"It Shall Be Seen"

Posted by Melvin Bray on March 4th, 2007 filed in Village Half-Wit

(originally told 10/9-1994)

"…and with your blood you purchased humanity for God."
Revelation 5:9b

Revelations sat in Howell Park, as he did just about every afternoon nowadays, reading The West End Newletter. As his gaze drifted north he caught site of the belfry of the Ralph David Abernathy All Kindreds Cathedral. "How long has it been?" he thought to himself.

His mind drifted back across the decades to once upon a time when he was leader of that very same church. His paper drooped as he began to stare. From where he sat he imagined that, if it were not for the cut stone pillars and iron rod fencing around the yard of the funeral parlor next to the park, he might be able to see the orange and white billboard in the left-most portion of the front yard of the church. It detailed all the recreational pursuits that were available at the church: basketball, baseball, volleyball, karate, dance, cooking, etc. Thirty-some-odd he believed he’d counted. He chuckled to himself; then, repented.

He shouldn’t be so cynical he told himself. It was a good thing that they were offering these pastime opportunities to the community. There was a time when no one but church members could be involved in church sponsored activities. Perhaps things had changed. Perhaps this wasn’t just an ad for why RDA All Kindreds was better than the next guys. Perhaps they had changed over the years while he’d been gone. He certainly had. Still, it seemed to Revelations that institutions evolved more slowly, less intentionally, than people.

It was there at RDA All Kindreds that he had started telling stories. He had always loved them, especially the ones his grandfather, Baba, use to tell. At the church they had become particularly useful as a way to broach difficult subjects, allowing people to see themselves as opposed to having to hear about themselves all the time.

The first such time had come up when a young woman in the congregation, Aliya (pronounced |’ä·le·ä|), announced to her parents that she was leaving Christianity for Islam. As Revelations put it, “Her parents were like to hit the roof!”

Her mother, a true Southern lady with hopes of cotillions and big fancy weddings for her daughters, just couldn’t understand why Aliya would choose to cover her beautiful hair and wear funny clothes. What hurt even more was her daughter’s refusal to eat just anything she cooked. The mother was a wonder in the kitchen, no doubt, and cooking was one of the ways she loved. The father, an elder in the church, was overcome by the sheer embarrassment of it all. They, the mother and father, had brought Aliya to Revelations, Rev. Sent St. Common, as a last ditch effort to talk some sense into her. They knew she respected him.

Revelations remembered the conversation as if it were happening in that very moment. “So tell me why, Aliya. What draws you to Islam—the way of submission to Allah—outside of your Arabic (and, strangely, Hebrew as well) name, of course?” he inquired and jested.

“Because I love the strength I saw in my friend Hagar and her family during the West Bank incursion. Kids at school would give her a hard time, particularly when they began to notice the uniqueness of her head scarf and diet and the fact she’d stop to pray twice everyday while we were at school. They would call her “raghead” and “terrorist” and other kinds of evil things. And it wasn’t the Jewish kids. It was the so-called Christians. Still Hagar kept right on doing her thing.

“Hagar’s mom really impresses me too. Not only has she raised 5 children of her own (Hagar being the youngest), but she has made a home for countless numbers of children from the community at a moment’s notice, just because they needed help. You can’t beat that.

“Mr. Abdul, Hagar’s father, is a community organizer, but after the last intifada began, he lost his job because some foundation pulled his organization’s funding for his specific position. He could have been bitter and angry, but he wasn’t. When Malik Johnson was falsely accused of raping that white college student down at State, while his former employer was organizing rallies and marches, which Mr. Abdul participated in, he also made sure Malik’s family had food and rent until Malik was released and able to find a new job.

“I remember asking my dad, who’s a judge, about the Malik Johnson case and he gave me some crap about ‘we all have our cross and we must learn to bear it with patience’ and something about ‘dying to self’ and ‘suffering as a Christian,’ which is easy to say when one’s suffering never jeopardizes his own or his family’s ‘basic human dignities’ (to use one of your phrases, Pastor Revelations). When I pressed him, he gave me some colonial BS about letting the system do its job. I can’t stand it!

