Abraham is the key figure of all monotheistic religions. Some may say he is the father of monotheism. If you ask my father, who was jewish, Abraham is no doubt a jew. If you ask your local christian priest, you may hear them say Abraham was a pivotal figure in christian ideals. If you ask your muslim buddy, Abraham was of course a muslim. Here is what Quran says about Abraham`s religion:
3:65-67 O People of the Scripture, why do you argue about Abraham while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason? Here you are – those who have argued about that of which you have some knowledge, but why do you argue about that of which you have no knowledge? And God knows, while you know not. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth (hanif), a submitter to God. And he was not of the polytheists.
As you can see Quran criticizes all people of the scripture, including muslims that they argue about Abraham`s religion. It declares that he submitted to God, he was not a polytheist, and his path was of a hanif. The word hanif is originally a hebrew word, and is used in arabic as well. In hebrew it means a wicked, impious, godless person/a person who has stood up against the mainly accepted religion (see The New International Encyclopedia Vol 16 online). The latter meaning makes a person wicked or godless because when you exit the mainstream religion in your society, your society will call you wicked or godless. Interestingly, many definitions of the word hanif is now opposite of this original meaning: to incline towards the right state or tendency . This is not surprising, because Abraham was a wicked, godless person in his own polytheist society, but the religion he chose was the right one. So, he was hanif as in he picked the right path according to the view of monotheism. As he was probably the first monotheist, he was the wicked one according to the polytheistic society he was in. Mohammad – the prophet of Islam- was also in a polytheistic society and he also followed a monotheistic religion. If we extrapolate, we would also have to call him hanif. This is not surprising, because Quran`s worry about non-believers is at an absolute minimum. Whom Quran really fights against are polytheists of all shapes. Before making big conclusions, let`s see what Quran says about this:
10:104-105 Say, [O Muhammad], “O people, if you are in doubt as to my religion – then I do not worship those which you worship besides God; but I worship God, who will take your life. And I have been commanded to be of the believers and ‘Direct your face toward the religion inclining to truth (hanif), and never be a polytheist.
16:120-123 Indeed, Abraham was a leader, devoutly obedient to God, inclining toward truth (hanif), and he was not a polytheist. He was grateful for His favors. God chose him and guided him to a straight path. And We gave him good in this world, and indeed, in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous. Then We revealed to you, [O Muhammad], to follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth (hanif); and he was not a polytheist.
6:161-163 Say, “Indeed, my Lord has guided me to a straight path – a correct religion – the way of Abraham, inclining toward truth (hanif). And he was not an idol worshipper .” Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for God, Lord of the worlds. No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims.”
According to Quran (and history) It is clear that Mohammad was also hanif, as Abraham was. You could probably say the same thing for Jesus and Moses as well. Quran verses above clearly orders Mohammad to follow the religion of Abraham, but in addition he is also the first of the Muslims (note capital letter. Here Muslim is used as a private name, as in follower of Islam. Otherwise muslim [lower case] literally means “submitter to God”). This means, according to the Quran even though Mohammad is to follow Abraham`s religion, he is also first member of a new religion. This new religion Islam, follows the same principles and in fact is the same religion that Abraham followed. We would expect the same God, to always have the same religion. Can you imagine the same God, creator of the heavens and the earth, introducing essentially different religions to different people? No. This would have to follow that Judiasm and Christianity or at least the religion of Moses, and of Jesus and of Abraham, and of Mohammad were essentially the same. Again before making big conclusions, let`s see Quran:
2:130-136 And who would be averse to the religion of Abraham except one who makes a fool of himself. And We had chosen him in this world, and indeed he, in the Hereafter, will be among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, “Submit”, he said “I have submitted to the Lord of the worlds.” And Abraham instructed his sons and Jacob, “O my sons, indeed God has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you have submitted.” Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his sons, “What will you worship after me?” They said, “We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac – one God. And we are in submission to Him.” That was a nation which has passed on. It will have what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do. They say, “Be Jews or Christians you will be guided.” Say, “Rather, [we follow] the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth (hanif), and he was not of the polytheists.” Say, [O believers], “We have believed in God and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are in submission to Him.”
As we can see here Mohammad is ordered by the Quran to tell believers (this implies anybody who believes in God, usually means monotheists) that we (followers of Mohammad) believe in all the prophets and the religion they brought to their societies, and that we make no distinction and the essence of our religion is submission to God with no trace of polytheism. This of course begs the question: why did we need so many prophets or why did we need a new religion – Islam?
The answer is rather plain: Information age. In the past most of God`s religion was made known locally, from word of mouth by a prophet. Some of those prophets are listed in the verse above. Quran declares that all societies were sent a prophet. We have accounts for many, but not for all. Let`s take Noah, we know of his religion not through an immense mass of written books or movies left from his time. No doubt he was a prophet of God, and received instructions for a monotheistic religion, and he declared this to his society. He was of course declared wicked, and persecuted by his society, just like Abraham. We know about Noah only through scripture: from the followers of Moses (Torah), Jesus (Gospel) and Mohammad (Quran). This is only becuase these three prophets came late enough in history to allow for written documents, which have been passed through generations. This is how we know about Noah, Abraham and other prophets. As we know Judiasm is a tribal religion. You have to be born to a jewish mother to be a jew. So, if Moses’ religion is the only true religion, what about other people who are not born to a jewish mother? That`s why Jesus came. He invited all to the monotheistic religion of God. However, for some reason he also did not leave a written document. History tells us that his followers (ex. St. Paul) wrote the Gospel after his death. Many Gospels were written, 4 was chosen by committees many years after Jesus had come. This always remains an uncertainty. Which bible was better explanation of Jesus? Could it be one that was not chosen by the committee? What if the writers of the Gospels were wrong in some instances? That is why Mohammad came. He came late enough in history to be the only prophet who left before he died a written book of God`s religion. We have the same written document he left us before he died. Let`s not make a mistake, he brought essentially the same religion as Moses and Jesus did, except that his document (Quran) is the only one we can trace back to the source. There are also many signs and indicators that the Quran we have now is the same word by word as the book Mohammad had shortly before he died. In addition, according to Quran Mohammad is the last prophet, and Islam is the last of God`s revelation. Why? Because, God has completed his responsibility to leave people with a direct written source of his religion, as opposed to a religion that is propagated through prophets’ own example when they were alive and after the prophets, word of mouth or secondary written sources alone. Quran, as the only direct written source will be available as far as the humanity as we know it exists.
Please note that I picked the above mentioned verses only because they all have the word “hanif” in them. There are 9 verses in the Quran that has this word. As an appendix to this article, I will publish a supplement that has the translation of all these verses within their context. This way the reader can go and read these without my comments in between, and decide what they may mean for themselves:
The Central Node of God`s Religion: Abraham – Supplement | It is not Islam-ic.