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Maimonides on Islam

Discussion in 'Judaism DIR' started by Epic Beard Man, Aug 13, 2017.

  1. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    First and foremost Shalom aleikhem

    It has been a while since I've read the Mishneh Torah since undergrad and I seemed to have lost my copy of "A Guide For The Perplexed" so if anyone can point to an internet link where I could read it online I would appreciate that. Now, last night at work on my downtime I was online reading some excerpts of Maimonides on his views on Islam and considering there was not much knowledge shared on Islam amongst Jewish scholars, of course they viewed Islam originally as idolatrous. Of course this position changed over time:


    “All those words of Jesus of Nazareth and of this Ishmaelite [i.e., Muhammad] who arose after him are only to make straight the path for the messianic king and to prepare the whole world to serve the Lord together. As it is said: ‘For then I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech so that all of them shall call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord’ (Zephaniah 3:9)

    It would appear at least from the brief readings on Maimonides' work, is that he at that period considered Islam to be a heterodoxical form of Judaism, and although untrue, Muslims were not idolatrous. So from this I guess my question is, if Islam is untrue but at the same time not an idolatrous faith from that period until now do Jews still hold the same opinion as of today?
     
  2. Tumah

    Tumah Well-Known Member

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    I don't think that what he's saying here is that Islam is a form of Judaism. Judaism isn't defined by correct belief in G-d, because its possible to not be Jewish and still have correct belief in G-d. The two and three chapters before the one you are quoting deal with correct religion for non-Jews. So we can say that Islam isn't considered idolatrous, but its still wrong. This is also probably the view of Maimonides, as his position is that its prohibited for non-Jews to fabricate a new religion or new religious requirements.

    He also explains what he meant in the passage you quoted in the next passage. He says that these two religions prepared the way for the messiah by spreading knowledge of Jewish concepts to the heathen world. So its not that he considers these religions to be Jewish, but that they indirectly help spread some Jewish concepts.

    But in answer to your question, I believe that yes, most Jews believe that Muslims do not practice idolatry.
     
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  3. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    I'm familiar with the idea at least if I read correctly that his thought (Maimonides) was that at least theologically speaking the correct faith would be that of Judaism and if not Judaism at least become a Noahide (Am I correct here?). But if I'm having a discussion with Maimonides and I asked him if Islam encompasses the basic tenants of Jewish faith and adheres to a strict monotheistic philosophy and is not idolatrous, then what would make Islam untrue for Maimonides?
     
  4. rosends

    rosends Well-Known Member

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  5. Tumah

    Tumah Well-Known Member

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    The faith, that is, the belief of a Jew and a Noahide is meant to be identical. What's different is the legal and ritual requirements. Noahides have seven categories of Laws, while Jews have 613. Its impossible for a Jew to become a Noahide, so there's not really "at least become a Noahide".

    Well, Maimonides does have his 13 principles of faith. Numbers 7, 8 and 9 might be a problem for some Muslims. That's just the requirements to not transgress the prohibition of heresy though. Its possible to not be an heretic and still be a pretty big sinner in Judaism.

    I'm assuming that your question is with regards to non-Jews not Jews (ie. what makes Islam untrue for non-Jews), as there's no question that a Jew would be transgressing hundreds of Biblical commandments and many, many hundreds if not thousands of Rabbinical ones by following Islamic Law.

    Non-Jews aren't required to follow Jewish Law, but Noahide Law. Islam does cover almost all of Noahide Law. The major problem there would be the actual religion as an entity and the Islamic religious laws that are beyond what the Noahide Laws require. Here is what he says:

    Similarly, a gentile who rests, even on a weekday, observing that day as a Sabbath, is obligated to die (although later he adds that its prohibited to actually kill him - Tumah). Needless to say, he is obligated for that punishment if he creates a festival for himself.

    The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot
    (commandments, religious obligations -Tumah) for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the mitzvot or retain their statutes (ie as Noahide Law observing gentiles - Tumah) without adding or detracting from them.

