The Prophet Abraham (AS): Father of Three Faiths
The Prophet Abraham in the Three Faiths:
The prophet Abraham (AS) has a crucial role in Islamic belief and practice. The Qur’an refers to him as the friend of God (4:125) and the father of prophets; Muslims believe that he is one of the ancestors of the prophet Muhammad (S). Indeed, one cannot be a true Muslim without acknowledging the central role of Abraham. The prophet Muhammad and his companions believed in Abraham as the founder of their faith. Muslims regard the prophet Muhammad as the last in a series of prophets, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, all of whom appear in the Qur’an. This central role of Abraham s indicated in many ways. Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and in every single prayer they are required to ask God to send his blessings upon the prophet Abraham and his family. Even more importantly, the direction in which Muslims pray in Mecca is facing a building – the Ka’abah – which they believe was built by the prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael (II, 127). The prophet Muhammad (S) told his followers that the traditions and rituals of the pilgrimage were descended from the prophet Abraham. At the pilgrimage Muslims also commemorate Abraham’s wife Hagar in her search for water, and also the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for the sake of the Lord.
The prophet Abraham is traditionally regarded as the father of the Jewish people, as recorded in the story of Genesis. In the New Testament he is also regarded as the father of Christianity by Matthew who traces the genealogy of Jesus back top Abraham. In the Gospel of John (8: 39) Jesus encourages practising the virtues attributed to Abraham. And St. Paul wrote of all those who have faith being the sons of Abraham (Gal: 3:7).
The Bible and the Qur’an on Abraham:
The Bible tells us that when Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him and said: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations…your name shall be Abraham” (17: 4-5). Of the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, the Lord says to Abraham: “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael…behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation” (17: 19-20)
In the Qur’an, God is quoted as saying to Abraham: “I will make thee/An Imam to the nations” (II, 124) [Imam = leader, model, pattern). It also warns that it is folly to turn away from the religion of Abraham (II, 130). The Qur’an admonishes the prophet Muhammad to say: (I would rather follow) the religion of Abraham the True,/And he joined not gods with God”(II, 135).
Here is a passage that is worth quoting in fill. The Qur’an instructs Muhammad and his followers to say:
In God, and in what
Has been revealed to us
And what was revealed
To Abraham, Ismail,
Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes,
And in (the Books)
Given to Moses, Jesus
And the Prophets
From their Lord:
We make no distinction
Between one and another
Among them, and to God do we
Bow our will (in Islam)” (III, 84)
Muhammad is enjoined to say: ‘God speaks/ The truth: follow/ The religion of Abraham,/ The true in faith; he/ Was not of the Pagans” (III, 95). And yet again the Qur’an says to Muhammad:
“So we have taught thee
The inspired (message),
‘Follow the ways of Abraham
The true in faith, and he
Joined not gods with God” (XVI, 123)
These passages from the Qur’an show clearly that, while the account of the prophet Abraham is not identical in all of its details with that of the Bible, the prophet Abraham occupies a uniquely revered position in Islam, as the father of the three faiths, the distant ancestor of Muhammad himself, and as an ideal or exemplary human being in his submission to the will of God. That is why Muslims regard the prophet Abraham as a Muslim: the word Muslim literally means someone who submits to the will of God, the Most High.