The historical interaction of Judaism and Islam started in the 7th century CE with the origin and spread of Islam in the Arab. Because Judaism and Islam share a common origin in the Middle East through Abraham, both are considered Abraham. There are many shared aspects between Judaism and Islam: Islam is similar to Judaism in its fundamental religious outlook, structure, jurisprudence and practice. Because of this, as well as through the influence of Muslim culture and philosophy on practitioners of Judaism within the Islamic world, there has been considerable and continued physical, theological, and political overlap between the two faiths in the subsequent 1,400 years.

Religious figuresEdit

Ancient Hebrew and Arab people are generally classified as Semitic peoples, a concept derived from Biblical accounts of the origins of the cultures known to the ancient Hebrews. Those closest to them in culture and language were generally deemed to be descended from their forefather Shem, one of the sons of Noah. Enemies were often said to be descendants of his cursed brother Ham. Modern historians confirm the affinity of ancient Hebrews and Arabs based on characteristics that are usually transmitted from parent to child, such as genes and habits, however the most well studied criterion is that of language. Similarities between Semitic languages (including Hebrew and Arab) and their differences with those spoken by other adjacent people confirm the common origin of Hebrews and Arabs among other Semitic nations.

Around the 16th century BC, Judaism developed as the first major monotheistic religion. According to Jewish tradition, the history of Judaism begins with the Covenant (biblical) between God and Abraham, who is considered a Hebrew. (The first Hebrew being Eber, a forefather of Abraham.) The Hebrew Bible occasionally refers to Arvi peoples (or variants thereof), translated as "Arab" or "Arabian". The Arabs of the Arab are considered descendants of Ismael, the first son of Abraham. While the commonly-held view among most Westerners and some lay Muslims is that Islam originated in Arabia with Muhammad's first recitations of the Qur'an in the 7th century CE, the Qur'an itself asserts that it was Abraham who is the first Muslim (in the sense of believing in God and surrendering to God and God's commands). Islam also shares many traits with Judaism (as well as with Christianity), like the belief in and reverence for common prophets, such as Moses and Abraham , who are recognized in both faiths.


Judaism, Christianity and Islam are known as "Abraham". The first Abrahamic religion was Judaism as practiced in ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah prior to the Babylonian Exile, at the beginning of the 1st millennium CE. The firstborn son of Abraham, Ishmael, Muslims consider Father of the Arabs. Abraham's second son Isaac is called Father of the Hebrews. In the Jewish tradition Abraham is called Avraham Avinu or "Our Father Abraham". For Muslims, he is considered an important prophet of Islam (see Ibrahim) and the ancestor of Muhammad through Ishmael.


Islam affirms that Moses (Musa) was given a revelation, the Torah, which Muslims call Tawrat in Arabic, and believed to be the word of God (Allah). However, they also believe that this original revelation was modified over time by Jewish (and Christian) scribes and preachers. According to Islamic belief, the present Jewish scriptures were no longer the original divine revelations given to Moses. Muslims believe the Qur'an is the final revelation from God and a completion of the previous revelations.

Muhammad (PBUH)Edit

In the course of Muhammad's proselytizing in Mecca, he viewed Christians and Jews (both of whom he referred to as "People of the Book") as natural allies, sharing the core principles of his teachings, and anticipated their acceptance and support. Muslims, like Jews, were at that time praying towards Jerusalem. Muhammad was very excited to move to Medina, where the Jewish community there had long worshiped the one God.

Many Medinans converted to the faith of the Meccan immigrants, particularly pagan and polytheist tribes, but the Jewish tribes did not. Much to Muhammad's disappointment, they rejected his claim to prophethood. According to Watt, "Jews would normally be unwilling to admit that a non-Jew could be a prophet" of Judaism.

Mark Cohen adds that Muhammad appeared "centuries after the cessation of biblical prophecy" and "couched his message in a verbiage foreign to Judaism both in its format and rhetoric." Maimonides referred to Muhammad as a false prophet and referred to him in the Epistle to Yemen as a mad man. Moreover, Maimonides claimed that Muhammad's prophecy disqualified him because it contradicted the prophecy of Moses, the Torah and the Oral Tradition. Also, the fact that Muhammad was illiterate disqualified him as a prophet.

