The relationship between Muslims and Jews has been through several stages during the course of history. In some stages the relationship has been based on peaceful co-existence; in other stages, however, it has been characterized by anti-Semitism.
Kicking Jews out of many parts of the Arab world in the 1950s and 1960s provides clear evidence for the latter. In addition, the recent wave of anti-Semitism in the Arab media is undeniable.
Many Muslim scholars and writers, despite the peace agreements between Israel and many Arab countries, promote hatred of the Jews. This has been common in mosques, television, books, and other media. Examples of Islamic-based anti-Semitism are available at the Middel East Media Research Institute Web site, www.memri.org/.
Looking at Muslim-Jewish relations from a different angle reveals that Muslims should actually be grateful to the Jews instead of hating them.
First, according to the story of the Israa and Miaraj that described the ascent of Mohamed to heaven to meet with other prophets and God, he was instructed by Allah that every member of the Muslim nation, or umma, must perform 50 prayers per day (each one usually needs around 10 minutes to perform). This would have been an unbearable burden on Muslims.
According to this story, which is available in Islamic books, it was only the intervention of Moses, a Jew, that led to a change in the number of required prayers: the original 50 prayers per day were reduced to only five prayers per day.
Five has remained the number of prayers traditionally performed by Muslims all the way through to the present day. According to the story, Moses played an advisory role to Mohamed, counseling him to go back to Allah repeatedly to tell him that 50 is an impossibly high number of prayers.
If Moses had not played such a major role in changing this, then most Muslims would not have been able to perform their required prayers. This could have made them candidates for hell, according to traditional Islamic teaching (Quran 74:42-43).
Second, the word amen, which Muslims regularly use several times in their daily prayers as well as their Friday prayers, is actually a Hebrew word that is never mentioned or used in the Quran.
In fact, the word has no roots in Arabic language at all. This means that Muslims are using a Hebrew word in their regular prayer every day. Since the prayers cannot be completed without the use of this ‘Jewish’ word, Muslims should be also grateful to the Jews for teaching it to them.
Third, the concept of circumcision that Muslims implement is similarly never mentioned in the Quran. It is well-known to be a Jewish concept, which the Muslims just adopted from the Jews.
Since Muslims consider circumcision to be an important part of the Islamic religion, they should be appreciative of the Jews for teaching them this concept.
Fourth, according to the Quran, Muslims are instructed to ask the people of the torah (Ahl Al-Zhikr [Quran 21:7 and 16: 43]; i.e., the Jews) for guidance if they do not know the answer to a particular religious question.
Given that the Quran itself instructs Muslims to trust the Jews and to seek their advice on issues related to the Muslim faith, why is it that many in the modern Muslim world consider the Jews to be untrustworthy?
Despite increasing levels of anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world, deep analyses of Islamic texts can reveal some important issues that should change how Muslims should perceive the Jews.
Muslims should be encouraged to seek advice from Jews regarding religious issues and open the way for a relationship that is based on respect and appreciation rather than disrespect and hatred.
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