Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) totally surrendered to the Will of God, a true Muslim by definition (flourished 18th century B.C). His two sons Ishmael and Isaac are well known in the biblical history. The monotheistic faith of Prophet Abraham [worship and obedience to One God] was followed by his decedents i.e. Children of Israel (Jacob, son of Prophet Isaac, peace be upon him) and the Children of Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon him).Initially the children of Israel (Jacob) were known as Hebrews. The word “Hebrew” (in Hebrew, “Ivri”) is first used in the Torah to describe Abraham (Genesis;14:13). The word is apparently derived from the name Eber, one of Abraham’s ancestors. Another tradition mentions that the word comes from the word “eyver,” which means “the other side,” referring to the fact that Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) came from the other side of the Euphrates, or referring to the fact, Abraham was separated from the other nations morally and spiritually. The word “Jew” (in Hebrew, “Yehudi”) is derived from the name Judah, which was the name of one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Judah was the ancestor of one of the tribes of Israel, which was named after him. Likewise, the word Judaism literally means “Judah-ism,” that is, the religion of the Yehudim. Originally, the term Yehudi referred specifically to members of the tribe of Judah, as distinguished from the other tribes of Israel. However, after the death of King and Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) , the nation of Israel was split into two kingdoms: the (Southern) kingdom of Judah and the (Northern) kingdom of Israel (I Kings 12; II Chronicles 10). After that time, the word Yehudi could properly be used to describe anyone from the kingdom of Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, as well as scattered settlements from other tribes. The most obvious biblical example of this usage is found in Esther;2:5, where Mordecai is referred to as both a Yehudi and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. The ten tribes were exiled from the land (II Kings;17), in the 6th century B.C, once the kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria (721 B.C) leaving only the tribes in the kingdom of Judah remaining to carry on Abraham’s heritage. These people of the kingdom of Judah were generally known to themselves and to other nations as Yehudim (Jews), and that name continues to be used ever since for the children of Israel as their religious peculiarities and traditions were developed. The 19th-century biblical scholars moved the decisive division back into the period of the Babylonian Exile and restoration of the Jews to Judah (6th-5th centuries B.C). They asserted that after the first fall of Jerusalem (586 BC) the ancient “Israelitic” religion gave way to a new form of the “Jewish” faith, or Judaism, as formulated by Ezra (5th century BCE), the scribe and his school (Ishaaq Ibn Bishr reported, on the authority of Ibn Abbas and others, that Ezra was an Israeli saint and a wise man). A German historian, Eduard Meyer, in 1896 published Die Entstehung des Judentums (“The Origin of Judaism”), in which he placed the origins of Judaism in the Persian period or the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (5th century B.C). and actually attributed to Persian imperialism for playing an important role in shaping the new emergent Judaism. Cyrus the Great the king of Persia (559-530 BC), is highly respected by Jews. He conquered Asia Minor, Babylonia, Syria, Palestine, and most of the Iranian plateau. He is known to have ruled his empire with wisdom and moderation, maintaining good relations with the Jews, whom he freed from the Babylonian Captivity and allowed the construction of 2nd Temple (520-515 B.C).Some Muslim commentators presume him to be the Zulqarnain (Two Horned), the king and conqueror mentioned in Qur’an (Surah Kahaf Chapter.18), Allah knows the best.
The Jews are obsessed with the covenant of God with their ancestors Prophet Abraham and Jacob (Israel), (peace be upon them), for special favors and their status as superior nation being chosen race of God. Islam in fact does not subscribe to the existence of the concept of a chosen race for all times, which is well understood from the Qur’an: “Remember that when Abraham was tested by his Lord with certain commands, he fulfilled them. God said: “Surely, I will make you the leader of mankind.” “What about my offspring?” Asked Abraham. “My Covenant,” said Allah, “will not apply to the evil doers.”(Qur’an;2:124). Here the claim of the children of Israel as “Chosen People of God” by only virtue of their decent has been negated. Even according to Bible, this Covenant is conditional, with the obedience of God and not applicable to evil doers: “Now therefore, If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, Then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:”(Exodus;19:5); “And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroyed before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.”(Deuteronomy;8:19-20). Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) also dispelled the wrong notion of Israelites, while saying: “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”(Matthew;3:9). Allah says: “Have you not seen the behavior of those (Jews) who have been given a portion of the Book? When they are invited to settle their disputes according to the Book of Allah, some of them turn back and decline. This is because they say: “The fire of Hell shall not touch us; even if it does, it will be for a few days.” In their religion they are deceived by their own self-invented beliefs. What will they do when We will gather them together on the Day which is sure to come, when every soul will be given what it has earned and there shall be no injustice?” (Qur’an;3:23-25). The Israelites became unfaithful to covenant engagements (Jeremiah;3:6-8, 31:32; Ezekiel ;16:59), became rebellious against God (Deuteronomy; 32:15; 9:7; Isaiah;1:2, Exodus;32:9); often displeased God by their sins (Numbers;25:3; Deutreronomy;32:16; 1Kings;16:2; Isaiah;1:4; 5:24-25). They were punished by God for; Idolatry (Psalms;78:58-64; Isaiah;65:3-7), Unbelief (Romans;11:20), Breaking covenant (Isaiah;24:5; Jeremiah; 11:10), Transgressing the law (Isaiah;1:4; 24:5-6), Changing the ordinances (Isaiah;24:5) and Killing the prophets (Mathew;23:37-38, 27:25). They were scattered among the nations (Deuteronomy; 28:64; Ezekiel; 6:8; 36:19), despised by the nations (Ezekiel;36:3), their country trodden under foot by the Gentiles (Deuteronomy;28:49-52; Luke;21:24). Their house was desolated (Mathew;24:38) and were deprived of civil and religious privileges (Hosea;3:4). The divine punishment was in the form of destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by Assyrians in 721 B.C; the ten Israeli tribes were scattered. The southern Kingdom of Judah thrived until 587-586 BC, when it was overrun by the Babylonians, who destroyed the 1st Temple and carried off many of the inhabitants into exile, it was beginning of ‘Diaspora’. When the Persians conquered Babylonia in 538 BC, Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and the 2nd Temple was rebuilt during 520-515 B.C. In 331 BC, Greek culture was introduced with the conquests of Alexander the Great. The Greek and Roman rule continued intermittently. Romans granted religious freedom to the Jews. Under the influence of surrounding cultures, gradually the original message of Abraham was distorted and Judaism emerged.