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Notes from Limmud 2005

The Influence of Islam on Judaism

Rabbi Mark Solomon

The Influence of Judaism on Islam

Judaism had a big influence on Islam. Much of the inspiration and the basis for Islam came from Judaism, either in the form of knowledge of the Bible, or, especially, interaction with Jews that Muḥammad came into contact with. Numerous passages in the Qur'ân show parallels with Biblical stories, midrashim, Jewish legend and law.

For example, the story of the attempted seduction of Joseph by Potiphar's wife gets a detailed account in the Qur'ân. An old rabbinic tradition holds that Joseph saw a vision of his father's face, and this is what helped him resist. This also occurs in the Qur'ân:

She almost succumbed to him, and he almost succumbed to her, if it were not that he saw a proof from his Lord. We thus diverted evil and sin away from him, for he was one of our devoted servants.

There is a subsequent anecdote:

When [Potiphar's wife] heard of their gossip, she invited them, prepared for them a comfortable place, and gave each of them a knife. She then said to him, "Enter their room." When they saw him, they so admired him, that they cut their hands. They said, "Glory be to GOD, this is not a human being; this is an honorable angel."

We find this in later midrashic literature, having come there from the Qur'ân: it is not attested previously in Jewish literature.

There is another, post-Qur'ânic body of influence, called the Isrâ'îlîyyât: a body of traditions based on Jewish midrashic and exegetical sources, picked up when Islam moved north into Iraq, the then greatest Jewish centre. The Qur'ân contains lots of allusions to Biblical stories, but often in a brief manner that suggests Muḥammad expected readers of the Qur'ân to be already familiar with these stories. The Isrâ'îlîyyât fills these stories out for Muslims who were not.

There are also practices which show an influence of Judaism on Islam. For instance, in the earliest years of Islam, when Muḥammad was still in Mecca, he faced Jerusalem when praying. Later on, when he fled to Medina, and fell out with the Jews, he switched to facing towards Mecca.

Islamic influence on Judaism: Islamic culture in the Golden Age of Jewish and Islamic coexistence: the Abbasids in Baghdad, and the Umayyads in Cordova

Baghdad became the centre of the caliphate in the eighth century. (They took this from the Umayyads in Syria.) The great Talmudic yeshivas of Sura and Pumbeditha both moved there over the course of time; by the tenth century both academies were located in Baghdad.

The Abbasids, the most famous of whom is Haroun al-Rashid, were great patrons of culture, philosophy, science, grammar and poetry - and also religious dialogue: debates on the merits of different religions. These were not power struggles, as the Disputations in mediaeval Europe were, but debates on purely rational grounds. Jewish, Muslims, Christians and Zoroastrians all came together to debate for these.

A similar atmosphere prevailed later in Spain, where an offshoot of the overthrown Umayyad dynasty set up their own caliphate. (Cordoba was possibly the first city in western Europe to have street lighting!)

In this caliphate Jews occupied a special position. In the conquest in 732, Jews had played an important part in helping the Moors overthrow the Visigoths; they opened city gates to them. The Moors were a warrior caste; they had little experience of administration, and the Jews helped them with that as viziers, e.g. Ḥasdai ibn Shaprut.

In Babylonia the geonim of the two great academies sent responsa as far away as Spain.

The Muslim challenge to Judaism: Scripture, Karaism, rationalism and Opinions

This interaction had intellectual and religious dimensions. In some ways the advent of Islam brought a new challenge to Judaism. Christianity had been around for a while, and had settled on a hostile approach to Judaism, although Christianity had previously played an important part in the development of rabbinic Judaism.

Islam, however, presented a fresh challenge, in the form of a revealed scripture in a Semitic language held up as the most perfect book. According to Muslim tradition, because Muḥammad was more or less illiterate, the Qur'ân must have come from G-d. This was a challenge, for Jews, to the supremacy of the Torah and of Biblical Hebrew.

So, which was the most perfect language and scripture? The Muslims argued that the Torah had come from G-d but had then been spoiled over the course of time.

Within Judaism part of the response to this may have been the rise of Karaism in the eighth century: a Jewish sect which rejected the authority of the Talmud and the Oral Law. They constructed a form of Judaism which focused on Scripture without rabbinic exegesis. This may have been in response to the Muslims critiquing the Jews for overlaying their Scripture with layers of interpretations.

