Thursday, April 05, 2012

Antisemitism in the Hadith, Part 2

Several years ago Andrew Bostom published a comprehensive survey of antisemitism as expressed in the Hadith and the sira of Muhammad. The article is unfortunately no longer available online, so the author has kindly sent us the full text.

This is the second of four installments. Part 1 is here.

Minarets with Koran verses

Antisemitism in the Hadith and Early Muslim Biographies of Muhammad: Motifs and Manifestations

Part 2

by Andrew G. Bostom

Another commonplace charge in the hadith is that Jews altered their sacred texts deleting Muhammad’s name and precise description. Vajda includes these two vivid examples [56]:

This was transmitted in the name of ‘Abdallāh b. Mas’ūd: “Allah sent his prophet to have someone entered into paradise. He entered into the synagogue [al-kanīsa] [where] a Jew was just in the course of reading [them] the Torah. When they [the Jews] arrived at the description of the prophet, they stopped. But in a corner of the synagogue was a sick person. The prophet said: ‘Why did you stop?’ The sick person replied: ‘They arrived at the description of the prophet, which is why they stopped.’ Then the sick person dragged himself up to the book of the Torah, grabbed it and read until he came to the description of the prophet and of his community and he said: ‘Here is your description and the description of your community. I confess that there is no other God but Allah and that you are the apostle of Allah.’ Then he rendered up his soul.”

Another version of the same story is found in Ibn Sa’d. The prophet accompanied by Abũ Bakr and ‘Omar passed beside a Jew who was reading in a book of the Torah for one of his sick parents. The prophet adjured the Jew to tell him if his description was found in the Torah. When he shook his head no, the sick person contradicted him, pronounced profession of Muslim faith, and expired. The prophet himself recited the prayer at his burial and wrapped him in his winding sheet.

However the prime example of the Jews illegitimate alteration of the Torah cited in the hadith “with most self-satisfaction” concerns the prescribed punishment for adultery. As per the hadith, a controversy arose between the Jews and Muslims over legislation concerning adultery. The narrative emphasizes the Jews perfidy and overt disrespect for their own revealed scriptures. Vajda examines several of these hadith [57]:
The Jews brought to the prophet an adulterous couple and claimed that their book prescribed punishing them by blackening their faces so as to cover them with shame. Mohammed told them: “You are lying, [the punishment ordered] for this crime is lapidation; so bring the Torah and recite it if you are telling the truth” (Cf. Koran 3:93, which in context relates to the alimentary prohibitions of the Jews). The one-eyed reader of the Jews named Ibn Sūriyā started to read; arriving at a certain passage, he covered it with his hand. Mohammed invited him to lift it; when he lifted it, it shone. So, the Jews admitted that lapidation was indeed prescribed in the Torah, but then kept this law hidden. The prophet had the guilty ones stoned.

[Sahih] Muslim gives this story with several isnād [chains of transmission] In the first hadith, the punishment indicated by the Jews is a little more exactly described: “We blacken their faces, we place them on a mounting, their faces turned toward each other, and we make them take a tour of the town. The reader is anonymous [Some fellow] (fatā); it is ‘Abdallāh b. Salām who engages the prophet in ordering the reader to raise his mind, under which is found the verse about lapidation. One of the versions gathered by Abū Dāwūd situates the scene in the Bayt al-Midrās (house of study); another specifies that the guilty ones received a hundred lashes with a tarred cord.

