This series on the six lies of Islam is drawing to a close. In this final post in the series, we will examine the Muslim claim that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael. The reason why this claim is so important is that it is the claim that Arabs use in order to lay claim to the land of Israel. I have even heard this claim parroted from pastors behind a pulpit. Israel has been deeded to the descendants of Abraham, but does that deed come through the line of Isaac or Ishmael? This question is the source of much strife in Israel and the Middle East. Since this is a claim based on biblical grounds, then we must look to the bible to settle it. It is important that Christians also understand this issue, as we do not want to give away what God has promised to the Jews in opposition to what is written in the bible.
When we look closely at the Muslim claim that Arabs are descendants of Ishmael, we see three assumptions. First, that all Arabs are descendants of Ishmael. Second, that Ishmael and his descendants were included in the covenant that God made with Abraham. Lastly, that since the Abrahamic covenant included the land of Israel; the Arabs have a legitimate claim to the land. So what are the facts regarding the Arab claim to be Ishmael’s progeny? We will look at ten historical facts in this post and see whether the claim is legitimate.
First, according to the Torah, Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and headed west to a land that is now called Israel (Genesis 12). While in the land he did not take up permanent residency, but rather lived in tents as a sojourner in the land. It was in Israel that God cut a covenant with Abraham and promised him and his offspring this land. It was in Israel that Abraham fathered Isaac, Ishmael and many other sons and daughters. Of these children only Isaac was chosen by God to be Abraham’s heir. Lastly, it was Isaac that was taken to Mt. Moriah were he was to be offered as a sacrifice to God.
Second, the Torah (the older revelation) consistently contradicts the Qur’an (the newer revelation) at every single point. According to the Quran (Surah 2:119-121), Abraham and Ishmael did not live in tents in Israel, but in the Arabian city of Mecca. While living here Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaaba, and placed the black stone inside it. It was Abraham who initiated the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, marching around the Kaaba, throwing stones at the devil, etc. Lastly, Abraham took Ishmael to Mt. Mina as an offering to Allah.
Ishmael had 12 sons who intermarried with the local population in northern Arabia and produced several nomadic tribes that became known as “Ishmaelites” (Genesis 12:11-16).
Genesis 16:12 prophesied that Ishmael and his family would live “to the east of his brothers.” We see later in Genesis 25:18 that they settled “from Havilah to Shur which is east as one goes toward Assyria.” This is a broad section east of Egypt in northern Arabia.
Assyrian records show that the Ishmaelites were though of as a distinct tribe. We do find, however, that the Ishmaelites intermarried and were eventually absorbed into the Midianites and other tribes. We see strong biblical evidence of this as Ishmaelites are called Midianites in Genesis 37:25-28 and 39:1, and where Midianites are called Ishmaelites in Judges 8:22-24; cf. 7:1.
According to the table of nations in Genesis chapter 10, we see that Arabia was already populated by the descendants of Cush and Shem (Genesis 10:7) long before either Abraham or Ishmael were born. The cities and temples that have been unearthed by archeologists is evidence of this fact.
If the Arab people did descend from Ishmael (as claimed by Mohammad) what happened to the aforementioned original Arabs? If they just disappeared, who did Ishmael marry, since no Arabs existed prior to Ishmael? If there were no Arabs, then who built Mecca? Since Ishmael lived in Mecca, it had to be in existence prior to his birth. It is clear from the evidence that the Arab people existed before Ishmael, and continued on to be a people that have no link to Ishmael.
We see from the biblical record that the descendants of Ishmael were scattered throughout northern Arabia, and that they were later absorbed into the Midianite tribe. We find nothing in the historical or archeological record that evidences the Ishmaelites moving further south to Mecca and displacing the ancient Arabs. There are even modern Arab scholars who state that prior to Muhammad, Qahtan was said to be the father of the Arabs, not Ishmael.
Genesis 18:18-21 tells us that only Isaac and his descendants were given the Abrahamic covenant. Ishmael and the other children of Abraham were specifically excluded by God from having any part of this covenant that God made with Abraham.
Since Ishmael and the other descendants of Abraham were specifically excluded from the Abrahamic covenant, none of them have any legitimate claim to the land of Israel. Only the Jews have any legitimate claim to the land of Israel.
