Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jews As Apes
And Swine
In The Koran

Eteraz discusses attempting to come to terms with difficult verses in the Koran:

When I was a child in Pakistan my mother and I hired a religious tutor, a “maulvi,” to come to our house and help us do exegesis (tafsir) of the entire Quran. I was nine. It was fun being a student alongside my mom because she did all the work and knew all the answers and I could zone out. The maulvi would come on his bicycle, guzzle down a gallon of butter-milk and shove down the requisite two or three potato-filled parathas and then proceed to go through the Quran with us, verse by verse, and reference the works of exegetes like Mawdudi and Ibn Kathir to tell us what each verse meant.

It was an enjoyable experience until my mother told my dad that the maulvi hit on her. My mother dropped out and I had to go to the maulvi at his dingy mosque in the commercial section.

A week into my solitary lessons we were discussing Moses and his people that the maulvi told me the astounding fact that once upon a time the Jews were turned into monkeys. Of course at first I didn’t believe this, but he told me it was right there in the Quran. As I was leaving he told me that some of the Jews were actually pigs (the word he used was the Urdu word “khanzeer” which is closer to “swine.”) A few days later I too stopped going to the maulvi because I found I could use the money my father gave me to pay the maulvi and instead spend it in the toy market. The whole idea of Jews as apes and pigs was forgotten.

Many years later in America, I started noticing, especially in light of the rhetoric coming out of Palestine, that an astounding number of Muslims ascribed to the notion that Jews were the descendants of apes and pigs. On the grapevine I heard that Shaykh Tantawi, head of the Al-Azhar University, the purported fount of Sunni learning, had made public statements about the Jews being descendents of apes and pigs. I then found confirmation that other leading Muslim scholars were propounding this view, including none other than the designated Imam of the Holy Kaba in Mecca: Shaykh Sudais (who strangely weeps through his entire prayers).

An uneducated, sexually frustrated maulvi in Pakistan was one thing; heads of the house of learning (Azhar) and worship (Mecca) in Islam ascribing to such ideas were quite another. I decided it was time to see for myself what was going on. I told myself, surely this is not Islam. We cannot really believe that people are descendents of animals. So I turned to the Quran, hoping that those three words “Jews,” “apes,” and “swine” were not in the same paragraph.

Much to my disappointment, they were. Verses 5:60, 2:65, and 7:166. [Following are the Yusuf Ali interpretations].

Say: “Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from Allah? those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil;- these are (many times) worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!”

And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.”

When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.”

They were right there, staring me in the face. I was deflated. After a long-standing stand-off against God due to fashionable collegiate atheism, I had only recently affirmed Allah in my heart. Upon seeing the verses I felt how I felt when I saw the second plane hit the tower (because the second one confirmed premeditation).

Go read the rest.