AL-TANZIL
The
Revelation
 
[26:192]



Islam and Judaism Part 3

By Emeritus Rabbi Allen S. Maller
rabbimaller.com

I am a Reform Rabbi who started my study of Islam over fifty years ago. In many ways I think of Muhammed as a prophet of Reform Judaism as well as the great prophet of Islam. In the generation of Muhammad, most Jews were Orthodox Jews.

Today in North America, Orthodox Jews are a small minority of all Jews, and Reform Jews are the largest denomination, although in Israel the Orthodox minority is much stronger and Reform Jews are a small minority.

Reform Judaism began over 200 years ago. If Orthodox Rabbis had followed some of the teachings of Muhammad during his lifetime, Reform Judaism would have started almost 14 centuries ago. This is why I think of Muhammed as a prophet of Reform Judaism. In England Reform Judaism is called Liberal Judaism.

When Dr. Arshad Chaudhry, the eminent publisher of Al-Tanzil, asked me if I could tell him if there are references in the Torah, which inform the followers of the Torah, that earlier generations had similar Guidance I agreed to provide some of the many references found in the Hebrew Bible.

I could easily responded to the first six Qur'anic statements because Judaism is very close to Islam in its view of the nature of God and human beings. The last three ayas in Dr, Chaudhry's list raise the following issues of meaning.

7. ALLAH Gifted Jesus (pbuh) with Gospel
[Quran – 5:46] “And We sent following in their footsteps, Jesus son of Mary, one who establishes as true what was before him in the Torah. And We gave him the Gospel in which is guidance and light, and that which establishes as true what was before him in the Torah and a guidance and admonishment for the ones who are God-fearing.”

Jews are in full accord with calling Jesus the son of Mary, since we do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. In the Gospels Jesus usually refers to himself as the son of man. There are others who call him the son of God and in some cases they were possessed by devils or strange spirits.

As the Gospel of Luke says: “When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!"

For Jesus had commanded the evilspirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places”. (8:27-9)

Jews do not believe that Jesus himself ever said that he was the son of God. He did speak of God as his father but only to illustrate his closeness to God, not to claim divinity for himself.

The Torah uses the term son of God to indicate a holy man of a holy community: “YOU ARE THE SONS OF THE LORD YOUR GOD” (Deuteronomy 14:1) and “THUS SAYS THE LORD: ISRAEL IS MY SON, MY FIRST BORN.” (Exodus 4:22)

Does this mean that Jews either as individuals or as a people are Divine? Of course not. No Rabbi from the most Orthodox to the most Reform has ever taken these verses of the Torah literally.

What about Jesus? Didn’t he call himself the Son of God? No! According to the Gospels, Jesus frequently referred to himself as the Son of Man. It was others who called him a son of God; and most of them meant it the same way the Torah means it i.e. a holy man or a holy community.

When the Torah says Israel is God’s first-born child, the Torah does not say that Israel is God’s only child. Just as parents love all their children so too does God love all nations, that is why God sends prophets to every nation and tribe.

Just as parents have many children who each look and act differently one from the other; so too does God’s revelation appear in different forms in different religions, and within each religion there are different interpretations of God’s revelation. Yet all the different prophets come from the One and Only God.

The term son/child of God should never be taken literally. It is a metaphor. Jesus never would have actually meant he was divine. As the Qur'an teaches, “When Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'" He will say, "Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen. I said not to them except what You commanded me - to worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, a witness. (Al-Ma'idah 116-117)

Just as Jesus never said that his mother Mary was divine (although millions of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians have prayed to and worshiped her over the centuries) so too he never said that he was divine and should be worshiped beside God. Jesus knew the words of Prophet Isaiah: “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else.” (42:11)

8. ALLAH’S Continuation of Revelation
[Quran – 2:87] “For, indeed, We vouchsafed unto Moses the divine writ and caused apostle after apostle to follow him; and We vouchsafed unto Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with holy inspiration.”

9. ALLAH Confirmed The Truth of Earlier Revelations
[Quran – 2:101] “For, indeed, We vouchsafed unto Moses the divine writ and caused apostle after apostle to follow him; and We vouchsafed unto Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with holy inspiration.”

These two verses seem to be identical. I know that when a verse in the Torah appears in more than one place the rabbis find two connected yet different meanings for it. This process of interpretation is part of the Oral Torah (Furqan) that is continually developed by the rabbis of each generation.

Thus, Jesus, the son of Mary taught continuity: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Torah until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees [Orthodox Jews] and the teachers of the law [rabbis], you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)

Rabbi Jesus also taught reform: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of Torah [rabbis] and the Pharisees [Orthodox rabbis] sit on Moses' seat [authority] So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 5:1-4)

Today it seems that there are some leaders in every religion who want to make their religion stricter and harder. Narrated Abu Huraira: 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 Volume 1, Book 2, Number 38)

All religious leaders should learn anti-extremism from this example of Prophet Muhammad. “According to his wife,Aisha: Whenever the Prophet was given an option between two things, he used to select the easier of the two as long as it was not sinful; but if it was sinful, he would remain far from it. (Bukhari Volume 8, Book 81, Number 777)

Rabbi Maller's web site is: rabbimaller.com
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