In this period, Karaism presented a threat to rabbinic Judaism and the rabbis were constantly having to defend it. The Karaites said all the midrash misrepresents the true meaning of Scripture. The Rabbanites, to rebut them, had to turn back to the literal meaning of the text; this was what stimulated the flowering of the science of Hebrew grammar (see below).

Another challenge was rationalism, which arose from the Muslims coming into contact with Greek philosophical thought in Syria. Syrians had translated the ancient Greek texts into Syriac, and now translated them again into Arabic. From the eighth century onwards there were Muslim Platonic and Aristotelian philosophers, who tried to work their philosophies into a coherent framework with their theology.

This was where the debates mentioned above came from; there was the conviction that human reason could come to the same conclusions as relevation.

As an extension of this rationalism, there was also the growth of a sceptical movement: a critique of Scripture (the Qur'ân), rejecting much of what it said in favour of rationalism alone. This attitude found its way into Judaism; Ḥiwi of Balkh wrote a book of two hundred objections to the Torah based on reason.

Saadia Gaon wrote a refutation of Ḥiwi's book. This too focused people's minds on the literal meaning of Scripture.

Until now the dominant mode of concentrating on the meaning of Scripture had been through midrash. This was fine, but had little to do with the pshat [the literal meaning of the text], and it was this that all of the above brought people back now to concentrate on.

Saadia Gaon

Saadia Gaon (882-942) was the greatest figure of Judaism at that time. He started life from a humble backwater, Fayyum in western Egypt. He studied in his youth, and made his way to Israel, where he became a figure. In those days there was rivalry between the geonim of Babylonia and those of Israel. Part of that dispute focused on the calendar. The geonim in Israel asserted their authority by trying to resurrect the prerogative of the nasiim [princes, the rulers of the Jewish community in Israel] in p

Saadia entered the fray by defending the Babylonian view. When Saadia writes in a polemical vein, he is extremely strong in doing so. He also became known for rebutting the Karaite view.

He then moved to Babylonia, and some time later was invited to become Rosh Yeshiva [head of the Yeshiva] of Sura. This academy, which had been founded by Rav in the third century, had been in decline for some time, and they invited him to revive it, which is what he did.

In many ways, he was the founder of mediaeval Judaism. He is best known as a philosopher, he wrote the first Jewish book of philosophy: the Book of Beliefs and Opinions (written in Arabic).

This is a Jewish work adopting the dominant Muslim theology at the time: kalâm (from the Arabic term الكلم, meaning "the word" [huh? I thought it meant "argument", and Wikipedia says it means "discourse"]), a philosophical interpretation of the Qur'ân.

There were different schools of this; the Mu'tazilite school was rationalist; it held that there can be no difference between reason and revelation. But if this is the case, why do we need revelation? The answer is that not everyone is capable of reasoning everything out. And where rationalism can point in different directions, revelation helps to show which course is right.

Even the structure of the book follows that of Mu'tazilite writings, e.g. focusing on the unity of G-d. This became known, in translation, even in northern Europe later on.

Fiqh (فقه) in the Muslim world denotes systematic jurisprudence: defining the structures and reasoning of the law and how it works. Of course, Judaism didn't need help from anyone in defining law; however, the Talmud is in no way systematic: to the untrained eye it looks like a jumble. There is no table of contents or any easily-seen systematisation. Only recently (the last fifty years) have people begun to study the deeper structure of the Talmud.

Saadia and his successors tried to remedy this, following what the Muslims did: for each subject, to define the terms, set out the principles, and define everything.

Saadia was the first Jew to do this. He wrote monographs tackling various subjects; only the one on inheritance has survived intact.

The culmination of this fiqh tradition was of course the Rambam's Mishne Torah.

Tafsîr (تفسير, related to the Hebrew פשר pesher, an explanation) denotes an exegesis or commentary. Saadia followed this Muslim tradition in his translation of the Bible into Arabic. There were numerous Aramaic translations of the Bible by now, plus of course the Septuagint, but this was the first singlehanded translation into another language by a Jew. It is the Arabic version of the Bible still used by Arabic Jews until this day.

Along with the translation came a rationalistic commentary, the first rationalistic (non-midrashic) commentary on the Bible. This was intended for Jews, but some think Saadia also had Muslims in mind. (Most of this commentary has been lost; the translation survives.)

