Koranic References to Jews

Figure 1.--

The Koran is the fundamental foundation of Muslim society. Thus we need to look at precisely what the Koran says about Jews to fully understand modern attitudes. Many modern Muslims take the Koran as the literal and perfect word of God so Koranic references are very important. The Koran is divided into 114 chapters called surahs each whoch has been given a name. Like the Bible's books, each Koranic surah is divided into verses. with many verses. The Koran is notable both for the number of references to Jews and to the wide variation in the attitudes involved. Some are tolerant while others are highly disparinging and offensive to many modern readers. The meaning of some of the passages are not readily apparent. We encourage reades to add their insights as to these passages. The Koran was of course written in Arabic and the references here are English traditions. We encourage Arabic readers to comment if they believe the translation rendered here is inaccuate or misleading. We will be glad to present alternative translations as well. The actual meaning of some of these references is not always clear amd agin we invite reader comment to provide further insightrs.

Surah 2 (The Cow)

Verse 2.40

"O children of Israel! call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you; and of Me, Me alone, should you be afraid."

The early references to Jews suggest a high level of toleration and a recognition of the Olt Testament convenant between God and the Jews.

Verse 2.47

"O children of Israel! call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nations."

Verse 2.62

"Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve."

Here God tells Muslims not to fear the Jews, Christians, and Sabians. Note that other religions are not listed, although "whoever believes in Allah" leaves room for some theological discussion. God also tells the Jews, Chtistians, and Sabines not to worry about living in an Islamic society. I am not sure why the Sabines are mentioned here and why other religions are not specifically mentioned. Does this reflect Mohammed's limited perspective or an actual judgement about the other religions.

Verse 2.83

"And when We made a covenant with the children of Israel: You shall not serve any but Allah and (you shall do) good to (your) parents, and to the near of kin and to the orphans and the needy, and you shall speak to men good words and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate. Then you turned back except a few of you and (now too) you turn aside."

I am not entirely sure what this verse means.

Verse 2.88

"And they say: Our hearts are covered. Nay, Allah has cursed them on account of their unbelief; so little it is that they believe."

Although the Jews are not specified here, the content of the Koran seems to suggest that the verse referes to the Jews. Until verse 2.88 the Koran takes a very tolerant attitude toward the Jews. Here there is a very different tone and the Koran tells Muslims that God has "cursed" the Jews. And of course if a people are "cursed" by God, that can be used to justify a wide range of actions against them.

Verse 2.98

"Whoever is the enemy of Allah and His angels and His apostles and Jibreel and Meekaeel, so surely Allah is the enemy of the unbelievers."

Verse 2.111

"And they say: None shall enter the garden (or paradise) except he who is a Jew or a Christian. These are their vain desires. Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful."

Verse 2.113

"And the Jews say: The Christians do not follow anything (good) and the Christians say: The Jews do not follow anything (good) while they recite the (same) Book. Even thus say those who have no knowledge, like to what they say; so Allah shall judge between them on the day of resurrection in what they differ."

This is one of several Koranic pasages that are essentially theological debates. There was nothing quite like this in Christian writings at the time. The Jews were a very small part of the population of the Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. There was no need for a theological debate within Christianity. The Christians had won and the Jews had lost. Christian theologians at the time were not debating with the Jews, but among themselves as to the nature of Christianity. These theological passages in the Koran reflect more the situaion on the Arabian Peninsula at the time where Christianity was not dominant and various religuious faits were actually competing.

Verse 2.120

"And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion. Say: Surely Allah's guidance, that is the (true) guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper."

Verse 2.121

"Those to whom We have given the Book read it as it ought to be read. These believe in it; and whoever disbelieves in it, these it is that are the losers."

Verse 2.122

"O children of Israel, call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nations."

This verse contrasts sharply with verse 2.88 which proclaims that the Jews are acursed.

