Judaism And Islam

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Judaism and Islam

The abundant literature on Muhammad and Judaism reflects the continuing scholarly debate regarding the decisive role played by Judaism in the shaping of Islam. More than a century after Western scholars first suggested Muhammad's indebtedness to Judaism, the subject of Judaism's impact on Islam is still largely a matter of intense disagreement. For those who adhere to the tenets of Islam, the whole issue is complicated: Islam represents the true and absolute trust, and Judaism is but an imperfect reflection and distortion of that true faith. For scholars outside of the Islamic tradition, the degree of Islam's indebtedness to Judaism and the relative influences of Christianity and Judaism are at the heart of the debate (Barakat, 89).

A complex and nuanced analysis of the many issues involved in the relationship between Islam and Judaism can be found in the study by Wasserstrom, who argues that the kind of “borrowing” should be abandoned in favor of a pattern that analyzes the process of “accommodation of the other” that occurred among both Jews and Muslims in response to one another. Wasserstrom is interested in the creative teamwork that resulted from this accommodation, a process that yielded what he terms “products of mutuality.” Each of the six chapters in this book investigates the process of self-definition by which both Judaism and Islam sought to legitimate themselves through their interpretations of the other religion (Abraham, 35). .

Most discussions of Judaism and Muhammad accord centrality to Muhammad's relations with the Jews while he served as lawgiver and mediator in Medina. Watt examines the relations between the prophet and the mighty Jews of that city after Muhammad's departure in 622. Watt notes in the early part of Muhammad's life in Medina a “tendency to make his religion similar to that of the Jews and to encourage his Medinan followers to continue Jewish practices, which they had, adopted.” The author attributes to this policy such practices as the original adaptation of Muslim prayer toward Jerusalem, the license to eat the bread of the “People of the Book,” and the Kuranic authority allowing male followers of Muhammad to marry Jewish women. Despite Muhammad's efforts, the Jews of Medina rejected his overtures to establish a religious and political union. According to Watt, once Muhammad was rebuffed, he understandably began to assert his independence from the Jews, adopting a new approach that culminated in both mental and physical attacks ...
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