Periodically, a Muslim shares in the media a particularly wonderful bit of wisdom. So it was last week. Yet the speaker or writer always seems to remain unaware of that wisdom’s source. It’s borrowed from Judaism. Such recognition might help to eliminate the hatred that many Muslims exhibit towards Jews.
The Quran (Sura 5:32) states: “That was why We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being, except as punishment for murder or other wicked crimes, should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind.” (The Koran, Translated and with Notes by N.J Dawood, Penguin Books.)
This wisdom first appeared in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 4:5) edited by Rabbi Judah HaNasi from oral sources around 200 CE—over four centuries before Muhammad received ongoing revelations from the angel Jibril (Gabriel). It’s worth noting that the Quran makes no claim to originating this thought. Indeed, the Quran states that Islam is not a new religion at all. Rather, it represents a return to the original monotheism of Abraham from which Jews and Christians strayed. Sura 2:135 relates: “They say: ‘Accept the Jewish or the Christian faith and you shall be rightly guided.’ Say: ‘By no means! We believe in the faith of Abraham, the upright one. He was no idolater.’”
How interesting that while the Quran views Judaism as corrupted—the Torah may have come from God in some form but Jews wrote and thus distorted a good part of it—the Quran nonetheless includes a teaching from the Oral Law—corrupt by definition—enumerated 1,200 to 1,400 years after Moses. This poses an intriguing question: If the Oral Law regarding destroying or saving the world through a single individual is valid, how much else in the Mishnah also is valid? Muslims need not practice Judaism, of course. But should they condemn it?
I don’t bring this up to argue against Islam. If I believed that Muhammad received the Quran from the angel Jibril, I would be a Muslim. (If I believed that Jesus was crucified to cleanse humanity of original sin, rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, I would be a Christian.) Clearly, Islam is not part of my belief system. But I find no need to discredit Islam or denigrate its practice other than to point to facets of Islam that may pose a clear and present danger to my freedom to live unmolested as a Jew.
Sadly, ignorance of the source of Sura 5:32 shrouds the similarities between Islam and Judaism, as well as Islam’s rich Jewish roots. Both Judaism and Islam are monotheistic religions sharing a core theology: God is one and indivisible. Jews and Muslims take different paths to the same destination.
In God’s Others, I cite Rabbi Elliot Dorff: “The claim to absolute knowledge of God’s will, then, accounts to a theologically improper egotism and/or idolatry.” For both Jews and Muslims, idolatry represents the ultimate abomination. May the coming years free all religions from claims of exclusive truth.
And if Muslims recognize in Judaism much in common, I offer a simple and heartfelt response. We worship the same God, and you’re more than welcome to share.
Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.
Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.