Other ProphetsEdit

Both agree on many people as being prophets with exceptions. Both unlike Christianity teach Eber, Job, and Joseph were prophets. However according to one sage in Judaism the whole story attributed to Job was a fable and Job never existed. Rashi, a Jewish commentator on the Hebrew Scriptures quotes a text dating to 160CE, which is also quoted in the Talmud on his commentary on Genesis 10 to show that Eber was a prophet.

Historical interactionEdit

Jews have often lived in predominantly Islamic nations. Since many national borders have changed over the fourteen centuries of Islamic history, a single community, such as the Jewish community in Cairo, may have been contained in a number of different nations over different periods.

As the Islamic state expanded out of the Arab, large numbers of Jews came under Muslim rule. There was general improvement in the conditions of Jews as Islamic law commands that Jews should be judged by Jewish laws, and that synagogues are to be protected; others point to the second-class status of Jews and Christians in Muslim controlled countries.

Middle AgesEdit

In the Al-Andalus, under Muslim rule, Jews were able to make great advances in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, chemistry and philology. This era is sometimes referred to as the Golden age of Jewish culture in the Iberian Peninsula.

Traditionally Jews living in Muslim lands, known (along with Christians) as dhimmis, were allowed to practice their religion and to administor their internal affairs but subject to certain conditions. They had to pay the jizya (a per capita tax imposed on free adult non-muslim males) to Muslims. Many of the disabilities were highly symbolic. The most degrading one was the requirement of distinctive clothing, not found in the Qur'an or hadith but invented in early medieval Baghdad; its enforcement was highly erratic. Jews rarely faced martyrdom or exile, or forced compulsion to change their religion, and they were mostly free in their choice of residence and profession. The notable examples of massacre of Jews include the killing or forcibly conversion of them by the rulers of the Almohad dynasty in Al-Andalus in the 12th century. Notable examples of the cases where the choice of residence was taken away from them includes confining Jews to walled quarters (mellahs) in Morocco beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century. Most conversions were voluntary and happened for various reasons. However, there were some forced conversions in the 12th century under the Almohad dynasty of North Africa and Al-Andalus as well as in Persia.

The medieval Volga state of Khazaria converted to Judaism, whereas its subject Volga Bulgaria converted to Islam

Conversion of Jews to IslamEdit

In the past, groups of Jews and individual Jews have converted to Islam.

A number of groups who converted from Judaism to Islam have remained Muslim, while maintaining a connection to and interest in their Jewish heritage. These groups include the Anusim or Daggataun of Timbuktu who converted in 1492, when Askia Muhammed came to power in Timbuktu and decreed that Jews must convert to Islam or leave, and the Chala, a portion of the Bukharan Jewish community who were pressured and many times forced to convert to Islam.

In Persia, during the Safavid dynasty of the 16th and 17th centuries, Jews were forced to proclaim publicly that they had converted to Islam, and were given the name Jadid-al-Islam (New Muslims). In 1661, an Islamic edict was issued overturning these forced conversions, and the Jews returned to practicing Judaism openly. Similarly, to end a pogrom in 1839, the Jews of Mashhad were forced to convert en masse to Islam. They practiced Judaism secretly for over a century before openly returning to their faith. At the turn of the 21st century, around 10,000 lived in Israel, another 4,000 in New York City, and 1,000 elsewhere. (See Allah).

In Turkey, the claimed messiah Sabbatai Zevi was imprisoned until he was presented with the choice to convert to Islam or be put to death, whereupon he converted to Islam in 1666. A number of his followers converted as well, becoming known as the Donmeh (a Turkish word for a religious convert). While outwardly Muslim, they retained a belief that Zevi was the Messiah, some believing him to be an incarnation of God. The Donmeh secretly remained Jews by most definitions, observed certain Jewish rituals, prayed in Hebrew and Aramaic, and celebrated Jewish festivals and fasts. Some Donmeh remain today, primarily in Turkey.

Present dayEdit

Iran contains the largest number of Jews among Muslim countries and Uzbekistan and Turkey have the next largest communities. Iran's Jewish community is officially recognized as a religious minority group by the government, and, like the Zoroastrians, they were allocated one seat in the Iranian parliament. In 2000 it was estimated that at that time there were still 30–35,000 Jews in Iran, other sources put the figure as low as 20–25,000.

In present times, the Arab is a defining event in the relationship between Muslims and Jews. The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the British Mandate of Palestine. Not long after, five Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – attacked Israel, launching the 1948. 1948 also saw a similar Jewish exodus from Arab lands "because of Arab persecution resulting from the very attempt to establish a Jewish state in Palestine."

