Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

‘Islamic Jew-Hatred’: It’s NOT in the Quran

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved

Pamella Geller has put up bus ads in Washington, D.C. that say:

Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran. Two-thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries. Stop racism. End all aid to Islamic countries.

Her contention is flat-out wrong.

The Quran is full of positive references to the Children of Israel and Jewish history. Many of the Jewish Prophets, in fact, are mentioned more by name than the Prophet Muhammad himself (peace be upon them all). Here is what the Quran says about the Torah, the Jewish Scripture:

It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). (3:3)

It was We who revealed the law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light…And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear God (5:44,46)

Does this sound like “Islamic Jew-Hatred” to you?

Here is but a small bit of what the Quran says about the Jewish Prophets:

Say ye: “We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them, and to Him have we submitted ourselves. (2:136)

Behold, we have inspired thee [O Prophet] just as we inspired Noah and all the prophets after him – as We inspired Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, including Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon; and as We vouchsafed unto David a book of divine wisdom (4:163)

And We bestowed upon him [Abraham] Isaac and Jacob, and We guided each of them as We had guided Noah aforetime. And out of his offspring, [We bestowed prophethood upon] David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron: for thus do We reward the doers of good. And upon Zachariah, John, Jesus, and Elijah: ever one of them was of the righteous; and [upon] Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot: every one of them did We favor above other people (6: 84-86).

Does this sound like “Islamic Jew-Hatred” to you?

Now, indeed, there are seemingly tough verses in the Quran about the children of Israel:

Those of the children of Israel who were bent on denying the truth have [already] been cursed by the tongue of David and of Jesus, the son of Mary; this because they rebelled [against God] and persisted in transgressing the bounds of what is right. (5:78)

There a few points here: first, the verse does not say that “all Jews are cursed.” The verse says that those children of Israel who did wrong were cursed by David and Jesus. And here is the scriptural evidence for this:

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:33-35)

The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel. For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. (Psalm 78:31-33)

Moreover, there are some verses in the Quran that are oft-quoted by those who claim “Islamic Jew-Hatred” which seem to call Jews “apes” and “pigs and monkeys”:

And well you knew those among you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. We said to them ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected.’ (2:65)

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)

Say: ‘Shall I tell you who, in the sight of God, deserves a yet worse retribution than these? They whom God has rejected and whom He has condemned, and whom He has turned into apes and swine because they worshiped the powers of evil: these are yet worse in station and father astray from the right path [than the mockers].” (5:60)

 

Indeed, some Muslims have claimed that Jews are “pigs and monkeys,” apparently based on these verses. As horrible as their claim is, their use of the Quran is completely incorrect.

As the verses clearly show, the Quran is not saying “Jews are apes and monkeys.” In fact, there is no verse in the Quran – none – that says “Jews are apes and monkeys.” The verses above speak about the Sabbath Breakers: it was they who were turned into apes because they broke the law of the Sabbath. Commentator Muhammad Asad (a Jew who converted to Islam) explains this story:

Under Mosaic Law, they were obliged to refrain from all work – and, therefore, also from fishing – on Sabbath-days, with the result that the fish were more plentiful and would come closer to the shore on those days: and the inhabitants of the town took this as an excuse to break the Sabbath-law.

In fact, according to Asad, the term “be ye apes” may only be metaphorical and not literal:

As for the substance of God’s decree, “Be as apes despicable”, the famous tabii [student of the Prophet’s (pbuh) Companions] Mujahid explains it thus: ‘(Only) their hearts were transformed, that is, they were not (really) transformed into apes: this is but a metaphor (mathal) coined by God with regard to them, similar to the metaphor of ‘the ass carrying books’ (62:5)”…A similar explanation is given by Raghib. It should be borne in mind that the expression “like an ape” is often used in classical Arabic to describe a person who is unable to restrain his gross appetites or passions.

The point is: there is no basis for the claim that “Islamic Jew-Hatred” is in the Quran. In fact, there is no such thing as “Islamic Jew-Hatred.” Islam does not command Muslims to hate anyone, Jewish or otherwise.

Now, are there Muslims who hate Jews? Most definitely. Are there Muslims who cite the Quran as their basis for hating Jews? Most definitely. Are they correct in their interpretation? Most definitely not. Don’t put your filthy words in God’s Holy Mouth.

 

 

 

“Your Love is Too High to Bring Me Down”

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

Pharrell Williams’ smash hit “Happy” has set off a worldwide phenomenon, bringing Pharrell Williams himself to tears. This phenomenon has touched the Muslim community around the world as well, staring with Muslims in Britain, who made a video of themselves dancing and laughing to the song. Following in their lead, Muslims around the world have made similar videos, including the Gaza Strip, Saudi Arabia, and even in my home of Chicago.

