According to the Quran, all prophets beginning from Hz. Ibrahim were Muslims. The following is stated in verse 163 of the chapter of al-An’am: "...I am the first of those who bow to His will." Is there not a contradiction between those two verses?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Allah Almighty states that He sent revelation to Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) as He sent to  Hz. Nuh (Noah) (an-Nisa, 4/163); He defines Hz. Ibrahim and some prophets and their followers that came after him as "Muslims":

"Behold! His Lord said to him: ‘Bow (thy will to Me):’ He said: ‘I bow (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe.’ And this was the legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; ‘Oh my sons! Allah hath chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the Faith of Islam.’ Were ye witnesses when death appeared before Jacob? Behold, he said to his sons: ‘What will ye worship after me?’ They said: ‘We shall worship Thy god and the god of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma´il and Isaac,- the one (True) Allah: To Him we bow (in Islam).’" (al-Baqara, 2/131-133)

It is stated in the verse below that the message of all of the prophets were basically the same and that this message is Islam: 

"Say ye: ‘We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma´il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).’" (al-Baqara, 2/136)

However, it is stated in the following verse that the religions of Judaism and Christianity were distorted and that the followers of those religions fell into polytheism:

"They say: ‘Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation).’ Say thou: ‘Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.’"(al-Baqara, 2/135)

On the other hand, it is stated that the belief of trinity (regarding three deities as one) caused them to fall into unbelief: 

"They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is Christ the son of Mary.’…"(al-Maida, 5/72)

"They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah." (al-Maida, 5/73)

"The Jews call ´Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth…" (at-Tawba, 9/30)

Those who follow Hz. Musa (Moses) and the Torah are given the name "Nasrani" in the Quran. The religion of oneness represented by Hz. Ibrahim is called "Hanif religion". On the other hand, those who follow the New Testament, the Old Testament or the Psalms are called "People of the Book" in the sense of the owner of the holy book. Nasranis were called “Christians”, which is a Greek word, many years after Hz. Isa.

In about ten verses mentioning Hz. Ibrahim in the Quran, it is stated that he is a "Hanif (the one who turns to God, who surrenders fully and who worships)" prophet: 

"Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was true in Faith, and bowed his will to Allah´s (Which is Islam), and he joined not gods with Allah." (Aal-i Imran, 3/67)

"For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah." (al-An'am, 6/79)

However, the words like "muslim, muslimun, muslimin and muslimayni" mentioned in the verses about the previous ummahs are the dual or plural forms of the word "muslim", which means "the one that surrenders, that follows the truth". As a matter of fact, it is possible to see this meaning in the supplication by Hz. Ibrahim and his son Hz. Ismail when they built the Kaaba:

"Our Lord! Make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy (Will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (will)..." (al-Baqara, 2/128)

To sum up, there is no verse among those verses expressing that the previous religions were called "Islam", used as a proper noun.

Allah Almighty uses the term "Islam" as a proper noun for the religion that Hz. Muhammad invited people. The following is stated in the verses:

"The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will)." (Aal-i Imran, 3/19)

"So if they dispute with thee, say: ‘I have submitted My whole self to Allah and so have those who follow me.’ And say to the People of the Book and to those who are unlearned: ‘Do ye (also) submit yourselves?’ If they do, they are in right guidance..." (Aal-i Imran, 3/20)

"If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him..." (Aal-i Imran, 3/85)

"Those whom Allah (in His plan) willeth to guide,- He openeth their breast to Islam..." (al-An'am, 6/125)

The last religion of oneness, which addresses the whole humanity and has introduced a universal message, has reached the perfect level.

"This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion." (al-Maida, 5/3)

The previous heavenly religions, which met the needs of the communities when they existed, were abrogated when Islam emerged and Islam replaced them.

"Say: ‘Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds: No partner hath He: this am I commanded, and I am the first of those who bow to His will.’" (al-An'am 162-163)

That is, I am the first one of the Muslims of this ummah. I was ordered this oneness and sincerity. I am the first one of the Muslims, that is, the first one who surrendered to the command of Allah. This sentence explains that the Prophet (pbuh) obeyed the divine orders given to him at once, that those orders were not peculiar to him but to everybody and that all Muslims have to follow him. 

"And I am commanded to be the first of those who bow to Allah in Islam." (az-Zumar, 39/12) It is stated in the verse above that Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) is the first one who followed Islam, the last religion sent by Allah. As a matter of fact, it took place like that. He became the first person who opposed the religion of his ancestors, who abandoned the idols and broke them into pieces, who believed in Allah by surrendering to Him and who invited people to His way.

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