By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
10 March 2018
The entire polemical corpus of literature written in both Christian and Muslim territories at that time took place against a background of war and strong political tensions. These at times found expressions linguistically in the use of terminology such as Christian/Heathen from a Christian point of view and Dar-ul-Islam (land of belief), Dar-ul-Kufr (land of disbelief) and Dar-ul-Harb (land of war) from a Muslim’s point of view. These exclusivist theological terms and dichotomous Islamist worldviews are reflective of the binary division of the world by those employing them to further their political, geographical and expansionist ends.
These ideas were elaborated by Dr Adis Duderija, Lecturer in Islam and Society, in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at Griffith University (Australia) in New Delhi in his recent lecture at Indialogue Foundation. He spoke on Interfaith Dialogue broadly in the world religions and particularly in Islam, tracing its history, acceptability and the debates around it. It was one of Indialogue Foundation’s initiatives to engage academically with research scholars studying in different universities in Delhi. Under Indialogue Lecture Series, one lecture is organised every month by eminent intellectuals and academicians.
In this lecture, Dr Adis Duderija highlighted the importance of religious and socio-political context in understanding the history and the debates pertaining to the nature of interfaith dialogue in Islam. The lecture started with outlining some of the factors that need to be taken into account when attempting to understand how the Qur’an and early Muslim community approached the idea of religious difference and more specifically the question of the relationship between the Religious Self and the Religious Other.
He pointed out that the Qur’anic attitude towards the Religious Other is highly contextual in nature and therefore ambivalent or context-dependent. “For the large part of the “formative period” of the Muslim community in Medina, the climate of conflict, friction and hostility between Muslims, Mushrikun, large Jewish tribes, Christians and religious hypocrites (Munafiqun) prevailed under which Muslims were constantly concerned about the sheer survival of their community often expressing itself in a reactionary, antagonistic type of identity towards the Religious Other”, he said.
Dr Duderija premised that it is important to highlight the idea that the Qur’anic concept of ‘al-Muminun’ (believers) is more inclusive than ‘al-Muslimun’ (those who submit to God) and that the adherents of other religious traditions can be viewed as ‘al-Muminun’ according to this Qur’anic trajectory. He adduced substantial amount of evidence in his argument that Qur’anically (some) Jews and Christians qualify as Muminun as well as Muslimun.
To buttress this point, Dr Duderija made an additional point which can be considered in relation to the question under examination, that is, the Qur’anic concept of a Hanif or Millat Ibrahim. Etymologically, Millat means a pathway in Arabic. Millat Ibrahim denotes the faith tradition of Prophet Abraham (or Ibrahim in Arabic) as mentioned in the Qur'an. The Qur'an refers to the faith of Ibrahim as “Millat u Ibrahim”. It also tells about Hazrat Ibrahim’s experiences in the quest for the truth and how he first considered a star, moon and sun as his gods but rejected them as mere creatures and how he finally believed in their Creator (Qur'an 6:76-79). The Qur’an has used the term Millat in fifteen different contexts. 10 of them (2:120, 2:130, 2:135, 3:95, 4:125, 6:161, 12:37, 12:38, 16:123, 22:78) refer, directly or indirectly, to Prophet Abraham. It also tells us that it is Abraham who coined the term "Muslim" and Allah named all his followers Muslims. (Qur'an 22:78).
“Qur’anically, this belief system is presented as a primordial, monotheistic Urreligion based on the belief in One, True God as embodied by Abraham’s Message (Arabic: Ibrahim) considered as the universal belief-system and as potentially the final evolution in [Prophet] Muhammad’s attitude towards the Religious-Self and the Other. It is, however, unclear, whether the Prophet of Islam himself identified historical Islam “as the only or merely one possible realization of the primordial religion, the Hanifiyyah, on earth,” Dr Duderija said.
In the post-revelatory times the major delineating feature which marked the relationship between the Muslim Religious Self and the Religious other was the fact that Islam became an imperial faith and that in some contexts Muslims belonged to the ruling elite. Hence, those Muslims were in a position to “determine the nature of their relationship with the others in conformity with their worldview and in accordance with their beliefs”.
