The Three Abrahamic Religions Are Like Related Brothers – OpEd


The Abrahamic Religions are like three closely related brothers with very different personalities and life experiences. 

The Hebrew Bible is a stand alone collection of many dozens of Prophetic monotheistic, no- idols text revelations delivered only to the Hebrew People, by 600 Hebrew Prophets over a period of one thousand years. Abu Dharr narrated that one day he asked the Messenger of Allah: How many prophets are there in all (the world)? He replied: One hundred and twenty four thousand. He then 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…The first prophet among Bani Israel was Musa and the last of them was Isa (Jesus) and they were in all six hundred (Jewish) prophets.” (Biharul Anwar, Vol. 11, Pg. 32)

The Christian Greek New Testament is an add-on to the Hebrew Bible because Christians believe that their revelations of personal salvation are a fulfillment of the much older Hebrew  prophetic revelations: now sent to all the peoples in the world. “After this the Lord (Jesus)  appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest (God), to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:1-3)

The Muslim Arabic Qur’an is a single stand alone revelation with only one prophet: with many references to events that happened to the Jewish People and to Prophets John and Jesus. It too was written for the world of Idol worshiping Polytheists. “We appointed [chose] you (Muslims) to be the community of the middle way, so that you might be witnesses to all mankind, and the Messenger (Prophet Muhammad) might be a witness to you.” (Qur’an 2:143) 

And “And We certainty settled the Children of Israel in an agreeable settlement [the Land of Israel] and provided them with good things. And they did not differ until [after Torah] knowledge had come to them. Indeed, your Lord will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ. So if you [O Muhammad] are in doubt, about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters. (Qur’an 10:93-4)

Christians believe that Jesus was a Divine human Son of God who died on the cross to atone for all the world’s human sinners. Muslims believe that Jesus was an entirely human Messianic prophet figure who did not die on the cross. Jews believe that Jesus was an entirely human good hearted reformer rabbi. 

All three religions look back to Prophet Abraham and his two sons, Prophets Ishmael and Isaac, as the seeds of their own religion. “Abraham was not a Jew (Yahuudiyyan) nor a Christian (Nasraaniyyan), but rather a Haniifan. Prophet Abraham lived before the Torah was revealed to Israel, so he could not have been a Jew who is informed by the revelation of the Torah, as Jews claimed. He could not have been a Christian (as Christians claimed) for the same reason. He existed before the birth of Jesus and the revelation of the New Testament. 

Prophet Abraham was a pure monotheist (Haniifan) and he submitted to the will of God (Musliman). “Muslim” here does not mean that he went to the mosque and fasted during Ramadan. It means that he was a generic “small-m” muslim who submitted to the will of God, as do all believing Jews and Christians. So Prophet Abraham was not what we would call a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim. He was a generic monotheist who set an example for all monotheists. No one can claim him exclusively

The term Hebrew comes from the verb to go over a boundary, like the Euphrates or Jordan rivers, ie. to be a migrant. Ten generations later the Philistines in Canaan used the term “Hebrews” to refer to the 12 tribes of Israel: “The Philistine commanders asked, “What about these Hebrews?” (1 Samuel 29:3); and Prophet Jonah identified himself to non-Jewish sailors as “a Hebrew” (Jonah 1:9). 

The term ivri (the Hebrew) first appears in the Torah, when Prophet Abraham is called “the Hebrew: “And it was told to Abram the Hebrew” (Genesis 14:13) And Prophet Joseph uses the name as both a geographical and an socio-ethnic term: “I was kidnapped from the land of the ivrim” (Genesis 40:15), and “The Egyptians could not eat with the ivrim, since that would be an abomination” (Gen. 43:32)

The 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. (Isaiah 51:1-2) and the Qur’an states: “You have an excellent example to follow in Abraham.” (60:4) and “Follow the way of Abraham as people of pure faith.” (3:95) 

The majority of occurrences of the word “Hebrew” are in the books of Exodus and Samuel, where it appears in the disparaging words of those Egyptians and Philistines, who despise Jewish immigrants. The term Yehudi, in the singular, is rare in the Bible. The word appears eight times in the book of Esther, but only twice more elsewhere, in Jeremiah 34:9 and Zechariah 8:23.  

While the plural version of this term is more common, appearing 65 times in the Bible, 44 of these appearances are in the book of Prophet Esther. We know the names of 48 male prophets sent to the Israelite people, but we do not know the names of many others. The Rabbis taught that “48 male prophets and 7 female prophets prophesied in Israel: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Hulda and Queen Esther.

Banu Israel is the best name for Jews because it was the name given to Jacob by God himself and it has been used for over 3,000 years.

“And remember Our servants; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Endowed with power and insight. We made them perfectly pure and sincere by virtue of a characteristic most pure; their constant remembrance of the Abode. (Qur’an 38:45-7)  

“Indeed, We chose him (Abraham) as one pure and most distinguished in the world, and he is surely among the righteous in the Hereafter”. (Qur’an 2:130)

Why was Abraham a friend of God? Because he introduced his friends to the imageless, formless One. His friends joined Sarah and Abraham in prayer each and every new moon. When Abraham and Sarah left Haran to go to the Land of Canaan, most of them joined Sarah and Abraham on their journey. When Jacob’s sons married, most of them married the descendants of Abraham and Sarah’s early converts. 

This unique and amazing situation is a reflection of a promise made to Abraham more than 36 centuries ago, and recorded in both the Torah and the Qur’an.

“The LORD said [to Himself], “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children, and his household after him (the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities) to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17-19)

And “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.” (Genesis 22:16-18)  “Indeed, We chose him (Abraham) as one pure and most distinguished in the world, and he is surely among the righteous in the Hereafter”. (Qur’an 2:130) 

So it is not surprising that a Hadith states: “We asked Allah’s Messenger how should one (ask Allah to) send blessings on you, the members of the family, for Allah has taught us how to salute you (in prayer)?’ He said, ‘Say: O Allah! Send Your Mercy on Muhammad and on the family of Muhammad, as You sent Your Mercy on Abraham and on the family of Abraham.” [Bukhari, Book #60, Hadith #49]

This is why the Qur’an states: “You have an excellent example to follow in Abraham.” (60:4) and “Follow the way of Abraham as people of pure faith.” (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)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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