Can the Previous Ummahs Prior to Islam Be Described as Following Islam?

A translation of Selected Portions from the Treatise:

Itmām An-Ni’mah fī Ikhtisās Al-Islām bi Hādhihi Al-Ummah

Hāfiz Jalāl-ud-Dīn Suyūtī rahimahullāh (d.911 AH)

Adapted & translated from:

Al-Hāwī lil Fatāwā vol.2 pp.115-129 [Dār Al-Kutub Al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1408/1988]

NB: The ‘Notes’ are by the translator.

Translation: Perfection of the Bounty in Specifying Islam with This Ummah

All praise is for Allāh Ta’ālā, may peace be upon His selected messengers,

To proceed,

The following question was received: Can the previous Ummahs be described as being ‘Muslim’ or not?


The scholars hold two views regarding whether ‘Islām’ can be used to refer to every true [revealed] religion [prior to Islam], or, is it specifically for this honorable Ummah. The preferred view is the second one.

In the treatise that follows, I want to explain this matter in detail by stating the preferred view and the answers to the issues that are raised about it.

There are two well-known views of the scholars in this matter. Many imāms have transmitted them. The first is that ‘Islām’ can be used to refer to every true religion and it is not specific with this Ummah.

The second view is that ‘Islām’ is specific to this Ummah. The description of ‘Muslimīn’ is specific to the Ummah of Muhammad sallallāhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam, and none of the previous Ummahs are described with it, except for their Messengers. This Ummah has been granted the honor of being described with an adjective used for the Messengers out of honor and reverence for them. This view is the preferred view in terms of transmission and its proof. It stands upon a firm and resolute proofs. This Ummah has been granted various specialties, none of these were given to previous nations, except the Messengers.

From these specialties is wudū’. This is a specialty of this Ummah. None of the previous nations would perform wudū’, except the Messengers.

Wahb Ibn Munabbih said, “Indeed Allāh sent revelation to Dāwūd in the Zabūr: ‘O Dāwūd, indeed a Nabī will come after you. His name will be Ahmad.’ The narration continues, ‘His Ummah is marhūm, i.e., mercy is shown upon them. I shall recompense them to a similar degree that I give to the Messengers for optional deeds. I have obligated them with the actions that I have made obligatory upon the Messengers. They will come on the Day of Qiyāmah and their light will be like the light of the Messengers. This will be because I made it obligatory upon them to purify themselves for every Salāh, just as I made it obligatory upon the Messengers before them. I have made a purificatory bath compulsory upon them from major impurity, just as I have made it compulsory upon the Messengers before them. I have commanded them to perform Hajj just as I commanded the Messengers before them and I have commanded them to engage in Jihād just as I have commanded the Messengers with the same before them.”

Proofs for the Preferred View

Proof One:

«And strive for Allāh with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Ibrāhīm. Allāh named you “Muslims” before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give zakāh and hold fast to Allāh. He is your protector, and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper»[1]

One of the pioneers in Tafsīr, Ibn Zayd, said about this: ‘Allāh Ta’ālā did not mention the word ‘Islām’ except with this Ummah and we have not heard of an Ummah spoken of with ‘Islām’ beside them.’

The same is narrated by other leading scholars in Tafsīr.

Proof Two:

«Our Rabb, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful»[2]

«Our Rabb, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.”»[3]

Note: The Messenger in the above verse refers to Sayyidunā Muhammad sallallāhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam by consensus.

Proof Three:

« This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion»

Note: This verse is clear in specifying Islām with this Ummah.

Proof Four:

«Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah] judged by it for the Jews»[4]

Note: Islām was the adjective for the Messengers (from before), not their nations.

Proof Five:

«Ibrāhīm was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allāh]. And he was not of the polytheists»[5]

Note: This verse proves that the Sharī’ah of Mūsā ‘Alayhi as-salām was called Yahūdiyyah. The Sharī’ah of ‘Isā ‘alayhi as-salām was called Nasrāniyyah. The Sharī’ah of Ibrāhīm ‘Alayhi as-salām was called Hanīfiyyah. It was with Hanīfiyyah that Muhammad sallallāhu ‘Alayhi wa sallam was sent. From this, it is clear that the Jews and Christians were never called this. Their Sharī’ahs were never referred to as ‘Islām’, and none were ever called ‘Muslim’. Hence, when a person will embrace the teachings of other religions, he will not be referred to as a Muslim, because his Hanīfiyyah has been distorted, tainted, and disfigured.

Proof Six:

«They say, “Be Jews or Christians [so] you will be guided.” Say, “Rather, [we follow] the religion of Ibrāhīm, inclining toward truth, and he was not of the polytheists.”[6]

Proof Seven:

«O People of the Scripture, why do you argue about Ibrāhīm while the Torah and the Injil were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason?»[7]

Note: The Jews of Madinah Munawwarah argued and felt that Ibrāhīm ‘alayhi as-salām passed away as a Jew. In this verse, Allāh Ta’ālā denies this, as the Torah was revealed after him. Hence, Judaism came after him. Similarly, Christianity came about after the Injil, which was also after Ibrāhīm ‘alayhi as-salām. Just as the Jews of old created a false image of a great Messenger, they try the same today too. Every thinking Muslim must strive and see beyond the façade of the newfound Abrahamic Religion.

