Opposing False Attacks on the Qur'an
Christian missionaries are interested in proving the superiority of the Bible to the Qur'an. They say that the Christian Bible (the Old Testament and the New Testament) is the true word of God: the Qur'an is not. They try to prove this by asserting that when the Qur'an's narratives differ from the Bible's narratives about the same event; the Qur'an must be wrong. It is sad that these missionaries, who claim to be the disciples of Jesus, ignore his teaching to love not only your neighbors, but also your enemies. They would reply that the search for God's truth is so important that it justifies insulting other peoples prophets and sacred texts even when they also teach monotheism. These Christian missionaries are ignorant of, or simply reject, two very important Ahadith, that I, a Reform Rabbi who considers himself to be a Muslim Jew, always respect. I am a Muslim Jew i.e. a faithful Jew submitting to the will of God, because I am a Reform Rabbi. (Reform Jews are now the largest of the Jewish denominations in the U.S. In the U.K..Reform Judaism is called Liberal Judaism.)
As a Rabbi I am faithful to the covenant that God made with Abraham, the first Muslim Jew, and I submit to be bound by the covenant and commandments that God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. As a Reform Rabbi I believe that Rabbis should modify Jewish traditions to prevent them from making religion to hard to practice. This is an important teaching in the Qur'an (7:157) and one that prophet Muhammad taught 12 centuries before the rise of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century. As Abu Huraira related: The Prophet said, "Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded." (Bukhari book 2 #38)
The two Ahadith that every Christian missionary should learn and abide by, teach respect for the Sacred Scripture and the Prophets of other monotheistic religions. A hadth Narrated by Abu Huraira says, "The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah's Apostle said (to the Muslims). "Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, 'We believe in Allah, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.' " (Bukhari book 92 #460 and book 93 #632)
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 Arab language and Muslim theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other on earth. Islam teaches clearly that God does not have just one people or one true religion. Rather, God chose not to create human beings as one nation or with only one religion so that each religion could compete with all the others in order to see which religion produces the highest percentage of moral and loving people; and which people best embody in their personal and communal lives the moral teachings of their prophet. As it is written in the Qur'an [5.48] "For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If Allah had pleased He would have made you one people, but (He didn't) that He might test you in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; for all return to Allah, so He will let you know 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 shall walk in the name of the Lord our God forever."
In terms of respect for the prophets of other religions I have not seen the equal of the following hadith: 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. 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) had also fallen unconscious and got up before me, or Allah has exempted him from that stroke." (Bukhari book 76 #524) The people of the book; Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, should learn humility from this profound teaching of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
But missionaries are not the only ones who denigrate the prophethood of prophet Muhammad. Academics do the same thing when they assert that Muhammad took (stole) things from Jewish post Biblical literature; and that he got things wrong when the Qur'an relates different things about events in the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament). An example of these false accusations is the Qur'an's account Cain's killing of Able Qur'an 5:27-32: "(27) Tell them the tale of the two sons of Adam as it really was. Both presented an offering. It was accepted from one of them, but it was not accepted from the other, who said, "I'm going to kill you!" The former answered, "God only accepts from the conscientious." (28) Even if you stretch out your hand to kill me, I am not stretching out my hand to kill you, for I fear God, the Lord of the worlds. (29) I would rather you bring on my sin as well as your sin, so you will be one of those destined for the Fire, for that is the reward of the unjust. (30) But he (Cain) did not hold back from killing his brother (Able). He murdered him and became one of the lost.
(31) Then God sent a raven to scratch up the ground to show him (Cain) how to hide his brother's naked remains. He said: Woe is me! Am I not able even to be like raven to hide the naked corpse of my brother? So he (Cain) regretted (what he had done). (32) Because of that, We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a human being for other than murder or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all humankind, and whoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind."
The first difference is one of style. The Torah loves details and contains a vast number of names of people and places. The Qur'an contains very few names. The Qur'an does not name which of his two sons Abraham took with him for the sacrifice; the Torah does (Genesis 22). The Qur'an does not name the two sons of Adam; the Torah does. For Jews the names were very important because all these people were like family or tribal members. For Muslims the names were not so important because the Muslims were destined to be a multinational multiethnic community.
