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Islam’s ‘Abrahamic’ Dilemma

Let’s say you have a grandfather of whom you are particularly fond, and out of the blue, a stranger says: “Hey, that’s my grandpa!” Then, lest you think this stranger is somehow trying to ingratiate himself with you, he adds: “Everything you thought you knew about grandpa is wrong!”

Would that endear this stranger to you? That is the question everyone who believes in the notion of “three Abrahamic Faiths” needs to answer.

Proponents of this view believe that -- since Abraham is an important figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (especially the first and last of those three) -- all three religions share a commonality that should bridge gaps and foster growth between them.

This notion is entrenched in American mainstream opinion. At the Huffington Post, you can read that “Muhammad clearly rejected elitism and racism and demanded that Muslims see their Abrahamic brothers and sisters as equals before God.”

While visiting Indonesia, former Secretary of State John Kerry beat on a mosque drum while calling Muslims to prayer: “It has been a special honor to visit this remarkable place of worship,” he said afterwards. “We are all bound to one God and the Abrahamic faiths tie us together in love for our fellow man and honor for the same God.”

After a Muslim from an Oklahoma City mosque decapitated a woman: “[A]n official from Washington D.C. flew in to Oklahoma to present a special thank you to the Muslim congregation.” He read them a message from former President Barack Obama: “Your service is a powerful example of the powerful roots of the Abrahamic faiths and how our communities can come together with shared peace with dignity and a sense of justice.” Indeed, Obama has often spoken of “the shared Abrahamic roots of three of the world’s major religions.”

But the question is obvious: How is one people’s appropriation of another people’s heritage supposed to help the two peoples get along?

Also, those who ascribe to the “three Abrahamic Faiths” theory never mention -- or bother to learn -- the key problem: Islam does not treat biblical characters the way Christianity does.

Christians accept the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, as it is. They do not add, take away, or distort the same accounts of the patriarchs that Jews rely on. Conversely, while also relying on the figures of the Old and New Testaments -- primarily for the weight of antiquity and authority attached to their names -- Islam completely recasts them to fit its own agendas.

One need only look to the topic at hand for proof: Abraham.

Jews and Christians focus on different aspects of Abraham -- the former see him as their patriarch in the flesh, the latter as their patriarch in faith or in the spirit (e.g., Gal 3:6) -- but they both rely on the same Genesis account of Abraham.