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Allen S. Maller

From first to last of the Abrahamic Prophets: Abraham to Muhammad

Is it just a coincidence that both Prophet Jesus, the last of the Jewish descendants from Prophet Abraham; and Prophet Muhammad, the last of the non-Jewish descendants from Prophet Abraham, did not have at least one adult son to carry on their message?

All Muslims know that Prophet Muhammad was the last of the Abrahamic Prophets sent by God. The Qur’an tells us that it was essential that no land, people or period was neglected by God. Prophets were sent to every human language group since the age of Adam. The Qur’an says: “There never was a people without a Warner (Prophet) having lived among them’ (35:24) and “We would never visit our wrath (chastise any community) until We had sent a Messenger to give warning.” (17:15)

Yet none of the Messengers sent prior to Prophet Abraham were able to establish an ongoing monotheistic community that lasted. “And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah, confirming what was with them, a party of the people who were given the Book threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs, as if they did not know it!” (Qur’an 2:101)

So it is not clear why Allah, after thousands of years of sending prophets to every nation in the world in their own language, stopped sending the Abrahamic Prophets.

The Qur’an simply says: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things.” (33:40) But why does the second half of this verse follow after the first half? And why is it important to know that Prophet “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men”?

Because just as Prophets Jesus and Muhammad had no son to inherent their authority and rule their own religious community; so too should the highest religious authority in each future religion not be an inherited position.

Prophet Abraham is unique as the only one of all God’s known Prophets or Messengers to be described as being a nation-religion-ethnic community: “Abraham was a nation [Ummah]; dutiful to God, a monotheist [hanif], not one of the polytheists.” (Qur’an 16:120) ] and a prophet “whom God chose to be His friend”.

So Abraham was both the physical pro-generator of the Banu Israel (the Jewish People); and the spiritual pro-generator of the three religious communities with sacred scriptures that identify Prophet Abraham as the only one “whom God chose to be His friend”: (Qur’an 4:125, Hebrew Bible Isaiah 41:8; and New Testament James 2:23)

In the Hebrew Bible, Prophet Abraham is the first person to be called a “Hebrew” (Genesis 14:13). The term Hebrew comes from the verb ‘to go over a boundary’— like the Euphrates or Jordan river— or ‘to be an immigrant.’ The first thing God told Prophet Abraham in the Biblical account was: “Leave your country, your kindred, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.…” (Bible, Genesis 12:1-2)

So Prophet Abraham was what we can call the first ‘Islamic Hebrew’ or the first ‘Muslim Hebrew,’as the Qur’an indicates: “He (Abraham) was not Yahuudiyyaan, “a Jew”, and nor Nasraaniyyaan, ‘a Christian,’ but rather a Haniifaan, ‘a Muslimaan,’… (Quran, 3:67) a monotheistic Hebrew believer submitting (Islam) to the one imageless God’ who created all space and time and who made Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew’s descendants through Prophets Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into a great multitude of monotheists called the Children of Israel B’nai Israel in Hebrew and Banu Israel in Arabic.

In addition, Prophet Isaiah said: “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he [Abraham] was only one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. (Bible, Isaiah 51:1-2)

And the Qur’an states: “You have an excellent example to follow in Abraham.”(Quran, 60:4) and “Follow the way of Abraham as people of pure (monotheistic) faith.” (Quran, 3:95)

And “Who is better in religion than one who submits himself to Allah while being a doer of good and follows the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth? And Allah took Abraham as an intimate friend.” (4:125)

What makes Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew an excellent example of pure faith according to three different religion’s Sacred Scriptures? It is that all three scriptures proclaim Abraham to be the one “whom God chose to be His friend”: the Arabic Qur’an 4:125, the Hebrew Bible Isaiah 41:8; and the Greek New Testament Book of James [the brother of Jesus] 2:23.

Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew, “whom God chose to be His friend,” —as far as we know— is also the only prophet to have two sons who were also prophets. And these two sons of Abraham, Prophet Ishmael and Prophet Isaac, are the only two Prophets who each had a descendant many many centuries later, who proclaimed a sacred scripture each of which has become the basis for one of the two largest religions in the whole world.

Prophet Abraham was the first of those we know to receive a Sacred Scripture (Quran 87:18-19) that would become part of the Sacred Scripture of the ongoing religions of Judaism and Christianity. Is being ‘the first’ what makes Abraham so special that his name appears 69 times in the Qur’an, second only to Moses (136 times)? Partly yes.

But Prophet Abraham is even more famous for the numerous ways God tested him, especially the two terrible trials and tests: banishing Hagar and his first born son Ishmael (Qur’an 2:124, & Genesis 16:1-16) and calling on Abraham to make his son a sacrificial offering to God. (Qur’an 37:100-113 & Genesis 22:1-24)

Most Muslim commentators say the son, unnamed in the Qur’an, was Ishmael (Arabic Isma’il). Some Muslims assert it was Isaac. Perhaps both participated in the test at different times, so that each son could produce descendants who in time would become a blessing for other nations of the earth. (Genesis 22:16-18 & Qur’an 4:163)

The great French medieval commentator Rashi notes that earlier rabbinic commentary states that one of the two young men who accompanied Abraham and Isaac to the place of the offering was Prophet Ishmael. The Artscroll (Orthodox Jewish) commentary states that Ishmael had come back to visit his father. Thus, both sons could have shared the test.

Prophet Isaiah said: But you, Israel, My servant —Jacob— whom I have chosen, are the offspring of Abraham, My friend…”  (Bible, Isaiah 41:8)

So the biological offspring of Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew (the Banu Israel) became the first ongoing monotheistic community when God rescued them from Egyptian oppression and made an enduring covenant with them at Mount Sinai. Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew was not born a Jew, but his descendants from his grandson Jacob/Israel became the Banu Israel—the Jewish People.