Since the start of the Twentieth century conversion of Jews to Islam has generally been voluntary, and a small number of Jews have converted to Islam. The most notable of these include:

Approximately 35 of Israel's 6 million citizens convert to Islam each year, mostly Jewish and Christian women who convert after choosing to marry Muslim men.

Common aspects Edit

There are many common aspects between Islam and Judaism. As Islam developed it gradually became the major religion closest to Judaism. As opposed to Christianity, which originated from interaction between ancient Greek and Hebrew cultures, Judaism is similar to Islam in its fundamental religious outlook, structure, jurisprudence and practice.

Holy scriptureEdit

Islam and Judaism share the idea of a revealed Scripture. Even though they differ over the precise text and its interpretations, the Hebrew Torah and the Muslim Qur'an share a lot of narrative as well as injunctions. From this, they share many other fundamental religious concepts such as the belief in a day of Divine Judgment. Reflecting the vintage of the religions, the Torah is traditionally in the form of a scroll and the Qu'ran in the form of a Codex.

Muslims commonly refer to Jews (and Christians) as fellow "People of the Book": people who follow the same general teachings in relation to the worship of the one God worshipped by Abraham. The Qur'an distinguishes between "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians), who should be tolerated even if they hold to their faiths, and idolaters (polytheists) who are not given that same degree of tolerance (See Al-Baqara, 256). Some restrictions for Muslims are relaxed, such as Muslim males being allowed to marry a woman from the "People of the Book" (Qur'an, 5:5), or Muslims being allowed to eat Kosher meat.

Religious lawEdit

Judaism and Islam are unique in having systems of religious law based on oral tradition that can override the written laws and that does not distinguish between holy and secular spheres. In Islam the laws are called Sharia, In Judaism they are known as Halakha. Both Judaism and Islam consider the study of religious law to be a form of worship and an end in itself.

Rules of conductEdit

The most obvious common practice is the statement of the absolute unity of God, which Muslims observe in their five times daily prayers (Salah), and Jews state at least twice (Shema Yisrael), along with praying 3 times daily. The two Faiths also share the central practices of fasting and Almsgiving, as well as dietary laws and other aspects of ritual purity. Under the strict dietary laws, lawful food is called Kosher in Judaism and Halal in Islam. Both religions prohibit the consumption of pork. Halal restrictions are similar to a subset of the Kashrut dietary laws, so many kosher foods are considered halal; especially in the case of meat, which Islam prescribes must be slaughtered in the name of Allah.

Both Islam and traditional Judaism ban homosexuality and forbid human sexual relations outside of marriage (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, "The Meaning of the Quran, Volume 3", note 7-1, p. 241, 2000, Islamic Publications</ref> and necessitate abstinence during wife's period. Both prescribe Circumcision for males.

Other similaritiesEdit

Islam and Judaism both consider the Christian doctrine of the trinity and the belief of Jesus being God as explicitly against the tenets of Monotheism. Idolatry, worshiping graven images, is likewise forbidden in both religions. Both believe in Angels and demons (AlShai'tan in Islam) (However, many Jews do not consider angels nor demons to be literal beings as stated by Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon) and many angels possess similar names and roles in both religions. Both do not believe in original sin. Both view homosexuality as sinful and a capital crime. Many narrative similarities between the Midrash and the Qu'ran (and also the Hadith) have been noted. Both state Potiphar's wife was named Zuleika (though in Islam's case, this could be a result of isra'ilyat influence). Both teach King Solomon knew the language of the birds and several other similarities.

There is a small bone in the body at the base of the spinal column called the Luz bone (some identify this bone as the Coccyx) from which the body will be rebuilt at the time of resurrection according to Muslims and Jews who share the belief that this bone does not decay . Muslims books refer to this bone as "^Ajbu al-Thanab" --(عَجْبُ الذَّنَب). Rabbi Joshua Ben Hananiah replied to Hadrian, as to how man revived in the world to come, "From Luz, in the back-bone."

Interplay between Jewish and Islamic thoughtEdit

There was a great deal of intellectual cultural diffusion between Muslim and Jewish rationalist philosophers of the medieval era, especially in Al-Andalus.

