Part 1 of 3: Links among the main monotheistic faiths
Dr. Arshad Chaudhry is the eminent publisher of Al-Tanzil, an institute dedicated to nurturing Qur’anic scholarship and the proliferation of the Qur’anic sciences. He 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; and that the religion of their forefathers was exactly the same as the followers of Torah.
Dr. Chaudhry asked me, because he knows that I am a rabbi who has had an appreciation for Islam since the age of ten, when I learned in my synagogue's Hebrew school about the Golden Age of Medieval Judaism in Muslim Spain.
A decade later I studied Islam when I was a student at UCLA almost 55 years ago, and then I studied Islam again while I was in Rabbinical school studying to become a Reform Rabbi.
Over the years as I continued to read the Qur’an, Ahadith, and other Islamic books, I came to think of myself as both a Reform Rabbi and a Muslim Jew. I am a Muslim Jew because I am faithful to my commitment to submit to the One God who liberated the Jewish People from oppression in the land of Egypt, and made a covenant with the People of Israel through Prophet Musa. 1 I am a Reform Jew because I belong to the People of Israel, and I am loyal to the teachings of the Torah, the Jewish community and its traditions liberally interpreted.
When I read Islamic books, I do so as the Prophet taught his followers to do in a Hadith "not as a believer, and not as a disbeliever." What does that mean?
The Qur’an, of course, is sacred scripture for Muslims. A disciple of Muhammad named Abu Huraira relates:
"The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims): 'Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, We believe in Allah, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you'."
Following Muhammad’s teaching, I too neither believe nor disbelieve in the Qur’an. If I believed in the Qur’an I would be a member of the Muslim Ummah (community).
And I cannot disbelieve in the Qur’an because I believe that Muhammad is a prophet; and I respect the Qur’an as a kindred revelation, first given to a kindred people, in a kindred language. In fact, the Arab people, the Arab language and Muslim theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other religious community on earth.
So I offer to all readers who believe in the One God; the first three following answers to Dr. Chaudhry nine questions. He writes:
"In The Qur'an, ALLAH, The Exalted, Has Informed Mankind Thus:"
1. Mankind is a single community:
[Qur'an - 2:213] "ALL MANKIND were once one single community; [then they began to differ -] whereupon God raised up the prophets as heralds of glad tidings and as warners, and through them bestowed revelation from on high, setting forth the truth."
Judaism teaches that all present day humans are descendent from Adam [the Hebrew word for All Mankind/Homo Sapiens] and Eve [the Hebrew word for life-giver i.e. motherhood]. As their names indicate these two figures are archetypes for all humans who are created in the image of God and whose creation is blessed by God, and thus we, like Muslims, deny the doctrine of original sin. 2 [Genesis 1:26-28, Al-Hedger 26&28]
Both the Qur'an and the Torah are in fundamental agreement on the uniquely exalted status of our species, Homo Sapiens. Each sacred scripture gives us some unique additional details suitable for our own religious community. Thus, the Qur'an reveals details about the creation and nature of Jinn 3 [Al- Hijr 27 and in more than two dozen other Ayahs 4] and the Torah reveals details about the human need to marry and bond into a loving relationship. [Genesis 2:18-24]
Judaism also teaches that God does occasionally inspire either a human male or female, [like Prophet Miriam, the sister of Prophet Moses and Prophet Aaron, Exodus 15:20 or Prophet Hulda 2 Kings 20:14-22] who is either a Jew or a non-Jew. [like Balaam Al-A'raf 175-76 & Numbers 22: 7--14] Since the Qur'an is a much more recently revealed scripture; it gives many explicit examples of God's inspired prophets.
2. Continuation of the Revelation [Divine Guidance]:
[Qur'an – 35:32] "Then (after every Messenger), We have made those of Our servants whom We chose heirs to the Book (to preserve and teach it, and secure its practice in daily life)"
Judaism also teaches that God still inspires those who study their revealed scriptures to find new insights and understandings to guide each new generation. This is the role of the rabbis in Judaism and the ulema 5 in Islam.
