Allen S. Maller

Islam, Judaism, and Religious Pluralism in Bible and Qur’an

For tens of thousands of years Homo Sapiens existed as thousands of different hunter and gather tribes, speaking thousands of different languages, and worshiping hundreds of different gods; for this was the One God’s will, as the Qur’an states: “Once all humans were but a single (religious) community (of polytheists) ; then they disagreed (formulating different beliefs and rites). Had it not been that your Lord had already so ordained, a decisive judgement would have been made regarding their disagreements.” (10:19) and as the Qur’an (30:22) says:

“And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth; and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.”

But after Adam things changed as the Qur’an (30:22) says: “For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If Allah had wanted, He could have made you one people, but (He didn’t) that He might test you in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to do virtuous deeds; for all return to Allah (for judgement), so He will let you know [about] that in which you differed.” [5:48]

“O mankind, We created you from male and female, and made you peoples and tribes, that you may know (respect) one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Quran 49:13)

“Let there be no compulsion in Religion: truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah (one God) has grasped the most trustworthy, unbreakable, hand hold: Allah hears, and knows all things.” (Qur’an:2:256)

“Say: we believe in God and in what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma’il: Isaac, Jacob and The (12) Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another, among them, and to God do we bow our will.” (Qur’an 3:84)

Judaism supports these pluralistic views. One of the most important visions of the prophets of Israel occurs in the words of the prophet Micah. He declared that until the end of history, and throughout the Messianic Age, religious pluralism will continue to be the norm, even among polytheists:

“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. Torah will go out from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

“He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord God has spoken. All the nations will walk in the name of their gods, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:1-5)

The opening section seems to predict Jewish pre-eminence; as all nations flow to Israel to be taught God’s ways, and our Torah streams to them. The second section predicts the universal peace that will reign in the Messianic Age under God’ rule. So far this agrees totally with the better known prophecy of Isaiah (2:2-4). Then comes Micah’s revolutionary addition. Micah declares that the verses of the first section do not proclaim Judaism’s victory over all other religions, or even over all other God concepts.

Even in the Messianic Age the other nations will still be loyal to their Gods just as we are loyal to our God. Indeed, it is possible to understand this verse to mean that the Messianic Age of universal peace will come about because all the nations, including Israel, actually live up to the best principles of their own religions.

Biblical thought denies the legitimacy of other Gods (religions) for Israel; it does not deny the obvious truth that other nations do indeed have other religions; and that these other religions do have other Gods; and that is O.K. For the other nations. Micah 4:5 is the first explicit statement of religious pluralism in the western world.

Four centuries before Micah a Jewish leader named Jephthah offered a different, more pragmatic pluralistic, approach. He tried to avoid a war by appealing to an invading king as follows.”Do you not hold what Chemosh, your God, has given you? So we will hold on to all that Adonai, our God, has given us.” (Judges11:24) Jephthah does not believe in Chemosh nor does he think that Chemosh is just another name for the Holy One of Israel.

Jephthah knows that the One God of Israel does not allow Jews to have any other god. But Jephthah recognizes the king’s religious beliefs and wants the king to equally recognize Israel’s.

Thus, Adonai the One God of Israel, is the only God for Jews; but others can have a God that they submit to, as long as this God leads them to practice virtue. Even the Qur’an, a book that everyone agrees teaches total monotheism declares, “For every community We have appointed a whole system of worship which they are to observe. So do not let them draw you into disputes concerning the matter, but.,..God will judge between (all of) you on the Day of Resurrection about what you used to differ”. (22:67&69)

Most Jews are aware of the Rabbinic teaching that the righteous of all nations have a place in the world to come. Thus, on judgement day: morality is, and theology is not, the standard by which each person’s life is judged. Jews are required to live up to Jewish rules and principles, and non-Jews must live up to their own religions rules and principles.

Kindness, justice, mercy and humility are required of everyone. Jews can’t worship the sun or the moon, but other peoples can. As Torah teaches “you must not be lured into bowing down to them (sun, moon and stars) … or serving them. These the Lord your God has allotted to all the (other) nations under all the heavens.” (Deuteronomy 4:19)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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