This claim assumes that the faith of the ancient Israelites was Islam; but as explained in the last section, the religion of the ancient Israelites can be described in such a way only according to the literal meaning of the word islam – surrender or submission.  It is a stretch, however, to claim that the religious practices of ancient Israel were entirely the same as the modern religion of Islam, the details of which are largely based on the practices of Muhammad.  Such a claim is unsubstantiable. 

 

It is true that Muslims generally emphasize a few of the more noticable practices of ancient Israel that are not as emphasized among most Jews in the present era, such as prostration and modesty, but this is not proof that the modern religion of Islam is identical to the religious observance of the ancient Israelite prophets. 

 

 

There are numerous laws contained in the Torah and known to have been kept by the ancient Israelites that are not mentioned in the Qur’an and not practiced by Muslims. 

There are also ancient practices of the historical faith of Israel that the Qur’an testifies to and yet the Islam of today does not observe, ie: the Sabbath, forbidden fats, and certain relationship restrictions during a woman’s monthly cycle.  Despite the decline of prostration in prayer and modesty among most Jews, something largely attributable to the influence of European culture which we now see happening among Muslims in the realm of modesty, Jews still maintain many religious observances that were kept by the ancient Israelite prophets that the average Muslim is entirely unaware of. 

Despite the decline of prostration as a regular part of daily Jewish prayer, the Jewish parallel to Shari’a law known as halakha, still maintains that Jews are to prostrate as a part of regular prayer and that Jews are to dress modestly. 

 

Though the level of religious observance among Jews may have changed, the Torah’s instruction is just as it was thousands of years ago.  Consequently, it is not accurate to equate the ignorance of Jews as to the teachings of the faith they claim to follow with corruption of that same faith, any more than we should equate ignorance of Islamic teaching among Muslims, something many Muslims will admit to, with the corruption of Islam as taught by Muhammad.  In fact, Sunni Muslims consider Shia Islam corrupt, and Shias consider Sunni Islam corrupt; both consider the other even smaller sects of Islam corruptions of Islam.  Consequently, any honest Muslim must admit that Islam is certainly corrupted to some extent – but the corruption of a religion’s teachings does not necessarily mean that the religion’s scripture is itself corrupt or unreliable.

The truth is that it is common among all religions that most of a religion’s supposed adherents severely lack substantial knowledge of their religion’s teachings.

This can be used to prove that a religion’s supposed adherents may be unreliable representatives of their religion’s teachings or that the people’s observance of that religion is corrupt, but this is not a logical basis to prove that any religion or philosophy is in and of itself corrupt or unreliable.  If this were a logical conclusion, then no religion or philosophy could be true, whether it be Torah-Judaism, Islam, or even secular-humanism, agnosticism, or atheism. 

Corruption and inconsistency are commonplace among the followers of all ideologies.  If this is not the case presently, it has been the case in the past.

 

R' Yosef Eliyah

 

 

* DorDeah.com is an independent organization.  DorDeah.com is not affiliated with www.mechon-mamre.org, the "Torath Moshe Society," nor Chabad-Lubavitch.  Though we are grateful for the contributions of these organizations in providing Mishne Torah resources, we do not endorse all the views espoused by these organizations.

 

Jews or Muslims?  The Chicken or the Egg?

Muslims often claim that Judaism is inferior to Islam because the Qur’an teaches that even the Biblical prophets who predated Muhammad were muslims – even Adam!  But Jews, they contest, originated from the tribe Judah, son of Jacob.  Their claim rests on the meaning of the word Muslim.  Islam means ‘surrender’ or ‘submission.’  In the context of the Qur’an, islam is the surrender or submission to the Creator.  A muslim is one who surrenders or submits.  When we take the literal meanings of Islam and Muslim into consideration, one cannot deny that the Biblical prophets were indeed muslim – individuals who surrendered to the Creator.  The error in this claim is threefold:

  1. 1)  Admitting that the Biblical prophets were muslim according to the literal meaning of the word, ie: they surrendered to the Creator, it is still a leap to conclude that this means they practiced the unique practices of the organized religion established under the leadership of Muhammad, now officially termed Islam.  In fact, it is apparent from the Qur’an itself that the Israelite prophets were prohibited from some things that were later permitted by Muhammad’s prophecy.  Additionally, there are practices taught in the Hadith, based on the actions of Muhammad, that are not mentioned in either the Qur’an or in the Bible.  It is unreasonable to conclude, based on semantics alone, that the Biblical prophets were Muslim in the way that the term is understood today, any more than sincere individuals of any monotheistic faith who surrender to the Creator could accurately be described as muslim.