RELATED: The Abrahamic Religion: An Evil Agenda Against Islam

Proof Eight:

«Say, “I have submitted myself to Allah [in Islam], and [so have] those who follow me.” And say to those who were given the Scripture and [to] the unlearned, “Have you submitted yourselves?” And if they submit [in Islam], they are rightly guided; but if they turn away, it is only the [duty of] notification upon you. And Allah is Seeing of [His] servants»[8]

Note: This verse clearly points out that Islām is specific with this religion, i.e., the religion we follow.

Proof Nine:

Rasulullah sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam said, ‘By Him in Whose control is the life of Muhammad, whoever in the Ummah hears about me, whether Jew or Christian, but does not affirm his belief in that with which I have been sent and dies in this state of disbelief, he will be one of the denizens of hell-fire.’[9]

Note: The endpoint of a person is considered by Allāh Ta’ālā in the hereafter. This is the reason why those with a clean and safe heart are said to be the fortunate ones. Falling for and promoting a foreign idea under the pretext of unity is thorough deception. Period.

Proof Ten:

All the people from the time of the Sahābah radiyallāhu ‘anhum, and the generations that followed, the jurists, the scholars of all sciences, even the women and children in the home, and even the Jews, Christians and Magians agree upon the fact that whoever follows the religion of Musa ‘alayhi as-salām will be called Yahūdī, whoever follows the religion of ‘Isā ‘alayhi as-salām will be called Nasrānī and whoever follows the religion of Sayyidunā Muhammad sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is called a Muslim.


Islām is a complete system of life, encapsulating every sphere of human existence. It is founded upon resolute grounds with a pure and pristine divine text and rational guidance for humanity until the end of time. It is unique in its structure and system and has the capacity to withstand the attacks of modern reformists, just as it has been holding firm against the deviated sects for the last 1443 years.

Islām, as the name suggests, requires that man submits himself to Allāh Ta’ālā and the teachings of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam. When the most intelligent mind will delve deeper and deeper into the Noble Qur’ān, he will definitely find oceans upon oceans of knowledge that he has not yet analyzed. This causes the faith of a person to become stronger. On the other hand, when a scholar, intellectual or any think tank grasps onto ideology based on desire or falsehood, thinking it to be rational, beautiful, and progressive, he will be met with the incapacitating effect within the Noble Qur’an and blessed Sunnah, making him submit at some point. That is Islām.

Now, it stands to reason that when faced with an idea of a newfound religion, like with the Abrahamic Religion being promoted, by even ‘scholars’, it must be based entirely on hawā’ and must raise eyebrows at every level.

Once a person has embraced Islām, he comes under the umbrella of protection within its beautiful and unique structure. He must now guard his prized possession of faith and promote his unique beliefs, practices, and dress code. How about realizing that living with an inferiority complex of Islām is depressing and distressing?

Once a lion is born, it does not envy the bleating of the sheep.

NOTE: Those who, in the times of previous Messengers, believed and practiced the divine scripture of the time will be rewarded and classified as good doers. This is established from Sūrah Al- Baqarah, verse 62.

Their belief does include them among those who submit, but they are not referred to as Muslims in terms of their title and name.

Follow Mufti Abdullah on Twitter: @MuftiAMoolla


  1. Sūrah Hajj: 78
  2. Sūrah Al-Baqarah: 128
  3. Sūrah Al-Baqarah: 129
  4. Sūrah Al-Mā’idah: 44
  5. Sūrah āl-‘Imrān: 67
  6. Sūrah Al-Baqarah: 135
  7. Sūrah āl-‘Imrān: 65
  8. Sūrah āl-‘Imrān: 20
  9. Sahih Muslim, on the authority of Sayyidunā Abū Hurayrah radiyallāhu ‘anhu
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John Doe

When you mean Messengers do you include the Prophets as well or just Messengers?


It’s a good idea for any translator to transliterate the Arabic technical term in bracket when writing English translations. ‘Prophet’, ‘Messenger’, ‘Apostle’ in English are used for the Arabic ‘Nabi’ as well as ‘Rasul’.

This simple little query is actually a GIANT & PRIME EXAMPLE of the fact that Islam is essentially interspersed with the Arabic language itself, and Islamic knowledge will be lost without Arabic.

There is no such thing as an English or German or French or Turkish or Urdu fiqh technical term or hadith classification term or anything in any Islamic discipline. Even commonly used words like “authentic” or “inauthentic” or “weak” when used for ahadith, don’t mean much in English as compared to the Arabic original terms like Sahih or Hasan and so on.

Eastern languages other than Arabic from non-Arab Muslim cultures, such as Turkish, Persian, Urdu, Dari, Indonesian etc. are very heavily endowed with Arabic technical terms in books on Islam; and anyone who aspires to be a scholar needs to be trained in Arabic.

What the western “scholar” does is teach an “Islam” that is exclusively rooted in western technical terms that are either deliberately or unwittingly mistranslated. That’s why you have rulings like “consent is obligatory” or “interfaith prayers” other such nonsense.


Lots of information.