The controversy over these videos notwithstanding, the song itself has a fantastic message. There is one verse of the song, in particular, that is most telling to me from a spiritual perspective:

Your love is too high to bring me down

When I heard these words, I immediately thought of God’s love. Indeed, His love is most definitely “too high to bring me down.” In fact, it is too high to bring anyone down. And when we are enveloped in God’s love, we cannot help but be happy. 

His love is so soothing, so comforting,  so liberating, that it cannot help but make one happy. And that happiness is a deep-seated, warming happiness that nourishes the soul. It is a happiness that kings and princes would give up all their power and riches to get.

Living in God’s love is the only way to go. I was raised to fear God. Indeed, God’s punishment is something to be feared. His wrath is something to be feared. His chastisement is something to be feared.

But, as His Word says, “He has willed for Himself [the rule of] Mercy.” His Mercy overpowers His wrath, and thus – while keeping in mind His punishment – the main focus for our lives should be to live in His love.

I mean, it was His love that gave us life in the first place. What have we done to God or for God to deserve the gift of life? We were nothing before God breathed into us of His spirit and gave us life. Was it not out of love that God gave us life? Indeed it was.

And so, because God loved us first by giving us life, then our entire lives should be dedicated to loving God back by being faithful servants to His will. Every act of kindness we do to another creature is because we love the Creator of that creature. Every good deed we do to our fellow humanity is because we love the Creator of that human being. Every thing we do to make our world a better place is becuase we love the Creator of this world.

And when we do our best to love our God back, He showers us with even more love, and grace, and mercy, and blessing. And we become happy.

And so, God’s love is indeed “too high to bring me down,” and because of that great, all-enveloping love, we cannot help but feel happy. May we all live full, happy lives in the love of the Beloved Lord our God. Amen.

Disappointment in “Noah”: They Didn’t Need to Change One Jot or Tittle

In the Name of God: the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Beloved Lord

Well, I saw the movie “Noah.”

And…I was quite disappointed. Even though I did say that I do not look to Hollywood to teach me my sacred history, nevertheless, if you are going to make a movie called “Noah” and make that movie about the Prophet Noah, then it should be pretty close to the actual story of Noah.

And the thing is: the actual story of Noah would make a fantastic movie. It is full of intrigue, conflict, betrayal, a battle between good and evil, hope, courage, and victory in the face of enormous odds. Well, it is thus in the Islamic tradition, at least.

The Qur’an has numerous references to the story of the Prophet Noah. The Qur’an describes Noah as God’s “chosen” (3:33) and as being “guided” by God (6:84). He is one of the five mightiest Prophets of God according to Islamic tradition, along with Abraham, Jesus, Moses, and the Prophet Muhammad (pbut). He was sent to his people with this mission by God: “Warn thy people before a grievous suffering befalls them!” (71:1). And so, the Prophet Noah did just that:

[And Noah] said: “O my people! I am but a plain warner to you, [sent to tell you] that you should worship God [alone] and be conscious of Him. Now do pay heed unto me, so that He may forgive you some of your sins and grant you respite until a term known [to Him alone, i.e., death]: but behold, when the term appointed by God does come, it can never be put back – if you but knew it!” (71:2-4)

He preached to them “night and day” (71:5), “in public and in private” (71:9). He said to his people:

ask your Lord to forgive you your sins, for verily He is All-Forgiving. He will shower upon you heavenly blessings abundant and will aid you with worldly goods and children and will bestow upon you gardens and running waters. (71:10-12)

But his people refused to listen to him. His preaching to them caused them to “flee further and further away [from God]” (71:6). In fact, whenever he would preach to them, they would “put their fingers in their ears and [wrap] themselves in their garments” (71:7).

The chiefs of his people would say to him:

We do not see in you anything but a mortal man like ourselves, and only the most abject amongst us are the ones that follow you. We do not see that you could be superior to us in any way. On the contrary, we think you are one of the liars! (11:27)

In fact, they hinted that, were Noah to rid himself of these “abject ones,” they might consider listening to him, to which Noah replied:

O my people, no benefit do I ask of you for this [message]: my reward rests with none but God. And I shall not repulse [any of] those who have attained to faith. Verily, they [know that they] are destined to meet their Lord, whereas in you, I see people without any awareness [of right and wrong]. And, O my people, who would shield me from God were I to repulse them? Will you not, then, keep this in mind? (11:28,30)