 

  1. 2)  In the same way that the word muslim literally means one who surrenders or submits, the term Yehudi (יהודי), which is usually transliterated as ‘Jew,’ literally means one who acknowledges, praises, and proclaims the One LORD.  In fact, this is the very reason why Judah, son of Jacob, was given the name Yehuda (Judah).  Genesis 29:35 states, “She conceived again, and bore a son; and she said: 'This time will I praise the LORD.' Therefore she called his name Yehuda (יהודה);”  The verse explicitly states that she named him Yehuda because she praised the LORD.  The root of the word for praise in this verse is hud  (הוד).  This Hebrew root word also means to acknowledge and to profess.  And as widely known, the word for ‘the LORD’ is actually YHWH (יהוה).  The name YHWH is the Creator’s most holy name in the Hebrew language.  This is because the name YHWH does not refer to the Creator from the perspective of man, such as Mighty or Merciful.  Rather, YHWH refers to the unknowable essence of the Creator, which is singularly independent and unchanging.  Thus, while Yehuda conveys that ‘she acknowledged, praised, and professed YHWH, the One LORD,’ the word Yehudi literally means ‘one who acknowledges, praises, and professes YHWH, the One LORD.’  Certainly we can’t deny that the Biblical prophets acknowledged, praised, and professed the One LORD.  Therefore, all the prophets were yehudi (Jewish) according to the literal meaning of the word – even before Judah, son of Jacob, was born.  Of course, when we say that the early prophets were yehudim (Jews), we do not mean that their religious practices were entirely the same as those called Jews in the modern era, any more than we should think that the early prophets, who certainly also submitted to the Creator, practiced their faith in the same manner as those called Muslim in the modern era.  The entire argument that Islam is superior to the Jewish faith because the Biblical prophets were muslims, according to the literal meaning of the word, is built on inconsistent semantics and ignorance as to the meaning and origin of the term Yehudi (Jew).

 

  1. 3)  Some claim that since there was an ancient location in the territory of Dan called Yehud (Josh. 19,25), it must be that the term Yehudi (‘Jew’) originally meant that someone was from this location.  While it is true that, according Hebrew grammar, someone from that location could hypothetically be called a Yehudi, ie: one from the town of Yehud, there are no recorded examples of such use of the term.  One might also claim that the term Yehudi (‘Jew’) didn’t originate from the word Yehuda (Judah), but it did originate from another man whose name was actually Yehudi (Jer. 36,21).  The problem with these claims is that, besides being very presumptuous, they also ignore the fact that all these names were given because these names have a meaning, as already explained.  Unlike most English names, names in Hebrew actually mean something in the Hebrew language, just as the English name Rose means rose.  Additionally, the same claim could be made regarding the term ‘muslim.’  Aside from numerous other similarities between Judaism and Islam, the terms m’shulam and mushlam are actually used in ancient Jewish literature to describe the relationship between a Jew and the Creator.  M’shulam conveys the idea of being entirely dedicated or entirely given over to G-d, and mushlam similarly means one who is wholly devoted to G-d or wholehearted with Him.  Consequently, there are around 21 examples of people named M’shulam in the Jewish Bible.  With the same presumptuous reasoning, we could conclude that modern Muslims are named after a man – a Jewish man, no less.  If it were reasonable to reject the Torah faith (‘Judaism’) due to speculation as to the origin of the term Jew, then logical consistency would demand that we reject the Muslim faith for the same reason.  What’s more?  If it were reasonable to reject a faith on these premises, it would be Islam that is threatened, not the Torah faith (‘Judaism’), being that Muslims’ sacred scripture officially authorizes the terms Islam and muslim, whereas neither Torah nor Jewish law require that those who join our faith be called Jews, nor do our sacred texts designate ‘Judaism’ as the official term for our religion.

 

R' Yosef Eliyah

 

 

* DorDeah.com is an independent organization.  DorDeah.com is not affiliated with www.mechon-mamre.org, the "Torath Moshe Society," nor Chabad-Lubavitch.  Though we are grateful for the contributions of these organizations in providing Mishne Torah resources, we do not endorse all the views espoused by these organizations.

 

 

When the Quran refers to Jesus as the messiah, what is it attributing to him that it doesn't attribute to other prophets?

 

The Qur'an (4:171) applies the term Messiah, maseeyHto Jesus the son of Mary.  In the Hebrew language, the word Messiah, masheeyaH, literally means anointed.

 

The Hebrew Bible applies this term to the high-priests and proper kings of Israel, because they were anointed: a fact that is lost in most translations, due to inconsistently translating the term as 'messiah' where it would strengthen Christian theology, and translating it as 'anointed' in all other places.

 

In Hebrew, being called 'messiah' does not make one unique among the other high-priests and kings of Israel.

