By Rabbi Allen Maller
01 April 2017
In no way is the Qur’an anti-Judaism or
anti-Jewish. However, there are people now, and there were people in the past;
who have misused verses in the Qur’an for the purpose of vilifying and
attacking Jews and other people of the book.
Just as some Muslims have misused verses in
the Qur’an to attack and vilify Suni, Shi’a or Sufi Muslims; some Muslims, as
well as some Christians and some Jews, have misused some verses from their own
Holy Scriptures for unholy purposes of disrespect, disparagement and even
One has only to read about the Inquisition,
and the expulsion of Jews, and then Muslims from Spain, to realize how easily
the teaching of religious contempt can lead people to violence and persecution.
The thirty year was between Catholics and Protestants in Germany killed one
third of the German population.
And we can still see examples of the
religious misuse of verses of Sacred Scripture to promote hatred and violence
in many places in the world today: all done with the excuse of speaking the
truth in the name of God.
With the Muslim expansion into Syria and
Egypt, Muslims encountered large numbers of Eastern Orthodox priests, many of
whom, as they learned about Islam, began to attack it. Most of these attacks
were verbal but some were in writings that have survived till the present.
For example, Saint John of Damascus (c.
676–749 C.E.), who was familiar with Islam and Arabic wrote in the second
chapter of his book, The Fount of Wisdom, titled “Concerning Heresies”, a
series of discussions between Christians and Muslims. John claimed an Arian
(heretic) monk (Bahira) influenced Muhammad, and viewed Islamic doctrines as
nothing more than a hodgepodge culled from the Bible.
Saint John states that “Muslims accuse us
of being idolaters, because we venerate the cross, which they abominate. And we
answer them: ‘How is it, then, that you rub yourselves against a (black) stone
in your Ka’ba and kiss and embrace it?’ Then some of them say that Abraham had
relations with Hagar upon it, and others say that he tied the camel to it, when
he was going to sacrifice Isaac.
Then we say: ‘Then, just because Abraham
had relations with a woman on it, or tied a camel to it, you are not ashamed to
kiss it, yet you blame us for venerating the cross of Christ by which the power
of the demons and the deceit of the Devil was destroyed.’ This stone that they
talk about is a head of that Aphrodite (idol) whom they used to worship and
whom they called Khabár. Even to the present day, traces of the carving are
visible on it to careful observers.”
Saint John continues later: “In the chapter
The Table, Mohammed says that the Christ asked God for a table and that it was
given Him. For God, he says, said to Him: ‘I have given to you and yours an
incorruptible table.’ And, while he ordered them to eat some of the things
forbidden by the Law, he ordered them to abstain from others. He furthermore
absolutely forbade the drinking of wine.
And in the chapter The Heifer, he
(Muhammad) says some other stupid and ridiculous things, which, because of
their great number, I think must be passed over. He made it a law that they be
circumcised, the women too, and ordered them not to keep the Sabbath, and not
to be baptized.”
These Christian anti-Islam polemics grew
stronger and stronger over the next three and a half centuries until the
Crusades turned them into violence and war. It is not surprising that Muslims
answered the polemics with increasingly harsh words; and began to interpret the
Qur’an message of religious toleration in a narrow minded exclusionist manner.
Thus, some people who prefer to hate and vilify their rivals rather than love
and respect them, misunderstood verses in their own Sacred Scriptures to
justify their own feelings and negative thoughts.
An excellent example of misguidance by
Satan is the frequent misuse of verses from the Qur’an that apply to some
Christians and Jews, as if they applied to all Christians and Jews. For
example, defining Christians and Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs” is
widespread today in religious, educational and public discourse in the Arab
world. In a weekly sermon (April 2002) the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid
Al-Tantawi, one of the most senior authorities in the Sunni Muslim world,
described Jews as “the enemies of Allah, sons of pigs and apes.”
In truth, the Qur’an never states all Jews
were turned into apes or pigs; but clearly states that only some Jews were:
“…They are those whom Allah has cast aside and on whom His wrath has fallen and
of whom He has made some as apes and swine…” (5:60); “…You have surely known
the end of those from amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the
Sabbath, in consequence of which We condemned them: Be ye like apes, despised”
That in every generation there were some
Jews who failed to live according to the covenant that God had made with B’nai
Israel- the Jewish People is correct; just as in every generation some Muslims
within the Muslim Ummah have failed to live according to Islamic teachings. In
every religious community of human beings there are many individuals who act
like apes and pigs, and then fail to repent and amend their behaviour. To them
the Qur’an states: “When, instead of amending, they became more persistent in
the pursuit of that which they were forbidden, We condemned them: Be ye as
apes, despised” (7:166).
The Qur’an states specifically: “They are
not all alike. Some of the People of the Book are firmly committed to the
truth. They recite the Verses of Allah during the hours of night, and remain in
the state of [prayer] prostration before their Lord.” (3:113 – Qadri) Again we
see the explicit declaration that the People of the Book (Christians and Jews)
are not all alike. Some “…are firmly committed to the truth. They recite the
Verses of Allah during the hours of night, and remain in the state of [prayer]
prostration before their Lord.” and some do not; just as some Muslims pray
every day and are committed to the truth, and some Muslims do not.
This misuse of Sacred Scripture was used
against both internal sectarians and external rival religions; and was always
done with the excuse of speaking the truth in the name of God. The Qur’an
wisely warns us that every messenger’s recitations are subject to Satan’s
tampering in order to test those whose hearts are diseased and hardened: “We
did not send before you any messenger or prophet except that when he spoke
[recited], Satan threw in it [misunderstandings]. But Allah abolishes that
which Satan throws in; then Allah makes precise His verses. And Allah is
Knowing and Wise so He may make what Satan throws in, a trial for those within
whose hearts is disease and those hard of heart. Indeed, the wrongdoers are in
extreme dissension.” (Qur’an 22:52-3)
Allah does not prevent Satan from throwing
in hateful, narrow minded, sectarian understandings of Qur’anic verses as “a
trial for those within whose hearts is disease and those hard of heart”. It is
up to those who pursue virtue to oppose and defeat extreme wrongdoers whose
hearts are diseased.
Anyone who uses the words of Torah, Gospel
or Qur’an to vilify and hurt others is causing extreme dissension; and thus his
or her words are Satan’s misunderstanding. Anyone who uses the words of Torah,
Gospel or Qur’an to advocate or defend terrorism and oppression is an agent of