Dr. Peter Riddell delivered a lecture on the people of the book (Jews and Christians) during a CIU course. Here, Riddell presents a range of material found about people of the book within Islam. The dichotomy between Islamic texts, the wide range of views among Muslims on the people of the book, and the relation between the Islamic textual materials that foster such attitudes.


  Here starts the auto-generated transcription of Dr. Peter Riddell’s Lecture: People of the Book: 


Welcome back to understanding the Quran. We’re going to turn our attention now to a new topic, and that is the topic of the people of the book, which for our purposes will refer specifically to Jews and Christians. Now in thinking about this topic, it’s important to remind ourselves of the, sort of dichotomy, in a sense, between Islam as a religion, a religion of texts, and Muslims as people. Now, of course, there is interaction between those 2. Texts shape people, people engage with texts.


But the themes that are in texts don’t necessarily reflect themselves in the attitudes of all people. And on this particular topic, the people of the book, I think it’s fair to state from the outset that Muslims Muslim people certainly have a wide range of views towards Christians and Jews. Some views are positive, some views are negative. So the people have a whole range of views, but as far as the sacred texts are concerned and the associated commentaries that go with those texts, I think it’s important to note that the that the texts include many statements that foster negative stereotypes of people of the book, of Jews and Christians, among Muslims. Now, the readings for this lecture, and we have a whole range of readings there, the readings for this lecture show how negative statements in primary Islamic texts can produce negative attitudes among some Muslim people.


Now this topic is at times uncomfortable, and it really calls for public recognition and discussion of a significant issue and a significant problem at times. If you look at the Moodle page, you will see that there are a whole range of reading materials there. There is a an excerpt from the book by Helman Gatchi in which he draws on commentators from the classical period, people like Zamasu al Sha’i and Baydawi, on what they have to say about people of the book. There is an excerpt from the very early commentary by Muhammad Ali bin Soleiman commenting on the very first Surah in the Quran. There are writings by other Muslim scholars and writers, and, there are a number of films that I will ask you to look at as well, supplemented by writings by by Christians on this theme.


Now, look, we’re often reminded by human rights reports about persecution of Christians. For example, this report dated January 8, 2013 stated that about 100,000,000 Christians are persecuted around the world according to an annual report by a group supporting oppressed Christians worldwide. Open Doors, a nondenominational Christian group, listed North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan as the 3 toughest countries for Christians last year. They topped the 50 country ranking for 2,011 as well. Now, 2 of those 3 countries are, of course, majority Muslim nations, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.


And it’s important to observe that stories of persecution of Christians seem to come in a disproportionate measure from Muslim majority locations. Now, what’s going on here? Why is this? Why does Christian suffering and persecution of Christians happen especially in the Muslim world? Well, the answer lies in part to materials contained within the primary texts of Islam.


I’d like you to stop the recording now and to watch a couple of films. The first film is by Ahmed Diddat, a very well known the late Ahmed Diddat, well known Muslim polemicist. He has a film on YouTube available, and we have a link on the Moodle page. And the film is entitled how to treat the Jews and the Christians according to Islam. And, also, there are 2 short clips, which show in interviews with young Arab girls, young Arab children, in which they are asked a range of questions which give an insight into attitudes towards people of the book.


Now, these of course are real recent films and they show modern attitudes among some Muslim people. I’d like you to stop the recording and watch those, and then we will ask the question, why do these attitudes exist? Okay. So let’s move from those films which include comments by Ahmed Diddat and a couple of young Arab girls about Jews and Christians to ask questions of the Islamic sacred texts themselves. What do they have to say in terms of attitudes towards people of the book?


Well, we’re gonna go on a bit of a journey through the Quran here. This is surah 2 verse 122 and it states the children of Israel were especially favored by God that their words were, O children of Israel, call to mind the special favor which I bestowed upon you and that I preferred you to all my others to all others for my message. So there is this sense of special favor recorded in the Quran directed towards the children of Israel used as a vehicle by God to transfer God’s message. Continuing on verse 2 verse 83 of Sura 2, and remember when we made a covenant with the children of Israel saying, worship none, save Allah only, and be good to parents and to kindred and to orphans and the needy, and speak kindly to mankind, and establish worship and pay the poor due. Then after that, ye slid back save a few of you being averse.


