The Biblical Origin of the Concept of Islam

Today, there is great tension between Muslims and Jews, between Islam and Judaism. The source of this tension is not a religious one, but a political one: one which is exacerbated by the current situation in Israel. Many believe that the religion known as Islam and its philosophy began with Muhammad in Arabia. This misunderstanding is due to a lack of understanding of what Islam means and where this concept originated. A careful study of the Hebrew scripture will show that the concept of Islam was developed among the Israelites.

Judaism is an invented name for the religion of Hebrew scripture, which only existed from the times of the Roman occupation of the Land. During the Roman occupation of the Middle East, the Romans gave the name iudaismos (Judaism) as the name of the practice and customs of the people in the land of Judea (Iudaea), the Southern part of modern day Israel; the people of Iudaea, then, were called Iudaeus or Jews. Prior to this time, there was no such thing as “Judaism”. So what was the religious term used to describe the religion of our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Peace be Upon Them עליהם השׁלום)?

The Bible did not give a name to the “religion” of the patriarchs nor of the children of Israel, however, according to the Qur’an, the religion (deen: the core beliefs) of Abraham (Peace be Upon Him עליו השׁלום) was Islam, and this was the same (deen) as all the other patriarchs. Some scholars have explained the definition of Islam as “submission.” Submission is not an accurate definition of this concept. The name Islam is from the IV verbal stem in Arabic اسلم aslama. This verb stem has a cognate relation to the Aramaic אשלים ashlim and the Hebrew השלים hashlim. All three have the same meaning: to be perfect, complete, to fulfill, to surrender, pay, to make peace etc. The concept of surrendering or handing over as payment can be established by the Arabic verses of the Bible and the Christian New Testament such as: “وَاسْلَمَ ابْرَاهِيمُ رُوحَهُ وَمَاتَ بِشَيْبَةٍ صَالِحَةٍ” [Then Abraham surrendered (aslama) his spirit and died in a good old age]; “سِمْعَانُ الْقَانَوِيُّ وَيَهُوذَا الإِسْخَرْيُوطِيُّ الَّذِي أَسْلَمَهُ.” [Simon, the one surnamed Judah Iscariot, who handed him over (aslamahu)] (The Bible Gen 28:8; New Testament Matthew 10:4). It is very likely, then, that the concept of Islam predates Muhammad as can be derived from the Tenakh (an acronym for the Hebrew Scriptures: Instruction, Prophets, and Writings).

Many believe the concept of Islam began with Muhammad ibn Abdillah, but this would be an incorrect assumption. The Qur’an made it very clear that Muhammad did not come with a new religion, but came to confirm the religion which began with Abraham (Qur’an 22:78). The Qur’an also explained that Muhammad did not innovate a new religious doctrine, “قُلْ مَا كُنْتُ بِدْعًا مِنَ الرُّسُلِ وَمَا أَدْرِي مَا يُفْعَلُ بِي وَلَا بِكُمْ ۖ إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلَّا مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ وَمَا أَنَا إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ” [“Say, ‘I am not an innovation from the messengers nor do I know what shall be done with me or with you; I only follow what is inspired to me, I am only a clear warner.”] (Qur’an 46:9). The Qur’an avows time and again that the religion (deen) that Muhammad was preaching did not originate with Muhammad, but with Abraham; this testimony demands that the concept of Islam should be easily found in the Hebrew Scriptures.

In the Torah YHWH commands: תָּמִ֣ים תִּֽהְיֶ֔ה עִ֖ם יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃ “you shall be perfect (tamim) with YHWH your Deity” (The Bible Deuteronomy 18:13). This is interpreted by King Solomon (עליו השׁלום) as: וְהָיָ֤ה לְבַבְכֶם֙ שָׁלֵ֔ם עִ֖ם יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ לָלֶ֧כֶת בְּחֻקָּ֛יו וְלִשְׁמֹ֥ר מִצְוֹתָ֖יו כַּיֹּ֥ום הַזֶּֽה׃ “Let your hearts be perfect (shaleim) with YHWH our Deity, to walk in His statutes and to guard His commandments as this day” (The Bible 1Kings 8:61). This provides a Textual and semantic relationship drawn between tamim and shaleim. To be tamim, one needs to have the heart shaleim with YHWH by fulfilling His commands. This is, essentially, the definition of the name Islam: to be perfect, complete, to fulfill, to surrender, pay, to make peace etc.

In the earlier passages of Torah, there are verses which draw a relationship between התהלך hithaleik and תמים tamim for example: אֵ֚לֶּה תֹּולְדֹ֣ת נֹ֔חַ נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים הִֽתְהַלֶּכְ־נֹֽחַ׃ “these are the generations of Noah; Noah was a perfect just man in his generation: Noah walked (hithaleik) with the God” and וַיְהִ֣י אַבְרָ֔ם בֶּנ־תִּשְׁעִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְתֵ֣שַׁע שָׁנִ֑ים וַיֵּרָ֨א יְהוָ֜ה אֶל־אַבְרָ֗ם וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ אֲנִי־אֵ֣ל שַׁדַּ֔י הִתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ לְפָנַ֖י וֶהְיֵ֥ה תָמִֽים׃ “when Abram was ninety-nine years old, YHWH appeared to Abram  and said to him: I am El Shaddai, walk (hithaleik) before Me and be perfect (tamim)” (The Bible Genesis 6:9; 17:1). These verses prove that the concept of Islam predates Judaism: naturally, then, Muhammad could not have been the founder of Islam. In truth, Islam has always been the prescribed form of worship since the dawn of humanity.

The idea of being tamim and shaleim is equivalent to walking with YHWH, or rather walking according to the way He has prescribed. One who walks with YHWH and has his heart shaleim with YHWH by doing His will is naturally called מֻשְׁלָם mushlam. The act of being shaleim with YHWH would then be called הִשָּׁלֵם hishaleim or לִהִשָּׁלֵם lihishshaleim. In Arabic, one who does the will of Allah is called a muslim and the religion is Islam. The concepts are identical.

Melchizedek (עליו השׁלום) is called the King of Shaleim, a city which could be identified as Jerusalem Yerushalem (The Bible Genesis 14:18). This is the oldest city in the Tenakh associated with the worship of the Most High God (El Elyon- identified by Abraham as YHWH) and had an active priesthood. There are many who hold that the name Jerusalem means “city of peace” or “founded of peace”, etc. However, there is also the possibility that the name Jerusalem could derive from the combination of the pa’al imperative plural form of the verb yarah, which would be yeru, and the participle shaleim: hence Yerushaleim could mean יְרוּ שָׁלֵם Yeru Shaleim (Teach Shaleim translates as a command meaning to Teach Islam). The verb yarah is used n the hiph’il form when the Torah intends instruction—Torah is the noun form of the hiph’il meaning instruction. All this proves that the concept, if not the very name, of Islam predated the advent of Muhammad ibn Abdillah.

הִנֵּה הַדָּת עִם הָאֱלֹוהַ לִהִשָּׁלֵם הִיא Hennei hadith ‘im Eloah lihishaleim hi

إن الدين عند الله الإسلام Inna deena inda Allahi’l Islam

The true religion with God is Islam (Qur’an 3:19)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

The Holy Bible

The Holy Qur’an

About Ya'aqov ben Yisrael

I am simply a man with questions and trying to figure out the answers; my greatest joys are found in the study of Torah: its language and exegesis.
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