    According to that, special prayers on Friday, Eids, Ramadan, hajj, wudu, etc. and the establishment of a religion called Islam are all transgressions of Noahide Law and prohibited for non-Jews to follow, according to Maimonides.

    Additionally, Maimonides writes earlier:

    Anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these seven mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of 'the pious among the gentiles' and will merit a share in the world to come.

    This applies only when he accepts them and fulfills them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moses, our teacher, that Noah's descendants had been commanded to fulfill them previously.

    However, if he fulfills them out of intellectual conviction, he is not a resident alien, nor of 'the pious among the gentiles,' but rather of their wise men.

    Which means that according to Maimonides, even though Muslims may be incidentally following many Noahide Laws, they still wouldn't be rewarded for it because they're lacking the correct intent behind their actions since their intent is to follow the laws that Muhammad taught.

    So I'd guess those would be major problems that Maimonides would have with Islam.
     
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  6. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    Tumah thank you for that well detailed response! This was quite informative and enjoyable to read at work. Due to fatigue from working 12 hours I'll have to respond a bit later on but I'll definitely expound on what you're saying here as it has me thinking of theological dilemmas like "The problem of prophecy" as in the development of those Islamic laws in relation to the prophecy of Muhammad as the last prophet (a transgression in Judaism I suppose?) as you've stated previously. But we can discuss this later...Thank you!
     
  7. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    @Tumah going back to our discussion when I mentioned the problem of prophecy in relation to Islamic laws, it seems there are several problems at least I assume for Maimonides:

    1) Muhammad's prophethood

    2) Islam as seen as a new faith

    3) The creation of new laws outside the Torah

    Considering that Islam is stated as a "successor of all previous faiths" of sort it, would seem as you've stated previously that Islam as an entity is philosophically (not theologically) the problem for Maimonides but then if such is true then ultimately Muhammad's prophethood in itself is problematic at least for Maimonides.
     
  8. Tumah

    Tumah Well-Known Member

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    I don't understand why you say that the problem with Islam is a philosophical rather than theological problem @Epic Beard Man , since as I mentioned before, the problem is that its existence as a religion that is not Judaism, transgresses Jewish Law.

    According to Maimonides, a non-Jew is capable of having prophecy. In his Epistle to Yemen he brings proof from the multiple non-Jews that are accepted as prophets in Judaism. He contrasts that with Jews who are believed to have been false prophets, concluding that Jews aren't special in this regard.

    But to not believe in the prophet-hood of Zaid and Amar, that's not because they're not from [the children of] Israel, as many think that we have to learn from the verse "from among you, from your brothers". Because Job, Zopher, Bildad, Eliphaz and Elihu are all considered prophets by us, even though they are not from Israel. And Hananiah ben Azor was a false prophet, even though he was from Israel. Rather, we will believe a prophet or discredit him, because of his prophecy and not because of his relationship.

    However, in the Mishneh Torah he gives a list of qualities a person needs to have in order to become a prophet: one needs to be very knowledgeable, very intelligent and be in complete control of one's character traits. But that only makes him worthy of attaining prophecy. Prophecy itself he describes as a mental state one that is achieved by meditating on various esoteric concepts. Once one has attained that mental state, its possible - although not necessary, that one will receive a prophetic vision.

    Prophecy is bestowed only upon a very wise sage filled with wisdom, of a strong character, who is never overcome by his natural inclinations in any regard. Instead, with his mind, he overcomes his natural inclinations at all times. He must [also] possess a very broad and accurate mental capacity.

    A person who is full of all these qualities and is physically sound [is fit for prophecy]. When he enters the Pardes and is drawn into these great and sublime concepts, if he possesses an accurate mental capacity to comprehend and grasp [them], he will become holy. He will advance and separate himself from the masses who proceed in the darkness of the time. He must continue and diligently train himself not to have any thoughts whatsoever about fruitless things or the vanities and intrigues of the times.

