Born Country: Israel
Born in: Canaan
Famous as: Abraham's Son
children: Adbeel, Adnan, Basemath, Dumah, Hadad, Jetur, Kedar, Kedemah, Mahalath, Massa, Mibsam, Mishma, Naphish, Nebaioth, Qedar, Tema
Ishmael was a patriarch of Qaydar and the first son of Abraham, according to the Christians, Jews, and Muslims. He was born to Abraham and his wife Sarah’s maiden, Hagar. Abraham had married Hagar before she conceived the child, as his wife, Sarah, was old and could not bear him a child. Ishmael was circumcised at the age of 13. Around that time, God came to Abraham and told him that he would have another child, with Sarah, and that he shall name him Isaac, which he did. Ishmael was never fond of Isaac and began behaving erratically. Abraham then sent Hagar and Ishmael on an exile. They settled in Paran, where Ishmael robbed travelers. However, the father–son duo kept meeting each other over the years. In Islam, Ishmael is regarded as one of the prophets. He has been frequently mentioned among other prophets in the holy ‘Quran.’ He has been described as a man who was patient, virtuous, and good at heart. His story has different versions. He had 12 sons who went on to become chiefs of their respective tribes. Ishmael died at the age of 137 years.
Childhood & Early Life
Abraham, the famous prophet, and his wife, Sarah, were unable to have any children even after they reached old age. Abraham was 86 years old and Sarah was 75 when they decided to have a child to fulfil the Abrahamic covenant.
Sarah had an Egyptian handmaiden named Hagar. She wanted Hagar to have a child with her husband. Abraham took her as his second wife, and she became pregnant after sometime. Soon, things turned sour between Sarah and Hagar over time. Enraged by this, Hagar moved out of the house.
However, she encountered one of God’s angels, who told her to go back to her mistress and give birth to the child there. Hagar was also told that Abraham was so blessed that he would have many descendants and that Ishmael had a great destiny only because he was Abraham’s son. Hagar moved back and gave birth to Ishmael.
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Ishmael in Christianity
When Ishmael was still in his teens, his father and stepmother, Sarah, had another child, Isaac.
Soon after Isaac’s birth, Sarah and Hagar began having differences. Sarah wanted Isaac to be Abraham’s true heir, while Hagar claimed that Ishmael was the rightful heir, as he was the older of the two brothers.
According to some Christian beliefs, Ishmael hated Isaac and mocked him on several occasions. Sarah cleared that she would not have Isaac share Abraham’s inheritance with Ishmael, as he was just a slave’s son. Abraham loved Ishmael as much as he loved Isaac. In spite of this, he had to make a tough choice.
Abraham had to leave Hagar and Ishmael. He was sad doing it and sent them away with some water to drink on the way and some food. Ishmael was 14 years old at that time. This is the story of Ishmael according to the Christian faith. Muslims have a slightly different version of the same story.
Ishmael in Islam
According to Islamic beliefs, soon after Hagar and Abraham had Ishmael, Abraham was instructed by God to abandon Hagar and Ishmael. He left them in the desert of Kaaba.
After leaving them there, he turned back. Hagar called out his name, and he ignored her the first two times. He turned back on the third call, when Hagar asked him if what he did was according to an order from God. Abraham replied in the affirmative. Following this, Hagar accepted her and Ishmael’s fate and told Abraham that God would take care of them in that case.
Abraham moved back to his first wife, leaving Hagar and Ishmael alone, without anything to eat or drink. Ishmael, who was just a kid then, cried out of thirst. Hagar began praying for God to intervene and save her child’s life. She put Ishmael under a shady bush and went out in search of water.
She ran seven times around the Safa and Marwah hills in search of water but failed. She also pleaded to a passing caravan, but water was already a scarce commodity in the desert. She then sat down on the ground and began crying, asking God for help.
God then sent his angel, Gabriel, to tell Hagar to lift her son in her arms. She saw that he had scratched the ground beneath him, and from it sprung a stream of water. Hagar acted quickly and formed a well of water, now known as the ‘Zamzam Well.’
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She refilled the empty water bottle and set up her camp there. She began exchanging water from the wells for supplying water to the passing caravans. Due to this reason, the Muslims run between the Safa and Marwah hills to this day, retracing the steps taken by Hagar and Ishmael.
Ishmael in Judaism
Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism, too, had a different version of the story. Some Hebrew scriptures say that Hagar was the daughter of Egypt’s pharaoh, making Ishmael the grandson of the pharaoh.
Judaism had a much more complex story about Ishmael. Ishmael was said to be in possession of some human characteristics that Abraham did not like. Hence, he always considered Isaac to be his true heir.
Later Life & Legacy
Hagar and Ishmael continued to live in the wilderness, in a place called Paran. Ishmael became a highly skilled archer and a hunter. Abraham kept missing Ishmael and expressed his desire to meet him in front of his wife, Sarah, who was not happy with the decision. She, however, agreed when Abraham promised that he would not let his feet land in Ishmael’s vicinity and would not dismount his camel.
By then, Ishmael had married an Egyptian woman. She greeted Abraham when he reached there. He enquired about the whereabouts of Ishmael, to which she replied that both the mother and the son were out gathering fruits. He asked for water but was denied that. Abraham turned back and asked her to convey the message of his arrival to his son.
When Ishmael came to know about this, he asked his mother to bring him a wife from his father’s house. He was thus married to a woman named Fatimah. Abraham visited them again 3 years later, only to find Ishmael and Hagar absent again. However, this time, he was greeted with water and bread by Fatimah.
Abraham blessed the house in return. When Ishmael came to know about this, he was happy and knew that his father still loved him. Since then, both Ishmael and Abraham kept visiting each other.
Ishmael passed away at the age of 137.
He is considered one of the prophets in Islam. Muhammad has been mentioned as a descendant of Ishmael.
Christians believe that Ishmael had God’s blessing with him and is thus known as the “Father of the Arab Countries.” It is believed that it is because of him that the Arab countries have been blessed with oil.