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Islam and the halakhah.

There is much that can be written about Jewish attitudes towards Islam, but this topic has not yet been of great concern to Jewish scholars, perhaps because, unlike what we have with regard to Christianity, there is not much in the way of substantial Jewish medieval polemics directed against Islam.(1) Still, Jewish sources are full of perspectives on Islam which are waiting to be analyzed.(2) This paper is concerned with only one aspect, namely, the attitude to Islam as reflected in Jewish law.

From the Biblical and early rabbinic perspectives, it is obvious that Judaism was considered to be the only true religion. What characterized it, in contrast to the other religions of the world, was its unflinching monotheism. It is against this background that all of the many regulations against idolatry were instituted. True, according to the law as set down in rabbinic literature, even Gentiles were forbidden to worship idols, a category which also included polytheism.(3) This prohibition fell under the so-called Seven Laws of Noah, which obligate all Gentiles. But the duty of the Gentile was simply to abstain from certain evils, and he was not obligated to perform any duties (except to establish courts of justice). In short, there was no room made for the Gentiles to have a religion of their own. Even the monotheistic nature of Christianity did not change these notions. Once the doctrine of the Trinity became known to the Rabbis, they regarded Christianity as no different than polytheism, putting the Christians in the same category as the idolaters of old. Although there were some faint signs of a more moderate attitude to Christianity developing in the Middle Ages,(4) it was only in the last few hundred years that rabbinic authorities began to come to grips with the inherent difficulty of regarding all Christians as no different than the immoral polytheists of old.

This reconsideration, while influenced by apologetics, actually goes much deeper. It represents a judgment by leading rabbinic figures of the incorrectness of pre-judging all Christians by a standard that no longer seemed applicable. One must remember that underlying the rabbinic laws of idolatry was the belief that all idolaters were evil, and, therefore, were subject to the death penalty. It was simply impossible for the European rabbis of the past few hundred years to continue to regard all Christians as worthy of death. How they were able to "absolve" the Christians of this great sin and yet still continue to regard the religion as a form of idolatry is a most interesting chapter which goes beyond the scope of this essay.(5)

This matter assumes a much different character when we examine Islam. Islam presented a challenge to Judaism which it had not previously faced, for here was a religion just as monotheistic as its mother religion. Here was a concept not recognized in the traditional Talmudic texts but which needed to be seriously considered. Yet, before doing so, one had to attain a proper knowledge of Islam. This did not always happen, and we therefore find a number of early references that characterize Islam as idolatrous, due to the widespread and mistaken perception that an idol was to be found in the Kaaba,(6) the sacred Islamic house of worship in Mecca. There is even one medieval source that regards Mecca as the name of the Islamic idol!(7) These mistaken notions led some scholars to rule that it was forbidden to drink or even obtain benefit from wine handled by a Muslim. According to them, there was no difference in the halakhic status of wine handled by a Muslim or an idolater.(8)

However, as time went on, the position solidified among Jewish scholars that Islam was not idolatry, due to a greater understanding by Jews of Islam's true character.(9) Of course, even in the early years of Islam there were many who refused to regard it as a form of idolatry. In the ninth century, R. Zemah Gaon ruled that a Jew was permitted to obtain benefit from wine with which a Muslim came into contact. As already noted, this would have been prohibited if a Muslim were to be considered an idolater. However, because the need to prevent socialization with the Gentiles - apparently even non-idolatrous Gentiles - is given by the Talmud as a further reason to forbid consumption of their wine,(10) R. Zemah ruled that Muslim wine was still unfit to be drunk by a Jew.(11) Similar statements were also made by the Geonim Kohen Zedek,(12) Sar Shalom,(13) Nahshon,(14) and other important authorities.(15) However, there are even some views that such wine was permissible for drinking.(16)

The basis for these lenient views is simply that Islam as a religion is not to be regarded as idolatrous. However, since all of these Geonim were concerned with a narrow halakhic issue, they did not elaborate on any of the larger questions which deal with the relation of Judaism to Islam.(17) This was left to Maimonides who, as we shall see, strongly put forth the view that Muslims were not idolaters. Although, to be sure, Islam was heresy,(18) this did not stop Maimonides from expressing a positive view about Islam - or even about Christianity, which he considered to be idolatry.(19) In his mind, although Islam and Christianity are both in error, they still have some value in that they prepare the world eventually to accept the true religion, namely Judaism.