And his preaching continued on for years and years. Hundreds of years, in fact. Yet, his people did not lend him an ear. His people persisted in their rejection of the right path and continuing in their wickedness. In fact, they finally said to him:

O Noah! You have contended with us in argument and have [needlessly] prolonged our controversy: bring upon us, therefore, that with which you threaten us [i.e., God's punishment], if you are a man of truth! (11:32)

At this point, the Lord told Noah:

Never will any of thy people believe except those who have already attained to faith. Be not, then, distressed by anything that they may do. Build, under Our eyes and according to Our inspiration, the ark [that shall save thee and those who follow thee], and do not appeal to Me on behalf of those who are bent on evildoing for, behold, they are destined to be drowned! (11:36-37)

And so, he built the ark as the Lord had commanded. In fact, he started building the ark, according to Islamic tradition, in an area far away from any body of water. And his people, consequently, mocked him severely:

And [so Noah] set himself to building the ark, and every time the great ones of his people passed by him, they scoffed at him. [Thereupon] he said: ‘If you are scoffing at us, behold, we are scoffing at you [and your ignorance] just as you are scoffing at us (11:38)

Yet, Noah continued building the ark, for he knew of the Scourge that was to come. Moreover, due to the obstinate rejection of his people, he actually supplicated to God against them:

And Noah prayed: “O my Lord! Leave not on earth any of those who deny the truth: for, behold, if You do leave them, they will [always try to] lead astray those who worship You and will give birth to nothing but wickedness and stubborn ingratitude.” (71:26-27)

After a while, the appointed time had come:

[And so it went on] until, when Our judgment came to pass, and waters gushed forth in torrents over the face of the earth, We said [unto Noah]: “Place on board of this [ark] one pair of each [kind of animal] of either sex, as well as they family – except those on whom [Our] sentence has already been passed – and all [others] who have attained to faith!” for, only a few of [Noah's people] shared his faith.  So he said [unto his followers]: “Embark in this [ship]! In the name of God be it run and its riding at anchor! Behold, my Lord is indeed much-forgiving and a dispenser of grace!” (11:40-41)

The Qur’an also confirms that the flood was caused by both rain and springs gushing forth:

And so We caused the gates of Heaven to open with water pouring down in torrents and caused the earth to burst forth with springs, so that the waters met for a purpose pre-ordained. (54:11-12)

At this point, it would seem that all is well, and Noah and his family were saved from the Flood and Scourge of God. Not quite, however:

And it moved on with them into waves that were like mountains. At that [moment] Noah cried out to a son of his, who had kept himself aloof [from the others]: “O my dear son! Embark with us and remain not with those who deny the truth!” [But the son] answered: “I shall betake myself to a mountain that will protect me from the waters.” Said [Noah]: “Today there is no protection [for anyone] from God’s judgment, save [for] those who have earned [His] mercy!” And a wave rose up between them, and [the son] was among those who were drowned. (11:42-43)

Having lost a child, I know the terrible pain that the Prophet Noah must have felt. And it seemed that God didn’t keep His promise of saving Noah and his family from the Deluge. What’s more, the Qur’an also states that Noah’s wife also betrayed him (spiritually) and was drowned in the flood:

For those who are bent on denying the truth God has propounded a parable in [the stories of] Noah’s wife and Lot’s wife: they were wedded to two of Our righteous servants, and each one betrayed her husband [spiritually], and neither of the two [husbands] will be of any avail to these two women when they are told [on Judgment Day]: “Enter the fire with all those [other sinners] who enter it!” (66:10)

How terrible it must have been for the noble Prophet of God, Noah. After a time, the Flood finally came to an end:

And the word was spoken: “O earth, swallow up they waters! And, O sky, cease [thy rain]!” And the waters sank into the earth, and the will [of God] was done, and the ark came to rest on Mount Judi. And the word was spoken: “Away with these evildoing folk!” (11:44)

Mount Judi, according to Qur’anic commentator Muhammad Asad, was:

known in ancient Syraic as Qardu [and] is situated in the region of Lake Van, almost twenty-five miles north-east of the town of Jazirat Ibn ‘Umar, capital of the modern Syrian district of Al Jazirah…We should, however, remember that the designation Ararat (the Assyrian Urartu) at one time included the whole area to the south of Lake Van, in which Jabal Judi is situated: this might explain the Biblical statement that “the ark rested…upon the mountains of Ararat.” (Genesis 8:4)

And now the believers are safe, and life will begin anew on earth. Yet, Noah was still grieved at the loss of his son among the evildoing folk. And so, he cried out to the Lord:

And Noah called out to his Lord and said: “O my Lord! Verily, my son was of my family, and, verily, Your promise always comes true, and You are the most just of all judges!” (11:45)

