The Koran praises ‘Qaum Mousa’ (The Jewish people)
With the Jews cleaving to Torah and the Muslims to the Koran, there will come a day when Muslims in the Holy Land will tell the Jewish people what they yearn to hear: “Welcome home!”
Isn’t it time for the Muslim ummah (people), through its Muslim ulama (scholars), to manifest the Koranic truth about the status of Qaum Mousa (the Jewish people) within the ummah? The Koran (5:21) is clear as to whom God granted the holy land. Why not have a group of Muslim ulama, especially from Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, convene and issue a fatwa regarding the status of the holy land in Islam? Also, what would happen if we Muslims considered Qaum Mousa (the Jewish people) as Ahlul Kitab (the People of the Book)? Historically speaking, Jews and Muslims lived together in a state of harmony, prosperity and peace. From the time of our beloved prophet Muhammad and his Jewish wife, called Umm-ul-Mu’mineen or the “Mother of Believers” (Safiyyah bint Huyayy) in Medina, to the 20th-century Jewish communities in Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Levant, Iraq and Yemen, we coexisted in religious peace. Unfortunately, those Jewish communities were recently dismantled, not for religious reasons but for political ones.
My uncles Mohamed and Nabil, leather merchants, had close Jewish associates in Egypt before the government of Egypt “facilitated” (that is, forced) the Jewish community there in dismantling itself and leaving the country. No one felt free enough to admit it out loud, but I would hear murmurings here and there about how Egypt has declined since the Jews left. Ironically, it seemed as though the Jews were always getting blamed – even their eviction made some of my parents’ friends bitter! In the late Seventies, our family immigrated to California, where I received an education at the highly acclaimed Berkeley and Stanford universities. I had little time to think about the plight of the Jews as I was making my way in America, but I did notice that my Jewish professors and schoolmates in college seemed to be more than reasonable people. They were bright and motivated, taking breaks at odd times of the semester to observe some holiday or other with their family, loyal to their heritage.
Those impressions stayed with me and eventually brought me to become deeply involved in solving the Arab-Israeli conflict on a grassroots level.
To keep a long story short, after achieving a degree of success in business, I needed a break from the rat race, as we say in the US.
In the late ‘90s, I was impressed with the simplicity and modesty of a Muslim sect called Tablighi-Jamat, and decided to join them on a trek to India to learn more about my parent’s religion – Islam. What I needed at that time was a dose of humility and pacifist spirituality that the Tablighi offered.
While on khrooj (passing the time in the path of Allah), I had a chance to reconnect with my Arabic and Islamic roots. I also had an opportunity to read and memorize parts of the Holy Koran. When I returned to the States, I was determined to make a difference for my people and continued to have the nagging sense that peace with the Jews would herald peace and prosperity for all people in the Middle East.
Pursuing peace with the Jewish people led me to study the Hebrew Bible at Yale University. Upon my successful completion of my master’s degree in religion at Yale, I began work on a PhD in Islamic studies that would be supervised and defended at Al-Azhar University in my native Egypt. My chosen dissertation topic was the People of the Book in the Koran, “Ahlul Kitab fi al-Quran.” My efforts for peace also took me on several missions to the Holy Land, where I had a chance to meet with rabbis and imams.
Tirelessly pursuing peace with the Muslim and Jewish
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