Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Jews and Eid-al-Adha

The world's Muslims are currently celebrating Eid-al-Adha, "The Festival of Sacrifice," which is one of their most important religious holidays. Eid-al-Adha commemorates the willingness of Abraham (Ibraham in Arabic) to obey God by sacrificing his son. The holiday lasts for three days and is associated with the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The holiday is marked by a feast that reenacts Ibraham's obedience by sacrificing a cow or ram. An observant Muslim family eats about a third of the meal and donates the rest to the poor.

The Jewish belief is that God ordered Abraham, the Jews' first patriarch, to sacrifice Isaac, his younger son born to his wife Sarah. In contrast, Muslims believe that Abraham was to sacrifice his older son Ishmael, whose mother was Abraham's servant Hagar. Both Jews and Muslims agree that Abraham was about to sacrifice his son until God stopped him and accepted the sacrifice of a ram instead.

In all candor, as I have written here before, I have always been puzzled by how the Muslim religion has appropriated Jewish history. According to the generally accepted version of Biblical history, Abraham (or Ibraham) lived about 1,500 B.C. That was more than 2,000 years before the birth of the prophet Mohammed (570-632 A.D.), Islam's founder.

Until Mohammed was born in what is now Saudi Arabia, there is no evidence that the Arabs were even aware of the existence of the historic figures of Abraham and his two sons. The Arabs were then primarily pagan nomads. It is not known that they possessed any sacred written scripture until the Koran was created in Mohammed's life.

There were Jewish tribes, mentioned in the Koran, living in the Arabian peninsula at that time. Mohammed and his followers presumably became familiar with their Jewish neighbors' Five Books of Moses--the Jewish Bible--and were inspired to abandon their pagan gods and to seek the monotheistic divine figure worshipped by the Jews. The Koran (16:120-121) states: "Surely Ibrahim was an example, obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the polytheists."

It was only after the Koran's creation and the recognition of Allah that Ibrahim and his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, who had originated in the Jewish Bible so many centuries earlier, were introduced into Arab and Muslim tradition. From that tradition has arisen the Arab belief that Ishmael is their ancestor and that Isaac was the ancestor of the Jewish people.

Meaning no disrespect for the Muslim religion, I do not understand how the Arabs can trace their origins to Ishmael since he lived more than 2,000 years before his very existence was revealed in the Koran.

It is unfortunate that, while they acknowledge their common Abrahamic ancestral origins with the Jewish people, so many Islamic political leaders and clerics continue to denigrate Jews, regarding them as enemies, preaching hatred toward them, and denying the Jewish historic link to what is now Israel and Palestine.


Blogger joared said...

I find your discussion of the history of these religions quite fascinating. I make no secret of the fact that I would like to see all of the many religious groups in this world focus more on what they share in common and less on their differences.

Monday, January 08, 2007 3:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is also unfortunate to conclude a thoughtful piece that might possibly have served as a platform for discussion by bringing attention to the thoughts of a few self-proclaimed Muslim leaders who neither understand nor practice the true Islam.

Sunday, November 16, 2008 1:20:00 PM  

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