The expression مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (millata ib’rāhīma), which means the “religion of Abraham”, occurs eight times in its various forms in the Quran: 2:130, 2:135, 3:95, 6:161, 16:123, 4:125, 12:38, and 22:78)
[2:135] They said, “You have to be Jewish or Christian, to be guided.” Say, “We follow the religion of Abraham—monotheism—he never was an idol worshiper.”
وَقَالُوا كُونُوا هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَىٰ تَهْتَدُوا قُلْ بَلْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
[16:123] Then we inspired you (Muhammad) to follow the religion of Abraham, the monotheist; he never was an idol worshiper.
ثُمَّ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ أَنِ اتَّبِعْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
The Arabic word millat comes from the root م ل ل (mim-lam-lam). This root has the following meanings: to dictate; to embrace a religion; faith; religion; creed.
Does this expression also occur in the Bible?
In order to find out we need to determine what is the Old Testament Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic word millat مِلَّةَ. As both Arabic and Hebrew are semitic languages, they share a lot of similarities, including many relationships between words and roots. Therefore, we can check to see if there exists a Hebrew equivalent root, and it just happens that it does.
The equivalent root to the Quranic Arabic word millat مِلَّةَ in Old Testament Hebrew is מלל (mēm-lamed-lamed). When used as a verb this root in the Hebrew Old Testament has four distinct meanings in the form of מלל (malal). The definition for all four verbs have to do with: separating or severing something from what it’s normally connected to.
One of these four definitions specifically means to circumcise and is a by-form of the verb מול (mul). We see this form used in the following verse of Genesis 17:11.
If we look at all the other occurrences of the word מול (mul) in the Bible, we see this word occurs thirty-six times. There are two verses in the entire Bible where this word is preceded after the name Abraham. These two verses are Genesis 17:26 and Genesis 21:4. Below are both verses showing the the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (millata ib’rāhīma / the religion of Abraham), which in Old Testament Hebrew occurs as the “circumcision of Abraham”.
This discovery corresponds with the following verse from the Quran where God put Abraham to the test with certain commands that he fulfilled.
[Quran 2:124] Recall that Abraham was put to the test by his Lord, through certain commands, and he fulfilled them. (God) said, “I am appointing you an imam for the people.” He said, “And also my descendants?” He said, “My covenant does not include the transgressors.”
The Jews call this covenant Brit Milah which translates to the “Covenant of Circumcision”.