Abraham's Family

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all look to Abraham as a sort of “father.”  These three are called the Abrahamic religions.  That Judaism claims a connection to Abraham makes the most sense.  The connections are historical, quick and genealogical.   Abraham’s grandson was Jacob whose name was changed to “Israel,” the namesake of the nation.  Abraham’s twelve great-grandsons became the heads of the twelve ethnic tribes of Israel.  The millions of ethnic Jews past and present are part of the fulfillment to the promise of descendants God gave Abraham. 

The connections between Abraham and Christianity are less direct.  Jesus was a descendent of Abraham.  Jesus was the Jew who saves the Jews, who returns and fulfills the promised blessings to the Jews.  Paul also asserts other, more conceptual connections between any Christian — Jewish or Gentile — and Abraham.  As Paul sees it, when a person regardless of ethnicity is baptized and comes “into Christ” he becomes a part of the lineage or “seed” of Abraham and therefore an heir (Galatians 3:26-29).  Furthermore, simply approaching God through faith not law makes one a spiritual ancestor of Abraham, as this was entirely how Abraham approached God in a pre-Mosaic Law world (Galatians 3:6-9; Romans 4:16).  Abraham is the “father” of all who step out in trust, whether circumcised Jews or uncircumcised Gentiles (Romans 4:9-12).  Yes, even Americans, Canadians, Asians and Africans without an ounce of Jewish blood.

Why do Muslims look to Abraham as their father as well?  Muhammad is said to have been a descendent of Abraham too, but this time through Ishmael, Abraham’s son with Hagar the slave girl.  Thus, we are again talking about a genealogical connection.  In 2:126 from today’s section, Abraham asks that God maintain a blessing on the people of Arabia who believe in the One God.  Abraham is given credit in the Qur’an for the name “Muslim” which means “those who submit” (22:78).  Maybe the biggest reason for the Islamic identification with Abraham is their assertion that he was the original monotheist, and thus the original Muslim — that is a “submitter” to the will of God.  It was believed even before the time of Muhammad that Abraham and Ishmael had built the black, cubic shrine called the Ka’ba in the middle File:Kaaba mirror edit jj.jpgof Mecca as the first house of worship to God.  In surah 19 Abraham debates the merits of idolatry with his own polytheistic father, Azar (Terah in Genesis).  Abraham declares it faulty and displeasing to the sole true God, so when Azar rejects his son’s advice Abraham disassociates himself from his father (9:114).  Muslims claim that what was really started with Abraham was the religion that reached its most complete manifestation in Islam.  Therefore, what started formally with Muhammad actually existed in spirit even before Judaism.  Hence, Islam claims not only a historical connection to Abraham but also one of ideology or faith, not unlike Christians do as well. 
Christians look at Islam and say how dare they co-opt our God, add a new revelation onto what we have (and discredit our Bible), and then claim that their religion is only what God started in the beginning in its purest form.  But then I imagine that is what a devote Jew would say about Christianity too.  
In today’s reading, the Qur’an says this:
 So you believers say, “We believe in God and in what was sent down to us and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and all the prophets by their Lord.  We make no distinction between any of them, and we devote ourselves to Him.”  So if they believe like you [Muslims] do, they will be rightly guided.  But if they turn their backs, then they will be entrenched in opposition. (2:136-37)
So as long as a devoted monotheistic Jew or Christian is truly following the guidance of God then they too will be blessed.  They are actually following the submissive way of Islam anyway, so why be concerned?  And if that is the case, could a Muslim not say that Jew or Christian is actually and truly a Muslim?  It is an interesting way to cut the Gordian knot of religious diversity while maintaining an approach of exclusivity.