§2 Prophet Muhammad a descendant of Ishmael: A Myth

· History, Islam

§ 2: Prophet Muhammad a descendant of Ishmael-myth

Quran & Hadith Contradictions & Misconceptions

Muhammad’s Claim as a Descendant of Ishmael son of Abraham is a false claim that cannot be substantiated by historical evidence.

Maqam Ibrahim ( note:crescent moon) nr Ka’bah

Largely based on the Quran, Chapter: The Cow, as quoted below, most Muslims are convinced that their ancestry reaches back to Ishmael, son of Abraham, and thence to Adam and to the creation of the universe by Allah. Islamologists/researchers, however, have cast doubts of the authenticity of this claim. This will be discussed in this chapter.

May peace and blessings be on all the Messengers of God. Prophet Muhammad is a direct descendant of Isma’il (Ishmael), the first son of Prophet Ibrahim(Abraham). Prophet Muhammad was born in Makkah(Mecca) as a fulfilment of the prayer of Abraham as explained in the following verses of the Holy Quran, a book of revelations from God to the Prophet. [1]

The Quran: Chapter 2: The Cow 2:124-142

[2.124] And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He.
[2.125] And when We made the House a pilgrimage for men and a (place of) security, and: Appoint for yourselves a place of prayer on the standing-place of Ibrahim. And We enjoined Ibrahim and Ismail saying: Purify My House for those who visit (it) and those who abide (in it) for devotion and those who bow down (and) those who prostrate themselves.
[2.126] And when Ibrahim said: My Lord, make it a secure town and provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the last day. He said: And whoever disbelieves, I will grant him enjoyment for a short while, then I will drive him to the chastisement of the fire; and it is an evil destination.
[2.127] And when Ibrahim and Ismail(Ishmael) raised the foundations of the House: Our Lord! accept from us; surely Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing:
[2.128] Our Lord! and make us both submissive to Thee and (raise) from our offspring a nation submitting to Thee, and show us our ways of devotion and turn to us (mercifully), surely Thou art the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.
[2.129] Our Lord! and raise up in them an Apostle from among them who shall recite to them Thy communications and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them; surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise.
[2.130] And who forsakes the religion of Ibrahim but he who makes himself a fool, and most certainly We chose him in this world, and in the hereafter he is most surely among the righteous.
[2.131] When his Lord said to him, Be a Muslim, he said: I submit myself to the Lord of the worlds.
[2.132] And the same did Ibrahim enjoin on his sons and (so did) Yaqoub (Jacob). O my sons! surely Allah has chosen for you (this) faith, therefore die not unless you are Muslims.
[2.133] Nay! were you witnesses when death visited Yaqoub, when he said to his sons: What will you serve after me? They said: We will serve your God and the God of your fathers, Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq (Isaac), one God only, and to Him do we submit.
[2.134] This is a people that have passed away; they shall have what they earned and you shall have what you earn, and you shall not be called upon to answer for what they did.
[2.135] And they say: Be Jews or Christians, you will be on the right course. Say: Nay! (we follow) the religion of Ibrahim, the Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists.
[2.136] Say: We believe in Allah and (in) that which had been revealed to us, and (in) that which was revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqoub and the tribes, and (in) that which was given to Musa and Isa, and (in) that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit.
[2.137] If then they believe as you believe in Him, they are indeed on the right course, and if they turn back, then they are only in great opposition, so Allah will suffice you against them, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing.
[2.138] (Receive) the baptism of Allah, and who is better than Allah in baptising? and Him do we serve.
[2.139] Say: Do you dispute with us about Allah, and He is our Lord and your Lord, and we shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds, and we are sincere to Him.
[2.140] Nay! do you say that Ibrahim and Ismail and Yaqoub and the tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Are you better knowing or Allah? And who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah? And Allah is not at all heedless of what you do.
[2.141] This is a people that have passed away; they shall have what they earned and you shall have what you earn, and you shall not be called upon to answer for what they did.
[2.142] The fools among the people will say: What has turned them from their qiblah (facing Mecca) which they had? Say: The East and the West belong only to Allah; He guides whom He likes to the right path. [1]