Verse 2.135

"And they say: Be Jews or Christians, you will be on the right course. Say: Nay! (we follow) the religion of Ibrahim [Abraham], the Hanif [I am not sure who this is], and he was not one of the polytheists."

The reference is a little unclear here, but the Koran seems to suggest that Jews and Christians are polythesists. I am not sure why the Jews would be accused of polytheism, but of course the Christian Trinity and saints don bear some resemblance to polythism.

Verse 2.140

"Nay! do you say that Ibrahim [Abraham] and Ismail and Yaqoub [Jacob] and the tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Are you better knowing or Allah? And who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah? And Allah is not at all heedless of what you do.

Verse 2.211

"Ask the Israelites how many a clear sign have We given them; and whoever changes the favor of Allah after it has come to him, then surely Allah is severe in requiting (evil)."

Verse 2.246

"Have you not considered the chiefs of the children of Israel after Musa, when they said to a prophet of theirs: Raise up for us a king, (that) we may fight in the way of Allah. He said: May it not be that you would not fight if fighting is ordained for you? They said: And what reason have we that we should not fight in the way of Allah, and we have indeed been compelled to abandon our homes and our children. But when fighting was ordained for them, they turned back, except a few of them, and Allah knows the unjust."

This is another message I do not understand.

Surah 3 (The Family of Imran)

Vrse 3.23

"Have you not considered those (Jews) who are given a portion of the Book? They are invited to the Book of Allah that it might decide between them, then a part of them turn back and they withdraw."

Verse 3.24

"This is because they say: The fire shall not touch us but for a few days; and what they have forged deceives them in the matter of their religion."

Verse 3.49

"And (make him) an apostle to the children of Israel: That I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I determine for you out of dust like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allah's permission and I heal the blind and the leprous, and bring the dead to life with Allah's permission and I inform you of what you should eat and what you should store in your houses; most surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers."

Verse 3.67

"Ibrahim [Abraham] was not a Jew nor a Christian but he was (an) upright (man), a Muslim, and he was not one of the polytheists."

Verse 3.93

"All food was lawful to the children of Israel except that which Israel had forbidden to himself, before the Taurat was revealed. Say: Bring then the Taurat and read it, if you are truthful."

Surah 4 (The Women)

Verse 4.46

"Of those who are Jews (there are those who) alter words from their places and say: We have heard and we disobey and: Hear, may you not be made to hear! and: Raina, distorting (the word) with their tongues and taunting about religion; and if they had said (instead): We have heard and we obey, and hearken, and unzurna it would have been better for them and more upright; but Allah has cursed them on account of their unbelief, so they do not believe but a little.

Verse 4.47

"O you who have been given the Book! believe that which We have revealed, verifying what you have, before We alter faces then turn them on their backs, or curse them as We cursed the violaters of the Sabbath, and the command of Allah shall be executed."

Verse 4.50

"See how they forge the lie against Allah, and this is sufficient as a manifest sin."

Verse 4.160

"Wherefore for the iniquity of those who are Jews did We disallow to them the good things which had been made lawful for them and for their hindering many (people) from Allah's way."

Here the Jews are accused of "iniquity" and of preventung many people from Islam.

Verse 4.161

"And their taking usury though indeed they were forbidden it and their devouring the property of people falsely, and We have prepared for the unbelievers from among them a painful chastisement."

Here the Jews are condemned for usery. This is one of several examples where the Koran picks up on Cristian condemnation of the Jews. Christianity at the time also forbade usury.

Surah (The Dinner Table)

Verse 5.12

"And certainly Allah made a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up among them twelve chieftains; and Allah said: Surely I am with you; if you keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and believe in My apostles and assist them and offer to Allah a goodly gift, I will most certainly cover your evil deeds, and I will most certainly cause you to enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, but whoever disbelieves from among you after that, he indeed shall lose the right way.


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Created: 7:51 PM 4/23/2007
Last updated: 7:51 PM 4/23/2007