Two Qur’anic proofs that Ismaa’eel is the sacrificed son: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following clarifying explanation in his tafsir of surah al-Saffaat:

قوله تعالى : وقال إني ذاهب إلى ربي سيهدين رب هب لي من الصالحين فبشرناه بغلام حليم ، إلى قوله تعالى : وفديناه بذبح عظيم . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَقَالَ إِنِّي ذَاهِبٌ إِلَىٰ رَ‌بِّي سَيَهْدِينِ * رَ‌بِّ هَبْ لِي مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ * فَبَشَّرْ‌نَاهُ بِغُلَامٍ حَلِيمٍ

And [then] he said, “Indeed, I will go to [where I am ordered by] my Lord; He will guide me. * My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous.” * So We gave him good tidings of a forbearing boy.

Until His saying:

وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ

And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice [37:99-107]

اعلم أولا : أن العلماء اختلفوا في هذا الغلام الذي أمر إبراهيم في المنام بذبحه ، ومعلوم أن رؤيا الأنبياء وحي ، ثم لما باشر عمل ذبحه امتثالا للأمر ، فداه الله بذبح عظيم ، هل هو إسماعيل أو إسحاق ؟ وقد وعدنا في سورة ” الحجر ” ، بأنا نوضح ذلك بالقرآن في سورة ” الصافات ” ، وهذا وقت إنجاز الوعد . ـ

Firstly, know that the scholars have differed regarding this boy whom Ibrahim was commanded in his sleep to sacrifice, and it is well known that the dreams of the prophets are wahyi (Divine revelation). Then when he was proceeding to do the act of his sacrifice in compliance with the command, Allah ransomed him with a great sacrifice – so was this Ismaa’eel or Ishaaq? And we had promised in [the tafsir of] surah al-Hijr that we would clarify this issue by means of the Qur’an in surah al-Saffaat, and now this is the time to fulfill that promise.

اعلم ، وفقني الله وإياك ، أن القرآن العظيم قد دل في موضعين ، على أن الذبيح هو إسماعيل لا إسحاق . أحدهما في ” الصافات ” ، والثاني في ” هود ” . ـ

Know – may Allah grant me success, and you – that the Magnificent Qur’an has demonstrated in two places that the sacrificed one is Ismaa’eel and not Ishaaq. One of these places is in surah al-Saffaat, and the second is in surah Hood.

أما دلالة آيات ” الصافات ” على ذلك ، فهي واضحة جدا من سياق الآيات ، وإيضاح ذلك أنه تعالى قال عن نبيه إبراهيم وقال إني ذاهب إلى ربي سيهدين رب هب لي من الصالحين فبشرناه بغلام حليم فلما بلغ معه السعي قال يابني إني أرى في المنام أني أذبحك فانظر ماذا ترى قال ياأبت افعل ما تؤمر ستجدني إن شاء الله من الصابرين فلما أسلما وتله للجبين وناديناه أن ياإبراهيم قد صدقت الرؤيا إنا كذلك نجزي المحسنين إن هذا لهو البلاء المبين وفديناه بذبح عظيم وتركنا عليه في الآخرين سلام على إبراهيم كذلك نجزي المحسنين [ 37 \ 99 – 110 ] ، قال بعد ذلك عاطفا على البشارة الأولى : وبشرناه بإسحاق نبيا من الصالحين [ 37 \ 112 ] ، فدل ذلك على أن البشارة الأولى شيء غير المبشر به في الثانية ; لأنه لا يجوز حمل كتاب الله على أن معناه : فبشرناه بإسحاق ، ثم بعد انتهاء قصة ذبحه يقول أيضا : وبشرناه بإسحاق ، فهو تكرار لا فائدة فيه ينزه عنه كلام الله ، وهو واضح في أن الغلام المبشر به أولا الذي فدي بالذبح العظيم ، هو إسماعيل ، وأن البشارة بإسحاق نص الله عليها مستقلة بعد ذلك . ـ

As for the proof for this in the ayaat of surah al-Saffaat, then it is very clear from the context of these ayaat, and the clarity of that is that Allah said about His prophet Ibrahim:

