11 May 2005


Islam and Judiasm

Influences Contrasts and Parallels

by David Steinberg


Home page http://www.houseofdavid.ca/



1. Israelite-Jewish Relations with the Arabs

2. Judaism and Islam – Influences and parallels

3. Theological Idiom – Toward the Future


1. Israelite-Jewish Relations with the Arabs

From the earliest times, Israelite relations with the Arabs have been extensive but mainly limited to commerce and not generally acrimonious.  Typical is the first recorded interaction when Ishmaelites traders purchased Joseph from his brothers (Gen. 37:25-28).  These Ishmaelites were playing an unwitting part in God’s grand design to send the Israelites to Egypt.  Of course, from their point of view they were just making a quick buck slave trading.

Nehemiah, the 5th century BCE rebuilder of Jerusalem was opposed by Geshem the Arab[1] who probably controlled the southern Negev.  By the fourth century BCE, the Nabatean Arabs had established a strong state south and east of Judea in former Edomite territory.

Most of the boundaries of the Maccabean state were with the Iturean and Nabatean Arab kingdoms.  Points of Physical contiguity:

a)     The Nabatean Arab kingdom formed the southern and eastern borders of Perea (i.e. Jewish areas east of the Jordan formerly called Gilead)[2]. After the Judean conquest and conversion of Idumea the Nabatean kingdom also formed the southern boundary of Judea.   Both wars, and peaceful contact, between the Maccabees, and their successors, were frequent; and,

b)     The Iturean Arab kingdom, based on the Beqa’ Valley (south-east Lebanon) and Mt. Hermon, had taken over Upper Galilee.  Aristobulus conquered Upper Galilee (104-103 BCE)[3] and force converted the Itureans there. 

It is possible that Jewish trading colonies existed in Sheba (Yemen) and the Hejaz (western Saudi Arabia) as early as the time of king Solomon.  In the period before Muhammad a famous Jewish king ruled in Yemen before being conquered by the Christians. 


2. Judaism and Islam – Influences and parallels

In the Hejaz, Muhammad’s homeland, there were Jewish tribes with which he was intimately involved as he was, to a lesser extent, with Christian Arabs.  Muhammad learned much from the Jews and using Judaism as a base, developed his new faith Islam.  There was no Arabic translation of the Hebrew Bible at the time, but Arabian Jews were deeply immersed in the mainstream of the Jewish midrashic tradition.  Thus, in the Koran, many of the stories of the Hebrew Bible are retold in the form known from midrashim which diverges widely from the simple meaning of the biblical text (see Geiger).  Many Jewish teachings, sayings, normative and ethical precepts are also found in the sacred oral tradition of Islam[4].

As Islam developed it became, by far, the major religion closest to Judaism[5].  The most obvious common feature is the statement of the absolute unity of God which Muslims repeat five times each day, and Jews at least twice.  Judaism and Islam are unique in having systems of religious law based on oral tradition which can over-ride the written laws and which does not distinguish between holy and secular spheres.  In each, similar logical systems are used for deriving religious law[6], and in both cases a similar responsa literature developed in Iraq during the same period.  Both Judaism and Islam consider the study the study of religious law to be a form of worship and an end in itself, and both picture God as studying in heaven.  According to the Encyclopedia Judaica

The fundamental similarity of Judaism and Islam, both based on religious laws in principles, methods, and legislation, caused parallel developments in later centuries. 

Probably the only major Islamic belief that Judaism would find unpalatable would be the recognition of Muhammad as the last and greatest of the prophets.

Jews Under Islam

The Theological Dimension

“If we compare the Muslim attitude to Jews and treatment of Jews in medieval times with the position of Jews among their Christian neighbors in medieval Europe, we see some striking contrasts. Even the hostilities of the two majority communities differ considerably. In Islamic society hostility to the Jew is non-theological. It is not related to any specific Islamic doctrine, nor to any specific circumstance in Islamic sacred history. For Muslims, it is not part of the birth pangs of their religion, as it is for Christians. It is rather the usual attitude of the dominant to the subordinate, of the majority to the minority, without that additional theological and therefore psychological dimension that gives Christian anti-Semitism its unique and special character.”

Lewis 1984



How Islam and Traditional Judaism are structured very similarly –


Structural and Methodological Parallels Between

Jewish (halakha) and Islamic (sharia-fiqh) Law


Jewish Law (halakha)

Islamic Law (sharia)

Written Law Traditionally Considered to be Perfect and Authored by God

Written Torah (Pentateuch - Genesis to Deuteronomy) - considered by Orthodox Judaism to have been written by Moses at God’s dictation.  Moses is considered by Orthodox Judaism[7] to have simultaneously received the Oral Torah from God – i.e. the basis of the rabbinic tradition on how the law is to be interpreted in order to meet any future needs.  See also Oral Law, Revelation and Torah: Jewish views

Conservative and Reform Judaism accept modern critical views that the Torah i.e.  Pentateuch was authored by human beings over a long period but attest that it reflects divine inspiration.

Qur'an - Traditionally Considered to have been received by Muhammad at Archangel Gabriel’s dictation[8].

“With the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, communication of the divine will to man ceased so that the terms of the divine revelation were henceforth fixed and immutable.” Encyclopedia Britannica

As with the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament modern critical methods (see What is the Koran? by Toby Lester) would seem likely, in the long-run, to lead non-fundamentalist Muslims to a view analogous to those of Conservative and Reform Judaism i.e. that the Quran had a long and complex history but, in some way, was inspired.

Precedent of Authoritative Figures

Ma'aseh ("precedent") a factual circumstance from which a halakhic rule or principle is derived.

Talmudic tractates function much as the Hadith does in Islam.

Sunnah-Hadith (Arabic: “news,” or “story”) - traditions relating to the sayings and doings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his companions, or Sahaba.. These are revered and received as a major source of religious law and moral guidance, second only to the authority of the Quran in Islamic Law.


Midrash (i.e., interpretation and construction), various modes of which were employed to find solutions to new problems, first by interpretation of the written law and thereafter of the Mishnah and successive halakhic sources.

In the Middle Ages the word pardes was used as a mnemonic for the four types of biblical exegesis, an acronym of peshat ("the literal meaning"), remez ("hint," i.e., veiled allusions), derash ("homiletical interpretation"), and sod ("mystery," i.e., the esoteric interpretation), the word being made up of the initial letters of these words.

See also Bible Exegesis; The thirteen rules by which Jewish law was derived


Tafsir - the science of explanation of the Quran or of Quranic commentary. After Muhammad’s death commentaries were needed because the text, when it achieved written form, lacked historical sequence in the arrangement of materials, suffered from ambiguity of both text and meaning, showed a variety of differing readings, was recorded in a defective script, and even contained apparent contradictions.  The tafsir literature according to its form and function is of five types, which probably appeared in roughly the following chronological order: attempts to supply a narrative context for passages, efforts to explain the implications for conduct of various passages, concern with details of the text, concern with matters of rhetoric, and allegorical interpretation.

Legal Logic

Sevara ("legal logic") - the legal logic employed by halakhic scholars in their reasoning. This logic is founded on observation of the characteristics of human beings as they are disclosed in their social relations with one another and on a study of the practical realities of daily life. Sevarah may serve both as a historical source of law—a source which factually and indirectly leads to the creation of a particular legal rule—and as legal source of law—a source recognized by the particular legal system as a direct means for the acceptance of a legal rule into that system.


