Saturday, January 09, 2010

“So why did Allah substitute an innocent ram (or sheep or lamb) to be killed instead of Ibrahim’s son?"

In the photo,(a post card from Turkey) you can see Ibrahim (Abraham) (pictures of a prophet drawn by Muslims!), Ismail, the angel Jabril (Gabriel), and the substitutionary ram; and verses from the Qur'an in Arabic, including Surah 37:107 (see below) and a phrase in the Turkish language, "The Prophet (Hz. = "Hazrat" - a term of respect for prophets) Ibrahim offers his son Ismail as a human sacrifice".

In “The Cross Debate” between Dr. James White and Shabir Ally,

Shabir Ally says (as all Muslims also do), that God does not need a sacrifice to forgive sins. He also said that there is a great difference between “ransom” and “sacrifice”; and that the concept of the substitutionary nature of Christ paying for the sins of others is unjust. Shabir Ally said, “there is a difference between sacrifice and ransom; they are two different things, . . . until Anselm”. He also referred to some of the early church ideas of “ransom to Satan”, which is not Biblical at all; and he seemed to imply that "ransom" in Mark 10:45 was the "payment to Satan view".

Yet the Qur’an testifies that these concepts of ransom and sacrifice are tied very closely together in one act; from the Old Testament story of Abraham. Even in the Qur’an, there is a key verse that includes both concepts of “ransom” and “sacrifice” together in this one act of Allah providing a substitute for Abraham's son. In the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, the Qur’an says:
وَفَدَيْنَـهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ
“We have ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice.”
Qur’an 37:107
فَدَيْنَـهُ = “we ransomed him”
بِذِبْحٍ = بِ =b = “with” or “by”; ذِبْحٍ = sacrifice, slaughter, slain victim

(The cognate Hebrew word for sacrifice is similar, ZBH, זֶבַח

عَظِيم = “great”, “mighty”, “tremendous”
We are not going to deal with the question of which of Abraham’s sons this was, except to affirm the Bible’s testimony that it was Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18); and to point out that most Muslims have traditionally held that it was Ishmael, although the text of the Qur’an does not say this specifically.   When a Muslim is pressed from Hadith and commentaries and the Sira literature, it looks like there is more evidence that it was actually Isaac.  See here.  It is interesting that only Isaac is mentioned by name in this context. (Surah 37:112-113)  There are some Muslims who admit that it is not dogmatic and that one can believe it was Isaac, that Muslims are free to follow either of the two interpretations.  You can go to and do searches there to find lots of information on that issue.  I think it is better to focus on the issue of substitutionary atonement and the meaning of the gospel before arguing over which son it was.

When sharing the gospel with Muslims, it is not necessary to argue over which son of Abraham it was that was to be sacrificed; especially when you will want to focus on the more important issue of the gospel and the substitutionary sacrifice/atonement of Jesus Christ (Isa Al Masih) for the sins of people from all nations/cultures/tribes/tongues. (Revelation 5:9, John 1:29, Mark 10:45; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Romans 5:9) I have seen former Muslims (Iranians); after becoming Christians, be surprised to find it was Isaac when they read Genesis 22; after they already studied the NT and came to faith in Christ as their substitute for sin; but they immediately said, "Ok, it is the word of God, I accept it." (that it was Isaac)

My focus in this article is on the substitutionary nature of the sacrifice of the Messiah; and that the story of Abraham and Allah’s command to sacrifice his son, and the ram who was substituted is in the Qur’an and actually shows some basic understanding of the truth of the concepts of sacrifice and ransom. In this verse, 107 of Surah 37 (Al Saffat, “Those who set the ranks”), both words are used there together of the substitute, ransom (fedieh - فدیه) and sacrifice ذبح – zebh ); this word is also used a few verses earlier in verse 102, “Oh my son! I have seen in a dream that I offer you in sacrifice.”). We have both of these Arabic words in Farsi (or Persian) also. So, Shabir Ally should have understood this, that God has spoken of both ransom/redemption and sacrifice in the Old Testament, the “Taurat- e- Mosa” (the Law of Moses) and the Qur’an affirms it here.

Christians believe that the substitute points to the Messiah to come and was a prophesy of the Messiah and His substitutionary atonement.