“I just don’t get Christianity. It’s not that I don’t know or believe the stories; I do. It’s just that the majority of Christianity seems to be about thinking the right things and not about doing what’s right. And don’t get me started on the role of Christianity in every major atrocity throughout modern history.

“Islam just resonates with me. I have no problem with Jesus. ‘I find no fault in him,’ you might say,” she giggled, “but I don’t see how Christianity does his message much of a service. It seems to me that, if Christians were at all interested in the way of Jesus, they would live as if he were reason enough to channel as much good as they can into the world before their time is up.”

How could Revelations disagree…

“You read the scripture, chapter 22 of Genesis verse 1, ‘And it came to pass that God did tempt Abraham,’ Rev. St. Common said as he took center stage and got into character preparing to teach that Sunday morning in church. “Strong words! Real strong words: ‘God did tempt.’ But we know right off the bat that God’s temptations must be as different from the Enemy’s temptations as their characters are opposite of each other. They just must be because, you see, I do not believe God is concerned with tempting us to see if we’ll fail, but rather, I know, God is quick to test us so that He might clarify our conception of who He is and who He wants to be for us. I’ve seen Him do it time and time again from eternity past.

“My name is Jhishayon. I am what you might call an angel. Now don’t let my dress fool you, styles have changed since biblical times. Nonetheless, I am an angel. And, in fact, I was the guardian that was assigned to Isaac—second son of Abraham, first son of Sarah, brother of Ishmael and threat to Hagar—when he was born.
I was excited about it. I knew that there was something special about the child. I had heard all the promises God had made regarding Isaac to Abraham. ‘Through your family, all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ This was one of the children of those promises, and I knew that this child was to be important in the redemption of man. So I was excited about the assignment. And being the person that I am (I grow attached very quickly) from the moment I saw him I loved him. I loved Isaac as if he were my own son. That is why I was quite bewildered, even upset, when God told me they planned to ask Abraham to kill Isaac.

“Now let me not get ahead of myself. Let me explain to you how things unfolded. I’ll even share with you some of what I learned in the process.

“As I said, before God went to Abraham, God came to me (you do know that everyone’s story is connected to many others; we’re all interdependent like that). Well, God came to me and said, ‘Now, Jhishayon, I’m about to request something of Abraham. However, I wanted to come to you first because when you hear it you will more than likely be angry. I’m not going to hold that against you. All I ask of you as you work through your anger is that you trust me. Whatever happens know that my good intentions towards you, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and all the rest of creation have not changed, even though your feelings will have.’

“Being the faithful servant I thought I was, I responded, ‘Of course I trust you. And be angry towards you—never! What is it? What are you going to ask him?’

“‘I’m going to ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on an altar to me.’

“I was dumb-struck. ‘How in Heaven’s name could they—’ But there was a determination in the eyes that I knew could not be argued with. Still I had to ask the question, ‘Why… why?’

“‘I know it hurts right now,’ God replied, ‘and I know you don’t really understand. Please trust in me.’

“I threw up.

“I was literally sick as I took my usual post beside Isaac’s bed that night and overheard God outside the tent asking Abraham to cut the throat of his and Sarah’s only son—the one it had taken so long to have, even after the promise—over 30 years trying. It didn’t sit with me any better to hear it a second time…

“That evening Abraham began preparing for his trip to the place where the murder (as
far as I was concerned) was to take place, telling his family that he and the boy were going into the wilderness to perform sacrifice unto to Lord. However, because of the sadness of his countenance everyone in the camp suspected more, yet no one asked. Everyone knew the special connection Abraham had with Yahweh.

“The next day Abraham got up and left early, long before the sun woke. The journey seemed like it would never end. I walked with them every step of the way. Although the Lord endured every question Abraham posed those three days as we journeyed through the land of Moriah, all God would offer in explanation was, ‘Trust in me.’

“Finally we came to the base of a particular mountain in the region. It was there that Abraham asked his servants to stay while he and the boy went on alone.

“I must say that it wasn’t until the whole episode was over that Abraham’s words to his servants began to mean anything to me. He said, ‘I and the boy will go on and worship, and then come back.’ ‘I and the boy.’ It didn’t mean anything to me at the time. In fact, I thought poorly of Abraham that he would even hint at deception.