All those words of Jesus of Nazareth and of this Ishmaelite [i.e., Muhammed] who arose after him are only to make straight the path for the messianic king and to prepare the whole world to serve the Lord together. As it is said: "For then I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech so that all of them shall call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord" (Zephaniah 3:9).(20)

In Maimonides' system there was one point on which Christianity, although idolatrous, actually stood above Islam. The Talmud states that it is forbidden to teach Torah to Gentiles, and this interdiction is codified by Maimonides. However, he makes an exception for Christians, because they believe in the same text of the Bible as the Jews and it is thus possible that, after having studied, they will recognize the error of their ways. For Muslims, however, because they do not accept that the five books of Moses are Divine, such a possibility is not to be considered. It is, therefore, forbidden to teach them Torah.(21)

Still, this law says nothing about the basic worth of Christianity vis-a-vis Islam. The prohibition to teach Torah to Muslims was due to the specific reason just cited, and did not speak to any of the broader issues involved in evaluating their religion. In actuality, it is Islam that was much more favorable in Maimonides' eyes. As we have seen, according to him, both Christianity and Islam have a positive role to play in the world. However, with regard to Islam, despite certain critical comments regarding Muhammed,(22 the fact that Islam is not idolatry creates a crucial distinction between it and Christianity and leads to numerous consequences, both in law and theology.(23) (One scholar argues that this explains Malmonides' belief that Muslims, as sons of Ishmael, are required to circumcize their sons.(24) In addition, although a Jew may not obtain benefit from wine handled by a Christian, that is not the case with regard to a Muslim. However, Maimonides does agree with the view of the Geonim that it is still not permissible to drink this wine. According to Maimonides, this ruling was supported by "all the Geonim"(25) and, as we have already noted, this stringency had nothing to do with Islam per se but was to prevent socialization with non-Jews generally.

Maimonides further explains his view regarding Islam in a letter that he wrote to a certain Obadiah the Proselyte, who, having previously been a Muslim, certainly knew the particulars of the religion, and had declared that it was not idolatry. Because of his opinion, he was ridiculed by his teacher, who claimed that the Islamic religious service at Mecca was idolatrous in that it involved the ritual of throwing stones which constituted worship of "Merkulius."(26)

Maimonides' answer to this is unequivocal.

The Ishmaelites are not at all idolaters; [idolatry] has long been severed from their mouths and hearts; and they attribute to God a proper unity, a unity concerning which there is no doubt. And because they lie about us, and falsely attribute to us the statement that God has a son,(270 is no reason for us to lie about them and say that they are idolaters . . . And should anyone say that the house that they honor [the Kaaba] is a house of idolatry and an idol is hidden within it, which their ancestors used to worship, then what of it? The hearts of those who bow down toward it today are [directed] only toward Heaven . . . [Regarding] the Ishmaelites today - idolatry has been severed from the mouths of all of them [including] women and children. Their error and foolishness is in other things which cannot be put into writing because of the renegades and wicked among Israel [i.e., apostates]. But as regards the unity of God they have no error at all.

Maimonides then discusses the practice of throwing stones and shows that, despite its origin, it was no longer idolatrous. He concludes: "The long and short of it is that even though at their root these things were established for idolatry, not a man in the world throws these stones or bows down to that place or does any of the rites for the sake of idolatry - neither verbally nor mentally; their heart is rather surrendered to Heaven."(28)

Also important for understanding Maimonides' view of Islam is a well known letter than he wrote around the year 1165, when he was still a resident of Fez, having not yet travelled to Erez Yisrael and Egypt. It was addressed to the inhabitants of Morocco, who had been threatened by the Almohads with conversion, exile, or death. It so happened that an anonymous scholar who had been living outside of the Almohads' reach had issued a ruling that Islam was idolatry and that, therefore, one must give up his life rather than convert to Islam. If one did not, he was to be treated as no different than a true apostate. This ruling created somewhat of a storm among the crypto-Jews of Morocco, and it was in response to this confusion that Maimonides wrote his letter, which was a marvelous defense of a Jewish community that was forced to hide its religion because of persecution.(29)

There has been much argument about how faithful Maimonides was to the halakhic sources and whether his presentation of his opponent's view was correct. However, one thing which appears to be sure, Haym Soloveitchik's reservations notwithstanding,(30) is that it was the Maimonidean acceptance of Islam's monotheistic character that enabled him to come to the defense of the crypto-Jews, even if he does not argue this point explicitly. It would appear that, because he felt that this notion was so obvious, he did not feel the need to defend it. Alternatively, one could say that his refusal to argue the case that Islam is not idolatry was because he regarded the crypto-Jews as never having truly accepted the religion in the first place and, therefore, his argument was able to proceed along a different line, one which argues that, even assuming that Islam is idolatry, the Jews still have not violated the idolatry prohibition.(31) However, had the Jews truly accepted Islam, one could probably have expected Maimonides to argue that, whereas the Jews may have been heretics, they were not idolaters.(32)

In any event, it is safe to say that, in the generations following Maimonides, almost all halakhic authorities accepted his approach to Islam.(33) Indeed, it was Maimonides' son, R. Abraham, who took his father's view to its logical conclusion when he argued that, although Islamic religious practices should not be imitated, strictly speaking they do not fall under the Biblical prohibition of following the ways of the Gentiles. This is so simply because "Muslims are monotheists who abhor idolatry."(34)

