The Millat of Ibrahim: Tafsir of Surah al-Baqara:130

Tafsir of Baqara Verses 130-134

Shaykh `Ata’ Ibn Khalil (Allah protect him) writes in his monumental commentary on surat al-Baqara:

“[1] Those who deny and disbelieve in the milla of Ibrahim have plunged themselves into ignorance and stupidity because Allah (glorified is He!) had elected Ibrahim (upon him be peace) with Prophethood and Messengership in this world and made him a witness over them in the Hereafter remaining firm and constant on Good and righteousness. {And who turns away from the milla of Ibrahim…} which is an interrogative that carries the meaning of rejection (istinkari) in that no sane person would shrink away from the clear Truth which is the milla of Ibrahim.[1] The word “milla” (مِّلَّةِ) in origin means a ‘practical example’ (sunna) and ‘way’ (tariq) as mentioned by al-Zajjaj[2] and became a general word meaning ‘religion’ (al-din) – whether its beliefs or laws[3] – but here [in the verse] refers only to the creed, i.e. the belief (iman) of Ibrahim. This is because laws of previous Prophets are abrogated by the message of Islam from the advent of the Messenger of Allah: {And We have sent down to you the Book in truth, confirming the Scriptures that came before it and made it muhaymin over them. So judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging away from the truth that has come to you}.[4] The word {muhayminan} means abrogation of the laws pertaining to previous Prophets and not the beliefs of those previous Prophets because abrogation occurs only in the Islamic rulings of the previous Prophets except if Islam actually affirms that ruling as part of its own laws which means it becomes an Islamic ruling because Islam affirmed it.

Moreover, whoever disbelieves in in the milla of Ibrahim with respect to the belief he held, i.e. the tawhid of Allah, rejection of shirk as well as believing in everything demanded of Ibrahim, if this is denied, then a person has plunged his soul into stupidity and ignorance as well as disbelief in Allah and His Messenger. And {…except he who fools himself} means falls into stupidity, ignorance and disbelief.

[2] And all Prophets (upon them be peace) were ‘Muslims’ in the linguistic meaning of being absolutely obedient as well as in submission to Allah in everything Allah demanded of them and so in this sense as well, Ibrahim (upon him be peace) was a pure Muslim, i.e. unswerving from the Truth but submitted to Allah, obedience and sincere. For this reason, Allah refuted the claims of the Jews that [Ibrahim] was a Jew and the Christians who claimed he was a Christian: {Ibrahim was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim Hanif and he was not of the polytheists}.[5] Thus, the Jews and the Christians always rejected the milla of Ibrahim – being a hanif[6] and a Muslim[7] – and claimed he was either a Jew or a Christian respectively. Allah likewise responded to their claims regarding the revelation of the Torah and the Bible (injil) after [Ibrahim]: {O people of the Scripture! Why do you dispute about Ibrahim, while the Torah and the Bible were not revealed till after him? Have you then no sense?}.[8]

The Prophets and those who follow them are considered ‘Muslims’ in the linguistic sense, i.e. being in humble submission and obedience to Allah (glorified is He!). However, ‘Islam’ in the legal meaning (ma`na shar`i) is what Allah revealed to his Prophet Muhammad with its complete `aqida – as well as whatever is included in that from the `aqida of the previous Prophets – and its complete Shariah that has abrogated the laws of all the previous Prophets.[9] Hence, after the advent of the Messenger of Allah, the da`wa became restricted to Islam and Islam alone: {And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers}[10]; {Truly, the religion with Allah is Islam}.[11] So, it would not be correct to single out da`wa to only the milla of previous Prophets but it is necessary to make da`wa to the Islamic `aqida – where the `aqida of the previous Prophets is a part of that – and it is necessary to make da`wa to the Islamic Shariah that abrogated all previous laws except that which the Shariah affirmed [from those previous laws] and thus became part of the Shariah…”[12] [End]


