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The Quran => Q&As with Joseph Islam - Information Only => : Reader Questions January 05, 2014, 07:01:36 PM

: Who Named Us "Muslims"?
: Reader Questions January 05, 2014, 07:01:36 PM
Salam Alaykum Joseph,

I just read your mashallah excellent article on the highjacking of the term "Muslim."

In the article, it says that Abraham named us Muslims in 22:78.

Did you mean to say God instead of Abraham who "named us before and in this (scripture)."?


Thanks much,

Your brother and friend
: Re: Who Named Us "Muslims"?
: Joseph Islam January 05, 2014, 07:29:18 PM
Wa alaikum assalam,

Most commentators (not all) interpret the pronoun 'huwa' in verse 22:78 as referring to God including citations from 'Ahadith' and commentators / commentaries relying on Ahadith as support.

However, if you note the construction of the Arabic sentence, the nearest antecedent to the pronoun 'huwa' is the reference to the religion / creed / ways / dictate (millat) of ‘Abraham’ and thus arguably the pronoun is a reference to him.

022:078 (part)
...He (God) has chosen you and not placed upon you any difficulties in the religion - (the) 'millat' of your father Abraham. He named you Muslims from before and in this (wafi hadha) * , that the Messenger may be a bearer of witness to you, and you may be bearers of witness to mankind..."

* "and in this"... though usually interpreted as a reference to the Quran could also be argued as a reference to the creed of Abraham (millat) given the context.

This suggestion that the pronoun is a reference to Prophet Abraham can also be supported by the following verses. As you will appreciate, parts of the Quran are explained by other parts. This is the best form of Quranic tafsir (exegesis / interpretation). Any reliance on Ahadith is secondary.

"Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy (Will), and from our offspring a community Muslim, bowing to Thy (will); and show us our ways of worship / rites (manasik); and turn to us (in Mercy). Indeed You! are the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful."

This is further supported by another verse which indicates that there was a turning point, certainly in methods, rites and practices which God has used as a reference point.

"Then We revealed to you: Follow the religion / millat of Abraham, the upright one, and he was not of the polytheists / idolaters."

Prophet Abraham's 'millat' is emphasised throughout the Quran by God.

"And who will turn away from the religion of Abraham except who debase their souls with folly? And indeed, We chose Him in the world: And indeed he will be in the Hereafter surely in the ranks of the Righteous."

See also 3:95, 6:161 et al.

So there remains an argument in the sentence construction of verse 22:78, corroborated with other verses of the Quran that the pronoun is actually a reference to 'Abraham' who first coined such a term.  This is a point from where specific rites (such as Hajj etc.) were enjoined on believing communities.

The one counter to this position is that Prophet Noah (who arguably predated Prophet Abraham - 6:84) also stated that he was one of the Muslims (10:72).

However, the Quran does not make use of this as a reference point for believers and although the Quran captures Prophet Noah's sentiments as someone who submitted to God in the generic sense, the elaborative rites that have found provenance from Prophet Abraham are the ways that God has now asked believers to follow subsequent to Prophet Abraham's request in verse 2:128. The naming and the definite particle 'al' also seems to strongly suggest an actual title or name to distinguish those that submit i.e. 'The Muslims'. (22:78).

However, this is not to suggest by any means that the traditional interpretation which understands the pronoun 'huwa' as a reference to God has no merit.

I hope that helps, God willing.
: Re: Who Named Us "Muslims"?
: Joseph Islam January 06, 2014, 01:22:28 AM

Please see follow-up discussion on this topic