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Abstract:
Brief comments by Bahá'u'lláh on the Isaac/Ishmael controversy.

Tablet to Hájí Mírzá Kamálu'd-Dín:
Excerpt

by Bahá'u'lláh

translated by Iskandar Hai.
2002
originally revealed as "Lawh-i-Hájí Mírzá Kamalu'd-Dín".
first written or published 1878
The question is that whereas in past Scriptures[1][2] Isaac is said to have been the sacrifice;[3] in the Qur’án[4] this station is given to Ishmael.[5] This is, undoubtedly, true. All, however, must fix their gaze upon the word which hath dawned from the Divine Horizon:[6] it is incumbent upon every soul to ponder upon its sovereignty, influence, might, and on its all-encompassing nature. There hath never been any doubt whatsoever that all these things are confirmed and corroborated only by the Word of God. It is the Word of God that transcendeth all things, creates the universe, educateth the people, guideth them who are sore athirst from separation unto the ocean of reunion, and penetrateth through the darkness of ignorance with the light of understanding. Consider: all those who believe in past Scriptures[7] think of Isaac as the Sacrifice; likewise, the people of Qur’án[8] confirm this station for Ishmael. It is clear and evident to every possessor of insight and every religious person that no one was, outwardly[9] sacrificed; all agree that an animal was sacrificed. So, ponder upon this: Why is it that a person who hath gone to the altar of sacrifice for the Beloved and yet hath come back [alive], is adorned with the raiment of ‘Sacrifice of God’ and accepted[10] as such? There is no doubt that this is so because of the Word of God. Therefore, the criterion[11] for the manifestation of all names and for confirmation and fulfillment of all stations is dependent upon the Word of God.[12] Likewise, there is no doubt, that the Inaccessible, Unknowable [God] doth not talk as He is, and hath always been, sanctified from such conditions; rather, He speaketh through the tongue of His Manifestations.[13] Thus the Torah issued from the tongue of Moses. The same is true of other Holy Scriptures: all were revealed by the tongues of Prophets and Messengers but, the real Speaker[14] in all these Holy Books is the One true God.... It is now, therefore, established and confirmed that the station of ‘Sacrifice of God’ was, according to past Books,[15] given to Isaac by Abraham and that very same station is, according to Divine Revelation, Ishmael’s in the Qur’ánic Dispensation.[16]



Notes
    [1] Hájí Mírzá Kamálu’d-Dín was a Jewish convert to the Faith. This Tablet was revealed for him — or perhaps Kamálu'd-Dín merely conveyed the question — on 14 Ramadan 1295 AH (September 11th, 1878) and is published in “Amr va Khalq”, Volume 2, pp 197-198.

    Moojan Momen clarifies:

      From the information given by Mazandarani in Amr va Khalq, it is not possible to be 100% sure who Haji Mirza Kamalu'd-Din was, but I cannot think of any prominent Baha'i at that time with that name other than Haji Mirza Kamalu'd-Din Naraqi. However, Naraqi was definitely not a Jew. He was the grandson of one of the most famous Muslim clerics of the reign of Fath-`Ali Shah, Mulla Ahmad Naraqi. In any case, a Jew is unlikely to have had the name Haji Mirza Kamalu'd-Din.

      The text of Amr va Khalq is a little difficult to understand but to me it appears to say "In the letter of Haji Mirza Kamalu'd-Din, Hakim Hizqiel Hayyim asks two questions..."

      Hakim Hizqiel Hayyim is undoubtedly a Jewish name. So I think it is correct that the questioner as Jewish, but Kamalu'd-Din himself was probably not the questioner. He merely conveyed the question. I cannot at present identify Hakim Hizqiel Hayyim and 1878 is before there were Jewish Baha'is resident in Kashan/Naraq, where Haji Mirza Kamalu'd-Din Naraqi was. So this may have been a question from a Jew, rather than a Jewish convert to the Baha'i Faith. This is interesting as it indicates that the Baha'is were talking to the Jews about the Baha'i Faith as early as 1878. [note from an email, 2015-12-04]

    [2] kutub-i-qabl [i.e., the Torah or Pentateuch] (IH’s note)

    [3] See Genesis 22:1-13: “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. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” (IH’s note, expanded by MW)

    [4] furqán (IH’s note)

    [5] See Qur’án, 37:83-114, esp. v 102 - 113: “Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: ‘O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!’ (The son) said: ‘O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if God so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy!’ So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him ‘O Abraham! Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!’ - thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial- And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice: And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times: ‘Peace and salutation to Abraham!’ Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For he was one of our believing Servants. And We gave him the good news of Isaac - a prophet,- one of the Righteous. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.” (IH’s note, expanded by MW)

    [6] i.e., the Manifestation of God (IH’s note)

    [7] i.e., the Bible, the Pentateuch (IH’s note)

    [8] furqán (IH’s note)

    [9] or “actually” (IH’s note)

    [10] i.e. in His sight (IH’s note)

    [11] madár (IH’s note)

    [12] Thus, Bahá’u’lláh many times refers to God as the ‘Lord of Names’ (eg, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 12, 120, 161, 215; Summons of the Lord of Hosts, H21); in one of the prayers, He is referred to as the ‘King of Names’ (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, 114)(MW’s note).

    [13] This is demonstrated by the Words of Yeshua, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.” (John 12:49). In the Qur’án, Alláh reveals, “Say: ‘It is not for me, of my own accord, to change it: I follow naught but what is revealed unto me: if I were to disobey my Lord, I should myself fear the penalty of a Great Day (to come).’” (Qur’án, 10:15, Yusef ‘Alí trans.) (MW’s note)

    [14] or Author (IH’s note)

    [15] i.e, the Torah (IH’s note)

    [16] In this Tablet, Bahá’u’lláh confirms the station of ‘Sacrifice’ to both Isaac and Ishmael, on account of the sovereignty of the Word of God. Elsewhere in His Writings, however, Bahá’u’lláh confirms that Ismael, not Isaac, was the intended sacrifice (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 75). Yet, in this Tablet to Hájí Mírzá Kamálu’d-Dín, it is unimportant which son was selected by God to accompany Abraham to the altar. The Universal House of Justice notes that this discrepancy between the Torah and the Qur’án is evidence of how Bahá’ís view the Holy Books of previous dispensations. They write: “In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ refers to this discrepancy, and explains that, from a spiritual point of view, it is irrelevant which son was involved. The essential part of the story is that Abraham was willing to obey God’s command to sacrifice His son. Thus, although the account in the Torah is inaccurate in detail, it is true in substance....” (Letter of August 9th, 1984 to an individual believer; Universal House of Justice Memorandum, The Resurrection of Christ) (MW’s note).

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