Abraham Was First Lasting And Muhammad Was Last Lasting Prophet – OpEd


Why did Prophet Jesus state: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”? (New Testament, Matthew 15:24) Because Prophet Jesus only unintentionally, after he was no longer living among us, became a Jewish Prophet for the non-Jewish world. 

This was the result of Paul and those of Prophet Jesus’ disciples who began to teach that Jesus was the Son of God; and not just a human son of man. Jesus clearly thought of himself not as the “Son of God”, but as the “Son of Man”, a Messianic term. 

The Aramaic phrase Bar ‘ěnosh’ “son of man” is a Semitic expression denoting a single member of humanity, a certain human being. This Aramaic phrase is used by Daniel (7:13-14) to describe a Messianic figure riding with the clouds of the sky. In the four Gospels, “the Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite self-designation. Prophet Ezekiel is addressed by God as “Son of Man” 93 times in the Biblical book of Ezekiel. 

The term “Son of Man” appears 81 times in the Greek text of the four Gospels: thirty times in Matthew, twenty five times in Luke, 14 times in Mark (the shortest of the Gospels), and 12 times in John (the latest and least historical of the Gospels). Yet in Paul’s epistles, the term “Son of Man” is never used for Jesus. In fact, the term “Son of Man” appears in the whole New Testament only 4 times outside of the four Gospels

Only Prophet Muhammad, the ‘unlettered prophet,’ was an intentional non-Jewish descendant of Prophets Abraham and Ishmael, sent to the non-Jewish world with a long lasting scripture.

“Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong, and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil [things], and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him [even if they did not convert to Islam] – it is those who will be the successful.” [Sûrah Al-A’râf, 7:157]

As the Qur’an states: “Indeed, the believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabians—whoever truly believes in God and the Last Day and does good (deeds) will have their reward with their Lord.  And there will be no fear for them, nor will they grieve.” [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:62]

The Qur’an uses the metaphor of a rope that links us to God and also links us to one another: “And hold fast, all together, to the bond with God, and do not draw apart from one another” [Sûrah Âli-‘Imrân, 3:103]This is good advice for the individual members of each of the three Abrahamic religions; as well as for the three Abrahamic religions themselves.

The scholar Roger Boase writes: “Abraham is the key (first) ecumenical figure in the Qur’an, mentioned by name more frequently than any other (person except Prophet Moses), because he is regarded as the common tribal ancestor of both Jews and Arabs; as well as the spiritual ancestor of the three basic world wide monotheistic faiths. When Prophet Abraham was ninety-nine years of age, the Lord made a covenant with him and told him that he would be the father of many nations.

“According to the (Torah) Book of Genesis (15:5), Prophet Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars. For this reason, his name was changed from Abram, “father of exaltation,” to Abraham, “father of a multitude.” When one considers that today the total  population of Jews, Christians and Muslims exceeds 3.5 billion, this prophecy is not an exaggeration.

“When (Prophet) Abraham heard this prophecy, he had only one son Ishmael, who was then thirteen years old. Ishmael fathered “twelve princes according to their tribes” (Genesis 25:12-16). From these princes the Northern Arabs are reportedly descended, known by Arab genealogists as the Musta’ribah (Arabianized), or Aramite tribes.

“Ishmael married a daughter of a Jorhamite prince named Mudad and his son Kedar (Arabic Qaydar), settled in the wilderness of Paran (Arabia) (Genesis 25:13-15; I Chronicles 1:29-31). Keder was an ancestor of Adnan (or Qays), from whom the Quraysh, Prophet Muhammad’s tribe, claim descent.

“Therefore, when God addressed Moses and foretold: ‘I will raise up for them a prophet from among their brethren, like you [Moses], and I will put my words into his mouth; he shall convey all my commands to them’ (Deuteronomy 18:18), Muslims take this to refer to Prophet Muhammad, a descendant of Ishmael (and Abraham the Hebrew)…” (The Qur’anic Model of Religious Pluralism: Its Relevance for Muslim-Jewish Relations Today, pp. 6-7)

In Genesis 14:13, Abraham is described as Avram Ha-Ivri (‘Abram the Hebrew’), which translates literally as ‘Abram, the one who crossed over [the river Jordan or the river Euphrates] from the other side,’ i.e. a migrant:

“But We delivered him [Prophet Abraham] and [his nephew Prophet] Lûṭ [and directed them] to the land [of Israel] which We have blessed for [all] the nations. We bestowed on him [Abraham] Isaac. And, as an additional gift [a grandson] Jacob, and We made righteous men of every one [of them]. We made them leaders, guiding [men] by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and to practice regular charity; and they constantly served Us [only].  [Sûrah Al-Anbiyâ’,  21:71-73)]

So Prophet Abraham was the first ‘Islamic Hebrew as the Qur’an 3:67 states: “He (Abraham) was not Yahûdiyyân, ‘a Jew,’ nor Nasrâniyyân, ‘a Christian,’ but rather a Hanîfân, a Muslimân…, i.e. a monotheistic Hebrew believer submitting (islam) to the one imageless God who created all space and time; and who made the descendants  of Prophet Abraham the Hebrew  —through Prophets Isaac and Jacob (Isra’el)— into a great multitude of monotheists called the ‘People of Israel’/ Banu Isra’îl.