Qiyas, in Islamic law, analogical reasoning as applied to the deduction of juridical principles from the Quran and the Sunnah (the normative practice of the community). With the Quran, the Sunnah, and ijma (scholarly consensus), it constitutes the four sources of Islamic jurisprudence…

“The need for qiyas developed soon after the death of Muhammad, when the expanding Islamic state came in contact with societies and situations beyond the scope of the Quran and the Sunnah. In some cases ijma legitimized a solution or resolved a problem. Very often, however, qiyas was used to deduce new beliefs and practices on the basis of analogy with past practices and beliefs.

“Muslim scholars consider qiyas a specific variant of the general concept of ijtihad, which is original interpretation and thought. “

Custom changing Religious law

minhag ("custom") - customs which, having been accepted in practice, became binding and assume the force of halakhah in all areas of Jewish law and practice

al-urf is the custom of a given society, leading to change in the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).

Ability to Annul Laws and Establish New Norms

Takkanah and Gezerah[9] - enactment by authority of the rabbis having the force of law.  This is used when interpretation offered no means of a solution, or the proffered solution provided no answer to contemporary requirements.

There does not seem to be an Islamic parallel to the rabbinic powers of Takkanah and Gezerah. Elements of flexibility useful to the same ends include: renunciation of Taqlid; the doctrine of siyasah, or “government,” which allows the political authority to make administrative regulations; reviving the use of ijtihad[10]. See Islamic reform.


“MAJORITY RULE, deciding a matter according to the majority opinion. In the field of the halakhah this rule is applied in three principal instances:

(a) determination of the binding law according to (the view of) the majority of halakhic scholars;

(b) adjudication of dispute by the majority decision of the courts' judges; and

(c) imposition by majority decision of the community, or its representatives, of a communal enactment (see Takkanot ha-Kahal), binding on all members of the community. The basis for the majority rule is to be found in the exegesis of the scriptural phrase, aharei rabbim lehattot (to "follow a multitude..." Ex. 23:2).”

Quoted from Encyclopedia Judaica Electronic Edition

Ijmā[11] refers to the consensus of the ummah, the community of Muslims, those practicing Islam, or of the ulema, those learned in the relevant topic. Islamic law prescribes specific means of consensus decision making which Muslims are to follow in making and enforcing law.

The hadith "My community will never agree upon an error" is often cited as support for the validity of ijma.

Sunni Muslims regard ijma as the fourth fundamental source of law, after Qur'an, Sunnah, and qiyas (analogy)


Historic Norms Not Clearly Based in Scripture

Halakhah Given to Moses at Sinai

This designation is given to ancient halakhot for which there is no scriptural support (or at the most very faint support).

Even the heads of the Babylonian academies, after the close of the Talmud (c. 600 CE) were obliged to follow the authority of their predecessors


Taqlid[12] - ‘Arabic “covering with authority”, in Islamic law, the unquestioning acceptance of the legal decisions of another without knowing the basis of those decisions. There is a wide range of opinion about taqlid among different groups or schools of Muslims…. Those Sunnites who affirm taqlid believe that the legal scholars of the early period were uniquely qualified to derive authoritative legal opinions, binding upon the whole Muslim community, from the source materials of Islamic law, the Quran and the sunna of the Prophet. In the early period, a series of great legal scholars exercised independent interpretation (ijtihad) of the sources, carrying out their efforts through the use of such legal tools as analogical reasoning (qiyas). In the third Islamic century (9th century AD) and subsequent centuries, with the emergence of legal schools formed around some of the most significant scholars, it came to be widely believed that all important questions of law had been dealt with and that the right of independent interpretation had been withdrawn for future generations. Henceforward, all were to accept the decisions of the early authorities—i.e., to exercise taqlid toward them.’ Encyclopedia Britannica

Earliest Authorative Code[13]

The first post-Talmudic authorative codes are Halakhot Pesukot written in the eighth century Iraq; Halakhot Gedolot ninth century Iraq. For details see Codification of the Law.

“The historical process of the discovery of Allah's law (see below) was regarded as completed by the end of the 9th century when the law had achieved a definitive formulation in a number of legal manuals written by different jurists.” Encyclopedia Britannica

Responsa Literature

She'elot u' Teshuvotflourished in Iraq from 8th centurysee also

Fatwa literature flourished in Iraq from 8th century

Theology and Philosophy

In this area there was considerable influence of Islamic thinkers (e.g. Kalam, Neo-Platonist and Aristotelian philosophers and Mutazila[14] theologians) on their Jewish counterparts such as Saadia Gaon and Maimonides. 


Why Islam and Traditional Judaism developed so differently -



Content and Historical Differences Between

Jewish (halakha) and Islamic (sharia-fiqh) Law


Jewish Law (halakha)

Islamic Law (sharia)

Written Law

Written Torah (Pentateuch - Genesis to Deuteronomy) and Qur'an very different in literary form, content and attitudes.  Exodus-Deuteronomy, unlike the Quran, include a great deal of legal material.

Precedent of Authoritative Figures

Talmudic literature covers many centuries and two countries while Hadith covers Muhammad’s lifetime. Muhammad had total authority unlike any rabbi. The Talmudic literature includes a vast amount of legal material; far more than do the Hadith.

Cultural Background

The Talmudic tradition was developed in Roman Palestine (see Mishnah) under the strong influence of Greek Culture.  It further developed at the Babylonian Academies in Sassanian Babylonia (Iraq).  In both cases the Jewish population was predominantly peasant villagers. The rabbis were literate in Hebrew, Aramaic and sometimes in Greek.

Mecca at the time of Muhammad was a center of pagan pilgrimage, highly involved in camel-based commerce and was highly tribalized.  Pagan, Jewish and Christian tribes lived in close proximity. The society had a very low level of literacy. “It has been part of the Muslim’s belief, based on traditions, that Prophet Muhammad was illiterate.”

History of the legal system

§         Jewish law is based first upon the Written Torah – mainly Exodus-Deuteronomy. Much of this law is similar to that contained in Mesopotamian legal ‘codes’ such as that of Hammurabi (1728 BCE -1686 BCE)[15].

§         The first Rabbinic collection of laws is the Mishnah published in Hellenized Roman Galilee about 200 CE.  Most of these laws date to the first, and even more to the second century CE.  Some of these laws can be traced back to the Written Torah as is done in the Halakhic Midrashim. (Mekilta to Exodus, Sifra to Leviticus, Sifre to Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Other laws have no definable basis in the Written Torah.

§         The Mishnah forms the basis for the two Talmuds each of which contains extensive halakhic (legal) and Agadic (non-legal) material.

o        The Palestinian Talmud – This reflects mainly the views and discussions of the Galilean academies during the period from the publication of Mishnah until the mid 4th century.  This period more or less starts with the great third century crisis of the Roman Empire and ends with its Christianization.

o        The Babylonian Talmud - This reflects mainly the views and discussions of the Babylonian (Babylon=southern Iraq) academies during the period from the publication of Mishnah until the fift or sixth century.  This period more or less starts with the founding of Zoroastrian-Sassanian rule in Iran and Iraq and the finalization of the Babylonian Talmud was just before the Islamic-Arab conquest.

For the first Muslim community established under the leadership of the Prophet at Medina in 622, the Quranic revelations laid down basic standards of conduct. But the Quran is in no sense a comprehensive legal code. No more than 80 verses deal with strictly legal matters; while these verses cover a wide variety of topics and introduce many novel rules, their general effect is simply to modify the existing Arabian customary law in certain important particulars.

“During his lifetime Muhammad … resolved legal problems as they arose by interpreting and expanding the general provisions of the Quran, and the same ad hoc activity was carried on after his death by the caliphs (temporal and spiritual rulers) of Medina. But the … Umayyad dynasty in 661, governing from …  produced a legal development of much broader dimensions…. (A)n organized judiciary came into being. The qadis (judges) were responsible for giving effect to a growing corpus of Umayyad administrative and fiscal law; and since they regarded themselves … as the spokesmen of the local law, elements and institutions of Roman-Byzantine and Persian… law were absorbed into Islamic legal practice in the conquered territories. Depending upon the discretion of the individual qadi, decisions would be based upon the rules of the Quran where these were relevant; but the sharp focus in which the Quran laws were held in the Medinian period had become lost with the expanding horizons of activity….

