A word which occurs in the Qur’an fifteen times. Eight times for the religion of Abraham (Surahs ii. 124, 129; iii. 89; iv. 124; vi. 102; iii. 38: xvi. 124; xxii. 77); twice for the religion of former prophets (Surahs xiv. 16; xxxviii. 6); once for the religion of the seven children of the cave (Surah xviii. 19); three times for idolatrous religions (Surah xii. 37, vii 86, 87); and once for the religion of Jews and Christians (Surah ii. 114). The word is used in the Traditions for the religion of Abraham (Mishkat, book x. ch. v.).
According to the Kitabu ‘t-Ta’rifat, it is expressive of religion an it stands in relation to the prophets, as distinguished from Din دين, which signifies religion as it stands in relation to God, or from Mazhal مذال, which signifies religion wills reference to the learned doctors [RELIGION.] Sprenger and Deutsch have invested the origion and meaning of this word with a certain amount of mystery, which is interesting.
Dr Sprenger says (Das Leben und die Lehre des Mohammad, vol. ii. p 276 n) —.’ When Mohammad speaks of the religion of Abraham, he generally uses the word Milla (Millah) and not Din. Arabian philologists have tried to trace the meaning of the word from their mother tongue, thus, Malla (Mallah) signifies fire or hot ashes in Arabic and Zaggag says (Thalaby, vol. ii. p. 114), that religion is called Milla because of the impression which it makes, and which may be compared to that which fire makes upon the bread baked in ashes. Since the Arabs are unable to give a better explanation, we must presume that milla is a foreign word, imported by the teachers of the ‘Milla of Abraham” in the Hijaz. Philo considered Abraham the chief promoter of the doctrine of the Unity of God, and doubtless, oven before Philo, Jewish thought, in tracing the doctrine of the true religion, not only as far back as Moses, but even to the father of their nation, emancipated the indispensability of the Coran the law, and so prepared the road to Essaism and Christianity.”
Mr Emanuel Deutsch, in his article on Islam (Literary Remains, p 130), save: “The word used in the Quran for the religion of Abraham is generally Milla. Sprenger after ridiouling the indeed absurd attempts made to derive it from an Arabic root, concludes that. it must be a foreign word introduced by the teachers of the ‘Milla of Abraham’ into the Hijaz. He is perfectly right. Milla=Memra=Logos, are identical; being the Hebrew, Chaldee (Targum, Peshito in slightly varied Spelling), and Greek terms respectively for the ‘Word,’ that surrogate for the Divine name used by the Targum by Philo. by St. John. This Milla or ‘Word, which Abraham proclaimed, he, ‘who was not an astrologer but a prophet,’ teaches according to the Haggada, first of all, the existence of one God, the Creator of the Universe, who rules this universe with mercy and lovingkindness.”
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam