Are Muslims Descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael?

by Steve Ray on May 22, 2019

Today I was asked a question which I have been asked a good number of times. So, I thought I would give a simple answer here. A young man wrote and asked: “Can you please tell me whether the descendants of Ismael are Muslims?”

Because I have been asked this question a good number of times I thought I would answer it simply here.

downloadNo. The descendants of Ishmael are the Arabs but not all Arabs are Muslims. In the Middle East from 200-650 AD, most Arabs were Christians, not Muslims. Islam did not get started until the mid-7th century. Mohammad conquered Mecca in 629 and subsequently, the Muslims swept through Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa with their armies and conquered these once Christian lands.

So Arabs are descendants of Ismael (Gen 25:12-18). Mohammed was an Arab. He started a new religion called Islam but not all Arabs followed him. Not all Arabs are Muslims. The largest Muslim nation is Indonesia and they are not Arabs. In fact, the three largest Muslim countries are not Arab.

According to Wikipedia, “Around 62% of the world’s Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region (from Turkey to Indonesia), with over 1 billion adherents. The largest Muslim population in a country is in Indonesia, a nation home to 12.7% of the world’s Muslims, followed by Pakistan (11.0%), and India (10.9%).

Arab is ethnic, Muslim is a religion. Ishmael is not the father of the Muslims, only of the Arabs.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas M Govern May 22, 2019 at 10:43 PM

So Steve, prior to Ishmael there were no Arabs? My guess is that there were people in the Arab area prior to Ishmael. Do we have an idea where they came from? Perhaps Egyptian?

STEVE RAY HERE: I don’t have a good answer for that off the top of my head and hope someone else here can shed light for us. I know that even when Abraham came into the land about 1850 BC or so, the land of Israel today was filled with various tribes called Canaanites, etc.

Dale Wickizer February 22, 2020 at 9:33 AM

Long before Ishmael, the descendants of Ham occupied the Northern and Eastern sections of what we call the Arabian peninsula. (Dedan, Havilah, Sheba, Raamah). The descendants of Shem occupied the Eastern and Southern parts of the peninsula (Arphaxad, Ophir, Hazarmeveth, Havilah, Uzal, Sheba).

These peoples lived before and during the time of Abraham.

I found this to be a helpful reference: https://www.bible-history.com/maps/images/genesis_shem_ham_japheth.jpg

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