وَقَالَ إِنِّي ذَاهِبٌ إِلَى رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ * رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ * فَبَشَّرْنَاهُ بِغُلَامٍ حَلِيمٍ * فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَابُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَى فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَى قَالَ يَاأَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ * فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ * وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَنْ يَاإِبْرَاهِيمُ * قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّؤْيَا إِنَّا كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ * إِنَّ هَذَا لَهُوَ الْبَلَاءُ الْمُبِينُ * وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ * وَتَرَكْنَا عَلَيْهِ فِي الْآخِرِينَ * سَلَامٌ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ * كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ

And [then] he said, “Indeed, I will go to [where I am ordered by] my Lord; He will guide me. * My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous.” * So We gave him good tidings of a forbearing boy. * And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.” * And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, * We called to him, “O Ibrahim, * You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. * Indeed, this was the clear trial. * And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, * And We left for him [favorable mention] among later generations: * “Peace upon Ibrahim.” * Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. [37:99-110]

And after that and in addition to the first glad tidings He said:

وَبَشَّرْ‌نَاهُ بِإِسْحَاقَ نَبِيًّا مِّنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

And We gave him good tidings of Ishaaq, a prophet from among the righteous. [37:112]

So that proves that the first glad tidings were something other than what was being given in the second instance, for it is not permissible for the Book of Allah to be interpreted here [i.e. 37:101] to mean that “so We gave him glad tidings of Ishaaq” and then to say again after concluding the story of the sacrificed one, “and We gave him glad tidings of Ishaaq” [37:112], for that would be a repetition which contains no benefit – which is something that the Speech of Allah is free of. And it is clear therein that the boy for whom glad tidings were initially given and who was ransomed with a great sacrifice is Ismaa’eel, and that the glad tidings of Ishaaq were appointed by Allah to occur in the future after that.

وقد أوضحنا في سورة ” النحل ” ، في الكلام على قوله تعالى : من عمل صالحا من ذكر أو أنثى وهو مؤمن فلنحيينه حياة طيبة الآية [ 16 \ 97 ] ، أن المقرر في الأصول : أن [ ص: 318 ] النص من كتاب الله وسنة رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، إذا احتمل التأسيس والتأكيد معا وجب حمله على التأسيس ، ولا يجوز حمله على التأكيد ، إلا لدليل يجب الرجوع إليه . ـ

And in surah al-Nahl during our discussion of Allah’s statement:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ‌ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَ‌هُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do. [16:97]

we have clarified that it is well-established in terms of usool that if a text of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His messenger (ﷺ) are able to carry both a meaning of providing new information or of reaffirming previously-stated information, then it is obligatory to interpret it as providing new information and it is not permissible to interpret it as reaffirming previously-stated information except in the presence of an evidence which necessitates referring back to something previously stated.[1]

ومعلوم في اللغة العربية ، أن العطف يقتضي المغايرة ، فآية ” الصافات ” هذه ، دليل واضح للمنصف على أن الذبيح إسماعيل لا إسحاق ، ويستأنس لهذا بأن المواضع التي ذكر فيها إسحاق يقينا عبر عنه في كلها بالعلم لا الحلم ، وهذا الغلام الذبيح وصفه بالحلم لا العلم . ـ

And it is known in the Arabic language that placing two nouns near to one another entails their being differentiated, so this ayah of surah al-Saffaat is a clear proof for the impartial person that the sacrificed son is Ismaa’eel and not Ishaaq. And that position is supported upon consideration of the fact that when Ishaaq is mentioned, then without fail it is designating him in every instance with ‘ilm (knowledge) and not hilm (forbearance), but this sacrificed boy is described with hilm and not ‘ilm.

