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Does the Quran support Zionism?

I tackled this controversial question at Manchester Limmud 2019, based on the text of the Quran and the views of historical Quranic commentators.

Summary

Delivered 30 June 2019. Posted 20 August 2019.

Starting with Manchester's first Limmud in 2005, on many occasions I have spoken at Limmud conferences in Manchester, Liverpool or Leeds alongside David Berkley QC who is Jewish.

I like to choose challenging subjects, and when volunteering for Manchester Limmud 2019 suggested the topic "Does the Quran support Zionism?" I wanted to explore points which I had occasionally seen being put, for example on the pages linked below.

Allah is a Zionist: The Quranic argument for Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel” by Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi

The Zionist Quran” by IQ al Rassooli

The Wikipedia article "Muslim supporters of Israel"

Below are:

  1. The material in the Limmud brochure provided to advertise the talk to the participants.
  2. A 12-minute self-advancing PowerPoint presentation with a recording of my talk with a link to my PowerPoint slides in case you wish to look at them more closely.
  3. A partial transcript / recording of the question and answer session.

Material for Limmud Brochure

The blurb for the brochure

Article 11 of the Hamas Covenant of 1988 includes the sentence “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it.”

However, the Quran tells us the story of Abraham, and of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the land promised to them. Does an unbiased reading of the Quran support the Jewish claim to Palestine?

Description of myself

Mohammed Amin MBE is Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum which is affiliated to the Conservative Party, Chairman of the Islam & Liberty Network which promotes the Muslim case for religious, political and economic freedom, and Chairman of the Advisory Board of Children of Peace.

Many of his writings and presentations can be found on his website www.mohammedamin.com. Before retirement he was a tax partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. He will be speaking in a purely personal capacity.

Description of David Berkley ("DB")

Founder and Executive Committee Member of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. Formerly President of the Zionist Central Council.

Video

Presentation outline

How the presentation was recorded

My first presentation recording was done on the spur of the moment, just putting my iPhone 6 on the table and relying on its built in microphone. See my page Lecture: One Muslim’s Perspective on Religious Freedom.

Once I found recording presentations worthwhile, I purchased a high quality Sennheiser digital lapel microphone which plugs into the lightning port of my iPhone. That produces a much better recording.

The slides

I am happy to share the original PowerPoint slide presentation.

A partial transcript of the question and answer session

The question and answer session was also recorded. However, I am not publishing the full audio recording for two main reasons:

Instead, I have listened to the Q&A session and, where I regard the questions as being worth sharing, have written down a condensed version of the questions. I have then published the audio of my answers.

As a preliminary point, while my presentation is only 11 minutes long, the Q&A session took 45 minutes, since the session as a whole had a one-hour slot in the timetable.

1. Categorisation of types of Zionism by DB, followed by his question.

DB began by outlining various different meanings of the word Zionism, which I have summarised in my own words as follows:

David asked to what extent would Muslims today agree that the Quran supports any of the above categories of Zionism.

As a preliminary part of my answer, I explained the perspective on the land of Palestine held by Hamas.

Recording of my 90-second answer

The extract from the Hamas Charter mentioned in my answer

The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

Hamas Covenant of 1988, extract from Article 11

DB specifically asked whether any Muslims would regard the return of Jews to Palestine during the 20’th century and the establishment of the state of Israel as something in accordance with the Quran.

Recording of my 90-second answer

2. A question about the quotation on slide 10. (Reproduced below). What are your views on the conditionality in the second part of the quote.

O my people! Enter the holy land which God has promised you; but do not turn back [on your faith], for then you will be lost!“ They answered: “O Moses! Behold, ferocious people dwell in that land,” and we will surely not enter it unless they depart therefrom; but if they depart therefrom, then, behold, we will enter it.”

Recording of my 2-minute answer

DB pointed out how close the above text is to text in the Torah where the Israelites were afraid to enter into the Promised Land. He emphasised that the Torah text relates to the people who lived there at the time, and is not a reference to Arabs.

And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe: And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out.

And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which the LORD our God doth give us. Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:

And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.

Deuteronomy 1:23-28 King James Version

3. A question about the Hamas Charter and the concept of Palestine being a waqf. The questioner had encountered the idea amongst Muslims that any territory that was once Islamic, such as Spain, has to be considered as still Islamic and restored to Muslims. Is this a generally held belief?

Recording of my 90-second answer

Part of Article 11 of the Hamas Charter is quoted earlier on this page. Article 11 continues with the words below:

"This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement."

4. Judaism, apart from recent political Zionism, has been very much a personal religion. However Islam seems to be predicated on expansion, and all of its “golden ages” have been periods of conquest.