Thus, Dr Duderija concluded that the relationship between the Muslim Religious Self and the Religious Other were contextual and underwent a number of shifts and developments which are evident both in the Qur’an and the early Muslim history. Given the nature of the historical sources regarding the exact dating of these shifts cannot be ascertained definitely.
He continued by extending his analysis in both pre-modern and modern contexts. He examined the issue of how influential Muslim scholars have approached the issue of Salvation for non-Muslims as example of one important debate informing the nature of interfaith dialogue in Islam. He made substantial references to a number of influential Islamic scholars—both pre-modern and modern—who have approached the question of Salvation of non-Muslims. The prominent among them are: Abu Isa Muhammad, Harun al-Warraaq, Abu Bakr Muhammad b. al-Tayyib al-Baqillani, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ibn al-‘Arabi, Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Jalal al-Din Rumi.
Quoting Lamptey’s work on this subject (2011), Dr Duderija averred that the two most influential Islamic proponents of religious pluralism in the pre-modern period are Ibn al- Arabi (d. 638/1240) – the Sufi philosopher – and Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 672/1273) – the Persian poet and founder of the Mevlavi Sufi order. “These exemplify the most pluralist tendencies in the pre-modern Islamic historical discourse and do not make ‘Muslimness’ (in the sense of belonging to the historical community of followers of Prophet Muhammad) as a precondition for salvation”, he said.
Highlighting the context of Islamic discourse on Salvation of non-Muslims in the pre-modern period, Dr Duderija explained that the history of Islamic approaches to interreligious dialogue—especially with Christianity—in the pre-modern period was significantly affected by the political and social contexts in which they took place. Thus, he contextualized the relationship between the Muslim Religious Self and the Religious Other in the Qur’an and in history of the early Muslim community.
In the final section of the lecture, Dr Duderija referred to some contemporary Muslim scholars whom he calls “progressive Islamists”, as proponents of religious pluralism and strong critics of the faith-based exclusivism.
In this section, Dr Duderija particularly mentioned the works of the modernist Muslim scholars such as Mahmoud Ayoub, Ibrahim Kalin, Abdul Aziz Sachedina, Abdul Karim Soroush, Ali Asani and Farid Esack. In this context, he made a reference to the contribution of paramount importance rendered by Farid Esack (1997), who wrote: “Traditionalist and conservative scholars have resorted to what can only be described as forced linguistic and exegetical exercises to compel inclusivist texts to produce exclusivist meanings”.
Similarly, Dr. Duderija succinctly quoted Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University, who argues that religious exclusivist tendency in the works of (pre-modern) Muslim scholars could only be a result of a complete disregard of the revelation’s original historical context on the basis of which “the exclusivist Muslim exegetes have been able to counteract the pluralist ethos that so thoroughly pervades the Quran”.
It was refreshing to note that, for a conceptual clarity of the subject, Dr Duderija often made a very particular and remarkable reference to the work of Professor Ebrahim Moosa, as a major theoretician behind the progressive Muslim thought. The well-acclaimed Islamic academician and thinker, Prof. Moosa addressed the Indialogue audience on “Shaping/Reviving Muslim Ethics in the Pluralistic Societies” on October 30th, 2017 under the same Indialogue Lecture Series (ILS). Traditionally educated in classical Islamic studies in India’s leading madrasas, he has provided the Ulema— religious authorities in Islam— an intellectual space to engage with multiplicity of Islamic perspectives, allowing "progressive" Islam to flourish alongside more neo-traditional outlooks.
In a similar spirit, Dr Duderija quoted the prominent Muslim scholar and public intellectual, Tariq Ramadan, who has the following to say on the idea of religious pluralism in Islam:
“We need to reconcile with an Islamic universality whose essence is pluralistic. The function of its truth, naturally acknowledged by believers, is not to standardize truths and values beyond Islam itself, but to establish correspondences, intersections, bridges.”
