Rabbi Oury Cherki
Rabbi Oury CherkiNatan Bar

Rabbi Oury Cherki, in an open letter from Israel to religious leaders of Islam, stated: “Judaism and Islam can find common ground.”

The ground-breaking letter addressed to the religious leaders of Islam was written by the great Rabbi Oury Cherki, Chairman of Brit Olam Institutions, entitled: “A Bridge between Faiths: What does Judaism think of Islam?” In the halachic letter, Rabbi Cherki states that “it is possible to undertake common action between Islam and Judaism as religions believing in One God,” that Jews could enter mosques peacefully, and that “Judaism has no intention to convert Muslims, nor to kill or subjugate them.” According to Rabbi Cherki, building a bridge between the believers in God’s Oneness found in the religions of the sons of Abraham requires Islam to accept the validity of Judaism and to accept the rights of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, as they appear in the Quran.

The Rabbinical letter sent by Rabbi Cherki to dozens of religious leaders in the Islamic world opens with the words: “On the 7t of October 2023, Hamas attacked the citizens of Israel. Over 1,200 children, women and elderly, Jews and people of all religions were brutally murdered, hundreds were taken captive, and some were murdered in captivity. This attack was carried out by an Islamic movement, acting in the name of Islam. This fact should lead us to reflect more deeply on the relationship between Judaism and Islam, in the present and more importantly, in the future. I am writing this letter to the leaders of Islam with the hope that it will bring greater mutual understanding and perhaps even peace between the sons of Abraham, the descendants of Israel and the descendants of Ishmael.”

In the detailed letter, the Rabbi outlines Judaism’s attitude toward Islam: “For Judaism, the appearance of a new religion that recognizes God’s oneness and the Noahide laws, was a cause of great interest, and many expressions of affinity with Judaism could be found in the initial period of Islam, despite the difficult and violent conflicts of those days.”

“Islam and Judaism are in agreement regarding the belief in monotheism, the negation of God’s corporeality and the rejection of idolatry. Judaism recognizes that Islam worships one God, despite the differences in the understanding of the meaning of this oneness, and this recognition has practical implications. One of them is that while Jewish law forbids a Jew from entering a place of idol worship, it allows entry to a mosque. This is accepted by all rabbis, myself included. We have no desire to convert Muslims to Judaism, nor to kill or subjugate them,” he writes.

Rabbi Cherki, who leads the Brit Olam Organization, which instructs communities of Noahides around the world, explains in the letter: “From Judaism’s perspective, all people are obligated to accept and fulfill the seven commandments that God gave to all humanity, referred to in the Jewish tradition as “The Seven Noahide Laws.” These laws are: the prohibition of idolatry, the prohibition of cursing God, the prohibition of murder, the prohibition of sexual deviancy, the prohibition of theft, the prohibition of eating meat torn from a living animal, and the positive obligation to establish courts of justice and a penal system. Islam accepts these commandments in principle, and therefore Judaism may accept Islam as a sister religion – and indeed we are both descendants of Abraham. At the same time, Islam has not yet clearly affirmed these principles as obligatory toward non-Muslims and this equivocation has been a blemish on Islam throughout its history, expressed once again by the events of October 7th.”

The Rabbi clarifies in his letter to Islam that: “God has not commanded the Jews to convert non-Jews, but rather to accept only those who desire to join the Jewish people out of their own initiative. In contrast, Islam aspires to impose its rule on the entire world. The use of violence in orderto further the spread of faith is considered entirely illegitimate by Judaism. However, from a Jewish perspective, the original intent of Islam could potentially be expressed by Abraham’s initial phase, in which he built a movement for ethical monotheism, gathering tens of thousands of followers before he was commanded to found a particular nation.”

“God made a covenant with the people of Israel, so that they would serve as a model of a holy nation for all humanity, a model of collective holiness. The sons of Ishmael were blessed with fertility and abundance in order to fulfill the mission of spreading the worship of the true God to all people as individuals, a model of individual holiness. There is here a division of labor of sorts between the sons of Abraham. The sons of Ishmael were given the role of spreading the knowledge of the One God and His ethical commandments to a larger number of people, while the sons of Isaac and Jacob were given the role of founding a model of collective holiness, based on the covenant with God to make them a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” to serve as a model for emulation for all humanity,” says the Rabbi. “In light of the crisis of values in many societies in our times, cooperation between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ishmael could bring great blessing to the world and promote the belief in God’s oneness and his ethical commandments.”

The Rabbi also clarifies: “Alongside the above commonalities, many significant points of disagreement exist between Judaism and Islam. Therefore, for Islam to be truly accepted by Judaism as a legitimate religion for all peoples, three points must be agreed upon:

  • The recognition of Islam as a religion parallel to Judaism and not as a replacement and that the prophecy of Muhammad has not come to invalidate the Mosaic Torah.
  • Recognizing that the Torah is God’s word carries a message to all humanity. This requires abandoning the claim of corruption (Tahrif) so that Judaism will be acknowledged as the religion from which Islam developed.
  • The recognition of the divine promise that the Jewish people will return to their historic homeland and rule in it, as it says explicitly in the Quran."