Now, this verse says that the children of Israel, after having been given a special favor, some of them slid back. Going on. They distorted God’s teaching for monetary gain. Then woe to those who write the book with their own hands and then say, this is from Allah to traffic with it for a miserable crisis. And this is the greatest calumny, of course.


The Quran says, who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah? So let’s take stock. These verses suggest that the children of Israel were given special favor by God to transfer his message. Some of them slid back. Some of them changed the message with their own hands for monetary gain.


And they concealed the testimony that they had from Allah. Now what was that testimony that they apparently concealed according to the Quran? Well, Muslim scholars claim, and we’ve mentioned this in earlier lectures, there is evidence of Jewish distortion through certain verses remaining in the Bible. This verse from Deuteronomy 18. The Lord said to Moses, I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.


I will put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him. Deuteronomy 18. Now, Muslim polemicists say that this verse remained in the Quran and it points to Mohammed because Mohammed is a prophet like you, they suggest. And at the same time, they say there weren’t many other verses in the in the Bible originally, which Christian and Jewish scholars erased, many verses which foretold the coming of Mohammed, which were erased by Christian and Jewish scholars. Now, a price is to be paid according to this Koranic story.


In that, as the pea children of Israel changed the message of a Quran, which foretold the coming of Mohammed, their fate will be sealed on judgment day. The Quran warns of the fate awaiting the Jews on judgment day. Hast thou not turned thy vision to those who have been given a portion of the book? But a party of them turn back. But how will they fare when we gather them together against a day about which there is no doubt?


Now that day is judgment day, the day of judgment. This comes from surah 3 verses 23 to 25. And one finds graphic scenes we saw in our earlier lectures about eschatology that the whole day of judgment discourse in Islam is one of great tribulation and trial and fear. So what will happen to the people of the book on judgment day? Well, the famous Kashiorkommer commentator Al Baydawi records what is destined for the Jews on judgement day according to the Islamic accounts.


He writes, it’s recorded that the first standard of the infidels that shall be raised on the day of judgment is the standard of the Jews. Then God shall upbraid them in the presence of the witnesses and then order them to hell. And this theme is also picked up in the hadith accounts. For example, in, Sahih Muslim, book 41 number 6985, it reads as follows. Abu Huraira reported Allah’s messenger as saying the last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would kill themselves would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree, and a stone or a tree would say, Muslim, oh, this or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me.


Come and kill him. But the tree, Garkhad, would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews. So this is the fate that awaits the Jews according to this Islamic account for having distorted the message that they were originally given by Allah, a message which foretold the coming of Mohammed, that message they concealed. Now, this kind of negative portrayal of Jews, especially, but Christians to some extent as well, which is found in certain verses of the Quran and the Hadith, is carried through to other literature as well. The Mishkat Al Mas’abih is a collection of Hadith, and it includes this this account, this Hadith account, which says, when Safia heard that Hafsa had called her a Jew’s daughter, she wept.


Now that’s a window into culture, and it’s a window into context. Obviously, in that context, to call someone a Jew’s daughter was a term of abuse. And that suggests the continuing negative stereotyping of Jews in the day, in the period of those texts. And as we’ll see, this negative stereotyping has carried on down the centuries. Another hadith account in Sahih Muslim, account number 284, He who amongst the community of Jews or Christians hears about me, but does not affirm his belief in that which with which I have been sent and dies in this state of disbelief, he shall be but one of the denizens of hell fire.


Mohammed is speaking in this hadith account, and he is saying that if any Jew or Christian does not accept his prophetic claims, and he dies in a state of disbelief in Mohammed’s prophetic claims, he will go to hellfire. This is the message of the text. We also find in another hadith account, volume 7 of Bukhari, book 72 number 786, Abu Huraira said, the prophet said, Jews and Christians do not dye their hair, so you should do the opposite of what they do. So you see the issue here. There is this textual negative betrayal and negative stereotyping of Jews especially, but Jews and Christians also.


So this is the starting point. With such a textual context, with the primary text of Islam, Quran and the Hadith, carrying such negative baggage in their references to Judaism, especially, but also Christianity, how does that translate to attitudes among Muslim people? As we’ll think about that more as we go through these lectures on this particular topic. But at the same time, I’d be like I’d like you to be thinking about biblical context as well. Does the Bible include references to people of other faiths that are demeaning or derogatory, as we’ve seen in the case of the Quran and the Hadith?


