Many of the major religions of the world have a lot in common. The similarities between Christians, Jews and Muslims, for instance, can be seen in the story of Abraham and Sarah.
The history of the Jewish people begins in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. God spoke to a nomadic leader called Abram (later called Abraham) and promised him that he would be the father of a great people. Abraham simply had to do exactly what he was told with unyielding faith.
At this time and in this area of the world (what would be present-day Iraq) people believed in and worshipped many gods. But Abraham’s acceptance of the call of the one true God gave birth to monotheism.
According to the book of Genesis, in the Christian Bible, God promises Abraham three things:
1. a relationship with God
2. a son and, consequently, numerous descendants
Sarah and Abraham were past childbearing age and did not know how it would be possible to have a child.
Over time, Sarah grew weary with waiting and wanted to speed the process along so she told Abraham to sire a child with her handmaiden, Hagar. He did and the boy was named Ishmael. But Ishmael wasn’t the true son. Sarah grew jealous from the relationship between Abraham, Ishmael and Hagar. Eventually, Sarah gave birth to her own son, the one promised to her and Abraham by God. He was named Isaac, as angels had instructed. Isaac means “laughter” in Hebrew.
Sarah eventually asked Abraham to choose between her and Isaac and Ishmael, seeing as Isaac is the true descendant promised by God. Abraham complies and asks Hagar to leave with Ishmael. They wander away to find a new home.
God gives Abraham another test, instructing him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Though he struggles with this test, Abraham complies and takes Isaac to a mountain to complete the sacrifice. However, God intervenes at the last minute and provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead.
To Muslims, Abraham was known as Ibrahim and is an important prophet. In the Quran, Abraham is neither Jewish, Christian nor Muslim. Rather, he is a hernif, or someone who intrinsically knows that there is really only one God. Abraham’s son, Ishmael, goes on to sire his own line of descendants and is regarded as the father of the Arab people.
The story of Abraham and Sarah helped to establish a set of values and extreme trust in faith. It also illustrates some similarities between three seemingly different faiths.