“The historical process of the discovery of Allah's law was regarded as completed by the end of the 9th century when the law had achieved a definitive formulation in a number of legal manuals written by different jurists. “Throughout the medieval period this basic doctrine was elaborated and systematized in a large number of commentaries, and the voluminous literature thus produced constitutes the traditional textual authority of Shariah law.” Encyclopedia Britannica

Political Factors

During the formative period of rabbinic tradition Jews lived by tolerance within the great Roman and Sassanian empires.  Jewish courts usually lacked jurisdiction over major civil and criminal cases.

Islam, from its beginning was a conquering religion[16].  Islamic courts maintained jurisdiction over a very wide range of issues.

National Factors

Traditionally the Jewish nation and religion have been coextensive. 

Over 80% of Muslims are not Arab



Jewish influence on Islam in its formative period was great[1].  It is of interest to note that there are cases of Jewish ideas or practices entering Islam, being changed and then returned to Judaism.  Thus the Talmudic idea of kavannah (praying or doing a ritual act with conscious intent) entered Islam which invented ritual kavannah formulations and these in turn, in Hebrew garb, were reintroduced into Judaism by Jewish mystics[17].

When the Arabs conquered the Middle East, they found a Christian higher culture which was a lineal continuation of Ancient Greek civilization (For background see).  In it, Greek science, mathematics, medicine and other knowledge had been preserved.  Christian theology was built on the writings of the Jewish the philosopher Philo, and later the pagan Plotinus.  Thus the Christian church had harmonized Greek philosophy with monotheism.  The Arabs took over this Greek-Christian culture and developed many of its branches to a higher level of perfection.  What developed was an Arab-Muslim culture which, however, could be and was shared by both Christians and Jews who wrote, and thought, not only in Arabic, but within the conceptual framework of the Arab-Muslim culture.  This led to a massive influence of Arab-Muslim culture on the Jewish culture of the Middle Ages.  Some examples:

a. Philosophy

v     Mainstream Jewish philosophy developed as a subdivision of Islamic philosophy[18].  This is true whether one is talking of Saadia Gaon, who was influenced by the Muslim-Kalam theological school or of the Jewish Neoplatonists or Aristotelians that followed him. 

v     Greek philosophy, science, medicine and mathematics was absorbed by Jewish thinkers in the Arab world via Arabic translations[19] and, to some extent, via Arab Muslim commentators[20].  In science and philosophy, Jewish scholars absorbed the data and, more importantly, method, world view and pre-suppositions of the Greek masters. Also absorbed were more dubious works e.g. Hermetica, astrology.

v     In their philosophy of nature… Hellenistic and medieval Jewish thinkers… for the most part… adopted the view that the universe is governed by immutable laws…. However, the philosophical view of nature posed problems for the traditional Jewish (and Muslim and Christian) view as expressed in the Bible and Talmud.  For traditional Judaism the universe did not run according to set immutable laws.  Rather God directly regulated the workings of the universe that he had created, insuring that events would lead to the specific goal He had in mind.  The medieval Jewish philosopher, unable to give up this view of nature completely, sought in his philosophies of nature to reconcile the biblical and Talmudic concepts of creation and miracles with the theories of secular philosophy.”[21]

v     Of special note are:

o       Moses Maimonides was a follower of Greek-Islamic Aristotelianism and a practitioner of Greek-Islamic medicine. Mishneh Torah was the main conduit for entry of Greek science and philosophy into rabbinic legal tradition[22]. Goitein said that the Guide of the Perplexed is a great monument of Jewish-Arab symbiosis, not merely because it was written in Arabic by an original Jewish thinker and was studied by Arabs, but because it developed and conveyed to large sections of the Jewish intellectual elite ideas which had so long occupied the Arab mind;

o       Neo-Platonism[23] fusing with older Jewish Mystic tradition to form Kabbalah[24]

o       Bahya ibn Paquda’s Neo-Platonic and Islamic Sufi influenced Hovot ha-Levavot (Duties of the Heart) was the founding work of Jewish ethical or pietistic literature[25] and has strongly influenced subsequent works and the lives of pietistic groups such as the Musar Movement. Hovot ha-Levavot is clearly in the Sufi (Islamic mystical) tradition and, in fact, is very similar to Christian and Muslim books of the same school.[26]

o       Judah Halevi’s Neo-Platonic influenced Kuzari and Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed have an ongoing influence on traditional Jews. 

b. Secular Poetry

Muslims consider the Koran to be the perfect divine book and the Arabic of the Koran to be the ideal language. Thus, when Muslim poets in Spain started writing secular poetry, they wrote it in the archaic Arabic of the Koran.  Jewish poets started medieval secular Hebrew poetry arose in Spain as a result of the stimulus provided by secular Arabic poetry (see Pagis).  Imitating the Arabs, the poets revived Biblical Hebrew for their poetry.  The outstanding Arabic-speaking masters of Hebrew poetry were Solomon ibn Gabirol, Moses ibn Ezra and Yehudah Halevi.


c. Grammar Linguistic Tradition and Lexicography

The Arabs developed vowel pointing to ensure that preservation of the ancient reading tradition of the Koran was perpetuated.  Also in support of maintaining and increasing the understanding of the Koran they developed the sciences of Arabic and lexicography.  The Masorites developed the system of vowels used in Hebrew during the period of the Arabic Caliphate probably stimulated by concurrent developments for Arabic and Syriac.  Medieval Hebrew study of grammar and lexicography were inspired and informed by the development of those branches of knowledge for Arabic.


3. Theological Idiom – Toward the Future

Judaism and Islam being very similar religious systems (see Goitein), face very similar intellectual and practical problems in confronting western culture.  Many of these problems are quite different from those faced by Christianity.  There may be much to gain by opening a dialogue between Jewish and Muslim religious thinkers.  Of course, any such dialogue requires that each group study the other’s religion and literature, as they did at the height of the Arab-Jewish symbiosis.


I’d like to end with a hope for the future –

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

Psalm 133:1



Select Bibliography 


Blau, Joseph L., The story of Jewish philosophy, Random House [1966, c1962]

Ephal, J, The Ancient Arabs, Magnes Brill 1982

Frank, Daniel H. and Leaman, Oliver (eds.), History of Jewish philosophy, Routledge, 1997. 

