Is Islam anti-Semitic? I don't mean it as an insult or offense to Muslims. In fact, I'm intrigued about Islam and I'm trying to deepen my knowledge of it. I'm reading the Qu'ran and the hadiths and sincerely I find most of their teachings very beautiful.

But I'm shocked by some passages that I've found in the hadiths, for instance those targeting Jews and Christians. Narrated Aisha and Abdullah bin 'Abbas: When the last moment of the life of Allah's Apostle came he started putting his 'Khamisa' on his face and when he felt hot and short of breath he took it off his face and said, "May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets." The Prophet was warning (Muslims) of what those had done. Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: Allah's Apostle said, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.' " Isn't this hadith the reason Muslims are trying to kill Jews? Moreover, is it true that the Qu'ran call the Jews "monkeys"? I don't mean to offend you and Muslims but those passages above are very " cruel ". In order to perfect or at least clear my mind of my misconceptions about Islam, I hope you will have time to answer my question and help me understand the context of those hadiths and their meanings to Muslims. May peace be upon you!
Jasser Auda
Peace be with you Macbeth,

Thank you for your questions.

First, no offence taken at all in your questions. In Islam, there is no question that is 'evil' or 'prohibited' except perhaps questions about issues that are useless and have no implication on real life.

Your questions, in fact, are very relevant to life today and the interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims everywhere.

The verses and Prophetic narrations you are referring to do exist. However, please allow me to explain a few guidelines on translation and interpretation of Islamic scripts that will help put these verses and narrations in their proper context.

The first guideline and correct method in dealing with a certain topic in Islam is to survey all the scripts relevant to the topic at hand. Based on this survey, one is able to conclude the general guideline and the 'big picture' before we get to the specific verses or narrations.

The big picture is important simply so that the details are not read out of context, or in a way that could perhaps go against the very essence of the Quranic view of a certain topic.

A comprehensive survey of the 'Jews in the Quran' topic is totally beyond the size and scope of this article. Scholars say: The Quran is almost all about Moses and his followers. So, it is a fact that the number of verses that dealt with the stories of Jews and Jewish prophets occupy a large portion of the Quran itself.

You even find the same story (for example, the Exodus) repeated in various places in various ways from various angles, etc.

But I could say that a fair summary of the many verses of the Quran that talked about the Jews or 'the Children of Israel', as the Quran calls them in most cases, is the following:

There are two kinds of 'Children of Israel', and 'People of the Book' (i.e. the Torah and the Gospels) in general. The first kind of them are the Prophets (peace be upon them) and the true followers of the message of God, and those are blessed and successful.

The second kind are those who are from 'the Children of Israel' in terms of lineage or affiliation, but they are practically disbelievers; they rejected the truth, they killed their prophets, they concealed the scripts or altered them, and so forth.

Here are some examples from the verses of the Quran to make this point clear:

Regarding the first type of 'the Children of Israel':

*{Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians -all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:62)

*{… for, verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.}* (Al-Ma'idah 5:69)

*{ [But] they are not all alike: among the People of the Book there are upright people, who recite God's messages throughout the night, and prostrate themselves [before Him]. They believe in God and the Last Day, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and vie with one another in doing good works: and these are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, they shall never be denied the reward thereof: for, God has full knowledge of those who are conscious of Him. [But,] behold, as for those who are bent on denying the truth – neither their worldly possessions nor their children will in the least avail them against God…}* (Aal `Imran 3:113-116)

Now, regarding the second type:

*{God has indeed heard the saying of those who said, "Behold, God is poor while we are rich!" We shall record what they have said, as well as their slaying of prophets against all right …}* (Aal `Imran3:181)

*{And so, [We punished them] for the break­ing of their pledge (with God), and their refusal to acknowledge God's messages, and their slaying of prophets against all right, and their boast …}* (An-Nisaa' 4:155)

*{So, then, for the wickedness committed by (some of) those who followed the Jewish faith did We deny unto them certain of the good things of life which [aforetime] had been allowed to them; and [We did this] for their having so often turned away from the path of God, and [for] their taking usury although it had been forbidden to them, and their wrongful devouring of other people's possessions. And for those from among them who [continue to] deny the truth We have readied grievous suffering.}* (An-Nisaa' 4:160-161)

Note here that 'some of' is put between brackets because it is not the literal translation of the verse, yet the meaning of the expression 'min al-ladheena hadu' implies 'some of them' not 'all of them'.

Then, when some of the (again, some, not all) turned to the worship of 'Satan' or the 'powers of evil, or perhaps in an English expression 'sold their souls to the devil', God mentions in the Quran that He cursed them and 'turned them into apes':

*{Say: "Shall I tell you who, in the sight of God, deserves a yet worse retribution than these? They whom God has rejected and whom He has condemned, and whom He has turned into apes and swine because they worshipped the powers of evil …}* (Al-Ma'idah 5:60)

The interpreters of the Quran debated whether this is a real 'turning' into apes or not. I find it straightforward to believe that, as many exegetes had said, it is about the 'behavior of apes' in the sense of having a certain temper and orientation to violence, etc, and not that they themselves 'are' apes or pigs.

I am repeating here that the context of this verse is the people who are amongst the 'People of the Book' by association, yet they do not really belong to any book but rather worship the devil. Thus, to say that the Quran called 'Jews' apes and swine is out of context and far form accurate.

Similarly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the hadiths that you mentioned is not cursing all Jews and Christians. He is cursing the group of them that put the graves of their prophets in their places of worship and then literally worshiped them.

The major problem here is about worshipping anything other than God, and is not about the issue of the graves. So, the hadith that you mentioned, "May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets", is missing from the end of it '(and worshipped them besides God)".

Clearly, those followers of the 'Book' who did not worship deities other than God are not included in this curse.

Similarly, the hadith, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones ….", etc., is not calling for 'anti-Semitism'. It is also talking about a war that has its circumstances and obviously against 'aggressors', not against Jews per se. In fact, it is forbidden for believers to transgress. The Quran states:

*{And fight in God's cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression-for, verily, God does not love aggressors.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:190)

So, the issue is not about race at all. It is about faith and behavior.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.



Source: — Ask about Islam — Jasser Auda.