Fedieh, or the root, “fada”, are also sometimes used of Muslims who voluntarily are willing to give their lives in the front lines of fighting the enemies of Allah in war/ fighting/striving against the unbelievers, (Harb, Qatal, or Jihad) Harb حرب means “war”; Qatal ( قـتـل)means “fighting”, “slaying”, “fight to the death” (see Surah 8:39; 9:5, 9:29); and Jihad means to “exert effort”, “striving”, “struggle”. All are used in contexts of military fighting against the Kufur/kaferoon, or unbelievers, infidels, or blasphemers. For an excellent study of “Jihad” in the Qur’an and Hadith, see

You may have even heard of the “fadayeen” (those who sacrifice themselves) in the news, they are those who volunteer to fight against the enemy. So there is a sense in which Islamic culture and history should understand Jesus the Messiah’s death as a voluntary sacrifice for others. Another word, “qorban” (قربان) is related to the Hebrew/Aramaic term “Corban”. (mentioned in Mark 7:11; the Hebrew is in Leviticus 1:2 twice, and other places.) When Iranians greet one another, we say, “Ghorban-e-shoma!” قربان شما (“I am your sacrifice or ransom!” – a term of devotion and love and friendship.) When the Arabs converted the Iranians (the Persians) to Islam, it took them about 300 years, but a lot of Arabic came into their language so that, today, Farsi is about 40% Arabic.

In an online Arabic dictionary, looking up the word ransom (“fedieh”, “efteda فدية, إفتداء ) is defined as “freeing or releasing from sin”
خلص من الخطيئة
or “freeing from slavery or bondage”. إفتدى أسيرا, حرر أسيرا

In sharing the gospel with Muslims, key verses to use are:
John 1:29 – Muslims believe in John the Baptist as a prophet ( He is called “Yahya” یحیی) “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Mark 10:45
“The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom (فدیه، فدا) for many.” The Farsi versions of this verse have the same root concept of this word, "fada"فدا , from "fedieh" فدیه .

John 10:17-18 – Jesus voluntarily laid His life down.
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."

Muslims say it is unjust for God to “force” Jesus to die and pay for the sins of others. John 10:18 shows that there is no “forcing” or injustice in this. This charge of “injustice” and “forcing” is surprising, coming from Muslims, because Allah is Al Jabbar, "The Almighty", "The Enforcer", "The Irresistable One" (Qur’an Surah 59:23, “the one who forces”; (الجبار, from جبر = “force”, “destiny”, “fatalism”). It seems that Allah can do whatever He wants, according to Islam, even lie and trick and deceive. “Allah is the very best deceiver” – (Qur’an 3:54; 8:30; see also 10:22)
الله خیرالمکارین

This word for deceiver, (Makara, from "makr" = deception) is not translated correctly by most English translations of the Qur'an. It is usually translated as "plotting" or "planning", but it clearly means "deception", "scheming", "trickery", "guile".

In Islam, Allah is absolutely sovereign and it seems Allah can sin and lie (But Muslims will deny that we can charge Allah with injustice.  There is a Hadith that says that Allah has made it unlawful for Him to do any injustice.  But that still is emphasis on a law that Allah had to make in order to stop Him from doing the injustice; rather than not being able to sin from His nature/character/substance/essence); but in the Bible, God is both sovereign and cannot sin; He cannot do anything that is against His nature. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19) nor sin; God is holy. (Isaiah chapter 6; I John 1:5; Habakkuk 1:13; Hebrews 6:18) God is pure and holy and has just wrath against sin. (Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 1:18; John 3:36; Mark 9:48; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10)

 John Piper has some excellent articles on the issue of God’s sovereignty and Him ordaining/deciding/allowing that sin/evil happen. @

Does God Lie?  (No.  Titus 1:2 is clear:  "God, who cannot lie")  God allows Satan and humans to do the lie and sins, resulting in decieving people, but God does not do the sin or lie Himself, whereas those 3 verses in the Qur'an (above) seem to say that Allah actually does the lie and sin.

Why I do not say, "God did not cause the Calamity, but He can use it for Good".

Colin Smith had a good series of articles showing the difference between God’s Sovereignty in the Bible and Allah’s sovereignty in Islam. @
Here are a few that are very important to study carefully.

