Underlying Unity of all
Abrahamic Religions

The Historical Root - Part II

Abraham entrusted Hagar and Ishmael to the blessing of God and the care of His Angels in the certainty that all would be well with them.

الْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ الَّذِي وَهَبَ لِي عَلَى الْكِبَرِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَقَ إِنَّ رَبِّي لَسَمِيعُ الدُّعَاء

All praise is due to God, who has bestowed upon me, in my old age, Ishmael and   Isaac! Behold, my Sustainer hears indeed all prayer. (14:39)

Hagar and Ishmael left to embrace their destiny, and were guided to a barren valley of Arabia. The valley was named Becca. It was not long before both mother and son were overcome by thirst, to the point that Hagar feared Ishmael was dying. According to the tradition of their descendants, he cried out to God from where he lay in the sand, and his mother stood on a rock at the foot of a nearby eminence (Safa) to see if any help was in sight. Seeing no one, she hastened to another point of vantage (Marvah), but from there likewise not a soul was to be seen. Half distraught, she passed seven times between the two points, until, at the end of her seventh course, as she sat for rest on the further rock, the Angel spoke to her. In the words of Genesis in the Holy Bible:

And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her: What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise and lift up the lad and hold him in thy hand, for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. (21:17-20)

The water was from a spring which God caused to well up from the sand at the touch of Ishmael’s heel; and thereafter the valley soon became a halt for caravans by reason of the excellence and abundance of the water.  The well was named Zamzam.

The book of Genesis is the book of Isaac and his descendants, not of Abraham’s other line. Of Ishmael it tells us:  And god was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness and became an archer (ibid). After that it scarcely mentions his name, except to inform us that the two brothers Isaac and Ishmael together buried their father in Hebron, and that some years later Esau married his cousin, the daughter of Ishmael. But there is indirect praise of Ishmael and his mother in the Psalm which opens: How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts, and which tells of the miracle of  Zamzam, as having been caused by their passing through the valley; Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee; in whose heart are the ways of them who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well. (Psalms 84:5-6)

When Hagar and Ishmael reached their destination, Abraham had still seventy-five years to live, and he visited his son in the Holy place to which Hagar had been guided. The Qur'an tells us that God showed him the exact site, near the well of Zamzam, upon which he and Ishmael must build a sanctuary; and they were told how it must be built. Its name, Ka’bah, cube, is in virtue of its shape, which is approximately cubic. Its four corners are towards the four points of the compass.

وَإِذْ بَوَّأْنَا لِإِبْرَاهِيمَ مَكَانَ الْبَيْتِ أَن لَّا تُشْرِكْ بِي شَيْئًا وَطَهِّرْ بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْقَائِمِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُود

Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).  (22:26)

And later Abraham prayed,

رَّبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ فَاجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَهْوِي إِلَيْهِمْ وَارْزُقْهُم مِّنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ

            O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits:
so that they may give thanks.    (14:37)

That is how all three major Abrahamic religions have a direct lineage to Abraham, and have practices tied to the traditions of Abraham. Abraham is the father of Muslims, and so, like the Jews, they too are children of Abraham. The Holy Qur'an (2:135-36) states:

وَقَالُواْ كُونُواْ هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَى تَهْتَدُواْ قُلْ بَلْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
قُولُواْ آمَنَّا بِاللّهِ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالأسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَى وَعِيسَى وَمَا أُوتِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ

They say: "Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation). Say thou: Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with God. Say ye: We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophet s from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And unto him we surrender ourselves.

Martin Lings, Muhammad, his life based on the earliest sources (Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1983)