The following is from Rav Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva of Kerem B’Yavneh.
The Rambam wrote about the evil perpetrated by the Yishmaelites towards Yisrael in his “Letter to Yemen.”(Igeres Taimon)
He wrote that Yisrael never encountered a more evil nation, adding that even though we accept their oppression without complaining, their hatred for us never ceases. A hint of this was taken from three names of leaders in Yishmael, “Mishma, Duma, and Massa” [Bereishit 25:14], meaning “Listen, remain silent, and accept the burden.” Even though we accept their governmental authority, we cannot save ourselves from their evil. While we continue to wish them peace, they pursue us with swords and war, as David wrote, “I want peace, while they speak only of war” [Tehillim 120:7].
Rabeinu Bechayei comments as follows on the verse, “Your G-d will place all of these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you” [Devarim 30:7]. “Your enemies are the Yishmaelites, those who hate you are the children of Eisav. The enemies are worse than those who hate. And because the children of Yishmael are worse for Yisrael than the children of Eisav, the verse calls them your enemies.” On the verse, “Can a maidservant inherit from her mistress?” [Mishlei 30:23], the Zohar writes that no exile is worse for Yisrael than the exile of Yishmael.
The students of the ARI wrote that the four kingdoms did not want to destroy Yisrael but only to fight against the religion of Yisrael. Yishmael, on the other hand, believes in the faith of the unique trait of G-d and is not fighting ag ainst the religion. Rather, he wants to destroy Yisrael. The promise to Hagar about Yishmael is, “He will be a human wild animal” [Bereishit 16:12]. The phrase used is “pereh adam.” In Hebrew, the noun is first, and it is followed by the adjective. That is, Yishmael is a wild animal which has human traits (“man” is an adjective modifying “wild”).
Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsh writes that “pereh” is one who refuses to accept any authority, who does not feel obligated by anything. This seems to be a contradiction in terms. On one hand, Yishmael believes, but on the other hand he will not accept any commands! The answer is that Yisrael is a hint of “Yashar E-l” – following the straight path of G-d and acting as Divine slaves. However, the Yishmaelites view G-d as their slave. It is written, “G-d has heard the voice of the youth” [Bereishit 21:17]. They are convinced that G-d hears their voices and agrees to their deeds. The name of heaven is always in their mouths, and they believe that whatever they do is in the name of Allah. Their wars are holy wars, and every murderer among them is a shahid (a martyr).
Sarah expelled Yishmael when she saw him “metzachek,” laughing. She said, “this son of the maidservant will not share an inheritance with my son, Yitzchak” [21:10]. What upset Sarah so much about the inheritance? The author of Aruch La-ner explains that Yishmael wanted to inherit everything. However, this is not easy to understand. Yishmael was indeed the firstborn, but why should he be entitled to inherit everything?
The Natziv gives an explanation for this. “And Sarah laughed inside herself, saying, will I be rejuvenated after I am worn out? And my husband is old!” [18:12]. Sarah’s laughter showed that she had a lack of faith in Avraham’s ability to have children. By doing this, she gave an opening for the people of the generati on to mock Avraham, and to say that Yitzchak was not his son but rather the son of Avimelech. What is the meaning of Yishmael’s laughter? It implies that he, Yishmael, is the only son of Avraham and that the entire inheritance belongs to him. This means that Eretz Yisrael too belongs only to Yishmael.
“And Sarah laughed inside herself.” What was her punishment? “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar laughing.”