Anti-Semitism: A Muslim perspective

Three of the most common names used by Muslims are Abraham (Ibrahim), Joseph (Yusuf) and Isaac (Ishaq). These are the names of three great Semitic prophets. The glorious Quran instructs “say, we believe in God and the revelations given to us and to Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob and to Moses and Jesus we make no difference between them”(2:36). No wonder Muslim parents are proud to name their children with such Jewish names. Furthermore, Islam affirmed explicitly the validity of both Judaism and Christianity. It frankly acknowledged them as religions from God. So this was a step towards accepting “others” and teaching Muslims to respect them. The Quranic refrain, “ guidance, mercy and light” is used some dozen times for describing Torah and Psalms.

Perhaps these teachings also explain the peaceful co-existence of Muslims and Jews throughout history. Professor Al-Faruqi , eloquently captures this harmonious living of Muslims and jews: “After centuries of Greek, Roman and Christian oppression the Jews looked upon the Islamic state as a liberator. Many of them readily helped its armies which brought affluence and prestige to the Jews, some of whom became ministers and advisors to the caliph. Indeed, Judaism and its Hebrew language developed their “golden age” under the aegis of Islam. (Islam and other faiths by Ataullah siddique, published by Islamic foundation).

The Quran recognised existence of other religions and taught respect for brotherhood of humanity. This promotion of pluralism, to accept that people of other faith have a right to assert the validity and truth of their faith and even claim it as the only true faith was a great step forward in human development. The Quran declared “freedom of religion”: “there is no compulsion in religion true guidance has become distinct from error”. (2:256)

The Quran explained these differences in peoples beliefs cultures and languages as Divinely ordained: “If God had willed, he would have made you a single community but he wanted to test you through that which he has given you, so compete amongst yourselves to do the common good.( 5:48 )

Prophet Muhammad is the role model for Muslims. When he migrated to city of Medina in 622 CE, he signed a treaty with the local Jewish community. This stated “we are all one Ummah- one community.” What a beautiful example of co-existing in peace and harmony with others. One day he was sitting teaching the disciples when a funeral procession passed by, he immediately stood up in respect of the cortege. Someone quipped, “he is a Jew” – the prophet rebuked him by saying “did he not have a soul?”

The fact that Muslims proudly use names of Semitic prophets, the Qurans insistence on embracing pluralism, respect for humanity all provide strong deterrents for anti-Semitism. A Muslim who is hostile or discriminatory towards Jews is violating these teachings. The moral virtue of justice underpins pluralism, without justice there cannot be respect and peace in the world. Therefore the Quran urges believers to “stand firmly for justice even if it means going against your parents or relatives and whether it is against rich or poor, for God can best protect both. (4:135)

Jews and Muslims living in the West must both work for establishing justice in Middle East with the hope that it will once again produce the “golden period” of Jewish- Muslim relations insha Allah, God willing!