After all this has been said, one should not conclude that, with regard to Islam, Maimonides was expressing any real tolerance, in the modern sense of the term. All of his positive statements were intended simply to clarify the nature of the Islamic religion, statements which, in turn, will have numerous halakhic consequences. To show that Maimonides was anything but an adherent of religious tolerance, it is sufficient to note that, in his opinion, not only is it impossible for a Muslim to be a pious Gentile,(35) but it is even forbidden for a Gentile to follow the dictates of Islam. He unequivocally accepts the Talmudic view that any Gentile religious system is illicit and the only alternatives for Gentiles are conversion or observance of the Seven Laws of Noah which, by definition, exclude any other religious system.(36)

Whereas Maimonides' opponents held to the mistaken belief that Islam was idolatry, there were those authorities, after Maimonides, who, while clearly aware of the monotheistic nature of Islam, still disagreed with Maimonides' position, and asserted that Jews must give up their lives rather than be forced to convert to Islam. Their rationale was based on the fact that if one gives his agreement to Muhammed's prophetic mission, this is the equivalent of denying the validity of Torah. In their opinion it is a capital offence to deny the Torah,(37) and they thus viewed idolatry as merely a manifestation of this denial. R. David ibn Zimra quotes the renowned R. Yom Tov Ishbili (c. 1250-1330) as holding to this view and expresses agreement with him.(38)

I mentioned earlier that almost all authorities accepted Maimonides' view of Islam. There is, however, one authority, who, while most cryptic, appears to be leaning in the opposite direction. In a medieval commentary erroneously attributed to the famous sage, Rabbi Nissim Gerondi (c. 1310-1375), but actually written by an unknown later scholar, one finds a shocking opinion, in the course of "R. Nissim's" discussion, of Christians bowing to holy objects and Muslims bowing to Muhammed(!). Although the comment is not entirely clear, it appears to be saying that even though the Muslims do not turn Muhammed into a God, one must regard their actions of bowing down to him as idolatry, thus putting them in the category of idolaters.(39) This is a dramatic deviation from Maimonides' view, and it is shocking that "R. Nissim" does not even refer to his predecessor. In any event, the authentic R. Nissim did not hold to this view, and we are in possession of a responsum of his in which he declares unambiguously that Islam is not a form of idolatry.(40)

However, "R. Nissim" was not the only one who was still expressing reservations about Islam in the post-Maimonidean era. As late as the fifteenth century, we find that R. Simeon ben Zemah Duran still regarded the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca as being of an idolatrous nature.(41) Of course, there is a great difference between the view of "R. Nissim" and of Duran. Whereas the latter is concerned with pagan remnants of the pre-Islamic period, "R. Nissim's" objection is directed at what he considered to be unadulterated Islam, entirely stripped of any pagan remnants. It is because Duran's objections did not cut to the heart of Islam that he could still declare that the religion itself was not idolatrous.(42) Still, the fact that he did identify idolatrous elements in Islam perhaps contributed to Duran's refusal to permit a shohet to slaughter animals while facing Mecca.(43)

Although Duran refused to permit a shohet to slaughter animals in this fashion, it should be noted that the eminent R. Solomon ben Adret (c. 1235-c. 1310), although he regarded the practice as distasteful, would not prohibit.(44) This view was supported by R. David ibn Zimra,(45) and it was also codified in the Shulhan Arukh.(46) However, none of these authorities was aware that a responsum, attributed to Maimonides, agreed with Duran's position.(47) In our own century, R. Abraham Isaac Kook had to consider a situation that went one step further, in that the Muslims also insisted that the Jewish shohet acknowledge Allah by proclaiming "Allahu akbar" when he slaughtered. Not able to point to any explicit prohibition in this matter, Kook ruled that it is permissible to repeat the formula.(48)

What about a Jew entering a mosque? According to the halakhah, a Jew is forbidden to enter a house of idolatry and, therefore, almost all halakhic authorities forbid one from entering a church. Since Islam is not idolatrous, there should be no problem for a Jew to enter a mosque and, although no early halakhists seem to discuss this question, the prevailing opinion of recent halakhic authorities is to be lenient.(49) Similarly, one nineteenth century Ashkenazic authority permitted the conversion of a mosque to a synagogue without the "nullification" of idolatry that is required when converting a church into a synagogue,(50) while another authority even permitted a Jew to assist in the building of a mosque.(51) Nevertheless, a leading contemporary authority, basing himself on the previously cited view attributed to "R. Nissim," forbids visiting a mosque,(52) and this view is followed in a recent halakhic work intended for a popular audience.(53) Earlier in this century, one rabbi, using the previously cited views of R. Yom Tov Ishbili and R. David ibn Zimra, even went so far as to declare that, according to the halakhah, all mosques in the Land of Israel had to be destroyed!(54)

