Chapter IX



Ishma‘el’s progeny has been living in Makkah and other parts of Arabia since time immemorial, and is still living there. The Bible claims that Hagar and Ishma‘elhad been settled by Abraham in the Wilderness of Paran and Beersheba, both of which have been claimed to have located in Sinai. But, even according to the Bible, there are no traces of any Ishma‘elites in Sinai.  ‘The New English Bible’ has recorded:

Ishma‘el’s sons inhabited the land from Havilah to Shur, which is east of Egypt on the way to Asshur, having settled to the east of his brothers.[1]

King James Version’ has recorded the theme in the following words:

And they [Ishma‘el’s sons] dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria and he died in the presence of all his brethren.[2]

Almost all the translations and versions of the Bible have recorded the same statement about the settlement of the Ishma‘elites. There is no other statement about their settlement.

It means that, according to the Bible, the progeny of Ishma‘el had settled in the area ‘from Havilah unto Shur’. To determine the dwelling place of the progeny of Ishma‘el, the exact location of ‘Havilah’ and ‘Shur’ is to be explored. The word ‘Havilah’ was used for the land of Yemen and ‘Shur’ was situated somewhere near the Gulf of ’Aqabah, at the north-eastern end of the Red Sea. It can thus be deduced that according the Bible the progeny of Ishma‘elhad settled in the area of Al-Hijaz, which is a strip of land in the Western Arabia North of Yemen.

A brief account of the sites of Havilah and Shur has been afforded hereunder:





As far as ‘Havilah’ is concerned, it is the name of South Arabia or ‘Yemen’, which, in the ancient days was named ‘Arabia Felix’, as recorded by the renowned geographer of Alexandria, Ptolemy (d. 140 AD). Easton’s BD asserts:

A district in Arabia-Felix[3]. (…). It is the opinion of Kalisch, however, that Havilah  ‘in both instances, designates the same country, extending at least from the Persian to the Arabian Gulf, and on account of its vast extent easily dividedinto two distinct parts.’ This opinion may be well vindicated. [4]

W. Smith has also expressed almost similar views in his BD:

A district in Arabia Felix, Gen. 10:7, named from the second son of Cush; probably the district of Kualan, in the northwestern part of Yemen.[5]

Encyclopedia Judaica has noted that one of Havilah’s location is in South Arabia:

  The latter Havilah, the son of Joktan, apparently stands for a locality in South Arabia as do Hadoram (Gen. 10:27), Sheba (Gen. 10:28), and Ophir (Gen. 10:29).[6]

The Jewish Encyclopediahas explained as below:

HAVILAH: Name of a district, or districts, in Arabia.(…); the Ishmaelites are also placed in the same locality (Gen. xxv.18), (…). In Gen. x.29 and I Chron. i.23, Havilah is a son of Joktan, associated with Sheba and Ophir in the southern portion of the peninsula. (…). Havilah was identified by Bochart Niebuhr with Khaulan in Tehamah, between Mecca and Sana;[7]

All the above data make it quite clear that Havilah stands for Yemen, which is situated in the south-west of the Arabian Peninsula.





‘Shur’ can be located somewhere near the Gulf of ’Aqabah, i.e. north-eastern end of the Red Sea. W. Smith has explained it as follows:

Shur may have been a fortified town east of the ancient head of the Red Sea; and from its being spoken of as a limit, it was probably the last Arabian town before entering Egypt.[8]

Most of the authorities locate it in Sinai to the SE of the Gulf of Suez. Whatever the case may be, it can safely be said that Shur or the Wilderness ofShur is situated somewhere outside the SW corner of Canaan, which may be in the vicinity of the NW corner of Arabia.

It means that, according to the Bible, Ishma‘el’s descendants had settled in Arabia between Shur (north western corner of Arabia) and Havilah (southern coast land of Arabia, i.e., Yemen and Hadramawt), which, according to the Arabs, is the region of al-Hijāz. The cities of Makkah, al-Madīnah, and Tāyef are also situated in this al- Hijāz. Most of the Ishma‘elite tribes (Arabs) had settled in and around this al-Hijāz. It has been noted above that, according to the Bible, Hagar and Ishma‘elhad been settled by Abraham in the Wilderness of Paran and Beersheba. It requires that the ‘Wilderness of Paran and Beersheba concerning Hagar and Ishma‘el, and the land of Moriah as well’, must be located in Arabia and not in Sinai.

That most of the Arabs are the descendants of Ishma‘el, is a universally acknowledged historical fact and needs not to be discussed in detail. A few lines are reproduced below from the ‘Antiquities’ of Josephus:

And they circumcised him upon the eighth day. And from that time the Jews continue the custom of circumcising their sons within that number of days. But as for the Arabians,they circumcise after the thirteenth year[9], because Ismael, the founder of their nation, who was born to Abraham of the concubine, was circumcised at that age;(….). Of this wife were born to Ismaeltwelvesons;Nabaioth[10],Kedar[11], Abdeel[12], Mabsam [or Mibsam], Idumas[13], Masmaos[14], Massaos[15], Chadad[16], Theman[17], Jetur, Naphesus[18], Cadmas[19]. These inhabited all the country from Euphrates to the Red Sea, and called it Nabatene. They are an Arabian nation and name their tribes from these, both because of their own virtue, and because of the dignity of Abraham their father.[20]

The Book of Jubilees has also recorded that the progeny of Ishma‘el is of Arabian origin. Here is an excerpt to this effect:

And Ishma‘el and his sons, and the sons of Keturah, and their sons, went together and dwelt from Paran to the entering of Babylon in all the land which is towards the East facing the desert. And these mingled with each other, and their name was called Arabs, and Ishma‘elites.[21]

Lawrance Boadt, while explaining Gen 25:1-18, writes:

These names also represent a variety of Arabian Tribes.[22]

New Jerusalem Bibleasserts:

Ishmael’s descendents are the North Arabian tribes.[23]

McKenzie writes in his DB:

He is the ancestor of a number of Arabian tribes.[24]

It has also been abundantly recorded in the legends and poetry of the Arabs. The ‘Quraysh’ was one of the most important tribes of Ishma‘el’s progeny from the line of his second son Kedar; and it had been living in Makkah for centuries, rather millennia, before the advent of Islām.