Geiger, Abraham, JUDAISM AND ISLAM, translated by F.M. Young, 1896

Goitein, S D, Jews and Arabs: Their Contact Through the Ages, Schoken 1955, 1964

Goldstein, B. R, Maimonides, article Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 11 cols. 754-782, Keter 1972

Huff, Toby E., The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West, Cambridge University Press, 2003

Hyman, A, Philosophy, Jewish, article in Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 13 cols. 421-465, Keter 1972 see also article Platonism article in Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 13 cols. 628-630, Keter 1972

Jackson, Bernard S.(ed.), The Interplay of Jewish and Islamic Laws in Jewish Law in Legal History and the Modern World, Leiden 1980

Kasher, Aryeh, Jews, Idumaeans and Ancient Arabs, J CB Mohr (Paul Siebeck) Tubingen 1988

Lewis, Bernard, The Jews of Islam, Princeton 1984

Neusner, Jaob and Sonn, Tamara Sonn, Comparing Religions Through Law: Judaism and Islam, Routledge 1999

Neusner, Jaob and Sonn, Tamara Sonn, Brockopp, Jonathan E., Judaism and Islam in Practice: A Sourcebook, Routledge 2000

Pagis, D., article Poetry – Medieval Hebrew Secular Poetry in Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 13 cols. 681-690, Keter 1972

Viorst, Milton In the Shadow of the Prophet: The Struggle for the Soul of Islam, Anchor Doubleday 1998

Wegner, Judith Romney, You can get there from here!” Exegetical Excursions from Judaism to Islam




Dictionary of Islam


On the Hadith

§         Sunnah and Hadith

§         Modern Historical Methodology vs. Hadeeth Methodology




[1] “GESHEM, GASHMU, an “Arab,” one of the chief opponents of Nehemiah, who, together with Sanballat and Tobiah, opposed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (c. 450 B.C.E.). When Geshem and his allies heard of Nehemiah's intention to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, they mocked and scorned him (Neh. 2:10–20). Later, when the wall was completed and all but the gateways fully repaired, they sought by various means to dispose of Nehemiah personally or to compromise his position within the country. These efforts also failed, and Nehemiah's opponents were forced to admit that the task was divinely supported (Neh. 6)….

“Some scholars claim that Geshem is to be identified with a “king” of the same name mentioned in a Lihyanite Arabian votive inscription on a silver bowl … belonging to the fifth century B.C.E. This inscription reads in translation: “What Quaynu son of Geshem, King of Kedar, brought (as offering) to (the goddess) Han'Illat.” On this basis, it has been suggested that Geshem King of Kedar is identical with Nehemiah's enemy, but the data for this identification are inconclusive.” From Encyclopedia Judaica Electronic Edition

[2] Aharoni, Y and Avi-Yonah, M, The Macmillan Bible Atlas, third edition revised by A F Rainey and Z Safrai, MacMillan 1993 map 217

[3] The Macmillan Bible Atlas map 213

[4] “While the Jewish origins of some Islamic ideas were originally adduced by Jewish, mostly rabbinic, scholars, in a kind of pride of ancestry, the same argument has been used by anti-Islamic polemicists, mainly Roman Catholic, whose purpose was not to glorify Judaism but to discredit Islam….  The whole problem of Jewish, or for that matter of Christian or other extraneous influences on Islam is of course a problem for Jewish and other non-Muslim scholars. It is not a problem for Muslim scholars, for whom such a question simply cannot arise. As Muslims see it, Muhammad is the Prophet of God, and the Qur'an is divine in a sense both more literal and more precise than in the Jewish or Christian perception of the Old and New Testaments. According to what has become the accepted Sunni doctrine, the Qur'an is eternal and uncreated, coexistent with God from eternity to eternity.

“he Qur'anic text thus has a literal divine sanctity that has no parallel in the normal forms of Judaism or Christianity. To suggest borrowing or influence is therefore, from a Muslim point of view, a blasphemous absurdity. Does God borrow? Is God influenced? For a Muslim, Judaism, like Christianity, is a superseded predecessor of Islam. The Jewish and Christian scriptures were authentic divine revelations given to prophets sent by God. But they were neglected and corrupted by the Jews and Christians, and have been replaced by God's final and perfect revelation, which is the Qur'an. If there are common elements or resemblances between the Bible and other Jewish and Christian writings and the Islamic dispensation, this is due to the common divine source. Where they differ the Jewish or Christian texts have been distorted by their unworthy custodians.

“ome Jewish influence is mentioned by the early jurists and theologians of Islam, but where it is seen and recognized as such, it is perceived as a debasement or a dilution of the authentic message-as something like what in Christian history was called a Judaizing heresy. There is a whole body of early Islamic religious material that is neither part of the Qur'an nor part of the accepted and authenticated hadith, but that is used to supplement them. It consists of stories concerning the Prophets, narratives of various other kinds, and interpretations of these stories, many of them of midrashic origin, probably introduced and circulated by Jewish converts to Islam. This material is collectively known in Muslim literature as Isra'iliyyat, Israelite stuff or Israelitish fables. To begin with, this term, in Arabic usage, was purely descriptive. Never in any sense a term of praise, it was at first neutral and then came to have a distinctly negative connotation…. 

“n general, when a Jewish influence or element is identified as such, it is for that reason rejected. If it is accepted as part of authentic Islam, then by definition it is not Jewish but divine in origin. If the Jews have something similar, then it is because they too were formerly the recipients of divine revelations….

“e have already noted some of the problems of the interrelation between Judaism and Islam, and the influences either may have exerted on the other. It is often difficult and sometimes impossible to say of one or another practice or idea, which is the earlier and which is the later, and which therefore inspired or influenced the other. It is safer for the time being to use a neutral formulation, and to speak of a series of remarkable resemblances between developments in Judaism and parallel developments in Islam. In some matters, the simple facts of chronology indicate beyond reasonable doubt which is the source, which is the recipient of influence. In others the line of development is more difficult to determine.” Lewis 1984


 The next example belongs to an entirely different sphere. Judaism and Islam both possess a special class of literature which, to a large extent, fulfills the part that is taken in other cultures by the written law, the responsa literature. This literature consists of legal decisions given in answer to questions by individuals. These responsa (fatwa pl. fatawa in Arabic) have the force of decisions of law, and have been collected in tens of books which, both in Judaism and Islam, serve as textbooks of legal precedents and as the basis of subsequent decisions. It is true that Roman law also knew this genre of legal literature (jus respondendi), and the assumption that the Jewish and Muslim responsa literature was derived from the Roman practice cannot be rejected offhand.

“However, with regard to Judaism and Islam, it is difficult to establish with certainty what preceded what. In general, one can state, however, that a great part of Muslim religious law developed in Iraq was influenced to a certain extent by the Jewish halakhic activity, which reached its zenith there under the Geonim. It seems, therefore, reasonable to assume, with Goitein, that the well-developed halakhic literature left its imprint on the early law of Islam, but on the other hand, the possibility should be considered that the development of Jewish halakhah received momentum as a result of the rise and influence of Islam.  Moreover, it should be kept in mind that Islam had the same needs as Judaism, which led to the growth of a similar halakhic literature, and vice versa. The tremendous socio-economic revolution the Jews faced under Muslim rule (their transition from a people of farmers to a people of merchants) led to the rise of laws similar to those of Islam, which is, to a considerable extent, the product of a middle-class, mercantile civilization.

“However this may be, the fact remains that the two religions, Judaism and Islam, seem to be the only halakhic religions in the world (the Muslim name for halakhah is Shari'a," meaning the main road; and the various halakhic schools are called "Madhahib, " a root also related to "going" and expressing—just like the Hebrew term halakhah—the idea of a "way of life"). As mentioned above, both possess a sacred oral law alongside the written law; and both created a huge literature of religious law, chiefly by means of rational analogy. In both, this was the work of independent religious scholars (fuqaha, ulama—in Arabic) and in both, different schools of law are all considered equally orthodox. In both, religious preoccupation with the religious law is considered a Divine precept, and both even believe that God Himself engages in the same activity together with His heavenly companions; both have similar basic principles (cf., for instance, the idea of "The power of permission is preferable," in the Babylonian Talmud, Ber. 60a to the end of  Sura II in the Qur'an), and similar categories to classify all human deeds and scores of identical legal details. It is, however, impossible to determine with certainty when the literary genre of Responsa first appeared, or whether it was the result of the influence of one religion on another. There are hardly any Jewish responsa from the time preceding R. Yehuda Gaon (middle of the 8th century), and in Islam there were, up to the same time, only a few "private" responsa from such individuals as Ibrahim al-Nakh'i of al-Kufa, who lived in the first century of the Hegira. According to those scholars who believe that this literary genre already occurs in the Talmud, and that the geonim only continued the work of earlier Jewish Sages, the responsa literature would have been taken over by Islam from Judaism, but the question still requires thorough research.22 I. Goldziher, on the other hand, showed that, in some details at least, the influence of Islamic responsa literature on Judaism can be asserted with some certainty. Much of the Jewish responsa literature in Islamic countries was written in Arabic, and the questions addressed to the Sage from all over the world, sometimes open with this formula: "Let our master teach us, and may the Lord give him a double reward." But why a double reward? Goldziher showed that this formula is based on a popular hadith saying, ascribed to the Prophet, which says: "If a judge rules with deliberation and his decision is right, he shall receive a double reward from the Lord."23

