Hadith

I Introduction

Certain narratives inform us that Sarah and Hagar, the two wives of Abraham (sws) did not enjoy cordial relations. Matters reached the extent that Abraham (sws) decided to separate Hagar and his infant son Ishmael from Sarah. Hagar and the infant child she was suckling were taken and abandoned by him in the desolate and barren land of Makkah. It is here that Ishmael grew up and was wed into the Banu Jurham.

In this article a critical evaluation of these narratives will be conducted.

II A Representative Text

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَامِرٍ عَبْدُ الْمَلِكِ بْنُ عَمْرٍو، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بْنُ نَافِعٍ، عَنْ كَثِيرِ بْنِ كَثِيرٍ، عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ جُبَيْرٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ ـ رضی الله عنهما ـ قَالَ لَمَّا كَانَ بَيْنَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَبَيْنَ أَهْلِهِ مَا كَانَ، خَرَجَ بِإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَأُمِّ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، وَمَعَهُمْ شَنَّةٌ فِيهَا مَاءٌ، فَجَعَلَتْ أُمُّ إِسْمَاعِيلَ تَشْرَبُ مِنَ الشَّنَّةِ فَيَدِرُّ لَبَنُهَا عَلَى صَبِيِّهَا حَتَّی قَدِمَ مَكَّةَ، فَوَضَعَهَا تَحْتَ دَوْحَةٍ، ثُمَّ رَجَعَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ إِلَی أَهْلِهِ، فَاتَّبَعَتْهُ أُمُّ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، حَتَّی لَمَّا بَلَغُوا كَدَاءً نَادَتْهُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِ يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ إِلَی مَنْ تَتْرُكُنَا قَالَ إِلَی اللَّهِ‏.‏ قَالَتْ رَضِيتُ بِاللَّهِ‏.‏ قَالَ فَرَجَعَتْ فَجَعَلَتْ تَشْرَبُ مِنَ الشَّنَّةِ وَيَدِرُّ لَبَنُهَا عَلَی صَبِيِّهَا، حَتَّی لَمَّا فَنِيَ الْمَاءُ قَالَتْ لَوْ ذَهَبْتُ فَنَظَرْتُ لَعَلِّي أُحِسُّ أَحَدًا‏.‏ قَالَ فَذَهَبَتْ فَصَعِدَتِ الصَّفَا فَنَظَرَتْ وَنَظَرَتْ هَلْ تُحِسُّ أَحَدًا فَلَمْ تُحِسَّ أَحَدًا، فَلَمَّا بَلَغَتِ الْوَادِيَ سَعَتْ وَأَتَتِ الْمَرْوَةَ فَفَعَلَتْ ذَلِكَ أَشْوَاطًا، ثُمَّ قَالَتْ لَوْ ذَهَبْتُ فَنَظَرْتُ مَا فَعَلَ ـ تَعْنِي الصَّبِيَّ ـ فَذَهَبَتْ فَنَظَرَتْ، فَإِذَا هُوَ عَلَی حَالِهِ كَأَنَّهُ يَنْشَغُ لِلْمَوْتِ، فَلَمْ تُقِرَّهَا نَفْسُهَا، فَقَالَتْ لَوْ ذَهَبْتُ فَنَظَرْتُ لَعَلِّي أُحِسُّ أَحَدًا، فَذَهَبَتْ فَصَعِدَتِ الصَّفَا فَنَظَرَتْ وَنَظَرَتْ فَلَمْ تُحِسَّ أَحَدًا، حَتَّی أَتَمَّتْ سَبْعًا، ثُمَّ قَالَتْ لَوْ ذَهَبْتُ فَنَظَرْتُ مَا فَعَلَ، فَإِذَا هِيَ بِصَوْتٍ فَقَالَتْ أَغِثْ إِنْ كَانَ عِنْدَكَ خَيْرٌ‏.‏ فَإِذَا جِبْرِيلُ، قَالَ فَقَالَ بِعَقِبِهِ هَكَذَا، وَغَمَزَ عَقِبَهُ عَلَی الأَرْضِ، قَالَ فَانْبَثَقَ الْمَاءُ، فَدَهَشَتْ أُمُّ إِسْمَاعِيلَ فَجَعَلَتْ تَحْفِزُ‏.‏ قَالَ فَقَالَ أَبُو الْقَاسِمِ صلی الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ لَوْ تَرَكَتْهُ كَانَ الْمَاءُ ظَاهِرًا ‏"‏‏.‏ قَالَ فَجَعَلَتْ تَشْرَبُ مِنَ الْمَاءِ، وَيَدِرُّ لَبَنُهَا عَلَی صَبِيِّهَا ـ قَالَ ـ فَمَرَّ نَاسٌ مِنْ جُرْهُمَ بِبَطْنِ الْوَادِي، فَإِذَا هُمْ بِطَيْرٍ، كَأَنَّهُمْ أَنْكَرُوا ذَاكَ، وَقَالُوا مَا يَكُونُ الطَّيْرُ إِلاَّ عَلَی مَاءٍ‏.‏ فَبَعَثُوا رَسُولَهُمْ، فَنَظَرَ فَإِذَا هُمْ بِالْمَاءِ، فَأَتَاهُمْ فَأَخْبَرَهُمْ فَأَتَوْا إِلَيْهَا، فَقَالُوا يَا أُمَّ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، أَتَأْذَنِينَ لَنَا أَنْ نَكُونَ مَعَكِ أَوْ نَسْكُنَ مَعَكِ فَبَلَغَ ابْنُهَا فَنَكَحَ فِيهِمُ امْرَأَةً، قَالَ ثُمَّ إِنَّهُ بَدَا لإِبْرَاهِيمَ فَقَالَ لأَهْلِهِ إِنِّي مُطَّلِعٌ تَرِكَتِي‏ قَالَ فَجَاءَ فَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ أَيْنَ إِسْمَاعِيلُ فَقَالَتِ امْرَأَتُهُ ذَهَبَ يَصِيدُ‏.‏ قَالَ قُولِي لَهُ إِذَا جَاءَ غَيِّرْ عَتَبَةَ بَابِكَ‏.‏ فَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَخْبَرَتْهُ قَالَ أَنْتِ ذَاكِ فَاذْهَبِي إِلَی أَهْلِكِ‏.‏ قَالَ ثُمَّ إِنَّهُ بَدَا لإِبْرَاهِيمَ فَقَالَ لأَهْلِهِ إِنِّي مُطَّلِعٌ تَرِكَتِي‏.‏ قَالَ فَجَاءَ فَقَالَ أَيْنَ إِسْمَاعِيلُ فَقَالَتِ امْرَأَتُهُ ذَهَبَ يَصِيدُ، فَقَالَتْ أَلاَ تَنْزِلُ فَتَطْعَمَ وَتَشْرَبَ فَقَالَ وَمَا طَعَامُكُمْ وَمَا شَرَابُكُمْ قَالَتْ طَعَامُنَا اللَّحْمُ، وَشَرَابُنَا الْمَاءُ قَالَ اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَهُمْ فِي طَعَامِهِمْ وَشَرَابِهِمْ‏.‏ قَالَ فَقَالَ أَبُو الْقَاسِمِ صلی الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ بَرَكَةٌ بِدَعْوَةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ‏"‏‏.‏ قَالَ ثُمَّ إِنَّهُ بَدَا لإِبْرَاهِيمَ فَقَالَ لأَهْلِهِ إِنِّي مُطَّلِعٌ تَرِكَتِي‏.‏ فَجَاءَ فَوَافَقَ إِسْمَاعِيلَ مِنْ وَرَاءِ زَمْزَمَ، يُصْلِحُ نَبْلاً لَهُ، فَقَالَ يَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ، إِنَّ رَبَّكَ أَمَرَنِي أَنْ أَبْنِيَ لَهُ بَيْتًا ‏ قَالَ أَطِعْ رَبَّكَ‏.‏ قَالَ إِنَّهُ قَدْ أَمَرَنِي أَنْ تُعِينَنِي عَلَيْهِ‏.‏ قَالَ إِذًا أَفْعَلَ‏.‏ أَوْ كَمَا قَالَ‏.‏ قَالَ فَقَامَا فَجَعَلَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ يَبْنِي، وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ يُنَاوِلُهُ الْحِجَارَةَ، وَيَقُولاَنِ{‏ ‏رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ‏{قال حتی ارْتَفَعَ الْبِنَاءُ وَضَعُفَ الشَّيْخُ عن نَقْلِ الْحِجَارَةِ فَقَامَ علی حَجَرِ الْمَقَامِ فَجَعَلَ يُنَاوِلُهُ الْحِجَارَةَ وَيَقُولَانِ {رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أنت السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ{