According to a Mishnaic halakhah, one is not permitted to sell land in Israel to a Gentile.(55) What is not clear is whether this prohibition applies to all Gentiles or only to idolaters. A number of authorities state that Muslims are definitely excluded from this prohibition since they enjoy, at least in part, the status of the Biblical "resident alien" to whom it is permitted to sell land. For the same reason, it is permitted to give a Muslim a present (without expecting something in return), something which is forbidden to be done with an idolater.(56) This view is the basis for the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's decision to "sell" the land of Israeli farmers in the Sabbatical year in order to circumvent the prohibition against cultivating the land during this year. As long as it is sold to a Muslim there is no problem.(57)

However, a number of prominent rabbinic authorities dispute this view, and assert that Muslims do not have the status of the Biblical "resident alien," thus making it forbidden to sell them land or even give them a present.(58) In addition, even according to those who accept the basic view that Muslims in Israel are "resident aliens," it is possible that this notion may no longer apply. One of the characteristics of a "resident alien" is that he is subservient to the Jewish population,(59) a characteristic clearly absent when one is dealing with a population that refuses to accept Israeli rule. While the late Rabbi Meir Kahane often made this point with regard to Arabs in Israeli,(60) it has begun to find larger acceptance even among other halakhists.(61) As the intifada continues it is only to be expected that more and more halakhic authorities will begin to exclude Arabs from the rank of "resident alien." This might be a step towards some halakhic views that Arabs who refuse to accept Israeli rule are not permitted to remain in the Land.(62) However, whether this will lead towards any halakhic rulings by respected scholars that the Arab population as a whole should be deported now seems doubtful.(63)

One final point must be noted. At the beginning of this paper I briefly discussed some of the factors that led to a different halakhic evaluation of Christians. I indicated that, although an apologetic element is present in these evaluations, in reality the matter is much more complex and involves more humanistic considerations. A further examination of this phenomenon will also reveal social and economic factors that come into play. What is most significant is that all of the detailed halakhic argumentation is undertaken by halakhists under Christian rule. It was they who were confronted by Christians daily and who were pressured to change the halakhic attitude towards them. However, almost without exception, halakhic authorities in the Islamic world do not appear to have ever undergone any such change. The view that Christianity is idolatry was never seriously challenged by them.(64) With this in mind, the contrast with the attitudes seen regarding Islam are striking. There is no pattern of change that can be discerned between Ashkenazic or Sephardic halakhists either as to the basic nature of Islam or with regard to any of the other issues that we have looked at. This is a sure sign that many of the numerous extra-halakhic issues that had to be considered in a discussion of Christianity were either missing or not prominent when the halakhists dealt with Islam.