“Then he and his son walked on, and for the first time, as they trudged up the side of the mountain, Isaac questioned his father. Isaac said, ‘Abba, I’m carrying the hot coals and the wood, but we forgot the lamb for the offering.’

“I will never, ever forget Abraham’s response, ‘God will provide Godself a lamb, son.’

“‘Son?’ I said to myself, ‘What! How dare you lie to that boy? You know what you have to do at the top of that hill!’

“I couldn’t take anymore. I had to leave. I had to get as far away from them as possible. How could Abraham stand there gazing into those innocent, unsuspecting eyes and say, ‘God will provide Godself a lamb,’ knowing what God had asked him to do.

“When I came to my senses, I found myself in a place in the Nephesh realm that I often go when I want to be alone. To get there you follow the great river out of the city of God as it burrows through the Delectable Mountains. The river ultimately spills over a ridge on the backside of the range where it forms several lesser waterfalls whose waters converge to form The Great Waterfall. There are many caves in those mountains. But there is one cave in particular right behind the spill of the first of the Lessers where I like to sit away lonely. It was there that he found me.

“‘Hello, Jhishayon. You probably didn’t know I knew of this place.’

“I looked at him and rolled my eyes.

“He chuckled. ‘Perhaps I deserve that. What’s on your mind?’

“‘You know already.’

“‘Isaac, right?’

“‘Of course’

“‘But you didn’t stay to see what happened.’

“‘How could I stay and watch him die?’

“‘Don’t you remember. I asked you to trust me, to have faith in me, and promised that if you would stick with me it would begin to make better sense to you.’

“‘I couldn’t! I couldn’t stay and watch him die!’ I shouted.

“‘Okay, okay,’ he sighed with compassion. ‘Look, I know you don’t understand much, but indulge me for a moment. Share with me what you have seen and what you do understand. Maybe I can help you make sense of it.’

“I must confess I unloaded with both guns. ‘I’ll never understand why you would ask Abraham to murder Isaac, knowing he would obey you! That’s right, it’s murder, and it’s sick! You know how much he loves you, yet you ask him to do this evil. What kind of love is that?

“‘At the same time, I find it hard to believe that you are the type to just toy with Abraham’s devotion, one who would push him just to see how far he would go. I’ve never known you to do something like that. And if that is who you really are, then maybe I’m on the wrong team.’

“At that moment there was a strange, reflective pause, and he kind of looked at me as if he had heard that accusation before. Then he replied shaking his head, ‘I would hope that no one would ever get that impression. That’s just not me.’

“‘Then why, Lord? Why would you do it? Help me understand. You’ve always told how one day you would give your life to live in radical solidarity with humanity so humanity might find life once again, might be reconciled to you, despite their having chosen to disconnect and, thus, wane. You told me you would go after them and create new possibilities even in the mist of the impossibility, the death, they had chosen. So why is it that you would take from Isaac the very life you plan to make possible for him? Couldn’t it be enough for them to learn from you how to reconnect, how to live fully human, how to love well and then, in faith that you would resource their efforts, do just that? Or will man eternally have to prove himself in penance to you—for disconnecting in the first place—looking for more and more to give up, even unto to death, to prove how much he loves and needs you? That’s narcissistic and doesn’t make any sense. That can’t be the great Plan of Redemption. It would seem to me that you, being the author of life, would be more concerned with humanity finding ways to live in you, rather than looking for ways to die for you.’

“He looked at me in that strangely unassuming way that he has, and he smiled. Then he shrugged as he commented, ‘Now you see that, but how do you know that Abraham does?’

“I puzzled over that for a brief moment before I had to smile back at him.

“Then he continued, ‘I indulged Abraham’s ancestors’ practice of sacrificing lambs, first, to show them that being divorced (separated, exiled, isolated, apart, distant, aloof, disconnected) from life by choice was a serious thing with real consequences and, secondly, to signify that I would one day come and fall victim to their shame in order to reconcile them to me. I wanted it to always be clear that death is necessary, but only as a means, not an end. They should never get caught up in the sacrifice or dying because that’s my part. What I do want them to focus on is making the most of the life that my act of sacrifice, solidarity and eternal embrace makes possible for them. Unfortunately, you have some of them so caught up in judgment and blood-letting, thinking that’s what I would have of them, not seeing it as just further degradation, that they even sacrifice their own children in what they think is my honor. Even among Abraham’s clan some only understand the killing of the lamb, but I want to make sure Abraham knows the life beyond the death. I’m not Death; I find no pleasure in it. I’m Resurrection and Life.’