'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas narrated: "Because of the situation that existed between the wives of Abraham, he went away with Ishmael and his mother. They had a water-skin with water in it. Ishmael's mother kept on drinking from it and offering her bosom to her child [to drink milk] until Abraham reached Makkah. He made her sit below a tree. Abraham then returned to his first wife. Ishmael's mother followed him until when they reached Kada, she called him from behind: 'With whom are you leaving us with O Abraham!' He replied: 'With God.' She said: 'I am happy with God.' She then returned and began drinking from the water skin and offering her bosom to her child until when the water finished she said [to herself]: 'Would that I should go and look around; maybe I can find someone.' So, she set off and climbed the Ṣafa' hill and looked at length if she could find anyone around but she could not. When she reached the valley, she ran and came to the Marwah hill. She ran many times between the two hills. She then said to herself: 'Would that I should now go and see what the child has done.' So, she went and found him in the same condition as if he was close to dying. She became very anxious and said to herself: 'Would that I should go and look around; maybe I can find someone.' So, she set off and climbed the Marwah hill and looked at length if she could find anyone around but she could not until she completed seven rounds. She then said to herself: 'Would that I should now go and see what the child has done.' Suddenly she heard a voice. At this, she said: 'Help [me] if you have any good.' Lo! It was Gabriel who scraped the earth with his heel[1] [and Ibn 'Abbas demonstrated this by scraping his heel.] Water then gushed out. Ishmael's mother was wonderstruck and began digging it. Abu al-Qasim said: 'If she had left the water, it would have flown on the surface of the earth.' Ishmael's mother started drinking from this water and her milk increased for her child. Then some people of the Jurhum tribe passed by the bottom of the valley and suddenly saw birds over it. It was as if they were overcome with disbelief and said: 'Birds can only be found where water is.' So, they sent their messenger to search and he suddenly spotted water. He then came back and informed them. Thereafter, off they went towards it and said: 'Mother of Ishmael! Do you permit us to be with you or live with you?' [The permission was granted and they began living there.] Thus, [after years] her son reached maturity and contracted marriage with a woman who belonged to them. Then it happened that Abraham had a thought. So, he said to his wife [Sarah]: 'I want to go and find out what happened to my dependents [I had left in Makkah].' At this, he came [to the place where Ishmael lived] and paid salutations to his wife and asked her: 'Where is Ishmael?' She replied: 'He has gone for hunting.' Abraham said: 'When he comes, tell him to change the threshold of his door.' So, when Ishmael came, she informed him of this. Ishmael said: 'You are this threshold. Thus go back to your family [because I divorce you].' [Abraham returned and after sometime] it happened that Abraham [again] had a thought. So, he said to his wife [Sarah]: 'I want to go and find out what happened to my dependents [I had left in Makkah].' Thus, he came [to the place where Ishmael lived] and paid salutations to his wife and asked her: 'Where is Ishmael?' She replied: 'He has gone for hunting. Will you not disembark and have food and drink with us?' Abraham replied: 'What is your food and drink?' She said: 'Our food is meat and drink is water.' Abraham prayed to God: 'Lord! Bless their food and drink.' Abu al-Qasim (sws) said: 'Blessings [of Makkah] are because of Abraham's invocation.' Then again a thought came to Abraham and he said to his wife [Sarah]: 'I want to go and find out what happened to my dependents [I had left in Makkah].' So, he came there and found Ishmael straightening his arrow behind Zamzam. Then he said to him: 'O Ishmael! Your Lord has ordered me to make a house for him. Follow your Lord's directive. He has ordered me to seek your help in this.' Ishmael replied: 'Then I will do it,' or whatever he said. So, both got up and Abraham began building the house and Ishmael would hand over stones to him and both would pray: ‏‏رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ‏ ‏‏‏ (Lord! Accept this from us; indeed, you hear and know all). Another narrator said: This happened when the walls of the building had been erected and Abraham, as an old man, could no longer pick the stones for himself. So, he stood on a stone and [now] Ishmael would hand him the stones and both would pray:‏‏ ‏‏رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ‏ ‏‏‏ (Lord! Accept this from us; indeed, you hear and know all)."[2]

