It has been a lingering contention between Muslims and christians who indeed was the supposed to be child sacrifice. Biblically, its Isaac as specified:

“After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you’.” (Genesis 22:1-2, R.S.V.).

But then Muslims treat the aforementioned verses as wrongly interpreted especially the statement which says Isaac as your only son. They argue, this rather referred to Ishmael as he was the firstborn and being stated as only  son implied that rationally, Ishmael was the one referred to. 

Ishmael was too Abraham’s son so if Isaac was an only son, then how come Ishmael was a son too?

Genesis 17:23

[23]And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.

Logically, when saying only son, it could only pertains to Ishmael as Isaac could have not been born yet.

Yusuf Ali makes a note of this in his commentary:

“This (i.e. the child promised to Abraham and later commanded to be sacrificed) was in the fertile land of Syria and Palestine. The boy thus born, was, according to Muslim tradition (which however is not unanimous on this point), the first-born son of Abraham, viz Ishmael …” (1: p. 1204, f. 4096).

Yet, the truth is nothing in Quran has revealed the person of that supposed child sacrifice so how come, they concluded it to be Ishmael?

An excerpt from answering-islam.com:

Muhammad H. Haykal, in his classic biography The Life of Muhammad, wrote:

Who Was the Sacrificial Son?
Historians of this period disagree on the matter of Ibrahim’s sacrifice of Isma’il. Did the event take place before the birth of Ishaq or thereafter? Did it take place in Palestine or in the Hijaz? Jewish historians insist that the sacrificial son was Ishaq, not Isma’il. This is not the place to analyze this issue. In his book Qisas al Anbiyd’, Shaykh `Abd al Wahhab al Najjar concluded that the sacrificial son was Isma’il. His evidence was drawn from the Qur’an itself where the sacrificial son is described as being Ibrahim’s unique son, which could only be Isma’il, and only as long as Ishaq was not yet born … For with the birth of Ishaq, Ibrahim would have no “unique” son but two, Isma’il and Ishaq. But to accede to this evidence implies that the sacrifice should have taken place in Palestine … This would equally be true in case the sacrificial son was Ishaq, for the latter remained with his mother Sarah in Palestine and never left for the Hijaz. On the other hand, the report which makes the sacrifice take place on the mountain of Mina near Makkah identifies the sacrificial son as Isma’il. The Qur’an did not mention the name of the sacrificial son, and hence Muslim historians disagree in this regard. (trans. Isma’il Raji al-Faruqi [Islamic Book Trust Kuala Lumpur/American Trust Publishers, 1976], pp. 24-25; cf. online edition; underline emphasis ours)

One modern North American Muslim scholar, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf of the Zaytuna Institute, candidly admits that:

… This was the child that Abraham was given, and there is a difference of opinion about who that child was. The majority of the later scholars say it was Ismail, many of the early scholars said it was Ishaq. It should not be a point of contention for the believers, it’s not the point of the story. Both are valid opinions. (Shaykh Yusuf, There is No Calamity if there is Certaintyaudio source)

Al Tabari on the otherhand confirmed it to be more likely Isaac as it say from answering-islam.com:

Al-Tabari, considered to be one of the premiere Islamic historians, lists the divergent views held amongst the Muslim umma (community) in regard to this very issue:

The earliest sages of our Prophet’s nation disagree about which of Abraham’s two sons it was that he was commanded to sacrifice. Some say it was Isaac, while others say it was Ishmael. Both views are supported by statements related on the authority of the Messenger of God. If both groups of statements were equally sound, then – since they both came from the Prophet – only the Quran could serve as proof that the account naming Isaac is clearly the more truthful of the two.” (2: p. 82).

Having that, there is still a problem we have to resolve as it is not yet confirmatory to be Isaac by the insinuation of an only son which logically points to Ishmael. The thing is, the verses on question is a translation which if clarified, there is need to utilize the original word used and its definitions. 

The Hebrew word used for only son was  yachid which has various definition as darling and only son among others. So why choose only son rather than darling? 

Hebrew: יחיד

Transliteration: yâchîyd

Pronunciation: yaw-kheed’

Definition: From H3161; properly {united} that {is} sole; by implication beloved; also lonely; (feminine) the life (as not to be replace): – {darling} {desolate} only ({child} {son}) solitary.

Sorting out the provided definition, we can exclude the first which say: properly united that is sole by implication beloved. That is excluded bec it could only mean one beloved that is united or collective in nature which is inapplicable to the verse as the one to be offered is a single entity and not collective. So what is left as choices are: darling, desolate, solitary and only son.

If we choose darling it should sound like this:

Take your son, your DARLING Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you

Why do I believe that to be the right translation?

Firstly bec what was written was Isaac and not Ishmael and he cannot be an only son. Secondly, New Testament writers referred it to Isaac as it say:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son …” (Hebrews 11:17, R.S.V.).

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up his son Isaac upon the altar?” (James 2:21, R.S.V.).

As by the New Testament rendition, Isaac was the only begotten son but in the context as the promised father to that promised seed, meaning, the only son wherein the promised seed Jesus Christ would emerge from, as it say:

Hebrews 11:17-18

[17]By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

[18]Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

So, muslims, how come its Ishmael?


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