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Equal Access International

For most, the promises concerning Ishmael in the book of Genesis are at best confusing, at worst a God-ordained curse upon Ishmael's descendants. Tony Maalouf reconstructs the promise to Ishmael, and shows that it is not only a promise of blessing, but also was fulfilled throughout the generations throughout the Old Testament period. 

Instead of enemies, Ishmael and Isaac are brothers, who are to stay within proximity to each other, fulfilling the prophecy that Ishmael’s descendants will live to the East of his brother. Later the wisdom of the “Children of the East” as they were called would be used as a comparison to the Wisdom of Solomon.

The promised blessings to Ishmael is not something that was fulfilled through oil in the Middle East, but throughout the Old Testament period the descendants of Ishmael would become one of the most prosperous kingdoms in the world, being the sole producer of Frankincense and Myrrh. The names of the descendants of Ishmael were often related to the future coming of a Messiah. Later, wise men from the East would come to someone they recognised as the promised Messiah, bringing their own product, Frankincense and Myrrh. According to early Church History, these wise men were Arabs, descendants of Ishmael.

With this, the promises to Ishmael become intertwined throughout the Old Testament.

In his book, Muhammad and the Believers (Donner, 2010), Fred Donner explains that the origins of Islam were one that was very inclusive. In fact, according to Donner, Islam was not a distinct religion, but was a movement directing people towards the Abrahamic faith, belief in one God, the Holy Books and Judgement Day. 

Whilst Christianity had divided into various sects to the East, West and North of Arabia, the message of the Qur’an for Arabia initially endeavoured to be one of inclusiveness, not aligning itself with any sect, but a simple message of Surrender to God (islam). The movement itself was not known as “Islam”, but “Mu’min,” meaning “Believers,” and included predominantly the Eastern Church who were united under a common creed “There is no god but God.” Donner explains that within the Qur’an, the word Muslim is used 75 times, whilst “Mu’min,” (Believer) is used nearly 1,000 times. Under this creed, leaders within the Church of the East expressed a positiveness about the autonomy of their churches under this newly established Empire.

The understanding of islam began to rapidly change towards the end of the 7th Century, as the term islam began to be used for political purposes amongst the ruling “Umayyad Dynasty”, with its power base being in Arabia. The movement became increasingly Arab centric to enhance its power, which affected the movements view of the Qur’an and Muhammad. A defining moment was when the Caliph (Formerly know as the “Commander of the Believers”, built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, creating a permanent wedge of division between the Middle East Church and the Dynasty with its Arab-centric emphasis.

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