In the Hebrew Bible, Abraham is the first person to be called a Prophet (Genesis 20:7); and the first to be described as 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 Abraham the Hebrew 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.” (Genesis 12:1-2)

Thus Prophet Abraham-the-Hebrew’s descendants through Prophets Isaac and Jacob (Israel) became, as God had promised, a great multitude of ongoing and abiding to this day, monotheists called the Children of Israel —B’nai Israel in Hebrew and Banu Israel in Arabic.

In addition to the test of offering up his two sons, Abraham is unique among the numerous prophets whom God chose from among his descendants, whose names are recorded in the Bible and in the Qur’an. With the exception of the non-Jewish prophet Balaam (Bible, Numbers chapters 22-24) and Melchizedek in Genesis 914:18), all 55 Biblical named prophets (48 male and 7 female) and most of the 25 prophets named in the Qur’an, are descendants of Abraham.
“We did grant the Family of Abraham the Book, the Wisdom and a mighty (spiritual) kingdom.” [Sûrah Al-Nisâ’, 4:54]

And as 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.” [Sûrah Al-Mumtaḥinah, 60:4]

The Qur’an also states: “Follow the way of Abraham as people of pure (monotheistic) faith.” [Sûrah ‘Âli-‘Imrân, 3:95] The Hebrew nation did not acquire the better known name. the ‘Children (Descendants) of Israel (in Hebrew B’nai Israel, in Arabic Banu Isra’il) until a few centuries after Prophet Abraham the Hebrew, when they were oppressed in Egypt. 

In the Qur’an, God calls upon people to “follow the religion of Abraham” [Sûrah ‘Âli-‘Imrân, 3:95] The religion of Prophet Abraham was not yet Judaism; that did not come until the generation of Prophets Moses and Aaron. ‘Hebrew’ refers to (1) a language and (2) a nation who looked back to their original ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Prophet Ishmael was a half-brother of Prophet Isaac, long separated from him, but always related, as can be seen from the Qur’an: “Say: we believe in God and in what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishma’il, 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 the; and to God do we bow our will.” [Sûrah ‘Âli-‘Imrân, 3:84)

For 1200+ years after Prophet Moses, the Banu Israel was the only ongoing monotheistic community in the world. As the Qur’an states: “The people of Noah denied before them, and the Companions of the Well, and the People of Thamûd and ʿÂd, and Pharaoh, and the brethren /neighbors of Lot; and the Companions of the Forest, and the People of Tubba’.  All denied the messengers [Allah sent to them] so My threat was justly fulfilled.” [Sûrah Qâf, 50:12-14]

“Similarly, no Messenger came to the People before them, buxt that they said (of him): ‘a sorcerer’, or ‘one possessed’ ” [Sûrah Al-Dhârîyyât, 51:52]

Unlike the other monotheistic communities that rose and then fell during those centuries, most but not all of Banu Israel remained loyal to the covenant God made with them at Mount Sinai.

Then in the generations following two major revolts against Roman rule (66-70 CE and 132-135 CE)  thousands of Jews moved south from the Land of Israel all the way across the Arabian peninsula as far south as the Yemen.

After the Roman Empire became a Christian ruled society and persecutions of Jews became normative, the polytheistic Arabs in Arabia looked better and better to Jews as potential neighbors, so the rabbis saw them more favorably. Many Arabs married Jews and became Jewish to the point that Yathrib was often called ‘the City of the Jews,’ much as New York City is today.

According to the Arab historian al-Samhudi, more than twenty Jewish tribes [and Jewish clans within Arab tribes] were settled in Medina.  

One of Prophet Muhammad’s early biographers Ibn Hisham states: “Allah had set them [the polytheistic Arabs] on the road to Islam, for there were Jews with them in their country, people who had scriptures, and were endowed with knowledge, while they [the Arabs] themselves were polytheists and idolaters.”

Moreover, it was a time of messianic expectation: prophecies were circulating among the Jews of Yathrib that a new prophet would shortly appear. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, translation by A. Guillaume (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1967,  pp. 93-94).

So God’s promise to Prophet Abraham, that the other families of humankind will ultimately bless themselves, and one another, thus aspiring to be like Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14), has been fulfilled in the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

This is why Prophet Abraham was the first Messenger whose Holy Hebrew Scripture are still venerated by its original descendants; and Prophet Jesus had the most wide spread Greek Scriptures which are still venerated by its original descendants; and Prophet Muhammad was the Last of Abrahamic Religions whose Arabic Qur’an believers still are venerating its original holy words.

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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