By Sinem Tezyapar
A Response to an Antisemitic Video of Egyptian Cleric Mahmoud Al-Masri
Editor’s Note: Some of the terminology used by this Muslim author to describe the relationship between God and people is foreign to us. Notions of God “cursing” people for their actions have long been cast off by our own Rabbinic tradition. But restraint and openness are essential if we are to admit into our intellectual environment Muslim voices that seek to dialog with us. In your comments, we encourage you to challenge any point you wish. But we ask that you not denigrate the character, honesty, sincerity and courage of Ms. Tezyapar.
This article is a response to antisemitic notions common among some Muslims, and expressed in a vile video made by Egyptian Cleric Mahmoud Al-Masri.
It is important for people to understand the context of the verses and hadiths regarding the Jews, and it is particularly important for Muslims to understand them properly. Taking verses or hadiths out of context leads not only to poor understanding, it leads to prejudicial attitudes and outright hatred of people who have done nothing wrong. Perhaps even worse is the hypocrisy of those who wish to impose their extremist views by selecting particular verses and hadiths and deliberately distorting the meaning.
Thus it is important to stand against such despicable tactics and to speak out when these are used as a way of incitement. Here are a few of the main examples that cause a prejudiced mindset among many and are frequently misused as political propaganda by certain Islamic groups.
Why It Is a False Statement to Say Jews Are Cursed or Apes According to Islam?
Those Muslims who say “All Jews are cursed” are mistaken. They do not understand the Qur’an. They do not pay attention to the provisions in the Qur’an and interpret it only superficially. Yet if they read the verses with care, they would know that God would never issue an unjust commandment.
Every child is born innocent; this is a fundamental aspect of Islamic theology. How can a child be born cursed? Such a claim is incompatible with God’s justice. Such people are ignorant of the existence and attributes of God. They think that God could commit such an injustice. They think a child can be born cursed for reasons beyond its control, cursed for no crime, and that no matter what it does it can never escape that curse. This has nothing to do with Islam. To expect such injustice from God means to truly not understand Him. No true believer in God could ever say this. In the Qur’an
“They said ‘Our hearts are wrapped up in covers.’ Nay, God has cursed them for their disbelief. Little is that which they believe.” (Qur’an, 2:88)
They have obviously failed to pay attention to what is set out in the verse. Why does God curse people? For disbelief. If someone denies God’s commandments and does not repent, and if God does not forgive him, he will go to hell; that person is already cursed. God imposes the condition of denial. God does not say ‘I have cursed every Jew, I regard them as cursed en masse.’ He says He curses people who deny Him. Some people who have set themselves up as hodjas and scholars misunderstand this and use it as anti-Jewish propaganda. In another verse, God informs the crimes of some people from the community of the Prophet Moses:
“And for their covenant we raised over them (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai); and (on another occasion) we said: ‘Enter the gate with humility’; and (once again) we commanded them: ‘Transgress not in the matter of the sabbath.’ And we took from them a solemn covenant. (They have incurred divine displeasure): In that they broke their covenant; that they rejected the signs of God; that they slew the Messengers in defiance of right; that they said, ‘Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve God’s Word; We need no more)’;- Nay, God hath set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy, and little is it they believe.” (Qur’an, 4:154-155)
Yet all the things listed in these verses are crimes. God lists those actions that are unlawful. People are cursed because of these, and those who commit them in any case go to hell. What about the provision regarding people who do not do these? Why should they be cursed? God imposes these conditions and says that people who do these things are cursed.
God also speaks of the existence of believers. Believers are obviously not cursed. God does not regard people as cursed if they abide by His commandments. People who are immoral, who are cruel or declare war on God’s commandments are cursed. People who do these things in any case go to hell. There are also Muslims who will go to hell. If they disobey God’s commandments, then they go to hell, and they are cursed. It is wrong to ascribe this to the Jews alone, or to interpret it in such a way as to apply only to Jews. God regards all those who declare war on His commandments as cursed. Many people misunderstand this.
The Qur’an refers to the community of the Prophet Moses who must abide by the Torah. God sometimes mentions their crimes and sometimes their good acts. For instance, in one verse we are informed about the existence of righteous Jews as such:
“Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth.” (Qur’an, 7:159)
This is actually very similar to the threat of a curse in the Torah. God explains the potential curses in great detail in Deuteronomy, chapter 28 if they don’t obey the His commandments and the reason for this curse is stated as such:
“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country… All these curses will come upon you… because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees He gave you…” (Deuteronomy, 28:15-45)
Furthermore some Muslims unwisely say that all Jews are apes based on this verse:
“When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected.’” (Qur’an, 7:165-166)
However, God says that they are cursed if they rebel or insist on doing something they should not. God does not call people apes if they do not rebel against His commandments but some Muslims fail to understand this and say Jews are all humiliated like apes. God does not say this unless they rebel against Him.
It is also important to remember that God curses people because of their denial. If a Muslim stands in denial, then he is cursed as well. This is a valid statement for all people, and thus Muslims are also addressed in these verses. To present this as a curse on all Jews or calling them all apes is against the Qur’an. Most of those who say such things are mistaken and they expound on these verses falsely. However the verses are more than clear, and God discriminates between innocent people and those regarded as cursed, and He explains the conditions of what causes some to be cursed in a clear and straightforward manner.
Why It Is a False Statement to Say Jews Are the Army of Dajjal (Anti-Messiah) According to Islam?
