In Genesis 22:1-2 we read:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.
Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love,
and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering
on one of the mountains I will tell you about."
Today I received this (very common) Muslim question:
I have a question about Abraham's (almost) sacrifice of his son.
Can anyone tell me why the Bible calls Isaac the only son of Abraham when we all know that Abraham had two sons, and they both buried him when he died?
Instead of giving the usual "Biblical" answer, let me approach this a bit different at this time and remind you of a Qur'anic way of looking at a similar question of "son" or "not son".
(Remember) Noah, when he cried (to Us) aforetime:
We listened to his (prayer) and delivered
him and his family from great distress.
-- Sura 21:76
So the Ark floated with them on the waves (towering) like mountains,
and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself (from the rest):
"O my son! embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers!"
The son replied: "I will betake myself to some mountain: it will save me from the water."
Noah said: "This day nothing can save, from the command of Allah,
any but those on whom He hath mercy!" And the waves came between them,
and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood.
-- Sura 11:42-43
One of Noah's sons dies in the Flood in contradiction to 21:76 which states that Allah saved him and his family. Now, this contradiction is "solved" in the Qur'an itself, when we read on in verse 46 when Allah replies to Noah in regard to exactly this complaint that he has not saved his son:
"O Noah! He is not of thy family: For his conduct is unrighteous.
So ask not of Me that of which though Hast no knowledge!"
So, we see that this problem is solved by "divine exclusion" and the Qur'an even admitts that this can be something rather difficult to comprehend for normal human beings, even for the prophet of God, Noah.
In response to this Muslim question, I would like to ask, if you can accept that God "excludes" one who is (physically) a son from being (properly) a son "in a certain respect" or in relationship to a certain purpose.
If you can accept that God is free to declare so, then I hope you will be able to accept a similar statement in the Bible, when God talks to Abraham in this way in Genesis 22.
I hope these thoughts are helpful.
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