“One more example of responsa literature illustrates Islamic influence on Judaism, even though this whole literary religious genre may have first started in Islam under Jewish influence. Jewish religious literature proscribes the playing of any musical instrument on Sabbath and holidays as a token of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. However, during the period between Saadiah Gaon and Maimonides, another strange argument for this prohibition was added: here it is linked to the immoral ways of musicians and singers (especially female singers). It seems that this reflects the general religious Muslim negative attitude to music (with the exception of the pietist sufis, who cultivated religious music). Some Muslim scholars even forbade singers and musicians to appear as witnesses in court, since their profession made them unfit to give evidence. Jewish Sages in the same period followed this example and forbade singers to give evidence in court since they were considered transgressors.”

Quoted from Encyclopedia Judaica Electronic Edition

[6] In Islam - usul al-fiqh The four major sources from which law is derived: the Quran; the sunna (practice of the Prophet as transmitted through his sayings); ijmac (consensus of scholars); and qiyas (analogical deductions from these three).

In Rabbinic Judaism the sources of authority are: logical interpretation of the Written Law I.e. the Pentateuch; statements handed down by tradition (Kabbalah); sayings of the Sages; changes to the law made on the authority of the Sages; and custom.

[7]Reform thinkers, accepting the historical (or "critical") approach to the biblical text, have asserted, along with Buber, that God meets each person individually and that Jewish law, therefore, is not binding. Each of us must do what his or her conscience dictates in response to our encounters with God….   This emphasis on individual autonomy inevitably weakens one's sense of tradition and community…. 

“Most Orthodox thinkers, at the other end of the spectrum, deny the legitimacy of using the historical method to understand the Torah, arguing that studying the Torah in that way undermines its authority. They insist that the revelation on Mount Sinai is exactly what is recorded in the Torah. In their view, this preserves the divine authority of the text, even though it is human beings who must interpret and apply it. The Orthodox approach also requires one to discount the evidence of cross-cultural influences on the stories and laws of the Torah, for that too, in their perspective, would compromise the divine authority of the text. Thus even a rabbi in the "modern" or "centrist" wing of Orthodoxy, such as Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva University, has stated:

I believe the Torah is . . . God-given.. . . By "God-given" I mean that He willed that man abide by His commandments and that that will was communicated in discrete words and letters. . . in as direct, unequivocal, and unambiguous a manner as possible.

Literary criticism of the Bible is a problem, but not a crucial one. Judaism has successfully met greater challenges in the past … [It] is chiefly a nuisance but not a threat to the enlightened believer (The Condition of Jewish Belief, New York, 1966, pp. 124-125).

“Conservative thinkers accept the historical method of Bible study but continue to affirm the legally binding character of Jewish law. This form of Jewish faith preserves consistency in method in that it permits us to use the same methods of analysis that we use in examining the texts of other cultures for our study of the classics of the Jewish tradition, and it leaves us open to what we learn from any form of both traditional and modern scholarship. It nevertheless perpetuates a strong sense of tradition and community. This approach, however, requires a considerable amount of good judgment in deciding how to use the newly emerging historical evidence about the development of the Torah and tradition in applying them to modern times. Moreover, because the text of the Torah is no longer seen as a direct transcription of what God said at Sinai, this method of studying and practicing the Jewish tradition necessitates a thorough treatment of what we mean by claiming that the Torah's laws and theories have the authority of divine revelation. Conservative thinkers of the past and present have interpreted the process and authority of revelation in three general ways. Some, like Joel Roth, conceive of revelation as God communicating with us in actual words. For such thinkers, revelation has propositional content and is normative as God's word. Unlike Orthodox thinkers, however, these Conservative exponents acknowledge that the Torah text that we have in hand shows evidence of consisting of several documents edited over time. Nevertheless, Jewish law is binding as the word of God interpreted by the rabbis over the generations.

“Others within the Conservative movement, like Ben Zion Bokser (1907-1984) and Robert Gordis (1908-1992), believe that God, over time, inspires specific individuals who then translate that inspiration into human language. Revelation thus consists of both a divine and a human component. The human element explains the historical influences on our sacred texts. Nevertheless, Jewish law remains binding because the human beings who formulated it were inspired by God.

“Still others within the Conservative movement conceive of revelation as the human response to encounters with God. Some, following the lead of Rosenzweig, think of such meetings in individualistic, personal terms, on the model of human beings meeting each other. Louis Jacobs and Seymour Siegel (1927-1988) do this in their writings, and so does Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972). In Heschel's striking term, the Torah itself is then a midrash, an interpretation, of the nature and will of God, formulated in response to ineffable encounters with God. In addition to the existentialists and phenomenologists within this camp are rationalists like David Lieber and Elliot Dorff; the rationalists conceive of revelation as the ongoing human attempts to discover truths about God and the world. Rationalists affirm the importance of our personal encounters with God, but they also call attention to what we can learn about God from nature, history, and human experience as a whole. Revelation, on this theory, comes not only from meeting God but also from our outreach to God. For both approaches, Jewish law is binding on both communal and theological grounds: It is the legal part of our communal midrash, representing our collective aspiration to be holy in response to our interactions with God.

“Two factors characterize revelation for all three of these approaches within the Conservative movement. First, the authority of revelation is based on a combination of the divine and the human. That is, whether God spoke words at Sinai, or whether God inspired human beings to write down specific words, or whether human beings wrote down the words of the Torah in response to their encounter with God in an attempt to express the nature and implications of that encounter, the authority of the Torah's revelation is, in part, divine. On the other hand, for all three approaches, it is human as well. Whether the divine input came through words, inspiration, or modeling, human beings had a hand in translating that divine incursion into the words of the written and oral Torah. Moreover, we honor and obey the Torah, at the very least, because our ancestors have done so over the centuries and because we continue to see it as authoritative today.

“Second, for all three approaches, revelation is ongoing. The revelation at Sinai is critically important because that is where our ancestors as a people first encountered God and wrote their reactions to that event in the document that became the constitutive covenant between God and the Jewish people. Revelation continues, however, just as the talmudic rabbis said it does, through a continuing encounter with the tradition. Therefore, what the liturgy has us declare when called to witness a public reading of the Torah is not an accident: God not only "chose us from among all nations and gave us His Torah" (in the past); God is also to be blessed now as "giver of the Torah," or, reading the word as a verb, as "the One who gives the Torah." Each time we read the Torah anew, nothing less than God's revelation is taking place again, and we bless God for that continuing relationship with us.” Elliot N. Dorff in Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary by David L. Lieber (Editor), Jules Harlow (Editor) Pp. 1403-1405

[8] “In the Muslim view, Muhammad received every word of the Quran directly from God. The Quran describes, and indignantly rejects, accusations that the Prophet had reproduced things that he had drawn from other sources. Western scholars who have analyzed the contents of the various revelations have shown that much of the narrative material concerning biblical persons and events differs from the biblical account and seems to have come from later Christian and, above all, from Jewish sources (e.g., Midrash). Other motifs, such as the idea of the impending judgment and the descriptions of paradise agree with standard topics in the missionary preaching of the contemporary Syriac church fathers. The dependence need not, however, be of a literary kind, but might be due to influence from oral traditions.” Quoted from Encyclopedia Britannica

