I was thrilled to read the article by Rabbi Allen S. Maller, appended below. The two traditions are indeed mirror images of each other. I’ve written quite extensively on similarities and the Rabbi has spelled it out clearly.
The essence of religions, all the beautiful religions was my radio talk show several years ago. We did 102 hours each on Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam and 54 hours on all other faiths including Judaism. We presented the essence of each faith, i.e, how it would sound to an individual like Mr. Spock, who was not conditioned by any faith, let alone God. Rabbi Haas joined me and talked about Judaism in 54 shows. Every show reinforced the knowledge that Islam and Judaism are similar in so many ways.
There was an intense interfaith five days conference organized by Memnosyne Foundation way back in 2005. About 40 individuals represented different faiths including several Native American traditions. All the 40 were seated around the tables in Dallas Arboretum. Each day, there was a round of questions to which we had to answer in Yes or No fashion. Rabbi Michael Akiba and I sat next to each other, and that’s when the fun began. If the question went clockwise, he answered first and I followed with a Ditto and if it went anti-clockwise, I would say yes or no, and Rabbi Akiba would say ditto.
I read the JTA and other Jewish newspapers and please to say that both Jews and Muslims have a proportionate percentage of progressives, moderates, and conservatives. I can’t tell you how similar the orthodoxies in both the groups see things, too eager to give Fatwas and ready to declare that others are not fully Muslims or Jews. They take ownership of their religion and practice it like it is a private club.
The battle with Arrogance has boldly begun. I gave a short speech upon receiving the Slater’s “The religious communicator” award from the Religious Communicators Council in April 2009. The following sentences from my acceptance speech became very controversial and formed the basis for many discussions.
“I am a Muslim and Islam works for me, just as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or your faiths work for you. Your faith is dear to you as mine is to me. I am further humbled to say that my religion Islam is not superior or inferior to any, nor any religion is superior to Islam. A claim like that would be a sheer arrogance and religion, any religion for that matter is not about arrogance.” Please visit the chapter “Kafirun” to grasp the fullness of the statement which is a reflection of Quranic verses (http://centerforpluralism.com/quran-and-civil-dialogue/).
On the way back to my table, John Lovelace, President of Council of Churches in Dallas shook hands with me on his way to receiving the lifetime award. He asked, “Why did I make that statement?” and he added, “I cannot say the same.” I responded that the society may not be ready now, but a generation down our kids and grandkids would view religion in those terms; a choice like any other choice in life.
My fellow Muslims expressed the concerns that I don’t believe my religion to be superior even though I follow it. I was called by Imam Dr. Zia Sheikh and Imam Dr. Zia Kavakci to explain the statement. I asked them, in turn, to answer me a two-part question; who does God love the most and the least? Obviously, the universal answer for that from Quran would be and was – the one who forgives and forgives often as it rebuilds the relationships and frees the receiver and the giver equally to create peace. Of course, the one God loves least is the one who is arrogant.
It is up to each one of the Muslims to think, read and understand Islam. Doesn’t arrogant attitude bring repulsion in the other? Does that contribute towards peacemaking, a major purpose of Islam?
Religion is about humility and not arrogance, humility builds enduring relationships and sustains peace, while arrogance kills the relationships and creates chaos. No matter what your faith is, to claim it to be superior is sheer arrogance. I can speak for Islam.
Arrogant men have abused religions and made them instruments of their arrogance, all the conflicts, and wars stem from this arrogance, no wonder God does not like arrogant people, as they mess the peaceful world he has created.
I was so pleased to read the quote from Micah (4:5) that in the end of days—the Messianic Age—“All people will walk, each in the name of their own God, and we (Jews) shall walk in the name of the Lord our God forever.” That is a perfect mirror of a verse in Quran. I want to dedicate this note to Rabbi Gerry Serotta, who is very familiar with verses from Quran and Torah that respectfully acknowledge other faiths as valid faiths.
Center for Pluralism
# # #
Allah’s Apostle and Reform Judaism by Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Allah’s Apostle was a messenger for all nations and not just for Arabs or Muslims.
I think of myself as a Reform Rabbi who is a Muslim Jew. Actually I am a Muslim Jew i.e. a faithful Jew submitting to the will of God, because I am a Reform Rabbi.
As a Rabbi I am faithful to the covenant that God made with Abraham – the first Hanif Jew to be a Muslim, and I submit to the covenant and its commandments that God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai.
As a Reform Rabbi I believe that Jewish spiritual leaders should modify Jewish tradition as social and historical circumstances change and develop. I also believe we should not make religion difficult for people to practice by adding an increasing number of restrictions to the commandments we received at Mount Sinai.
These are lessons that prophet Muhammad taught 12 centuries before the rise of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century Germany. Although most Jews today are no longer Orthodox, if the Jews of Muhammad’s time, had followed these teachings of prophet Muhammad, Reform Judaism would have started 1,400 years ago.
