. Islam does not discriminate against/in favor of any prophet or his descendants. Piety and good deeds only are the basis of preference. In the Qur’an, we read:
Say, [O believers], “We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” (Al-Baqarah 2:136)
It is curious that the Bible prefers Isaac to Ishmael and Jacob to Esau and confirms that Isaac and Jacob were the heirs of the covenant which God had had with Abraham though Isaac and Jacob were not their fathers’ firstborns.
It is customary that the Bible allots to the firstborn son double the shares of his other siblings. In the Bible, we read:
“If a man have two wives, one beloved and another hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated, and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated, then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, who is indeed the firstborn. But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he hath, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.” (Deuteronomy 21:15-17)
How come the covenant was bequeathed to Isaac and Jacob as well as their descendants to the exclusion of Ishmael and Esau as well as their descendants though Ishmael and Esau were their father’s firstborn sons?
According to the Bible, Ishmael and Esau should have been allotted double the shares of Isaac and Jacob or at least equal shares. However, the case where younger brothers inherit everything and elder brothers do not inherit anything was something going against the very verses of the Bible itself.
It is also remarkable that the Old Testament tried to duplicate and reproduce Prophet Abraham’s character as Isaac’s character in a very unreasonable way, with a view to promoting the superiority of the children of Israel (descendants of Jacob) and underestimating the other descendants of Prophet Abraham.
For example, just as the Bible told us that Abimelech desired Sarah, Abraham’s wife and Isaac’s mother, and took her as a wife, (Genesis 20:2), it also tells us that, several decades later, Abimelech desired Isaac’s wife and the same story took place.
In the Bible, we read: And Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, of a surety she is thy wife; and how saidst thou, ‘She is my sister’?” And Isaac said unto him, “Because I said, ‘Lest I die for her.’” (Genesis 26:9)
We may ask: did Abimelech remain in power since the time Sarah was a twenty- or thirty-year-old beautiful young girl until she became ninety years old and then gave birth to Isaac and then died and Isaac grew up, became forty years old and then married Rebekah?
If so, did he have good health enough to desire women throughout those numerous decades which might have been longer than a century?
If “Abimelech” is not a proper noun but just a title of the ruler, is it reasonable that Abraham’s story is repeated with the same details more than a century later?
Moreover, just as the Bible told us that Sarah, Abraham’s first wife, was barren (Genesis 11:30), it also tells us that Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, was also barren. We read:
And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord was entreated by him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it be so, why am I thus?” And she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy body; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:21-23)
Furthermore, just as the Bible informed us that Abraham had children only when he was an old man, it also informs us that Isaac had children only when he was an old man also. We read:
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob. And Isaac was threescore years old when she bore them. (Genesis 25:24-26)
- The Glorious Qur’an
- The Holy Bible