Another variant in [Sahih] Muslim and in Ibn Māja highlights the perfidy of the Jews even more, as well as the little respect they have for their revealed book. “They passed by the prophet with a flagellated Jew with a blackened face. He called them and asked them: ‘Is that the punishment for adultery that you find in your book?’ ‘Yes.’ He fetches one of their wise men and adjures him by the God who revealed the Torah to Moses to tell him if this is really the punishment for adultery [ordered] in their book. The latter answered; ‘No, if you had not adjured me in this fashion I would not have told you. We found [that the punishment for adultery is] lapidation, but this sin was widespread among our great and when we seized great personages, we let them off, but to the weak we applied the punishment. [Finally] we said to ourselves: “Let us agree on a punishment that we will apply to the great as to the weak.” We then instituted the blackening of the face and flagellation instead of lapidation.’ The apostle of Allah cried: ‘God, I am the first who has revived your order after they killed it off.’ On which came the revelation of Koran 5: 41, [‘O Messenger! Let not them grieve thee who vie one with another in the race to disbelief, of such as say with their mouths: “We believe, but their hearts believe not, and of the Jews: listeners for the sake of falsehood, listeners on behalf of other folk who come not unto thee, changing words from their context and saying: If this be given unto you, receive it, but if this be not given unto you, then beware! He whom Allah doometh unto sin, thou (by thine efforts) wilt avail him naught against Allah. Those are they for whom the Will of Allah is that He cleanse not their hearts. Theirs in the world will be ignominy, and in the Hereafter an awful doom’.]

Bearing in mind that the Qur’an itself prescribes flagellation for adultery (i.e., Qur’an 24:2, “The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them [with] a hundred stripes”), if confirmed by four eyewitnesses, Vajda summarizes the ironies in alleging Jewish perfidy with regard to the stoning of adulterers [58]:

The prophet reproaches the Jews for having substituted a rule they had themselves invented for God’s own law concerning adultery. He applies this law to a Jew, and if one believes the traditions (which are no more or less worthy of credit than any others), he applied it, as did [Caliph] ‘Omar, to the Muslims too. Nevertheless, the “lapidation verse” has not been accepted in the Koran’s canonic text, which replaces it, in the most recent passages relating to adultery, precisely with the flagellation whose practice by the Jews is regarded as an arbitrary alteration of the primitive revelation. Unless one rejects en bloc the traditions relating to the rajm [lapidation = stoning] as forged for the sole purpose of shaming the Jews as falsifiers of their revelation and to glorify Mohammed, who saw clearly through their criminal actions, it is necessary to regard the procedure censured by the prophet as having been really used in the ghettos (juiveries) of Hijāz. But in that case, the effective legislation of the Koran concerning the punishment of adultery, definitively consecrated by surah 24 [verse 2], derives in a direct line from Jewish practice, consecrated by Mohammed.

Another series of hadiths elaborate on Qur’an 3:93 (“All food was lawful unto the Children of Israel, save that which Israel forbade himself, (in days) before the Torah was revealed. Say: Produce the Torah and read it (unto us) if ye are truthful.”), and associated Qur’anic exegeses, which accuse the Jews of misrepresenting their alimentary prohibitions, most notably camel’s flesh, as in fact described in the Torah (Leviticus 11:4—“Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.”). Vajda notes for example, that the classical Qur’anic commentator Tabari [59],

…gathered a great number of interpretations of this verse. According to Suddī, Jacob [the Biblical patriarch] suffered in the night from sciatica; he made the vow never to eat any nerve if God would deliver him from this malady. The Jews claim to follow their ancestor but they are lying, for it is God who imposed on them alimentary restrictions, on account of their sins. According to Dahhāk the verse means to say that neither before nor after the revelation did God forbid anything to the Jews, except that for the reason that we know, Jacob made the vow to abstain from consuming nerves. Ibn ‘Abbās explains: any food was permitted to the children of Israel before the revelation of the Torah, but Jacob forswore nerves, and his children imitated him, without the interdiction being in the Torah. Tabarī lingers over this exegesis, not without modifying it. Before the revelation of the Torah, nothing was forbidden to the children of Israel, but Jacob, suffering from sciatica, forswore nerves, etc. Then, in revealing the Torah, God prohibited certain foods to the Jews.