Quraysh Genealogy

While the Old Testament and the New Testament are records of the early Semitic  Judaism and Christian peoples; the Quran does not have any genealogies; The Arabs relied on their genealogies and their history and their knowledge of the Quran on memory [6] implying that memory is less infallible to the written word used by Jews and Christians. This is possibly because most of the early Muslims were desert Bedouin’s who were largely illiterate.
Hence dependence on memory, and word of mouth to transmit genealogy and Koranic ideology is a precarious means of maintaining accuracy and reliability. Most people would probably manage to 3 to 4 generations of their ancestry, let alone keeping track of 95 generations Between Abraham and Muhammad.It is essentially because of the illiteracy of the nomadic tribes of the desert that the Koran could only be taught by rote in its original language of Arabic. Whether much of the subtlety of the meanings of the verses were understood or not is a matter of conjecture hence the importance of the interpretation of the Imams was of great importance. However, the level of education of an Imam was very limited, even today, as the requirements to become an Imam only required an educational level equivalent to our modern secondary school, conducted in a Madrassa. It was probably a very much lower standard during the time of Mohammad.  [2]Because most of the dissemination of Islamic knowledge is oral and that it is accepted by all Muslims that the Koran is the irrefutable and immutable word of Allah, that Islam has to stay within the confines of the 7th Century ideologies. Muslims also believe:

1. All Arabs are the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael. [2]
2. Ishmael and his descendants were included in the covenant God
made with Abraham.
3. Since the Abrahamic covenant included the land of Israel, the
Arabs have a legitimate claim to it. [2]

This may appear to be a moot point but it is critical in the appreciation of genealogies of the Abrahamic faiths. It is essential here to play close attention of Biblical texts, Koranic texts, and the relevant dates of these claims. The Old Testament and the New Testament are basically the history and testimony of the Judea and the early Christian peoples while the Koran spell out the commands of Allah in determining how a Muslim should conduct his life as a Muslim. Genealogy is not and essential part of the Koran, although the Koran makes many references and uses the Old Testament to validate their claims of antiquity.

Claims to be Descendants of Abraham

All Muslims believe:

1. All Arabs are the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael. [2]
2. Ishmael and his descendants were included in the covenant God
made with Abraham.
3. Since the Abrahamic covenant included the land of Israel, the
Arabs have a legitimate claim to it. [2]

The most accepted view that Ishmael, the son of Abraham, was the father of Islam is stated here:

“The Prophet Ishmael (Ismail) was a Messenger and a Prophet (of Allah); he was the son of Abraham and Hagar (Hagar was a slave of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.) When Abraham was young he received a dream from God (Allah) in which he was slaughtering (sacrificing) Ishmael. Although this was extremely difficult for Abraham to do, he proceeded anyway in to the desert to sacrifice Ishmael. When Abraham told his son what God(Allah) planned, Ishmael offered himself willingly saying, Father, do what thou art commanded; thou wilt find me, if Allah please(s) steadfast. But God (Allah) made Abraham’s knife dull like wax and Abraham was unable to shed Ishmael’s blood. God (Allah) saw both Abraham’s tears and his devotion and, therefore, God (Allah) caused a ram to appear for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Ishmael. (Koran 37: 99-113)

When Ishmael grew older god(Allah) called on Abraham and his son to go to Mecca and rebuild the mosque (Kaba) there.  (Koran 2:127) The original shrine, built by Adam, was displaced during the flood. Upon its completion, Ishmael settled…..in [the] barren valley near The Sacred House of Mecca with his mother; there he married. Ishmael’s progeny became known as the Quraysh, the direct ancestors of Muhammad. Ishmael was the first Prophet to write and preach of the one true God (Allah) to perform Prayer with due observance in Arabic; he is the father of all the Arabs.  [2]

That is the Islamic version of Abraham’s (Ibrahim) faith in Allah in his willingness to sacrifice his most beloved son, Ishmael, for Allah but for the last minute intervention of Allah. Thus Allah saved Ishmael as the father of the Arab tribes and that includes the Quraish tribe.

