Judeo-Christian America and the Muslim Community

As we all may know, the legislation of those that came before us is legislation for us as long as it does not conflict with our beliefs or divinely dictated rulings. There is a wealth of information in the books of tafsir and Athar of the Salaf that is found originally in the Israeliyyat.

That said, collecting passages of the bible (as well as some of the history of the church and its role in the formation of America) would be a great way for Muslims to actually learn some respect for their Christian and Jewish neighbors, learn about the continuity of revelation, and become exposed to the religious tradition that is embodied in Christian literature. Instead of bashing them with the mistakes we can find common ground them with the blessings of it, and show them that the our faith is as mentioned in al-Maidah verse 48:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقاً لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِناً عَلَيْهِ

(and we have revealed to you the book confirming
that which was sent before it and testifying to them…)

From the tafsir of this verse is that “…testifying to them…” (wa muhayminana alayhi) means that the Quran testifies to those that which came before it, that which agrees with it is truth, and that which goes against it is falsehood (see Ibn Kathir).

Sometimes I think of the extreme opinions that many individual Muslims have of others, and that the reason that this may be is because:

(1) They do not realize the humanity of those people

(2) They do not realize the morality of those people (or at least the moral standing of some of their ancestors)

(3) Their respective cultures are ones that emerged out of something other than the Judeo-Christian tradition, and because of that they look at all other religious groups in the polarized terms that they see their co-cultural religionists.

They cannot see except in very black and white terms and recognize that many people of other faiths, especially those of the Judeo-Christian tradition, are closer to us morally, ethically, and religiously than others. This is why the people of the book were given special mention in the Quran. Take for example the Ten Commandments. Ten principles that mirror many if not all similar Islamic concepts in our religion, yet I doubt that many Muslims even know the significance of them, or even realize that The Quran contains the same or similar.

This obviously will be perceived as a problem in light of the hadith of Umar “If Musa was alive he would find no respite except to follow that which I was sent with.“This hadith, while made Hasan by Ibn Hajar and al-Albani, many others that proceeded them considered it weak. I ascribe to the latter opinion, due to the weakness in its chain, as well as its contradiction of the numerous if not countless instances of the Sahabah themselves using narrations from the people of the book for tafsir, based on the Prophet’s saying “Relate from the people of the book; there is no harm in that, but do not deny nor affirm it.” So there is an obvious difference between using their texts to gain an understanding of the historical context of a faith and how they form their belief and practice, and using their texts for personal guidance as if Islamic texts were not guidance enough.

Muslims need to be more understanding and accepting of other faith communities. We need to teach our communities how to better relate to their neighbors. In light of the fact that immigration to the states from Muslim lands is not dying down even in light of post 9-11 conditions we need proactive methods of teaching out communities how to align themselves with the best of that their neighbors have to offer. Respecting other faiths and their texts is a religious imperative, and we should know enough about them so as to do so accurately.

Abu Dawud narrates from Ibn ‘Umar (#4451):

A group of Jews came to the Prophet… they placed a pillow for him to sit on. He said “Bring me the Torah.” They brought the Torah to him and he removed the pillow from underneath him and placed the Torah upon it.

He then said “I believe in you, and in the one that revealed you.”…

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