A few people are of the view that Islam began with the prophet Muhammad. Yet this is not what the Quran teaches:
“Say: ‘I am not an innovation among the Messengers, and I know not what shall be done with me or with you. I only follow what is revealed to me; I am only a clear warner.’” (Q, 46:9, Arberry). Elsewhere the Quran says:
“He has laid down for you as religion that He charged Noah with, and that We have revealed to thee, and that We charged Abraham with, Moses and Jesus: ‘Perform the religion, and scatter not regarding it. Very hateful is that for the idolaters, that thou callest them to. God chooses unto Himself whomsoever He will, and He guides to Himself whosoever turns, penitent.” (Quran, 42:13, Arberry).
Thus, it hardly comes as a surprise that the Quran refers to a a few persons before the prophet Muhammad as Muslims. For example, in their prayer Abraham and Ismail refer to themselves as “Muslims”:
“… and, our Lord, make us submissive to Thee, and of our seed a nation submissive to Thee; and show us our holy rites, and turn towards us; surely Thou turnest, and art All-compassionate;” (Q, 2:128, Arberry).
The Quran refers to Abraham as a “Muslim” in another verse:
“No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters.” (Q, 3:67, Arberry).
The disciples of Jesus also refer to themselves as Muslims:
“And when I inspired the Apostles: ‘Believe in Me and My Messenger’; they said, ‘We believe; witness Thou our submission.’” (Q, 5:111, Arberry).
The sorcerers contending with Moses eventually also refer to themselves as Muslims:
“Thou takest vengeance upon us only because we have believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us. Our Lord, pour out upon us patience, and gather us unto Thee surrendering.” (Q, 7:126, Arberry).
Moses refers to his followers as Muslims:
“Moses said, ‘O my people, if you believe in God, in Him put your trust, if you have surrendered.’” (Q, 10: 84, Arberry).
Similarly, Yusuf refers to himself as a “Muslim”:
“O my Lord, Thou hast given me to rule, and Thou hast taught me the interpretation of tales. O Thou, the Originator of the heavens and earth, Thou art my Protector in this world and the next. O receive me to Thee in true submission, and join me with the righteous.” (Q, 12:101, Arberry).
The Quran states that it was Abraham who named his people “Muslims.”
“… and struggle for God as is His due, for He has chosen you, and has laid on you no impediment in your religion, being the creed of your father Abraham; He named you Muslims aforetime and in this, that the Messenger might be a witness against you, and that you might be witnesses against mankind. So perform the prayer, and pay the alms, and hold you fast to God; He is your Protector — an excellent Protector, an excellent Helper.” (Q, 22:78, Arberry).
The queen in her encounter with Solomon is similarly referred to as “Muslim.”
“So, when she came, it was said, ‘Is thy throne like this?’ She said, ‘It seems the same.’ And we were given the knowledge before her, and we were in surrender,” (Q, 27:42, also 27: 31, 38, Arberry).
The Quran also says that the recipients of the earlier revelation say:
“… and, when it is recited to them, they say, “We believe in it; surely it is the truth from our Lord. Indeed, even before’ it we had surrendered.” Q, 28:53, Arberry).
Reference is made to “Muslims” by the guests of Abraham:
“… but We found not therein except one house of those that have surrendered themselves. (Q, 51:36, Arberry).
[Disclaimer: Readers are advised to check the veracity of the statements made in this post for themselves. If any reader finds an error in this post, kindly inform me].