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Zionism, the Qur'an, and the Hadith.

CONTEMPORARY ISLAM, AS FAR AS THE OVERWHELMING majority of Muslims and non-Muslims understand, is opposed to Zionism in every way, shape and form. Yet, when the Arab Nations fought against Israel in the early wars, they did so in the name of Arab Nationalism while within their own borders, they were struggling to curb Islamic-based movements. Gamal Abdel Nasser's fight with the Muslim Brotherhood is well known, as are the other confrontations between the Iraqi and Syrian administrations with their islamists. When Arafat founded al-Fatah, he did not speak of Islam, and when the Black September terrorists massacred eleven Israeli athletes at Munich in 1972, they chanted no Islamic slogans. When the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) conducted its terrorist activities against the "Zionist enemy," it did so under the leadership of a Christian, George Habash, who had espoused Marxist-Leninist principles. Now, roughly three decades later, the Christian minority voice of Palestinians seems to have been absolutely stifled by the calls of Muslim clerics for Jihad, and one rarely hears of Christian opposition to the state of Israel. Largely due to the propaganda movements of groups such as Hamas, Hizbollah, al-Qaeda, and Islamic Jihad, the fight against Zionism is no longer couched in terms of Arab-nationalism: it is a now perceived as the duty of the believer in Islam.

Yet, I argue that a thorough investigation of Islam's two main sources, the Qur'an (1) and the Hadith, (2) present conflicting views on the issue. If the Qur'an is read on its own, without the refraction of the Hadith, it could, based on certain verses, be mistaken for a very right-wing Zionist document. The Hadith, on the other hand, collected more than a century after Muhammad's death, (3) can never be mistaken for anything remotely Zionist: the land of Israel is Muslim territory to be wrested from the accursed Jews in a brutal and bloody eschatological battle. In this paper I examine those contradictory perspectives and investigate the importance of this information in and outside of the Muslim world. Throughout this paper, unless otherwise indicated, the term "Zionism" is not used as in political or secular definitions, but in accordance with the Biblical concept of Eretz Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. There is certainly no doubt that when Nathan Birnbaum coined the word in the 1890s, he did so from a secular perspective; yet, the concept (as opposed to the term) is as old as the Bible itself if we take it to refer to a scriptural writ of enlandisement. (4)

The Qur'an

If the idea of Israel (Zion) as a homeland for the Jewish people were to be found only in the Torah, it would have been irrelevant to discuss the Muslim view on that issue. But this Biblical concept is found in the Qur'an to the point where Islam's main document mentions that God favored the Children of Israel above all nations and decreed Israel as an abode for them, granting holy status to that land: (5)
 And Remember when Moses said to his people: O my people! Remember the
 favors of your Lord that he has bestowed upon you, as He has made
 prophets and kings from among you, and has given to you that which
 has never been given to anyone amongst the nations. Enter then, my
 People, the Holy Land, that God has written for you, and turn not
 back, or you will suffer.
 Qur'an 5: 20-21 (6)

Long before the formation of the State of modern Israel in 1948, the Muslim exegetes explained these verses in a manner that would have shocked their coreligionists of today who clamor for the destruction of Israel. To elucidate my point, I have rendered verse 5: 21 above in as literal a manner as possible: translating the Arabic KaTaBa as "written." This word has definite theological connotations: in Islam, as in Jewish belief, it conveys the idea of decisiveness and finality, e.g., in "written Torah" as opposed to "oral Torah." (7)

For most Muslims, the views of famous exegetes are extremely cogent: a Muslim scholar cannot attempt to gain any respect unless s/he is thoroughly familiar with the views of the famous mufassirs (exegetes). I will therefore attempt to present a summary of what the most well known mufassirs have provided as the explanations of Q5: 21. Abu Ja'far al-Tabari (d. 310/922), Islam's most famous exegete explained Kataba as: "That which God has firmly inscribed on the Guarded Tablet (al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) that this (land) as an abode and residence for you instead of the tyrants that inhabited it." (8) It is significant the al-Tabari refers to al-Lawh al-Mahfuz in his explanation, for the term is used in Chapter 85: 21, to refer to a heavenly tablet that is divinely guarded, and something that is inscribed on it therefore must be seen as absolutely inviolable and immutable. (9)

Abu Ali al-Tabarsi (d. 1153), the Shi'ite commentator, repeats al-Tabari's statement without any change. (10) Ibn Kathir (d. 1373) explained Kataba in terms that would have pleased the most ardent zionists: "That which God has written for you," i.e., That which God has promised to you by the words of your father Israel as the inheritance of those among you who believe." (11) Muhammad al-Shawkani (d. 1834) interpreted Kataba to mean "that which God has allotted and predestined for you in His primordial knowledge, deeming it as a place of residence for you." (12)