(1.) See Moshe Perlmann, "The Medieval Polemics Between Islam and Judaism," in S.D. Goitein, ed., Religion in a Religious Age (Cambridge, Mass., 1974), pp. 121-122, 126. (2.) See the numerous sources collected in M. Steinschneider, Polemische und apologetische Literatur in arabischer Sprache, zwischen Muslimen, Christen und Juden (Leipzig, 1877). See also Ronald Kiener, "The Image of Islam in the Zohar," Mehkerei Yerushalayim be-Mahshevet Yisrael 9 (1989): 43-65 (English section), and Abraham Schreiber, "Yahas Hakhmei Yisrael le-Istam," in Itamar Warhaftig, ed., Minhah le-Ish (Jerusalem, 1991), pp. 276-292. Regarding Karaite attitudes, see Haggai Ben-shammai, "The Attitude of Some Early Karaites Towards Islam," in Isadore Twersky, ed., Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1984), Vol. 2, pp. 1-40. Regarding Islamic influence on Jewish practice, Naphtali Wieder, Hashpa'ot Islamiyyot al ha-Pulhan ha-Yehudi (Oxford, 1947), remains very important. (3.) See Ephraim E. Urbach, The Sages, trans. by Israel Abrahams (Cambridge, Mass., 1987), chap. 2. (4.) See Jacob Katz, Halakhah ve-Kabbalah (Jerusalem, 1986), pp. 291-310. (5.) For a recent discussion, see Louis Jacobs, "Attitudes Toward Christianity in the Halakhah," in Ze'ev W. Falk, ed., Gevuroth Haromah (Jerusalem, 1987), pp. xvii-xxxi. The standard treatment of Jewish attitudes towards Christianity remains Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance (Oxford, 1961). (6.) See Bernard Septimus, "Petrus Alfonsi on the Cult of Mecca," Speculum 56 (1981), pp. 530-531. See also the comprehensive discussion by Sarah Lazarus-Yafeh, "Ha-Problematikah ha-Datit shel ha-Aliyah la-Regel ba-islam," Divre ha-Akedemyah ha-Leumit ha-Yisraelit le-Mada'im 5 (1976), no. 11, pp. 222-243. (7.) Midrash Lekah Tov (Jerusalem, 1960), Vol. 2, p. 250; see Septimus, Op. cit., pp. 518-519. (8.) See R. Menahem Meiri, Bet ha-Behirah: Avodah Zarah, Abraham Sofer, ed. (Jerusalem, 1964), p. 214 (quoting R. Joseph ibn Migash), and Sefer ha-Eshkol, Z.B. Auerbach, ed. (Halberstadt, 1865), section 3, p. 150. (It should be noted that some scholars question the authenticity of this edition of Sefer ha-Eshkol.) See also Simhah Assaf, ed., Teshuvot ha-Geonim (Jerusalem, 1929), no. 266, that wine handled by a Muslim is forbidden for use as if it was touched by a Christian. However, from the reason given in this responsum, one cannot conclude that a Muslim was viewed as an idolater. It is of interest to note that even at a much later date there were apparently still some whose practice was not to receive any benefit from wine handled by a Muslim. See. R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Birkei Yosef: Shiyure Berakhah (Jerusalem, no date), Yoreh Deah 122: 1. See also, R. Simeon ben Zemah Duran, She'elot u-Teshuvot Tashbez (Lemberg, 1891), vol. 2, no. 48, for Nahmanides' distinction between Muslim wine and Jewish wine which was touched by a Muslim. (9.) Regarding the similar phenomenon in Christian thought, see R.W. Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1962). (10.) Regarding this point, see the discussion in Israel Poleyoff," Stam Yeinom," Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 14 (Fall, 1987): 67-84. (11.) Hemdah Genuzah (Jerusalem, 1863), no. 114. (12.) Joel Muller, ed., Halakhot Pesukot min ha- Geonim (Cracow, 1893), no. 25. (13.) David Casell, ed., Teshuvot Geonim Kadmonim (Bnei Brak, 1986), no. 46. (14.) Simha Hasida, ed., Shibbolei ha-Leket (Jerusalem, 1988), Vol. 2, p. 20. (15.) See the sources quoted by Hanokh Albeck in the notes to his edition of Sefer ha-Eshkol (Jerusalem, 1938), pp. 77-78. (16.) See Yizhak Rafael, ed., Sefer ha-Manhig (Jerusalem, 1978), Vol. 2, p. 660, and Albeck, loc. cit. Rabbenu Nissim, She'elot u-Teshuvot R. Nissim ben Gerondi, ed. Kleon Feldman (Jerusalem, 1984), p. 45, says that "perhaps it is permissible" to drink Muslim wine in a setting not conducive to socializing. See also the sources quoted by R. Joseph Messas, Mayim Hayyim (Jerusalem, 1985), Vol. 2, Yoreh Deah, no. 66, where it is explained why certain authorities disregard the Geonic view that permits one only to obtain benefit from this wine but does not allow one to drink it. See esp. p. 159: "There is no unity [of God] like the unity found in Islam; therefore, one who forbids [drinking] wine which they have handled turns holy into profane by regarding worshippers of God as worshippers of idols, God forbid." Nor surprisingly, certain Kabbalists tried to show that Islamic monotheism was far removed from the monotheism of Judaism which had the holy Tetragrammaton as its basis; see, e.g., R. Joseph Hayyim, Da'at u-Tevunah (Jerusalem, 1965), pp. 25b-26a. However, views such