Abraham's sacrifice in the Qur'an: beyond the body

  • Asma Barlas Ithaca College, New York
Keywords: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Abrahamic religions, Body, Human, Dialogue (Theology), Pluralism, Religious, Christianity and other religions, Sacrifice, Abraham, the Patriarch, Isaac, the Patriarch, Bible, Old Testament, Qurʼān, Sufism, Philosophy

Abstract

It has been stated that the body has overtly or latently been a focal point in the history of the three Abrahamic religions’.  However, Islam’s scripture, the Qur’an, does not say that Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) binds his son’s body, nor is the body the focal point of the story—nor, indeed, is it of more than passing interest in Muslim history. This has lead me to question the tendency to homogenize the narrative of Abraham’s sacrifice and, by extension, the religions that claim their descent from him. There is no denying their family resemblance of course, but while the family may be Abraham’s, Abraham himself is not identical in the Qur’an and the Bible and neither are his trials. The term ‘Abrahamic religions’ is not very helpful here since, in spite of its linguistic pluralism, it obscures this crucial distinction between a genealogy that is shared and depictions of a common ancestor that are not. Nonetheless, it is more accurate than the standard alternative, ‘the Judeo-Christian tradition’, a phrase that papers over the fissures in this tradition while also excising Islam from what is surely an ‘interreligiously shared’ world. The author suggests that the only way to include Islam in this world does not have to be through an assimilative embrace that stifles its individuality; one could, instead, find ways to honour both the plurality of the Abrahamic tradition as well as the specificity of Islam within. The author recites the Qur’anic story of Abraham, as a way to unbind the lessons of his sacrifice from the body and also to illustrate the inappropriateness of using Isaac’s bound body as a universal template for all the Abrahamic religions. 
Section
Articles
Published
Jan 1, 2011
How to Cite
Barlas, A. (2011). Abraham’s sacrifice in the Qur’an: beyond the body. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 23, 55-71. https://doi.org/10.30674/scripta.67380