“When it is recited to them, they say: ‘We believe in it for it is the Truth from our Lord. Indeed we were already Muslims’.”
(Al-Qur’ān – 28:53)
This ayah refers to an incident that a delegation of 20 Christians, who had come to Makkah and met with the Prophet ﷺ in the Holy Mosque, and having got answers to their questions by the Prophet, reverted to Islam. They already believed in Prophets and Divine Books and hence their Religion could have been none other than Islam. Now when a Prophet had come with a Book from God – the Qur’ān – they naturally believed in the new Prophet as well. Thus, there had been no change in their Religion.
This statement explains that Islam is not merely the name of the Religion brought by Muhammad ﷺ, nor does the term ‘Muslim’ denote only those who follow him. Rather, all the Prophets brought one and the same Religion and their followers have, at all times, been Muslims. However, if people refused to accept the Prophet who was raised after the one they initially followed, then, they ceased to be Muslims. As for those who believed in the previous Prophets and also accepted the new Prophet when he was raised, there was no interruption in their Faith; they had been Muslims before and continued to be so after their believing in the new Prophet. It was a natural and logical corollary of their commitment to follow the True Faith.