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06 December 2011

Does the Quran Hate People of the Book?

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By Shahul Hameed

It seems as if there is a misunderstanding here about the message of the Qur’an. Please note that the Hadiths are no more than just elaborations of the Qur’anic message done by the Prophet for practical purposes.

If you read the Qur’an with a free mind, you can see that it does NOT criticize all Jews and Christians. It is critical only of some among them. And for that matter, the Qur’an does not spare the declared followers of Muhammad, too, when they deviate from truth and justice. Indeed, a considerable number of verses in the Qur’an are directed against the hypocrites among the “followers” of Muhammad himself (peace be on him). This was true of the followers of all prophets, including Moses and Jesus.

If we read the Books of the Old Testament, we find the prophets (and through them God) making very scathing attacks on the people who defied or ignored the teachings of the earlier prophets. For example, we find these verses rebuking the transgressions of the Children of Israel in the Book of Jeremiah 3:8–10:

“And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery, I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And yet for all this her treacherous sisterJudah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.”

And again, Jeremiah 5:7-8: “How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbor’s wife.”

And now listen to Jesus rebuking the Israelites of his day in Matthew 23:25-33: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous and say: ‘If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”

Can any sensible reader accuse God or His prophet here of hating Jews and Christians in the above verses? If not, how then can we point a finger at God, claiming He hates Jews and Christians in the Qur’an when He is rebuking the transgressors among the Children of Israel?

The approach of the Qur’an is clear: God admonishes the People of the Book, those people who were given scriptures, to return to their Books. We find that on many occasions, the doctors of the old religions have distorted the scripture for their own selfish purposes. So God admonishes them and warns them of the impending punishments awaiting them. We read in Jeremiah 8:8: “How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.”

Here the Prophet Jeremiah scolds those of the Children of Israel who made the Book of God false even by the use of a pen that distorts.

We see the same idea in the Qur’an too, where God scolds those people of the Book who wrote their own verses in the Book of God and called them God’s. Can we say that God is being deliberately anti-Jewish here?

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, a renowned American Muslim scholar, writes on this topic saying: “Taking a few passages from the Qur’an out of proper historical and textual context will not give a proper understanding of the religious scripture. This is not only true of the Qur’an but also of the Bible. Many passages from the Bible also criticize the Jews. Read the Hebrew Bible, particularly Micah 3:1-12 and Hosea 8:1-14, in which these prophets condemned the Jews who ‘abhor justice and pervert all equity’ and who ‘build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong.’

These prophets cursed Israel as a “useless vessel among nations” and called for the curse of God to “send a fire upon his [ Judah’s] cities” (Hosea 8:14) , and to make Jerusalem into “ruinous heaps” ( Isaiah 37:26 ). Prophet Ezekiel called Israel “a rebellious nation.” (Ezekiel 2:3).

Similarly, in the Book of Deuteronomy Moses warns the Jews that God “will send upon you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your doings, because you have forsaken me” (28:20).

Now, read the following verses of the Qur’an, and judge for yourself whether God is attacking Judaism, when He says in the Qur’an what means: {O Children of Israel! Call to mind the [special] favor which I bestowed upon you, and fulfill your covenant with Me as I shall fulfill My covenant with you, and fear none but Me.} (Al-Baqarah 2:40)

And then: {O Children of Israel! Call to mind the [special] favor which I bestowed upon you, and that I preferred you to all others [for My message].} (Al-Baqarah 2:47)

Then also: {And remember We took a covenant from the Children of Israel [to this effect]: Worship none but Allah; treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need; speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and give zakah. Then did ye turn back, except a few among you, and ye backslide [even now].} (Al-Baqarah 2:83)

Also read: {We took the covenant of the Children of Israel and sent them messengers, every time, there came to them a messenger with what they themselves desired not—some [of these] they called impostors, and some they [go so far as to] slay.}* (Al-Ma’idah 5:70)

You can even read much more if you go to Surah 5, verse 78; Surah 7, verse 137; Surah 10, verse 93; and Surah 17, verse 2.