III Critical Evaluation

In the following pages, a critical evaluation of both the chain of narration and the text of the narratives will be presented.

A. Criticism on the Chain of Narration

Before critically evaluating the chains of narration of the variants of this narrative, here is their brief summary.

The variants of this narrative have been reported in truncated or complete form by five companions from the Prophet (sws). They are stated here in descending order of proliferation:

i. 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (rta)[3] (d. 68 AH)

ii. Ubayy ibn Ka'b (rta)[4] (d. 18 AH)

iii. Anas ibn Malik (rta)[5] (93 AH)

iv. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (rta)[6] (40 AH)

v. 'Umar ibn Khattab (rta)[7] (23 AH)

Out of these, the ones reported by Anas ibn Malik (rta), 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (rta) and 'Umar ibn Khattab are extremely weak and unreliable.[8]

Scholars have generally accepted the ones reported by 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas[9] (rta) and Ubayy ibn Ka'b (rta) with some observation. It may be noted that in some variants 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (rta) reports directly from the Prophet (sws) and in others he reports these narratives through Ubayy ibn Ka'b (rta). It may further be noted that the latter type of variants are generally truncated in content while the former type have both the truncated and the complete versions.

Some mursal narratives are also recorded. They are reported by:

i. Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab[10] (d. 94 AH)

ii. Sa'id ibn Jubayr[11] (d. 95 AH)

iii. Mujahid ibn Jabr[12] (d. 105 AH)

iv. Wahb ibn Munabbih[13] (d. 114 AH)

v. Muhammad ibn Ishaq[14] (d. 141 AH)

The basic critique on the chain of narration of this narrative is that it cannot be reasonably established if Sa'id ibn Jubayr actually heard this narrative from 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (rta). Shabbir Ahmad Azhar Mayrathi,[15]a celebrated Hadith scholar from the sub-continent observes that in the corpus of hadith literature there are many narratives which Sa'id ibn Jubayr has directly heard from Ibn 'Abbas (rta) and others which he has not directly heard from him but has in fact heard them from people who heard them from Ibn 'Abbas. Whenever Sa'id narrates directly from Ibn 'Abbas (rta), he always specifies this by saying:حدثني ابن عباس (Ibn 'Abbas narrated to me)or سمعت ابن عباس (I heard from Ibn 'Abbas) or أخبرني ابن عباس (Ibn 'Abbas informed me). When he narrates indirectly from Ibn 'Abbas (rta), he either names the person in between eg. حدثني مجاهد عن ابن عباس (Mujahid narrated to me from Ibn 'Abbas) and حدثني عكرمة عن ابن عباس ('Ikramah narrated to me from Ibn 'Abbas) or does not name anyone at all and just says عن ابن عباس (from Ibn 'Abbas). Now as far as the narrative under discussion is concerned, if all its variants are analyzed it will be found that in all of them the words without any exception are عباسعن ابن (from Ibn 'Abbas) which means that Sa'id never heard this narrative directly from Ibn 'Abbas (rta).[16]In all probability, Sa'id heard it from someone who had attributed it to Ibn 'Abbas (rta) and trusting this person, Sa'id ascribed it to Ibn 'Abbas (rta).

What can be presented as another point of critique is also the fact that among the six canonical collections of Hadith, only al-Bukhari has reported this narrative.

B. Criticism on the Text

The basic criticism on this narrative is that it is against the Qur'an on three grounds.