I believe that Muhammad was a prophet of Reform Judaism to the Orthodox Jews of his day; although he was 1,200 years ahead of his time. During the six centuries between the birth of Jesus and the arrival of Muhammad in Yathrib, the city of Jews (Medina), most Jews became Orthodox Jews.
Orthodox Rabbis added many extra prohibitions to Jewish law and everyone became increasingly strict in the observance of the laws of Shabbat and Kashrut (dietary restrictions).
Orthodox Rabbis did not follow the example of Muhammad as narrated by his wife ‘Aisha: Whenever Allah’s Apostle was given the choice of one of two matters, he would choose the easier of the two, as long as it was not sinful to do so, but if it was sinful to do so, he would not approach it. ‘Aisha also said: Whenever Allah’s Apostle ordered the Muslims to do something, he used to order them to do deeds which were easy for them to do.
Although the Torah of Moses prohibits adding to the commandments (Deuteronomy 4:2 and 13:1) over the centuries Orthodox Rabbis added many restrictions to the laws of prohibited activities under the theory of building a protective fence around the Torah’s laws. Also, whenever Orthodox Rabbis were in doubt if an animal had been slaughtered correctly according to Jewish law, or if one could eat a new species of bird, it was ruled prohibited.
They were not guided by Muhammad’s principle as narrated by Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas: The Prophet said, “The most sinful person among the Muslims is the one who asked about something which had not been prohibited, but was prohibited because of his asking.”
The Torah also teaches:”When a woman has a discharge, her discharge being blood from her body, do not come near her for seven days; she is taboo for her menstrual period ” (Leviticus 15:19).
Orthodox Rabbis extended the period from seven to about twelve days and demanded no physical contact at all during that period. Muhammad supported the Torah’s ban on sex during a woman’s period, but opposed the additional restrictions enacted by Orthodox Rabbi.
As Thabit narrated it from Anas: “Among the Jews, when a woman menstruated, they did not dine with her, nor did they live with them in their houses (they slept in separate beds). The Companions asked The Apostle, and Allah, the Exalted revealed: ‘They ask you about menstruation; say it is a pollution, so keep away from woman during menstruation and do not approach until they are clean again.’ (Qur’an 2: 222).
The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Do everything except intercourse’. (Orthodox) Jews heard that and said: This man does not want to leave anything we do without opposing us in it.”
Reform Rabbis today would advocate that a Jewish couple behave in a way much closer to that of Muhammad than to that of Orthodox Rabbis.
Unlike Orthodox Rabbis, Reform Rabbis accept the doctrine of nullification, which teaches that one verse in scripture can nullify another, and that rulings can be changed due to changed circumstances. Muhammad provides an excellent example of this principle in the following account.
The Prophet originally told women not to visit graveyards, but toward the end of his life, he said to them: “I had told you not to visit graves; now I am telling you to visit them.” The reason was that Arabian women used to wail at graves. The Prophet wanted this practice to be stopped. Therefore, he banned women from visiting graves to start with. After sometime, when Muslim women were better aware of how Islam wants them to behave in different situations, he allowed them such visits.
In fact, the Prophet encourages visiting graveyards because such a visit reminds the visitor of his or her own death and the fact that they would have to stand in front of God when their actions are reckoned to determine their reward or punishment.
Scholars like Ibn Qudamah, of the Hanbali school of law, make it clear that since this is the purpose of visiting graveyards, both men and women need such visits.
Another important teaching of the Qur’an for people all over the world today, is that God chose not to create human beings as one nation and bestowed upon them free will to believe or not to believe. As it is written in the Qur’an (5.48) “For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If God had pleased He would have made you one people, but (He didn’t) that He might testyou in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; for all return to God, so He will let you know (after Judgment Day) that in which you differed.”
This is a wonderful further development of the teaching of the Biblical prophet Micah (4:5) that in the end of days—the Messianic Age—“All people will walk, each in the name of their own God, and we (Jews) shall walk in the name of the Lord our God forever.”
A Muslim is one who submits to the will of God and believes that God has sent thousands of different prophets to the many peoples of the world. As a Reform Rabbi I believe that Muhammad is a Prophet because I believe the Qur’an is as true for Muslims as the Torah is true for Jews.
Indeed, I love the Hadith also narrated by Abu Huraira that says, “The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. God’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in God, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever was revealed to you.’ ”
Following Muhammad’s teaching I too neither believe nor disbelieve in the Qur’an. I do respect the Qur’an very much as a kindred revelation, first given to a kindred people, in a kindred language.
In fact, the Arab people, the Arabic language and Muslim theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other on earth. Of course, more than 80% of Muslims in the world today are not of Arab decent. But Arabic is their sacred language and the tradition that Arabs and Jews are cousins is widely accepted.
This makes the present conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis especially tragic. It is very important to realize that the conflict is a political one and not a religious one.