as this have no halakhic significance. (17.) The same observation can be made with regard to the Geonic responsa which show great regard for Islamic civil law; see H.Z. Hirschberg, "Arkhaot shel Goyim Biyemei ha-Geonim," in S.J. Zevin and Zerab Warhaftig, eds., Mazkeret (Jerusalem, 1962), pp. 493-506. (18.) See Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:8 (uncensored version). (19.) Regarding Christianity, see the uncensored versions of his commentary to Mishnah Avodah Zarah 1:3 and Hilkhot Akum 9:4. (20.) Hilkhot Melakhim 11:4 (uncensored version). (21.) Teshuvot ha-Rambam, ed., Joshua Blau (Jerusalem, 1989), no. 149. (22.) A.S. Halkin, ed., Moses Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen (New York, 1952), pp. 14, 36. Maimonides also refers to Muhammad as "the unfit one" (pasul), see Ibid., p. 38. See also Yehuda Shamir, "Allusions to Muhammed in Maimonides' Theory of Prophecy in his Guide," Jewish Quarterly Review 54 (1974): 212-224, and George F. Hourani, "Maimonides and Islam," in William M. Brinner and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., Studies in Islamic and Judaic Traditions (Atlanta, 1986), pp. 153-158; Netanel b. Isaiah, Maor ha-Afelah, ed., Joseph Kafah (Jerusalem, 1957), p. 121; Hayyim Vital as quoted in Saul Cohen, Lehem ha-Bikkurim [reprinted Bnei Brak, 1981], appendix, p. 14. (23.) R. David Hoffmann's assertion, Der Schulchan Aruch und die Rabbinen uber das Verhaltnis der Juden zu Andersglaubigen (Berlin, 1894), pp. 148-149, that, as far as Gentiles were concerned, Maimonides viewed Christianity and Islam in the same light, is entirely without foundation and is the result of well-intentioned apologetics carried to an extreme. (24.) Hilkhot Melakhim 10:8; David Novak, "The Treatment of Islam and Muslims in the Legal Writings of Maimonides," in Brinner and Ricks, Op. cit., pp. 240ff. (25.) Hilkhot Ma'akhalot Asurot 11:7; Teshuvot ha- Rambam, no. 269. According to R. Asher of Montanzon (14th century), Sefer ha-Pardes (Jerusalem, 1985), p. 6, Maimonides saw the works of "all the Geonim." This same opinion is found in R. David ibn Zimra (1479-1573), She'elot u- Teshuvot Radbaz (New York, no date), no. 281, and Azulai, Birkei Yosef, Yoreh Deah 16:3. However, as there are Geonim who do not agree with this position, clearly Maimonides, R. Asher, ibn Zimra, and Azulai were mistaken. Cf. Tur, Yoreh Deah, 124, and Nahmanides, Hiddushei ha-Ramban to Avodah Zarah, ed., M. Hershler jerusalem, 1970), column 237, who say that "some Geonim" agree with the law as codified by Maimonides. (26.) The identification of Islamic worship at Mecca with an idolatrous cult of Merkulius was very common in the Middle Ages, and has been analyzed at great length by Bernard Septimus in his previously mentioned article; to the sources he cites, one should add R. Asher ben Yehiel's Teshuvot [Jerusalem, 1981], 5:2. Regarding this responsum, see R. Isaac Herzog, Pesakim u-Khetavim [Jerusalem, 1990], vol. 4, no. 49. Jose Faur offers no evidence for his contention that some Jewish scholars were influenced by Christian notions that also identified the idolatrous worship of Merkulius with the Islamic worship at Mecca; see his Iyyunim ba-Mishneh Torah le-ha-Rambam (Jerusalem, 1978), p. 236, note 54. (27.) Regarding this well known accusation, see H.Z. Hirschberg, "Makrun - Ba'al ha-Karnayim ve-Ezra - Uzer ben Allah," Leshonenu 15 (1947): 130-133. (28.) Teshuvot ha-Rambam, no. 448. I have used the translation in Septimus, Op. cit., pp. 522-523, which contains a number of valuable notes. R. Hayyim Benveniste, Dina de-Hayya (Constantinople, 1742), Vol. 1, pp. 51a- 51b, points out that Maimonides' view of Islam explains why he was able to act as a physician in Egypt. Had Islam been idolatrous, he would not have been permitted to do so, since he codifies that "it is forbidden to give medical aid to an idolater even for hire" (Hilkhot Akum 10:2). (29.) Regarding the old debate as to whether Maimonides himself was a crypto-Jew while be lived in Fez, see the recent discussion by Jay Harris, "Maimonides in 19th Century Historiography," Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research 54 (1987), pp. 133ff. (30.) Maimonides' Iggeret Ha-Shemad: Law and Rhetoric," in Leo Landman, ed., Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Memorial Volume (New York, 1980), pp. 284ff. (31.) See Soloveitchik, Op. cit., pp. 286-287. (32.) By assuming that the Jews never adopted Islam, Maimonides can argue the way that he does. However, Soloveitchik argues that, since Maimonides identifies the denial of prophecy with idolatry, "why should the Shahadah, with its assertion of the primacy of Mohammed's prophecy, not be on a similar