Ramadan: The Month of Books of Revelations

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured Topics: Interfaith, Ramadan, Revelation Views: 1892

One of the best known verses in the Qur'an is the declaration that, “Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian; he was faithful, a Muslim. He was not one of the Mushrikeen (polytheists).” (3:67)

The Qur'an supports this statement by pointing out that that Abraham lived long before the Torah was brought to the Jewish People by Moses, “O people of the Book, why do you argue with us about Abraham? The Torah and the Gospel were revealed long after (Abraham lived)”. (3:65)

The Jewish religion is indeed the product of the covenant God made with the Jewish People at Mount Sinai, when God held the mountain above the children of Israel, and they agreed to submit (Islam) to God/s Torah's commandments and instructions. (Qur’an2:63) This is the theological bases of Jewish religious belief and Jewish Sharia.

However, the Torah also teaches, and Jews also believe, that the Jewish People—the children of Israel, are not only the biological descendants of Prophet Jacob, whose name was changed by God from Jacob to Israel, but Jews are also the descendants of Jacob's grandfather Abraham, who was the first Hebrew Prophet.

Of course, Abraham had other children, and the other descendants of Abraham are not Jews, because they are not the children of Israel/Jacob and they did not enter into the covenant with God at Mount Sinai.

Over the past 35 centuries many descendants of the original children of Israel dropped out of the Jewish People through assimilation and conversion to other religions, and many non-Jews entered into the Jewish people through marriage and conversion to Judaism. Most of those who convert to Judaism also marry into the Jewish people. Thus for their descendants; being Jewish is both a religious status as well as a ethnic national status.

The majority of occurrences of the word “Hebrew” are in the books of Exodus and Samuel, where it appears in the disparaging words of those Egyptians and Philistines, who despise Jewish immigrants. The term Yehudi, in the singular, is rare in the Bible. The word appears eight times in the book of Esther, but only twice more elsewhere, in Jeremiah 34:9 and Zechariah 8:23.  While the plural version of this term is more common, appearing 65 times in the Bible, 44 of these appearances are in the book of Esther. So Jew is clearly a name that developed in the Jewish diaspora.

Banu Israel is the best name for Jews because it was the name given to Jacob by God himself and it has been in use for over 3,000 years.

Recent studies of the DNA of Jewish and non-Jewish individuals who live in the same area, in both Europe and the Middle East, have provided scientific evidence of both an overlapping common Jewish gene pool that differs from the non-Jewish local majority, as well as evidence of large scale non-Jewish conversion into the Jewish People in the distant past. The well known 11th century French Bible commentator Rashi notes earlier rabbinic commentaries identified one of the two servants of Prophet Abraham that went with Prophet Abraham when he went the second time to offer his son; was Prophet Ishmael.

This year Ramadan will be very special spiritually, because the Muslim holy month of Ramadan;  the Jewish week long holiday of Passover; and the Christian Holy Days of Good Friday and Easter Sunday will all be celebrated in the one month of April. Muslims will observe the holy month of Ramadan beginning April 2; Jews will be celebrating Passover from April 15 until April 22; and Christians will mark Good Friday and Easter on April 15 and 17. This is a very rare occurrence in the solar calendar.

A Hadith declares that Ramadan was when the three Abrahamic Religions received their Books of revelation. This Hadith, cited by ibn Kathir in elucidating Qur'an 2:185; states that Ramadan is a very special month because this one month in the Islamic lunar calendar was the same month when four of God's books of revelations were sent down to four special Prophets: Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.

Ibn Kathir states: Imam Ahmad reported Wathilah bin Al-Asqa` said that Allah's Messenger said: “The Suhuf (Pages) of Ibrahim were revealed during the first night of Ramadan. The Torah was revealed during the sixth night of Ramadan. The Injil was revealed during the thirteenth night of Ramadan and Allah revealed the Qur'an on the twenty-fourth night of Ramadan.” (Ahmad 4:107 and Musnad 177025).

So Ramadan’s revelation roots should stimulated Imams, Rabbis, Priests and Ministers to include in their sermons during Ramadan some positive thoughts that offer insight into each others Sacred Scriptures.

