Abraham’s story shows the similarities and the differences between faiths

A tale of sacrifice is an awkward example of commonality between believers in one God

.. But there are at least two awkward things. Significant differences exist in the way the three faiths tell and interpret the story. And whichever way you read the narrative, it can be a difficult one for the 21st-century mind. On the face of things, it describes the actions of a revered figure who on the principle of “following orders” is prepared to commit infanticide.
.. The story as told in Genesis is certainly a gripping one that has fired the imagination of many a religious artist. God tests Abraham by instructing him to “take your son, your only son, whom you love” to a certain mountain; there the precious Isaac must be slain and incinerated as a “burnt offering” to the Creator.
.. Islamic tradition generally holds that it was not Isaac but Ismail, Ibrahim’s son by the maidservant Hagar. Muslim commentaries on the story often stress that Ismail as well as his father clearly consented to the act of sacrifice; it was not an unpleasant surprise for anybody. These interpreters also emphasise that it was never conceivable that God would want Ibrahim’s son to be killed. Indeed part of the story’s point is to denounce the whole idea of (involuntary) human sacrifice.
.. Many Jewish commentators, like Muslim ones, have seen the story as a tirade against human sacrifice, which had been a feature of many pre-Abrahamic religions.
.. To the Jewish ear, Christian readings of the story sound a bit obsessed with the idea of sacrifice.