All Muslims consider themselves the spiritual descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son. In fact, Muhammad was a direct descendent of Ishmael through Ishmael’s second son, Kedar.
The Biblical account of Ishmael is found in Genesis 16-17. Ishmael, whose name means “God hears,” was the first person to ever be named by God before birth. The Bible tells us that Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born to Hagar, the servant of Abram’s wife. Thirteen years later, when Abram was 99, God appeared to him, changed his name to Abraham and promised to make him the father of many nations. God also told Abraham that His covenant would be established through His son Isaac, the son that Sarah his wife would have.
Abraham petitioned God regarding his son Ishmael, and God said, “as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation…”
Genesis 21 describes the fulfillment of the promise of the birth of Isaac. When Isaac was weaned Abraham had a feast. Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac, and insisted that Abraham send Ishmael and his mother away. At age 15, Ishmael was cast out of his father’s house. Abraham loved Ishmael so the thought of sending him away was quite distressing. God then said to Abraham, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed” (Genesis 21:12-13).
So at the age of 15, Ishmael was forced from his father’s house. After soon running out of water, he found himself dying in the wilderness. His mother, Hagar, could not bear to see her son die so she left him alone under a shrub to die. Imagine the pain of rejection and fatherlessness, Ishmael must have experienced – in an instant he went from being a son to a servant. The Bible says God heard the cry of Ishmael, and then He spoke to Hagar, “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 21:17-18). God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She gave Ishmael a drink saving him from death. He grew and lived in the wilderness.
Ishmael lost his identity when his father cast him out. Without a father, he also lost his inheritance. The religion of Islam reflects the lost identity and inheritance of Ishmael even today. Muslims see themselves as servants of God desperately working in order to please Allah and avoid judgment. Their deeds are weighed to determine if they are acceptable.
Pray that God will reveal the truth about the destiny of the Muslim people that is hidden in the name of Ishmael – He hears their cries and desires a relationship as their Father.