Firstly, it is against the statements of the Qur'an regarding a major event mentioned in it. It can be inferred quite convincingly from the Qur'an that when Abraham (sws) settled Ishmael (sws) in Makkah, he was a grown up boy and not an infant who was being suckled by his mother. Briefly stated, this inference can be made from the following established historical facts stated by the Qur'an.

i. When Abraham (sws) settled Ishmael in Makkah, his younger brother Isaac (sws) had already been born.

ii. Isaac (sws) was born only after Abraham (sws) had offered his son Ishmael (sws) for sacrifice at the behest of the Almighty. The news of his birth was actually given to Abraham (sws) as a reward for his heroic feat.

iii. At the time of sacrifice, Ishmael (sws) was young boy who could run around.

Keeping the above facts in mind, it can be deduced:

a. It follows from ii, iii and iv that the difference in age of the two brothers Ishmael (sws) and Isaac (sws) must have been a good ten or twelve years.

b. It follows from i and a that Ishmael (sws) must have been a young lad when he came to Makkah with his father to settle there.

Here are the Qur'an verses which provide the information from i to iii:

وَ اِذۡ قَالَ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمُ رَبِّ اجۡعَلۡ ہٰذَا الۡبَلَدَ اٰمِنًا وَّ اجۡنُبۡنِیۡ وَ بَنِیَّ اَنۡ نَّعۡبُدَ الۡاَصۡنَامَ . رَبِّ اِنَّہُنَّ اَضۡلَلۡنَ کَثِیۡرًا مِّنَ النَّاسِ ۚ فَمَنۡ تَبِعَنِیۡ فَاِنَّہٗ مِنِّیۡ ۚ وَ مَنۡ عَصَانِیۡ فَاِنَّکَ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِیۡمٌ.رَبَّنَاۤ اِنِّیۡۤ اَسۡکَنۡتُ مِنۡ ذُرِّیَّتِیۡ بِوَادٍ غَیۡرِ ذِیۡ زَرۡعٍ عِنۡدَ بَیۡتِکَ الۡمُحَرَّمِ ۙ رَبَّنَا لِیُـقِیۡمُوا الصَّلٰوۃَ فَاجۡعَلۡ اَفۡئِدَۃً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَہۡوِیۡۤ اِلَیۡہِمۡ وَارۡ زُقۡہُمۡ مِّنَ الثَّمَرٰتِ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَشۡکُرُوۡنَ.رَبَّنَاۤ اِنَّکَ تَعۡلَمُ مَا نُخۡفِیۡ وَ مَا نُعۡلِنُ ؕ وَ مَا یَخۡفٰی عَلَی اللّٰہِ مِنۡ شَیۡءٍ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ وَ لَا فِی السَّمَآءِ .اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ الَّذِیۡ وَہَبَ لِیۡ عَلَی الۡکِبَرِ اِسۡمٰعِیۡلَ وَ اِسۡحٰقَ ؕ اِنَّ رَبِّیۡ لَسَمِیۡعُ الدُّعَآءِ .رَبِّ اجۡعَلۡنِیۡ مُقِیۡمَ الصَّلٰوۃِ وَ مِنۡ ذُرِّیَّتِیۡ ٭ۖ رَبَّنَا وَ تَقَبَّلۡ دُعَآءِ .(14: 35۔39)

Narrate to them the incident when Abraham prayed: "Lord! Make this city a city of peace and distance me and my progeny from worshipping idols. Lord! These idols have led many astray. [They can also lead astray my progeny;] so, he [among them] who follows me is mine and he who disobeyed me, [his matter is consigned to you.] Then You are Forgiving and Ever-Merciful. Lord! I have settled some of my progeny near your sacred House in a barren valley. Lord! that they show diligence in the prayer [in this House]. So, incline the hearts of people towards them and grant them sustenance of fruits so that they may be grateful [to You]. Lord! You know what we conceal and what we reveal. In reality, nothing is hidden from God, neither in the earth nor in the heavens. Gratitude be to God Who has blessed me with Ishmael and Isaac in this old age.[17] (14:35-39)

This is the prayer uttered by Abraham (sws) when he was settling Ishmael (sws) in Makkah. The words of the prayer "gratitude be to God Who has blessed me with Ishmael and Isaac in this old age," clearly say that both Ishmael (sws) and Isaac (sws) had been born by that time.

Now consider the following verses:

فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَہُ السَّعۡیَ قَالَ یٰبُنَیَّ اِنِّیۡۤ اَرٰی فِی الۡمَنَامِ اَنِّیۡۤ اَذۡبَحُکَ فَانۡظُرۡ مَاذَا تَرٰی ؕ قَالَ یٰۤاَبَتِ افۡعَلۡ مَا تُؤۡمَرُ ۫ سَتَجِدُنِیۡۤ اِنۡ شَآءَ اللّٰہُ مِنَ الصّٰبِرِیۡنَ .فَلَمَّاۤ اَسۡلَمَا وَ تَلَّہٗ لِلۡجَبِیۡنِ .وَ نَادَیۡنٰہُ اَنۡ یّٰۤاِبۡرٰہِیۡمُ . قَدۡ صَدَّقۡتَ الرُّءۡیَا ۚ اِنَّا کَذٰلِکَ نَجۡزِی الۡمُحۡسِنِیۡنَ . اِنَّ ہٰذَا لَہُوَ الۡبَلٰٓـؤُا الۡمُبِیۡنُ . وَ فَدَیۡنٰہُ بِذِبۡحٍ عَظِیۡمٍ . وَ تَرَکۡنَا عَلَیۡہِ فِی الۡاٰخِرِیۡنَ . سَلٰمٌ عَلٰۤی اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ . کَذٰلِکَ نَجۡزِی الۡمُحۡسِنِیۡنَ . اِنَّہٗ مِنۡ عِبَادِنَا الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ . وَ بَشَّرۡنٰہُ بِاِسۡحٰقَ نَبِیًّا مِّنَ الصّٰلِحِیۡنَ . (37: 99۔112)

