February 22, 2019

Are anti-Jewish slogans truly Islamic?

Anti-Jewish slogans uttered over the years within certain Muslim circles have given the impression that Islam is absolutely opposed to Jews. Indeed, many in the Muslim world consider hostility toward Jews as a sign of piety. And some leaders addressing the Islamic world have deliberately employed anti-Jewish declarations as a requirement of classic rightist propaganda to muster public support.

“Either [you accept] the Zionists and everything they want, or else it is war,” Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said in a 2010 interview posted recently by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “This is what these occupiers of the land of Palestine know — these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

This perspective has no place in Islam, and these statements are repeated — either out of political aim or out of ignorance — by people unaware that they conflict with the Quran.

Under normal circumstances, when people make such false claims, we would say that these fabrications are of no concern to us; the person is obviously in error. However, this is now happening on such a wide scale that we need to speak out to correct it. 

People who hear claims that Islam preaches hatred against Jews should know that there are pages of verses that praise Torah, the prophet Moses and his followers. Jews are descendants of the prophets — Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David and Solomon. Any attempt to annihilate the line of the prophets would be tantamount to evil, and it is unimaginable for a Muslim to remain silent in the face of such an attempt.

The main misunderstandings regarding Muslims’ outlook toward Jews, which are incompatible with Islam but portrayed as stemming from it, are as follows:

The allegation of Jews being a cursed people

According to the Quran, Jews are not a cursed community. The only ones who are “cursed” are certain people who have done wrong against God. God certainly does not curse innocent people. Every person is responsible for his own good or evil deeds. Thus, a Jewish person is not born cursed.

For instance, God says: “The Jews say, ‘Allah’s hand is chained.’ Their hands are chained and they are cursed for what they say! No! Both His hands are open wide and He gives however He wills” (Quran 5:64). Without doubt, whoever says this are the ones who are cursed. When someone says this, they are denying God and accusing God of injustice. However, this does not mean that the latter generations will be cursed.

Just like God says “… because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them” (Quran 5:13), this punishment is also expressed in the same context in the Torah: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse — the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today …” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

What people forget is that God is absolutely just; he is all-merciful and all-compassionate, and God does not inflict suffering on the innocent. He does not punish them for the things they haven’t done. God  recompenses only the evil, and sometimes, if he wills, he forgives even them.

The allegation of Jews being monkeys and pigs

This has also no basis in the Quran. God informs us about people whom he cursed — transformed into apes and swine — while referring to deviators from his way (Quran 5:59-60). However, this is not a specific reference to Jews. God’s punishment is valid for all deviators, who also  include hypocrites living in the guise of a Muslim.

The specific reference to Jews regarding this issue is as follows:

“And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath.
We said to them: ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected’ ” (Quran 2:65).

“When in their insolence they transgressed [all] prohibitions, We said to them: ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected’ ” (Quran 7:166).

These are references that refer to the humiliation to those who disobeyed the commandments of God during the time of Moses. Again, these are not for all Jews, not for all time and certainly not hereditary punishment.

We cannot make general judgments based on one verse. The Quran is a whole, and every verse expounds upon another. So any verse from the Quran should be interpreted within the spirit of the Quran.

For instance, God says: “Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth” (Quran 7:59).

In other verses, he says: “Not all of them are alike; of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] are a portion that stand [for the right]. They rehearse the Signs of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten [in emulation] in [all] good works. They are in the ranks of the righteous. Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them. God knoweth well those who do right” (Quran 3:113-115).

God also informs us that some shall have their reward in the hereafter (Quran 2:62). There are many verses that we can cite showing that while God condemns the evil, he discriminates and praises the good ones among Jews and Christians just like he does among Muslims.

The allegation that we should not take Jews (or Christians) as a friend

One of the verses that some Muslims misinterpret is: “O ye who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protector; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them [for friendship] is of them. Verily, God guideth not a people unjust” (Quran 5:51).

In this verse, the word “friend” is mentioned two times. One is the Arabic word evliyau, which means “protectors, authorities in the eyes of law, saints, masters, owners, possessors.” The other one is yetewallahum, which means that “one who takes care of, governs the state, takes control.” In other words, the word “friend, guide” in this verse means “government.” God relates that Muslims — of course, in places where they are in majority — should not be under the sovereignty of other religions’ rule. It does not mean don’t take as worldly friends Jews and Christians.