Additional hadiths cited by Vajda present matters with a slight variation—Jacob’s prohibition on camel’s flesh and milk is self-imposed [60]:

‘Abdallāh b. Katīr (and others): Jacob, suffering from sciatica, renounces by a vow, so as to get better, his preferred food: flesh and milk of the camel. According to Hasan, the Jews falsely pretended that the interdiction by Jacob of camel flesh is found in the Torah, whereas in fact it is prior to the revelation and is not in the Torah at all; this is also the opinion of Ibn Abbās. The latter doctor reconciles the two series of traditions by teaching that Jacob forbid himself both the nerves and flesh of camels. He had consumed meat not cleaned of the sciatic nerve and fell ill and swore never to eat it again.

As Vajda further indicates, Tabari subscribes to this latter interpretation because [61],

…the Jews still prohibit nerves [in general] and the flesh of the camel [in particular]. He then cites, under the name of Ibn ‘Abbās, the question the Jews put to Mohammed that we have seen. Mohammed invites the Jews to bring the Torah and read it so as to make manifest their falsehood; God has never forbid these things. It is a proof of the authenticity of Mohammed’s mission that he, an’ummī [i.e., a/the prophet] has unmasked the lie of Jewish doctors that most of their co-religionists had not perceived.

Vajda’s concluding analysis summarized the evolution of this anti-Jewish polemical theme, which ignores Leviticus (11:4) [62]:

Let us try to retrace the evolution of this polemic theme, whose elements we have just analyzed. The familiar narration of Genesis (Jacob’s struggle with the angel in Genesis 32:25-33) closes with the remark: “This is why the children of Israel do not eat the sciatic nerve.” So this is a custom that was never raised, within the Pentateuch, to the rank of a positive interdiction. The Biblical motif is unknown or ignored by Muslim tradition. The Koran speaks, without being precise, of a prohibition voluntarily assumed by Israel. Tradition designates as the object of the interdiction either the sciatic nerve (with a motive alien to Jewish sources) or else the meat and milk of the camel. These two indications are reconciled, but the tendency (supported indeed by the remainder of the Koranic verse) that is everywhere subsidiary, is to demonstrate that the interdiction is not revealed and hence is expressly willed by God (or else, according to some who are still in conformity with the thinking of the Koran on this point, imposed after the fact on Jews on account of their sins). It is due to Jacob’s private initiative, something followed by his descendants, but it does not oblige the Muslims by any means to do so.

The Muslim polemic does not want to admit that this interdiction is written in the Torah, for that would put the national dish of the Arabs on the same footing as pork, for example.

Other traditions attribute evil spells to the Jews. Vajda provides two examples of this motif, the latter not being consistently clear as to its “magical origins” in the various iterations [63]:

The biography of the prophet recounts that he had a spell cast upon him by the Jew Labīd’A’sam. The charm was broken when, thanks to the intervention of Jibril (or Jibril and Mikā’il, or two anonymous personages), who indicated the place where Labīd had hidden the hair of the prophet, which he had taken and braided into magic knots and introduced into the male flower of the palm tree.

Another case is much less clear. Ibn ‘Omar recounts that when he went to Khaybar to attend the division of the crop between Jews and the treasurer of Egypt, in conformity with the pact in force, the Jews bewitched him so well that his right hand froze at the fist. It was after this event that ‘Omar expelled them from Khaybar.

Bukhārī’s version leaves out the bewitching; ‘Abdallāh b.’Omar was the victim of a nocturnal assault when he went to Khaybar to inspect a property he owned. According to a tradition from Wākidī. The Jews were expelled for having incited slaves to assassinate their masters. Finally, a tradition recorded by Ibn Sa’d reports that ‘Omar expelled the Jews of Khaybar because at that time the Muslims already had enough manpower to cultivate their palm groves without turning to tenant farmers.Consequently it is difficult to admit the historicity or at the very least the magic origin of the accident of Ibn ‘Omar. This story had to have been invented so as to lay the responsibility for the expulsion of the Jews of Khaybar on themselves.