وأما الموضع الثاني الدال على ذلك الذي ذكرنا أنه في سورة ” هود ” ، فهو قوله تعالى : وامرأته قائمة فضحكت فبشرناها بإسحاق ومن وراء إسحاق يعقوب [ 11 \ 71 ] ; لأن رسل الله من الملائكة بشرتها بإسحاق ، وأن إسحاق يلد يعقوب ، فكيف يعقل أن يؤمر إبراهيم بذبحه ، وهو صغير ، وهو عنده علم يقين بأنه يعيش حتى يلد يعقوب . ـ

And as for the second place which demonstrates this point that we mentioned, it is in surah Hood, and it is Allah’s statement:

وَامْرَ‌أَتُهُ قَائِمَةٌ فَضَحِكَتْ فَبَشَّرْ‌نَاهَا بِإِسْحَاقَ وَمِن وَرَ‌اءِ إِسْحَاقَ يَعْقُوبَ

And his Wife was standing, and she smiled. Then We gave her good tidings of Ishaaq and after Ishaaq, Ya’qoob. [11:71]

Because the angelic messengers of Allah gave them glad tidings of Ishaaq, and that Ishaaq would bear Ya’qoob, so how could it be reasonably thought by Ibrahim that he was commanded to sacrifice him while he was only a small boy and while Ibrahim had certain knowledge that Ishaaq would live long enough to bear Ya’qoob?

فهذه الآية أيضا دليل واضح على ما ذكرنا ، فلا ينبغي للمنصف الخلاف في ذلك بعد دلالة هذه الأدلة القرآنية على ذلك ، والعلم عند الله تعالى . ـ

So this ayah is also a clear proof of what we have mentioned, so it is not befitting for an impartial person to differ in this after the evidence of these Qur’anic proofs has been brought regarding this. And the knowledge is with Allah, the Most High.[2]

[Adhwaa’ al-Bayaan 6/318-319]

[1] Translator’s Note: Imam al-Shinqitee further elucidates this point elsewhere in his tafsir where he clarified:

التأسيس يقدم على التأكيد وهو محل الشاهد ; كقوله : فبأي [ ص: 443 ] آلاء ربكما تكذبان [ 55 \ 59 ، 61 ، 63 ، 65 ، 67 ، 69 ، 71 ، 73 ، 75 ] ، في ( سورة الرحمن ) ، وقوله : ويل يومئذ للمكذبين [ 77 \ 19 ، 24 ، 28 ، 34 ، 37 ، 40 ، 45 ، 47 ، 49 ] ، ( في المرسلات ) . قيل : تكرار اللفظ فيهما توكيد ، وكونه تأسيسا أرجح لما ذكرنا . فتحمل الآلاء في كل موضع على ما تقدم . قيل : لفظ ذلك التكذيب فلا يتكرر منها لفظ . وكذا يقال في ( سورة المرسلات ) فيحمل على المكذبين بما ذكر ، قيل كل لفظ إلخ . ـ

The function of providing new information is given precedence over reaffirming previously stated information, and there are a number of places which show this, such as His statement in surah al-Rahman:

فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَ‌بِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ

So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?

and His statement in surah al-Mursalaat:

وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِّلْمُكَذِّبِينَ

Woe, that Day, to the deniers.

It is said that the repetition of these statements in these two surahs is for the purpose of affirmation, but the position that it occurs for the function of providing new information is more correct according to what we are mentioning. So in each instance the word ‘the favors‘ bears the meaning of what it precedes. And it is said that that phrase of denial is not a phrase of repetition. And likewise in the case of surah al-Mursalaat that the deniers are interpreted as being in reference to what is mentioned, so it is said regarding every phrase until the end.

فإذا علمت ذلك فاعلم – أنا إن حملنا الحياة الطيبة في الآية على الحياة الدنيا كان ذلك تأسيسا . وإن حملناها على حياة الجنة تكرر ذلك مع قوله بعده : ولنجزينهم أجرهم الآية [ 16 \ 97 ] ; لأن حياة الجنة الطيبة هي أجرهم الذي يجزونه . ـ

So if you know that, then know that if I interpret “the good life” in this ayah [16:97] to refer to the life of this dunya, then that is the function of providing new information. And if we interpret it to refer to the life of al-Jannah, then that is repeated with His statement following it, “and We will surely give them their reward according to the best of what they used to do” [16:97] – because the life of al-Jannah is good (already, by its nature), that is their reward with which they will be rewarded.

