Religion in the Quran is a very important topic. Religion is what makes a person. Without a religion, a person has no plan in life and has a blurry future ahead of him. Religion is defined as a system of beliefs especially in God. The perfect religion of God is the religion of Islam that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) brought for mankind. In this article, we will take a look at:
Religion of Prophets Before Prophet Muhammad
All prophets had a religion that was sent to them by God. In fact, whatever God revealed to them would become part of their religion. The very first prophet of God, that is, Adam (آدَم), received revelation from God and those Divine commands comprised the religion of Adam. Many of the beliefs of Adam were commonly held among other prophets such as monotheism, prophethood, justice of God, belief in the Day of Resurrection, refraining from sins, and performing obligatory acts. However, the exact rituals may have been different. For example, the way they performed prayer or fasted may have been different.
Religion in the Quran: Religion of Prophet Ibrahim
Perhaps the closest religion to Islam was the religion of Prophet Ibrahim. He was called a Ḥanīf meaning true in religion. Prophet Ibrahim was also the one who called his followers and us Muslims:
مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ۚ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَـٰذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ
The faith of your father, Abraham. He named you ‘Muslims’ before, and in this, so that the Apostle may be a witness to you, and that you may be witnesses to mankind. 1
Therefore, the prophets after Ibrahim such as Isaac, Ismail, and Jacob also followed the religion of Prophet Ibrahim for the most part. According to the Quran, Jacob, who was also known as Israel (اسرائیل) made certain things forbidden for himself as per God’s orders before the Torah was revealed:
كُلُّ الطَّعَامِ كَانَ حِلًّا لِّبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ إِلَّا مَا حَرَّمَ إِسْرَائِيلُ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن تُنَزَّلَ التَّوْرَاةُ ۗ قُلْ فَأْتُوا بِالتَّوْرَاةِ فَاتْلُوهَا إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿93﴾
All food was lawful to the Children of Israel except what Israel had forbidden himself before the Torah was sent down. Say, ‘Bring the Torah, and read it, if you are truthful.’ 2
Religion in the Quran: Prophet Moses
As newer prophets came, although the major beliefs remained the same as compared to previous religions of prophets, certain changes were made in the law of the religion of prophets such as Prophet Moses. Moses was a great prophet and had brought a new world religion and a new holy book, the Torah. Therefore, the people of the time had to believe in the newest religion of God which was the religion of Prophet Moses. Of course, the main followers of the religion of Moses were the Children of Israel or the Israelites. Later, the religion of Prophet Moses came to be known as Judaism. However, this name was not a name that was given to it by Moses himself.
Religion in the Quran: Prophet Jesus
Prophet Jesus was also an adherent of the religion of Moses. However, when he was sent to the Israelites, as per God’s command, he made certain things that were unlawful lawful for them:
وَلِأُحِلَّ لَكُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي حُرِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ
And to make lawful for you some of the things that were forbidden you. 3
God made certain pure things unlawful for the Israelites owing to their sins:
وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ هَادُوا حَرَّمْنَا كُلَّ ذِي ظُفُرٍ ۖ وَمِنَ الْبَقَرِ وَالْغَنَمِ حَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ شُحُومَهُمَا إِلَّا مَا حَمَلَتْ ظُهُورُهُمَا أَوِ الْحَوَايَا أَوْ مَا اخْتَلَطَ بِعَظْمٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ جَزَيْنَاهُم بِبَغْيِهِمْ ۖ وَإِنَّا لَصَادِقُونَ ﴿146﴾
To the Jews We forbade every animal having an undivided hoof, and of oxen and sheep We forbade them their fat, except what is borne by their backs or the entrails, or what is attached to the bones. We requited them with that for their rebelliousness, and We indeed speak the truth. 4
Unfortunately, the followers of the religion of Jesus were misled and came up with a new religion that contained polytheism. They deified Jesus Christ and said he is the son of God who sacrificed his life for the salvation of his followers. It came to be called Christianity. Read the article Jesus in the Quran for further explanations in this regard.
Religion in the Quran: The True Religion
The true religion at the moment is the perfect religion of Islam. It complements and perfects all other religions with the coming of the final prophet of God, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny). In fact, the previous prophets had given the news of his advent. God says in the Quran that religion in the sight of God is Islam:
إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّـهِ الْإِسْلَامُ ۗ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمُ الْعِلْمُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ ۗ وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ ﴿19﴾
Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam, and those who were given the Book did not differ except after knowledge had come to them, out of envy among themselves. And whoever denies Allah’s signs [should know that] Allah is swift at reckoning. 5
It is incumbent on every individual to embrace the religion of Islam, or else God will not accept his deeds and he will be one of the disbelievers in the Hereafter:
وَمَن يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الْإِسْلَامِ دِينًا فَلَن يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ وَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ ﴿85﴾
Should anyone follow a religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter. 6
The Meaning of Islam
The literal meaning of Islam is submission. On this basis, a person who accepts the religion of Islam has submitted himself or herself to God fully. However, all religions of prophets even before Prophet Muhammad were essentially Islam in the sense that they submitted themselves to God. That is why Prophet Ibrahim said to his sons and Prophet Jacob too said to his sons:
وَوَصَّىٰ بِهَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعْقُوبُ يَا بَنِيَّ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ اصْطَفَىٰ لَكُمُ الدِّينَ فَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ ﴿132﴾
Abraham enjoined this [creed] upon his children, and [so did] Jacob, [saying], ‘My children! Allah has indeed chosen this religion for you; so do not die except as those who have surrendered themselves [to Allah]. 7
Likewise, the children of Jacob said to their father when he asked them who they would worship after him:
أَمْ كُنتُمْ شُهَدَاءَ إِذْ حَضَرَ يَعْقُوبَ الْمَوْتُ إِذْ قَالَ لِبَنِيهِ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن بَعْدِي قَالُوا نَعْبُدُ إِلَـٰهَكَ وَإِلَـٰهَ آبَائِكَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ إِلَـٰهًا وَاحِدًا وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ ﴿133﴾
Were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his children, ‘What will you worship after me?’ They said, ‘We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, the One God, and to Him do we submit.’ 8
As a matter of fact, they were not saying that they follow the religion of Prophet Muhammad. They were saying we are Muslims in the sense that they submit themselves to God. Bearing this in mind, the religion of all prophets was Islam and they all were Muslims; however, their rituals may have been different. One example would be the hijab or covering of women. Islam came and perfected it.
- Quran 22:78 (Qara’i).
- Quran 3:93 (Qara’i).
- Quran 3:50 (Qara’i).
- Quran 6:146 (Qara’i).
- Quran 3:19 (Qara’i).
- Quran 3:85 (Qara’i).
- Quran 2:132 (Qara’i).
- Quran 2:133 (Qara’i).