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Qur’anic Teachings – 3: Who is a Muslim?

By Ziaur Rahman, New Age Islam

2 February 2015

According to the holy Quran the word Muslim does not apply only to the followers of the historical religion Islam. On the contrary, the word is used for the followers of all the prophets of God right from Adam to the final prophet Muhammad pbuh. The word Muslim is derived from the word Islam which means submission, surrender and obedience to God (people wrongly say Islam means peace) and one who submits to and believes in God is called a Muslim. So the Quran details the incidents from the lives of different prophets in which the prophets or their disciples or followers use the word Muslim, Muslimeen or Muslimun to describe their faith. The words Jews and Christians do not find any corroboration in the Quran. They are historically coined terms to describe certain religious communities. The Quran disapproves of the words ‘Jews’ and ‘Christians’ in some verses. We are quoting the verses from the Quran below to prove our point.

1) God has named his devotees Muslims in Quran and in scriptures revealed before it

And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you "Muslims" before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give zakah and hold fast to Allah . He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper.”(Al Haj: 78)

2) Abraham was a Muslim

“And Abraham instructed his sons [to do the same] and [so did] Jacob, [saying], "O my sons, indeed Allah has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you are Muslims."(Al Baqarah: 132)

So, Abraham and his sons as well as his followers were Muslims.

3) Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and his descendants were not Jews or Christians.

“Or do you say that Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants were Jews or Christians? Say, "Are you more knowing or is Allah ?" And who is more unjust than one who conceals a testimony he has from Allah ? And Allah is not unaware of what you do. (Al Baqarah: 140)

4) Abraham was a Muslim

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah ]. And he was not of the polytheists.(Al-e-Imran:67)

5) The followers of Muhammad pbuh are also Muslims “ Say, "We have believed in Allah and in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendants, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [submitting] to Him."

6)“Prophet Yusuf was a Muslim

Prophet Yusuf prayed to God to make him die a Muslim as he was a Muslim all through his life.

“My Lord, You have given me [something] of sovereignty and taught me of the interpretation of dreams. Creator of the heavens and earth, You are my protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Cause me to die a Muslim (Tawaffani Musliman) and join me with the righteous."(Yousuf:101)

7) Pharaoh was also a Muslim, finally

In the Quran, God says that he led Children of Israel safely across the sea but Pharaoh and his army drowned. Before drowning he too proclaimed he was a Muslim.

“And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when

drowning overtook him, he said, "I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims."(Yunus: 90)

8) Prophet Sulaiman the Queen of Sheba to be a Muslim

Prophet Sulaiman invited Queen of Sheba to Islam. There is long conversation between Prophet Sulaiman and the Queen in which Propeht Sulaiman asks her to be a Muslim and finally she says ‘Aslamto’ (I became a Muslim or I accept Islam)

“Be not haughty with me but come to me in submission [as Muslims].' "(Muslimeen) (Al Naml: 31)

9) Queen of Sheba said, I am a Muslim

“So when she arrived, it was said [to her], "Is your throne like this?" She said, "[It is] as though it was it."

[Solomon said], "And we were given knowledge before her, and we have been Muslims (Muslimeen) [in submission to Allah].”(Al Naml: 42)

10) Queen of Sheba says again, I submit (Aslamto – I become a Muslim or I accept Islam)

“She was told, "Enter the palace." But when she saw it, she thought it was a body of water and uncovered her shins [to wade through]. He said, "Indeed, it is a palace [whose floor is] made smooth with glass." She said, "My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, and I submit (Aslamto) with Solomon to Allah , Lord of the worlds."(Al Naml: 44)

11) House of Loth was the only house of Muslims in the city

When the angels came to the nation of Loth to destroy it, they found there only one house of Muslims, that of Loth. So Loth is also said to be a Muslim.

And We found not within them other than a [single] house of Muslims (Muslimeen).”(Ad Dhariyat: 36)

12) Magicians of Pharaoh’s court said, ‘we are Muslims’

When the magic of the magicians of Pharaoh’s court failed before the miracles of Moses, the magicians realised that what Moses was doing was not magic but miracles of God. So they realised the power of God and submitted to Him. Pharaoh was angry with them and threatened to punish them. But the magicians said that they had got the signs of God and become Muslims and now no threats could make them leave the path of God.

“And you (Pharaoh) do not resent us (magicians) except because we believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us. Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims (tawaffana Muslimeen) [in submission to You]."(Al A’araf: 126)

13) Prophet Moses was a Muslim and his followers were Muslim too (not Jews)

And Moses said, "O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then rely upon Him, if you should be Muslims (Muslimeen)."(Yunus: 84)

14) Prophet Noah was a Muslim

Prophet Noah says to his nation:

“And if you turn away [from my advice] then no payment have I asked of you. My reward is only from Allah, and I have been commanded to be of the Muslims."

15) Followers of prophet Muhammad pbuh are also Muslims

“Say, [O believers], "We have believed in Allah 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 Muslims (Muslimun) [in submission] to Him."(Al Baqarah: 136)

16) Sons of Jacob said, ‘we are Muslims’

The Quran narrates the conversation of Prophet Jacob with his sons in which the sons say they were Muslims (not Jews)

“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 Muslims (Muslimun) [in submission] to Him."(Al Baqarah: 133)

17) Jacob’s descendants (the Israelites) were not Jews or Christians

The Quran refutes the claim of the Jews and Christians that Jacob or his descendants were Jews and Christians in the following verse.