The Shi'ite commentator, Muhammad Husayn al-Tabataba'i (d. 1981), explained that the divine decree of Q5: 21is elucidated by Q28:5:
 We wanted to favor those who were weak in the land, and make them the
 inheritors and establish them in the land. (And Moses had hoped for
 this, on the condition that they persevered, relied on God and sought
 His help). Moses said to his people: Seek help in God and be patient.
 The land is God's and he will cause those of His servants whom He
 wishes to inherit it.... (7: 129)
 Al-Tabataba'i (italics: Qur'anic verse, bracketed material:
 Tabataba'i's commentary) (13)

Perhaps as, if not more intriguing, is the interpretation that the exegetes give to "al-Ard al-Muqadassah" (the Holy Land) in Q5:21. Al-Tabari gave several reports, citing respected authorities, showing that the Holy Land in fact was (1) Sinai and the surrounding area (2) Greater Syria (3) Jericho (4) Damascus, Palestine, and some of Jordan. (14) Al-Shawkani also repeated this in his commentary. (15)

Since the words of Moses in Q5: 21 seem to indicate permanency of God's giving of Israel to the Jews, how does one deal with the Babylonian and Roman exiles? The Qur'an does refer to these two exiles (17: 4), but strangely, follows up those verses with one that indicates that at the time of the Day of Judgment, the followers of Moses will be living in Israel, made up of many peoples (17: 104). This prophecy is extremely significant since it is one of the extremely rare cases in which the Qur'an makes a prediction. If the fundamental understanding of Zionism is that Israel is the specific land for the Jewish people, then the foregoing discourse on the Qur'anic perspective presents a view that is totally in concord with that belief.

The reference to Israel and Jews on the day of Judgment is extremely important in understanding the Qur'anic outlook: while Islam's main document continually refers to eschatological events, and describes certain cosmic upheavals that will occur on the Final Day, it contains no Armageddon imagery of apocalyptic prophecies, no end-of-time battles for Jerusalem, nor of signs presaging the final days. Muhammad's role as an apostle of God was not one that allowed him to predict the future, and he is thus made to say in the Qur'an, on several occasions, that he knows nothing about when the Final Day will occur:
 They ask you about the Hour, when is its coming? Say: Only my Lord
 has the knowledge. None can reveal it except He ... when it comes, it
 will be unexpected. They ask you about it as if you have knowledge of
 it. Tell them, "The knowledge of that is with God only, but most
 people do not know. Say to them: I do not have for myself any benefit
 or loss except that which God wills. If I knew the unseen, I would
 have enjoyed good, and no evil would have touched me. I am only a
 bearer of warnings and bringer of happy news for those who believe.
 Qur'an 7: 187-8

 I am not different from other messengers. I have no idea what will
 happen to me or to you. I only follow what is revealed to me. I am no
 more than a clear warner.
 Qur'an 46: 9

 They ask you about the Hour, when will it occur? How can you tell
 anything about it? Your Lord has that knowledge. You are only a
 warner for those who fear it. That day it will seem to them as if
 they had tarried in the world only for an evening or its morn!
 Qur'an 79: 42-6

The Hadith

The Hadith, unlike the Qur'an, is filled with prophecies about the signs of the last days, and, inter alia, demonizes the Jews, (16) making Jerusalem and areas in Israel the foci of battles towards the end of time. There are several traditions about these prophecies; the following three are culled from two major Hadith collections, Sahih Muslim and Sahih al-Bukhari. (17) These two works have been selected as they are considered by Sunni Muslims as the most authoritative of the collections of the oral traditions.
 I went to the Prophet during the battle of Tabuk while he was sitting
 in a leather tent. He said, "Count six signs that indicate the
 approach of the Hour: my death, the conquest of Jerusalem, a plague
 that will afflict you (and kill you in great numbers) as the plague
 that afflicts sheep, the increase of wealth to such an extent that
 even if one is given one hundred Dinars, he will not be satisfied;
 then an affliction which no Arab house will escape, and then a truce
 between you and Bani Al-Asfar (i.e., the Byzantines) who will betray
 you and attack you under eighty flags. Under each flag will be twelve
 thousand soldiers.
 Sahih al-Bukhari (18)

