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What A Rabbi Learns From Studying The Koran

Image by Alisdare Hickson via Flickr

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

The Koran is the only book of revelation that includes within itself a theory of prophethood which includes the prophets of other religions. There have always been (since the days of Adam) people inspired by Allah who urged their society to avoid destruction by turning away from its corrupt and unjust ways and  turning to the One God who created all humans.

The Koran mentions 25 prophets by name (most of them known to non-Muslims too) and Muslims believe there were one hundred twenty four thousand others, whose names are now unknown.

Of the 25 mentioned by name in the Koran only five revealed books of sacred scripture, and only Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad revealed books of sacred scripture that are the bases for the three monotheistic religions that still flourish today.

According to the Koran, every nation in the world receives at least one prophet who speaks to them in their own language. However, one nation, the Children of Israel, has received a great many prophets.

The Koran doesn’t explicitly tell us why so many prophets arose within the Children of Israel, but a careful reading of the Koran reveals the answer. This was what I learned from a profound and enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Kahn in a book entitled Jewish-Muslim Encounters edited by Charles Selengut (Paragon House 2001).

Almost all prophets, according to Kahn, are like Hud who was sent to Ad or Salih who was sent to Thamud; to warn them of their impending destruction due to their corrupt and immoral ways and to call them to repentance. However, the prophets of the Children of Israel are different..

Mosaic of the 12 Tribes of Israel. From Givat ...

Mosaic of the 12 Tribes of Israel. From Givat Mordechai synagogue wall in Jerusalem. Top row, right to left: Reuben, Judah, Dan, Asher Middle: Simeon, Issachar, Naphtali, Joseph Bottom: Levi, Zebulun, Gad, Benjamin (Photo: Wikipedia)

First , Abraham is the only prophet we know of whose two sons, Isma’il and Ishaq, are also prophets. Indeed, Abraham’s grandson Ya’qub and great grandson Yusuf are also prophets. Thus starting with Abraham Allah established a family dynasty of prophets. With Joseph and his brothers (the tribes) the extended family became the 12 tribes of Israel or as they are usually called the Children of Israel/Ya’qub.

The Children of Israel were blessed with many prophets inviting them to stay firm in their faith to God; this is expressed in various places in the Qur’an “When death approached Ya’qub, he said to his sons, ‘Who will (you) worship after I am gone?’ They answered, ‘We will worship your God, the God of our forefathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, the One God. Unto Him we will surrender ourselves.’” (2:132)

Second, when Moses/Musa is sent by Allah he comes not primarily to warn or rebuke the Children of Israel (his own people) but he is sent “to Pharaoh” ( 20:24, 51:38, 73:15 and 79:17), “to Pharaoh and his chiefs” (al-mala) (7:103, 10:75, 11:97, 23:46, and 43:46) “to Pharaoh and his people” (27:12).

Musa is sent to Pharaoh to warn him of the destruction that will fall on Egypt if he doesn’t stop setting himself up as a God; and doesn’t let the Children of Israel go free. Musa comes to rebuke Pharaoh and to rescue the Children of Israel.

Only when the nation is free from Egyptian bondage do they receive the Torah from God, by the hand of Moses without any mediation of an angel. This very enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Kahn stimulated me as a Reform Rabbi to realize that the evidence from the Qur’an shows that Islam praises the unique place of the Children of Israel among other nations; as opposed to the accusations of some who blame the Qur’an as being antagonistic toward Jews.

From Abraham’s descendants comes a religious community based not just on belief but also on family and tribal ties. Converts to Judaism, who usually marry into the Jewish community, are like adopted children. This is why Judaism, although it welcomes converts from any people, has never engaged in a determined large scale missionary enterprise.

English: 11th Century North African Qur’an in ...

11th Century North African Qur’an in the British Museum (Photo: Wikipedia)

The principle that God makes a covenant with a whole people and not just with the faithful believers helps me understand a powerful verse in the Koran. At Sinai, when Allah gives the Jewish People the Torah, He makes a covenant with all the Children of Israel. Allah raises the mountain above the whole people saying, “Hold firmly to what We have given you (the Torah) and remember what is in it.” (2:63)

The whole nation’s fate stands under the shadow of mount Sinai, and this explains the miracle of all Israel agreeing to the covenant. This may be the reason why Musa is the only prophet whose book comes not from an angel but directly from Allah.

