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Islam and anti-Semitism

This article is concerned with the relationship between Islam and anti-Semitism. It will cover:

  • The prevalence of anti-Semitism amongst Muslims - and whether it is more or less common than amongst people of other religions.
  • The positions of the various branches of Islam on anti-Semitism and Jews.
  • Accusations of anti-Semitism made against Islam, and their consequences

The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Table of contents

The Quran on Jews

The Quran refers to Jews and Christians (and some other religions) as "people of the book". Muhammed had uneven relations with the Jews and they are condemned several times. The Quran also condemns those Jews who committed grave sins and turned away from the message revealed to them.

The Quran states that "Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters." (III - The house of Imran 67). Some people interprete this verse as a claim that the biblical patriarch Abraham was not a Jew, but actually a Muslim. Many Jews consider this to anti-Semitic, in that it creates a historical anachronim that usurps the founding patriarch of Judaism, for the purpose of promoting a different religion.

Both Jewish and Muslim tradition hold that Arabs are descedents of Abraham through Ishmael, his son from his second wife Hagar.

Islam mandates a limited level of tolerance for both Jews and Christians, as long as they did not challenge the superious status of Islam. Early verses in the Quran limit religious disputations with them to those occurring in a fair manner.

"And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, 'We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).'" (XXIX: The Spider: 46)


When Muslim armies conquered nations, they felt no special need to force people of the Book, including Jews, to convert to Islam. Under Sharia law they were given the status of dhimmi, which gave them certain rights, as well as certain responsibilities. As dhimmi, Jews faced a greater level of tolerance under Muslim rule than under Christian rule. Dhimmi were provided with limited autonomy, and allowed to practice their religion. although Dhimii had to pay the Jizya[?], they were exempted from the Zakat (giving alms to the poor). The exact treatment of dhimmi varied greatly from place to place.

The constitution of Medina, one of the earliest documents of the Muslim community in Medina, which was transmitted by Ibn Hisham states: "The Jews of Banu Awf [phrases are repeated for the different Jewish communities] are a community along with the believers. To the Jews their religion and to the Muslim their religion."

For Jewish tribes which had treaties with the Muslim umma, the constitution of Medina states: "A Jew who follows us has a right to the same help and support as the believers, so long they are not wronged by him and he does not help others against them."

Views based on the Quran

Based on verses from the Quran, many Muslims hold that a Muslim should never be friends with Jews or Christians. This view is still held by many Muslims today.

Muslims consider Judaism as one of the divine faiths, a great number of their prophets are of the Bani-Israel tribe:

"We gave him Isaac, and Jacob: all We guided and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny David, Solomon, Ayub, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron :Thus do We reward those who do good. And Zakariya and Yahya, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of righteous. And Isma'il and Elisha and Jonah (Yunus) and Lut. And to all we gave favour above the nations." <Qur'an 6:84-86>

Many other prophets are considered to be the descendants of the tribe.

"Bani-Israel" itself means the children of Israel and more or less concerns those of Jewish faith. Those who the Bani-Israel tribe consisted of were regarded to as "the preffered ones", as mentioned in the Qur'an:

"O Children of Israel! Call to mind My favour which I bestowed on you and that I preferred you to all others (for my Message)" <Qur'an 2:47>

Accornding to Qur'anic verses the tribe showed constant ungratefulness towards God and did not obey the command of their great prophets.

"Indignity is put over them wherever they may be, except when under a covenant (of protection) from God, and from men; they have drawn on themselves the Wrath of God, and destruction is put over them. This is because they disbelieved in the Ayats (evidences) of Allah and killed the Prophets without right. This is because they disobeyed (God) and used to transgress beyond bounds (in God's disobedience, crimes and sins)" <Qur'an 3:112>

Islamic claims that Jews are "the sons of pigs and apes

Al-Jahiz[?] (d. 869), a ninth century Islamic zoologist and author of The Book of Animals, writes that the mouse, cheetah, eel, white ant (termite), and lizard were originally sinful Jews. (See Al-Jahiz, Omar bin Bahar, Kittab Al-Hayawan. Cairo: Mustafa Al-Bai Al-Halabi and sons (1943), Col. I, p. 309.)

In the Islamic Aghlabid dynasty (9th through 11th century, North Africa) Jews were forced to wear a patch that had an image of a monkey, and were also forced to afix said image to their homes; Christians were forced to wear a patch that had an image of a pig, and they were also forced to afix said image to their home. (F. Viré, "Kird," Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition.)

Some Muslims in the Middle-east still believe that Jews were literally changed by Allah into pigs and apes.

"Allah did not mete out the punishment of transformation on any nation except the Jews. The significance of it is actual change in the appearance of the Jew and perfect transformation from human to bestial condition... from human appearance to the form of genuine apes, pigs, mice, and lizards..." (Source: The Hamas monthy publication Falastin Al-Muslima (London), September 1996, series of articles nu Ibrahim Al-'Ali, pp. 54-55.)

The Palestinian Authority regularly broadcasts anti-Semitic religious sermons from Palestinian Mosques; many, such as the example below, incite Palestinians to kill Jews. The following quotes are excerpted from a sermon by Dr. Mustafa Najem, Dec. 6, 2002:

"The Jews...are the brothers of monkeys and pigs...Allah has warned us against their evil and their arrogance, and has said: 'You will find that the most brazen among mankind, with hatred towards the believers, are the Jews and the Idolaters.' [Koran, 81,5]...The Jews are Jews, and we are forbidden to forget their character traits even for a moment, even for a blink of an eye. O Servants of Allah! The Jews are those who tried to murder your Prophet in order to expunge the call (to Islam)....Prayer and blessing to the Imam of the Jihad fighters, Mohammed, who waged a Jihad against the Jews...The Jews...are Idolaters, heretics, whose faith is false.

20th century anti-Semtism by Islamic clerics

The following sermon was delivered at the Sheik 'Ijlin Mosque in Gaza, Palestinian Authority, The speaker was Sheik Ibrahim Madhi, and it was broadcast on Palestinian Authority television. August 3, 2001

"We must all seek a role in the Jihad and the battle. We said and we still say: 'Even if we, the entire (Palestinian) people, stood in line and signed for the Jews that we want peace, they would not accept it. The Koran is very clear on this: The greatest enemies of the Islamic nation are the Jews, may Allah fight them...'
"All spears should be directed at the Jews, at the enemies of Allah, the nation that was cursed in Allah's book. Allah has described them as apes and pigs, the calf-worshipers, idol-worshipers.
"Whoever can fight them with his weapons, should go out [to the battle]; whoever can fight them with a machinegun, should go out; whoever can fight them with a sword or a knife, should go out; whoever can fight them with his hands, should go out; This is our destiny. The people who are the most hostile toward the believers are the Jews and the Polytheists... The Jews have exposed their fangs. Nothing will deter them, except the color of their filthy people's blood; nothing will deter them except for us voluntarily detonating ourselves in their midst. They have nuclear power, but we have the power of the belief in Allah..."
"The Prophet [Muhammad] said: 'The Jews will fight you, and [Allah] will establish you as rulers over them...' We blow them up in Hadera, we blow them up in Tel Aviv and in Netanya, and in this way, Allah establishes us as rulers over these gangs of vagabonds.
"Blessings for whoever assaulted a soldier... Blessings for whoever has raised his sons on the education of Jihad and Martyrdom; blessings for whoever has saved a bullet in order to stick it in a Jew's head."

The following sermon was also delivered at the Sheik 'Ijlin Mosque in Gaza, Palestinian Authority, The speaker was Sheik Ibrahim Madhi. June 8, 2001. In the name of Islam the speaker calls for suicide bombers to destroy not only all Jews, but also the United States and Great Britain.

"Allah is almighty. Had He wanted - He would have beaten them. But He tests you in suffering. We must prepare the ground for the army of Allah that is coming according to the [divine] predetermination. We must prepare a foothold for them. Allah willing, this unjust state will be erased - Israel will be erased; this unjust state, the United States, will be erased; this unjust state, Britain, will be erased - they who caused this people's Nakbah [the 1948 'catastrophe']..."
"Blessings to whoever waged Jihad for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever raided for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever put a belt of explosives on his body or on his sons' and plunged into the midst of the Jews, crying "Allahu Akbar, praise to Allah, There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger....Just as the building collapsed over the Jews in their sinful dancing floor [referring to the collapse of a wedding hall in Jerusalem] - I pray to Allah that this oppressive Knesset will collapse over the heads of the Jews."

The following sermon was delivered at the Zayed bin Sultan Aal Nahyan mosque in Gaza. The speaker was Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, an appointed member of the Palestinian Authority Fatwa Council, and is former acting Rector of the Islamic University in Gaza.

"Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill the Jews, the Americans, who are like them, and those who stand by them. They are all in one trench against the Arabs and the Moslems. ... It is forbidden to befriend Israelis or to aid them. Don't love them or enter into agreement with them, don't help them or sign accords with them. Anyone who does this is one of them. This is the word of Allah, blessed be He. They, they are the terrorists. They should be slaughtered. They should be murdered. Such is the word of Allah."

Jewish-Muslim dialogue

There are a number of projects working for peace among Israelis and Arabs; many of these include Jewish-Islamic theological dialogue. One of their goals is to reduce anti-Semitism.

See also: Arab Anti-Semitism, Persecution of Christians, Anti-Arab, Religious intolerance, Anti-Islamism, Islamophobia

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