And, when his son was old enough to walk with him, he said: "O my son! I have been seeing in a dream that I am offering you in sacrifice [to Allah]. So look what you think!?" He said: "O my father! Do that which you are commanded, God willing, you shall find me of the patient." Then, when they had both submitted themselves and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead, We called out to him: "O Abraham! You have made the dream a reality." Indeed, thus do We reward the good-doers. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice and We left for him [a goodly remembrance] among the later generations. Peace be upon Abraham! Thus indeed do We reward the good-doers. Verily, he was one of Our believing slaves. And We gave him the glad tidings of Isaac – a Prophet from the righteous. (37:99-112)

It can be seen from the underlined part of these verses (And We gave him the glad tidings of Isaac) that it was after the incident of sacrifice of Ishmael (sws) that Abraham (sws) was given glad tidings of the birth of Isaac (sws). In other words, Isaac (sws) was not even born at the time Ishmael (sws) was offered for sacrifice. Now the opening words of these set of verses show that Ishmael (sws) must have been a budding youngster at the time of the incident of his sacrifice (when his son was old enough to walk with him).

In other words, this would mean that Ishmael (sws) was a young lad who was a fair bit older than Isaac (sws) and can easily be construed that the difference between the two brothers must have been more than 10-12 years. Sinceboth these sons were already born to Abraham (sws) when he settled Ishmael (sws) in Makkah, it would mean that Ishmael (sws) must have been a youth of budding age at that time and not an infant as this narrative alleges.

It may also be noted that this established fact regarding the difference of age between the two brothers as stated by the Qur'an is also endorsed by the Bible: it is evident from the Bible, that Ishmael was fourteen years older to Isaac (sws).[18] Moreover, it becomes evident from an instance from within the Biblical account also that Ishmael could not have been an infant when he was sent off by Abraham (sws) with his mother. It is stated in the Bible (Genesis, 20: 8-14) that this happened after Isaac (sws) had been weaned. It has already been shown earlier that both the Qur'an and the Bible depict Ishmael (sws) to be a budding youngster at the birth of Isaac (sws). So it can well be imagined that Ishmael had advanced a few more years in age when Isaac (sws) was weaned.[19]

It may thus be concluded by all counts that it is historically incorrect that Ishmael (sws) was an infant when he came to Makkah with his mother.

Secondly, the narrative depicts Abraham's (sws) personality in direct contradiction of how the Qur'an mentions him. The narrative portrays Abraham (sws) as a cruel father and husband who left his son and wife all by themselves in the desolate wilderness of Makkah.

In the first instance, he never bothered to carry the burden and the provisions in the journey. It was only Hagar who was left to carry them.

In the second instance, he did not provide them with enough provisions and supplies to survive there.

In the third instance, it is mentioned in some variants[20] that Hagar called to him several times to find out the reason for leaving her and Ishmael (sws) but he never replied. It was only when she herself came up with a probable reason that she was perhaps being left under God's orders did he answer in the affirmative.

In the fourth instance, it was only after a considerable period of time that he thought of visiting them again. This is evident from the fact that the narrative states that Ishmael (sws) had already got married by that time. It is strange that he never thought of visiting them in this whole period from the time he had left Ishmael as a helpless infant to the time he grew up to marriageable age.

How thoroughly unbecoming of a celebrated patriarch praised profusely by the Qur'an. Here are some gleanings:

وَ اتَّخَذَ اللّٰہُ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ خَلِیۡلًا.(125:4)

God had chosen Abraham to be His friend.(4:125)

اِنَّ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ لَحَلِیۡمٌ اَوَّاہٌ مُّنِیۡبٌ.(75:11)

In reality, Abraham was very gracious and very affectionate and one who was very focused towards his Lord. (11:75)

اِنَّ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ کَانَ اُمَّۃً قَانِتًا لِّلّٰہِ حَنِیۡفًا ؕ وَ لَمۡ یَکُ مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِکِیۡنَ.شَاکِرًا لِّاَنۡعُمِہٖ ؕ اِجۡتَبٰہُ وَہَدٰىہُ اِلٰی صِرَاطٍ مُّسۡتَقِیۡمٍ.وَ اٰتَیۡنٰہُ فِی الدُّنۡیَا حَسَنَۃً ؕ وَ اِنَّہٗ فِی الۡاٰخِرَۃِ لَمِنَ الصّٰلِحِیۡنَ.(16: 120۔122)

In reality, Abraham was an ummah [in his own self,] obedient to God and devoted and he was not from among the polytheists. He was grateful for His favours. God chose him and had guided him towards a straight path. We granted him goodness in this world also and in the Hereafter as well also he will be from among the righteous. (16: 120-122)

اِذۡ جَآءَ رَبَّہٗ بِقَلۡبٍ سَلِیۡمٍ.(84:37)

And [Abraham] came to his Lord with a pure heart. (37:84)

وَ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ الَّذِیۡ وَفّٰۤی .(37:53)

And of Abraham, who was befittingly loyal. (53:37)

Can it be expected of a person of his stature to show the unbecoming conduct depicted in the narrative?