    Instead, his mind should constantly be directed upward, bound beneath [God's] throne [of Glory, striving] to comprehend the holy and pure forms and gazing at the wisdom of the Holy One, blessed be He, in its entirety, [in its manifold manifestations] from the most elevated [spiritual] form until the navel of the earth, appreciating His greatness from them. [After these preparations,] the divine spirit will immediately rest upon him...

    All the prophets do not prophesy whenever they desire. Instead, they must concentrate their attention [upon spiritual concepts] and seclude themselves, [waiting] in a happy, joyous mood, because prophecy cannot rest upon a person when he is sad or languid, but only when he is happy...

    Those who aspire to prophecy are called "the disciples of the prophets." Even though they concentrate their attention, it is possible that the Divine Presence will rest upon them, and it is possible that it will not rest upon them.

    Those are the requirements for a person to attain prophecy. There are also requirements that form the basis of when we are to believe a prophet-claimant. What happens is, the claimant is meant to appear before the people he wants to accept him and provide them with an exact description of future events. Those things have to happen to the smallest iota. After he does this a few times, then he can be considered a recognized prophet.

    It is also possible that [a prophet] will be sent to one of the nations of the world, or to the inhabitants of a particular city or kingdom, to prepare them and to inform them what they should do or to prevent them [from continuing] the evil which they are doing.

    When he is sent [on such a mission], he is given a sign or a wonder [to perform], so that the people will know that God has truly sent him...

    Any prophet who arises and tells us that God has sent him does not have to [prove himself by] performing wonders like those performed by Moses, our teacher, or like the wonders of Elijah or Elisha, which altered the natural order.

    Rather, the sign of [the truth of his prophecy] will be the fulfillment of his prediction of future events, as [implied by Deuteronomy 18:21]: "How shall we recognize that a prophecy was not spoken by God?...

    "Should even a minute particular of his "prophecy" not materialize, he is surely a false prophet. If his entire prophecy materializes, we should consider him a true [prophet].

    We should test him many times. If all of his statements prove true, he should be considered to be a true prophet, as [I Samuel 3:20] states concerning Samuel, "And all of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, knew that Samuel had been proven to be a prophet unto God."

    However there's a caveat: If the prophet makes any change to the Law that we already have, then he's out. He's considered a false prophet and he gets capital punishment.

    It is clear and explicit in the Torah that it is [God's] commandment, remaining forever without change, addition, or diminished, as [Deut 13:1] states: "All these matters which I command to you, you shall be careful to perform. You may not add to it or diminish from it," and [Deut 29:28] states: "What is revealed is for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah." This teaches that we are commanded to fulfill all the Torah's directives forever.

    It is also said: "It is an everlasting statute for all your generations," and [Deut 30:12] states: "It is not in the heavens." This teaches that a prophet can no longer add a new precept [to the Torah].

    Therefore, if a person will arise, whether Jew or gentile, and perform a sign or wonder and say that God sent him to: (A) add a commandment, (B) withdraw a commandment, (C) explain a commandment in a manner which differs from the tradition received from Moses, or (D) if he says that the commandments commanded to the Jews are not forever, but rather were given for a limited time,
    - he is a false prophet. He comes to deny the prophecy of Moses and should be executed by strangulation, because he dared to make statements in God's name which God never made.

    No prophet after Moses can change anything from the Law that we have in our hands. The reason being, he explains, is that Moses' prophecy is the basis of belief in any prophet after him. The way he explains it, our belief in Moses is not based on all the miracles that Moses performed. Rather they're based on the fact that our forefathers stood at Mt. Sinai and witnessed for themselves G-d speaking to Moses. This gives us the basis for believing that Moses was unequivocally a prophet. Any prophet after him, is actually not believed because of his signs, but because Moses whom we do believe, commanded us to believe someone who has tested positive in predicting future events. Since every other prophet is only accepted on the basis of Moses' prophecy, they don't have the capability to contradict Moses' prophecy.