Predestination in Islam:  the Doctrine stated

Predestination in Islam:  Norman Geisler's Critique

Predestination in Islam:  A Reformed Critique

Witnessing to Muslims:  An Important Point to Remember

The cross is where God’s holiness/justice/wrath against sin and His pure love and mercy for sinners meets together. “Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalm 85:10)

John 10:18 shows that the Father and the Son (and the Spirit – see Hebrews 9:14) decided together to accomplish the work of redemption. As Dr. White said in the debate, “Redemption is Trinitarian; the Father, the Son, and the Spirit work together in perfect harmony.” (I am paraphrasing from memory.)

Revelation 5:9 – God is loving by redeeming people from all nations, peoples, tongues, and tribes. God demonstrates His love by sending His Son to die for us. Romans 5:8

God is both just (wrath against sin) and the justifier (love for sinners). (Romans 3:24-26) The cross preserves the holiness of God and the love of God together! That truth is beautiful and amazing! In the atonement of Christ, He became flesh (John 1:1, 14) and lived a perfect, sinless life ( 2 Cor. 5:21; John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26-27; I Peter 2:22; I John 3:5). Even the Qur’an calls Jesus the Messiah a “faultless”, “sinless son” ( Surah Maryam 19:19). Jesus willingly and voluntarily let Himself be the ransom and sacrifice for human beings from all nations. (Revelation 5:9) (John 10:18; Luke 22:42; John 12:27) He knew He was going to be killed and crucified; and that He would rise from the dead; and He predicted it. (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34; Matthew 16:21; 17:22; 20:17-19)

So, ask your Muslim friend, “Do you believe that Al Masih was sinless?” ( Quran 19:19) Was Al Masih born of a virgin? (3:45-47; 19:19-21) They must answer: “yes”. He had no human father. (Emphasize this again; see my earlier article on explaining to Muslims how Jesus is the Son of God. 

Ask your Muslim friend: “Do you believe in the story of Ibrahim (the way a Muslim would say “Abraham”) and when Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son?” I have had Muslims say to me, “Yes, Allah O Akbar! We believe in all the prophets!”

Then ask, “So why did Allah substitute an innocent ram (sheep or lamb) to be killed instead of Abrahim’s son? Let them struggle with coming up with the answer.

When witnessing to Muslims, if they are from another country, it is important that they read the New Testament in their own heart language. Find out what is their heart language and order a NT from an on line source and give it to them as a gift. Watch the Jesus film together in their language. Have them read the New Testament in their own language, whether it is Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, Pushto, Uzbek, Kurdish, or English, about the sins of the heart in Mark 7:20-23. Point them to Matthew 5-7. Show them that not committing physical adultery is not enough to be righteous; sexual lust in the heart condemns them to hell. (Matthew 5:28ff) Not murdering is not good enough for being righteous; hatred and anger in the heart is enough to condemn us to hell. (Matthew 5:21-26) Unforgiveness cherished in the heart can condemn to hell also (Matthew 18:21-35) After death comes the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) Self righteousness, hypocrisy, lack of confession that one is a sinner, and pride will condemn us also; there is no justifying grace for anyone who will not confess he/she is a sinner and is in need of forgiveness. (Luke 18:9-14)

Ask your Muslim friend, “Do you believe in Yahya ( John the baptizer)?” Muslim: “yes, Allah O Akbar! We believe in all the prophets!” Then listen to what he said, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

Muslims celebrate the "feast of sacrifice" ( Eid Al Azha عید الاضحی or Eid e qorban عید قربان) by remembering the event of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son. They slaughter sheep, goats, bulls, lambs, cows, and sometimes even a camel.

Millions of Muslims, over a billion people take part in this slaughtering all over the Muslim world in this re-enactment of the concept of substitution, yet they are taught that it means nothing; just go through the motions, read the verses from the Qur'an, slaughter the animal, and give the meat to the poor. They remain ignorant of this great truth and are told a great lie, that Jesus did not die on the cross. (Surah 4:157) Dr. White calls this one verse, "40 lonely Arabic words", because it is the only place in the Qur'an that denies the death/crucifixion of Jesus and no commentary is on this verse in the Hadith collections.

Muslims popularly "feel" they are doing something for God in this; even though they are taught doctrinally that there is no significance to atonement / ransom/ sacrifice in the ritual.   They "feel" that doing this sacrifice will protect them from evil or tragedies. Where do they get that idea? Is there somehow a sense of "appeasing the wrath of God" in their minds and hearts?