In the field of lexicography, Saadia wrote the first Hebrew dictionary, the Agron. It wasn't so great, but it was the first. The first edition was written in Hebrew, the second, much enlarged edition, in Arabic, from which the following introduction comes:

As the children of Ishmael recount that one of their notables saw that the people did not speak Arabic eloquently and this distressed him, and he composed for them a brief discourse... so I saw that many of the children of Israel do not know the basic eloquence (Arabic: faṣaha) of our language, let alone its (rarer) alternatives; and when they speak, much of what they utter is ungrammatical; and when they compose poetry, the primary elements which they elaborate are in the minotity, and those which they neglect are the majority... (and so) I was compelled to compose a book in which I would collect most of the words.

Part of the motive for the Agron was poetry; it's a rhyming dictionary: there are two sections, one listing words alphabetically by their first letter, the second listing words alphabetically by their ending.

Poetry was very important in Islamic culture of the time. The only Arabic literature from before the Qur'ân is poems. This was one of the most important cultural activities amongst cultured Arabs and Muslims.

This influenced the Jews, and the Golden Age of the Jews in Spain became a golden age of Jewish poetry.

Saadia wrote some poetry himself, but acknowledged that he was not very good.

His disciple, however, Dunash ibn Labrat (c.920-c.990), wrote the first poems incorporating metre and rhyme. There are piyyutim [liturgical poems] from beforehand, but had no metre and very little rhyme. Dunash began the pattern of writing Hebrew poetry adopting Muslim patterns of metre and rhyme; he showed them to Saadia who encouraged him to continue.

Spanish grammarians

Saadia was a major grammarian; it was he who started the study of grammar in Hebrew (following, probably, in the footsteps of the Karaites). This followed the lead of the flourishing school of Arabic grammarians. Again, Saadia's ideas were a little primitive, but his was the start. For a few generations in Muslim Spain, Hebrew grammar was the most cutting edge and controversial science.

The first grammarian in Spain was Menachem ben Saruq. When Dunash came back to Spain, the two disagreed vehemently, and both they and their later disciples waged a war of polemics on each other.

One such dispute was that Menachem thought there were [verbal] roots with one or two letters; whereas now we recognise that such "weak roots" always have three-letter stems.

Another dispute whose views are broadly represented by these two schools was whether Hebrew was an independent holy language that must be looked at solely in its own terms, or a language like other languages, and comparable to similar languages like Aramaic, and Arabic. For instance, can you use an Arabic root to cast light on strange words in the Torah? Menachem and his school said no, Dunash's followers said yes.

This approach came to its climax with the work of David Ḥayyuj (c.940-c.1010), who used the tools and terminology of Arabic grammar to study Hebrew. This work was later translated into Hebrew by Abraham ibn Ezra, and became the basis of all later Hebrew grammar.

Spanish poets

It was not just the form of poetry that followed Arabic models, but also its substance. Ibn Gabirol, Shmuel haNagid, Moses ibn Ezra, Judah haLevi and [others] wrote, in addition to religious poetry, secular poetry based entirely on Arabic models. Topics included praise of wine (even though Islam forbids its consumption, it is a subject of lots of Arabic poetry), praise of women, even praise of boys. (The question is: was this last homoerotic, or just imitating the Moorish literary model?) Also poetry about friendship - and poems attacking people the authors did not like.

These people were studying grammar not only to understand Torah but to allow them to write poetry!

[This section was probably cut short as the speaker was running out of time.]

Sufism

Sufism (Islamic mysticism) also had an influence on Jewish thought. Sufism aimed at an individual experience of union with G-d. This used zikr (remembrance) and movement and breathing and things. Baḥya ibn Paquda (c.1050-c.1120) wrote The Book of Guidance to the Duties of the Heart, the first Jewish ethical treatise. His basic contention was that Judaism had become too wrapped up in the "duties of the limbs" - how to carry out the מצות [mitzvot, precepts/commandments of Judaism]. He said the duties of the heart, the inward religion, was just as important. This distinction came from Sufism. Baḥya said this was known to the Talmudic rabbis but had been lost since. Throughout his book he includes little parables and quotations from "the Sages", who, more often than not, as Muslim sages (though he doesn't say so, as he doesn't want to alienate his readers).

This was one of the first great classics translated from Arabic to Hebrew, by the Ibn Tibbon family, and became a great influence on the Chassidim in the eighteenth century.

