Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Judaism (part 4 of 4): So Very Similar; so Why not the same?

By Aisha Stacey (© 2012 IslamReligion.com)Published on 16
Apr 2012 - Last modified on 16 Apr 2012

In the three previous articles about the religion of Judaism we have learned first and
foremost that Judaism and Islam have much in common. Jews and Muslims are
brothers in the sense that they are both descended from the sons of Prophet
Abraham. The political landscape of the 21st century seems to paint
a picture of Jews and Muslims being mortal enemies but this is not the case.
The two faiths share a history and at times have lived worked and cooperated
with each other. Many Muslims wonder why Jews do not automatically see Islam as
an extension of their own faith and thus embrace Islam wholeheartedly. The fact
is many do, but the majority do not. In this final article we will continue to
look at the similarities between the two faiths and briefly explore their
historical interaction.
Judaism and Islam share a joint
legacy of traditions. The two faiths share many of the same prophets, all
acknowledging a common parent in Abraham. All ascribe similar attributes to
God, including Creator, Sustainer, Judge, and Forgiver. The two faiths believe
God is both Omnipotent and Omniscient. The kinship of these faiths continues
through moral values, including respect for life, respect for parents, giving
charity, doing good, and avoiding evil. Even their beliefs about the final
moments of humankind’s existence are similar. Judaism and Islam share the
tradition that if the trumpet to signal the end of time is blown and you are
holding a seedling in your hand, you should plant it. There is considerable and
continued physical, theological, and political overlap between the two
The Torah records Abraham as the
ancestor of the Jews through his son Isaac, born to Sarah fulfilling a promise
made in Genesis. In the Islamic tradition Prophet Muhammad is a descendant of
Abraham’s son Ishmael. Jewish tradition also equates the descendants of Ishmael
with Arabs. The so called Jewish prophets feature prominently in Islamic
scripture and literature and the message is always the same – worship One God.
“Abraham was the father of the Prophets; no Prophet was
sent after him but he was from among his descendents. He had two sons whom God
chose to be Prophets. They were Ishmael the grandfather of the Arabs, from
among whose descendents God sent the Prophet Muhammad and Isaac whom God blessed
with a son Prophet Jacob, who was also known as Israel, after whom the Children
of Israel and their Prophets were called.”[1]
“And We bestowed upon him Isaac and
Jacob, each of them We guided, and before him, We guided Noah and among his
progeny David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. Thus do We reward the
good-doers. And Zachary and John and Jesus and Elias, each one of them was of
the righteous. And Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot and each one of them We
preferred above the humankind and jinn (of their times).” (Quran 6:84-86)
Historically, Jews and Muslims
have shared their cultures and prospered together, sometimes for centuries.
This connection is best reflected in the 700 years of Muslim rule in Spain, at
that time known as Andalusia. It was here that Jews held some of the most
important political positions, were doctors to the Muslim rulers, and generated
profound philosophical theories. Maimonides lived and wrote The Guide to the
Perplexed (a discussion of some of the most difficult theories of theology) in
Cordoba. A statue in his honour stands there still. Jews were able to make
great advances in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and chemistry, and this
era is sometimes referred to as the Golden age of Jewish culture. In 1492, when
Andalusia was overrun by the Catholics and the Muslim rulers deposed, Jews and
Muslims fled together to the safety of Muslim lands in North Africa and east
toward Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Iraq.
“God does not forbid you from showing
goodwill and dealing justly with those (of the unbelievers) who do not fight you
because of your religion, nor drive you forth from your homes. God surely loves
those who are just. God only forbids you respecting those who fight you on the
basis of your religion, and expel you from your homes...” (Quran 60: 8 &
The treatment of both Jews and
Christians by Muslims is well documented. The Caliph Omar under whom Jerusalem
was conquered about six years after the Prophet's death, not only issued an
edict protecting the Christian religious sites, but also invited 70 Jewish
families from Tiberias to take up residence in Jerusalem, from which they had
been expelled by the Romans. Jews and Muslims have very much in common, the
greatest doctrine being their belief in One God, indivisible and accessible.
With so many similarities one
could easily ask the question, just why are more Jews not converting to Islam?
As mentioned earlier, many are. In the early days of Islam many Jews did in
fact convert to Islam and one in particular, Abdullah Ibn Salam, was a close
companion of Prophet Muhammad. His story can be read in detail on this web
site[2]. The following is a short and
list of notable Jews who converted to Islam.
· Rashid-al-Din Hamadani - 13th century Persian physician
· Yaqub ibn Killis - 10th century Egyptian vizier.
· Leila Mourad - Egyptian singer and actress of the 1940s and
· Lev Nussimbaum - 20th century writer, journalist and
· Jacob Querido - 17th century successor of the self-proclaimed
Jewish Messiah Sabbatai Zevi.
· Ibn Sahl of Seville - 13th century Andalusian poet.
We actually know very little
about the number of Jews who convert to Islam today. However their numbers may
be higher than we imagine considering that Islam is, according to Pew,[3] growing about 2.9% per year.
This is faster than the total world population which increases about 2.3%
annually. This site has collated what reliable statistical data there and it is
available here.[4]
Data from the state of Israel
suggests that the conversion rate of Jews to Islam in Israel has doubled over
the past several years. “Jews say they decided to convert after deepening their
knowledge of Islam. Many are disappointed in Judaism,” a senior member of the
Islamic court said. They are converting even though the Israeli Religious
Affairs and Interior Ministries make it very difficult for them. According to
one convert, “They are giving me the run around, sending me back and forth from
office to office. They made me see a psychiatrist, to ‘make sure I wasn’t
brainwashed.’ They did everything so that I would despair and return to
When you look at all the
similarities it certainly appears that it is a small step, not at all a big
cognitive leap, for a Jewish believer to slide effortlessly into the religion of
Islam. Islam is however a gift from God, and God bestows it on whom He
[1] From Usool al-Deen al-Islami by
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem al-Tuwayjri (with some grammatical
[3] The Pew Research Centre is an
American think tank organization based in Washington, D.C. that provides
information on issues, attitudes and trends shaping the United States and the
Previous: Judaism (part 3 of
4): Focus on Similarities not Differences

Parts of This Article
(part 1 of 4): An Introduction

(part 2 of 4): The Chosen People

(part 3 of 4): Focus on Similarities not Differences

Judaism (part 4 of 4): So Very Similar; so Why not the same?
View all parts

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