Note that in the foregoing hadith, there is a well developed foretelling of Last Day events and that the conquest of Jerusalem is predicted. The next two hadiths are quoted at full length because they detail scenarios regarding Jesus, a Dajjal, and a horrific battle. This Dajjal, the Muslim equivalent of the Christian "antichrist" figure, is significant in that other hadith identify it as specifically Jewish-probably in keeping with medieval Christian tradition that the Antichrist that Jesus will defeat will be Jewish. (19)
 The Messenger of God mentioned of the Dajjal one day in the morning.
 He sometimes described him as insignificant and sometimes described
 (his turmoil) as very significant (and we felt) as if he were in the
 cluster of the date-palm trees. When we went to him (to the Holy
 Prophet) in the evening and he read (the signs of fear) on our faces,
 he said: What is the matter with you? We said: O Messenger of God!
 You mentioned the Dajjal this morning (sometimes describing him) as
 insignificant and sometimes very important, until we began to think
 he was present in some (nearby) part of the cluster of the date-palm
 trees. So he said: I harbor fear in regard to you in so many other
 things besides the Dajjal. If he comes forth while I am among you, I
 shall contend with him on your behalf, but if he comes forth while I
 am not among you, a man must contend on his own behalf and God will
 take care of every Muslim on my behalf (and safeguard him against his
 evil). He (the Dajjal) will be a young man with twisted, cropped
 hair, and a blind eye. I compare him with Abd al-Uzza ibn Qatan. He
 who among you will survive to see him should recite over him the
 opening verses of Surah al-Kahf (xviii). He will appear on the way
 between Syria and Iraq and will spread mischief right and left. O
 servant of God! Adhere (to the path of Truth). We said: O Messenger
 of God! How long will he stay on Earth? He said: For forty days, one
 day like a year, one day like a month, one day like a week, and the
 rest of the days will be like your days. We said: O Messenger of God!
 Will one day's prayer suffice for the prayers of the day equal to one
 year? Thereupon he said: No, but you must make an estimate of the
 time (and then observe prayer). We said: O Messenger of God! How
 quickly will he walk upon the earth? Thereupon he said: Like cloud
 driven by the wind. He will come to the people and invite them (to a
 wrong religion); they will affirm their faith in him and respond to
 him. He will then give a command to the sky: there will be rainfall
 upon the Earth and it will grow crops. Then in the evening, their
 pasturing animals will come to them with their humps very high, their
 udders full of milk and their flanks distended. He will then come to
 another people and invite them. But they will reject him so he will
 go away from them; they will have a drought and nothing will be left
 with them in the form of wealth. He will then walk through the desert
 and say to it: Bring forth your treasures. The treasures will come
 out and gather before him like a swarm of bees. He will then call
 someone in the flush of youth, strike him with the sword, cut him
 into two pieces and (make these pieces lie at the distance that is
 generally between the archer and his target. He will then call (that
 young man) and he will come forward laughing with his face gleaming
 (with happiness). At this very time that God will send Christ, son of
 Mary. He will descend at the white minaret on the eastern side of
 Damascus, wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing
 his hands on the wings of two Angels. When he lowers his head, there
 will fall beads of perspiration from his head, and when he raises it
 up, beads like pearls will scatter from it. Every non-believer who
 smells the odor of his body will die and his breath will reach as far
 as he is able to see. He will then search for him (Dajjal) until he
 catches hold of him at the gate of Ludd (Lod) and kills him. Then a
 people whom God had protected will come to Jesus, son of Mary, and he
 will wipe their faces and inform them of their ranks in Paradise. It
 will be under such conditions that God will reveal to Jesus these
 words: I have brought forth from among My servants such people
 against whom none will be able to fight; you take these people safely
 to Tur, and then God will send Gog and Magog and they will swarm down
 from every slope. The first of them will pass the lake of Tiberias
 and drink out of it. And when the last of them passes, he will say:
 There was once water there. Jesus and his companions will then be
 besieged here at Tur, and they will be so hard pressed) that the head
 of the ox will be dearer to them than one hundred dinars. God's
 Apostle Jesus, and his companions will supplicate God, Who will send
 to them insects (which will attack their necks) and in the morning
 they would perish as one single person. Jesus, and his companions
 will then come down to Earth and they will not find on Earth so much
 as a handspan that is not filled with putrefaction and stench. Jesus
 and his companions will then beseech God who will send birds whose
 necks would be like those of Bactrian camels and they will carry them
 away and throw them where God wills. Then God will send rain which no
 house of mud-bricks or (tent of) camel-hair will keep out and it will
 wash the Earth until it resembles a mirror. Then the Earth will be
 told to bring forth its fruit and restore its blessing and, as a
 result thereof, there will grow (such a big) pomegranate that a group
 of people will be able to eat it and seek shelter under its skin, a
 dairy cow will give so much milk that a whole party will be able to
 drink it. The milking camel will give such (a large quantity of) milk
 that the whole tribe will be able to drink from it, and the milking-
 sheep will give so much milk that the whole family will be able to
 drink from it. At that time God will send a pleasant wind that will
 soothe (people) even under their armpits. He will take the life of
 every Muslim and only the wicked will survive who will commit
 adultery like asses and the Last Hour would come to them.
 Sharh Sahih Muslim (20)