“I was blown away. ‘So that means that Abraham never really had to sacrifice Isaac.’

“‘Of course he would, if I were a Lord who desired it, but I’ve already paid that price. Whether or not he has to do it is, perhaps, the wrong question. Maybe a better question is, “What am I after?” because I’ll always be after that which promotes life.’

“‘Okay, Lord. But I have one more question. If that is the case, why would you put Abraham through such mental anguish over the thought that he would have to give up his son.’

“‘So his faith in me might grow. Is it cruel to ask of one’s child what one knows he does not have, in order to cultivate in him what one knows he needs? You know as well as I do that the only way one can live is through faith. The just have always lived by faith. And if my goal is for Abraham to embrace life, I have to strengthen his faith in me.’

“I couldn’t believe it. It was all for faith—for Abraham’s and for mine. I briefly got caught up in the moment of revelation, but then I remembered—Abraham was about to take Isaac’s life!

“Then the Teacher looked at me, and I looked at him, and he said, ‘Don’t you have something to do?’

“I shot up out of there, following the river back to the city, flew past the constellations, slid down the Milky Way almost knocking the outer planets out of orbit as I came careening to earth. ‘Abraham, no!'”

“But he didn’t hear me. Before I even got there, there was the Provider, and I heard him saying, ‘Abraham, don’t take your son’s life.’ At which point I smiled and wiped my forehead. He continued, ‘I can see your faith. By not keeping your son from me, you have demonstrated your trust in me above all else.’

“It was now time for Abraham to express his confusion, ‘Now, wait a minute. Even I know it’s not enough to want to obey. One must follow through. You asked me for my son’s life. I must follow through.’
Having had this conversation already, I stood by grinning the most cheesy grin you ever did see.

“‘I knew from the beginning that you would. I know who you want to be for me, but I wanted you to see… I needed you to see who I am for you.’

“It was then that Abraham noticed the ram stuck in a thicket not too far from where he stood, and he sacrificed it to God that day, instead of Isaac.

“Abraham named that place Jehovah-jireh (interpreted ‘The Lord Will Provide’) to remind himself and his children of what he saw of the Lord in that place. And it is said of that place even today that ‘in the Mount of God it shall be seen.'”

“…So I have to give my life in faith to something that I believe counts, not just for me, but for others as well,” Aliya concluded. “The Imam at the Abduls’ mosque told me that, if I could not get my father’s permission, I must, at least, seek my pastor’s blessing. Otherwise, he would not welcome me. That’s the reason I let my parents drag me here. I wanted to know what you had to say, but I also needed your support.”

Revelations thought long and hard about what was being asked of him. He had spoken with her parents prior to this meeting. Her father had made it abundantly clear that he would not have any “rag-wearing, Mecca-claiming, Arabic-speaking, Allah-praying, swine-condemning, potential terrorist Muslims” in his family. He would probably disown her. At the same time, in the way of “submission to Allah” Aliyah had found a vision of life that was worthy of the kingdom of God.

“Welcome to the family of faith, little sister,” Revelations said, as he stood up to embrace her. “Who am I to deny you the path Allah has for you? But don’t fool yourself. Nothing about this is going to be easy. And you’ll only have my blessing if you are steadfast in your embrace of all those among your family and friends who will think it their Christian duty to exclude you from their company—do you hear me? If you can ‘turn the other cheek,’ and keep coming back at them with love, then my blessing is eternally yours. And know that I am always here for you and willing to walk this path in friendship with you wherever your journey may lead you.”

“Oh, and for what it’s worth, if you truly find no fault with him, I am certain that one can be a follower in the way of Jesus and a practitioner of Islam, all at the same time,” he smiled.

