Ramadan Koran lesson: Curse Jews and Christians 17-times daily

It is Ramadan month and the message to Muslims—via didactic analysis of Koran 1:7—is the requirement to be an “essence” isolated and distinct from non-Muslims, abetted by obsessive, monotonous daily repetition of a verse cursing Jews and Christians.

Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, | updated: 06:40

Prof. Andrew Bostom
Prof. Andrew Bostom
צילום: INN:AB

PART 1 of 2

As reported by the indispensable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), esteemed Islamic scholar, and “Spiritual Guide” to the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi provided a Ramadan Koranic “homily”, of sorts, on May 14, 2019. In essence, Qaradawi merely re-affirmed for Muslims the classical-cum-modern mainstream ramifications of a Koranic verse [Koran 1:7] votaries of Islam recite 17-times per day, during their requisite 5 prayer times, and the subdivisions of those prayer sessions.

Notwithstanding what is a rather anodyne reminder to Muslims, the contents of Qaradawi’s statements will be “shocking” to those who are completely uninformed about Islam, or have chosen to understand the creed exclusively through the prism of Muslim and non-Muslim apologists, alike.

Moreover, despite Qaradawi’s mainstream scholarly and cultural bona fides—vis-à-vis authoritative Islamic teaching across a 13 century continuum, and resultant normative, “Sharia thirsty” Muslim attitudes within contemporary Islamdom—predictable efforts will be made to marginalize Qaradawi and his “homily” because of the prominent theologian’s ties to the allegedly “radical” Muslim Brotherhood.

 Accordingly, this very illuminating teachable moment may well be be squandered. My fervent hope against hope is to avert that outcome by reviewing Qaradawi’s Ramadan Koranic lesson, and placing it squarely within the context of canonical Islam as taught since the advent of the Muslim faith.  

Qaradawi opens his discussion with a query which he immediately answers, invoking Koran 47:17:

“Who does not need Allah's guidance? The Muslim always needs Allah's guidance so that the paths will be clear for him and so that he does not become confused... Furthermore, he also needs additional guidance [from Allah, for it is said], ‘And those who are guided – He increases them in guidance and gives them their righteousness.’ (Koran 47:17)…”

Continuing, Qaradawi observes that the Muslim must be directed on to this appropriate course “by Allah”, as set forth in the Koran’s opening sura, or chapter (sura 1, “The Fatiha”):

“From the concluding verse [Koran 1:7] of Surat [Al-Fatiha, which states] 'The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray', it transpires that the people are divided into three types with regard to this path…”

Qaradawi then elucidates the three religious groups or “types” Koran 1:7 specifies, beginning with the “righteous”—Muslims—who embraced Islam:

“The first type are those who were granted [Allah's guidance] and they are those to whom Allah has shown favor: the prophets, the saints, the martyrs and the righteous, as they are listed in Surat Al-Nisaa [Koran 4:69]. They are the ones whom Allah guided, who knew the truth [i.e. Islam]. [The truth] became clear to them and they distinguished between it and straying and falsehood, and therefore they went on the path out of awareness and became men [of truth], in their knowledge, faith, deeds, and preaching.”

The second type are those who evoked [Allah’s] anger. They are those who recognized the truth and nevertheless did not take its path, and even stubbornly opposed it, and were hostile towards the Prophet [Muhammad] after the straight path became clear to them. [They did this] out of reliance on falsity, love of this world, following urges, blind fanaticism, arrogance, or jealousy... and thus they deserve Allah's wrath. These are the Jews, (emphasis added) for whom the explanation is presented in Surat Al-Maida [Koran 5:60, which states]: ‘Those whom Allah has cursed and with whom He became angry and made of them apes and pigs and slaves of Taghut – these are worse in position and further astray from the sound way’...”

“The third type are those who were struck with ideological blindness, who did not distinguish between truth and falsehood, between the straight path and straying, and did not bother to seek the truth. Accordingly, they lived and died astray, far from the truth [i.e. Islam], and for this they deserve to have straying attributed to them. They are the Christians, about whom Allah said [in Koran 5:77]: ‘Do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before and misled many and have strayed from the soundness of the way'... With regard to [those who have gone astray,] for example among the polytheists, [Allah] said [in Koran 6:140]: 'They have gone astray and were not [rightly] guided’...”