وقال أبو حيان في ( البحر ) : والظاهر من قوله تعالى : فلنحيينه حياة طيبة [ 16 \ 97 ] ، أن ذلك في الدنيا ; وهو قول الجمهور . ويدل عليه قوله : ولنجزينهم أجرهم [ 16 \ 97 ] ، يعني في الآخرة . ـ

And Abu Hayyaan said in al-Bahr, “What is apparent from His statement, ‘We will surely cause him to live a good life‘ is that this is in regards to the dunya, and this is the majority position.’ And His statement, “and We will surely give them their reward” – meaning in the Hereafter – proves that.

[Adhwaa’ al-Bayaan 2/443-444]

[2] Translator’s Note: Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir brings a similar discussion in more condescended form in his famous book of tafsir, quoted and translated below. Although the contents are largely similar to Imam al-Shinqitee’s discussion above, Ibn Kathir’s presentation of the same points here is more direct and is hoped to further benefit the interested reader. In his tafsir of surah al-Saffaat he wrote:

وقد ذهب جماعة من أهل العلم إلى أن الذبيح هو إسحاق ، وحكي ذلك عن طائفة من السلف ، حتى نقل عن بعض الصحابة أيضا ، وليس ذلك في كتاب ولا سنة ، وما أظن ذلك تلقي إلا عن أحبار أهل الكتاب ، وأخذ ذلك مسلما من غير حجة . ـ

A group of the people of knowledge have held the opinion that the sacrificed one is Ishaaq, and that has been narrated from a party of the salaf such that it has even been transmitted from some of the sahaabah as well – however this is neither in the Book nor in the Sunnah, and I don’t think that they received this idea from anywhere other than the religious scholars of the Ahl al-Kitaab, and they accepted it uncritically without any proof.

وهذا كتاب الله شاهد ومرشد إلى أنه إسماعيل ، فإنه ذكر البشارة بالغلام الحليم ، وذكر أنه الذبيح ، ثم قال بعد ذلك : ( وبشرناه بإسحاق نبيا من الصالحين ) . ولما بشرت الملائكة إبراهيم بإسحاق قالوا : ( إنا نبشرك بغلام عليم ) [ الحجر : 53 ] . ـ

But this Book of Allah is a witness and a guide to the fact that it was Ismaa’eel, for He makes mention of glad tidings of a forbearing boy, and mentions that this one was the sacrificed one, then after that He said:

وَبَشَّرْ‌نَاهُ بِإِسْحَاقَ نَبِيًّا مِّنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

And We gave him good tidings of Ishaaq, a prophet from among the righteous. [37:112]

But when the angels gave Ibrahim the glad tidings of Ishaaq, they said:

إِنَّا نُبَشِّرُ‌كَ بِغُلَامٍ عَلِيمٍ

Indeed, we give you good tidings of a learned boy [15:53]

وقال تعالى : ( فبشرناها بإسحاق ومن وراء إسحاق يعقوب ) [ هود : 71 ] ، أي : يولد له في حياتهما ولد يسمى يعقوب ، فيكون من ذريته عقب ونسل . وقد قدمنا هناك أنه لا يجوز بعد هذا أن يؤمر بذبحه وهو صغير ; لأن الله [ تعالى ] قد وعدهما بأنه سيعقب ، ويكون له نسل ، فكيف يمكن بعد هذا أن يؤمر بذبحه صغيرا ، وإسماعيل وصف هاهنا بالحليم ; لأنه مناسب لهذا المقام .ـ

And Allah said:

فَبَشَّرْ‌نَاهَا بِإِسْحَاقَ وَمِن وَرَ‌اءِ إِسْحَاقَ يَعْقُوبَ

then We gave her good tidings of Ishaaq and after Ishaaq, Ya’qoob [11:71]

– meaning a son would be born to him during his lifetime and he would be named Ya’qoob, so he would be one of his progeny in offspring and lineage. And we have already made the point that in light of this it is not possible that Ibrahim would be commanded to make a sacrifice of him while he was still young because had already promised the two of them that he would have progeny and that it would be his lineage, so after all this how could it be that he was commanded to sacrifice him while he was still a youth? And Ismaa’eel is characterized here with forbearance, and that is more appropriate for this situation.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 7/27-28]

See also: What is the wisdom of abrogating a command before it can be acted on?: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: “And mention in the Book, Ismaa’eel”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The Du’a of Ibrahim for Mecca and his Descendants: Tafsir al-Sa’di

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