Prophet Abraham. A Comparative Analysis of the Sacrifice Story in the Qu'ran and the Bible

Seminar Paper, 2015

11 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Introduction
1.1. Research question and methodology

2. Abraham’s genealogy and his role in the Qur’an and the Bible

3. Abraham’s sons Ishmael and Isaac

4. Comparative analysis of the sacrifice story in the Qur’an and the Bible

5. Conclusion – one story, two narratives


1. Introduction

Jews, Christians and Muslims believe in the same God and all of them refer to one founding father. Abraham or Ibrahim, it depends from which perspective we are talking, is considered to be the progenitor of the three so-called Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam. To simplify matters, the name Abraham will be used constantly in this paper. For these great faiths, Abraham was the first human being who worshiped only one God. Jews call this God Yahwe or Elohim, Muslims call him Allah and in Christianity it is God the Father. It is true that these religions differ in their rules and duties but they do have some fundamental commonalities. All three religions are of monotheistic nature and they refer to Abraham as common founding father. Hence, it is not surprising that his figure and story can be found in their Sacred Books. In the Tora, Abraham was the first Jew, who faithfully followed the Ten Commandments. In the Bible, he is the role model of a deeply believing person and in the Qur’an, Abraham is mentioned as Hanif, which means “follower of the pure faith”. As Prophet Abraham is an identification figure for all three religions, it might be interesting to discuss his role and to explore differences and commonalities of his person and his life in the different books. However, it would be beyond the scope of the following paper to allow a comparison between Prophet Abraham’s role in the Tora, in the Qur’an and his role in the Bible. Therefore, this paper is only going to focus on Abraham in the Qur’an, which represents the Islamic point of view and the Bible, which stands for the Christian perspective.

1.1. Research question and methodology

The following paper is intended to carry out a comparative textual analysis between the figure of Abraham in the Qur’an and in the Bible. Using the Qur’an and the Bible as primary sources, the importance of prophet Abraham’s role in both religions is and the different understandings of his actions are going to be compared. Therefore relevant verses from both scriptures will be chosen that refer to him in general and to the sacrifice story in particular. Both narratives are based on the same storyline. However, they differ dramatically in their content. For that reason, all chosen verses will be analyzed according to their form, composition and phrasing. I am going to pick out the relevant verses for the analysis and present interpretations. The core of the analysis is going to be dedicated to the famous sacrifice story, where I am going to examine the content of both versions. In this context, I will also refer to the role of Abraham’s sons Isaac and Ishmael, who are regarded to be the fathers of the Jews and Arabs. What follows is a conclusion that will sum up and highlight the commonalities and differences between Abraham’s role in both scriptures in general and the sacrifice story in particular.

2. Abraham’s genealogy and his role in the Qur’an and the Bible

The Qur’an and the Bible represent God’s goodness and mercy upon the people who obey his will. Both share the same prophets and Abraham is regarded to be one of the most outstanding ones. As already mentioned, he plays an important role in different aspects for both, the Qur’an as well as the Bible. Trying to compare both scriptures and using the story of Abraham as a common base, it makes sense to create a link between Islam and Christianity. This way it might be possible to promote mutual respect which has never been as important and necessary as it is now. Comparing the story of Abraham in both scriptures, one can recognize that the Bible tells his story in a chronological order, while the Qur’an does not.

Information about Abraham, his origins and his family can be found in Genesis, which is the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. All other references in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Jewish tradition and in the Qur’an are based on these information.

As the Bible focuses on Abraham’s genealogy, it leads to the conclusion that the Biblical narrative focuses on the historical aspects of his life and actions. The Qur’an, which is believed to be the word of God, tells the story rather from a religious perspective. In the Qur’an, there is a Sura which is called Surat Ibrahim and his name is mentioned more than 170 times in total.[1]

In accordance with the Bible, Abraham was born in Ur, a city which is located in the south of modern Iraq. It is mentioned that his father was 70 years old when Abraham was born, and that his ancestry can be traced back to Shem, who was one of the prophet Noah’s sons. (Genesis 10:1) While the Bible contains all these details, the Qur’an does not mention any names of family members or places where Abraham would come from. However, Muslims agree with his Biblical genealogy.