One of the wonderful aspects of the Qur'an is that it is the only book of revelation that includes within itself a theory of prophethood which includes other religions. Of course, there have always been (since the days of Adam) people inspired by Allah who urged their community to avoid destruction by turning away from their corrupt and unjust ways, and turning to the One God who created all humans. But prior to Abraham none of the communities they established lasted more than a few generations.
The Qur'an mentions 25 prophets by name. Most of them are also known to non-Muslims. Muslims believe there were 124,000 others, whose names are now unknown. Of the 25 mentioned by name in the Qur'an, only four (Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad) revealed books of sacred scripture that are the bases for three major religions that still flourish today.
According to the Qur'an, every nation in the world receives at least one prophet who speaks to it in its own language. However, one nation, the Children of Israel, has received a great many prophets. The Qur'an doesn't tell us why so many prophets arose within the Children of Israel, except to refer several times to many prophets who were descendants of the family of Abraham.
Perhaps the fact that the Jewish People preserved a very long recorded history of their religious development enables us to know of more of their prophets than any other people.
Many people would say that people like Joseph Smith, prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), and Bahá'u'lláh, prophet of the Bahais, are modern prophets; but they have not been recognized as such by the leaders of the Jewish or Muslim communities, or of most other religious communities.
Most Jews think of Jesus as a Rabbi; who was a mixture of:
a "believe in the power of prayer" Hassidic Rabbi, and
a "don't make religion hard" Reform Rabbi.
Many other Jews also think of Jesus as a prophet, and some Jews even think of Jesus as a Messianic figure, who tried to liberate and redeem the Jewish People, but unfortunately was unsuccessful.
However, Judaism and Islam totally reject the idea that Jesus was a Divine Messiah, the son of God, and a part of a Divine trinity.
3. ALLAH Informed mankind about some of the recipients of HIS Books:
[Qur'an - 2:136] "Say: "We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and, their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus; and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them. And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves."
Judaism agrees with this ayah, although we [like Muslims] do not accept the "son of God" trinitarian Christian view expressed throughout the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). Jesus refers to himself dozens of times simply as the "son of man," i.e. as a human being. Paul, the creator of Christianity, who never met Jesus, never uses this term. Most of the non-Jews who convert to Judaism [about 5,000 a year] do so because, while they believe in God, they cannot believe that God has a son.
Jews also do not believe the New Testament claim that the Jewish People were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. Jews think the Roman government crucified Jesus, as the Roman rulers crucified Paul and Peter in Rome a generation later.
However, the Qur'an informs us that neither the Jews, nor the Romans, crucified Jesus. Jesus escaped from the Romans. As the Qur'an [An-Nisa 157-8] says:
"And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of God.": they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] who resembled him to them. Indeed, those who differ over this are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. They did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. God is forever Exalted in Might and Wise."
If more Jews knew these verses in the Qur'an they would understand why arguing with Christians over who killed Jesus is a waste of time.
If Jesus were to come back today, most Jews think he would not join a Trinitarian church. Rather, he would join a reform or conservative synagogue, and occasionally worship in a Hasidic congregation or a Mosque.
In English: Moses, an important prophet in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam who is discussed extensively in the Hebrew Scriptures, Christian scriptures, and Qur'an.
"Original Sin" is widely believed within Christianity, particularly in the conservative forms of the religion. It teaches that a sin performed by Eve and Adam has been imputed to their children, grandchildren, and successive generations down through the millennia to over 7 billion humans alive to-day. The concept of the transferability of sin -- to punish innocent people for the sins of the guilty, is often referred to as scapegoating and is widely considered to be unethical.
Jinn (al-jinn in Arabic) are supernatural creatures in early Arabian and later Islamic mythology and theology. An individual member of the jinn is known as a jinni, djinni, or genie. Unlike humans which are believed by many to have been created from clay, the Jinn is believed among Muslims to have been created from fire.
In the Qur'an, an Ayah is a single verse.
A ulema is a body of Muslim scholars recognized as having specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology.