Ishmael or Isaac? The Koran or the Bible?

Did Abraham offer Ishmael or Isaac? The Bible and the Koran differ on this issue. Which book is really divine revelation? Does it matter?
By Jason Jackson | Christian Courier

No narration available

The Islamic holiday, Qurbani Id (or Id Al-Adha), is known as the “Sacrifice Festival.” Muslims celebrate this “great feast of sacrifice” on the tenth day of the last month of the Muslim year. According to their doctrinal scheme, this day celebrates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son by Hagar, Ishmael.

If you remember the Old Testament account, you will be somewhat perplexed. Was not Isaac the one whom God instructed Abraham to offer? The difference is this. Christians accept the testimony of the Bible. Muslims reject the Bible and believe the Koran (or Qur’an) contains the inspired, uncorrupted record. Who is right?

Although the Koran does not name the child whom Abraham was to sacrifice, Muslims believe it was Ishmael, and they believe that idea is supported by the Koran. One Muslim scholar, after citing a number texts from the Koran, concludes:

It is quite clear that Ishmael was the son to be sacrificed and not Isaac, peace be upon both of them. We also saw how corrupt the Bible is. The Bible is not reliable. It was badly tampered with by man’s alterations and narrations, that we no longer can tell which parts of it are the True Living Words of GOD Almighty, and which aren’t.

Ishmael was 13 years older than Isaac, and Abraham loved GOD Almighty very much that he wanted to sacrifice his own son for Him. If Ishmael’s name represents Abraham’s gratefulness to GOD Almighty after a desperate long wait to have a son, then it makes perfect sense that Abraham wanted to sacrifice Ishmael to GOD Almighty by giving Him the most precious thing he ever had. (

The issue is not so “who” is right, as if it were a personal dispute between two “classes” of people. The matter is not one of personalities, culture, or race. The issue is this: Which record contains the true, historical account? Will we believe the Bible, which names Isaac, or the claims of Muslim scholars who infer the name of the son from the Koran?

Some would contend that this is the kind of disagreement that never will be settled. Christians will accept the Bible. Muslims will side with the Koran. The discussion comes down to a “your-word-against-mine” type of argument — at least in the eyes of some.

But the issue is more fundamental than that. The question is really this: Which book is the revelation of God? Both volumes claim inspiration, but obviously both cannot be inspired. The difference of “Isaac versus Ishmael” is just one of hundreds of discrepancies between the Bible and the Koran. And many of these differences concern crucial themes (e.g., the nature of God, the identity of Christ, and God’s plan of salvation).

Before one commits to a system of religion, it is necessary to inquire into the source of that religion. If the Bible is from heaven, then Christianity is the true religion. If the Koran is from God, then Islam is the genuine system.

Concerning the Bible, we observe that it is made up of a sort of “DNA code” — a set of traits that identifies it as being from God. There are a number of identifying characteristics that reveal the Bible’s divine origin.

The Scriptures, although recorded by approximately forty human writers, over a period of some 1500 years, contain an amazing unity of purpose and doctrine. This includes many prophecies, i.e., detailed predictions, that are later fulfilled perfectly. Although challenged by the most renowned skeptics, the Bible is found to be without error. It has been vindicated countless times. Men are ever trying to “catch up” with the Scriptures.

But the Koran, despite its claims, lacks the marks of divine revelation. Its sub-standard treatment of women is no secret to anyone familiar with Islam. The book contains numerous historical inaccuracies and anachronisms, i.e., the chronological misplacement of persons, events, etc. Here is one example:

In relating the events of the exodus and the wilderness wandering, the Koran says, “They disbelieved the signs of God, and slew the Prophets unjustly” (cf. Sura 25:57-61). Who were “the Prophets” in the wilderness? That expression,“the Prophets,” usually designates a special ministry of servants who lived at a later time in Israel’s history. J. M. Rodwell notes: “This passage [Sura 25:59] is one of the numerous anachronisms which abound in the Koran and prove the gross ignorance of the Arabian prophet” (Rodwell, J.M., trans. The Koran, Everyman’s Library. New York: Dutton, 1909, p. 344).

Before us are two books. One is flawless and divine. It is the Bible. The other, the Koran, is error-ridden, the product of a self-styled prophet, who was no prophet at all. One encourages us to love our enemies; the other promotes conversion by force and Jihad —“holy war.”

The Bible records that Abraham was willing to offer Isaac. The Koran, Muslim scholars claim, implies that Abraham was willing to offer Ishmael. The issue is: Which volume is God’s? God’s book is perfect, with a high moral tone. It is filled with marks of divine inspiration that are beyond the possibility of human production. That book is the Holy Bible.