footing? The contemporary nature of Judaism changes little whether one asserts that there never was a revelation or whether one claims that it occurred but is now outmoded. Both statements would seem to be equally treasonable" (pp. 285-286). I do not believe this to be compelling. It is, indeed, possible that there is a basic distinction between one who denies prophecy and one who believes it to have been superseded. The latter is surely a heretic but not necessarily an idolater, despite the fact that the contemporary nature of Judaism is unaffected. For a criticism of Soloveitchik's point from a different angle, see David Hartman in Hartman and Abraham Halkin, Crisis and Leadership: Epistles of Maimonides (Philadelphia, 1985), pp. 61ff. For a more wide-ranging critique of Soloveitchik's article, see Hartman, "Iggeret ha-Shemad le-Rabbenu Moshe ben Maimon - Aspaklariah le-Murkavot ha-Pesikah ha-Hilkhatit," Mehkerei Yerushalayim be- Mahshevet Yisrael 2 (1983), pp. 362-403. Recently, another lengthy refutation of Soloveitchik has appeared. See Aryeh Strikovsky, "Igeret ha-Shemad la-Rambam - Halakhah o Retorikah, " in Warhaftig, Op. cit., pp. 242-275. Cf., however, Magen Avraham, Orah Hayyim 128:37, who argues that, at least in one respect, Maimonides equates conversion to Islam with idolatry. (33.) It is only due to the censor that, in certain European prayerbooks, negative expressions directed against idolatry and, hence, bearing a possible anti-Christian interpretation, were turned into anti-Islamic expressions; see Leopold Zunz, Die Ritus des synagogalen Gottesdienstes (Berlin, 1919), p. 222. Halakhic works were also affected; see, e.g., R. Abraham Danzig, Hokhmat Adam (Jerusalem, 1966), section 146. For an example of censorship or perhaps self-censorship) in the opposite direction, namely the removal of references to Islam, see R. Rahamim Joseph Franco, Sha'arei Rahamim (Jerusalem, 1881), Vol. 1, Orah Hayyim, no. 5. (34.) See S. Eppenstein, Abraham Maimuni, Sain Leben und Seine Schriften (Berlin, 1914), p. 17, note 1; Gerson D. Cohen, "The Soteriology of R. Abraham Maimuni," Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research 35 (1967), pp. 85-86. (35.) Hilkhot Melakhim 8:11. (36.) Hilkhot Melakhim 10:9 (and see the analysis of R. Zvi Hirsch Chajes, Kol Sifrei Maharatz Chajes [Jerusalem, 1958], Vol. 2, p. 1036). This crucial point was overlooked by Novak, Op. cit., pp. 233ff. It is true that Chajes expresses a much more tolerant viewpoint in Op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 483-491; however, this section was written in response to the 1840 Damascus Affair, and its apologetic nature does not appear to reflect Chajes' true opinion. (37.) Cf. Soloveitchik, Op. cit., p. 285. (38.) She'elot u-Teshuvot Radbaz, nos. 344, 1163. See also R. Jacob Emden, Migdal Oz (Jerusalem, 1969), p. 28b. The halakhic status of a convert to Islam with regards to marriage, divorce and the levirate duty, is a complicated issue which cannot be adequately treated here, and, as far as I am aware, has not yet been discussed in any detail. For the Geonic opinions on the matter, see B.M. Lewin, Ozar ha-Geonim to Yevamot (Jerusalem, 1984), pp. 34-37. (39.) Hiddushei ha-Ran (Jerusalem, 1958), to Sanhedrin 61b. Benveniste, Op. cit., p. 20a, says that "R. Nissim's" view is "a great novelty." Although "R. Nissim" is clear that Muslims do not regard Muhammed as divine, it is still possible that his view is somehow related to popular medieval European conceptions of Islam which held that Muslims worshiped Muhammed as a God. Regarding this, see Dana Carleton Munro, "The Western Attitude Toward Islam During the Period of the Crusades," Speculum 6 (1931): 331-332; Gustave E. von Grunebaum, Medieval Islam (2nd ed., Chicago, 1953), p. 48; and Maxime Rodinson, "The Western Image and Western Studies of Islam," in Joseph Schacht and C.E. Bosworth, eds., The Legacy of Islam (2nd ed., Oxford, 1974), p. 14. See also P'ri Hadash, Yoreh Deah, 19:6. (40.) She'elot u-Teshuvot R. Nissim ben Gerondi, p. 45. R. Nissim repeats this view in his commentary to Alfasi, Avodah Zarah, p. 26b in the Alfasi pages. R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Ziz Eliezer (Jerusalem, 1990), vol. 18, no. 47, unaware that the commentary to Sanhedrin is not by R. Nissim, valiantly attempts to solve the contradiction between the sources. However, I think it is obvious that his conclusions cannot be sustained by a close reading of the texts in question. (41.) Keshet u-Magen (Jerusalem, 1970), p. 19b. (42.) She'elot u-Teshuvot Tashbez, vol. 2, no. 48. (43.) Ibid., vol. 3, no. 133. (44.) She'elot u-Teshuvot Rashba (Bnei Brak, 1984), vol. 1, no. 345. (45.) She'elot u-Teshuvot