~ connecting lives ~
The history of the Muslim peoples according to the Bible, therefore, begins with the prophet Abraham and his descendants through Ishmael, his firstborn son.
Abraham's first born son by Hagar the Egyptian was Ishmael. It's in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 16:15, RSV. “And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.”
Abraham was given a special promise that the descendants of Ishmael would start and become a great nation. It's in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 17:20, RSV. “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”
His name (Ishmael) was given by God through the angel, and stands as a perpetual reminder of God's mercy. Ishmael means “God hears” — and understands, and will respond in times of need. It's in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 16:7-11, RSV. “The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her.’ The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’ And the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael; because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.’”
Again when Hagar and Ishmael were moving to Arabia the angel appeared to her. It's in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 21:17-21, RSV. “And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; [northern Arabia] and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.”
Although the Bible doesn't specifically say when Islam began, let's explore the following. The descendants of Ishmael and the other sons of Abraham through Keturah were given the eastern country and are referred to as the children or people of the east. They are the progenitors of the Arabs. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, traces the starting of his lineage back to Ishmael through his first born son, Nebaioth. It's in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 25:6,12-18, RSV. “But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country." "These are the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's maid, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the first-born of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.
These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes. (These are the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty-seven years; he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his kindred.) They dwelt from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria; he settled over against all his people.” The areas noted here in verse 18 are located in Central and Northern Arabia.
There is evidence of a spiritual partnership between the sons of Abraham through Isaac (the Jews) and the sons of Abraham through Ishmael (the Arabs and the prophet of Islam, Muhammad). Ishmael and Isaac together buried their father Abraham. It's in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 25:7-10, RSV. “These are the days of the years of Abraham's life, a hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael, his sons, buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field which Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife.”
Ishmaelites (the descendants of Ishmael had become traders in spices) rescue Joseph (a son of Jacob, son of Isaac). It's in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 37:25 & 28, RSV. “Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt… and they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver; and they took Joseph to Egypt.”
This rescuing of Joseph by the Ishmaelites and taking him to Egypt was part of God's plan. It's in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 45:5-7, RSV. “So Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, I pray you." And they came near. And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.”