Individuals who hear a prophet may choose to believe or disbelieve, but when God Himself makes ‘an offer that you can’t refuse’, everyone is in for all generations to come, and then has to struggle with living up to the deal.

The many prophets that address the Children of Israel are teachers and guides more than rebukers because the covenant between God and the Umma of B’nai Israel is for all generations. Thus the covenant is not just for the community of the faithful but for the whole community of Israel, which includes some whose hearts are like rocks that spring forth streams, while others only yield water when split, and others sink for fear of Allah.(2:74)

It is this last segment of the Children of Israel, and this segment only, that Prophet Muhammad refers to when he rebukes the Children of Israel. The Koran correctly understood doesn’t attack all of Israel. Every community, including the Muslim Ummah contains groups of faithful believers, as well as a party who disbelieve.

I have learned many additional insights about Islam and Judaism that can be found in my new book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms’ (a collection of articles by a Reform Rabbi previously published by Islamic web sites ISBN # 978-3-639-79499-1) which was published a few weeks ago and is now on Amazon ($15).

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com

 In Mississippi, a Muslim community fears its end (thegazette.com)

 What Muslim women want in the bedroom – and why a halal sex manual is a good thing (telegraph.co.uk)

 Israel banned Muslim men under the age of 50 from a Jerusalem holy site (businessinsider.com)

 Sir Tim Rice criticises teachers for changing ‘Israel’ lyrics in Joseph musical (telegraph.co.uk)

 Israeli embassy guard shoots two Jordanians, provoking diplomatic impasse (nationalpost.com)

 Shawaal Fasting: Grab a whole year reward (vanguardngr.com)


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Islamic and Jewish Views of Jesus

Image via Pixabay

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Although Judaism, Christianity and Islam all assert that they teach pure monotheism, only Christianity proclaims that Jesus was the Son of God; and a third of a Divine trinity (a trifold unity. Christians also believe Jesus was a Divine Messiah (Greek Christ) predicted centuries before by several Jewish prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Jews say the Messiah is always human.

In the Qur’an, Jesus is referred to in ninety three verses in fifteen surahs; and mentioned by name twenty-five times as “son of Mary” or “Messiah Jesus, son of Mary”.

Islam agrees with Christianity that Jesus was born to a virgin, was sinless, performed miracles, and was superior to other prophets. Both Islam and Judaism teach that Jesus was not in any way Divine. Jews think Jesus was only a Rabbi. Islam teaches Jesus was no more than a prophet.

Islam, denies the central teaching and belief of Christianity by denying Jesus’ divinity, crucifixion, and resurrection. Judaism denies divinity. Both religions deny original sin.

Jews and Muslims are both in fundamental agreement that neither Jesus, nor any other human, should be worshiped as a God or as any part of the one and only God.

But doesn’t the Qur’an state: “The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call the Messiah a son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (thus) they only imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say (pagans who believed their many Gods had many divine or semi-divine children). Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Qur’an 9:30)

English: Baptism of Christ

Baptism of Christ via Wikipedia

Now there are a half dozen different places in the Qur’an where the Christian claim that Jesus is the son of God is refuted and denied. For example, “Jesus son of Mary, did you ever say to people ‘worship me and my mother as Gods beside Allah?’ and he will answer, ‘How could I say what I had no right to say?’” 5:116

Also, “Jesus in the sight of Allah is like Adam” 3:59. and “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger of Allah…do not say :Trinity. Stop saying that.” 4:171 Jews agree 100% with these ayahs.

And general statements like “those who say, ‘Allah has begotten a son.’ have no knowledge about it, nor did their forefathers; this is a monstrous word that comes from their mouths. They utter nothing but a lie.” 18:4,5 and 5:72-75, and 19:30. Jews also agree 100% with this.

Indeed, the verse that follows 9:30 specifically applies to Jesus: They take their priests (Ahbar) and their monks to be their Lords in derogation of Allah, and (take as their Lord) the Messiah the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him). (Qur’an 9:31)

Then how shall we understand the Qur’an’s statement: ‘The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah”?

Al-Tabari and Abdallah ibn Ubayd state that only one Jew (Pinhas) viewed Uzayr as the son of God. Ibn Abbas and Qurtubi say only four Jews, whose names they record, believed Uzayr was a son of God. Ibn Hazm said that just a small group of Jews in Yemen worshipped ʿUzayr as a son of God in some remote period.