Radbaz, no. 162. He also adds an economic argument to buttress his case. (46.) Yoreh Deah 4:7. (47.) See Azulai, Birkei Yosef, Yoreh Deah 4:3. See also Azulai, Mar'it ha-Ayin (Livorno, 1805), p. 79a, who notes that this responsum appears to be at odds with Maimonides' letter to Obadiah. This responsum does not appear in any of the collected responsa of Maimonides, and its authenticity is very questionable. See, however, R. Hayyim Benveniste, Keneset ha- Gedolah (Jerusalem, 1970), Yoreh Deah 4:14, that perhaps one must suffer martyrdom rather than accede to the Muslim demand. (48.) Da'at Kohen [Jerusalem, 1985], no. 10. Regarding this practice, see also P'ri Hadash, Yoreh Deah, 19:6. (49.) See, e.g., R. Hayyim David Halevi, Aseh Lekha Rav (Tel Aviv, 1989), vol. 9, no. 13; and R. Israel Pesah Feinhandler, Avnei Yoshpeh (Jerusalem, 1989), no. 153. (50.) R. Isaac Elhanan Spektor, Ein Yizhak (Vilna, 1889), Orah Hayyim, no. 11. (51.) R. Eliezer Isaac of Volozhin, Hut ha-Meshulash (New York, 1965), no. 28. (52.) Waidenberg, Ziz Eliezer (Jerusalem, 1985), vol. 14, no. 91. (53.) Yishayah Shapiro, Zedah la-Derekh (Alon Shvut, [1987?]), p. 274. (54.) R. Shemariah Menasseh Adler, Emek ha-Bakha (Kedainiai, Lithuania, 1935), Vol. 2, pp. 78-79. (55.) Avodah Zarah 1:8. (56.) For these two leniencies, see, e.g., R. Eshtori ha-Parhi, Kaftor va-Ferah (Jerusalem, 1980), p. 28a; R. Meyubas ben Samuel, Mizbah Adamah (Salonika, 1777), p. 12a; R. Elijah Mani, Zikhronot Eliyahu (Jerusalem, 1936), Yoreh Deah, ma'arekhet gimel, no. 3; R. Abraham Isaac Kook, Mishpat Kohen (Jerusalem, 1985), nos. 60, 63, and 68; and R. Elijah Klatzkin, Imrei Shefer (Warsaw, 1896), no. 92. This view is held by many other leading authorities. Based upon this view, R. Moses ibn Habib, Kol Gadol; (Jerusalem, 1970), vol. 1, no. 60, permits one to entertain Muslims musically during their festivals, provided that the songs are in good taste. (57.) Of course, there are other considerations that came into play for the halakhists who permitted the land to be sold. The most important of these relate to the halakhists' attitude toward Zionism. However, it is not within the scope of this paper to go into this, as here we are only concerned with the impact of Islam on the halakhah, not with a comprehensive analysis of how halakhists arrive at specific decisions. For some recent comments on this question, see my review-essay, entitled "Sociology and Halakhah," in Tradition, vol. 27, no. I Fall 1992). (58.) See, e.g., R. Joseph Karo, Bet Yosef, Hoshen Mishpat 249 (regarding Karo's view, see the comprehensive discussion in R. Hayyim Palache, Nishmat Kol Hai [Jerusalem, 1988]), vol. 1, no. 54); R. Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin, Meshiv Davar (Brooklyn, 1987), Vol. 1, p. 57a; R. Abraham Isaiah Barelitz, Hazon Ish (Bnei Bak, 1959), to Shevi'it 24:3. (59.) For a complete review of the laws regarding a "resident alien," see Encyclopedia Talmudit (Jerusalem, 1954), Vol. 6, s.v. ger toshav. (60.) See, e.g., his They Must Go (New York, 1981), pp. 267-276, and Al ha-Emunah ve-al ha-Geulah (no place or date), pp. 72-73. (61.) See, e.g., R. Yosef Pinhasi, Yefat Mar'eh (Jerusalem, 1987), part 2, no.,1, who discusses recent Islamic literature which advocates the destruction of the State of Israel. (62.) Such a ruling is found in R. Shlomo Aviner, She'elot u-Teshuvot Intifadah (Bet El, 1990), pp. 9, 76-77. The intifada has also begun to make an impact on rabbinic literature in other respects. See, e.g., the periodical Or Torah (Adar, 5750), p. 378, where it is claimed that the Zohar foretells the uprising. (63.) R. Ben Zion Krieger asserts that Israel is obligated to expel the Arab population. However, this opinion has been met with complete rejection by all important halakhic authorities. Krieger's view is found in Krieger and Uri Dasberg, eds., Benei Yisrael u-Benei Noah (Elkanah, 1988), p. 73. There is an enormous literature by contemporary scholars concerning the halakhic status of Arabs in Israel, and a comprehensive bibliography remains a desideratum. The interested reader should consult in particular the Israeli journals, Ha-Torah ve-ha-Medinah, Shanah be-Shanah, and Tehumin, where many important articles can be found. (64.) One exception is Messas, Op. cit., p. 198, who goes further than any other halakhic authority I know of, and declares Christianity to be pure monotheism. However, it is clear from this responsum that he was mislead as to the true nature of the Trinity in the Christian theology.
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Author:Shapiro, Marc B.
Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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