Abraham Maimonides (1186-1237), the son of the Rambam, also was heavily influenced by Sufism. He wrote, in The High Ways to Perfection:

Do not regard as unseemly our comparison of [the true dress of the prophets] to the conduct of the Sufis, for the latter imitate the prophets [of Israel] and walk in their footsteps...

And:

Thou art aware of the ways of the ancient saints [awliyâ'] of Israel, which are not or but little practised among our contemporaries, that have no become the practice of the Sufis of Islam...

He even tried to impose the Muslim form of worship on the Jews of Egypt (e.g. lining up in rows and bowing down) - but got resistance to it.

Topics uncovered due to lack of time

  • Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1021-c.1058) and Neoplatonism
  • Judah haLevi (c.1075-1141) and Al-Ghazali (1058-1111)
  • Philosophy: Maimonides (c.1135-1204), Al-Farabi (c.870-950) and Avicenna (Ibn Sina, 980-1037).
    • - Moses or Muḥammad?
    • - The motive for the Mishneh Torah
  • Averroës (Ibn Rushd, 1126-1198) and his influence
  • Abulafia, Lurianic Kabbalah and Ḥasidism - letters, saints and solitude.

Islam

Date: 2006-01-23 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
My grandma and mom always told me that Mohammed was an analphabet. But maybe he could read and write a bid. I heard that he thought he knows the Torah better than the Jewish people and claimed to be a prophet. The Jewish people did not agree with him, of course, saw him as a blasphemer. That is why he fell out with them. As you said he did not want to accept the schoolars teaching either. When he is not literate how can he understand them? He changed a lot according to his believe. Maybe that is why every character is suddenly Muslim and Ishmael is the most important son. I guess he did not even know that he was Egyptian and that Egyptian had their very own culture and language which died out. He invented the "Holy War" (it is in the Qoran) and fought against the Jews and tried to force everybody to convert to the Islam. Muslims, who believe in all this, won't want to hear that, of course.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-23 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
Maybe that is why every character is suddenly Muslim and Ishmael is the most important son. I guess he did not even know that he was Egyptian and that Egyptian had their very own culture and language which died out.

Ishmael is not Egyptian in the Bible, he's half-Egyptian, the son of an Egyptian expatriate handmaiden and her Hebrew master!

He invented the "Holy War" (it is in the Qoran) and fought against the Jews and tried to force everybody to convert to the Islam. Muslims, who believe in all this, won't want to hear that, of course.

I don't know enough about early Islamic history, but for most of Islamic history, that has not been the case. Muslims want everyone to become Muslim, of course, but they do not force them. In such places as Spain during the Golden Age, Christians and Jews could live free of persecution. They were, however, subject to a tax on non-believers, so there was a financial incentive to convert, but I don't think you can call that forcing anyone.

The attitude that non-Muslims must be convert has only been other than a minority view for limited periods in history, I belief.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
I am talking about Mohammed and how he behaved and not how Muslims later behaved. Now they have a less tolerant view. If they were more tolerant Muslims and Jews could live happily together in Israel and there won't be a war. Mohammed invented the "Holy War". I know many people are not able to write nor read either and don't know the Qoran and some of those not literate people turn everything upside down and make is worse. In Iran where they don't know Arabic can't understand a word of the Qoran. Muslims do not expect anybody to be literate and educated. You just need to say one sentence to become Muslim without any further knowledge. I understand very well that my family and maybe even more people are not believing in it or just don't take it seriously.
I know that Ishmael had a Hebrew father and an Egyptian mother. But he was brought up as an Egyptian. His mother got him an Egyptian wife. My point was that the Muslims don't know anything.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
I tried to explain to a Muslim the Jewish strict kosher law which animals are allowed. She did not understand it as they don't have those strict laws. Camels are allowed to eat in Islam. They don't know the basic rules nor how to shecht an animal the right way. They don't have a professional educated Shochet. I talked with someone from Yakar about it. That is why Hallel meat is not kosher. It shows again that Mohammed did not understand the Torah and Jewish laws.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
Of course they don't. Why should they have, and why should he have? Muḥammad was not trying to implement Judaism. The religion he founded has strands of Jewish material in it, but it's not Judaism itself!