I will never forget seeing the sheep lined up ready for slaughter and bleeting, "baaaaa baaaa". The sheep is blindfolded and some words are spoken; prayers, readings, "bismillah Al Rahman Al Rahim" ("In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful") "Allah O Akbar!" A large knife comes out and the cutting begins. The animals writhes in pain and struggles to get free. The men hold him down. The pain is terrible. Blood squirts, tendons snap; bones crunch and then that last breathe goes out of the animal.

When I saw that feast of sacrifice for the first time in Turkey in 1987; Genesis 22, Exodus 12, the book of Leviticus and Isaiah 53 came alive for me like never before!

The violence of the slaughter is a picture of the wrath of God against sin. My hair on the back of my neck stood up and I almost threw up from the smells and violence of the thing. When we say "the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin"; it means the violence of shedding the blood; the fact that an innocent, sinless victim became our substitute and took our place. It is a picture of God's justice against sin.


Ryan said...

Excellent post, thanks.

Burk said...

That's pretty funny. If logical inconsistency could force someone to convert, the world would be full of atheists. Beware the beam in your own eye.

Darlene said...


I don't own a Quran. Could you quote the exact words from the text that denies Jesus Christ died on the cross? Who do the Muslims believe died on the cross if it wasn't Christ? What do they teach happened to Jesus of Nazareth - how did he die according to them?

Btw, I have been frequenting Seth McBee's blog, "Contend Earnestly." He has been addressing this issue of witnessing to Muslims quite a bit lately. But I think he has a bit of a different take on it than you.

I encourage you if you have the time (yeah, who has time to go to multiple blogs everyday) to browse some of the posts on Islam.

Ken said...

From the Qur'an, Surah Women 4:157-158

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. (157) But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise.

This site has the Quran in Arabic and Enlgish:

Here you can see ten different translations of the Qur'an in English and the Arabic transliteration:

Muslims don't know who was killed in the place of Jesus, but some Muslims believe it was Judas. Shabir Ally takes the minority view that Jesus was actually put on the cross, but He did not die on the cross.

All Muslims believe that Allah protected Jesus the Messiah and took Him to heaven without dying. (although this seems to contradict Surah 3:55 and 19:33)

"It was made to appear to them" (the Jews and Romans) that Jesus was crucified. (4:157)

And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers. (3:54 - Pickthall's translation)

"They schemed/deceived; but Allah schemed/deceived; Allah is the best deceiver." Surah 3:54 -- Allah deceived everybody to think Jesus was crucified and killed on the cross.

Muslims believe Jesus (Isa Al Masih) must return to earth (Shiites believe He will return with the 12th Imam, the Mehdi) and live a normal life, get married, and they believe He will kill all the pigs and break all the crosses and bring in universal peace and defeat the devil and all unbelievers.

Anonymous said...

"He also referred to some of the early church ideas of “ransom to Satan”, which is not Biblical at all;"

WHat's not biblical about it? A ransom is the price to buy a slave right. So, who was the slave master that Jesus was buying us from? Not the Father obviously, because then there would be no point in buying what he already had. If you don't want to go the Gnostic route of ransom to an evil Demiurge, and think yourself too high and mighty to go the route of ransom to Satan, then what you end up left with is a nonsensical circular story about God buying us from himself that has no practical use whatsoever.

Darlene said...


Do you think the Muslims worship the same God as Christians - that is, YHWH? I've been commenting over on Seth's blog and he seems to think so.

Also, do you think that Islam is a violent religion or that only the few extreme Muslim terrorists can be placed in that category. Iow, are the majority of Muslims in the world peaceful?

Is the understanding among most Muslims that Islam's goal is to be a theocracy in all countries that they occupy? If so, was this Muhammad's goal?

As of late, I've had an increasing interest in Islam. I think it started when I attended a presentation at St. Tikhon's Seminary by an Orthodox priest from Indonesia, who had been raised in the Muslim faith. He knew the Quran quite well and quoted from it extensively. He spoke of the harsh treatment Christians receive (whether Orthodox or Protestant) in that country, since the majority religion is Islam.

So I thought I'd make some inquiries from you since it seems you have a fairly good grasp (and interest) of the subject.

I look forward to your comments as time permits.

In Christ,


Ken said...

I decided to make your questions and answer them into a new post. See new entry on January 12.

Thanks for your good questions!