For 1200-1300 years after Prophet Moses, the Banu Israel was the only ongoing monotheistic community in the world. Unlike the other monotheistic communities that rose and fell during those centuries, most, but not all of Banu Israel (the Jewish People) remained loyal to the covenant which God had made with their ancestors at Mount Sinai. (Mount Tur Quran 28:43-46).

It was only several centuries after Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew that the Hebrew nation acquired its better known name, the Children (Descendants) of Israel (in Hebrew B’nai Israel; in Arabic Banu Israel). The name of Abraham-the-Hebrew’s grandson, Prophet Jacob, was changed by God to Israel when his descendants were being oppressed in Egypt.

Prophets and Messengers Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad are all the biological descendants of Prophet Abraham. Abraham was the first of those we know to receive an ongoing Sacred Scripture (Quran 87:18-19). All of the other messengers who receive an ongoing Sacred Scripture were among Prophet Abraham’s biological descendants.

Being ‘the first’ is what makes Prophet Abraham so special that his name appears 69 times in the Qur’an, second only to Prophet and Messenger Moses (136 times). But, Prophet Abraham is most famous for the numerous ways God tested him, especially the two terrible tests: banishing Hagar and his first born son Ishmael (Qur’an 2:124, & Genesis 16:1-16) and calling on Abraham to make his son a sacrificial offering to God. (Qur’an 37:100-113 & Genesis 22:1-24)

Most Muslim commentators say the son, unnamed in the Qur’an, was Prophet Ishmael (Arabic Isma’il). Some Muslims assert it was Prophet Isaac. I think both participated in the test at different times, so that each son could produce Prophetic descendants who in the future would become a religious blessing for other nations throughout the world. (Genesis 22:16-18 & Qur’an 4:163)

It is hard for many Muslims to understand the intertwined nature of the religion of Judaism with the ongoing nature of the ethnic Jewish People because, although Judaism and Islam are very close in most ways, they differ greatly from each other in their origins: Abraham was an ethnic Hebrew, and a monotheist, but not himself a ‘Jew,’ as the Quran correctly and clearly notes; yet Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac (Arabic Isḥaq) and grandson Jacob /Israel (Arabic Ya’kob/Isra’el) were later to become ethnic Hebrews/religious ‘Jews’: Yehudim—Banu Isra’el.

However, Abraham’s descendants through his son Ishma’el (Arabic Isma’il) would be ethnic Arabs —a separate Semitic people— and later religiously Christians and Muslims. All three groups were in the monotheist tradition, stemming from the pure monotheist, the ‘Friend of God,’ Abraham-the-Hebrew, whom I prefer to call the first ‘Islamic’ Hebrew or the first ‘Muslim’ Hebrew, that is, the first Hebrew monotheist submitted [Arabic ‘islama’: to submit] to the one God.

Muslims needed only one Prophet and one book to establish their religious community. Jews needed many dozens of Prophets and books to establish the first ongoing monotheistic religious community in the world. It is narrated from Abu Dharr that one day he asked the Messenger of Allah: How many prophets are there in all? He replied: One hundred and twenty four thousand. He asked: How many of them were messenger prophets? He replied: Three hundred thirteen from the above group. He asked: Who was the first of them? He replied: Adam.

Then Prophet Muhammad said: O Abu Dharr: There were four Syriac prophets: Adam, Sheeth (Seth), Ukhnuh (called Idris) and who was the first to write and Nuh (Noah). Four were Arabs: Hud, Salih, Shuaib (Job) and your (own) prophet, Muhammad. The first prophet among the Bani Israel was Musa (Moses) and the last was Isa (Jesus) and they were in all six hundred prophets. (The Rabbis taught that 48 named male prophets and 7 named female prophets prophesied in Israel.)

Abu Dharr asked: O Messenger of Allah how many sacred scriptures descended? He replied: 104, of which Allah revealed to Sheeth (Seth) 50 scrolls, 30 to Idris and 20 to Ibrahim. He also revealed (the 4 ongoing sacred books) Taurat, Injeel, Zabur and Quran. (Biharul Anwar, Vol. 11, Pg. 32.) Five messenger prophets brought sets of laws (Halakah and Shariah) and they are prophets: Nuh (see the Jewish 7 laws of Noah), Ibrahim, Musa, Isa and Muhammad. (Biharul Anwar, Vol. 11, Pg. 32)

While Christians, Jews and Muslims should make no disrespectful distinction between any of their prophets or their sacred scriptures, we cannot help but notice that the circumstances and style of the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an as written revelations are very distinct.

The Hebrew Sacred Scriptures are a vast collection (305,358 Hebrew words) of Divinely inspired books written over a period of almost a thousand years, by 48 male prophets and 7 female prophetesses (Talmud Megillah14a); plus many more anonymous Divinely-inspired historians, poets, and philosophers.

The Arabic Qur’an is much shorter (a total of 77,934 Arabic words) recited by only one prophet during a period of less than two dozen years and written down by his own disciples.

Most people in the world have learned of Prophet Abraham, not by reading a book of Jewish history or religion, but by listening to and reading from the Christian Bible or the Muslim Qur’an. This unique and amazing situation is a reflection of a promise made to Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew more than 36-7 centuries ago, and recorded in both the Torah and the Qur’an:

“I swear (says God) because you did this —not withholding your son, your favorite one— I will bestow My blessing on you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.” (Torah, Genesis 22:16-18)

Thus the Qur’an states that like Prophet Jesus: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the (Abrahamic) prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things.” (33:40) None of the recent messengers, like Joseph Smith who promoted the Book of Mormon for the nearly 17 million member Mormon Church, or the prophets and originators of the Bahai, Druze, and Sikh religions were descendants from Prophet Abraham.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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