Dr. Hassaballa in the Washington Post

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Thanks be to God, the post below was published on Eboo Patel’s Washington Post blog The Faith Divide. I am very grateful to my friend Eboo for giving me this forum.

I am very thankful that the plot to bomb cargo planes headed to the United States has been foiled. In no way, shape, or form does my faith call for the murder of innocent people, and I join other Muslims and people of conscience in condemning this attempted attack on our country. Killing the innocent is not religiosity, it is murderous barbarity.

Although we know now that the bombs were meant for the cargo planes, the fact that these bombs were addressed to Chicago area synagogues may tend to reinforce the notion in the minds of many people – and that includes some Muslims as well – that there is, somehow, an innate enmity between Judaism and Islam. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because of my deep faith in Islam that I have the utmost respect for Judaism and its Prophets.

This past Ramadan, as I was reading the Qur’an, I was struck by how many chapters – including several in succession – spoke about Moses. This major Jewish Prophet is mentioned far more times in the Quran than the Prophet Muhammad himself.

The Quran tells of two miracles – Moses’ staff turning into a serpent, and his hand glowing brightly after placing it under his arm – that God gave Moses as proof of his commission from God. It details the plagues that were unleashed on the Egyptians for their refusal to believe in God and Pharoah’s refusal to set the Hebrews free:

“We [God] then sent upon them the flood, and locusts, and lice, and frogs, and blood as manifest signs; [as a result] they became arrogant and were a people steeped in crime” (7:133) My favorite part of the story, the splitting of the Red Sea, is mentioned at least twice in the Quran as well.

One cannot be a Muslim if he or she does not believe in, honor, and revere Moses. He is one of the five mightiest Messengers of God — along with Noah, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad. The Qur’an says that God bestowed His grace upon Moses and Aaron (37:114), that he was “specially chosen” by God (19:51) and that God bestowed on Moses “wisdom and knowledge” (28:14) as a reward for doing good. In addition, the Book of Moses in the Jewish Bible is described by the Qur’an as a “Light and Guide” (6:91).

What’s more, every year Muslims are encouraged to fast two days in commemoration of the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, the holiday known as “Ashura.”

Indeed, there are verses in the Quran that seem to be tough against Jews. Yet, those verses, just as with any other scripture, have a context and explanation. For instance, some Muslims have called Jews the “sons of and monkeys” based upon this verse in the Qur’an:

“And ask them about that town which stood by the sea: how its people would profane the Sabbath whenever their fish came to them, breaking the water’s surface, on a day on which they ought to have kept Sabbath – because they would not come to them on other than Sabbath-days!…And then, when they disdainfully persisted in doing what they had been forbidden to do, We said unto them: ‘Be as apes despicable!”’ (7:163-166)

Now, there is a difference of opinion among commentators of the Quran about whether this was a literal or metaphorical transformation. Nevertheless, the point remains that the Quran does not call Jews “pigs and monkeys.” It was talking about a specific ancient town in which Jews lived, and among them were people who broke the Sabbath law. And it was these specific people, after being repeatedly warned by God, who “became as apes despised.”

Let me say it again: there is no verse in the Quran that says Jews are “pigs and monkeys.” Period.

Just because some Muslims may project their own hatred against Jews onto the Islamic sacred scripture, this does not make it the truth. It is the same as those who claimed slavery was authorized by the Bible: their saying so did not make it the truth.

Muslims and Jews were never meant to be enemies. In fact, the Prophet made us one nation under God. Extremists may claim that Muslims and Jews are supposed to be forever enemies, but that’s just it: they are extremists, and their views do not represent the truth.

That being said, however, it is true (and sad) that the conflict in the Holy Land has clouded and strained the relationship between Muslims and Jews. The conflict has to end, and I pray it does.


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