 The Messenger of God said: The Last Hour would not come unless the
 Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them
 until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a
 stone or a tree would say: O Muslim! or O servant of God!, there is a
 Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the Gharqad tree would not say,
 for it is the tree of the Jews.
 Sahih Muslim (21)

The three foregoing traditions, when juxtaposed against the Qur'anic verses that clearly show Muhammad's inability to foretell the future illustrates clearly the dichotomy between the Qur'an and traditional Muslim eschatological imagery. The Muslim collections of traditions are replete with such material, and to date, no in-depth analysis has been undertaken by Muslims to fully examine the political and social factors that may have led to the fabrication of such material. Another hadith, more likely manufactured to support certain views in Islamic law even puts Muhammad as ordering the Muslims to visit the mosque in Jerusalem. The hadith runs thus:
 Abu Sa'id al Khudri fought twelve battles in the company of the
 Prophet said," I heard four things from the Prophet and they won my
 admiration. He said:
 (1) No lady should travel on a journey of two days except with
 her husband or a close relative.
 (2) No fasting is permissible on the two days of Id-ul-Fitr and
 (3) No prayer (may be offered) after the morning compulsory
 prayer until the sun rises; and no prayer after the 'Asr prayer
 till the sun sets.
 (4) One should travel only for visiting three Masjid (Mosques):
 Masjid-al-Haram (Mecca), Masjid-al-Aqsa (Jerusalem), and this
 (my) Mosque (at Medina).
 Sahih Bukhari (22)

Even without the prophesying aspect of the tradition, item four of the above hadith is clearly anachronistic: even at the time of Muhammad's legendary night journey, there was no mosque at Jerusalem. This mosque was in fact only built during the caliphate of Abdul Malik (r. 685-705). (23) In making Jerusalem the site of the final triumph of good over evil, and in completely taking Mecca out of the picture, the hadith seems more in line with the book of Zechariah of the Hebrew Bible:
 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and
 the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women
 ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and
 the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
 Zech 14.2 KJV

In aligning with Biblical eschatology and Jerusalem, the Hadith left the sphere of Qur'anic eschatology and entered what George Buchanan described as "syntelealogy"--the expectation of the end of an undesirable political era to be followed by the Kingdom of God on this earth, centered around Jerusalem. (24)

How can the Qur'an and Hadith be so clearly at odds on the issue of Israel for the Jewish people? The answer seems quite obvious: Muhammad saw himself as being the prophet to the Arabs, and therefore, with the conquest of Mecca, his mission was complete (Q5: 3). Muhammad had no dreams of making Jerusalem part of the Islamic polity; such an undertaking, given its importance, would certainly have been mentioned in the Qur'an, and Islam would not have been deemed complete without reference to it. The hadith, on the other hand, comes into vogue roughly a century after Muhammad's death, and is compiled in a totally different sitz im leben to that of the Qur'an. The hadith therefore comes to authenticate a totally different worldview to that of Muhammad and his contemporaries.
 When hadith started being circulated, with Jerusalem in the hands of
 the Muslims, any tradition that could justify its possession was
 sought after or created. Among such traditions was the imported
 Christian concept of the antichrist, or al-Masih al-Dajjal in Arabic
 as mentioned in the above hadith from Sahih Muslim. Jerusalem is, in
 Christian eschatology, the site of the returning Jesus, and the
 place where he would triumph over the antichrist. When Muslims
 accepted the legend, they did not alter the details of the city to
 which Jesus would return for his victory. (25)

Much of the Muslim creed is based on post-Qur'anic formulations, and may be best defined as what Reuven Firestone terms "reactive theology." (26) When the Muslim armies, after Muhammad's death, made vast conquests and demonstrated the scientific and intellectual superiority of Islam over the other contemporary nations, they still had to face the fact that, according to the Bible, God's covenant existed only with the genealogical (Jewish), or spiritual (Christian) descendants of Isaac. (27) The Muslims, in a daring revisionist creation of history, and now as masters of the Holy Land, sought to negate the Jewish-Christian covenantal claims by showing Ishmael as the favored and sacrificial son. (28) The Qur'an does indeed accuse the Jews of breaking their covenant (See 2: 40, 83, 86, 90; 4:154-5; 5:12-3), but this does not mean that the covenant was passed on to the Muslims, and that the Muslims were now the rightful inheritors of the land of Israel. It is true that some verses of the Qur'an (3: 67-8, 2:140) may be interpreted to deny Judaism as the religion of Abraham and Isaac, since the Qur'an basically teaches that Jews have no singular claim to the teachings of either person. But these verses clearly have nothing to do with the land of Israel, for Moses, in the Qur'an is clearly identified as coming to the tribe of Israel, and advocating on their behalf (Q7: 105). In Q5: 20-1, he addresses them as "My tribe," exhorting them to enter the Holy Land (Q5: 20-1). There is therefore no substance to the argument that somehow, since Muslims respect all the Biblical prophets, this any way makes them the new inheritors of the Temple site in Jerusalem or any part of Israel. (29)