Regular Columnist with Newageislam.com, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur'anic sciences and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. Presently, he is pursuing his PhD in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism
The Momineen and the Kafirin
Maybudi, a famous mufassir,
writes in his book of tafsir,
“There was no heaven and no
earth, no Throne and no Footstool, no Adam and no Even, and you [the believers]
were Muslims in His knowledge. He placed the name of Muslim upon you and wrote
for you the inscription of election: “those to whom the most beautiful has
preceded from Us” (21:10) (Maybudi, Kashf al-Asrar wa Uddat al-abrar)
Some commentators have
interpreted the verse 22:78 to mean that “it is He (Allah) who named you
Muslims from before (i.e. in the previous scriptures) and in this Quran….”
(22:78). They also quote the verse of Ale Imran which reads, “O you who have
believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims
[in submission to Him].” (3:102)
Some commentators interpret the
verse 22:78 to mean that since Allah Almighty has given this Ummah the title of
Muslim, they must value this title and act accordingly, by being submissive to
all Allah’s commands. The verse therefore means that Allah gave them the title,
“so that (you become worthy enough for) the messenger (to) be a witness over you,
and (worthy enough) that you may be witnesses over mankind”
Other commentators have
interpreted the verse 22:78 to mean that Hadrat Ibrahim (alaihissalam) had
named the followers of the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and all other
believers as Muslims even before the revelation of the Quran, and later in the
Quran itself, as it is mentioned in verse 128 of Surah Baqarah, where Allah
quotes the prayer (dua) of Hadart Ibrahim and Hadrat Ismaeel alaihimassalam
which is recorded in the Quran: “O our Lord! Make us both Muslims [in
submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to
Dr Duderija says, “It also
tells us that it is Abraham who coined the term "Muslim" and Allah
named all his followers Muslims. (Qur'an 22:78)”
Hadrat Ibn-e-Zaid and Hadrat Hasan
say, the [Arabic] particle “هو /huwa” refers to Hadrat Ibrahim alaihissalam and thus it
means that before the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him this name was given by
Hadrat Ibrahim alaihissalam. (Tafsir Qurtabi 22:78)
Based on this and the above statements, Allama Madani in his book of
tafsir says that this verse means that it is Allah who named ‘Muslims’ or it
may be that Hadrat Ibrahim alaihissalam named ‘Muslims’ in his times. (Tafsir –e-
After reading the several commentators
and others and their doctrines and backgrounds, what I understand that
according to the faith of every Muslim commentator, it is certain that Allah is the real creator of the title of ‘Muslim’. But the question
arises: who after Allah Almighty used the title of ‘Muslims’.
To reconcile the apparently
conflicting statements, it is necessary for the readers to understand that Allah
Almighty first gave the name “Muslim” to the believers. But we also know that
Allah Almighty delivers His messages through his prophets (peace be upon them),
so it may be that among the prophets, this name was first used by Hadrat
Ibrahim alaihissalam, before the revelation of the Quran, as is evident in the
verse 2:128. It may be in that sense that this name is attributed to Hadrat
Ibrahim alaihissalam. In other words, it may be true that after Allah Almighty
it was the prophet Ibrahim alaihissalam who first used the name ‘Muslim’. Personally,
I have failed to find out or to know whether any prophet other than Hadrat
Ibrahim alaihissalam used the title of ‘Muslim’ before the prophet Muhammad
peace be upon him. If this failure of mine is really true, then we should not
hesitate to believe that after Allah Almighty and before the holy prophet
Muhammad (alaihissalam), It is Hadrat Ibrahim (alaihissalam) who first used the
title of ‘Muslim’ and that was for himself, for other believers and for the
Muslim Ummah after the beloved prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
Sultan Shahin sahib,
did not present these verses for proving that the word ‘Muslim’ originated with
Hadrat Ibrahim alaihissalam. I presented them to prove that the prophet Ibrahim alaihissalam also used the term Muslim in reply to Naseer sahib.
have a look at the statement of Mr Naseer which reads, “Ibrahim (AS) cannot be
the person who can be calling those who submit to Allah Muslim in the Quran.”
should have used the word ‘first’ in his statement.
for the first use of ‘Muslim’, definitely it is Allah Almighty Who used it
first. But we also know that Allah Almighty delivers His messages through His
prophets. There is no disagreement among Muslim scholars on this point. On being asked, even Mr
Adis will say the same thing.