It is evident from the above verses how God views the Children of Israel in general. This attitude of the Qur’an is in keeping with its stand towards all humans, as it shows when it says what means: {O people, We have created you from a male and a female and made you into races and tribes so that you may know each other. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of God are those who are the most pious among you. And Allah knows every thing and is aware of every thing.} (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

The above passages make it clear that Muslims cannot use them to justify any acts of hatred or injustice against Jews or Christians because the contexts in which these verses were revealed rule out that possibility. Also because they should be well aware that the same judgment of God awaits Muslims too, if they also transgress. God has no chosen people, except those who fulfill His justice and obey Him with piety and are merciful to all His creation.

The Qur’an was not just revealed for Muslims, but for all people, including Jews and Christians. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was in the line of previous prophets of God, including Prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. And, in fact, the Qur’an is the culmination of all the previous scriptures revealed by God.

The Qur’an does not condemn the Semitic race; in fact it accords Jews a special status, given their shared prophetic traditions with Islam.

The Qur’an criticizes only those Jews and Christians who turned away from God’s authentic message and admonishes those who scorned and ridiculed Prophet Muhammad and the message of the Qur’an. And what is more, the Qur’an specifically notes that such criticism is not directed against all Jews. You often see the expression {among them there are some...} placed before such criticisms, so that the good are not condemned along with the bad.

From the Qur’anic point of view, the Jews are descendants of Prophet Abraham, through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. They were chosen by God for a mission (Qur’an 44:32), and God raised among them many prophets and bestowed upon them what He had not bestowed upon many others (Qur’an 5:20). He exalted them over other nations of the earth (Qur’an 2:47, 122) and granted them many favors.

The Qur’an categorically says that good people are assured of their reward with God (Surah 3, verses 113-115). It further says in Surah 7, verses 159 and 168–170, that among the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth. Among them, there are some who are righteous and some who are the opposite. The verses also state that the Creator has tried them with both prosperity and adversity in order that they might turn [to Him]. As to those who hold fast by the Book and establish regular prayer, the verses clarify that they never shall suffer.

Thus it is clear that Muslims have no business to oppose Jewish people or Christians, as such. In fact, Muslims must give special respect to them as People of the Book. Originally, the prophets whom they consider as theirs are equally revered by Muslims.

Both Jews and Arabs are the Children of Abraham (Ibrahim – peace be on him). Jews descended from his second son Isaac (Ishaq – peace be upon him) and Arabs from the first son Ishmael (Isma`eel – peace be upon him). Thus, Jews and Arabs are brothers, though the racism that has crept into the perception of some Jews would deny this brotherhood. To Moses (Musa – peace be upon him) God Almighty revealed the divine scripture known as the Tawrah (Torah) as He revealed to Jesus (`Isa – peace be upon him), the divine scripture called the Injil (Gospel).

Completing the progressive revelation of divine guidance to man, God finally revealed the Noble Qur’an to the Final Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him). All these prophets were the prophets of God and the religion they taught was basically the same religion from God, namely Islam (peaceful submission to God).

I quote Harun Yahya when he says: “Concerning the People of the Book, God gives Muslims a command in the Qur’an; to rally to a common formula, when He says what means: {O People of the Book! Let us rally to a common formula to be binding on both us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than God...} (Aal `Imran 3:64)

This is, indeed, our call to Christians and Jews: As people who believe in God and follow His revelations, let us rally to a common formula—faith. Let’s love God, Who is our Creator and Lord, and follow His commands. And let us pray God to lead us to an even straighter path.

When Muslims, Christians, and Jews rally to a common formula this way; when they understand that they are friends not enemies; when they see that the real enemy is atheism and paganism; then the world will become a very different place.

The fighting that has raged for ages, enmities, fears—and terrorist attacks—will come to an end and a new civilization based on love, respect, and peace will be established upon this common formula."

And Allah knows best.

(Courtesy: On Islam.net)

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