Monday, May 17, 2010

There Are Two Stories

Abraham had a son with an Egyptian slave, Hagar. The boy's name was Ishmael. At the time, Abraham was nearly one hundred years old. Later, Abraham's wife, Sarah, gave him a son whom they named 'Isaac'. Upon Isaac's weaning, Abraham sponsored a feast, and at that celebration, Hagar supposedly mocked the boy from a distance. Enraged, Sarah ordered Abraham to "get rid" of the woman and her son.

Wandering in the desert with the youngster, Hagar soon depleted the skin of water Abraham had packed for their journey. When the boy began to cry, an angel representing God called to his distraught mother. "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation."

While the stories of Judaism and Christianity have treated Ishmael as an iligitimate child, he is portrayed in Islam as, simply, a rightful son of Abraham.

Much later, in the pages of a great American novel, a whaling ship of some magnitude leaves Nantucket. The ship's captain, Ahab, with all the bearing of a man who'd lived his life on the angry seas of the North Atlantic, would meet his life's greatest challenge in a white whale that lay waiting in the deep. Herman Melville
(1819 - 1891), who sailed from Fairhaven, Massachusetts on the 'Acushnet' in 1841, would tell the story of this sublime conflict between Man and his own nature in the book, 'Moby Dick'. The narrator of the volume? The ostracized exile, Ishmael.

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