And after the Muslims had initially conquered the Jewish farming oasis of Khaybar, one of the vanquished Jewesses reportedly served Muhammad poisoned mutton (or goat), which resulted, ultimately, in his protracted, agonizing death [64]:

Anas reported that a Jewess came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) with poisoned mutton and he took of that what had been brought to him (Allah’s Messenger). (When the effect of this poison were felt by him) he called for her and asked her about that, whereupon she said: I had determined to kill you. Thereupon he said: Allah will never give you the power to do it. He (the narrator) said that they (the Companion’s of the Holy Prophet) said: Should we not kill her? Thereupon he said: No. He (Anas) said: I felt (the affects of this poison) on the uvula of Allah’s Messenger. [Sahih Muslim Book 026, Number 5430]

Narrated Anas bin Malik: A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, “Shall we kill her?” He said, “No.” I continued to see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah’s Apostle . [Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 47, Number 786]

Ibn Sa‘d’s biography, however, maintains that the offending Jewess gave Muhammad poisoned goat, and insists that she was not spared [65]:

She [a Khaybar Jewess, Zaynab Bint al-Harith] poisoned the goat putting more poison in the forelegs…The Apostle of Allah took the foreleg, a piece of which he put into his mouth...The Apostle of Allah sent for Zaynab Bint al-Harith [and]…handed her over to [those] who put her to death…The Apostle of Allah lived after this three years, till in consequence of his pain he passed away. During his illness he used to say: I did not cease to find the effect of the poisoned morsel I took at Khaybar.

Vajda’s research further demonstrates how Muslim eschatology highlights the Jews supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—and as per another tradition, the Dajjâl is in fact Jewish. [66] Armand Abel, the renowned Belgian scholar of Islam includes this summary characterization of the Dajjâl (from his official entry, “al-Dajdjal,” in the Encyclopedia of Islam [67]): “A giant, false prophet, king of the Jews, representations of him vary according to the degree of literary information available or the predominating prejudices.” At his appearance, other traditions state that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered— everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree. Thus, according to a canonical hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985), if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” [68] Another hadith variant, which takes place in Jerusalem is described by James Robson. [69]

…most of the Arabs will be in Jerusalem when Jesus [i.e., Isa [70], 259 the Muslim Jesus] will descend. The imam will give place to him, but Jesus will tell him to lead the prayers. Afterwards, Jesus will order the door to be opened, and the Dajjal will be seen there will 70,000 armed Jews. The Dajjal will begin to melt, but Jesus will pursue and catch him and kill him at the east gate of Ludd. God will rout the Jews who will find that even the places where they shelter will shout out where they are hiding.

Vajda emphasizes how the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology [71]:

Not only are the Jews vanquished in the eschatological war, but they will serve as ransom for the Muslims in the fires of hell. The sins of certain Muslims will weigh on them like mountains, but on the day of resurrection, these sins will be lifted and laid upon the Jews.

And in the corporeal world, Vajda observes, “distrust must reign” in Muslims relations with Jews, because [72],

the Jews…are rebels to the solicitations of Islam and keep their religious traditions in a way liable to lead Muslims into error. Even when Islam knowingly borrows from Judaism, these borrowings are presented as amendments of the corresponding Jewish customs, unless they expressly forge traditions that aim to efface the true origin of the rite in question, by transposing it either into Arab paganism or into “Israelite” or pre-Israelite antiquity… especially beware of asking them for information of a religious kind

But it is the Jews’ stubborn malevolence, Vajda further notes, that is their defining worldly characteristic [73]:

Jews are represented in the darkest colors [i.e., in the hadith]. Convinced by the clear testimony of their books that Mohammed was the true prophet, they refused to convert, out of envy, jealousy and national particularism, even out of private interest. They have falsified their sacred books and do not apply the laws of God; nevertheless, they pursued Mohammed with their raillery and their oaths, and harassed him with questions, an enterprise that turned to their own confusion and merely corroborated the authenticity of the supernatural science of the prophet. From words they moved to action: sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.

Vajda concludes that these archetypes, in turn, justify Muslim animus towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination”, as dhimmis, treated “with contempt”, under certain “humiliating arrangements.” [74] Subsequent regional surveys across time (including the documents section) will provide copious evidence of the chronic anti-Jewish animus—sanctioned by the hadith—which was an indelible feature of the dhimmi condition for Jews.

One particularly tragic fate befell the Jews of Yemen based on rigid adherence to a motif in the hadith (and sira). Imam al-Mahdi, a pious 17th century Yemenite ruler, acted upon the well-known statement from the canonical hadith, attributed to a death bed wish of Muhammad himself, as recorded by Umar (the second Rightly Guided Caliph), “Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs.” [75] In his fanatic zeal for Islam, al-Mahdi wished to fulfill the mandate of this hadith in Yemen as well. Thus Al-Mahdi, in 1679-1680, ordered the entire Jewish population of Yemen — men, women and children — exiled to the plain of Tihama, known for its salty water and soil, and generally unfavorable climate. [76] A twentieth-century German tourist described Tihama as follows [77]:

Tihama is a dreadful place because of its terrible heat. Temperatures of fifty degrees centigrade in the shade last for several days. The Bedouins, who are used to a variety of climatic conditions, do not dare to cross the coastal strip between the Red Sea and the mountains of Yemen before sunset… the meager waters of the inner Tihama are salty and not potable, at least as far as Europeans are concerned. Therefore, for example, the drinking water for the port city Hudayda must be carried on the backs of donkeys from mountains as far as eighty miles away. The climate of Tihama is the most harmful to one’s health in the entire Arabian peninsula. Harsh cases of malaria which gradually destroy the health of its inhabitants are a common occurrence. Even the Italian physicians in Hudayda are not able to do much against it.

In addition to the expulsion, there were destructions of synagogues, desecrations of the Torah scrolls, and inducements for conversion to Islam. Only one quarter of those thousands of Jews expelled returned to their homes; the rest perished, dying primarily from exposure, due to the intense heat, lack of potable water, and the resultant spread of epidemic disease. Of the major Yemenite Jewish community in San’a, for example, which had numbered about 10,000, only about one tenth, i.e., 1,000, survived this catastrophic exile. [78]

Brief modern examples, presented below, illustrate the ongoing relevance of two Jewish archetypes from the hadith as sources of Islamic antisemitism.

The Qur’anic curse (verse 2:61, repeated in 3:112) upon the Jews for (primarily) rejecting, even slaying Allah’s prophets, is updated with perfect archetypal logic in the canonical hadith allegation of Muhammad’s poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess, which culminates in his painful and protracted death. Eliz Sanasarian provides a striking contemporary (1980s) example from Iran which affirmed this hadith account as objective, factual history during the examination of young adult candidates for national teacher training programs. Sanasarian notes [79],

…the subject became one of the questions in the ideological test for the Teachers’ Training College where students were given a multiple-choice question in order to identify the instigator of the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad, the “correct” answer being “a Jewess.”

The 1988 Hamas Charter, in section 7 [80], quotes from the apocalyptic canonical hadith (“The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.”), detailing one account of the Jews annihilation. And a British television investigation reported on January 11, 2007 revealed this eschatological theme was part of a video sermon during which a Sheikh (Feiz) could be seen, “…imitating the noise of a pig when referring to Jewish people [consistent with Qur’an 5:60], who he says will be killed (in a mass extermination) on the ‘day of judgment’”. A digital video disc (DVD) format recording of this sermon was sold at the London Central Mosque, “one of London’s most established mosques”, in Regents Park. [81] Such contemporary eschatological antisemitism began to be popularized two decades ago when the Egyptian writer Sayyid Ayyub started publishing works in Arabic maintaining that the Dajjal was already active on Earth, and that he was Jewish. [82] Ayyub’s view was reiterated more recently by an Indian Muslim writer, Mohamad Yasin Owadally [83], who is convinced that “the Jews are waiting impatiently for the coming of Dajjal, their beloved king [84],” because [85]:

Zionists in their bloodthirsty lust for power are not satisfied with Palestine. In their arrogance, they openly admit that they want all Syria…LebanonJordan…Iraq…Iskenderun [former Alexandretta, in southwestern Turkey]…the Sinai…the Delta area of Egypt and the Upper Hejaz and Najd….They even want the holy Medinah ….Their main aim is to exterminate Islam.

To be continued…


56. Ibid. pp. 91-92.
57. Ibid., pp. 93-96.
58. Ibid., pp. 97-98.
59. Ibid., p. 104.
60. Ibid., pp. 104-105.
61. Ibid., p. 105.
62. Ibid., pp. 106, 105.
63. Ibid., pp. 108-109.
64. Sahih Muslim Book 026, Number 5430; Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 47, Number 786
65. Ibn Sa‘d. Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir. Volume 2, New Delhi, 1993; pp. 249-252. English translation by S. Moinul Haq and H.K. Ghazanfar.
66. Vajda. “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit”, pp. 112-13.
67. Armand Abel. “al-Dadjdjal” Encyclopedia of Islam. Edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill 2008. Brill Online.
68. Vajda. “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit”, pp. 112-13.
69. Robson. “Tradition”, p.259.
70. Mark Durie. “Isa, the Muslim Jesus”, in Robert Spencer, editor, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, Amherst, New York, 2005, pp. 541-555.
71. Vajda. “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit”, pp. 112-13; Regarding the the ransoming of prisoners of Muslim enemies vanquished by jihad (see Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, p. 149), the great Maliki jurist and polymath Averroes (d. 1198), wrote:

Most scholars are agreed that, in his dealings with captives, various policies are open to the Imam [head of the Islamic state, caliph]. He may pardon them, kill them, or release them…on ransom...
72. Vajda. “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit”, p. 110
73. Vajda. “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit”, pp. 124-125.
74. Ibid., pp. 110, 125.
75.  Sahih Bukhari, vol. 3, no. 2730, in the Book of the Conditions; Sahih Muslim vol. 3, no. 4366; Ibn Ishaq (Guillaume translation) p. 525 (sections 779-80).
76. Yehuda Ratzaby. “The Expulsion of Yemenite Jewry to Mawza' in 1679-80 in Light of Recently Discovered Sources” Zion, 1972, Vol. 37, pp. 197-215. [Hebrew; (English translation by Rivkah Fishman)]; Yehuda Ratzaby. “The Expulsion to the Desert.” Et-Mol [Hebrew; (English translation by Rivkah Fishman)] 9, 3 [53] (Jan 1984) 16-18.
77. H. Helfritz, Land ohne Schatten (Leipzig, 1934), 212-213, cited in Ratzaby, “The Expulsion of Yemenite Jewry to Mawza' in 1679-80”
78. Ratzaby, ““The Expulsion of Yemenite Jewry to Mawza' in 1679-80”, and “The Expulsion to the Desert.”
79. Eliz Sanasarian. Religious Minorities in Iran, Cambridge, England, 2000, p. 111.
80. “The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement—Hamas”, Middle East Media Research Institute.
81. David Byers. “Report: London mosque’s DVDs predict mass extermination of Jews”, European Jewish Press January 11, 2007.
82. David Cook, “Muslim Fears of the Year 2000,” Middle East Quarterly, V, 2 (June 1998), pp. 51-62.
83. Mohamad Yasin Owadally, Emergence of Dajjal. The Jewish King (Delhi, India, 2001).
84. Ibid., p. 12.
85. Ibid., pp. 35-36.