Since the Jews of Yemen, who have lived there since the third or fourth century, do have an old tradition not to name their children Ezra, perhaps there was such a small, short lived, heretical sect that later generations wanted to forget.

English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, wit...

Child Jesus with the virgin Mary, with the Holy Spirit (represented as a dove) and God the Father, with child john the Baptist and saint Elizabeth on the right via Wikipedia

But most Christians to this day, proudly proclaim that they do indeed worship Jesus, the Son of God. Jews however, have always vehemently denied that they worship any partner or other God except the one and only God. So how can we understand the difference between the two seemingly parallel statements in ayah 9:30?

There is a Hadith in Sunan Al-tirmidhi which says that the Jews worship their Rabbi’s. One of the companions said that this is not true. Then Muhammad said that they accept what their Rabbi’s say over the word of God; so in this way they worship them. This Hadith provides an important clue.

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians actually do venerate and pray to both Jesus and his mother Mary; but only a small party of Jews figuratively venerate their rabbis as Muhammad says because, “they accept what their Rabbi’s say, over the word of God, so in this way they worship them”.

This Hadith is correct. Orthodox Jews believe in both a written Torah and an oral (unwritten) Torah which has been handed down for over 3,200 years, ever since Sinai. They often observe Judaism according to the rabbinic interpretation of this oral Torah.

For example, the Torah states that the new Jewish year starts: “On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow ram horns”. (Numbers 29:1)

This one day holy day, was turned into a two day holy day some 17-18 centuries ago, when most Jews lived outside the Land of Israel and could not be sure exactly when the lunar new year calendar began. A similar issue exists for Muslims in determining the start of Ramadan, which is why in some years two different days mark the beginning of Ramadan in various parts of the world.

“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 via Wikipedia

Thus, different circumstances produce different rituals and legal systems, but basic theology can differ only in unessential details. As the sage of Konya, Jalal al-Din al-Rumi says, “Ritual prayer might differ in every religion, but belief never changes.” (Fihi Mafih 49)

The Qur’an also states 4:171 “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ (Messiah) Jesus the son of Mary was (only) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (He is far) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth.”

The Qur’an credits Messiah Jesus as being a Word of God. What does this mean? The Qur’an also states 43:61: “And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but you (should) follow Me: this is a Straight Way.”

Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, son of David; because the Messianic Age of international peace clearly has not yet come about. But Jesus could have been the Messiah, son of Aaron or Joseph (Yusuf) who according to rabbinic teachings will be killed by the anti-Messianic forces (Romans) before the coming of the son of David Messiah, and the final judgement and resurrection.

Bernardino Luini – Holy Family with the Infant St John via Wikipedia

The belief in two different messiahs, one a moral political leader from the house of David (Davidson) and the other, a religious reformer from the house of Aaron (Aronson), and a special “end of days” prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14) is also found in inter-testament literature.

A Dead Sea scroll states that the Qum’ran community must live according to the original discipline “until there shall come a prophet (Elijah) and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel” (Manuel of Discipline 9:11). There is also a rabbinic belief in a messianic figure from the northern tribes; a son of Joseph, Mary’s husband, who is killed by Roman enemies.

Rabbi Maller’s website is: www.rabbimaller.com. An ordained Reform Rabbi who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California, Rabbi Maller has published over 100 articles about Islamic and Jewish connections on Islamic and Jewish web sites. His newest book is ‘Judaism and Islam: Synergistic Monotheisms.’ He is also the author of a book on Jewish mysticism.

 Quebec mosque where six men killed receives hate package condemning Muslim cemetery project (nationalpost.com)

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Talcott Parsons – “It’s no game”

Cruising along through summer, here’s an entry updated at earthpages.ca


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Children can attack Ravana to save Sita at Taiwan’s National Palace Museum

Rama’s Marriage, 1913. A scene from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Rama marries Sita, daughter of King Janaka, after proving able to wield the great bow presented to the king by the god Shiva

Special to Earthpages.org

At Taiwan’s National Palace Museum Southern Branch in Taibao, children can join the Ramayana battle and attack Ravana to save Sita with an interactive game device for educational purposes.

Lord Hanuman is the game host and it also includes constructing the bridge over the ocean. This is done, after children finish watching animation film on “Ramayana” in its Asian Theater, for the purposes of reviewing the plot and remembering it and children are prompted to recall the storyline. This film “aims to convey to children the many virtues of Rama, Laksmana, Hanuman, and Sita”, Museum announcement says.