The shallowness of this argument is also evidenced by the fact that when this land was wrested from the Byzantines by the Muslim armies in 638, its first capital was Lod (Lydda). While Muslim tradition had recognized Jerusalem as the first Qibla, (30) and probably also identified it with the site of Muhammad's night journey (Q17: 1), it would seem that the early Muslims were keenly aware of the Qur'anic teaching that Israel (including obviously Jerusalem) is a holy land to the Jews--as evidenced by the traditions that show Umar, after initially agreeing to the Christian request to ban Jews from Jerusalem, later relented and decreed that the city should be opened to the Jews. (31) The stories of Umar's journeying to Jerusalem, and consulting Ka'b al-Ahbar about the site of the temple, seem to be, as pointed out by Goitein, pious fictions. (32) The purpose of such narratives, as in the case of the hadith dictating that one should journey to the Masjid al-Aqsa, (33) seem to create authority through back-projection of sayings to respected early personalities. In fact, it was during the caliphate of Muawiya (661-680) that building of the Masjid al-Aqsa commenced. The construction, by all reports, was finalized by Abdel Malik (r. 685-705) who also built the Dome of the Rock. (34) The construction was not in order to fulfill any scriptural or prophetic mandate; it was just to demonstrate to the Muslims that Abdel Malik was the rightful champion of a conquering Islam. (35)

As long as the Jews were a scattered people, Muslim exegetes could discuss the concept of the size of Israel, as this was to them something purely theoretical. The victors over the Byzantines, carried away by their conquest, had no need to reflect on the words of the Qur'an. But after the unthinkable happened in 1948 with the establishment of the state of Israel, followed by the crushing defeat of the Arabs in 1967, the political problem that had hitherto probably been perceived as a nagging headache, now metamorphosed into a full-blown Judenfrage, perceived by many as a sign of the last days of the eschatological imagery of both Christian and Islamic traditions. The matter now transformed itself from a political into a religious issue.

In 1968, the Academy of Islamic Research met at Azhar university to discuss the situation in light of the new religious focus, transforming what had hitherto been a war based from an Arab nationalist manifesto into a Jihad. Among the resolutions taken and promulgated were:
 (1a) That the causes for which combat and Jihad must be taken up
 as defined in the Holy Qur'an are all manifest in the Israeli
 aggression, since the Israelis had launched attacks against the Arab
 and Muslim territories, violated what is regarded as most sacred in
 Islam, with regard to both its rites and boundaries ... for all
 these reasons, striving with one's life and wealth against the
 aggressors has become a binding duty every Muslim has to
 (1f) The Conference recommends the mobilization of all the
 material and moral resources of the Arab and Islamic nation, and to
 train all militarily fit in wielding arms.
 (6b) The Conference declares that Muslims everywhere will not
 remain mere spectators in the fact of Zionist racist covetousness in
 the Arab and Islamic worlds, nor will they shrink from giving their
 lives in defence of their countries and sanctities, and for the
 restoration of their usurped land. (36)

It is clear that the resolutions of the conference were not immediately upheld by those fighting for the Palestinian cause, for the atrocities of the Munich Olympics, occurring two years after these resolutions, exhibited no trace of "Jihad" slogans. But the Islamic universities in the Middle East, with the petro-dollars that were netted by the oil-embargo and the subsequent inflation of oil-prices, were able to recruit thousands of foreign students and train them in this militant anti-Israel, anti-Zionist ideology. (37)

The successes of the religiously structured Hizbollah and Hamas have given further impetus to the religious thrust. In addition to this, as noted by Professor Shibley Telhami,
 In the Arab world, the conflict is also being reframed, not in
 relation to Israel or Zionism, but to Jews. This is still the
 exception, but more common than it was just months ago. It's not a
 return to the old ways. Pan-Arabism, when it prevailed, opposed the
 'Zionist entity," not Jews. The dominant political culture
 differentiated Zionism, as an ideology, from Jews and
 Jewishness.... (38)

In fact, the reframing of the conflict has long occurred in the farthest reaches of the world of Islam, and is expressed in terms of Muslim versus Jew. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 crime, there were conspiracy theories bandied about on several Islamic websites, noting that the true perpetrators were the Jews. (39)

The internet has created a new web of hate literature, and the claims for Israel and Jerusalem being a Muslim land are rife on the various websites. For all their claimed recourse to Islamic source material, these websites demonstrate an amazing ignorance, either actual or feigned, of the verses of the Qur'an cited in this paper. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, I had noted that, for there to be any peace initiative from the Muslim side, one or both of two things had to be done: (1) the Arab-Israeli conflict must be divested of its religious garb, or (2) Muslims must be made aware of the difference between the Qur'an and Hadith, or at least focus strongly on the Qur'an. I still hold to those opinions, but now must take into consideration another factor that has recently come into play, with Middle Eastern Muslims calling for developments that parallel my suggested approach to the Arab-Israeli issue.