Halāl merely requires that the animal is slaughtered with a sharp knife. This is less stringent than the demands of כשרות, hence kosher meat is halāl, but halāl meat not kosher.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 03:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
Why on earth did Mohammed wanted to be accepted as a Prophet by the Jews if he did not understand anything?

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
Did you know when a Muslim man marries a woman she is automatically regarded as a Muslim and everything she got including her child is the property of the man? Western people who don't know anything about this rule are don't understand their husband's behaviour and absolutely shocked. That is why my mom always said I should never marry a muslem and certainly not convert to Islam. I would never dream of it.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 04:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
You've got it the wrong way around. He wanted to be accepted as Prophet by the Jews because he did not understand Judaism. If he had, he would have realised it was a complete non-starter.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
That does not make sense at all. I learnt he claimed to know the Torah better than the Jews and therefore they rejected him as a Prophet. He cannot be one if he does not know anything.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
Since when does knowing anything about Judaism have anything to do with genuineness in being a prophet? True, some prophets were learned, but prophecy is normally defined as indicating communication from G-d.

From the Jewish point of view, of course Muḥammad fails the Deuteronomy-13 test. But from his own point of view, Judaism was not the be-all and end-all of communication from G-d to Man. Muḥammad lived in a world, after all, where millions of people lived by a religion whose core prophet flatly contradicted the G-d-given tenets of Judaism. Yet because he (Jesus) is accepted as a prophet by his followers, before looking into the contradictions with the Old Testament, Christians do not have a problem with accepting that, to use a Jewish way of putting it, אלו ואלו דברי אלוקים חיים: these and these are both words of the living G-d.

At Mt Sinai, the Israelites said נעשה ונשמע: we will do and we will listen. The order of these phrases is significant. Most people do not become religious by sitting down and considering a religion rationally. Instead, they react to it on a gut level. Only once you have the faith to sustain your beliefs if you run into difficulty do people look into their theology rationally.

That's the way I see it, at least.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-25 01:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
You are wrong on Jesus behalf. He was a Jew and was not teaching anything new. The term "Old Testament" was invented later by the Greeks or Romans. They changed the original teaching and wrote the stories in their own way. Everything got changed so much that it was not the original anymore. You might be right with Mohammed. He just had his own idea what a prophet was.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-25 05:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
Just to ad. They did not write the "Old Testament" again but made the so-called "New Testament" which is from a Jewish point an offence. There lots of negative description of Jews written by Greeks or Romans. Meanwhile some intelligent literate Christians admitted that I mean the negative bids.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-25 10:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
Just to ad. They did not write the "Old Testament" again but made the so-called "New Testament" which is from a Jewish point an offence.

But not from their own point of view, and the point I was making above was arguing from the Christians' point of view!

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-25 10:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
Not so. The Torah clearly validates divorce, for example (recognising that people are only human and not all marriages work out), and Jesus overrules this, banning divorce except for adultery.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-26 01:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
That is an invention of the Greek and Roman church and not of the actual Jewish leader at that time.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-26 01:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
Try consulting the text before you make pronouncements like that. Matthew 5:31-2, also 19:8-9:
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Mark 10:11-12:
And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
This is Jesus speaking in both cases.

comment

Date: 2006-01-26 02:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
Ok, you looked it up. It was written later by Greeks and Romans. I don't know if this is not just put into his mouth. You never know. Those books were indeed written much later than Jesus' time. I was told about 100 years later. I just find it strange that the Evangelical movement which developed from Martin Luther's reform allows divorce and that everybody can marry as well.

Re: comment

Date: 2006-01-26 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
I don't know why you seem to eager to put down other religions. Yes, the Gospels were written between forty and seventy years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, but at least they were written down by people who actually saw the events described in them. In that respect they are miles better than the Jewish Torah, which (Orthodox views aside) was written down in even its source texts centuries after the events described in it.

How accurate the the Gospels are I don't know; but I don't get the impression they generally take liberties. But regardless of whether they did or not is irrelevant to my point. To the early adopters of Christianity, what the Gospels said is the word of Jesus, and Jesus was G-d made Man; and - at least after Paul of Tarsus had transformed Christianity from teachings intended for Jews into a religion intended for Gentile and Jew alike - would be exposed to, and consider, Jesus' teachings, as described in the Gospel, way ahead of anything in the Torah.