Lord Hanuman is also the mascot of Children’s Creative Center of the Museum, (dedicated to 5-12 year-old children and established “to encourage children to explore the diversity of Asian cultures”), “in order to appeal to family audience”.

Commending Taiwan’s National Palace Museum for educating visiting children about Ramayana and for exhibiting Hindu artifacts, Rajan Zed said that art had a long and rich tradition in Hinduism and ancient Sanskrit literature talked about religious paintings of deities on wood or cloth.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged major art museums of the world, including Musee du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay of Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Los Angeles Getty Center, Uffizi Gallery of Florence (Italy), Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern of London, Prado Museum of Madrid, National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, etc., to frequently organize Hindu art focused exhibitions, thus sharing the rich Hindu art heritage with the rest of the world.

Jeng-Yi Lin is the Director of awards-winning Taiwan’s National Palace Museum founded in 1925, which houses ancient Chinese artifacts and includes a collection of about 700,000 objects.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

 What to do before you go to India (telegraph.co.uk)

 ‘Hanuman Da Damdaar’ has Salman Khan, animation, songs and a big-budget feel(thereel.scroll.in)


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Abduction (2017) – Review

Title: Abduction
Genre: Science Fiction, Parody, Comedy, Horror, Cult
Production: Onview Films
Directors/Writers: Maurice SmithMol Smith
Stars: Karolina AntosikTessa McGinnKemal Yildirim (…full cast and crew at IMDB)

Abduction is a clever romp into the unknown realms of alien abduction, sexuality, violence and interdimensional rivalry.

Essentially a spoof, I couldn’t help get the feeling that, underneath all the camp, a deeper significance just waits to be discovered.

The film can be taken on several levels. As parody, imagine Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Repo! The Genetic Opera. On another level, Abduction probes the oft unspoken sexual undercurrents in alien abduction lore. In that sense, it’s almost Freudian.

But Abduction doesn’t stop there. Sci-fi fans will appreciate its look at interdimensional affairs. That is, if aliens exist, how might things actually work out there?

The Hive Queen argues with an ET

The story hinges on a hauntingly beautiful Hive Queen who wants to colonize the earth by creating hybrids.

She’s a hybrid herself but imperfect. She can’t have kids. So she does her evil best to create hybrids to take over the planet.

Kemal Yildirim plays a doctor, Asil, who heals abductees with the most unusual treatments. Meanwhile, a government man (Thorson), a psychiatrist (Melissa) and Asil use high tech meds to try to track victims, with comical side effects.

Any more plot summary would be a spoiler. But I will say that Abduction is relatively easy to follow – we’re never left hanging too long – and it does have a nice, trick ending.

The Doctor with Bozena

Okay so I loved it to bits, right?

Well, no film entirely pleases me and Abduction is no exception.

My nitpicky side felt that an outdoor scene with Thorson and Melissa had a slightly rushed dialog. But things level out as the pair move indoors. And as a send-up, a touch of forced dialog is par for the course. Some might find it just adds to the laughs. It certainly does with the Hive Queen, who obviously hams it up.

Abduction also has its fair share of partial nudity and grotesque scenes, the horrific being more in-your-face than the sensual.

I wasn’t too hot on the blood and gore. But I realize this is important to horror fans. I just flick my Vulcan “inner eyelid” whenever something rubs me the wrong way, be it in Abduction, Game of Thrones, whatever.

Thorson, the Doctor and Melissa

The graphics range from intentionally retro (say, 1960s Twilight Zone and Batman) to state-of-the-art blasters, beams and shimmering pod bay doors.

Like the graphics, the soundtrack is a curious mix of old and new. High-end cinematic effects mingle with catchy pop tunes and 8-bit video game sounds.

The ongoing tension between parody and depth along with variable production values keeps this quirky film fresh. Abduction is well the worth the watch, even if you’re not a cult or Indie movie fan. Not constrained by big budget, Hollywood expectations, it’s free to be what it wants to be.

MC

All images © Onview Films UK. Used with permission.

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UNESCO blamed of hypocrisy for heritage status to island where women are forbidden

A woman takes part in celebrations after Valongo Wharf was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 10, 2017.