The spate of terrorism that shocked the entire world since the invasion of Iraq, and the exposed terrorist mentality of several of the so-called religious men of Islam have goaded many Muslims into decrying the very leaders from whom they previously would have sought guidance. It has become clear to some Muslims that the barbarity to which many of their coreligionists, along with the encouragement of religious leaders, have resorted are alien to the ideals of Islam. Recently, therefore, what would have been hitherto unthinkable has become a reality. The pervasive silence in the Arab Muslim world that followed 9/11 is being replaced by strident voices of dissent and censure. Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, general manager of Al-Arabiyya News Channel, wrote in al-Sharq al-Awsat:
 It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is
 equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all
 terrorists are Muslims.... Bin Laden is a Muslim. The majority of
 those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles,
 schools, houses and buildings, all over the world were Muslim. What
 a pathetic record!
 ... Let us listen to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Sheikh ... and hear
 him recite his "fatwa" about the religious permissibility of killing
 civilian Americans in Iraq.... How could this sheikh face the mother
 of the youthful Nick Berg who was slaughtered in Iraq because he
 wanted to build communication towers in that ravished country? How
 can we believe him when he tells us that Islam is the religion of
 mercy and peace while he is turning it into the religion of blood
 and slaughter?
 ... An innocent and benevolent religion, whose verses prohibit
 the felling of trees in the absence of urgent necessity, that calls
 murder the most heinous of crimes, that says explicitly that if you
 kill one person you have killed humanity as a whole, has been turned
 into a global message of hate and a universal war cry.
 We cannot call those who take schoolchildren as hostages our
 own. We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists,
 murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as related to
 us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify their criminal
 deeds. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its
 image. (40)

The former dean of the law school of Qatar, Dr. Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, has spoken out against the penchant of the Muslim world to deny acts of Islamist terrorism and instead blame them on Jewish conspiracies. (41) Some excerpts from Dr. Ansari's address are worth citing:
 I do not know how long this [Muslim] arrogance will continue. Why
 don't we want to acknowledge that these young people were the sons of
 a culture that is hostile toward the world, not idiots or mad? No one
 enticed them, and they did not suffer from oppression, repression, or
 poverty. They carried out the operation because of their belief that
 it was Jihad and martyrdom. They were our young people and our sons,
 and they were our responsibility....
 'We have Incited [Our Youth] to Die for the Sake of Allah'
 It is we who stole their future, and we have sinned against them
 because of our backwards education, because of our harmful religious
 views, because of our inciting preachers' pulpits, and because of our
 violent media. It is we who have not succeeded in giving their
 existence value and meaning, and have not made life better for them
 than death. We have incited them to die for the sake of Allah, and
 have not taught them how to live for the sake of Allah.
 How long will we make life hell for our young people? How long will
 we continue to replay the record about American injustice and world
 justice towards us as pathetic justification for the violence and
 terror among us--as if we are the only nation suffering from
 Why, in fact, are we the only nation enchanted by the theory that a
 Jewish conspiracy stands behind events? Why does the tree of
 conspiracy bloom on our soil ...? And why are we still prisoners of
 theories whose falsity has been proven ...? (42)

Dr. Sa'd al-Din Ibrahim, Chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center in Cairo, at a recent conference in Cairo (October 5, 6, 2004), along with other Muslim thinkers, issued a statement that called for, inter alia, the reliance on the Qur'anic text as the sole authentic source to be utilized for reviewing the entire Islamic heritage." (43) These statements all note that many Muslims are not only beginning to reexamine the culture of death and terrorism that have developed out of a hadith-based Judeophobia and all things related to Judaism, among them Zionism, but that they are beginning to speak out loudly. Upon the recent death of Arafat, the rhetoric coming from parts of the Arab world shows that he was not as beloved as many propaganda organs would have us believe. Anis Mansur, an Egyptian journalist, declared in Al-Ahram, "Arafat has left the Palestinian people facing a difficult choice and a test. This opportunity must not be missed. The Palestinian people must prove to the world that it can have one stand and one leadership in order to renew the struggle in a different form." (44)

