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“Islam surely does not forbid friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims”

“Islam surely does not forbid friendship

between Muslims and non-Muslims”-Palazzi

Interviewed by: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Eminent Islamic Scholar Imam Shykh Abdul Haadi Palazzi of Italy was interviewed by the editor of Weekly Blitz recently on several important issues of confusions generated out of wrong interpretation of Koran, where the Muslim clerics regularly claim quoting a verse of Koran that relations between Muslim and Jews or Christians are forbidden. Meanwhile, we also received another comments from the Jewish point of view by Rabbi Sue Levy in United States. Considering this to be an important issue to be discussed with Islamic and Jewish scholars, who might open a new window of conception to the peace loving people in the world, we are publishing this extremely important interview for our readers:

Q: Muslim clerics regularly pronounce in their sermons quoting a verse of holy Koran saying that relations between Muslim and Jew or Muslim and Christian are completely forbidden. They qute the following verse:

5.51" : O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people."

What is your opinion on this point?

A: This quotation is based on a false translation, since the word "Awliya'", does not mean "friends", but rather "tutors". A correct translation is "O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for tutors. They are respectively tutors to each other. And whoso among you takes them for tutors is indeed one of them. Verily Allah guides not the unjust people".
The verse refers to a time when Islam was developing, and is an appeal to avoid considering it as a sort of sub-sect depending on Judaism or Christianity. "Do not take as tutors" means "Do not depend on them for your understanding of religion, for guidance in theology and ethics, etc." Apart from this, Islam surely does not forbid friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims, to the point that a Muslim man can take a Jewish or a Christian woman as his wife and mother of his children.
The Qur'an describes marriage as a relation of "intimate love and mercy" (mawaddah wa rahmah) and explains that this same relation can actually exist between a Muslim man and a Jewish or Christian woman. Were ordinary friendship with Jews and Christians forbidden, the Qur'an itself could never permit a relation of "intimate love and mercy" with those with whom friendship is not permissible.

Q: Would you kindly comment on the following verses which are used as instruments by the radical Islamist leaders to provoke anti Jew and Christian attitude?

A: I would like to first let your readers read the verses and then look into the explanations:

"3.112" : “Abasement is made to cleave to them (the Jews) wherever they are found, except under a covenant with Allah and a covenant with men, and they have become deserving of wrath from Allah, and humiliation is made to cleave to them; this is because they disbelieved in the communications of Allah and slew the prophets unjustly; this is because they disobeyed and exceeded the limits.” – Holy Koran.

Here is my explanation: If one reads the verses which precede this, one will easily realize that it does not refer to Jews in general, but to the those Jewish tribes which allied with the Pagan Arabs and helped them to persecute the Muslims. Interesting enough, scholars say that those tribes were not following Rabbinical Judaism, but the Sadducee school.

Now, look into another verses from the Holy Koran:

"5.82" : “Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists , and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly.”

And, here is my explanations: Here the problem is with modern English, which does not distinguish between You (singular  = thou) and You (plural). The Arabic uses the singular, and consequently the meaning is "thou (the Prophet Muhammad) will find", and not "You (the Muslims) will find". In the time of the Prophet Muhammad, while Christians were in majority supporting the Muslims, Jewish tribes were siding with those who persecuted them. After that period, the situation changed, to the point that most of persecutions of the Muslims were lead by Christians, not by Jews.
Let me put here another verses of Koran:
"9.30" : “And the Jews say: Uzair Œ  is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!” – Holy Koran

Here the Qur'an uses a particular grammatical construction "wa-qalati-l-Jahud" (literally "and it is said by Jews") and not "Al-Jahud qalu" (the Jews says). The correct translation should be "and some of the Jews say... and some of the Christians say...". Now considering Uzair/Ezra son of God was a belief which was limited to some Sadducee of Arabia, and never became widespread among Jews, while the belief in Jesus as son of God became common among the Christians, even if some Christians until now do not accept it.

And, finally, let us look in the Hadith, a body of traditions relating to Mohammed and now supplemental to the Koran: “He (Abu Hurayah ) reported the messenger of Allah as saying: The last hour will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, so that Jews will hide behind stones and trees and the Stone and the tree will say, O Muslim, O servant of God! There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.”