Special to Earthpages.org

Hindus have blamed United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of hypocrisy over granting Okinoshima Island of Japan the World Heritage Site status where the women are not allowed to set foot.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee, whose 41st session is meeting in Krakow (Poland) on July 2-12, endorsed Okinoshima Island of Japan for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List; it was announced on July nine.

Rajan Zed said that it was clear betrayal of the cause of UNESCO where “Gender Equality” was one of the two “Global Priorities”. He urged UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova to resign for insincerity to the ideals of UNESCO.

It was a blatant case of promotion and providing official stamp of approval to “gender-inequality” by UNESCO and its two-facedness, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, noted.

UNESCO, which “considers gender equality as a fundamental human right, a building block for social justice and an economic necessity”, should be embarrassed of its actions of placing this Island even on its Tentative List of heritage sites. It seemed that UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and Executive Board Chairperson Michael Worbs and other concerned officials failed to really read and grasp the priorities and goals of the organization, Rajan Zed indicated.

Zed stated that UNESCO should not be in the business of rewarding the monuments/sites which refused to treat women with equality and respect they deserved. Women were entitled to equal rights and opportunities and this gender discrimination at the Island needed to end right now as it was highly inappropriate and out-of-line.

Rajan Zed, quoting scriptures, explained that ancient Manusmriti said: “Where women are revered, there the gods are pleased; where they are not, no rite will yield any fruit.”

Men and women were equal in the eyes of God; Zed said, and urged His Holiness Pope Francis and other world religious leaders to strongly speak on this gender equality issue. How could the “men-only” island be on the UNESCO World Heritage List? Zed wondered.

“Okinoshima Island and Related Sites in Munakata Region” was on the Tentative List under Japan in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention since 2009. A description of Okinoshima Island on UNESCO website includes: “where from the fourth to the tenth centuries national religious rituals were conducted to supplicate the gods” and “where gods descended to live in this world”. A “Nomination Dossier” was prepared by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs for this site in January 2016.

 UNESCO considers German cave art for World Cultural Heritage status (euronews.com)

 13 spectacular photos of the Lake District, the newest UNESCO World Heritage Site (businessinsider.com)

 Island That Bans Female Visitors Is Now A UNESCO World Heritage Site (newsy.com)

 What you didn’t know about Djibouti, the tea-loving nation where women outnumber men (telegraph.co.uk)

 Seven trees photographed over two years (telegraph.co.uk)

 Someone spent 2 years painstakingly replicating China’s Forbidden City in ‘Minecraft’ (mashable.com)


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Freudian Slips – Glitch in the machine or key to countless possibilities?

Most of us know about Freudian Slips. Many of us make them. Every now and then Freudian Slips creep into my own speech and writing.

Sometimes I’ll miss a typo and, on correcting it, consider what the apparent “mistake” might suggest in a bigger picture.

Critics to this worldview might say I have an overactive imagination or that I associate ideas because I want to fit them into my particular cosmology.†

That’s a good thing to keep in mind. Possibly some insane people can’t tell the difference between intuitive connections and imaginative fabrications. But that doesn’t mean that all intuitive connections are crazy. We have to apply reason, experience and humility to sort through it all. Catholics call this discernment. Other religions also try to separate insight from delusion.

So is your particular cosmology adamantly individualistic or about a greater connectivity? How about some intelligent combination of the two?

The other day I revised this earthpages.ca entry about Freudian Slips. It raises some questions that could become increasingly relevant in our collective future. — MC

† The word “cosmology” isn’t just about planets and stars; technically, it means how one sees and understands the world—inside, outside and beyond.

Freudian Slips – Glitch in the machine or key to countless possibilities?

FC&P New York Cocktail Party shoot: Is he envious of my ciggie?

Alexandra Xubersnak – FC&P New York Cocktail Party shoot: Is he envious of my ciggie? via Flickr

Parapraxis, the Freudian Slip

Parapraxis is an obscure word for a pretty common idea—The Freudian Slip. The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was the first to try to analytically explain its occurrence.

In the Psychopathology of Everyday Life Freud says parapraxes are unintentional acts resulting from an unconscious wish, desire, attitude or thought.¹

This could involve forgetting names and sequences of words. But classic examples of parapraxes are slips of the pen or tongue.

Imagine a guest at a cocktail party accidentally saying, “I love your horse” instead of, “I love your house.”

For Freud, the hidden, unconscious meaning of the slip points to… Read More

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