“Or do you say that Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants were Jews or Christians? Say, "Are you more knowing or is Allah ?" And who is more unjust than one who conceals a testimony he has from Allah ? And Allah is not unaware of what you do.”(Al Baqarah: 140)

18) Disciples of Jesus said, ‘we are Muslims’

“But when Jesus felt [persistence in] disbelief from them, he said, "Who are my supporters for [the cause of] Allah?" The disciples said," We are supporters for Allah. We have believed in Allah and testify that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].

19) Prophet Muhammad pbuh only followed the religion of Abraham

“Then We revealed to you, [O Muhammad], to follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth; and he was not of those who associate with Allah.” (Al Nahl: 123)

It is clear from the verses quoted above that there is one Deen which is Islam. All the prophets of God were the prophets of Islam and all the prophets and their followers were Muslims. In fact they themselves claimed they were Muslims. God also said that Deen is one and people divided the Deen into different communities and groups and coined different names to distinguish their respective groups which Quran does not recognise. The Quran strongly rejects the words Jews and Christians and stresses that all the prophets including Moses and Jesus were Muslims and their followers were also Muslim. By calling all the prophets and their followers Muslim, the Quran tries to drive home the point that all those believing in one God are one ummah. It doesn't matter if they believed in a particular prophet or not. Obviously, they won't know the prophets that were yet to come. But as long as they believed in the oneness of God and submitted before Him, they were Muslim. Divisions are manmade and unacceptable.

Ziaur Rahman  is a columnist for New Age Islam.


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  1. Israeli Jewish Rabbi confirms Islam was the religion of Noah and Adam


    Allah is also common to all the religions. In Biblical Aramaic ʼĔlāhā and later Syriac Alaha "God", and in Arabic ʾilāh "god, deity" (or Allah as " The [single] God").

    And in the Quran:

    ….monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure (22:40)


    Chronologically, without doubt, Adam was the first Muslim.

    In the Quran,

    (2:41) And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you, and be not the first to reject Faith therein, nor sell My Signs for a small price; and fear Me, and Me alone.

    (6:14) …." Say: "Nay! but I am commanded to be the first of those who bow to Allah (in Islam), and be not thou of the company of those who join gods with Allah."

    (6:163) No partner hath He: this am I commanded, and I am the first of those who bow to His will.

    (26:51) "Only, our desire is that our Lord will forgive us our faults, that we may become foremost among the believers!"

    The word “awwal” is used in all the four verses. In 2:41, it is for the ahle-kitab and in 6:14 and 6:163 it is for Muhammad (pbuh).  In 26:51, it is the defeated magicians who accept the faith who are hopeful that they may become the first among the believers. The ‘awwal’ meaning “the first” is clearly relative to the times of each of the Prophets. In 26:51, Yusuf Ali translates “awwal” as foremost and as “first” in the other verses. In my opinion, awwal is used in the sense of foremost in all the verses and as an antonym of laggards.

    What is of interest is the meaning of the Quran and not what Muslims or the non-Muslims believe. Restricting the word Muslim for the followers of Muhammad only and Islam for the religion of the followers of Muhammad is a distortion  of far reaching consequences of which both Muslims and non-Muslims are guilty.

    This distortion suits the extremists as well as the Islamophobes.

    By Observer 04/02/2015 02:49:09
  2. Mr ahmed
    Vedas may be full of monotheism but Hinduism accept agnostism as Mr Bedi said.
    Mr Bedi must be entirely confortable with Hindus. Can you claim this about Islam and Muslim community?
    By rational mohammed yunus 03/02/2015 07:05:30
  3. Ziaur rahman saheb.
    There is a verse of the Quran in which Christians, Jews and sabieen are called believers. In this respect the Quran is inclusive. Problem arises when we read in other verse that only religion acceptable yo Allah is islam. There are other verses when the Quran after mentioning shirk in divinity of Jesus condemn Christians and Jews for divinity in zakaria.
    How do you reconsile these opposite verses? It doesn't appear as time specific because Christians are attributing divinity since very old time to present. In this way this verse seems to be universal. Have Christian s stopped believing in divinity of Jesus. How then they can be considered believer? Is it not true in present time only believers in hz Mohammed are Muslims. If Allah was satisfied with calling all believers Muslims what was the need of the Quran and new prophet.
    Ahl e kitab believe in one God and judgement day in angels, ancient prophets. Only their crime that they didn't accept hz mohammed their prophet. So based on divinity of Jesus and zakaria and not accepting hz Mohammed their prophet they were excluded from Muslim community. The Quran called them ahl e kitab not Muslims. They might have been Muslims as believes in their respective prophets but now they are not. And this is the conclusion of majority of Muslim scholars.
    What is your stand?
    By rational mohammed yunus 03/02/2015 06:53:06
  4. Which six shastra you are talking about Mr Bedi? The Vedas are full of monotheistic messages. Eika Brahma dwitya nasti is the Brahma Sutra in Vedas.a
    By ahmad 03/02/2015 06:25:40
  5. Out of the six shastras of Hindus, only one admits the existence of God, four deny it and the sixth is silent about it.  Moreover, Hindus recognize atheism and agnosticism as part of Hinduism.  I am an agnostic but I am a Hindu.  However, I cannot be called a Muslim because although I believe in one God, I do not pray to him because I feel that he is unjust.
    By Satbir Singh Bedi 03/02/2015 04:56:59