About this Hadith, my comment in the article in Israpundit, what I mentioned is: "it refers to the time when there existed an alliance between Jews and Muslims in Medina, and everything was giving the impression that that alliance was stable, and based on the need of a common defense against pagan Arabs. As the Hadith announces, that alliance was going to end, and actually, a few years after some Jewish tribes broke the alliance and sided with the pagan Arabs, they where defeated by the Muslims. By inserting that Hadith in its Charter, Hamas tried to de-contextualize the Hadith and to interpret it as containing a prescription of for fighting the Jews, while the Hadith itself contains no such prescription, but only a prophecy of what was going to happen."

We should also get proper explanations of the following holy verses of Koran:

"4.156-158" : “And for their unbelief and for their having uttered against Marium  a grievous calumny. And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. Nay! +Z&- Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.“ 

Here the Qur'an explains the difference between the Islamic and the Christian belief. In Islam, we refuse to believe that Jesus was crucified, and consider unacceptable the idea that God would permit evildoers to kill a Prophet of His in such a horrible way.

4.171" : “O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium  is only an apostle of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium  and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His apostles, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one God; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector.”

This is another clarification that the belief in Trinity is not part of the teachings of Jesus and incompatible with Monotheism.

"5.14" : And with those who say, We are Christians, We made a covenant, but they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of, therefore We excited among them enmity and hatred to the day of resurrection; and Allah will inform them of what they did.”

History proved how this announcement was correct. Christians fought among themselves more than they fought people of other religions, and this also depends on the circumstance that theological differences between the different Christian schools are so wide.

"5.18" : “And the Jews and the Christians say: We are the sons of Allah and His beloved ones. Say: Why does He then chastise you for your faults? Nay, you are mortals from among those whom He has created, He forgives whom He pleases and chastises whom He pleases; and Allah's is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, and to Him is the eventual coming.”

This is an appeal to people to understand that being a member of a certain religion as such is not enough to avoid the consequences of one's sins and the related punishment.

"5.69" : Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.”

That is the other side of the coin. If someone does what is good, he will receive from God the reward for his or her good, irrespective of the religion they belong to.

"5.72" : “Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah, He is the Messiah, son of Marium and the Messiah said: O Children of Israel! serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire; and there
shall be no helpers for the unjust.”

That is a major issue that distinguish Monotheism as accept by Muslims and Jews from Trinitarianism as believed by the main Christian confessions.

A Jewish response to these Holy Verses by Rabbi Sue Levy:

I would like to offer a response from a Jewish point of view to your question about the verses you cited from the Qur'an.

We Jews have a Torah that goes back almost 4000 years, first as an oral tradition and then in its written form. We believe that Moses acted almost like an electrical transformer. (And, for this I am grateful to my teacher Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.) If all the electric power in your city were suddenly to flow directly into your home, your wires would burn up. We need transformers to bring all that power down to the level of house current. And, if all of God's power and wisdom had suddenly coursed into the minds of those Jews wandering the wilderness of Sinai, they would have been shocked, utterly confused and unable to withstand the fullness of the Divine Presence.

So, Jews believe that Moses received all of God's revelation but then delivered to the people only what they were capable of understanding in their own time. We meet small children with knowledge at the level they are capable of understanding. Moses, we believe, met the Israelites in the wilderness on behalf of a God who wanted to bring them along one generation after another to more and more spiritual maturity, understanding and sophistication.

When the Torah was given to our ancestors, they had slaves. God could not have won their hearts and their loyalty by upsetting every social and cultural institution of their time. Instead, the Torah talked about the humanity with which one must treat servants. It states that no one person can truly own another person, because we all belong to God. And, the Torah insists that all servants be set free at the end of six years.

Now, thousands of years later, there are verses in the Torah that are as difficult for us to grapple with as your own questions about the verses speaking of the Jewish people in the Qur'an and Hadiths.

What has happened over time is that the ancient rabbis realized that a time had come when very few, if any, Jews actually held slaves, and they wanted to encourage an end to all servitude in the Jewish community. They certainly couldn't say that God make a mistake. That would have been anathema. They believed that God revealed a perfect Torah. What they did instead, was to legislate around it. They imposed so many conditions on slave-holding that it became too difficult, too expensive and too embarrassing for anyone to do it anymore.

They same is true of the verses about capital punishment. They ancient rabbis issued rulings (similar to a fatwa) detailing how many times a person would have to be warned that he was about to commit a capital offense, how many witnesses were needed at the warning, how one could assure that the accused was mentally competent to understand both the warning and the deed he was about to commit, how many witnesses had to be present when the crime was committed, how one became qualified to be a witness, etc. Finally, they arrived at the conclusion that, although God permitted capital punishment, any court that imposed the penalty more than once in fifty years was a "murderous court."