3 Responses to “"It Shall Be Seen"”

  1. Trailady Says:

    “Islam just resonates with me. I have no problem with Jesus. ‘I find no fault in him,’ you might say,” she giggled, “but I don’t see how Christianity does his message much of a service. It seems to me that, if Christians were at all interested in way of Jesus, they would live as if he were reason enough to channel as much good as they can into the world before their time is up.”

    Wow, this is a powerful statement and one I must agree with!

  2. Ahmedinajad Says:

    Dear Sir,
    The following issue can destroy ISLAM or ISRAEL; study it thoroughly to see if there is any truth to it.
    READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
    The COVENANT with Abraham and his DESCENDANTS is central to JUDAISM/CHRISTIANITY/ISLAM.
    Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.
    Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below link
    Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.
    GENESIS 16:16
    And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.
    GENESIS 21:5
    Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
    At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later. The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!
    NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.
    100 years old – 86 years old = 14 ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANING
    Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?
    GENESIS: 21:14 – 21
    So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
    The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.
    This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??
    Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?
    I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces – unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.
    For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=EvilGoblin George Galloway media appearances
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ ANTI-WAR
    HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 – 122
    101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.
    102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!”
    103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),
    104. We called out to him “O Abraham!
    105. “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
    106. For this was obviously a trial-
    107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:
    108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:
    109. “Peace and salutation to Abraham!”
    110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
    111. For he was one of our believing Servants.
    112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet,- one of the Righteous.
    113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.
    114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,
    115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;
    116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);
    117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;
    118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.
    119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:
    120. “Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!”
    121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
    122. For they were two of our believing Servants.
    Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.
    Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:
    Narrated Ibn Abbas:
    The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka’ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael’s mother followed him saying, “O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not neglect us,” and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka’ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
    ‘O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.’ (14.37) Ishmael’s mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).
    When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times.”
    The Prophet said, “This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, ‘O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?” And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it.”
    The Prophet added, “May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael’s mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth.” The Prophet further added, “Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.’ The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada’. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, ‘This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.’ They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water).” The Prophet added, “Ishmael’s mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, ‘Do you allow us to stay with you?” She replied, ‘Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.’ They agreed to that.” The Prophet further said, “Ishmael’s mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.

  3. Melvin Bray Says:


    Sorry it has taken so long for me to respond. I tried to contact you directly, but to no avail.

    Let me see if I understand you correctly. It seems you are saying that the passage regarding Ishmael’s exile describes a picture that appears to predate the very birth of Isaac, leading you to the conclusion that there is no ancient historical basis for the conflict between the Abrahamic traditions. You seem to be suggesting that there may have been no animosity between the brothers themselves; they may not have even known each other until they were reconciled upon their father’s death. The animosity then would appear to be a more recent construct that has nothing to do with contradictory promises made by God to competing family members.

    Fascinating. I’m not sure I could or would want to make a reasoned arguement in contradiction. I wish we could just as easily undo all the other times throughout history that the decendents of Abraham or those who claim him by faith have clashed with one another.

    This is the very reason I am loathed to argue scripture as if it were a post-Enlightenment, modern era science or history textbook. When we do, I think we miss the point and set ourselves up to go round and round in circles of conflict with one another. I read scripture in the way in which I believe it was authored: as a story in which we find ourselves.

    Sadly, I can still quite easily imagine within the unwritten portion of Sarah’s story a mother who might have poured into her son all the pain and resentment, paranoia and fear of a woman who spent 90 years of her life barren, yet believing the promise to her husband might yet be fulfilled, but not include her. There is something palpable and heart-rending about Sarah’s comments as recorded in Genesis 21:9,10: “Get rid of that Egyptian slave woman and her son! I don’t want him to inherit anything.” My God, what kind of hurt produces that type of reaction to a child playing and giggling with joy.

    I believe that as long as we consider faith a set of closed, exclusive propositions, then war is inevitable. However, as more and more us who hear God’s call as inclusive of us all begin to embrace the other as beloved family, our chances for peace will more and more abound.

    Thank you for seeing this kind of possibility in the story I wrote, though I do tell the biblical portion of it from a decidedly Christian perspective. May the peace of God–the God of us all–be upon you, my brotha (or sister :-).

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