    The Jews did not believe in Moses, our teacher, because of the wonders that he performed. Whenever anyone's belief is based on wonders, [the commitment of] his heart has shortcomings, because it is possible to perform a wonder through magic or sorcery.

    What is the source of our belief in him? The [revelation] at Mount Sinai. Our eyes saw, and not a stranger's. Our ears heard, and not another's. There was fire, thunder, and lightning. He entered the thick clouds; the Voice spoke to him and we heard, "Moses, Moses, go tell them the following:...."

    Thus, those to whom [Moses] was sent witnessed [his appointment] as a prophet, and it was not necessary to perform another wonder for them. He and they were witnesses, like two witnesses who observed the same event together. Each one serves as a witness to his colleague that he is telling the truth, and neither has to bring any other proof to his colleague.

    Similarly, all Israel were witnesses to [the appointment of] Moses, our teacher, at the [revelation] at Mount Sinai, and it was unnecessary for him to perform any further wonders for them...

    Thus, we do not believe in any prophet who arises after Moses, our teacher, because of the wonder [he performs] alone, as if to say: If he performs a wonder we will listen to everything he says. Rather, [we believe him] because it is a mitzvah which we were commanded by Moses who said: If he performs a wonder, listen to him...

    Therefore, if a prophet arises and attempts to dispute Moses' prophecy by performing great signs and wonders, we should not listen to him. We know with certainty that he performed those signs through magic or sorcery. [This conclusion is reached] because the prophecy of Moses, our teacher, is not dependent on wonders, so that we could compare these wonders, one against the other. Rather we saw and heard with our own eyes and ears as he did...

    It is possible that a person will perform a sign or wonder even though he is not a prophet - rather, the wonder will have [another cause] behind it. It is, nevertheless, a mitzvah to listen to him. Since he is a wise man of stature and fit for prophecy, we accept [his prophecy as true], for so have we been commanded.

    The only exception is if he tells us to do something that contradicts the established Law on a temporary basis (except idolatry, which is never permitted). So a prophet can't say, '"It is now permitted to bring sacrifices outside Jerusalem". But he could say, "Go this once and bring a sacrifice outside Jerusalem".

    When a prophet - who has already proven himself to be a prophet - instructs us to violate one of the mitzvot of the Torah or many mitzvot, whether they be of a severe or light nature, for a limited amount of time, it is a mitzvah to listen to him.

    The Sages of the early generation taught as part of the oral tradition: If a prophet tells you to violate the precepts of the Torah as Elijah did on Mount Carmel, listen to him with regard to all things except the worship of false gods. This applies when his command is temporary in nature...

    Similarly, if any [other] prophet commands us to transgress for a limited time, it is a mitzvah to listen to him. If, however, he says that the mitzvah has been nullified forever, he is liable for execution by strangulation, for the Torah has told us: "[It is] for us and our children forever."

    Similarly, if [a "prophet"] nullifies a concept which was transmitted by the oral tradition, or states with regard to one of the Torah's laws that God commanded him to render such and such a judgment, or that such and such is the law regarding a particular instance and the decision follows a certain opinion, he is a false prophet and should be [executed by] strangulation. [This applies] even if he performs a wonder, for he is coming to deny the Torah, which states: "It is not in the heavens (Deut. 30:12)."

    Following these rules, we see a number of reasons why Muhammad doesn't satisfy Maimonides requirements for prophecy:
    1. He was illiterate while a prophet must be knowledgeable to be worthy of prophecy.
    2. The process by which Muhammad is claimed to have attained prophecy does not conform to how prophecy occurs.
    3. Muhammad never took the test to be accepted as a prophet.
    4. The prophecy that Muhammad is claimed to have received contradicts Moses' prophecy by adding and abrogating Laws on a permanent basis.

    All this only applies to someone who intends to command. Someone like Samson's parents' prophetic vision of the angel is different because they don't need authority.
     
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  9. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    @Tumah I actually had written a long post in response but I think what it boils down to is that as you've explained that Maimonides has declared Islam heretical under the the Jewish guidelines
     
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