Questions citation

Questions citation

In the March 5 Jewish Standard, you reprinted an article from Tablet by Adam Kirsch. In the very beginning of this article, Mr. Kirsch presents an expression of Jew-hatred in the quotation, “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: ‘The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him.'”

According to Mr. Kirsch’s article, this quotation is from the Koran. I don’t know where Mr. Kirsch got this information because as far as I know, the Koran does not contain this text. It is, in fact, in one of the compilations of hadith (reports about Muhammad from various sources), called the Sahih Muslim (and apparently also in another called the Sahih Bukhari), reported in the name of Abu Huraira. One should not conclude that this is a distinction without a difference, since there is, indeed, a Muslim source for the quotation. Even if one is willing to equate the hadiths with the Koran, one needs to look at the person transmitting the hadith. In this case, it’s a person called Abu Huraira; while he is the transmitter of many hadiths, not all Muslims believe that he is reliable. In particular, Shias hold him in low regard.

But it’s a mistake to confuse the Koran with the hadith. All Muslims accept the Koran, which is the primary source of God’s word for them. This would be comparable to the Pentateuch for Jews. The hadith would be comparable perhaps to midrashim. While midrashim have important things to say about our understanding of the Torah, Jews need not believe them in the same way that they would be required to believe in the words of the Pentateuch.

There are many things in midrashim and even in the Talmud that are not to be taken literally, and some of them that, taken at face value, contradict each other. Consequently, when reading them it is important to have a global understanding of the religious tradition and interpret the midrashim in their proper context. Similarly with hadiths. There are positive and negative comments about Jews in the Koran. For example, verse 5:69 says: “Lo! those who believe and those who are Jews, and Sabaeans, and Christians – whosoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right – there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.” On the other hand, there are many negative comments about Jews who deny Muhammad and who fought against him. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Koran condemns Jews as a people.

In any case, even if Mr. Kirsch were to lean towards reliance on the hadith that he quotes, it is important that he identify it as a hadith, not as a verse from the Koran. Although I have no definite proof as to why he would identify the hadith as part of the Koran, I can speculate. This hadith is quoted in the Hamas charter (as it appears on the Internet). As the charter quotes it, it is not entirely clear that the quotation about Muslims killing the Jews is not part of the Koran. Mr. Kirsch might have read the Hamas charter and being confused by the charter’s language, he might have concluded that the quotation is, indeed, from the Koran. If so, it is, indeed, unfortunate that Jews are learning their Koran from the Hamas!

While it is important to fight Muslims (and others) who might misrepresent Judaism, it is important that we not misrepresent other religions. In fact, there are ample grounds for believing that Islam is not anti-Jewish and for working together with Muslims sympathetic to Jews against evildoers and common enemies.