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Islam and the Jews

What does the Qur’an say about the Jews?

Islam and the Jews

They were two half-brothers with very different destinies. The Bible makes it totally clear about this. The first born, Ishmael, would become the father of twelve rulers, who would become a great nation (Genesis 17:20). The second born, Isaac, would inherit the everlasting covenant given to his father, Abraham (Genesis 17:19). This covenant promised him many descendants, the land on which he stood and a legacy of blessing the nations through a future offspring.

The Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, says it differently. Firstly, Abraham (Ibrahim) is distanced from his Jewish roots and Christian heritage:

"Ibrahim was not a Jew nor a Christian but he was (an) upright (man), a Muslim, and he was not one of the polytheists" (Qur'an 3:67)

Then the episode of Abraham's intended sacrifice of his son is left ambiguous as to the identity of the son.

"And when he attained to working with him, he said: O my son! surely I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you; consider then what you see. He said: O my father! do what you are commanded; if Allah please, you will find me of the patient ones" (Qur'an 37:102)

Muslims assume this son is Ishmael, the first born, though the Bible explicitly states it is Isaac.

"Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." (Genesis 22:2)

Muslims go on to say that Jewish or Christian scribes later doctored the Bible, and that the original son quoted as the favoured son was Ishmael.

It's an important point because the consequence of this testing of Abraham was for this son to be known as the child of promise and inheritor of the blessings. If it's Isaac, then Isaac's seed is the blessed seed, otherwise the blessings go to Ishmael's seed. It's important because there are implications here concerning who inherits the "Promised land" and whether the faith of Ishmael's seed (Islam) or Isaac's seed (Judaism or Christianity, depending on your perspective) is the true faith.

These points only became an issue when a 40 year old Arab called Muhammed had a religious experience and Islam was born, becoming, through conquest, the dominant faith of the Middle East in the 7th Century AD.

In order to get a grasp of current claims on the land by Muslims, it is important that we go back to the beginning, to Muhammed himself, to see what he had to say about the Jews, the land and Jerusalem.

Muhammed's relationship with the Jews follows a theme that is all too familiar, particularly when we look at the attitudes of various Christian leaders, such as Martin Luther. It starts off with a respect for a people who have stubbornly and faithfully clung to their God despite all the World had to throw at them. It continues with attempts to convert these people to your way of thinking and ends, unsurprisingly with frustrated anger, leading to persecution, when they don't dance to your tune.

Muhammed and his followers stayed for ten years in Medina, a place with a thriving Jewish population, who lived in harmony with the Arabs there. One of the first things he did there was strike a covenant with the Jewish inhabitants, promising good relations. He then set out to win them over, as is indicated by the verse in the Qur'an, his holy book. "We gave the Book to the Israelites and bestowed on them wisdom and prophethood. We provided them with wholesome things and exalted them above the nation".

Muhammed was an Ishmaelite, meaning that he shared a common ancestor with the Jews. He played on this, trying to gain converts among the Jews but ultimately failed to win them over. Because of this he broke away from them in 624 AD and started to strip away some Jewish elements from his new religion. The direction of prayer was moved from Jerusalem to Mecca (its original direction before his move to Medina). He broke his covenant with them, justifying his actions in the Qur'an, 'If you fear treachery from any of your allies, you may fairly retaliate by breaking off your treaty with them. God does not love the treacherous' . As his influence grew in Medina, there subsequently followed a period of persecutions, assassinations and expulsions of the Jews. In AD 627 his followers killed between 600 and 900 Jewish men and divided the women and children amongst themselves.

The Qur'an sets the tone for Muslim attitude toward Jews.

" ... And abasement and humiliation were brought down upon them, and they became deserving of Allah's wrath; this was so because they disbelieved in the communications of Allah and killed the prophets unjustly; this was so because they disobeyed and exceeded the limits." (2:61)

"And the Jews say: The hand of Allah is tied up! Their hands shall be shackled and they shall be cursed for what they say. Nay, both His hands are spread out, He expends as He pleases; and what has been revealed to you from your Lord will certainly make many of them increase in inordinacy and unbelief; and We have put enmity and hatred among them till the day of resurrection; whenever they kindle a fire for war Allah puts it out, and they strive to make mischief in the land; and Allah does not love the mischief-makers." (5:64)

Steve Maltz

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation )

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