Let’s begin by referring to the following excerpts from what appears to be a ground-breaking development:
“…In what is being hailed as an “unprecedented” event, a senior Saudi Arabian researcher has had an article published in an Israeli journal--in Hebrew.
The essay aims to correct what its author, Prof. Mohammed Ibrahim Alghbban, head of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Hebrew Studies at the Department of Modern Languages and Translation at King Saud University in Riyadh, calls 'erroneous misperceptions about the origins of Islam and distorted understanding of manuscripts’ written by the Prophet Muhammad…Alghbban writes that Islam’s founder did not clash with Jews on religious grounds, rather only on politics…”
While it certainly is good news to hear about Arab scholars learning the Hebrew language, teaching it to others (for perhaps good and not-so-good reasons), and more, Alghbban’s assessment appears to be a whitewash of the actual Jihad waged against Medina’s (the second holiest city in Islam) founders--Jews--who fled the earlier Roman wars for their independence in Judea and escaping into the nearby Arabian Peninsula for refuge.
Jews had a long history in the Arabian Peninsula prior to the birth of Muhammad in the 7th century C. E.
Yemen had several Jewish kings in the centuries leading up to Muhammad’s era, and over a thousand years earlier, the Queen of Saba--Sheba--who visited King Solomon, legends say, married him, ruled over southern Arabia and Ethiopia as well.
The Saudi professor claims that Muhammad’s problems with the Medina Jews stemmed only from political concerns.
The problem is that any student of Islam knows, however, that Muhammad was as much a political as a religious leader--and those who opposed him, in either of those categories, often wound up beheaded or enslaved.
During Muhammad’s flight (Hijra) from previously fellow pagan enemies in Mecca to the date palm oasis founded centuries earlier by Jews fleeing Roman wars in Judea, Muhammad came closely in touch with the latter and their unique religious beliefs.
Abraham, G-d, Jerusalem, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, the Angel Gabriel, the Temple (of Solomon) Mount, Hebron, etc. and so forth had, however, absolutely no meaning to pagan Arabs.
While there was also some contact with Christians, it is no accident that Islam’s Qur’an looks like a revised, Arabized version of the Hebrew Bible. Not a few famous ancient and modern scholars have noted this. After Muhammad’s sojourn with Medina’s Jews (there were pagan Arabs living there too), Muhammad had his followers worship facing Jerusalem (the qibla).
While Arabs/Muslims claim Muhammad learned all of this via personal conversations with the (Hebrew Bible’s ) Angel Gabriel, “perhaps” the Jews themselves also had some role in his religious enlightenment. Again, ancient and modern Arab historians have long spoken of this connection.
Note: Of all places in the world, it was the Jews’ Temple Mount in the Jews' Jerusalem (the entire city, “Zion,” considered by Jews as a holy place since, some 3,000 years ago, David--born in Bethlehem, crowned King of Israel in Hebron, etc.–bought it from the Jebusites) that was named the site of Muhammad’s alleged flight to Heaven upon his winged horse with the head of a woman, Al-Buraq.
That’s the basis for the Muslim claim to Jerusalem--besides their conquest, colonization, and settlement of it and the land of Israel by Muhammad’s imperial/caliphal successors, who burst out of the Arabian Peninsula and conquered numerous lands and peoples in all directions.
Since this subject is very much a "hot potato," also recall that no Arab/Muslim conquering empire ever made Jerusalem its capital, and no independent state or other entity existed in the land of the Jews after the final Roman conquest of Judea in 135 C.E. in the wake of the Jews’ second major revolt for freedom. That’s when the Emperor Hadrian, to try to end Jewish hopes for independence once and for all, renamed Judea after the Jews’ well-known ancient, historic enemies, the invading “Sea People” from the Greek islands around Crete…the Philistines: Syria Palaestina--“Palestine.”
While it's a good development learning that Arab scholars are learning Hebrew (and hopefully some relevant Jewish history as well while they’re at it), I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to teach their students what you just read above--all validly-documented by the leading ancient Roman historians themselves.
Open here to see one of numerous Roman coins of conquest minted in honor of their subjugation of Iudaea/Judea (not “Palestine”) and check out the following accounts by the Roman historians, Tacitus and Dio Casius, about these events here.
Gerald A. Honigman is an educator who has done extensive doctoral studies in Mid-East Affairs and has conducted counter-Arab propaganda programs for college youth. He gives lectures and participates in debates around the U.S. Read his new book to be found at http://q4j-middle-east.com.