It may be argued that currently Islam is still used as the cohesive force among those opposed to the state of Israel, and that there seems to be no room for any dissent among Muslims regarding this seemingly unanimous position. The views expressed in this article, despite being culled from the Qur'an itself and the most authoritative sources, represent a minority position that seems unlikely to be accepted by the larger body of Muslims. But this is precisely why the information is of vital importance to both Muslims and non-Muslims. It forces Muslims to see that the Qur'an has a totally contrary worldview to that of what the imams have been preaching about Zionism and Israel. It forces Muslims to realize that the oral tradition is the source of the inimical attitude. This article also provides non-Muslims with the requisite information to argue against the Muslim extremists who argue that Islam is against Zionism and Israel. And it forces both non-Muslims and Muslims to delve into history and remember that in 1919, Amir Feisal had reached an agreement with Chaim Weitzman regarding Israel. (45) This proves that the opposition to the state of Israel is NOT an intrinsic part of Islam; instead it is a later formulation brought about by political and nationalistic ideologies.

The time is also ripe for letting this information be known since, currently, the voices of dissonance in the Muslim world regarding tradition, and calling for reexamination and rejection of non-Qur'anic traditional material are getting stronger. With Arafat's demise, the United States has sought to reestablish communication with the Palestinian Authority, it is possible that the Palestinians and Muslim world at large may begin to rethink their opposition to rapprochement. When Presidents Clinton and Bush refused to have anything to do with Arafat after the Oslo Accords fiasco, they sent out a message to the Arab and Muslim world at large: the steps towards peace have to be taken by the Arabs and Muslims. Now more than ever, the opportunity for a new and revised approach remains open. The betes-noires of the Muslim world have been dethroned, isolated, ostracized or coerced into realizing that they cannot have their way. Saddam languishes in prison, Ghaddafi begs for trade with the west, Osama is a fugitive, and Saudi Arabia now realizes that it must take up arms against extremist elements within its own border. The season for knowledge seems to have made its appearance.


1. Islam's scripture.

2. Islam's oral tradition, defined usually as "what is attributed to Muhammad in terms of word, deed, and his tacit approval." See Subhi al-Saleh, Ulum al-Hadith wa Mustalahu (Beirut: Dar al-Ilm l'il malaayin, 1995), p. 3. Scholars have long argued about the reliability of this genre of literature in Islam.

3. Having studied in an Islamic university, I am quite familiar with the classical Muslim contention that the Hadith and Qur'an were coeval. I am not concerned with this creedal view, but rather with the more reliable academic position that the Hadith came later than the Qur'an.

4. See Jacob Neusner and Tamara Sonn, Comparing Religions Through Law: Judaism and Islam (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 191-194. Here the authors clearly distinguish between enlandisement and secular/political Zionism, pointing out that the two terms intersect in terms of the importance accorded by both to a particular territory (p. 193). Since the Qur'an 5:20-1, like the Torah, sees a specific geographic area as belonging and governed by the children of Israel, I feel comfortable using the term.

5. In fact, this is the only time in the Qur'an that a land is described as "holy" (Q 5:21). This verse refutes the claim of Neusner and Sonn that enlandisement is unique to Judaism, and has no counterpart in Islam (Neusner and Sonn, p. 199). To be sure, the Qur'an does not believe the God is to be found in any one land, but this is only one aspect of enlandisement. The Qur'an 5: 21 is extremely clear that Israel, by divine decree, is the land of the people of Moses. Qur'an 2: 116, quoted by Neusner and Sonn to show that the Qur'an is not concerned with a specific piece of land, in fact applies to only one aspect of enlandisement--that God is whereever one turns. That verse deals with the direction of prayer, and does NOT in any way deny Israel as the land conferred on the Jews by divine decree.

6. Several other verses support the above two, among them: Q7: 137, 10: 93, 17: 104, and 21: 71, 81. The verses that are particularly important are Q5: 20-1.

7. In the approximate 22 instances in the Qur'an where this action is attributed to God (directly or indirectly, Kataba/Kutiba), it likewise conveys the idea of decisiveness, finality and immutability. Two examples are:
 (a) Kutiba alaykumidha hadara ahadakum al mawtu (Q2:180): literally,
 "written upon when death betakes one of you ..." but understood to
 mean that it is obligatory that when death is imminent, certain
 things are mandatory.
 (b) Kutiba alaykum al-siyaam (Q2:183): literally, "written upon you
 is the fast"--but understood to mean, "Obligatory upon you is the
 fast (of Ramadan)."

8. Al-Tabari, Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Jarir. 1961. Jami al Bayan fi Ta'wil Aay al-Qur'an (Cairo: Dar al Ma'arif, 1961), 10:169. Since the verse deals with Moses' address to the Israelites, the vocative "you" in the verse refers to them only, and no one can seek to claim that the promise extends to non-Israelites.

9. Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur'an (Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus, 1984), p. 943, footnote 11.

10. Al-Tabarsi, Abu Ali al-Fadl b. Husayn, Majma al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-Lubnani, 1957), 2:64.

11. Ibn Kathir, Abu al-Fida, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim (Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifa, 1980), p. 2:37.

12. Muhammad Ali Al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir: al-Jami bayna fannay al-Riwaya wa al-Diraya min Ilm al-Tafsir (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1992), 2:41.

13. Muhammad Husayn Al-Tabataba'i, Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an (Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, 1959), 5:312.

14. Al-Tabari, 10:167-8.

15. Al-Shawkani, 2:41.

16. See my co-authored work with Kadir Baksh, "Demonizing the Jews: examining the Antichrist traditions in the Sahihayn," Journal of Religion and Culture (Montreal, Concordia University), No.12 (1998): 151-164.

17. The prefix Sahih is important in both titles: the word means "authentic."

18. Muhammad Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, translated by Muhammad M. Khan. (Beirut: Dar al-Arabia, 1985), 4:267.

19. For a full report on this issue see Khaleel Mohammed and Kadir Baksh, "Demonizing the Jews: Examining the Antichrist Tradition in the Sahihayn," Journal of Religion and Culture (Montreal: Concordia University, 1998), 12: 151-164. See also Khaleel Mohammed, The Jewish and Christian Influences in the Eschatological Imagery of Sahih Muslim, M.A. Thesis (Montreal: Concordia University, 1997), pp. 35-48.

20. Nawawi, Yahya b. Sharaf, Sharh Sahih Muslim (Beirut: Dar al-Qalam, no date), Volumes 17/18: 277. I have followed to a large extent the translation of Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Sahih Muslim (Lahore: Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, 1992), 4:1516.

21. Ibid, 4: 209.

22. Sahih al-Bukhari, 3: 121.

23. For a good discourse on this issue, see

24. George Wesley Buchanan, "Introduction," in Eschatology, edited by R. H. Charles (New York: Schoken Books, 1967), p. xxiii.

25. In the hadith on p. 6, the site of Jesus' defeat of the antichrist is at Lod (Lydda) rather than Jerusalem. This, I think, is because Jerusalem is a sacred site, and fighting, by Qur'anic law, is forbidden in such places (Q2:191). Lod was the first place captured by the Romans on their way to Jerusalem, and this was duplicated by the Arab Muslims on their way to the capture of that city. It is possible that the Muslim reporters saw Lod site for all major battles preceding the taking of Jerusalem.

26. Reuven Firestone, "Abraham's Son as the Intended Sacrifice: Issues in Qur'anic Exegesis," Journal of Semitic Studies, 34:1 (1989): 95-132.

27. Ibid, 130.

28. See also my article "Probing the Identity of the Sacrificial Son in the Qur'an," Journal of Religion and Culture, Vol. 13 (1999): 125-138.

29. Muzzamil Siddiqi, "The Islamic Perspective of Jerusalem" at Conference of American Muslims for Jerusalem, Washington, D.C. April 17, 1999. See speech on

30. "Qibla"--a direction to which one turns in prayer.


32. S. D. Goitein, "al-Kuds," in Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: Brill 1958), 5:322-38.

33. Supra, p. 7.

34. Amikam Elad, Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship (Leiden: Brill, 1999), p. 24. Note too his reliance on Jewish midrash that states Muawiya built the walls of the Temple Mount.

35. S. Goitein, Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (Leiden: Brill, 1966), pp. 140, 147.

36. The Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research (Cairo, General Organization for Government Printing Offices, 1970), 921-928.

37. This author studied in Saudi Arabia under such a program.

38. Shibley Telhami, "Timidity Risks More Bloodshed," Los Angeles Times (May 27, 2001), Op Ed Section. For electronic version, see

39. See, special dispatch # 792, on the words of Dr. Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, former dean, Faculty of Shari'a at the University of Qatar.


41. See, special report #792.

42. Ibid.


44. Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 10, 2004.

45. The agreement between Amir Feisal and Chaim Weitzman is available at several internet sites such as, For Weitzman's writing on this affair, see Arthur Hertzberg's The Zionist Idea (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1997), pp. 583-588.

KHALEEL MOHAMMED is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at San Diego State University, and also a core faculty member of that University's Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies. He studied Islamic Law in Saudi Arabia, and obtained his Ph.D. in the same subject from McGill University, Montreal. His article, "Produce Your Proof ...: Muslim Exegesis, the Hadith, and the Jews," appeared in the Winter/Spring 2004 issue.
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Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
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Date:Jan 1, 2005
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