[9] A takkanah is a directive enacted by the halakhic scholars, or other competent body enjoying the force of law. It constitutes one of the legal sources of Jewish law. A law which has its creative source in takkanah serves as the motivated addition of a new norm to the overall halakhic system, whereas a law originating from the legal source of midrash (exegesis, i.e., from construing a biblical passage or other existing law; see Interpretation) serves to reveal the concealed content of existing law within the aforementioned system. The Written Torah is the constitution—the supreme legislation—of Jewish law, and in the Torah itself power is delegated to the halakhic scholars to enact takkanot. The legislative activity of the halakhic scholars is sometimes termed takkanah and sometimes gezerah. The term gezerah is generally applied to the determination of directives aimed at deterring man from the prohibited, at making "a fence around the Torah"—i.e., directives of a negative nature prohibiting the performance of a particular act. The term takkanah, on the other hand, generally refers to directives aimed at imposing a duty to perform a particular act

[10] “In the first centuries of Islam the jurists were allowed to use their independent judgment (ijtihad) in their decisions, but had to base it on primary sources. Later they were restricted in their freedom of independent decision and were obliged to follow the taqlid (precedent) and to rely on former judgments. One finds a parallel development in rabbinic Judaism, in which even the geonim were obliged to follow the authority of their predecessors. Nonetheless, social and economic transformations sometimes demanded departure from accepted laws and rules. Thus the geonim and the later generations of rabbis were obliged to establish ordinances adjusted to the new situation. A similar principle was current in the madhhab (legal school) of Malik b. Anas, i.e., the isti\lah, the adaptation (or correction) of laws, for the benefit of the community.”

Quoted from Encyclopedia Judaica Electronic Edition

[11] Ijma (Arabic: “agreeing upon,” or “consensus”), the universal and infallible agreement of the Muslim community, especially of Muslim scholars on any Islamic principle, at any time. The consensus—based on the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad), “My people will never agree in an error”—constitutes the third of the four sources of Islamic jurisprudence  … has been the most important factor in … formulating the doctrine and practice of the Muslim community.

“In Muslim history ijma has always had reference to consensuses reached in the past, near or remote, and never to contemporaneous agreement…. 

“In modern Muslim usage, ijma has lost its association with traditional authority and appears as a democratic institution and an instrument of reform.” Quoted from Encyclopedia Britannica

[12] The struggle of modernizing Muslims to renew Islamic law through reducing the role of taqlid and reopening the gates of ijtihad clearly parallels the vision of those founders of Protestantism who rejected the authority of Roman Catholic doctrines not clearly based in scripture and claimed to have the right to derive a purer Christianity through a reasoned analysis of scripture.

[13] “The influence of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is clear in the systematic dealings of the geonim with halakhic materials according to their contents, e.g., the laws of inheritance, gifts, deposits, oaths, usury, witness and writs, loans, and obligations, as they were arranged by Saadiah, Hai, Samuel b. Hophni, who wrote their works in Arabic. This is especially clear in Maimonides' code, Mishneh Torah, written in Hebrew and preceded by Sefer ha-Mizvot (Book of Precepts), the first exposition of the 613 precepts. Maimonides' arrangement of these works indicates knowledge of the methods and principles of the fiqh literature and of the Hadith collections of al-Bukhari, Muslims, and others. Maimonides applied the ijma((consensus), one of the four u\ul al-fiqh (roots of fiqh), in his code. In his introduction to this code he gives the chain of the teachers and rabbis who during 40 generations transmitted the Oral Law from Moses to R. Ashi. This is a classic illustration of how the isnad—the method of verification of the sayings of Muhammad and his companions—was taken over by early Islam from Judaism, which traced the chain of tradition from Moses to the Men of the Great Synagogue (Avot 1); and in turn was used by Maimonides as a principle to verify the halakhah”  Quoted from Encyclopedia Judaica Electronic Edition

[14] “As a consequence of translations of Greek philosophical and scientific works into Arabic during the 8th and 9th centuries and the controversies of Muslims with Dualists (e.g., Gnostics and Manichaeans), Buddhists, and Christians, a more powerful movement of rational theology emerged; its representatives are called the Mutazilah (literally “those who stand apart,” a reference to the fact that they dissociated themselves from extreme views of faith and infidelity). On the question of the relationship of faith to works, the Mutazilah - who called themselves “champions of God's unity and justice” - taught … that works were an essential part of faith ….  They further defended the position, as a central part of their doctrine, that man was free to choose and act and was, therefore, responsible for his actions. Divine predestination of human acts, they held, was incompatible with God's justice and human responsibility. The Mutazilah, therefore, recognized two powers, or actors, in the universe—God in the realm of nature and man in the domain of moral human action. The Mutazilah explained away the apparently predeterministic verses of the Quran as being metaphors and exhortations.

“They claimed that human reason, independent of revelation, was capable of discovering what is good and what is evil, although revelation corroborated the findings of reason. Man is, therefore, under moral obligation to do the right even if there were no prophets and no divine revelation. Revelation has to be interpreted, therefore, in conformity with the dictates of rational ethics. Yet revelation is neither redundant nor passive. Its function is twofold. First, its aim is to aid man in choosing the right, because in the conflict between good and evil man often falters and makes the wrong choice against his rational judgment. God, therefore, must send prophets, for he must do the best for man; otherwise, the demands of divine grace and mercy cannot be fulfilled. Secondly, revelation is also necessary to communicate the positive obligations of religion—e.g., prayers and fasting—which cannot be known without revelation.

“God is viewed by the Mutazilah as pure Essence, without eternal attributes, because they hold that the assumption of eternal attributes in conjunction with Essence will result in a belief in multiple co-eternals and violate the pure, unadulterated unity of God. God knows, wills, and acts by virtue of his Essence and not through attributes of knowledge, will, and power. Nor does he have an eternal attribute of speech, of which the Quran and other earlier revelations were effects; the Quran was, therefore, created in time and was not eternal.

“The promises of reward that God has made in the Quraan to righteous people and the threats of punishment he has issued to evildoers must be carried out by him on the Day of Judgment. For promises and threats are viewed as reports about the future, and if not fulfilled exactly those reports will turn into lies, which are inconceivable of God. Also, if God were to withhold punishment for evil and forgive it, this would be as unjust as withholding reward for righteousness. There can be neither undeserved punishment nor undeserved reward; otherwise, good may just as well turn into evil and evil into good. From this position it follows that there can be no intercession on behalf of sinners.

“When, in the early 9th century, the Abbasid caliph … raised Mutazilism to the status of the state creed, the Mutazilite rationalists showed themselves to be illiberal and persecuted their opponents….

In the 10th century a reaction began against the Mutazilah that culminated in the formulation and subsequent general acceptance of another set of theological propositions, which became Sunni, or “orthodox” theology.” Quoted from Encyclopedia Britannica

[15] From a secular point of view, one might say that the laws in the Pentateuch were an Israelite local adaptation of the general ancient near Eastern Semitic legal tradition while much of Sharia could be seen as an Islamization of Hejaz Arab tribal law.

[16] Re. The impact of Islam’s background as a conquering religion the following is quoted from Islam Promotes Terrorism and Violence by Richard D. Connerney.  Appeared originally as, "Islam: Religion of the Sword?” In  www.salon.com, October 11, 2001. Reprinted in Islam: Opposing Viewpoints, William Dudley (ed.), Thomson Gale 2004

During a recent interview on NPR, Reston (James Reston, author of "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade." said) "Bin Laden no more represents Islam than [Jim] Jones and David Koresh represent Christianity….