To what extent do you think that statements in the Islamic texts, which are negative about Jews and Christians, might inform attitudes today among Muslims? Welcome back to understanding the Quran. We’re continuing on with this lecture on people of the book as portrayed in Islamic materials. We saw in the last part in the first part of this lecture that the issue of persecution of Christians is widespread and widely re reported, and comes especially from areas where Muslims are in the majority. We asked ourselves the question, to what extent does do Islamic textual materials foster negative attitudes to Jews and to Christians?


And we saw that within the Quran and the Hadith, there certainly are ingredients there for promoting negative attitudes towards Jews and towards Christians. We’re continuing on with this theme now by moving to commentaries on the Quran. And we’ll begin with the very old the the earliest surviving commentary on the Quran by Muqhatil ibn Sulayman. If you turn to your Moodle page, you will see that the Muqaddil’s commentary on Surat al Fatiha, on the verse 1st Surah of the Quran, is available to you on that page. I’d like you to read that commentary, stop the recording, read the commentary, it’s fairly short, and then we’ll discuss it.


As you read Mokateil’s commentary on Suratul Fatiha, there are a number of features that are striking. Firstly, the commentary is quite exclusivist. There’s no doubt, as you would expect, where he believes the truth to lie, and that’s very clearly in the message of Islam, which is not surprising, of course. He addresses the qira’as, the variant readings of ibn Masood. That’s interesting.


Very early commentary dating from 767, and that was the year of death of Muqhatil. He died in 7 67. So his commentary appeared within barely 100 years of Mohammed’s life, and he’s talking there about the variant readings. However, you can tell from some of the features, especially his commentary on verse 7 of this Surah, that there is an element of anti Jewishness, and there is an element of anti Christian feeling as well. And this is very early, so he’s taken those elements that we saw in the last lecture from the Quran and the Hadith, and he’s transferred it into tafsir, into commentary writing.


And that as a tendency goes on down the down the centuries. Note also that his approach is Hadith based. His commentary style is hadith based. He uses the hadith to explain the Quran. Moving on to other commentators, Al Baydawi, another famous commentator who we encountered earlier in this course, he died in 12/86.


If, you refer to Helmut Gachi’s book, Quran and its exegesis, it in it includes English translation of Beidawi’s commentary on Sura 2 verses 142 to 143. Interestingly, he makes the observation or the comment that Jerusalem was initially identified as the direction for prayer but that was a test by God to determine who would follow Mohammed by facing Jerusalem and who would follow their ancestors by facing Mecca. Also, in Helmand Ghatshi’s translate translation of the various commentators, we find comment by Zamaq Shari on sura 5 verse 82, in which he suggests the Jews are stubborn, but Christians are gentle and more inclined towards Islam. So, again, you’re getting a negative stereotype of Jews, but a somewhat softer view of Christians is portrayed. Al Baydawi’s comment on Sura 113, also presented in GACI, makes reference to a Jew who practiced the sorcery of the knots.


And it’s this association of Jews with negative themes, sorcery, that reinforces the negative stereotype that comes through so much in the textual materials of Islam. Moving from the past to the recent past and the distant past to the recent past, we look at the comment by Muldudi, the 20th century Pakistani commentator, very famous Islamic scholar who wielded quite an influence, especially with the more militant, radicalized Muslims. He comments on Surah 3 verses 64 and following. In his note on those verses, he says, any doctrine which teaches the worship of anyone and anything other than God and exhausts any creature to the position of god can never be the teaching of a prophet. Now implied, of course, is a clear rejection of Christianity’s divinity of Jesus.


And so, again, we’re finding in the textual materials this recurring theme of negativity towards Christians, in this case, and towards Jews. Muldudi, further on, comments that the prophet’s pledge he makes reference to this prop prophet’s pledge, which affirms preceding prophets and anticipates late prophets. And he points out that Mohammed was the only one who was not asked to take this pledge, affirming the uniqueness of Mohammed and demonstrating the transgressions of the Jews and the Christians. Muldudi’s commentary is available online, and I do encourage you to refer to that. I’ve provided a link on the Moodle page to his commentary.


