Some Islamists (Islamism is a totalitarian ideology of imposing supposedly Islamic values and having a contemptuous attitude towards those regarded as “enemies of Islam”, and cannot be equated with the religion Islam per se, nor can the adherents of the ideology of Islamism, referred to as Islamists, be equated with Muslims in general) contend that Jews have always been “enemies of Islam”. This article does not seek to assess this claim in a larger historical context, but rather, whether such a statement can be justified in the light of Islamic principles.
For a practising Muslim, the ultimate touchstone of any such claim would be the Quran. So, we can, at the outset, cite some verses from the Quran advocating peace, religious tolerance and human brotherhood-
“Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)
“Do not let your hatred of another people incite you to aggression. Cooperate in righteousness and piety, but not in sin and aggression.” (5:2)
“And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness” (5:8)
“If anyone slew an innocent person, it would be as if he slew the whole mankind and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole mankind.” (5:32)
“And insult not the deities of the non-Muslims, lest they insult Allah wrongfully without knowledge.” (6:108)
“…take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.” (6:151)
“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: For Allah loveth those who are just.” (60:8)
“You unto your religion, me unto mine.” (109:6)
In fact, even in Chapter 9 of the Quran which deals specifically with a war to be waged against those non-Muslims who violated the constitution of Medina (which gave full freedom of religion to non-Muslims), verse 6 clearly mentions that those non-Muslims who wish to make peace with the Muslims should be given sanctuary by the Muslims. There are verses specifically talking of fighting Jews and Christians too, but they relate to specific events when some specific people from those religious groupings posed a threat to Muslims. Also, it must be noted that Abu Bakr, Prophet Muhammad’s companion and the first Caliph, laid out rules of warfare that prohibit killing women, children and priests of any faith, cutting alive trees or even killing animals except for the sake of food.
Thus, there is no room for stereotyping an entire community as an enemy, or worse still, engaging in violence against its innocent men, women and children, going by Islam. However, let us also have a look at the Quranic verses explicitly dealing with the Jews. It must be noted that the prophets of the Jews like Moses, Abraham, David, Ishmael, Solomon, Noah and the likes are also considered prophets in Islam, which is why the Quran very explicitly states that Jews are “ahl-e-kitab” or “people of the book” or “people of the scriptures”. Now, let’s look at a Quranic verse specifically dealing with Jews-
“And among the People of the Scripture is he who, if you entrust him with a great amount [of wealth], he will return it to you. And among them is he who, if you entrust him with a [single] silver coin, he will not return it to you unless you are constantly standing over him [demanding it]. That is because they say, ‘There is no blame upon us concerning the unlearned.’ And they speak untruth about Allah while they know [it].
But yes, whoever fulfills his commitment and fears Allah – then indeed, Allah loves those who fear Him.”
Thus, the verse makes it clear that there are both good and bad Jews, just like there are good and bad people in any and every religious grouping.
Also, doctrinally, no religion is closer to Islam than Judaism. Both prohibit idol-worship, both are monotheistic, both have similar dietary regulations (halal/kosher) and both advocate circumcision for men. And unlike Christians who worship Jesus as God incarnate as His own son (an idea Islam disagrees with, regarding Jesus only as a prophet), Jews have no such beliefs or practices. In the light of this, let us have a look at the following Quranic verses-
“Say, ‘O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah’.” (3:64)
“They are not [all] the same; among the People of the Scripture is a community standing [in obedience], reciting the verses of Allah during periods of the night and prostrating [in prayer].
They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds. And those are among the righteous.
Indeed, those who disbelieve – never will their wealth or their children avail them against Allah at all, and those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally.” (3:113-116)
Thus, it is clear that as per the Quran, not all Jews will all of them burn in the hell-fire! Furthermore, the Quran reiterates this in the following verse-
“The believers, Jews, Sabeans, and the Christians who believe in God and the Day of Judgment and who do what is right will have nothing to fear nor will they be grieved.” (5:69)
The following verse also hints in this direction-
“Indeed, those who have believed and those who were Jews and the Sabeans and the Christians and the Zoroastrians and those who associated with Allah – Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed Allah is, over all things, Witness.” (22:17)
Pointing out the similarity in the dietary regulations between Judaism and Islam, the Quran allows Muslim men to marry Jewish women in the following verse-
“This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you.” (5:5)
It may also be noted that there are several Hadiths that necessitate La Ilaha Ilallah (the belief in one formless God) as a prerequisite for going to heaven, but do not mention the prophethood of Muhammad as being a necessary prerequisite. You can see many such Hadiths here – http://www.sunnah.org/aqida/forty_hadith_merits_tahlil.htm#_ftn1, and going by that logic, devout Jews would most definitely qualify to go to heaven as per Islamic theology.
Thus, Islamic theology provides no room for hate-mongering or violence against innocent Jews. In fact, the role model for every practising Muslim, Prophet Muhammad, demonstrated how hatred can be fought against by way of humanitarian affection by enquiring about the health of an old woman (who was not Muslim) throwing garbage at him daily. Hatred can never drive out hatred.
The author would like to thank Mr. Shams Tabrez for his inputs.