Thirdly, a variant[21] says that the reason Abraham (sws) went away with Hagar and Ishmael was some dispute that happened between him and Sarah (لَمَّا كان بين إبراهيم وَبَيْنَ أَهْلِهِ ما كان خَرَجَ بِإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَأُمِّ إِسْمَاعِيلَ). The Qur'an clearly says that this journey took place because of God's directive so that Makkah could be chosen for the birth of a new ummah.

Some other points of questionable provenance that come to mind regarding this narrative are as follows:

i. An anomaly in the narrative is that when Abraham (sws) walked back after leaving Hagar and Ishmael (sws), Hagar followed him. Neither did Abraham (sws) inform her that he was leaving her nor did she ask what was going on until they reached a place called Kida.

ii. While trying to find water in the barren terrain of Arabia, Hagar actually had placed the infant son on the ground when she set off in search of water. At one instance, the narrative says that when Hagar had gone to peep on Ishmael's state, she saw him close to death; even then she proceeded alone to once again find water. Can anyone believe that a loving mother would leave her son to the mercy of the sizzling weather when she goes to look for water? Why would not she have carried him along with her in this search even if she had to bear hardship, as sense and reason entail?

iii. It is strange that Abraham (sws) travelled to his son on two occasions to visit and did not even wait to meet him when he came to know that he had gone for hunting. Instead, left a message for him in a rather cryptic fashion regarding his wife(s). Although it is claimed that he did visit them every month, but no sound proof of this visit is cited.[22]

A Possible Source of the Narrative

If one reads the Biblical and Talmudic narrations of this incident, one can clearly see a nexus between these accounts and the one found in the narrative under discussion. In fact, the narrative seems to be an amalgam of the Biblical and Talmudic accounts, in particular the latter.

This is how this narrative appears in the Bible in the Book of Genesis.

Chapter 16 reads:

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar;so she said to Abram, "The Lordhas kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her."Abram agreed to what Sarai said.So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lordjudge between you and me." "Your slave is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.The angel of the Lordfound Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.And he said, "Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?""I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.Then the angel of the Lordtold her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her."The angel added, "I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count." The angel of the Lord also said to her:"You are now pregnantand you will give birth to a son.You shall name him Ishmael,for the Lordhas heard of your misery.He will be a wild donkey of a man;his hand will be against everyoneand everyone's hand against him,and he will live in hostilitytoward all his brothers."She gave this name to the Lordwho spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me."That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Chapter 21 reads:

Now the Lordwas gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him.Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me."And she added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast.But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking,and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac."The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring."Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes.Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there, she began to sob.God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation."Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt..

Here is how this narrative appears in the Talmud:[23]

"AND the Lord visited Sarah and she bore a son unto Abraham in his old age."

When Isaac was born Abraham prepared a great feast in his honour, and invited thereto all the chiefs and men of birth and position who were his neighbours, such as Abimelech and the captains of his armies. Therach, Abraham's father, and Nahor, his brother, journeyed also from Charan to join in the festivities, and Shem with Eber, his son, were likewise of the party. They were all hearty in their congratulations, and Abraham's heart was full with gladness.

Ishmael, the son of Hagar and Abraham, was very fond of hunting and field sports. He carried his bow with him at all times, and upon one occasion, when Isaac was about five years of age, Ishmael aimed his arrow at the child, crying, "Now I am going to shoot thee." Sarah witnessed this action, and fearing for the life of her son, and disliking the child of her handmaid, she made many complaints to Abraham of the boy's doings, and urged him to dismiss both Hagar and Ishmael from his tent, and send them to live at some other place.

For some time Ishmael lived with his mother in the wilderness of Paran, always indulging in his great passion for hunting; then they journeyed to Egypt, where Ishmael married, and where four sons and a daughter were born to him. But soon he returned to his favourite home in the wilderness, building there tents for himself, his people and his family, for God had blessed him, and he was the master of large flocks and herds.

And it came to pass after many years that Abraham, yielding to a longing which had always possessed him, determined to visit his son, and informing Sarah of his intention he started off alone upon a camel.

He reached Ishmael's dwelling-place about noontime, and found that his son was away from home, hunting. He was rudely treated by Ishmael's wife, who did not know him, and who refused him the bread and water which he asked for. Therefore he said to her, "When thy husband returns say thus to him, describing my appearance, An old man from the land of the Philistines came to our door during thy absence, and he said to me, when thy husband returns, tell him to remove the nail which he has driven in his tent and to replace it with one more worthy," with which words Abraham rode away.

When Ishmael returned home his wife related to him the occurrence, describing the man and repeating his words, and Ishmael knew that his father had visited him and been treated with disrespect. For which cause Ishmael divorced his wife, and married a maiden from the land of Canaan.

Some three years after this Abraham again visited his son's tent, and again his son was away from home; but his wife was pleasant and hospitable, and begged the stranger, whom she did not know, to alight from his camel, and she set before him bread and meat. Therefore he said to her, "When thy husband returns, describe to him my appearance, and say, 'This old man came to thee from the land of the Philistines, and this message he left for thee: the nail which thou hast driven in thy tent is good and worthy, see that it is properly esteemed;" and blessing Ishmael and his family, Abraham returned to his home.