We have verses from very early in our own history about mixing with and befriending other nations. At that time our monotheism was a very fragile thing. Moses couldn't risk having the Israelites exposed to idolatry, ritual prostitution, eating from live animals and other aspects of the tribal cultures around them. He needed to keep the people isolated from all that to the best of his ability and to punish violators severely. It was legislation meant for a formative time in our history when the circumstances warranted it. And, the Torah said things about those pagan tribes which were unkind, but probably true at the time. Today, we are secure in our faith, and the only vestige of those commandments still observed is our system of dietary laws. These still function, in some ways, to keep us separate, at least at mealtimes. Even if we are eating with non-Jews, we are the ones who have to exercise care about eating in a holy way. (Please understand that, in the United States, this would almost always mean that we are sharing a meal with Christians. If is clear that our Muslim brothers and sisters also have laws about compassion towards animals and about what may and may not be eaten, and these are almost identical to our own.)

Our legal system, our jurisprudence is very similar to your own. It begins with holy words to tell us how God wants us to live, and from there both our peoples have worked to understand how best to do what the holy words say and how to understand what they mean.

Our Law is like a palm tree. It bends in the wind but doesn't break.

So, rather than be offended by the words you are citing, I would prefer to think of them as something that Allah needed, for some reason, in order to address the situation in the time of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH). One need not erase them from the Holy Qur'an any more than we would take an eraser to our Torah. One might simply stress the other verses that speak of justice and loving-kindness and refrain from reading the verses that lead us away from peace in public or from delivering inflammatory sermons about them.

There is an interesting analogy for us in our relationship to the Lutheran Church. Martin Luther lived in the generation after the onset of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 which resulted in the persecution, forced conversions, expulsion, and/or execution of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula.  Luther saw how the Catholic Church had treated the Jews and realized that it was not surprising that we didn't accept their savior, the one they called the God of Love. So, Luther reached out with an early attempt to win the hearts of Jews in a loving way. When we didn't accept his invitation to become Christians he became embittered and finally wrote a vicious essay against the Jewish people and the Jewish faith. In it, he recommended some of the same treatment of Jews which was later put into practice by Adolf Hitler before and during the Holocaust. A generation ago, the leadership of the Lutheran Church met in prayer and contrition and wrote a statement to acknowledge the role of Luther's statements and some of their church's teachings in the events that killed six million of our people, a third of all of us. Since that document was created, they have initiated programs of reconciliation and understanding with the Jewish people that are exemplary. We remember their history. They hated us. But we accept that Luther was preaching what he believed was God's will in and for a specific time and place and in the midst of specific cultural conditions which have not applied for centuries. We believe that the things he said about us were terrible wrong, but we also understand that those words tell us nothing at all about our Christian neighbors today. And, the great majority of those neighbors, in the United States are wonderful people.

Taking the long view of history, Jews have fared better in the treatment we have received from Muslims than in the treatment we have received from Christians. We are in a very difficult period in the relationship between the Am and the Ummah, but we have no reason to believe that it will always be this way.

Now, if we can all manage to keep Mr. Ahmadinejad's crazy hands away from the trigger, we might have a chance to allow history to unfold in God's good time. I can only believe in a God who wants peace among all the children of Ibrahim (Abraham). We are very truly brothers and sisters.

And, if you will permit me to have a humorous fantasy, let me suggest as a practical matter, that men have a very poor record at peacemaking. If someone would realize that it is women's work, our ladies would begin the discussion over a very large pot of halal/kosher chicken soup. We have much experience. Every time we separate two angry children and teach them to love each other we are making peace on Earth. We would share pictures of our children and remember that we all want them to grow up, to live well and never to live in fear.  

Conclusion by Blitz editor: Religion is for peace, and it came from the Almighty Allah (God) for the good of the mankind. But, very unfortunately, some religious radicals and clerics belonging to all the religious beliefs have continuously misinterpreted the Holy Verses of God to us, which led this world to unnecessary bloodshed, killing of innocent people and tears of children, widows and mothers. Taking the chance of such misinterpretations, evils like Adolph Hitler, Ossama Bin Laden or lately Ahmedinejad continues to appear on this earth to virtually turn our peaceful lives into hell. The only way for attaining global peace is interfaith understanding, which certainly will open the doors for all of us of peaceful coexistence in this world. Discussion opens people’s mind, and at least in this case, we saw, how the great Islamic Scholar like Shykh Abdul Haadi Palazzi or Jewish Rabbi Sue Levy excellently gave quite an extensive explanations to many of the un-answered confusions.

Posted on 22 Nov 2006 by Root

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