Yet, when asked about the origin of jihad as expressed in the Quran, Reston and the others get a bit tongue-tied. There are several reasons for this. The Quran is a notoriously difficult text to understand in some ways. For one thing, it lacks almost any sense of context: Verses are addressed to mysterious Yous and Theys from an equally mysterious We. Moreover, the subject of the verses follow no discernible pattern, moving from questions of jurisprudence to theological and mythological concerns and back again, sometimes without any apparent pattern…. Untangling the original meaning, or creating a distinct context in which to interpret the verses, is a nightmarish problem.

For all too many, being a serious Muslim means doing Allah's work by any means necessary. Of course, most Muslims will never be terrorists, The problem is that for all its schisms, sects and multiplicity of voices, Islam's violent elements are rooted in its central texts, It is unlikely that the voices of moderation will ultimately silence the militants, because the militants will always be able to make the case that they are standing for the true expression of the faith. Liberal Muslims have not established a viable alternative interpretation of the relevant verses in the Qur'an. "When liberal Muslims declare that Sept. 11 was an atrocity contrary to the Koran," observes Farrukh Dhondy, "the majority of Muslims around the world don't believe them. They accept the interpretation of fundamentalists, whom liberal Muslims have allowed to remain unchallenged.", . .

Violent Islam has the enemy (us) and the scriptural justification (in the Qur'an) to keep pushing until they win-that is, until the West is Islamicized. And moderate Islam is essentially powerless to stop it.

Robert Spencer, Islam Unveiled, 2002.

Thus the question of what the Quran has to say about jihad, or any other subject, is exceedingly difficult. As could be expected from a document that arises in an environment of unceasing internecine warfare, as the Arabian Peninsula was in the seventh century, the Quran contains no argument for pacifism. To the contrary, it makes conflict a requirement of the new faith. "Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it" …  "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you, be firm with them." Perhaps the best way to sum up the hawkish attitude of the Quran is to note that the index to the Penguin edition of the Quran contains over 40 entries for "war," and no entries for "peace."

Some religious texts, including parts of both the Bible and the Quran, are the hermeneutic equivalent of a Rorschach test-their original meaning is so obscure that any interpretation reveals more about the reader than it does about the author….

Thus, jihad is historically and textually ambivalent. It could be interpreted as a simple struggle with oneself, like wrestling with your conscience. It could also, however, be interpreted as acts of physical violence against non-Muslims. There might be rules regarding civilian noncombatants - and then again, there might not be. The idea of jihad, like many ideas in the Quran, is aJanus-faced idea with two or more possible interpretations, all supported by scripture. Historically, numerous interpretations have been drawn from the Quran in relation to jihad by different groups with different agendas….

Muslims are not the only ones to have waged wars in the name of religion. So have Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. The validity of the comparison ends there, however. It seems plain that Islam is confronted by the problem of religious violence in ways that other religions are not. In the world today, the locus of most religious violence is the Muslim world. And Islam is the only religion that has spawned a wandering group of holy warriors, traveling from conflict to conflict fighting the enemies of Islam wherever they see them-in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan.

… Fundamentalism, as a literal and non-historic approach to religious scripture, exists in every tradition, but only in Islam does it go hand in hand with widespread violence. Yes, Southern preachers occasionally get carried away, and yes, Hindu fundamentalists cause intermittent communal violence in the Deccan subcontinent. Neither of these two fundamentalisms, however, has produced the same types of problems as Islam. It is not Hindu fundamentalists or Southern Baptists that generally become international terrorists.

… Islam, from its inception, is a political as well as a religious movement, and the themes of religion, politics and law are inseparable in the Quran and in Islam as a whole. In short, Islam does not have a religious history apart from its political history.

This is in distinction from Judaism and Christianity, in which the religious community both predates and postdates the existence of a Jewish or Christian political state….  This development of the religious community outside of the halls of political power gives both Judaism and Christianity the flexibility to adapt to the secular concept of the separation of church and state that comes out of the Enlightenment, and to embrace ideas of modernity and secular civil society….

… In Islam, it is not the religious message that promotes the faith into the halls of political power as in Judaism and Christianity, it is an original state of political and military strength that promotes the religious message.

Looked at this way, jihad is not a secondary concept in the development of Islam-something grafted onto the original religious message-rather it is the very origin of Islam, the sine qua non of the faith.

This furthermore explains the inability of Islamic culture to adapt and accept ideas of modernity and secular government…. Liberal democracy of the American variety requires the embrace of tolerance over truth, the relinquishment of any binding central religious truth or ideology in government…. This idea, of a government without a religious vision of absolute truth, is contrary to the Muslim community's very conception of religious community.


“…it is sometimes possible to trace an idea, concept or custom that was absorbed by early Islam from Judaism, assimilated by it in a genuine Islamic spirit and subsequently, in its Muslim guise, left its impact on Judaism. As an example, the concept of intention (kavanah, the devotional frame of mind which has to accompany compliance with a religious duty) was doubtless taken from Jewish—mainly Talmudic-sources by Islamic thinkers, who turned it into a Hadith saying, allegedly of the prophet, or into a saying of the Sufi (mystic pietists). However, Islam also transformed this concept into a formula which may sometimes deprive it of its very spirit: every believer must declare, before performing a commandment, that he is about to perform it with intention, by reciting a formula: "I now intend to perform the commandment of morning prayer (or midday prayer, etc"). Pietist Jewish circles seem (at a rather late stage) to have accepted and translated it into Hebrew”

Quoted from Encyclopedia Judaica Electronic Edition

[18] Jews in Hellenistic times had produced one important philosopher i.e. Philo.  However, Philo’s writings, while providing the base for Christina theology, were lost to Jewish tradition.

[19] From Lindberg, David  C., The Beginnings of Western Science, University of Chicago Press, 1992 p. 168-180

“The translation of Greek and Syriac works into Arabic… became serious business under Harun ar-Rashid (786-809)….  By the year 1000 AD, almost the entire corpus of Greek medicine, natural philosophy and mathematical science had been rendered into usable Arabic versions…. The scientific movement in Islam was both distinguished and durable … by the end of the ninth century translation activity had crested and serious scholarship was under way.  From the middle of the ninth century until well into the thirteenth, we find impressive scientific work in all the main branches of Greek science being carried forward throughout the Islamic world.  The period of Muslim preeminence in science lasted for 500 years – a longer period of time than has intervened between Copernicus and ourselves.”

[20] From http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/timeline12.html “Various Jewish scholar wrote and translated scientific and mathematical works from Arabic to Hebrew.  These include: Abraham ben Ezra… Maimonides… Johannes Hispalensis … Samuel ben Abbas, an unknown Jew of England who wrote 'Mathematicum Rudimenta'”

[21] Ivry, A. L., in article Nature, Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 12 cols. 888-889, Keter 1972

[22]  Following quoted from Twersky, Isadore, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah), Yale University Press, 1980;  

Twersky, Isadore, A Maimonides Reader, Behrman 1972; Goldstein, B. R, Maimonides, article Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 11 cols. 754-782, Keter 1972

 “The influence of Maimonides on the future development of Judaism is incalculable.  No spiritual leader of the Jewish people in the post-talmudic period has exercised such an influence both in his own and subsequent generations…. In his philosophic views Maimonides was an Aristotelian… and it was he who put medieval Jewish philosophy on a firm Aristotelian basis.  But in line with contemporary Aristotelianism his political philosophy was Platonic.”