The significance is that Muslims have determined that it was Ishmael who was to have been the sacrificed child of Abraham, but according to the chronicles of the Jews, it was Isaac who was to have been the son to have been sacrificed on the alter.

But the main point I want to highlight is that these chronicles speak of “human sacrifices” as though it was a normal custom of the time of the Pharaohs, the time of Abraham, and Isaac and Moses (a period from 1813 BCE to 1314 BCE, 499 years.) We must be referring to the age of pagan rituals, long before Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, and yet all three faiths cling on to the antiquity of their origins despite the conflict of their ideologies and insist that their roots stem from Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses who all worshipped the gods they claimed their own.

The Old Testament account of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac to a (heathen) god is given in full in Genesis 22: 1-20 but I will post the first 3 paragraphs to confirm that it was Isaac in the Old Testament version. It is uncanny that an Islamic version of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on the alter of his god is narrated by Mohammad (or his scribes) some 2287 years later and the version is so different. (Time: Isaac prepared as human sacrifice-1677 BCE to Mohammad begins preaching Islam, 610 CE= a separation of 2287 years .)

Isaac prepared for the sacrifice by Abraham the full story is in Genesis 22: 1-20:

Genesis 22: 1-20

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.

This clearly illustrates that Islam altered parts of the Old Testament to suit their claim to antiquity, and authenticity. But the glaring differences stand out like a sore thumb in this illustration. With the Islamic alternate contradicting version appearing 2287 years after the original version. It does not leave any room for speculation of authenticity.

So it is apparent that there is difference of opinion regarding Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to the (pagan) god of the Egyptians and the narrative is separated by a gap of of 2287 years. An account of a discussion between a Christian and Islamic view is  discusses in, “Was Isaac or Ishmael to be Sacrificed?”  [2]

Ishmaelites were Not the Fathers of Arabs

Ishmaelites were Not the Father of the Quraish Tribe

Ishmaelites were Not the Ancestor of Prophet Mohammad

According to Robert Morey, [20]   the Ishmael tribe, the descendants of Ishmael intermarried into other Egyptian families and with time they were absorbed by the Midianites and other local pagan tribes. Evidence of this appears in the Old Testament when Ishmaelites are referred to as Midianites (Gen.37:25-28; 39:1) and later Midianites are referred to as Ishmaelites (Judges 8:22-24 cf. 7:1f.) The early Ishmaelites were spread throughout Northern Arabia from the wilderness of Shur to the ancient city of Havilah. But the Ishmaelites were eventually absorbed into the larger Midianite tribe. There is no historical or archaeological evidence that Ishmaelis ever migrated south to Mecca where the Quraish tribe was located. So the probability of the Ishmaelis being the ancestors of the Quarish tribe is uncorroborated and highly unlikely. Most modern Arabs today believe that Qahtan was the father of Arabs not Ishmael. [2]

Long before the existence of Abraham and Ishmael, Arabia was already populated by the descendants of Cush and Shem (Gen.10:7) who were the original Arabs of the region. They lived in the land of the Pharaohs, the land of many gods, and the existence of the many gods and polytheist culture was available from ancient documents and from archaeological finds. The primary god of that era, prior to the appearance of the monotheist God of Moses (1314 BCE), and of Allah of Islam (610 CE), was the Sun God, Ra who existed in pagan Arabia probably at the time of Adam the first generation referred to in the Old Testament in 3760 BCE. [2]

From another source:
*Was Prophet Mohammad Descended from Ishmael?

Dr Rafat Amari asks, “Is Mohammed a Descendent of Ishmael? [2]

This raises some very revealing facts that needs serious consideration. Most Muslims have accepted the genealogy produced by Ibn Ishak written around 770-775 CE but it was not based on facts. It was more likely to have been a political treatise.

