Is the Quran Hard on Jews?

Question and answer details
As-salaam, I am a new revert to Islam. I am from Jewish origin. My family is not very religious, so no problem. My problem is that the Quran is very hard on Jews! My family doesn’t know much about Islam and they are good people. I still love them very much. They are not as bad as the Quran says at all!! They are not Zionists! Even my grandparents, who are religious, they are kind and tender. They would never hurt any person. I can't stop loving them all. Also, I can't believe that Allah, the most merciful, would torture them as it is stated in the Quran. I wish I can invite my family to Islam, but I do not know how to do that. I am still new in Islam and learning. I am scared to show them the Quran, because if they read the bad things said about them, they will not take it. Please explain, maybe I misunderstand the situation of the Jews in the Quran. Thank you.
Shahul Hameed

As-salamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah sister Sarah,

Hope this answer finds you in the best of health and spirits.

First of all, let me convey to you my sincere brotherhood in Islam. In fact, it is not surprising for a Jew or a Christian to “revert” to Islam, in spite of all the hostility and ill will that prevail, in some situations and contexts between Muslims, on one hand and the followers of Judaism and Christianity on the other. A sincere and objective study of Judaism and Christianity should necessarily lead a person to the inevitable conclusion that Islam, as preached by Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the natural culmination of those two religions, and that the Quran is the Last Testament.

Now coming to your question, I would request you to look at the issue from the following point of view: In the Holy Quran, it is God Who is addressing all of us. He revealed His religion to all the prophets of old, and whenever the followers of those prophets deviated from the true path of divine guidance, God sent prophets to guide them aright. If we read the Books of the Old Testament, we find the prophets (and through them God) making very scathing attacks on the people who deviated from the teachings of the earlier prophets. For example, we find these verses rebuking the transgressions of the Children of Israel in the Book of Jeremiah (3: 8 – 10):

[And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery, I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.]

And again, Jeremiah (5: 7 - 8):

[How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses. They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbor's wife]

And now listen to Jesus rebuking the Israelites of his day in Matthew (23: 25-- 33):

[Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous and say: “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”
Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?]

Can any sensible reader find anti-Semitism here? If not, how can we accuse God of anti-Semitism in the Quran where also He rebukes the transgressors among the Children of Israel?

The approach of the Quran is clear: God admonishes the People of the Book, those people who were given scriptures, to return to their Books. We find that on many occasions, the doctors of the old religions have distorted the scripture for their own selfish purposes. So God admonishes them and warns them of the impending punishments awaiting them. We read in Jeremiah, chapter 8: 8 –-

[How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.]

Here the Prophet Jeremiah scolds those of the Children of Israel who made the Book of God false even by the use of a pen that distorts.

We see the same idea in the Quran too, where God scolds those people of the Book, who wrote their own verses in the Book of God and called them God’s. Can we say that God is being deliberately anti-Semitic here?

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, a renowned American Muslim scholar, writes on this topic:

“Taking a few passages from the Quran out of proper historical and textual context will not give a proper understanding of the religious scripture. This is not only true of the Quran but also of the Bible. Many passages from the Bible also criticize the Jews.
Read the Hebrew Bible, particularly Micah (chapter 3:1-12) and Hosea (chapter 8:1-14), in which these prophets condemned the Jews ‘who abhor justice and pervert all equity’ and who ‘build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong.’

These prophets cursed Israel as a ‘useless vessel among nations’ and called for the curse of God to ‘send a fire upon [Judah's] cities’ and to make Jerusalem ‘a heap of ruins.’ Prophet Ezekiel called Israel, ‘the house of rebels and a rebellious nation,’ (Ezek, chapter 2).

Similarly, in the Book of Deuteronomy (28:16-68), Moses warns the Jews that God ‘will send upon you curses, confusion, and frustration, in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your doings, because you have forsaken me’ (28:20).”

Now, read the following verses of the Quran, and judge for yourself, whether God in the Holy Quran, Surah 2, verse 40, is really anti-Semitic:

{O Children of Israel! call to mind the [special] favor which I bestowed upon you, and fulfill your covenant with Me as I shall fulfill My covenant with you, and fear none but Me.}

And then in Surah 2, verse 47:

{O Children of Israel! call to mind the [special] favor which I bestowed upon you, and that I preferred you to all others [for My message].}

Then in Surah 2, verse 83:

{And remember We took a covenant from the Children of Israel [to this effect]: Worship none but Allah; treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need; speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and give Zakat. Then did ye turn back, except a few among you, and ye backslide [even now].}

Then, please read in Surah 2, verse 246:

{Has thou not turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after [the time of] Moses? they said to a prophet [that was] among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we may fight in the cause of Allah." He said: "Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that ye will not fight?" They said: "How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah has full knowledge of those who do wrong.}

Also, read in Surah 5, verse 70:

{We took the covenant of the Children of Israel and sent them messengers, every time, there came to them a messenger with what they themselves desired not - some [of these] they called impostors, and some they [go so far as to] slay.}

You can even read much more if you go to Surah 5 - verse 78, Surah 7 – verse 137, Surah 10, verse 93 and Surah 17, verse 2.