“It is repeated emphatically in the Mishnah Torah, where Maimonides extols the wise men of Greece and insists upon the indispensability of their scientific writings:

… all this is part of the science of astronomy and mathematics, about which many books have been composed by Greek sages – books that are still available to the scholars of our time.  But the books which have been composed by the sages of Israel… have not come down to us. But since all these rules have been established by sound and clear proofs, free from any flaw and irrefutable, we need not be concerned about the identity of their authors, whether they were Hebrew prophets or Gentile sages.  For when we have to do with rules and propositions which have been demonstrated by good reasons and have been verified to be true by sound and flawless proofs, we rely upon the author who has discovered them or has transmitted them, only because of his demonstrated proofs and verified reasoning.”

“Furthermore, Maimonides’ halakic formulation, which grafts philosophy onto the substance of the Oral Law, dovetails perfectly with his view on the history of philosophy.  In common with many medieval writers, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, Maimonides is of the opinion that Jews in antiquity cultivated the science of physics and metaphysics, which they later neglected for a variety of reasons, historical and theological.  He does not, however, repeat the widespread view, as does hal-Levi, that all sciences originated in Judaism and were borrowed or plagiarized by the ancient philosophers…. Maimonides does not care to trace all philosophical wisdom back to an ancient Jewish matrix.  His sole concern is to establish hokma as an original part of the Oral Law, from which it follows that the study of the latter in its encyclopaedic totality – that is, Gemara – includes philosophy.  This position – a harmonistic position unifying the practical, theoretical, and theological parts of the law – which Maimonides codified in Mishneh Torah.

“In one broad generalization, we may say that the Mishneh Torah became a prism through which reflection and analysis of virtually all subsequent Talmud study had to pass,  There is hardly a book in the broad field of Rabbinic literature that does not relate in some way to the Mishneh Torah.”

[23] Neo-Platonism was also fundamental to the development of Christian theology and Islamic Sufism and had a close relationship to Aristotelianism.  The following is from the Encyclopedia Britannica  “Relationship to Neoplatonism. Aristotle's works were adopted by the systematic builders of Neoplatonism in the 3rd century AD. Plotinus, the school's chief representative, followed Aristotle wherever he found a possibility of agreement or development, as he did in Aristotle's theory of the intellect. And Plotinus' pupil Porphyry, the first great harmonizer of Plato and Aristotle, provided the field of logic with a short introduction (Isagoge). … Neoplatonism dominated the school of Athens, where, apart from logic, Aristotle's writings were destined to be studied mainly as a basis for philosophical disputations.”

[24] “From the beginning of its development, the Kabbalah embraced an esoterism closely akin to the spirit of Gnosticism, one which was not restricted to instruction in the mystical path but also included ideas on cosmology, angelology and magic.  Only later, and as a result of the contact with medieval Jewish philosophy, the Kabbalah became a Jewish “mystical theology,” more or less systematically elaborated.  This process brought about a separation of the mystical, speculative elements from the occult and especially the magical elements…. The confrontation between the Gnostic tradition in the Bahir and Neoplatonic ideas concerning God, His emanation, and man’s place in the world, was extremely fruitful, leading to the deep penetration of these ideas into earlier mystical theories.  The Kabbalah in its historical significance can be defined as the product of the interpenetration of Jewish Gnosticism and neoplatonism.” From Scholem, G, Kabbalah article in Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 10 cols. 489-653, Keter 1972

[25] From Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 6 cols. 922-925, Keter 1972 – “There is no specific ethical literature as such in the biblical and talmudic period insofar as a systematic formulation of Jewish ethics is concerned.  Even the Wisdom literature of the Bible, though entirely ethical in content, does not aim at giving a systematic exposition of this science of morals and human duties, but confines itself to apothegms and unconnected moral sayings.  The same is true of tractate Avot, the only wholly ethical tractate of the Mishnah…. The beginnings of Jewish ethical literature in the Middle Ages are rooted in the development of Jewish philosophy of that period”

[26] A very interesting case is that of Maimonides son

“This final chapter deals with the interesting topic of Rabbi Abraham, the son of Maimonides, who succeeded his father as the head of the Jewish community in Egypt (1204–37) and, more generally, with the influence of Muslim Sufi pietism and mysticism on Judaism. This Muslim movement and its marvellous religious literature had a tremendous impact on the Jews, who were attracted by it even more than by Arab philosophy.25 That some Jews actually joined Sufi groups is attested by Muslim sources as well as by Jewish letters from the genizah. S. D. Goitein published a heart-rending letter from a poor Jewish woman to the Nagid David (probably the David II Maimonides who, in the middle of the 14th century, became one of the leaders of Egyptian Jewry), in which she implores him to help her bring her husband Basir back to her from the company of "al-Fuqara" (the Muslim mystics; literally: the poor). Basir had forsaken his wife and children and taken up residence in a Sufi convent on a mountain near Cairo. His wife expressed her fear that he would abandon Judaism and that their three children would follow his example.26

“Fragments of poetical and prose works of the Muslim mystics, in their original language but in Hebrew transcription, were found in the Cairo Genizah, and R. Abraham Gavison of Tlemcen in Algeria (d. 1605) says in his commentary on the Proverbs that "every educated man must be impressed by the great philosopher Abu Hamid al-Ghazali," whose books are studied by many Jewish scholars.27 Al-Ghazali was, of course, not only one of the great Muslim thinkers, but also an outstanding Sufi pietist. Jewish writers, however, never reached the same degree of extreme ecstasy which the Muslim mystics sought, and which induced them to tear down the partitions between religions, between good and evil and even between God and man.

“The story of R. Abraham the son of Maimonides is one of the most striking episodes in the history of this influence.28 R. Abraham (d. 1237), who had inherited the function of Ra'is al-Yahud (leader of the Jews) from his father, was not only a leader and a halakhic scholar (see the volume of his Responsa published by C. Freiman and S. D. Goitein), but also an outstanding Sufi. He wrote a great pietist Sufi compendium named Kifat al-'abidin (The Sufficient Book for the Servants of God), and tried to win his generation over to the Sufi way of life and to prove to them, with the help of a great many quotations from Jewish sources, that this was the true way for God-fearing men. Although opinions differ as to his sources, there is no doubt that he was deeply influenced by the world of Sufism, with which he had become closely acquainted in Egypt.29 Rabbi Abraham argued that Islam, especially in its Sufi version, preserved many elements of the practices and teachings of the ancient Jewish Sages, which the latter had intentionally neglected with the appearance of pietist heretic circles. Among these elements were kneeling and prostration during prayer, ritual immersions, nightly prayers, etc. Early Islam adopted these ceremonies, as well as the attending feelings of awe for the Day of Judgment and disgust of this world. In the world of Islam all these elements were developed in a special way in the Sufi movement, and that is why they are so closely related to the ancient Jewish Sages.

“R. Abraham did not, however, content himself with theoretical study alone. His conviction induced him to demand the return to the ancestral customs by imitating the Muslim surroundings, for instance in the matter of prayer. In one section of his work he suggests the removal of pillows from the synagogues and instead to spread prayer-mats and carpets on the floor as in the mosques, and to prostrate as the Muslims in prayer,30 and he praises the respectful silence in the mosques, which was in flagrant contrast to the noise and lack of devotion in the synagogues of his day. R. Abraham's suggestion, however, was not adopted, as we learn from the genizah documents. The members of his congregation filed a complaint against him with al-Malik al-'Adil, the ruler, the brother and heir of Saladin, that he tried to force upon them innovations (Bid'a) forbidden by their religion. This was in contravention of the laws of Islam, which in this respect were also applied to the non-Muslim communities under its jurisdiction. R. Abraham was compelled to apologize to the Muslim ruler and to announce that he did not intend to abuse his authority as leader of the Jewish community by introducing such religious innovations.31”

Quoted from Encyclopedia Judaica Electronic Edition