Mohammad’s tribe lived in Saba-Yemen. The chief of Mohammad’s family, the Sabaean Yemeni family, Qusayy bin Kilab, an 8th ancestor of Mohammad, made an alliance with several neighbouring Yemeni families to form a much stronger and stable tribe of the Quraish in the 5th Century CE. Soon after that they migrated to Mecca, a city that was already built by the Khuzzaa’h tribe a century before. The Quraysh remained in the Yemen until the 5th century CE and thus could not have had any contact with t he Ismaelites, specifically the tribe if Nabaioth, at any time of their history as the Ishmaelites who lived as nomads in the deserts of Sinai in the Fertile Crescent, became extinct and no longer remained as a tribe 1,100 years before. The Quraysh tribe could not have had any contact with the Ishmaeli tribe before their extinction. Thus the claim of the Quraish Tribe’s ancestry to Ishmael is completely erroneous especially in the light of the lack of documentary or archaeological evidence. All evidence points to the impossibility of such a claim. It was also common for prophets in  the early centuries to claim antiquity and credence by claims of being descendant to well known Biblical figures whose stories and legends preceded by several centuries.

“Amru bin al-As wrote:
“Mohammed genealogized himself regarding his ancestor until he reached al-Natyher bin Kenaneh, then he said, “anyone who claimed otherwise of added further ancestors, has lied.”

By this, Mohammed confessed that neither he, nor anyone else, knew about his ancestors beyond al-Nather bin Kinaneh. Nather bin Kinaneh is the 17th ancestor of the genealogy which Mohammed recognized prior to Maad, who some suggested, was the 4th ancestor prior to al-Nather bin Kinaneh. When we look at the ancestors of Mohammed, it’s reasonable to estimate 30 years for each generation of the 17 ancestors of Mohammed.” [2]

In fact, archaeologists and historians have estimated that a generation during the period of Abraham through to Mohammed is more like 20 years which even compounds the confusion. While the Old and New Testaments traces the history and contain the records of the Jewish and Christian people, providing valuable genealogical records, in documented form, such records are not available for Muslims. Most of the early records and history and ideologies, including the hadiths of Islam are handed down orally and not recorded till hundreds of years after Mohammed’s death from oral testimonies. This is a reflection of the general illiteracy of the desert tribal people who had to learn the Koran  and the Hadiths through repetitive recitation, in order to understand and practice their religion. [2]


There are many other accounts expressing doubts of the genealogy of the Prophet Muhammad and that of the Quraysh tribe that would supplement this narrative like  “Abraham Not the Father of Ishmael and the Arabs” by Robert Morey and
“Is Muhammad a descendant of Ishmael” by Dr Rafat Amari listed below. [3][4]


The Arab Claim to Palestine because they are descendants of


The Arabs’ claim to the land of Israel rest entirely on three false


1. All Arabs are the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael.

2. Ishmael and his descendants were included in the covenant God

made with Abraham.

3. Since the Abrahamic convenant included the land of Israel, the

Arabs have a legitimate claim to it.

Ten Historical Facts that refute these Arab claims:

1. According to the Torah, when Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees,

he went West to what is now called Israel (Gen. 12 ff.). He

became a dweller in tents in that land. It was in Israel that God

made a covenant with him for the land in which he was living at

that time. It was in Israel that he fathered Isaac, Ishmael, and

many other sons and daughters. Isaac was the only son of

Abraham chosen by God to be the heir of the covenant. Abraham

took Isaac to Mt. Moriah to be offered up as a sacrifice to God.

2. The Torah is contradicted by Qur’an at nearly every point.

According to Surah 2:119-121, Abraham and Ishmael did not

dwell in tents in Israel but in the city of Mecca in Arabia.

Together they rebuilt the Kabah and placed the black stone in

the wall. It was Abraham who started the tradition of an annual

pilgrimage to Mecca, throwing stones at the devil, etc. Abraham

took Ishmael (not Isaac) to nearby Mt. Mina to offer as a

sacrifice to God.

3. Ishmael’s twelve sons were named Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel,

Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish,

and Kedemah. (Gen. 12:11-16) They intermarried with the local

population in North Arabia and produced several nomadic tribes

know as the “Ishmaelites.”

4. It was prophesied in the Torah that Ishmael and his family would

“live to the East of all his brothers.” (Gen. 16:12) “And they

settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes

toward Assyria.” (Gen 25:18) This broad area is the desert

section East of Egypt in Northern Arabia toward the kingdom of

the Assyrians.

