in the Qur'an, the sacred scripture of Islam, an Arabic designation for true monotheists (especially Abraham) who were not Jews, Christians, or worshipers of idols. The word appears to have been borrowed from a Syriac word meaning "heathen" and, by extension, designating a Hellenized person of culture. There is no evidence that a true hanif cult existed in pre-Islamic Arabia, but there were certain individuals who, having repudiated the old gods, prepared the way for Islam but embraced neither Judaism nor Christianity. In this sense, some of Muhammad's relatives, contemporaries, and early supporters were called hanifs-e.g., Waraqah ibn Nawfal, a cousin of the Prophet's first wife, Khadijah, and Umayyah ibn Abi as-Salt, an early 7th-century Arab poet

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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