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An Islamic-Jewish View Of Passover – OpEd

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Many Jews will be surprised to learn that in the Qur’an, the most recounted narratives are those about the bondage of the Children of Israel in Egypt and their deliverance from Pharaoh’s oppression.

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According to the Qur’an, when Prophet Musa (Moses) was sent by Allah, he comes not primarily to warn or rebuke the Children of Israel (his own people) but Musa is sent “to Pharaoh” (repeated four times 20:24, 51:38, 73:15 and 79:17); “to Pharaoh and his chiefs” (al-mala), repeated five times (7:103, 10:75, 11:97, 23:46, and 43:46) and once “to Pharaoh and his people” (27:12).

Prophet 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 Jewish People is free from Egyptian bondage, do they receive God”s Torah at Sinai, by the hand of Moses, without any mediation through an angel.

For the last 3,300 years, this exodus from Egypt has been, and still is, celebrated by Jews throughout the world. This year (2021) the Passover celebration begins on the evening of March 27, and concludes seven days later.

On the first two evenings, a special ceremonial meal (called a Seder), is eaten in Jewish homes, that symbolically reenacts the events and religious significance of God’s redemption of the Jew People from Pharaoh’s oppression.

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It is particularly noteworthy that in the Quran, there is no story that is recounted as many times and with as much emphasis, as the story of the bondage of the Children of Israel and their subsequent deliverance from Egypt’s Pharaoh. The Quran quotes Moses as saying to his people:



“Remember Moses said to his people: “O my people! Call in remembrance the favor of God unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples.” (Surah Al Ma’idah 5:20)



It was Moses , with the help and guidance of God Almighty, who led the Jewish People out of the Land of Egypt towards a land of promise (Israel).

Allah in the Quran says: “Children of Israel! call to mind the (special) favor which I bestowed upon you, that I preferred you to all others (for this Message). Then guard yourselves against a (judgement) day when one soul shall not avail another, nor shall intercession be accepted for her, nor shall compensation be taken from her, nor shall anyone be helped (from outside).

“And remember, We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh: they set you hard tasks and punishments, slaughtered your sons and let your women-folk live; therein was a tremendous trial from your Lord. And remember We divided the sea for you and saved you; and drowned Pharaoh’s people within your very sight.” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:47-50)

Indeed, the most important belief that unites Muslims and Jews is the faith in the One God as the Creator, Sustainer and Law-Giver of this world and all the other worlds in the universe. Both religions teach the need for establishing the Law of God on earth, so that there will be peace and harmony flourishing everywhere. As Muslims have a Shari’ah (Law) to live by, the Jews have their Halakha (a compendium of rabbinic laws, based on the Torah).



Also note the Quran’s statement: “We settled the Children of Israel in a beautiful dwelling-place, and provided for them sustenance of the best: it was after knowledge had been granted to them, that they fell into schisms. Verily God will judge between them as to the schisms amongst them, on the Day of Judgment.” (Surah Yunus 10:90-93)



The torments inflicted on the Children of Israel by the Pharaoh were continuous and harsh; and so God sent His prophets Moses and Aaron (peace be upon them) to warn the tyrant that he should stop the oppression of the Children of Israel and free them. But he was arrogant and refused to free the Jewish slaves, until the last of the plagues God sent as punishment. The first-born of both man and beast were destined to fall down dead on that fateful night.

The Jewish holy day name Pesach, or Passover, refers to the last of the plagues sent by God to the Egyptians. While the Egyptians suffered this plague, the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites. To protect themselves, the Israelites had marked their homes with lamb’s blood so that the angel of death could easily “pass over” their homes.



The Qur’an teaches that when, under guidance from God, the Israelites fled Egypt; Pharaoh and his men pursued them. It seemed like their journey would end at the Red Sea which prevented their escape.

But a miracle happened when Moses struck the water with his staff: The waves of the Red Sea parted and the Israelites hurried between the parted waves.

Pharaoh and his soldiers followed; but by the time the Israelites reached the other shore, the sea closed in, engulfing their pursuers. Thus the Israelites were delivered from bondage, and the Pharaoh and his people perished.

If both Jews and Muslims were to share some of the Quran’s verses this article refers to, during the week of Passover (April 15-23, 2022), it might help both communities come closer to one another.

And if Jews and Muslims throughout the world became closer, then maybe Palestinians and Israelis could overcome and passover the terrible plagues that have afflicted them in our generation. Then the world would have another miraculous event to celebrate as Prophet Isaiah declares:

“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel  will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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