5. The Ishmaelites are mentioned as a distinct tribe in the Assyrian

records. They later intermarried with and were absorbed by the

Midianites and other local tribes. In Gen. 37:25-28; 39:1, the

Ishmaelites are called the Midianites and in Judges 8:22-24 cf.

7:1f, the Midianites are called the Ishmaelites. The identification

cannot be made any stronger.

6. Arabia was already populated by the descendants of Cush and

Shem long before Abraham or Ishmael were born (Gen. 10:7).

Their cities and temples have been well documented by


7. If all the Arab people descended from Ishmael as Muhammad

claimed, where did all the original Arabs go? What happened to

them? Who did Ishmael marry if the Arabs did not already exist?

If Arabia was unpopulated, who built Mecca? Since he lived

there, obviously it existed before he was born. The facts speak

for themselves. The Arab people existed before, during, and

after Ishmael moved started roaming the wilderness of North


8. The descendants of Ishmael were scattered in Northern Arabia

from the wilderness of Shur to the ancient city of Havilah. They

were absorbed by the local tribes such as the Midianites (Gen.

37:25-28; 39:1; Judges 8:24). There is no historical or

archeological evidence that Ishmael went south to Mecca and

became the “Father” of the Arab race. Some modern Arab

scholars admit that before Muhammad, Qahtan was said to be

the “Father” of the Arab people, not Ishmael.

9. The Abrahamic Covenant was given only to Isaac and to his

descendants. Ishmael and the other sons of Abraham were

explicitly excluded by God from having any part of the covenant

made with Abraham. (Gen. 18:18-21)

Therefore the descendants of Ishmael and the other sons of

Abraham do not have any claim to the land of Israel because they

are not included in the covenant God made with Abraham. Only the

Jews have any claim to the land of Israel.

The Islamic Claim to Palestine because they are descendants of


Muslims like to claim that Islam gave them the right to claim the land

of Israel as their own. This claim rests upon two false assumptions:

1. All Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael;

2. Muhammad went to Jerusalem.

Three Historical Facts that refute these Islamic claims:

1. The first assumption has already been proven false. The Arab

people are not all the descendants of Ishmael and hence they

are not the heirs of the Patriarchs, the prophets, the Scriptures

or the land of Israel.

2. The claim that Muhammad went to Jerusalem is false. According

to the Qur’an and the Hadith, Muhammad had a dream in the

middle of the night in which he traveled through the sky, visited

seven heavens, met great people like Jesus, and visited the

Jerusalem. Since this was only a dream, he was never actually in

Jerusalem. The Mosque on the temple site in Jerusalem is a hoax

built on the lie that Muhammad stood on the site.

3. Nowhere in the Qur’an does it state that Ishmael is the

progenitor of the Arab race. Since it is not taught in the Qur’an,

it cannot be a true Islamic belief.


The Arab people are not the children of Ishmael. Even if they were,

they would still have no claim to Israel because Ishmael was excluded

by God Himself from having any part in the covenant made with

Abraham. Isaac was the only heir of the Abrahamic covenant. Thus the

Arabs as a people have no claim to the land of Israel.

The Muslims have no claim to the land of Israel either. Muhammad

never went to Jerusalem except in a dream. The only ones with a

spiritual and biblical claim to the land of Israel are the descendants of

Isaac, the Jews.


[1] Muhammad a descendant of Ishmael: http://www.muhammad.net/biographies-mainmenu-38/23-short-biographies-and-commentaries/55-family-tree.html
[2] Islamic Origins: http://knol.google.com/k/islamic-origins-abrahamic-faiths-analysed#
[3] Abraham not father of Ishmael: Robert Morey:


[4] Is Mohammad a descendant of Ishmael by Dr.Rafat Amari:

Additional References:
1. Arab Claim to Palestine Because they are descendants of Ishmael: http://www.journeytojesus.com/ArabClaimToPalestine.pdf
2. Muhammad direct descendant of Ishmael: http://www.muhammad.net/biographies-mainmenu-38/23-short-biographies-and-commentaries/55-family-tree.html
3. Abraham not the father of Ismael by de la Torre: http://www.bibleorigins.net/Ishmael.html

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