Re: comment

Date: 2006-01-26 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
I don't want to put down all religions. I just want to point out the bad bids and why there is so much intolerance from two particular sides. There are more religions then Islam and Christianity. I wish I could tear out the part of the "Holy War" in the Quoran and I wish even more to tear out the Jesus executing story which accuse the Jews of having him killed. It has very much a Roman colour and I don't believe that Jews wrote that. Leo Trepp was trying to give historical proofs in one of his books why the story was made up and cannot be true. Lots of things could have prevented if they were simply told the human laws.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 04:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
I am talking about Mohammed and how he behaved and not how Muslims later behaved. Now they have a less tolerant view.

Yes, but this has really only been the case since the nineteenth century and the rise of wahhabism.

Mohammed invented the "Holy War".

AIUI Jihad in the Qur'an can equally well refer to the personal struggle in one's own life to live by Islamic values as going out and fighting people.

I know many people are not able to write nor read either and don't know the Qoran and some of those not literate people turn everything upside down and make is worse. In Iran where they don't know Arabic can't understand a word of the Qoran.

True, and mediaeval Christianity suffered from the same problem: the general populace did not understand Latin. That was part of why John Wycliffe got into so much in the fourteenth century for translating the Bible into English.

Muslims do not expect anybody to be literate and educated. You just need to say one sentence to become Muslim without any further knowledge.

The big difference between Islam and Christianity on the one hand, and Judaism on the other here, is that the former two are proselytising religions. Judaism, because it is a religion which makes it difficult to become Jewish, sets very high standards for entry into it.

I know that Ishmael had a Hebrew father and an Egyptian mother. But he was brought up as an Egyptian. His mother got him an Egyptian wife. My point was that the Muslims don't know anything.

What makes you think he was brought up as an Egyptian? Until his teenage years he was brought up by Abraham. Thereafter it says he became an archer in the desert - not in Egypt. And when it lists his sons, we see the names of Arabic tribes turning up: Nebaioth (the Nabataeans) and Kedar, for example. And it says:
They dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, which is before Egypt, as one goes toward Assyria"


Moreover, the identification of Ishmael as the ancestor of the Arabs was not one invented by Muḥammad out of nowhere; it was a Jewish identification, which he got from the Jews.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 04:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
Yes, I know he got it from the Jews but he turned the whole story upside down. So Ishmael was not anymore the one he was. In his story everybody was suddenly a Muslim.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-24 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
And how is this different from what Judaism does, taking Babylonian myths, such as the Flood, and Judaising them? I don't see any references to the original Utnapishtim or Gilgamesh in the story in Genesis. Yet they were there in the original form of the story. Even Dr Hertz, (former) Chief Rabbi of the British Empire (hence Orthodox) accepts this:
In its Babylonian form, Assyriologists tell us, the story seems to have been reduced to writing as early as the days of Abraham. It must have been known in substance to the children of Israel in Canaan and later in Egypt. But in the form in which, under God's Providence, the Patriarchs transmitted it to their descendants, it was free from all degrading elements, and became an assertion of the everlasting righteousness of the One God.
You seem to have an agenda in these comments, one of putting down Islam both in terms of attitude and in terms of it being a corrupt form of Judaism. I don't like the former at all; I'm not around to criticise any religion, or any form of one, here; if I wanted to, I could level just as many criticisms at Judaism. And as for the latter, I think you're misinterpreting what scriptures and religious practices, are all about. The stories of Ishmael in the Torah and Qur'an are not supposed to be an accurate historical record (though you will come across literalists who say so). Rather, they're part of (to use Roni's favourite term) Judaism's and Islam's founding myths. We write midrash around them, we use them to examine issues to do with good and bad conduct. We do not use them as anthropological tools to study the societies they are set in.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-25 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
At least the Jews know where they got the stories from or some of them. They are still more literate. I know that Jewish stories are not necessarily true or really happened but Jewish people different opinions on that. You can't take it literatly.
You just left out some things e.g. why Mohammend fell out with the Jews. I did not mean to offend here. I am sorry.

Re: Islam

Date: 2006-01-25 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lethargic-man.livejournal.com
At least the Jews know where they got the stories from or some of them. They are still more literate.

This was certainly true for the time of Muḥammad.

You just left out some things e.g. why Mohammend fell out with the Jews. I did not mean to offend here. I am sorry.

I did not feel it was germane to the point I was making.

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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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