Religions differ because the circumstances of each nation receiving them differ. Where sacred Scriptures differ they do not nullify each other; they only cast additional light on each other.

Take for example, the prophet and priest Ezra. Was he a prophet and priest like Ezekiel, or a “son of God” like Jesus? Ezra was a good target to attack because he is specifically mentioned in the Quran as ‘Uzair:

The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call the Messiah (Prophet Jesus) a son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (thus) they only imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say (pagans believed their many gods had many divine or semi-divine children). Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!” [Quran 9:30]

Now there are a half dozen different places in the Qur’an where the Christians claim that Jesus is the “son of God” is refuted and denied. For example, “Jesus son of Mary, did you ever say to people, ‘Worship me and my mother as gods beside Allah?’  and he will answer, ‘How could I say what I had no right to say?’ [Quran, 5:116]  Also, “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger of  Allah…do not say “Trinity.” Stop saying that.” [Quran, 4:171]

And general statements like: “Those who say, ‘Allah has begotten a son’ have no knowledge about it, nor did their forefathers; this is a monstrous word that comes from their mouths. They utter nothing but a lie.” [Quran 18:4,5]  [Also see Quran 5:72-75, and 19:30.]

Indeed, the verse that follows 9:30 (above) specifically applies to Jesus: “They take their priests (ahbar) and their monks to be their Lords in derogation of Allah, and (take as their Lord) the Messiah, the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).”  [Quran, 9:31]

So how shall we understand the Quran’s statement: “The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah”?

Al-Tabari and Abdallah ibn Ubayd state that only one Jew (Pinhas) viewed Uzayr as a “son of God.” Ibn Abbas and Qurtubi say only four Jews, whose names they record, believed Uzayr as a “son of God.” Ibn Hazm said that just a small group of Jews in Yemen worshipped ʿUzayr as a “son of God” in some remote period.

Since the Jews of Yemen, who have lived there since the third or fourth century CE, do have an old tradition not to name their children Ezra, so perhaps there was such a small heretical sect in Yemen that later generations wanted to forget about.

But most Christians to this day, proudly proclaim that they do indeed worship Jesus, as “the Son of God.” Jews however, have always vehemently denied that they worship any partner or other deity except the one and only God.

So how can we understand the difference between the two seemingly parallel statements in ayah 9:30?

There is a Sunan Al-Tirmidhi hadith which says that the Jews worship their Rabbis. One of the Companions said that this is not true. Then Muhammad said that they accept what their Rabbis say over the word of God; so in this way they worship them. This hadith provides an important clue.

Christians actually do actually venerate and pray to both Jesus and his mother Mary; but only a small minority of Jews figuratively venerate their rabbis as Muhammad says because, “They accept what their Rabbi’s say over the word of God, so in this way they worship them.”

This hadith is correct. Orthodox Jews do believe in both a written Torah and an oral (unwritten) Torah which first started being passed down over 3,200 years ago. They often observe Judaism according to the rabbinic interpretation of this oral Torah in the same way that Muslims use hadith to understand and apply verses in the Qur’an to the Sha’riah .

For example, the Torah states that the new Jewish year starts: “On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow ram horns.” (Torah, Numbers 29:1)

This one-day holy day, was turned into a two-day holy day some 17-18 centuries ago, when most Jews lived outside the Land of Israel and could not be sure exactly when the lunar new year calendar began. A similar issue exists for Muslims in determining the start of Ramadan, which is why in some years two different days mark the beginning of Ramadan in various parts of the world.

So we should emphasize our common beliefs and respect our particular differences because,“To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way. If Allah willed, He would have made you one nation, but (He didn’t in order to) test you in what He has given you; so strive (compete) as in a race to do good deeds. You all will return to Allah; then He will inform you about that in which you used to differ.” [Quran, 5:48]

If we all can live up to the ideal that religious pluralism as the will of God. we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel  will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…[Isaiah 19:23-5]

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured
  Topics: Interfaith, Ramadan, Revelation
Views: 1892

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