 

The only context in which Jews gave the term 'messiah' special significance, is when in reference to the king of Israel who will eventually arise and lead the people of Israel to lasting spiritual restoration, together with the rest of the world as Moses prophesied towards the end of the Book of Deuteronomy.  G-d promised to King David that a male descendent of his royal line will be the one to establish the everlasting kingdom of G-d on earth.  Consequently, the Muslim apologetic responses that all the term 'messiah' means in reference to Jesus is that he was blessed or was a preacher, are unconvincing.  How would this make him any more unique than the numerous prophets before him who were blessed and were preachers?  Likewise, the explanation that the term 'messiah' only means that Jesus was the final prophet of Israel, is likewise unconvincing.  There is no precedent for understanding the word 'messiah' in this way.  No such use of the term predates Islamic apologetics.  And significantly, the Qur'an itself never makes this claim.  As for the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, both the Jewish Scriptures (Joel 3:1-2) and the Christian Scriptures make it quite clear that prophets would yet be among the people of Israel even after the Messiah;  (Acts 11:27, 13:1, 15:32-33; 1 Corinth. 12:28; Eph. 4:11).

 

This raises another difficulty - the 'virgin birth.'  The Qur'an (3:45, 3:47, 3:59, 66:12) affirms the Christian belief in the virgin birth of Jesus.  The POSSIBILITY of a virgin birth is not in itself an issue.  Certainly the Creator of the universe can cause a woman to enter pregnancy without having relations with a man. But for one familiar with the Hebrew Bible, the virgin birth is problematic for other reasons:

 

The necessity of the virgin birth is based on a terrible MIS-understanding of Isaiah chapter 7.  Besides misunderstanding the context of ch. 7, the entire concept of the virgin-birth depends on an early mistranslation of the Hebrew word 'alma by means of the word virgin. 'alma refers to a young adolescent female, but it does NOT mean virgin.  The same Christian translators who incorrectly translate 'alma as virgin consistently correctly translate the male form of this word as merely young adolescent or youth.  Why do they never translate the male version of this word as virgin boy?  Inconsistency is the sign of error.  The Hebrew prophets did not teach that the messiah would be born from a virgin.  If they had wanted to teach such a concept in Isaiah 7, the Hebrew word betula would have been used, not 'alma.  Incidentally, Muslims should be among the last to fall the Christian polemic that betula was not used because it doesn't mean virgin; for aside from the fact that Jewish preservation of the Hebrew language says that betula means virgin, this word also means virgin in Arabic!

 

The 2nd difficulty is even more problematic:

 

- if Jesus did not have a human father, then he can not be the promised future king of King David's royal line. Why? Because the royal ancestry goes according to one's father, both according to Torah-law and according to human practice in general. Even if Jesus was a great man or a prophet, he could not have been the messiah if he had no human father.

 

Another reason why the mention of Jesus as a prophet and messiah in the Quran makes it difficult for Jews to unquestionably accept the Quran is because, at least as it is TYPICALLY understand, the Quran teaches that the Torah has been corrupted and therefore is no longer reliable - but Jesus promised that the Torah (the Law of Moses) will be PRESERVED, even the SMALLEST details of the text of the Torah would remain in tact! (Mat. 5:17-18).  In addition to this, the New Testament records that Jesus taught that one should NOT think that he came to nullify the laws of the Torah. Rather, 'whoever teaches that even the least of these commands are nullified, the same shall be the least in the kingdom of heaven.' (Mat. 5:19)

 

The earliest students of Jesus likewise did not intend to abandon the laws of the Torah; (Acts 6:13-14Acts 21:20-24)  Ironically, the teachings which the New Testament Book of Acts catagorizes as a 'false report' concerning the teachings of Jesus' followers, is now the official doctrine of Christianity.  The original followers of Jesus did not think that after Jesus arrived the laws of the Torah were no longer binding.  To the contrary, their question was whether even non-Israelite followers of Jesus need to keep all the laws of Moses.  The New Test. teaches that they decided that since the non-Jewish followers of Jesus would be learning from the Torah read every week in the synagogue, therefore they need not be required to observe all the laws of Moses as a prerequisite to being accepted among the believers.  Only a preliminary code of conduct need be observed -- (Acts 15:1-2, 13-22).

 

And thus we find many ancient references to Jewish followers of Jesus even hundreds of years after Jesus' departure, that they continued to keep the laws of the Torah of Moses. They expected that Jesus would return at any moment to restore the people of Israel and the world - without thinking that this in any way implies that the commandments of Moses would be nullified or replaced. Indeed, to think that the repentance of the people of Israel includes abandonment of the laws of Moses or that the laws of Moses would at that time be nullified or replaced, is equivalent to REJECTING the prophets of Israel. For the prophets of Israel state that when the people of Israel as a whole are restored, all of Israel will return to keeping the laws of Moses and all nations will serve G-d and prostrate to Him in Jerusalem (Zech 14,16-17; Isaiah 66,10-23).

 

It is because Jews ACCEPT all the previous prophets that they are not easily convinced of certain details in the Quran.  Among other things, we would first need to be convinced that Jesus' promise that the Torah will be preserved and that it's commandments are still valid - that these are merely LATER corruptions of Jesus' message... but it is unbelievable that these statements are later corruptions added by the early Christian Church.  These statements only weaken the claims of Christianity.  Torah is G-d's eternal guidance for all mankind.

 

R' Yosef Eliyah