In the Bible God says to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) In the Qur’an, God awarded Abraham the name Khaleel ul-Allah, which means “Friend of Allah”. The following verse emphasizes God’s praise to him: “Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to Allah, does good, and follows the way of Abraham the true in faith? For Allah did take Abraham for a friend.” (Qur’an 4:125) And even in the Bible, God calls prophet Abraham his friend: “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” (Isaiah 41:8)

Another parallel can be found about the promise that God gave to Abraham. In the Bible He says: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2) By comparison, in the Qur’an God promises Abraham: “I will make thee an Imam to the Nations.” (Qur’an 2:124)

When God ordered Abraham to leave his land, which was located in ancient Babylonia, he went to the land of Canaan. There, God told him that He is going to give this land to him and his children. (Genesis 12:7) “Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.” (Genesis 13:18)

The Bible regards itself as a historical oevre, whose core is dedicated to the pact between God, Abraham and his progeny. This is emphasized through the promise of giving him the land of Canaan.

“(T)he Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: (…)” (Genesis 15:18)

However, Abraham did not preach to the people of Canaan. This fact does not adequately reflect the Qur’anic perspective, where Abraham was trying to convey the message of God to the people. In accordance with the Qur’an it can be said that God’s pact with prophet Mohammad can be traced back to the one with Abraham.[2] "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 Allah. Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the descendants (children of Jacob) and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord (…).” (Qur’an 2:135-136)

“(F)or he is a Prophet, and he shall pray for thee (…).” (Genesis 20:7) In the Bible as well as in the Qur’an a prophet is someone, who feels himself called to proclaim the divine truth of God to the world and to mediate between both. But in the Qur’an there is a further distinction between a Prophet, “nabi”, and a Messengers, “rasoul”.

In Surat al-Imran, God defines the duties of a Prophet and the duties of a Messenger: “ (…) Allah took the covenant of the Prophets saying: I give you a Book and Wisdom; Then comes to you a Messenger, confirming what is with you: do you believe in him and render him help. (…) ” (Qur’an 3:81) Every “rasoul” is a “nabi”, but not every “nabi” is a “rasoul”.

In the Muslim tradition, Abraham is considered to be both.

3. Abraham’s sons Ishmael and Isaac

“Praise be to Allah. Who hath granted unto me in old age Isma’il and Isaac: for truly my Lord is He, the Hearer of Prayer.” (Qur’an 14:39) In the Qur’anic version of Abraham’s story it is not stated how old he may have been when he became father of each of them. The Biblical version however mentions, that there is an age difference of 15 years between Ishmael and Isaac and that Abraham was 85 years old, when he became father of the first (Genesis 16:4) and 100 years at the birth of the second son (Genesis 21:5).

While Isaac is regarded as the ancestor of the Jews, the children of Israel, Ishmael is considered to be the ancestor of the Arabs.[3] According to the Qur’an, Ishmael and Isaac were Messengers, who were both awarded a book, authority and prophethood (Qur’an 19:54-55; Qur’an 6:84-90) and also in the Bible they get the promise by God that they will become great nations (Genesis 7:16,20).

But despite all those similarities, there are still some differences between both scriptures and their approaches of presenting Abraham and his sons. While the Bible concentrates on Abraham’s progeny and that they are going to lead a nation, which is obviously the Holy Land, the Qur’an focuses on their prophetic identity and their task of leading the people the right way to God. This difference adequately reflects the differing approaches of presenting the life of Abraham and his family: While the Qur’anic version concentrates on his religion, the Biblical version of the Abraham story is dedicated to God’s promise of giving him land and a big progeny.

4. Comparative analysis of the sacrifice story in the Qur’an and the Bible

After introducing the main commonalities and differences between both scriptures and their approaches of presenting the figure of Abraham, the following part of the paper will be dedicated to the comparative analysis of the sacrifice story.

In the following the relevant verses from both scriptures will be presented. The first version is the Biblical sacrifice story, which is “perhaps one of the most read and discussed stories in the entire Bible.”[4]

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, behold, here I am. And he said, take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, my father: and he said, here am I, my son. And he said, behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, my son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, by myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.” (Genesis 22:1-19)[5]


[1] His name is mentioned more than 170 times in 25 different Suras (chapters); 2nd most mentioned name after Moses: 2,3,4,6,9,11,12,14,15,16,19,21,22,26,29,33,37,38,42,43,51,53,57,60,87.

[2] Tröger 2004: 169.

[3] Ali 1999 (The Qur’an): 1150.

[4] Bakhos 2014: 190.

[5] Steinmetz 1991: 50-51.

Excerpt out of 11 pages


Prophet Abraham. A Comparative Analysis of the Sacrifice Story in the Qu'ran and the Bible
San Diego State University  (Institute for Religious Studies)
The Qur'an
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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478 KB
Christianity, Islam, Abraham, Prophet, Exegesis, Bible, Quran, Qu'ran, Sacrifice Story, Comparative Analysis
Quote paper
Fatma Khanjar (Author), 2015, Prophet Abraham. A Comparative Analysis of the Sacrifice Story in the Qu'ran and the Bible, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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