There can be no religious conflict between religions like Judaism and Islam because neither of them declare that their scriptures are the only ones from God. The strong support that the Qur’an gives to religious pluralism is a lesson that is sorely needed by the religious fundamentalists of all religions in the world today.
Narrated ‘Aisha: Whenever Allah’s Apostle ordered the Muslims to do something, he used to order them deeds which were easy for them to do. They said, “O Allah’s Apostle! We are not like you. Allah has forgiven your past and future sins.” So Allah’s Apostle became angry and it was apparent on his face. He said, “I am the most God fearing, and I know Allah better than all of you do.”
Narrated Abdullah bin Amr: Allah’s Apostle was informed that I said: “By Allah, I will fast all the days and pray all the nights as long as I live.” On that, Allah’s Apostle asked me. “Did you say: ‘I will fast all the days and pray all the nights as long as I live?’ ” I said, “Yes, I said it.” He said, “You cannot do that. So fast (sometimes) and do not fast (sometimes). Pray and sleep. Fast for three days a month, for the reward of a good deed is multiplied by ten time, and so the fasting of three days a month equals the fasting of a year.” I said, “I can do (fast) more than this.” He said, “Fast on every third day”. I said: I can do (fast) more than that, He said: “Fast on alternate days and this was the fasting of David which is the most moderate sort of fasting.” I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I can do (fast) more than that.” He said, “There is nothing better than that.”
Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab: “I heard Hisham bin Hakim reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to what Allah’s Apostle had taught to me. So, I was about to quarrel with him (during the prayer) but I waited till he finished, then I tied his garment round his neck and seized him by it and brought him to Allah’s Apostle and said, “I have heard him reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different from the way you taught it to me.” The Prophet ordered me to release him and asked Hisham to recite it. When he recited it, Allah s Apostle said, “It was revealed in this way.” He then asked me to recite it. When I recited it, he said, “It was revealed in this way. The Qur’an has been revealed in seven different ways, so recite it in the way that is easier for you.”
Narrated Abu Huraira: A Bedouin stood up and started making water in the mosque. The people caught him but the Prophet ordered them to leave him and to pour a bucket or a tumbler of water over the place where he had passed the urine. The Prophet then said, “You have been sent to make things easy and not to make them difficult.”
Narrated Um Salama: While I was laying with the Prophet under a single woolen sheet, I got the menses. I slipped away and put on the clothes for menses. He said, “Have you got “Nifas” (menses)?” I replied, “Yes.” He then called me and made me lie with him under the same sheet.
Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet used to lean on my lap and recite Qur’an while I was in menses.
Thabit narrated it from Anas: Among the Jews, when a woman menstruated, they did not dine with her, nor did they live with them in their houses. The Companions of the Apostle asked The Apostle, and Allah, the Exalted revealed:” And they ask you about menstruation; say it is a pollution, so keep away from woman during menstruation” to the end (Qur’an, ii. 222).
The Messenger of Allah said: Do everything except intercourse. The Jews heard of that and said: This man does not want to leave anything we do without opposing us in it. Two men came and said: Messenger of Allah, the Jews say such and such thing. We should not have, therefore, any contact with menstruating wives (as the Jews do). His face underwent such a change that we thought he was angry with them, but when they went out, they happened to receive a gift of milk which was sent to the Apostle of Allah. He (the Holy Prophet) called for them and gave them drink, whereby they knew that he was not angry with them.
Jabir (b. Abdullah) reported the Jews said that when one comes to one’s wife through the vagina, but being on her back, and she becomes pregnant, the child has a squint. So the verse came down: “Your wives are your tilth; go unto your tilth, as you desire.” (Qur’an ii 223)
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: If ten scholars of the Jews would follow me, no Jew would be left upon the surface of the earth who would not embrace Islam.
Abdullah b. ‘Umar reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: You and the Jews will fight against one another until a stone will say: Muslim a Jew is behind me; come and kill him.
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch and step by step so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would follow them in this also. We said: Do you mean Jews and Christians? He said: Who else?
Narrated Abu Huraira: Two persons, a Muslim and a Jew, quarreled. The Muslim said, “By Him Who gave Muhammad superiority over all the people! The Jew said, “By Him Who gave Moses superiority over all the people!” At that the Muslim raised his hand and slapped the Jew on the face. The Jew went to the Prophet and informed him of what had happened.
The Prophet sent for the Muslim and asked him about it. The Muslim informed him of the event. The Prophet said, “Do not give me superiority over Moses, for on the Day of Resurrection all the people will fall unconscious and I will be one of them, but I will be the first to gain consciousness, and I will see Moses standing and holding the side of the Throne (of Allah). I will not know whether (Moses) has also fallen unconscious and got up before me, or Allah has exempted him from that stroke.”
Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com. His new book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: A Reform Rabbi’s Reflections on the Profound Connectedness of Islam and Judaism’ (a collection of 31 articles by Rabbi Maller previously published by Islamic web sites) is now for sale ($15) on Amazon and Morebooks.