The second difference is in emphasis. Both the Qur'an and the Torah relate the same event; but they point to different aspects of it. The Qur'an does not describe what the two offerings were, but states. "God only accepts from the conscientious." making explicit the religious lesson that intent is more important than the specific ritual material offering, and this is why God accepted one and not the other. The Torah (Genesis 4:3-8) relates that, "(3)Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil; (4) and Abel, for his part, brought the choicest of the firstlings of his flock. The Lord paid heed to Abel and his offering, (5) but to Cain and his offering He paid no heed. Cain was much distressed and his face fell. (6) The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you distressed, and why is your face fallen? (7) Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right sin crouches at the door; its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master." (8) Cain said to his brother Abel...and when they were in the field Cain set upon his brother Abel and killed him." The Torah does not explicitly state the reason one was accepted and the other one was not, as the Qur'an does, (it does state "Cain brought an offering" while Abel " brought the choicest of the firstlings of his flock") because the lesson is not just why God chose one over the other. The real issue for Jews is how do people in general handle rejection and failure. We are all going to lose or be rejected sometimes; do we yield to frustration, envy and anger or do we control ourselves-"be its master". This is why the Torah states that Cain said something to Abel and then doesn't tell us what he said. It doesn't matter what he said; there are no words that justify murder. Both lessons; the importance of intentionally in religious behavior, and the importance of avoiding anger and violence through mastering our self control, are important, and both Judaism and Islam teach both of them.
The third difference is the account of the raven teaching Cain how to dispose of his brother's corpse and the final lesson that killing one person, results in all that persons future descendants never having life. This is not found in the Written Torah of Moses, but it is found in the Oral Torah of the Rabbis. A Rabbinic text from the sixth or seventh century, Pirkey deRabbi Eli`ezer chapter 21 relates that "Adam and his helpmate (Eve) were sitting, weeping and mourning for him (Able), and they did not know what to do, for they were unaccustomed to burial. A raven whose fellow-bird died said, " I will teach this man what to do." What did he do? He took his fellow and dug in the earth, covered him and buried him before their eyes. Adam said, "I'll do what this raven did." And he took the body of Abel, dug in the earth and covered it." Academics say this is one of many examples of Muhammad borrowing material from Jewish sources. As a rabbi I can tell you this is not true. Rabbinic texts are usually collections of many different Oral Torah traditions passed down orally over the generations. The early parts of this book may date from the 5th century and the latest parts may date from the 8th century. The lesson from the raven might preceded the birth of Muhammad by 100-150 years, or it might date from a century after his death. It doesn't matter because if you believe that there is only one God who has sent prophets to all the nations of the world, the fact that some material from one holy text is similar to material in another holy text is to be expected. Indeed, you might expect there to be much more duplication when every prophet is reciting from the same source.
The ending conclusion about the cumulative sins of murdering one person is clearly stated for Jews, in the Mishnah, the first written edition of the Oral Torah c.200-250 CE, and for Muslims in the Qur'an. The Mishnah and the Talmud are collections of Oral Torah, similar in function as another source for God's law, to the Ahadith and the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad. Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 states, "We observe [in the case of] Cain who killed his brother, "the bloods of your brother call out." The word is in the plural [to teach] his blood and the blood of his descendants. Therefore Adam was created alone, to teach you that anyone who destroys one human soul [or, in another reading, "one Israelite soul"] is considered as if he destroyed an entire world, and anyone who establishes one human soul is as if he has saved an entire world." And the Qur'an states, "(32) Because of that, We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a human being for other than murder or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all humankind, and whoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all humankind. Our messengers came to them with proofs, but many of them throughout the land are still excessive." Note that the Qur'an states explicitly that God decreed "for the Children of Israel" by messengers (plural) the same lesson the Qur'an is teaching right now to Muslims. Notice that in the Oral Torah tradition the original 'mankind' has been replaced by ' Israelite' due to the two big wars that the Jews fought and lost with the Romans (66-70 CE and 132-135 Ce) and then three centuries (330-634 CE) of persecution of Jews in the Byzantine Roman Empire until they were liberated by the Arab conquest of most of Byzantine Rome. Thus parallels between Muslim and Jewish texts do not disprove the Divine origin of the Qur'an. These parallels prove it.
The differences in details between the Torah and the Qur'an, and the parallels between the Qur'an and the Oral Torah, do not in any way prove that the Qur'an is not the word of God. They only show that the Holy One shapes the message of each prophet to fit the circumstances of the people he is sent to. What we have in common is what we should focus on. As the Qur'an (3:64) states: "Say; "O People of the Book! come to common terms between us and you: That we worship none but Allah. that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah." If then they turn back (reject) you. say: "Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (who accept all the previous prophets).
Rabbi Allen S. Maller retired after serving for 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Ca. His web site is rabbimaller.com.
Topics: Quran, Torah Channel: Opinion