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ISLAM (20)


Islam’s View of the Jews (2)

Victor M. Eskew


            In our previous lesson, we found that Islam has a tendency to speak out of both sides of the mouth.  They can affirm something and they can deny the same thing.  They can say they have an affinity for something and also state that they hate the same thing.  This is true of the Jews.  A researcher can find statements that indicate that Islam likes the Jews.  The same researcher can find statements that show the disdain for the Jewish people.  In such a case, actions speak louder than words.  Let’s continue with our study about “Islam’s View of the Jews.”  We will do our best reach a conclusion about how Islam truly looks at the Jewish nation.

            When Muhammad first began to announce his revelations and to proclaim that he was the prophet of God, he had an affinity for the Jews.  They were monotheistic as he was.  He tied many of his revelations to Jewish history.  Prayer was made toward Jerusalem.  Too, Muhammad is said to have had one Jewish wife name Safiyya.  When Muhammad became the chief arbitrator for the city of Medina in 622 A.D., he drafted a document that has been called “the Constitution of Medina.”  This document sought to establish the Ummah, the fold of one community.  Muhammad sought to unite the eight major clans found in Medina.  Too, he tried to unify Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the city as well.  In the Constitution, Muhammad set forth four main rights for the non-Muslims.  First, there was to be security for all groups.  Second, non-Muslims were to have equal political and cultural rights as Muslims.  This would include their freedom of religion.  Third, non-Muslims were to take up arms against any enemies of the Ummah and share the cost of the war.  Fourth, the non-Muslims were not obliged to take part in the religious wars of the Muslims.  All of these things show that early in the history of the Muslim religion, Muhammad sought to have a peaceful relationship with the Jews.

            Muhammad, however, wanted the Jews to accept him as the final prophet of God.  This did not happen.  The Jews also rejected the teachings of the Qur’an.  Ultimately, the Jews violated the Constitution of Medina by aiding the enemies of the Ummah.  This aid helped to bring about the battles of Badr and Uhudi.  These battles were won by the Muslims.  After their victory, they exiled two of the three main tribes of the Jews found in Medina, Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadir.  From this point onward, there was no peace between the Jews and Muhammad.

            Muhammad turned his armies upon the Jews.  He beheaded one of the leaders of one of the Jewish tribes.  The leader’s name was Ka’ab bin al-Ashraf.  After he had been killed, Muhammad proclaimed:  “Praise God for the death of Ka’ab.”  In 627, the last Jewish tribe was besieged in Medina.  The Jewish men were murdered and the women and children were distributed among the Muslims.  A year after this, Muhammad besieged the Jewish city of Khaybar located 95 miles from Medina in the northern part of the Arabian peninsula in modern-day Saudi Arabia.  First, assassins were sent to murder the Jewish leaders.  Second, the armies then took the city and the Jews surrendered.  Third, Muhammad tortured the leader of the city to death and married his wife.  This victory is deeply etched into the minds of all Muslims.  It is an essential part of the educational system of Islam.  One of their slogans is:  “Khaybar, Khaybar.  O Jews, Muhammad’s army shall return!”  The Muslims have also named some of their weapons after the city of Khaybar.  The Fajar rockets are called Khaybar rockets and in 2002 they developed a rifle called the Khaybar 2002.  It is important for our readers to understand the history of the wars of the Muslims.  These wars set precedents for the religion of Islam.  Since, Muhammad is considered the ideal Muslim, how he acted is how all Muslims should act.  How Muhammad acted toward the Jews in Medina and Khaybar is how all Muslims can and should act toward the Jews.

            Israel and the Jews are definitely mentioned in the Qur’an.  There are 43 referenced to Bani Isra il (Israel).  The Arabic term “yahud,” denoting the Jews is found eleven times in the Qur’an.  In addition, the verbal form “hada” meaning “Jewish” occurs ten times.  These references to the Jews are both positive and negative.  “According to Laqueur, conflicting statements about Jews in the Qur’an have affected Muslim attitudes toward Jews to this day, especially during period of rising Islamic fundamentalism” (…Wikipedia.com, “Islam and anti-Semitism”). 

The negative passages about the Jews in the Qur’an are extremely negative.  They send a very powerful message to those Muslims who whole-heartedly believe that the Qur’an is the law book of Islam.  Let’s look at three quotes.  Surah 3:25-27 states:  “Allah turned back the unbelievers in a state of rage, having not won any good, and Allah spared the believers in battle.  Allah is indeed, Strong and Mighty.  And he brought those of the People of the Book who supported them from their fortresses and cast terror into their hearts, some of them you slew and some you took captive.  And he bequeathed to you their lands, their homes, and their possessions, together with land you have never trodden.  Allah has power over everything.”  In this one quote we see three things that Allah allows in battle:  1) fighting itself, 2) the slaying of enemies, and 3) the taking of property of defeated enemies.  Another quote from Qur’an states:  “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in their world, and in the hereafter they shall have grievous chastisement” (Sura 5:33).  The final quote is from Sura 5:5.  It reads:  “O you who believe!  Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them:  surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.”