Based on these ten facts, it is clear that the three Arab assumptions to being descendants of Ishmael, having a stake in the Abrahamic covenant, and therefore a claim to the land of Israel are false.
Muslims further claim that Islam gives them a right to claim the land of Israel as their own. This claim rests on the following two assumptions: All Arabs are descendants of Ishmael and Mohammad went to Jerusalem. The first claim has already been dealt with and demonstrated to be patently false, and their claim to the land of Israel is either spurious, or fraudulent. The second, however, is interesting in that it rests on a claim of a supernatural event.
According to the Qur’an and Hadith, Muhammad had a dream in which he traveled through the sky visiting the seven heavens, met great people (like Jesus), and visited the temple in Jerusalem. Since it was only a dream, we know that he never visited Jerusalem. Further, Mohammad lived in the 7th century A.D. and we know the historical fact that the Jerusalem temple had been destroyed, so it is historically impossible for Muhammad to have literally done this, unless he was also able to time travel into the past. Therefore, the Al-Aqsa mosque that dominates the temple mount in Jerusalem was built on a hoax and the lie that Muhammad stood there.
Lastly, there is not one Surah in the Qur’an that teaches that Ishmael is the father of the Arab race. Since this is not taught in the Qur’an, it cannot be a true Muslim doctrine.
We have further documentation from both Arab and western sources that further give credence to our claim that the Arabs are not descendants of Ishmael:
“Arabian literature has its own version of prehistoric times, but it is entirely legendary.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 2:176)
"The pure Arabs are those who claim to be descended from Joktan or Qahtan, whom the present Arabs regard as their principle founder...The ‘Arabu ‘ l- Musta’ribah, the mixed Arabs, claim to be descended from Ishmael. They boast as much as the Jews of being reckoned the children of Abraham. This circumstance will account for the preference with which they uniformly regard this branch of their pedigree, and for the many romantic legends they have grafted upon it. ..The Arabs, in their version of Ishmael’s history, have mixed a great deal of romance with the narrative of Scripture.” (A Dictionary of Islam, pgs. 18-19)
“Muhammad was not informed about the family of Abraham.” (Encyclopedia of Islam) I: 184. See also pages 544-546.
“There is a prevalent notion that the Arabs, both of the south and north, are descended from Ishmael; and the passage in Gen. xvi.12, “he (Ishmael) shall dwell in the presence of al l his brethren,” is often cited as if it were a prediction of that national independence which, upon the whole, the Arabs have maintained more than any other people. But this supposition is founded on a misconception of the original Hebrew, which runs literally, “he shall before the faces of all his brethren,” i.e., (according to the idiom above explained, in which “before the face” denotes the east), the habitation of his posterity shall be “to the east” of the settlements of Abraham’s’ other descendants...These prophecies found their accomplishment in the fact of the sons of Ishmael being located, generally speaking to the east of the other descendants of Abraham, whether of Sarah or of Keturah. But the idea of the southern Arabs being of the posterity of Ishmael is entirely without foundation, and seems to have originated in the tradition invented by Arab vanity that they, as well as the Jews, are of the seed of Abraham--a vanity which, besides disfiguring and falsifying the whole history of the patriarch and his son Ishmael, has transferred the scene of it from Palestine to Mecca.” (McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, (Vol. I:339)
In the Qur’an, “Gen. 21.17-21...are identified with Mecca.” (The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 193). It also states that the Southern Arabs come from Qahtan, not Ishmael (p. 48).
Based on the evidence our conclusion is as follows: The Arabs are not the descendants. Even if they were the descendants of Ishmael, they would still have no claim to the Abrahamic covenant as God had specifically excluded Ishmael from that covenant. Isaac and his descendants are the only rightful heirs to the Abrahamic covenant. Since Arabs are neither the descendants of Isaac nor Ishmael they have no rightful claim to any land in Israel. Further, non-Arabian Muslims have no claim to Israel because Muhammad never went to Jerusalem, except in a dream. The only people who descend from Isaac have the rightful claim to the land of Israel; these people are the Jews, and the Jews alone.