The Lord answered Noah and explained why his son was not saved:

[God] answered: “O Noah, behold, he was not of they family for, verily, he was unrighteous in his conduct. And you shall not ask of Me anything whereof you can not have any knowledge: thus, behold, do I admonish you lest you become of those who are unaware [of what is right].” (11:46)

To which Noah replied:

“O my Lord! Verily, I seek refuge in You from [ever again] asking of You anything whereof I cannot have any knowledge! For unless You grant me forgiveness and bestow Your mercy upon me, I shall be among the lost!” (11:47)

Then the Lord said to Noah:

“O Noah! Disembark in peace from Us and with [Our] blessings upon you as well as upon the people [who are with you, and the righteous ones that will spring from you and] from those who are with you. But [as for the unrighteous] folk [that will spring from you] – We shall allow them to enjoy life [for a little while], and then there will befall them grievous suffering from Us.” (11:48)

This is the story of Noah in the Islamic tradition. It is a truly amazing story, worthy of a blockbuster feature film. This is the story with which I was raised, and whenever I think of Noah, it is this story that comes to mind. As a result, no matter how much the filmmakers of the current movie “Noah” told me to disregard this story when watching the film, I could do so. Hence my disappointment.

But, given that the actual story of Noah (from the Islamic point of view) is so amazing, I am still baffled at why they had to change it so radically. They didn’t need to change one jot or tittle of the story for it to be a blockbuster. It is truly too bad.

A Muslim’s Mixed Feelings About “Noah”

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful Beloved Lord

I must admit: I really, really want to see “Noah.” As a Muslim, I was raised with this epic story of one of God’s greatest Prophets of all time:

[LONG] BEFORE those [who now deny resurrec­tion] did Noah’s people call it a lie; and they gave the lie to Our servant and said, “Mad is he!” – and he was repulsed. Thereupon he called out to his Lord, “Verily, I am defeated; come Thou, then, to my aid!” And so We caused the gates of heaven to open with water pouring down in torrents and caused the earth to burst forth with springs, so that the waters met for a purpose pre-ordained: but him We bore on that [vessel] made of [mere] planks and nails and it floated under Our eyes: a recom­pense for him who had been rejected with ingratitude. (54:9-14)

Indeed, I have every intention to see the film, and I have been fascinated by the controversy surrounding it in some evangelical Christian circles. In addition, the film has been banned in some Muslim countries. They base this objection on the fact that it is improper to depict any Prophet of God. Indeed, there was a movie, “The Message,” that was about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but the late director Moustapha Akkad took great pains to not depict the Prophet Muhammad in any way, shape, or form.

Still, I really, really want to see “Noah.” Before I even heard of the controversy, I could have told you that the screenwriters and director of the film would have taken liberties with the literal Biblical text (although, in truth, I do not understand why). Yet, I do understand the discomfort with any film depicting a Prophet of God.

From the Muslim perspective, these men are the best of humanity, the holiest of the human community. All of them – from Adam all the way to Muhammad – deserve nothing but the utmost respect and reverence. In fact, I do not accept the less than glamorous stories about some of them that are present in the Old Testament (such as King David). And it makes me nervous when any filmmaker wants to depict any of them in a film, because any negative portrayal would be a show of great disrespect.

For instance, my absolute favorite film of all time, about which I wrote in the book Taking Back Islam, is the “Ten Commandments.” I always try to watch it every year. But, I am very uncomfortable with the film’s depiction of Moses’ love story with Nefertari. As a devout Muslim, I do not accept that a Prophet of God would engage in such immoral behavior, even if it was before he was commissioned as Prophet.

When the story of Moses was remade into a TV film in 2006, I couldn’t even finish watching it. The way Moses was depicted was so distasteful to me, as a Muslim who loves and reveres all the Prophets of God, that it was not worth my time. And herein lies my discomfort with depicting Prophets of God in film and television.

Yet, I do not advocate banning the film in the United States or reacting violently to its release and distribution. If you do not believe you should see the film, then simply do not see the film. But I do urge those in the movie business should take utmost care to treat the sacred with respect and reverence. The Prophet Noah is a man sacred to all three Abrahamic faith traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The same goes with Moses, Jesus, and Joseph, all of whom have been depicted in film and on stage.

Still, despite my slight discomfort, I still really, really want to see “Noah.” I do not want to see the film so I can learn about the story of Noah: the Quran has done that quite marvelously for me. But, I do want to get a sense – just a sense – of what it may have been like at the time of Noah, a holy man who – had I been alive at the time – I pray I would have followed. I hope I am not disappointed.

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