When Ishmael returned he was much pleased to hear his father's message, and he thanked God for a good and worthy wife, and after a time he and his family visited Abraham, and remained with him in the land of the Philistines for many days.

Although there are some minor discrepancies in these accounts with that of the narrative under discussion, a discerning mind can clearly see how these accounts could have become the source of the content of this narrative.

IV Conclusion

It is evident from the forgoing analysis that the narrative under discussion is not only against the Qur'an and some precepts of common sense but also has a questionable ascription to 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (rta) who allegedly reports it from the Prophet (sws).

Moreover, it is likely that this narrative has originated from the Biblical and Talmudic accounts and thus, as suspected by Ibn Kathir,[24] is from among the genre of isra'iliyat.

[1]. A variant says that this was because Ishmael (sws) rubbed his heel on the ground. It may be noted that though this has become more famous yet variants which depict what is mentioned in the above cited narrative abound. For the exceptional variant, see: Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan 'an ta'wil Ay al-Qur'an, 1st ed., vol. 13 (Beirut: Dar ihya' al-turath al-'arabi, 2001), 230.

[2]. Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn Isma'il al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-ṣahih, 3rd ed., vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1987), 1230, (no. 3185).

[3]. Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-ṣahih, vol. 3, 1230, (no. 3185). See also: Ibid., vol. 3, 1227-1229, (no. 3184); Ibid., vol. 2, 834, (no. 2239); Ibid., vol. 3, 1226, (no. 3183); Abu 'AbdullahAhmad ibn Hanbalal-Shaybani, Musnad, vol. 1 (Cairo: Mu'assasah al-Qurtubah, n.d.), 347, (no. 3250); Ibid., vol. 1, 360, (no. 3390);Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Beirut: Dar Khidr, 1414 AH), 6, (no.1049); Ibid., vol. 2, 6, (no. 1051); Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah Ahmad al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 2 (Beirut: Dar al-Undulus, 1996), 39-41; Ibid., vol. 1, 57-60; Abu al-Qasim 'Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn'Asakir, Tarikh Madinah Dimashq, vol. 7 (Beirut: Dar al-fikr, 1995), 145; Abu 'Abd al-Rahman Ahmad ibn Shu'ayb al-Nasa'i, Al-Sunan al-kubra, 1st ed., vol. 5 (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 1991), 99, (no. 8378); Ibid., vol. 5, 100, (no. 8379); Ibid., vol. 5, 101, (no. 8380); Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Bayhaqi, Al-Sunanal-kubra, vol. 5 (Makkah: Maktabah dar al-Baz, 1994), 98, (no. 9153); Abd al-Razzaq ibn Hammam al-Ṣan'ani, Muṣannaf, vol. 5 (Beirut: Al-Maktab al-islami, 1403 AH),105-111, (no. 9107);Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Bayhaqi, Shu'ab al-iman, 1st ed., vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 1410 AH), 458-459, (no. 4064); Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Bayhaqi,Dala'il al-nubuwwah, 2nd ed. vol. 2 (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 2002), 46-49; Abu 'Abd al-Rahman Ahmad ibn Shu'ayb al-Nasa'i, Fada'il al-ṣahabah, 1st ed. (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 1405 AH), 82-83, (no. 273); Ibid., 83-84, (no. 274); Al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan, vol. 1, 154-156; Ibid., vol. 13, 229-232; Abu al-Faraj 'Abd al-Rahman 'Ali ibn Muhammad ibnal-Jawzi, Al-Muntaẓam fi tarikh al-muluk wa al-umam, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar ṣadir, 1358 AH); 266-268; Abu al-Fada' Isma'il ibn 'Umar ibnKathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-nihayah, vol. 1 (Beirut: Maktabah al-ma'arif, n.d.), 154-156; Abu al-Fadl Ahmad ibn 'Ali ibnHajar al-'Asqalani, Taghliq al-ta'liq, 1st ed., vol. 4 (Beirut: Dar 'ammar, 1405 AH), 16, (no. 3362); Ibid., vol. 4, 16, (no. 3363); Ibid., vol. 4, 16, (no. 3364).

[4]. Abu Hatim Muhammad ibn Hibban al-Busti, Ṣahih, 2nd ed., vol. 9 (Beirut: Mu'assasah al-risalah, 1993), 26, (no. 3713); 'Ali ibn Abi Bakr al-Haythami, Mawarid al-ẓam'an ila zawa'id ibn Hibban (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, n.d.), 254, (no. 1028); Aslam ibn Sahl al-Wasiti, Tarikh Wasit, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: 'Alam al-kitab, 1406 AH), 149; Ahmad ibn Ibrahim ibn Isma'il al-Isma'ili, Al-Mu'jam fi Asami Shuyukh, 1st ed., vol. 3 (Madinah: Maktabah 'ulum wa al-hikam, 1410 AH), 773, (no. 385); 'Abd al-Qadir ibn 'Umaral-Baghdadi, Tarikh Baghdad, vol. 13 (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, n.d.), 55, (no. 7027); Ibn'Asakir, Tarikh Madinah Dimashq, vol. 70, 145; al-Fakihi, Tarikh Makkah, vol. 2, 6, (no. 1050); Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn 'Amr ibn al-Ḍahhak al-Shaybani, Al-Ahad wa al-mathani, 1st ed. vol. 3 (Riyad: Dar al-rayah, 1991), 266-267; al-Nasa'i, Al-Sunan al-kubra, vol. 5, 99, (no. 8376); Ibid., vol. 5, 99, (no. 8377); Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahid ibn Ahmad al-Maqdisi, Al-Ahadith al-mukhtarah, 1st ed., vol. 3 (Makkah: Maktabah al-nahdah al-hadithah, 1410 AH), 413, (no. 1210); Ibid., vol. 3, 413-415, (no. 1211); Abu al-Qasim 'Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn al-Marzuban ibn Sabur ibn Shahinshah al-Baghawi, Mu'jam al-ṣahabah, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Kuwait: Dar al-bayan, 2000), 10-11, (no. 7).