The crux of Qaradawi’s message to Muslims—via his didactic analysis of Koran 1:7—is their requirement to maintain an “essence” isolated and distinct from non-Muslims, abetted by obsessive, monotonous daily repetition of this verse:

“Islam has taken care, by means of its laws and precepts, that the Muslim identity will be separate and differentiated [from that of the non-Muslims] in its internal and external essence. This is so it will not be easy to mingle it with all the other [non-Muslim identities, lest it] lose its unique traits. This is the significance of the Muslim's daily prayer that recurs at least 17 times: ‘The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not [the path] of those who have evoked [Your] anger or [the path] of those who are astray’ …”

Qaradawi’s concluding remarks pay homage to Ibn Taimiya [Taymiyya; d. 1328], the classical Middle Ages theologian also “held in high esteem,” notably, by the Egyptian “modernist” Muhammad Abduh [d. 1905]:

“On this matter, Sheikh Al-Islam ibn Taymiyya compiled his valuable book, The Necessity of the Straight Path in Distinction from the People of Hell. The straight path is a separate way [for the Muslims]; it is not the path of the Jews, who have evoked Allah's anger, nor of the Christians, who have gone astray, and also not of those who recognize the truth but have not gone in its path... This is the separate path, the path of truth, the path of Allah, the path of the believers. The Muslim calls on his Lord every day to guide him, bring him success, and set him on this straight path, ‘the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor’ .”

Thirteen centuries of authoritative Koranic commentaries on Koran 1:7 comport squarely with Qaradawi’s gloss.

Professor Andrew Rippin, the late (d. 2016) doyen of contemporary Koranic studies, translated two of the earliest commentaries on Koran 1:7, by Ibn Abbas (d. 687), and Muqatil ibn Sulayman (d. 767).  Both commentators of course assert that Islam represents “the straight path” in Koran 1:6-1.7. Ibn Abbas, “the father of Koranic exegesis,” and ostensibly a contemporary “infant prodigy” companion of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, provides this gloss on the references to “wrath” and “astray” in Koran 1:7:

“ ‘Not those against whom You have sent your wrath’: other than the religion of the Jews against whom You have been wrathful and have abandoned… ‘Nor those who are astray’: nor the religion of the Christians, who err away from Islam.’

Muqatil ibn Sulayman states,

“ ‘Not those against whom You have sent Your wrath’: that is, a religion other than the Jewish one, against which Allah was wrathful. Apes and pigs were made of them. [Note: this is a reference to Koran 5:60; see later commentaries, below] ‘Nor those who are astray.’ Allah is saying: ‘And not the religion of the polytheists,’ that is, the Christians.”

The polymath al-Tabari (838-923), was a towering early Islamic historian, theologian and jurisconsult, who authored a monumental commentary on the Koran. Tabari cites traditions of Muhammad (i.e., hadith) which claim the Jews engendered Allah’s anger, to establish his conclusion that Jews are referenced in both Koran 1:7, and Koran  5:60: “Whom Allah has cursed, and with whom he is angered, and made some of them apes and swine.” Repeating this reasoning to prove that the people mentioned in Koran 5:77 are those described as astray in Koran 1:7, Tabari cites traditions that identify the Christians as having gone astray. Al-Qurtubi’s (d. 1273) great classical commentary “The Legal Rulings of the Koran,” reiterates Tabari’s view, stating plainly,

“…[T]hose with anger on them are the Jews and the misguided are the Christians. That was explained by the Prophet, my Allah bless him and grant him peace, in the hadith of Adi ibn Hatim and the story of how he became a Muslim transmitted by Abu Dawud and at-Timirdhi in his Collection [of hadith]. The explanation is also attested to by the Almighty [i.e., elsewhere in the Koran] who says about the Jews, ‘They brought down anger from Allah upon themselves’ ([Koran] 2:61, 3:112) and He [Allah] says, ‘Allah is angry with them’ (48:6) He says about the Christians that they, ‘were misguided previously and have misguided many others, and are far from the right way.’ (5:77)”

Ibn Kathir (d. 1373) was a renowned historian and traditionalist of Syria during the reign of the Bahri Mamluks, compiling a seminal history of Islam, as well as an important Koranic commentary, still widely used. His commentary once again references Koranic verses 5:60 and 5:77,  and the same hadith reported by ibn Hatim, explaining the meaning of verse 1:7, thusly:

"These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. … the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians. … We should also mention that both the Christians and the Jews have earned the anger and are led astray, but the anger is one of the attributes more particular of the Jews. Allah said about the Jews, ‘Those (Jews) who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath’ (Sura 5:60). The attribute that the Christians deserve most is that of being led astray, just as Allah said about them, ‘Who went astray before and who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the right path’ (Sura 5:77)… Imam Ahmad [Hanbal] recorded that ‘Adi bin Hatim said, … he [Muhammad] said: ‘Those who have earned the anger are the Jews and those who are led astray are the Christians.’"