The other verse that explains this issue is: “O ye who believe, take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport, whether among those who received the Scripture before you, or among those who reject Faith; but fear ye God, if ye have faith [indeed]” (Quran 5:57).

Here the verse refers to a specified condition: If Jews and Christians mock my religion, I would not listen to them and take them as friends. If one curses my religion and faith, then of course I would not take him as a guardian or as a reliable friend. But if he doesn’t curse my religion, then I can become friends with him in this world.

The allegation that Jews have no right to live in the Holy Land

The right of Jews to live in the Holy Land is given in the Quran by God. God says: “And thereafter We said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell securely in the Promised Land’ ” (Quran 17:104). And the prophet Moses says: “O, my people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously … ” (Quran 5:21).

Israel is, beyond any doubt, the Jewish homeland, and Jews must be allowed to live there. In other words, it would be abnormal to try to exile them from there or to “get rid of them,” as some have suggested. It is against conscience — and against the Quran — to tell Jews to go somewhere else.

The descendants of the prophets also have the right to live in Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, etc. — wherever they would like to engage in business, science, technology and arts. They should be able to travel in the lands where the prophet Abraham lived freely and securely. They should enjoy freedom of worship in the whole region. And it is confirmed by the Quran that children of Israel will be living in the Holy Land till the end of the world.

The false belief that killing Jews is God’s will

There is a hadith (saying of the prophet Muhammad) that some radicals interpret in an unacceptable way: “Judgment Day will come only when the Muslims fight the Jews.” Some interpret this as an excuse or a call to make war with Jews. However, this can never give legitimacy to war with Jews.

This hadith has already been realized. Muslims and Jews have already made war with each other in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, etc. But this saying does not set forth that Jews are enemies of Muslims or that Muslims should fight against Jews. Such interpretations have no theological or doctrinal basis.

Another false interpretation is regarding the continuation of this hadith: “… and kill them, until the Jew hides behind the tree and the stone, and the tree and the stone say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him — except for the Gharqad tree.’ ”

We cannot deduce any judgments based on a single verse of the Quran or a single hadith.

If somebody turns up one day and claims that stones and trees spoke to him, and thus he went off and killed Jews, we should regard him as a madman and that person would thus be committing murder; he would be an assassin. This would be haram (unlawful), and it is definitely unacceptable.

Killing children, killing innocent people or killing women is not acceptable. A Muslim can protect himself only in legitimate self-defense. Otherwise, killing the innocent is a sin.

According to the Quran, Jews have a special status as People of the Book and there is no obstacle for Muslims to live side by side with Jews. On the contrary, Muslims can establish warm, human relationships with Jews through marriage and the sharing of food. God says that the food of Jews is lawful (halal) for Muslims. How would one eat the food of the person he claims to be cursed? That means that God creates some sort of closeness with Jews, and that he wants us to consider them as friends. If we are able to eat together, set tables together, how could Jews be Muslims’ foes? If God says one can marry and eat with the People of the Book, this is the clearest proof that we can live together in a climate of peace and love.

It is true that there is a widespread hatred of Jews in the Muslim world. This does not stem from the Quran, but from various interpretations that do not reflect the spirit of Islam. Islam has a spirit, an essence and purpose. This spirit is one of compassion, mercy, love, cooperation, forgiveness, happiness, joy, adorning ones’ surroundings, having love toward everything and seeking God’s consent above all else. Every organization and each endeavor failing to accomplish these does not act in compliance with the spirit of Islam. Consequently, they are erroneous thoughts.

The way to put things right is for people of reason and good conscience to unify — to educate people against terror, radicalism and fundamentalism. These false beliefs will not come to an end by attacking Islam and Muslims. What needs to be done is to support those Muslims who interpret the Quran and the hadiths in a rational spirit of love and good conscience and to support the unification of the Islamic world. When Muslims come together under a spiritual authority, instead of an arbitrary model in which everyone says and behaves as he wants under the name of Islam, radical voices will spontaneously disappear.