Islam literally means total submission to the will of Allah (God Almighty). Hence, anyone or any way of life that preaches this will be known as Islam with respect to its literal connotation. It is for this reason, we say that Adam, Noah and all other prophets came with the religion of Islam because they came with the message that man should give full submission to Allah. They were also Muslims in the literal sense of the word because as prophets, they fully submitted themselves to Allah (the One true God).
As for the technical names used for the way of life/religion brought by each Prophet, these differed based on the language the people spoke and based on the name Allah chose to describe them. In the Quran, the Christians were known as Nasara which means helpers. They were called by this name because the disciples of Jesus helped him in his mission. Similarly, in the Quran, the Jews were known as ‘Yahood’ which means ‘to shun away from’. They were called by this name because they turned away from the worship of the calf. (Saawi – Lughatul Quran – Sheik Abdur Rasheed Nu’mani vol.6 pg. 145 Darul Ishaat Karachi Pakistan 1986)
The essence of religion, whether it be Islam or Christianity or Judaism, lies in two things:
(1) One should obey Allah (God Almighty) in one’s belief as well as one’s actions.
(2) This obedience should arise from total submission to Allah and His divine commandments with all sincerity.
This is essence, is Islam, and this is the true religion that Allah wants for man. Adam (A.S) came with this true religion to be obedient to Allah and to fully surrender to Him, and likewise all other prophets came with it. This message continued from one Prophet to the other until it was finally completed and perfected at the hands of the Prophet Muhammad (UWBP). It is for this reason we say that Islam was the first religion. There have been differences in the subsidiary laws and practices at the time of the different prophets, however, the fundamental teachings of the heavenly religions remained the same. That is, the concept of the Oneness of God, beliefs in prophets, angels, revealed Scriptures, Resurrection, Judgement, Paradise, Hell etc were identically the same. Each of these religions taught about the obedience to Allah and total submission to Him. Due to the fact that the other Prophets came before Prophet Muhammad (UWBP), they received Scriptures and books which were suited for their times and their nation. Hence, these Scriptures like the Zaboor (Psalms), Torah (Book of Moosa (A.S), Injeel (Gospel) were revealed before the Prophet Muhammad (S.A).
Finally, the Prophet Muhammad (UWBP) was sent as a Messenger to the entire mankind and not only a specific group of people. The Scripture which was revealed to him, the Holy Quran, came as the final and complete revelation and was given to the entire mankind as a Book of guidance.
It should be understood that Allah, the Creator of the Universe, has created man and had already fixed His decree with respect to guiding man on the right path. In this, He had fixed certain prophets at certain times, and had chosen specific Scriptures which were to be given to them. The purpose of these was to send ‘a way of life’ and a religion to them which was the truth and which was pleasing and beloved to Him. This was the way of belief in His Oneness (monotheism) and total submission to Him. In order to fulfil this, He (Allah) sent prophets during the course of history to teach and guide man to the right path. The teachings of these prophets were basically the same, even though there were differences in certain practices and language.
Throughout the entire history of man from the time of Adam (A.S) until the mission of Jesus, the religion which was decreed by Allah (to be that which preached absolute Oneness of Allah and total submission to Him) remained incomplete. Each prophet in the past told his people of the coming of another prophet. The reason for this was that religion and Scriptures were not completed as yet on the face of the earth and the ‘coming prophet’ was supposed to ‘carry-on’ from where the previous prophet stopped. It was in this regard that Prophet Jesus is reported to have said to his people (just before he left the earth), ‘There are many things I have to say unto you. Howbeit, you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the Prince of truth comes, he will guide you unto all truth’.
Muslims believed that this was a prophecy of the coming of Prophet Muhammad (UWBP).
So, as seen, since the beginning of man, prophets continued to be sent on the face of the earth. These prophets came to different nations at different times. As a means of guidance, Scriptures were revealed to some of these prophets during the period of their lives, which were recited to the people. Prophets in the beginning like Noah (A.S), Abraham and others received Scriptures and those after them also received Scriptures. A few among all the Prophets/Messengers received Books.
The Revealer of all Books and Scriptures is Allah, and He is the source of all revelations. It is on account of this reason, one will find passages or verses of one book in another book. This is so because the fundamental message and foundational teachings of all revealed religions are the same. Belief in the Oneness of Allah and total submission to Him alone was the call of every prophet.
As such, you will find passages and verses of Scriptures revealed to Prophet David, Prophet Abraham, Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus in the Holy Quran.
By: Mufti Waseem Khan