Tafsir al-Jalalayn, meaning “The Commentary of the Two Jalals,” was named after its two Egyptian authors, Al-Suyuti (1445-1505), a brilliant multidisciplinary scholar, and his mentor Jalalu’d-Din al-Mahalli(1389-1459). The nonpareil contemporary Dutch Islamologist, Johannes J.G. Jansen (d. 2015) , notes in his treatise, “The Interpretation of the Koran in Modern Egypt,” Tafsir al-Jalalayn remains one of the most popular, as well as the most significant Koranic commentaries in Egypt. As Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains, Muslims are told in Koran 1:6, the verse preceding Koran 1:7,

“ ‘Guide us on the straight path,’ means, direct us to it.”

The commentary continues,

“It is followed by its appositive [in verse 7], ‘…the Path of those You have blessed,’ with guidance, ‘not of those with anger on them,’ who are the Jews, “nor of the misguided,’ who are the Christians. The grammatical structure here shows that those who are guided are not the Jews or the Christians. Allah Almighty knows best what is correct…”

Ma’ariful Qur’an, a definitive modern Koranic commentary, was written by Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi (1898-1976), former Grand Mufti of (pre-Partition) India, and founder of Darul Ulum Karachi. In addition to writing over 100 works explaining the Koran and Islamic law, Mufti Muhammad Shafi broadcasted Koranic commentaries on Radio Pakistan for a number of years. His modern gloss is concordant with thirteen centuries of commentaries on Koran 1:7, highlighting the strident Antisemitic, and accompanying Christianophobic messaging of this verse, as taught to Muslims by authoritative Islamic instructors.

"Those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people, who in spite of being quite familiar with the commandments of Allah willfully go against them out of a calculated perversity or in the service of their desires, or, in other words, who are deficient in obeying divine injunctions. This, for example, was the general condition of the Jews who were ready to sacrifice their religion for the sake of a petty worldly gain, and used to insult and sometimes even to kill their prophets. As for (those who go astray), they are the people who, out of ignorance or lack of thought, go beyond the limits appointed by Allah, and indulge in excess and exaggeration in religious matters. This, for example, has generally been the error of the Christians who exceeded the limits in their reverence for a prophet and turned him into a god. On the one hand, there is the rebelliousness of the Jews who not only refused to listen to the prophets of Allah but went on to kill them; on the other hand, there is the excessive zeal of the Christians who deified a prophet."

Finally, “The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia” is a modern compendium of analyses written by 43 Muslim and non-Muslim mainstream academic experts, edited by Oliver Leaman, and published by Routledge, New York, 2006. These excerpts from p. 614 serve as an irrefragable “summary verdict”—consistent will all the previous evidence marshalled—on how Muslims and non-Muslims, both, are to understand Koran 1:7, the Fatiha’s last verse:

“…[T]he phrase in the daily prescribed prayers” ‘Guide us to the straight path, to the path of those you have blessed, not of those who incurred [Your] wrath, nor of the misguided (al-Fatiha, 1:5-7.)’…mention two groups of people but do not say who they are. The Prophet [Muhammad] interpreted those who incurred God’s wrath as the Jews and the misguided as the Christians. [Tirmidhi: Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3954].

"The Jews, we are told killed many of their prophets [see Koran 2:91 and 4:155; and in the traditions, Sunni and Shiite, the Jews are accused of a conspiratorial poisoning of Muhammad that caused his death, while the Shiite traditions claim Jews are further responsible for the deaths of Ali and his son Husayn], and through their character and materialistic tendencies [usurious 2:2754:161; greedy/hedonistic 2:96; envious 2:109; hard-hearted 2:74; liars 2:78] have contributed much to moral corruption, social upheaval and sedition in the world [Koran 5:32335:64] …[T]hey were readily misled and incurred both God’s wrath and ignominy [2:612:903:112].

"As for the Christians…over time they succumbed to the influence of those who had already deviated from the chosen path. By the time Christianity came to be accepted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, many Christians had long gone astray and had been deprived of their original scripture…By interpreting the phrase “not of those who incurred [Your] wrath, nor of the misguided” the Prophet identified them and clarified in what way and by what beliefs and deeds a man incurs God’s wrath. This is a warning for the Muslims not to follow in the footsteps of the Jews and Christians.”

(Part II will be posted tomorrow)