  • Allah honoured and chose Prophet Ibrahim as the standard and bearer of Guidance.
  • Rejection of what Ibrahim was following is the height of injustice, ignorance, ruin and destruction.
  • Prophet Ibrahim was a true slave of Allah – he was not a Jew, Christian or polytheist but a hanif and ‘Muslim’ in the sense of one in complete obedience and submission to Allah.
  • All previous Prophets and their followers were ‘Muslim’ in the linguistic sense of their submission and obedience to Allah.
  • The milla of Ibrahim in v.130 refers to the `aqida of Ibrahim and not the laws he brought and followed.
  • The religion of ‘Islam’ in the technical and legal meaning (shar`i) has abrogated all previous religions in terms law except for what it has re-affirmed of those previous laws.
  • Any invitation to Islam now must be to Islam – its `aqida and shariah – and not to that of the previous Prophets.

And with Allah is all success.


[1] Ibn Kathir comments:

 وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ إِلاَّ مَن سَفِهَ نَفْسَهُ }: أي: ظلم نفسه بسفهه وسوء تدبيره؛ بتركه الحق إلى الضلال، حيث خالف طريق من اصطفي في الدنيا للهداية والرشاد من حداثة سنه إلى أن اتخذه الله خليلاً، وهو في الآخرة من الصالحين السعداء، فمن ترك طريقه هذا، ومسلكه وملته، واتبع طريق الضلالة والغيّ، فأي سفه أعظم من هذا؟ أم أي ظلم أكبر من هذا؟ 

“{and who turns away from Ibrahim except a person who has fooled himself?}, i.e. wronged himself by his own ignorance, evil planning and abandonment of Truth for misguidance in that he has opposed the path of the one chosen by Allah for Guidance and clear divine instruction from his youth until he was made Allah’s close friend (khalilan). He will be in the Hereafter from among the elite righteous ones who have attained the highest felicity. So, whoever opposes this path of his, as well as his way and milla and follows the path of misguidance, then what greater ignorance is there than this and what greater injustice is there than this?” Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 1:220-221.

[2] al-Zajjaj, Ma`ani al-Qur’an wa I`rabuhu, 1:183:

والملة قد بيناها و هي السنة والمذهب…

[3] al-Baghawi, Ma`alim al-Tanzil, 1:117:

 وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ } أي يترك دينه وشريعته يقال رغب في الشيء إذا أراده، ورغب عنه إذا تركه.

Cf. the discussion of the term ‘din’ and ‘milla’ in al-Bayjuri’s Hashiya (= Tuhfat al-Murid) of Jawharat al-Tawhid, pp.41-43.

[4] See Q. 5:48.

[5] See Q. 3:67.

[6] al-Baghawi says: “…and ‘hanif’ can mean he who turns away from all religions and inclines to the straight and true religion. It is also said that a ‘hanif’ is someone who is a monotheist, performs the Hajj, makes the ritual sacrifice, performs the circumcision and turns towards the Ka`ba…” Ma`alim al-Tanzil, 1:313:

والحنيف المائل عن الأديان كلها إلى الدين المستقيم، وقيل: الحنيف: الذي يوحِّد ويحج ويضحي ويختن ويستقبل الكعبة. وهو أسهل الأديان وأحبُّها إلى الله عز وجل.

[7] al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, 1:164: “{muslim} meaning obedient to Allah…”

  مُسْلِمًا } منقاداً لله}

[8] See Q. 3:65.

[9] al-Bayjuri, Tuhfat al-Murid, p.226 and `Abd al-Haqq al-Dihlawi art.71 (= p.101) in Takmil al-Iman:

و شريعته أكمل الشرائع و دينه ناسخ الأديان

“And his [s: the Prophet Muhammad’s] Shariah is the most perfect Law and His religion [s: of Islam] has abrogated all other religions…”

[10] See Q. 3:58.

[11] See Q. 3:19.

[12] Sh. `Ata’ Ibn Khalil, Taysir al-Wusul ila’l-Usul, pp.157-159.


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