It is evident from the above verses, how God views the Children of Israel in general. This attitude of the Quran, is quite in keeping with its stand towards all humans, as it shows in Surah 49, verse 13:

{O people, We have created you from a male and a female and made you into races and tribes so that you may know each other. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of God are those who are the most pious among you. And Allah knows every thing and is aware of every thing.}

One should not use passages from the Quran to justify acts of anti-Semitism; because the contexts in which these verses were revealed should be understood and because we should be well aware that the same judgment of God awaits Muslims too, if they also transgress. God has no chosen people, except those who fulfill his justice and obey him with piety and are merciful to all his creation.

It is noteworthy that Jews were among the earliest converts to Islam - in Madinah - and, throughout the Middle Ages Jews also found sanctuary to practice their own religion, under Islamic rule. As mentioned by Dr Siddiqi, “it is truly disappointing and naive to ignore more than 1400 years of history and learned discourse on the Qur'an and to argue that the current political situation in the Middle East has its roots in passages from the Quran!!”

The Qur'an was not just revealed for Muslims, but for all people, including Jews and Christians. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was in the line of previous prophets of God, including Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus. And, in fact, the Qur'an is the culmination of all the previous scriptures revealed by God. The Quran does not condemn the Semitic race and, in fact, accords Jews a special status, given their shared prophetic traditions with Islam.

The Qur'an instead criticizes those Jews who turned away from God's authentic message and admonishes those who scorned and ridiculed Prophet Muhammad and the message of the Quran. Such criticism is similar to the criticism against Jews found in the Hebrew Bible itself, and should be taken by all people as a reminder and warning against straying from the authentic message of God. Such specific criticism has never been interpreted by learned scholars of the Quran to incite hatred against Jewish people and should not be confused with anti-Semitism.

The Quran considers the Jews as descendants of Prophet Abraham, through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. They were chosen, by God, for a mission (the Quran 44:32) and God raised among them many prophets and bestowed upon them what He had not bestowed upon many others (the Quran 5:20). He exalted them over other nations of the earth (the Quran 2:47, 122) and granted them many favors.

Of course there are passages in the Quran that criticize those of the Jews who disobeyed God and were ungrateful to Him; but this does not, in any way, mean that God in the Quran is against all Jews.

There are also verses in the Quran that criticize those Jews and Christians who ridiculed Prophet Muhammad and his message. They made mockery and sport of his call to believe in what God revealed to him and to what was revealed before him through their own Prophets. They became spiteful towards him and rejected him since he did not belong to the Children of Israel!! Please read the Quran 2:109 and 4:54.

The Qur'an specifically notes that such criticism is not directed against all Jews. You can always see that the expression "among them there are some..." is placed before such criticisms, so that the good are not condemned along with the bad.

The Qur'an categorically says that good people are assured of their reward with God (see Surah 3, verses 113-115). It further says in Surah 7, verse 159 and 168 – 170, that among the people of Moses, there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth… Among them, there are some who are righteous, and some who are the opposite. The verses also states that Allah ( swt) have tried them with both prosperity and adversity: in order that they might turn [to Him]... As to those who hold fast by the Book and establish regular prayer, the verses clarify that they never shall suffer…

My dear sister, the foregoing clearly shows that you need not be afraid to read out the Quran to your loving parents or to other right thinking people, provided that you explain to them the correct meanings derived from the contexts, in which those verses appear. Depend on God and His guidance, earnestly seek to convey the truth; and insha’Allah you will not fail. Allah says in His Book, Surah 29, verse 46:

{And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except in the best way, unless it be with those of them who do wrong: but say, "We believe in the revelation, which has come down to us and in that which came down to you. Our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we submit [in Islam].}

May Allah guide all of us aright!

Useful Links:

Anti-Semitism: What's It All About?

Islam and Zionism… Who Against Who?

The Stand of the Quran and the Bible Towards the Children of Israel

Quran: A Racist Book or a Global Message?