Naseer says, “Ibrahim (AS) cannot be the person who can be calling those who
submit to Allah Muslim in the Quran.”
This statement of Nasir sb is absolutely wrong, as it
is simply based on his illusion which has nothing to do with the holy
His statement can be refuted by the following
Quranic verses: from 2:126-128
Allah Almighty says in the holy Quran:
وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ
الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ
السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿2:127﴾ رَبَّنَا وَاجْعَلْنَا
مُسْلِمَيْنِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنَا أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً لَّكَ وَأَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا
وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ (2:128)
I am presenting several English
Translations of these two verses, from the corpus.com website which is often used
by Nasir sahib:
And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with
him] Ishmael, [saying], “Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the
Hearing, the Knowing. Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You
and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show
us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of
repentance, the Merciful.”
(Pickthall’s translation: “And when Abraham
and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): “Our
Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the
Knower. Our Lord! And make us submissive unto Thee and of our seed a nation
submissive unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and relent toward us.
Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Relenting, the Merciful.”
(Yusuf Ali’s translation) And
remember Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (With this
prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the
All-Hearing, the All-knowing. Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy
(Will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (will); and show
us our place for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in Mercy);
for Thou art the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.”
(Shakir’s translation) And when
Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundations of the House: Our Lord! accept from
us; surely Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing: Our Lord! and make us both
submissive to Thee and (raise) from our offspring a nation submitting to Thee,
and show us our ways of devotion and turn to us (mercifully), surely Thou art
the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.
(Muhammad Sarwar’s translation)
While Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundation of the house, they
prayed, "Lord, accept our labor. You are All-hearing and All-knowing. Lord,
make us good Muslims (one who submits himself to God) and from our
descendants make a good Muslim nation. Teach us the rules of worship and
accept our repentance; You are All-forgiving and All-merciful.
(Mohsin Khan’s translation) And
(remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) and (his son) Isma'il (Ishmael) were raising
the foundations of the House (the Ka'bah at Makkah), (saying), "Our Lord!
Accept (this service) from us. Verily! You are the All-Hearer, the
All-Knower." Our Lord! And make us submissive unto You and of our
offspring a nation submissive unto You, and show us our Manasik (all the
ceremonies of pilgrimage - Hajj and 'Umrah, etc.), and accept our repentance.
Truly, You are the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.
(Arberry’s translation) And
when Abraham, and Ishmael with him, raised up the foundations of the House:
'Our Lord, receive this from us; Thou art the All-hearing, the All-knowing; and,
our Lord, make us submissive to Thee, and of our seed a nation submissive to
Thee; and show us our holy rites, and turn towards us; surely Thou turnest,
and art All-compassionate;
(End of Translations)
In the aforementioned two
verses (2:127-128) of the Quran in Arabic, we can see the word Muslim two
times; first time Muslim as muslimaini (accusative masculine dual form) in
Arabic “tathniya form” and second time Muslim as Muslimat-an in Arabic
adjective form. The first mention of Muslimaini refers to both Hadrat Ibrahim
and Hadrat Ismaaeel (peace be upon them) and the second mention of Muslimatan
refers to a Muslim community from the offspring of Hadrat Ibrahim Alaihissalam.
However in English translations
we see some have literally translated the word ‘Muslim’ [both muslimaini and
muslimatan] as “submissive to you [i.e. Allah]” while some translators have not
translated the word Muslim.
All these clarifications refute
the point of Mr Nasir who said, “Ibrahim (AS) cannot be the person who can be
calling those who submit to Allah Muslim in the Quran”. We have seen in the
above mentioned verses that Hadrat Ibrahim and Hadrat Ismaeel both are the
prophets who have used the word Muslim for those who submit to Allah.
As for the verse 22:78, I will
explain it in next comment.