People keep asking me if Islam is as I say, then why there is so much hatred and violence among the Muslims. And the answer is given by the Prophet of Islam 1,400 years ago. He reveals the hypocrisy prevalent in the Muslim community in the End Times as such:
“Such a time will befall my community that rulers will be oppressive and scholars will be avaricious and without fear of Allah, those who worship will be hypocritical…” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 23, p. 22)
In another hadith (saying of Prophet Mohammed) he says:
“People will spring up in the End Times: but their brains will not function. They will speak fine words when they. The will read the Qur’an, but their faith will go no further than their throats…” (Buhari, 3611, 5057, 6930, Muslim, 1066, Abu Dawud 4767, Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad 1, 81, 113, 131, 289; Al-Tayalisi, al-Musnad, no. 1984.)
So it is clear that people will read the Qur’an but not think and live according to the teachings of the Qur’an. This is what I call the religion of the bigots. They implement a faith they have largely invented themselves under the name of Islam. And in this faith there is hatred, violence, darkness. These people who follow the religion of bigotry are the enemies of beauty, art, aesthetics and science as well as women, children etc. They attach no value to human beings and their hearts are far removed from love or compassion.
This is why their life and spirit contradicts the Qur’an concerning love, peace, affection, brotherhood and unity; and the Qur’an encourages beauty, art and science. They only speak hostility and they espouse bloodshed in the name of Islam, spread hatred toward Christians, Jews and even other Muslims. These loveless, misguided people are most definitely not Muslims, but bigots or radicals -however you would like to name them. And this is why we also see hatred for Jews in their mindset.
In Islamic eschatology, there is a hadith that the dajjal (anti-messiah/anti-christ) will come and will be followed by 70,000 Jews.
“Seventy thousand people from the Jews of Isfahan with turbans and gowns will follow the antichrist.” (Muslim, At-Taj Ali Nasif al-Husayn, vol. 5, p. 627)
Based on this hadith, some people who present themselves as Muslim clerics falsely claim that all Jews will be the army of the dajjal, in other words anti-messiah. It goes without saying that this hadith is not referring to each and every Jewish man, woman or child. It is referring specifically only to some who are against God’s way. Like many things from the Qur’an and hadiths, this particular example has been taken out of context and used by extremists to justify their desire to commit wanton slaughter.
However there is an apparent evidence to this hypocrisy. In another hadith, Prophet Mohammed says that “Seventy thousand scholars from my community, all wearing turbans, will follow the dajjal [anti-messiah].” (Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, p. 796)
In referring to the people who will follow the anti-messiah in the hadith, Prophet Muhammed speaks in particular of those who are from the Islamic community and what is more, he draws attention to the ones who regard themselves as scholars.
The army of the anti-messiah will emerge from every religion, and they will constitute bigots who seek to damage their own faiths and the world. Among them there will be Muslims, Jews, Christians and others who are insincere in their faith and who are removed from God’s will. As a matter of fact, backwardness, fanaticism and bigotry is a real threat to Islam as well as to all humanity. Prophet Mohammed himself also warns against this threat:
“My community will be destroyed because of evil scholars and ignorant servants.” (Darimi)
And in another one he says:
“Such a time will come that scholars will be an element of mischief.” (Abu Nuaim)
These statements are all talking about the corruption and mischief among the Muslim community. The harm done by some religious scholars is highly destructive to be sure because they lead many ignorant people astray with their false teachings. And just as it was in history, to this day they are largely responsible for the disasters that have befallen Islamic states.
Mahdi (King Messiah) Will Surely Not Kill Jews:
These people who misuse the hadiths while referring to Jews as an army of the anti-messiah also claim that the Mahdi will kill all the Jews. This is far from the truth. This anti-Jewish hatred does not reflect anything about Islam.
First of all, the Mahdi that Muslims are waiting is the same holy person that the Jews are waiting for as King Messiah and this leader’s attributes are similar in both Islamic and Judaic accounts. The Mahdi will govern the world through love, not through war. He is someone who avoids war, a man of peace, who is full of love and compassion for all humanity. The way he will operate is described as follows in the hadith:
In the time of [Mahdi/King Messiah] no one will be woken up from their sleep or have a bleeding nose. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi ‘Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 44)
“People will seek refuge in the Mahdi [King Messiah] as honey bees cluster around their sovereign. He will fill the world that was once full of cruelty with justice. His justice will be as such that he will not wake a sleeping person not even one drop of blood is shed. The earth will return to the age of happiness.” (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi ‘Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 29 and 48)
“Enmity and hatred between people will cease… Like the cup fills with water, so will earth fill with peace… There will be religious unity. Nobody but Allah will be worshiped. War will put down its burden.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, 10:334)
The climate of peace in the time of King Messiah -the Mahdi- is described very similarly in the Judaic scriptures:
“… In the last days… He [the Lord]… will settle disputes for many peoples… Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah, 2:2-4; Micah, 4:1-3)
“… Burn them [the weapons] up—the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears… They will use them for fuel… declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel, 39:9-10)
Consequently it is not only false information that the Mahdi will kill Jews, but it is also against Islamic theology in every way, shape and form. “Not one drop of blood will be shed” is an indisputable expression and thus the Mahdi will not shed the blood of anyone from any religion.
About the Author: Sinem Tezyapar is an executive producer at A9 TV, broadcasting from Turkey, Istanbul. She is a political and religious commentator and a peace activist.