In this proceeding slides, we’ve looked at Gatchi’s book, the Quran and its exegesis, in its chapter, which deals with Quranic commentary on Jews and Christians. And I would like you now to turn to the Moodle page, stop the recording, and have a look on the Moodle page on the link to that chapter from Gucci, which is available in PDF form. This negative stereotyping of Jews and Christians, which is found in primary texts, is also found in associated literature, such as the legal texts. Consider Arezala, which is a legal text from the Maliki school. It says, the blood wit for a woman shall be half that of a man.


The blood wit, of course, being the blood price paid for recouping a crime against a woman. So the blood wit for a woman shall be half that of a man. Similarly, the blood wit for a male Christian or a Jew is half that of a male Muslim, and the blood wit for their women is half that of their men. And so if a crime is committed against a Muslim man, the amount to be paid as penalty is twice that that needs to be paid if a crime is committed against a Muslim woman. And similarly, the amount of money to be play paid for a crime committed against a male Christian or a Jew or a female Christian or a Jew is less.


So built within the legal texts is this idea that Muslims and Muslim males more deserving than non Muslims, and indeed Muslim females. A very important source in understanding the textual basis of Islam, in understanding the Quran and how the associated literature explains the Quran. An important work is F. E. Peter’s reader on Islam.


And I’ve provided you with a number of excerpts from that on the Moodle page. Now, F. E. Peters cites and translates part of a work by Juwaini, by the classical Islamic writer, Juwaini, called the Noble Healing. And in this excerpt, Duane claims that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the pre exilic tour Torah records, and so Ezra reconstructed the surviving fragments, altering the originals in the process.


Now this gives further detail to the Islamic claim that the Jews distorted the message they’ve been given from from Allah. Here, he’s unpacking it and explaining that the method of distortion was by Ezra who, after the exile to Babylon, when the Jews returned to Jerusalem, Ezra reconstructed the Torah but changed it in the process. Now, Giovanni also claims that there was too great a time lapse between the life of Jesus and the composition of the gospels, again implying a process of distortion. Giving further details to the standard Islamic claim that the Christians and the Jews have distorted the message that they received from Allah. How would you respond to that?


In making a response to such polemical Islamic claims against the Christians and the Jews, A key source for finding your answers is the extensive Answering Islam website, which is available on the Internet. I’ve provided a number of links to that site on your Moodle page. For a different kind of voice, I turn to the writing by T. M. Hashbi Asiedefi.


He’s a 20th century Indonesian scholar who we had not encountered before. I’ve provided a translation of part one of his part of part of one of his works on the Moodle page. And in this translation, in this excerpt, Ashadegh offers a principle of equivalence between Muslims and people of the book. Non Muslims should only be subject to Sharia punishments, he says, for breaches of their own faith’s injunctions, such as drunkenness, not for breaches of Sharia, which are allowed by them by the non Muslim faith, such as drinking alcohol in moderation. How would you respond to that?


Read his translated excerpt on the Moodle page and consider a response. Another reading that you have available on the Moodle page is taken from the 20th century Egyptian radical writer Saeed Khutb. Now, as I’ve explained before, he is a key icon for radical Islam, for radical Muslims. And in his writing, he is especially vitriolic at times against the people of the book, especially the Jews. I would refer you to the reading, which is available on your on your Moodle page by Sayed Khutb called Our Struggle with the Jews that was translated by professor Ron Netler in 1987.


Now, in this reading, Sayed Khutb admonishes the Muslim community to reaffirm Quranic truth, which is the hallmark of Islamic radicalism. Get back to the Quran. Get back to a literal reading in the Quran. He also calls on Muslims to repudiate suspicions and doubts of people of the book to respond to the challenges of the people of the book. He warns the Muslim community against conspiracy.


He encourages the Muslim community to reaffirm the reality of power. He points out to the Muslim community the weakness of its enemies. He’s trying to galvanize the Muslim community. And he shows the Muslim community that Allah is with the Muslims. Read his passage that’s available on the Moodle page.


Think about it and ask yourself how you would respond to some of his statements. Now, in this reading, Sayid Khutb is quite polemical against Judaism. He accuses the Jews of the Madinan dissension, the assassination of a caliph caliph Uthman in 656, corrupting the Hadith records. He accuses the Jews also of Islamic law reforms in the last 100 years, which watered down the basis of Islamic law. He accused the Jews of being the sources of Marxism and of communism.


He accused them of moral decay, and he accused them of a decline of family value values. In short, he accused the Jews of a whole range of calumnies going right back to the time of Mohammed right up to the modern day.