Millat-e-Ibrahim: the way of Prophet Abraham (PBUH)
Saif Manzoor Updated: Nov 2005
Prophet Abraham is the most influential figure in the three monotheistic religions; Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He is respected as their spiritual father by the followers of these three major religions; together who constitute almost half the human population. No one else holds such an esteemed and unifying position in the human history. It is indeed the fulfillment of the God's promise to Abraham:
"Verily I am going to make you a leader of humankind". [2:124]
God has used the Arabic term 'Millat-e-Ibrahim' in Quran, to denote Prophet Abraham's beliefs. Islam is often called the "deen-e-Ibrahimi", i.e., The religion of Abraham; since the ideology of Islam is very well summarized in the monotheistic beliefs of Prophet Abraham. In Quran there is great emphasis on his beliefs and character:
And who forsaketh the religion of Abraham save him who befooleth himself? Verily We chose him in the world, and lo! in the Hereafter he is among the righteous. [2:130]
Meaning of the word Millat
The word Milla is derived from the root M-L-L in Arabic. It means a path or a way. It is also used for creed, religion, faith, confession or denomination.
(refer to Hans Wehr dictionary of Modern Arabic)
Context in Quran
The word Milla is used in 15 different verses in Quran. Following are the contexts in which this word is used:
The word 'Milla' is used in ten verses of Quran as Millat-e-Ibrahim, which refers to the beliefs of Prophet Abraham[i].
The word 'Milla' is used in five verses in the context when Messenger(s) were warned of persecution, if they do not convert back to the Milla (path or way) of their people. Prophet Shoaib (PBUH) was warned by the establishment to convert back to their Milla [7:88 -89]. Some anonymous messengers were warned of expulsion from the city by their people, unless they return to the Milla of their people [14:13]. And when the young men who hid in the cave said to each other that if they come to know of us they will either stone us or make us return to their Milla [18:20].
From these contexts it appears that Milla denotes the way of thinking of an individual or a group; it could be intellectual, a spiritual, faith, religion or all of them.
What is the way of Prophet Abraham?
Prophet Abraham lived in a society dominated by polytheism. People worshipped celestial objects and idols. There were pantheons dedicated to these gods, dominated by priests. He used his rational judgement to reject all these gods, as either the creation of the one God or mere inventions by their worshippers.
Quran presents two basic concepts, to explain the beliefs of Prophet Abraham:
Hanifa - This Arabic word stems from the root H-N-F, which means to bend or turn sideways. It is used for a person who leaves false creed to profess true monotheistic faith.
Shirk - It means polytheism. It is the opposite of hanifa. It means to associate falsehood with one God. It is used for a person who follows more than one god.
A detailed description of his thoughts and character is also found in Quran, which is summarized below:
He was an upright person and a monotheist. [2:130, 4:125]
He was a man with formidable intellects. He questioned the creed of his people, and even questioned God; how he will resurrect humankind? [2: 260]
He was fearless in his expression of faith. He argued with the religious establishment, and the man who was given the kingdom.[2:258]
He was compassionate, forbearing and humble. [11:75]
He was obedient to God.
He was hospitable.[11:69]
Millat-e-Ibrahim means the faith of Prophet Abraham in one creator. He believed in one God, after he rationally rejected all the other gods, worshipped by his people. Once he believed in one God, he was firm in his faith,. He adhered to the principles of uprightness and never associated falsehood with God. These qualities made him steadfast, strong in his spirit of sacrifice, compassionate and just. For these qualities, God choose him as a model for human conduct forever.
4:125 “and who can be better in religion than one, who submits his face to God and is a good doer and follows the way of Abraham the upright and God did take Abraham as a friend.
Peace be upon Prophet Abraham, the spiritual father of all the believers.
[i] 2:120 “never will Jews and Christians be pleased with you till you follow their Millat.” 2:130 “and who turns away from the Millat of Abraham except him who befools himself” 2:135 “and they say be Jews or Christians then you will be guided. Say no the Millat of Abraham the Upright…” 3:95 “say God has spoken the truth follow the Millat of Abraham the upright…” 4:125 “and who can be better in deen than one who submits his face to God and is a good doer and follows the Millat of Abraham the upright and God did take Abraham as a friend. 6:161 “say truly my God has guided me to a straight path a right deen the Millat of Abraham the upright and did not associate falsehood with God” 12:37 “and I have abandoned the Millat of people who do not believe in God and Hereafter “ 12:38 “and have followed the Millat of my fathers, Abraham or Ibrahim , Issac or Ishaq and Jacob or Yaqoob.” 16:123 “ and then we inspired you follow the Millat of Abraham the upright and he was not of those who associate falsehood with God” 22:78 “…it is the Millat of your father Abraham…” 14:13][18:20] [38:7] 7:88][ 7:89]