In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
People of earlier revelation! Why do you argue about Abraham when both the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have you no sense? You have indeed argued about that of which you have some knowledge; why then do you argue about that of which you have no knowledge at all? Allah knows, whereas you do not know. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian; but he was wholly devoted to Allah, having surrendered himself to Him. He was not of those who associate partners with Allah. The people who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet (Pbuh) and those who are true believers. Allah is the guardian of the believers. (The House of Imran, “Aal -Imran” : 3:65-68)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
Muhammad ibn Ishaq relates a report attributed to Ibn Abbas, the Prophet’s cousin, which says; A number of Christians from Najran and a number of Jewish rabbis met at the Prophet’s place and disputed among themselves. The rabbis claimed that Abraham was nothing but a Jew, while the Christians maintained that Abraham was a Christian. Allah then revealed this verse starting with; People of earlier revelation! Why do you argue about Abraham...
Whether it was true or not that particular occasion was the time when this verse was revealed, it is apparent that this verse is meant to be an answer to the claims of people who professed to believe in earlier revelations. There seems to have been arguments either with the Prophet (Pbuh) or arguments among themselves in the presence of the Prophet (Pbuh). The ultimate aim of these claims was to monopolize Allah’s covenant with Abraham (Pbuh) which meant that prophethood would remain in Abraham’s seed, and to monopolize honour and Divine Guidance. More importantly, they sought through these claims to reject the Prophet’s (Pbuh) statement that he followed the faith of Abraham and that the Muslims were the rightful heirs of the original pure faith. The disputants also hoped to raise doubts concerning this fact in the minds of the Muslims, or at least some of them.
It is for this reason that Allah condemns here their attitude so strongly and shows clearly that their arguments are without basis. Abraham lived long before the revelation of the Torah or the Gospel. How could he, then, be a Jew or a Christian? It is a totally illogical claim which collapses at the first glance at history; People of earlier revelation! Why do you argue about Abraham when both the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have you no sense?
They are further condemned in the next verse. All their arguments are revealed to be without foundation. They appear to indulge in an endless dispute without supporting evidence, consistency or logic; You have indeed argued about that of which you have some knowledge; why then do you argue about that of which you have no knowledge at all? Allah knows, whereas you do not know.
They have argued about Jesus (Pbuh), and they argued about certain Divine legislations when they were called upon to submit to the rulings included in Allah’s Book. They, however, turned their backs on it. In these matters they had some knowledge. They, however, could not claim any basis, even a technical one, for their arguments about something which took place before the revelation of their scriptures and the preaching of their religions. They argue; then, for arguments sake. It is a worthless argument which is advanced for vested interests and follows no method of logic. A person who advances such an argument cannot be trusted at all. He is indeed not worth listening to.
When the Surah has shown the worthlessness of their argument, it states the truth known to Allah. He alone knows the truth of that distant period in history and the true nature of the faith he revealed to his servant, Abraham. When Allah states something, His word is final. No one may say anything which differs with Allah’s statement unless he wishes to make a worthless, futile argument. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian; but he was wholly devoted to Allah, having surrendered himself to Him. He was not of those who associate partners with Allah. Here we have a clear statement of what has been already implied that Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, since both the Torah and the Gospel were revealed after his time. It is further stated that Abraham had no interest whatsoever in any creed or doctrine other than complete devotion to Allah. He was a Muslim in the widest sense of Islam which we have already explained as meaning total surrender to Allah.
He was not of those who associate partners with Allah. This is again implied in the preceding statement that Abraham was wholly devoted to Allah, having surrendered himself to Him. That it is re-emphasized here is very significant because it indicates first that both the Jews and the Christians who over the years have come to accept deviant beliefs were in effect associating partners with Allah. Hence, Abraham could neither be a Jew nor a Christian, but an upright man who surrendered himself to Allah. It further indicates that Islam and polytheism are too diametrically opposed doctrines which can never meet. Islam means the absolute oneness of Allah with everything that this oneness entails. Hence, it can have no common ground with any form of polytheism. Moreover, it shows that the claim of the Quraish polytheists that they followed Abraham’s religion since they were the custodians of the Ka’abah, the house he built for worship in Makkah, is also false. Abraham believed in Allah alone and surrendered himself to Him, while those people of Quraish were polytheists; He was not of those who associate partners with Allah.
In view of the truth stated in the Qur’an about Abraham, neither the Jews, nor the Christians, nor indeed the polytheists may lay any claim to his heritage or to his religion since they all have moved far away from his faith. It is faith which is, indeed, the paramount relation which groups people together, according to Islam. If the relationship which unites the people of faith is lacking, no other tie of blood, lineage, race or land is of any value. In the Islamic view, man achieves his humanity through his spirit, the blow which has made out of him a man. Hence, faith which is the most essential quality of his sprit, forms the basis which unites human beings together. It is only animals that are grouped together on the basis of land, species, food and pastures, boundaries and fences. Patronage between individuals, communities and generations can only be based on faith. It is faith which unites one believer with another, one Muslim community with another, and one generation of believers who surrender themselves to Allah and all other generations, by passing the limitations of time and place, blood and lineage, race and nationality. They are all united by their belief in Allah who is the guardian of all the believers. The people who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet (Pbuh) and those who are true believers. Allah is the guardian of the believers.
Those who followed Abraham when he was alive and implemented his method and abided by his teachings had the best claim to him. The same applies to this Prophet (Pbuh) who shared with Abraham the quality of surrendering himself to Allah, according to the testimony of Allah himself, the best of all witnesses. Then come those who believe in this Prophet (Pbuh) and thereby follow Abraham’s method and practice.
Allah is the guardian of the believers. They are his party, sheltered by his cover totally devoting their loyalty to Him, to the exclusion of everyone else. They are one family and one nation the unity of which transcends all barriers of time, place, countries, nationalities, race and lineage.