Recording of my 30-second answer

5. The idea in Islam that there is a fundamental connection between statehood and creed is a something found much more in Islam than the equivalent thinking in Judaism. Theologically isn’t the key issue that in the Night Journey, when Muhammad comes to Jerusalem, he meets the earlier prophets, but ascends to very top towards God, and becomes the “last word”. Isn’t Islam’s relationship with Christianity and Judaism part of the building blocks of Islamic supremacism?

Recording of my 30-second answer

6. Once you link the understandable theological view that each person, here each Muslim, is entitled to hold, that their religion is superior to any others, to the concept of Khalifah, the impulse to some form of nationalism or Islamic state, then minorities must find themselves in a subordinate position of having to respect the superiority of Muslims and Islam. Where does that leave Israel, with a Jewish majority in control of most of Palestine including the place, Jerusalem, where Muhammad’s ascent to Heaven took place?

I explained how the idea of a Caliphate ruling all Muslims has never existed operationally apart from the very earliest days of Islam.

Recording of my 1-minute answer

7. Within the Islamic theological framework, is there any scope for a Jewish majority state occupying the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan?

Recording of my 18-second answer

8. The questioner described himself as proud to be Jewish, but not a religious Jew. His question was about the religiosity of the three monotheistic faiths. In your text you quote the phrase “The Children of Israel.” What does the text mean by that phrase?

My answer was: "That is quite clear. The 'Children of Israel' are the descendants of Jacob." I emphasised that there was no geographical connotation to the phrase.

9. In the conjectures on slide 13 of the meaning of “Motley crowd” (copied below), why does it have to be Israelites and their enemies? Why not just Israelites and others?

The relevant text from slide 13 is reproduced below

My response

I explained that this is how it is written in The Study Quran and what the commentators thought.

Further information added while writing the website page

"Motley crowd" is how Muhammad Asad translated the relevant Arabic text. The Study Quran translates the same Arabic words as "Mixed assembly", and offers two conjectures from past commentators regarding the meaning. The full text is below; I abbreviated it for the PowerPoint slide.

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d.606/1210), al-Tafsir al-kabir, also known as Mafatih al-ghayb

"as a mixed assembly, meaning that there will be various types of people amongst them — noble and base, obedient and disobedient, pious and iniquitous, strong and weak"

Imad al-Din Abul-Fida Ismail ibn Umar ibn Kathir (d.774/1373), Tafsir al-Quran al-azim

"["as a mixed assembly]— or that God will bring them and their enemies together for judgment on that day.""

10. The questioner raised the Hadith reproduced below, (which is quoted in the Hamas Charter) and asked my opinion of it.

Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say: "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him."

Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177

In responding to this question in detail, I referred to my talk “Do Muslim religious texts cause religious persecution?” and also gave my general perspective about eschatological Hadith (Hadith about the end of time).

Recording of my 4-minute answer

11. This questioner had heard that in the early parts of the Quran, when Muhammad was starting out with establishing Islam and promote it to locals including the local Jewish community, there were texts that were relatively favourable towards Jews  and perhaps by extrapolation their claim to the land of Israel. The progressively as he saw that the Jews “did not get on board” the Quran started to become more  negative about Jews. Is this a fair rendering?

In my answer, I pointed out that this point is often made by “Instant experts” on Islam! I also explained the concept of “abrogation.

Recording of my 3-minute answer

12. Surely the key problem is the inability in traditional religious structures and organisations to break through from medievalism into modernity and using historical-critical tools to understand the “good texts” as we would see them and the “hard texts” in both the Torah, the Quran and the Gospels and other New Testament texts. Unless we can relativise and historicise them, staying in the tradition or parts of the tradition if we can, then the efforts of yourself and DB are going to be in vain. The future may lie in the poll that came out last week that in the Arab world up to 25% of people now class themselves as not religious.

In my answer I illustrated some of the progressive thinking that is taking place amongst Muslims in many countries, and even some of the positive trends in Saudi Arabia.

Recording of my 2-minute answer

13. What hope is there for the kind of movements you are describing having a real impact amongst Muslims?

In my answer, I explained why I publicised my dinners at the home of the Israeli ambassador, the social media response, and the positive aspect of the responses.

Recording of my 1-minute answer

Twitter and Facebook

The above answer mention my tweet and Facebook status update after the 2017 dinner and the subsequent response.

The tweet is embedded below, and clicking it will show you the responses it received.

I enjoyed attending iftar hosted by Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev at his residence this evening. Good mix of Muslims and Jews present.

— Mohammed Amin (@Mohammed_Amin) June 19, 2017

Here is the linked Facebook status update, and the comments and likes and other reactions it received.

 

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