[5]. Al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 2, 8, (no. 1053); Ibn'Asakir, Tarikh Madinah Dimashq, vol. 70, 145.

[6]. Al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 1, 60-61; Al-Fakihi, Tarikh Makkah, vol. 2,7, (no. 1052).

[7]. Al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 2, 8-9, (no. 1054).

[8]. In the narrative reported by Anas ibn Malik, all variants are reported from him by Sa'id ibn Maysarah who is extremely weak and in the opinion of al-Hakim he fabricates narratives from Anas ibn Malik. For details see: 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Idris ibnAbi Hatim, Al-Jarh wa al-ta'dil. 1st ed., vol. 4 (Beirut: Dar al-ihya' al-turath al-'arabi, 1952), 63; Abu 'Abdullah Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn 'Uthman ibn Qayamaz ibn 'Abdullah al-Dhahabi, Mizan al-i'tidal fi naqd al-rijal, 1st ed., vol. 3 (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyyah, 1995), 233.

In the narrative reported by 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, all variants contain 'Uthman ibn 'Amr ibn Saj and Muhammad ibn Aban ibn Ṣalih. Both these narrators are extremely weak. For details on 'Uthman ibn 'Amr, see: Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf ibn al-Zaki al-Mizzi, Tahdhib al-kamal fi asma' al-rijal, 1st ed., vol. 19 (Beirut: Mu'assasah al-risalah, 1980), 468. For details on Muhammad ibn Aban, see: al-Dhahabi, Mizan al-i'tidal, vol. 6, 41.

The narrative reported by 'Umar ibn Khattabis not only broken, it also has 'Uthman ibn 'Amr ibn Saj.

[9]. It may be noted that all variants cited by al-Bukhari are by Ibn 'Abbas (rta). Yet there exists a disrepancy in these variants. See: Abu 'Ali al-Ghassani al-Jayani, Kitab al-tanbih 'ala al-awham al-waqi'ah fi al-musnad al-ṣahih li al-Bukhari, 1st ed. (Al-Dar Al-Bayda': Maktabah al-najah al-jadidah, 1998), 125-144 . However, after citing the details, Ghassani (d. 498 AH) has dismissed this discrepancy. Commentators of al-Bukhari like Ibn Hajar (d. 852 AH) and 'Ayni (d. 855 AH) have followed suit in this dismissal. See: IbnHajar, Abu al-Fadl Ahmad ibn 'Ali al-'Asqalani, Fathal-Bari, vol. 6 (Beirut: Dar al-ma'rifah, 1379 AH), 400; Badr al-Din Mahmud ibn Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Ahmad al-'Ayni, 'Umdah al-qari sharh Ṣahih al-Bukhari, vol. 15 (Beirut: Dar ihya al-turath al-'arabi, n.d.), 252.

[10]. Al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 2, 5, (no. 1048).

[11]. Al-Bayhaqi,Dala'il al-nubuwwah, vol. 2, 46-52.

[12]. Al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 2, 10-11, (no. 1058); al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 1, 54; Ibid., vol. 1, 60.

[13]. Al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 2, 9, (no. 1055).

[14]. Al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 1, 56.

[15]. Shabbir Ahmad Aẓhar Mayrathi, Ṣahih Bukhari ka mutala'ah, 1st ed., vol.1 (Lahore: Dar al-tazkir, 2005), 20-21.

[16]. The only exception is a narrative recorded twice by al-Azraqi in his Tarikh Makkah (vol. 1, 58-59; vol. 2, 39). However, what casts doubt on this non-mu'an'an narrative is the presence of another narrative with exactly the same chain of narration which is mu'an'an (vol. 1, 57).

[17]. This and subsequent Qur'anic verses are translations from Al-Bayan.

[18]. This is evident from the following statements:

Abraham was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. (Genesis, 16:16)

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. (Genesis, 21:5)

[19]. Ibn Kathir has argued that according to the Bible Abraham (sws) and Ishmael (sws) were circumcised on the same day. This was when the latter was thirteen years old because according to the Bible, Abraham (sws) was 99 (Genesis, 17:24) at the time of circumcision and Ishmael had been born to him when was 86 years old (Genesis, 16:16)). It was after this circumcision that he had been sent off with his mother. Then how could Ishmael have been a suckling infant? See: Abu al-Fada' Isma'il ibn 'Umar ibnKathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-nihayah, vol. 1(Beirut: Maktabah al-ma'arif, n.d.), 156.

[20]. See, for example: Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-ṣahih, vol.3, 1227, (no. 3184);Al-Nisa'i, Al-Sunan al-kubra, vol. 5, 100, (no. 8379).

[21]. See, for example: Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-ṣahih, vol.3, 1230, (no. 3185).

[22]. See, for example: Al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah, vol. 5, 121, (no. 4)

[23].The Talmud (Selections), Trans. H. Polano (London: Frederick Warne & Co, n.d.), 52-54.

[24].Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-nihayah, vol. 1, 156.

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