Saadia GaonEdit

One of the most important early Jewish philosophers influenced by Islamic philosophy is Rav Saadia Gaon (892–942). His most important work is Emunoth ve-Deoth (Book of Beliefs and Opinions). In this work Saadia treats of the questions that interested the Mutakallimun so deeply — such as the creation of matter, the unity of God, the divine attributes, the soul, etc. — and he criticizes the philosophers severely.

The 12th century saw the apotheosis of pure philosophy. This supreme exaltation of philosophy was due, in great measure, to Ghazali (1058–1111) among the Arabs, and to Judah ha-Levi (1140) among the Jews. Like Ghazali, Judah ha-Levi took upon himself to free religion from the shackles of speculative philosophy, and to this end wrote the Kuzari, in which he sought to discredit all schools of philosophy alike.


Maimonides endeavored to harmonize the philosophy of Aristotle with Judaism; and to this end he composed his immortal work, Dalalat al-Ḥairin (Guide for the Perplexed) — known better under its Hebrew title Moreh Nevuchim — which served for many centuries as the subject of discussion and comment by Jewish thinkers. In this work, Maimonides considers creation, the unity of God, the attributes of God, the soul, etc., and treats them in accordance with the theories of Aristotle to the extent in which these latter do not conflict with religion. For example, while accepting the teachings of Aristotle upon matter and form, he pronounces against the eternity of matter. Nor does he accept Aristotle's theory that God can have a knowledge of universals only, and not of particulars. If He had no knowledge of particulars, He would be subject to constant change. Maimonides argues: "God perceives future events before they happen, and this perception never fails Him. Therefore there are no new ideas to present themselves to Him. He knows that such and such an individual does not yet exist, but that he will be born at such a time, exist for such a period, and then return into non-existence. When then this individual comes into being, God does not learn any new fact; nothing has happened that He knew not of, for He knew this individual, such as he is now, before his birth" (Moreh, i.20). While seeking thus to avoid the troublesome consequences certain Aristotelian theories would entail upon religion, Maimonides could not altogether escape those involved in Aristotle's idea of the unity of souls; and herein he laid himself open to the attacks of the orthodox.

Ibn Roshd (Averroes), the contemporary and tutor of Maimonides, closes the philosophical era of the Arabs. The boldness of this great commentator of Aristotle aroused the full fury of the orthodox, who, in their zeal, attacked all philosophers indiscriminately, and had all philosophical writings committed to the flames.

Driven from the Arabian schools, Arabic philosophy found a refuge with the Jews, to whom belongs the honor of having transmitted it to the Christian world. A series of eminent men — such as the Tibbons, Narboni, and Gersonides — joined in translating the Arabic philosophical works into Hebrew and commenting upon them. The works of Ibn Roshd especially became the subject of their study, due in great measure to Maimonides, who, in a letter addressed to his pupil Joseph ben Judah, spoke in the highest terms of Ibn Roshd's commentary.

In a response, Maimonides discusses the relationship between Judaism and Islam:

The Ishmaelites are not at all idolaters; [idolatry] has long been severed from their mouths and hearts; and they attribute to God a proper unity, a unity concerning which there is no doubt. And because they lie about us, and falsely attribute to us the statement that God has a son, is no reason for us to lie about them and say that they are idolaters . . . And should anyone say that the house that they honor [the Kaaba] is a house of idolatry and an idol is hidden within it, which their ancestors used to worship, then what of it? The hearts of those who bow down toward it today are [directed] only toward Heaven . . . [Regarding] the Ishmaelites today - idolatry has been severed from the mouths of all of them [including] women and children. Their error and foolishness is in other things which cannot be put into writing because of the renegades and wicked among Israel [i.e., apostates]. But as regards the unity of God they have no error at all.[1]

Influence on exegesis Edit

Saadia Gaon's commentary on the Bible bears the stamp of the Mutazilites; and its author, while not admitting any positive attributes of God, except these of essence, endeavors to interpret Biblical passages in such a way as to rid them of Anthropomorphism. The Jewish commentator, Abraham, explains the Biblical account of Creation and other Scriptural passages in a philosophical sense. Nahmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman), too, and other commentators, show the influence of the philosophical ideas current in their respective epochs. This salutary inspiration, which lasted for five consecutive centuries, yielded to that other influence alone that came from the neglected depths of Jewish and of Neoplatonic mysticism, and which took the name of Kabbalah. Islamic commentary on the Qur'an, or tafsir, also draws heavily on Jewish sources. This is called Isra'iliyat.






External linksEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.