Those who fear and hate Islam, frequently claim that the religion of Islam advocates perpetual warfare against non-Muslims. As proof they love to quote the following Hadith: Narrated [Abdullah] ibn ‘Umar that Prophet Muhammad said: “You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: ‘Come here, O Muslim; there is a Jew, so kill him.’ (Muslim, Book 41, #6981)
This is not a solitary Hadith. It is quoted in several different collections of Ahadith with some important variations in the text; but all of them include the words: “Come here, O Muslim; there is a Jew, so kill him.” For example, the above Hadith appears to imply that Muslims will/should always fight Jews because it states, You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, O Muslim — there is a Jew (hiding behind me); kill him.”
Another Hadith implies that both parties will always fight each other: Abdullah ibn ‘Umar reported Allah’s messenger as saying: “You and the Jews would fight against one another until a stone would say, ‘Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.’ (Muslim, Book 041, #6983)
And a third Hadith implies that only certain Muslims (one named Abdullah) will continually fight some Jews: Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: Allah’s apostle said, “You will fight with the Jews until some of them will hide behind stones; the stones will (betray them) saying, ‘O Abdullah there is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.'” (Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, #176)
There is also a more complete Hadith from both Muslim and Bukhari which states: Abu Huraira reported: “The Last Hour/Day of Judgement will not come about until the Muslims fight the Jews. When the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say: “O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharqad tree, (the boxthorn tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”
Speaking as a rabbi, I find quite interesting the reference to the Boxthorn tree —actually a shrub, often thorny, growing 1 to 4 meters tall. It is spoken of as a ‘Jewish tree’ in the above Hadith. I would refer the reader to the incident alluded to as the ‘fire’ seen by Moses, according to the Qur’an, just before God first spoke to Prophet Moses. Also, this would be the ‘tree’ or ‘bush’ associated with the fire seen by Moses in the ‘burning bush’ mentioned in the Torah account, that is, the ‘blazing fire’ which, in effect, protects the Jews who use the Torah’s light to guide them.
Quran:…[Prophet Moses] saw a fire [on the side of Mount Tur on Sinai]. So he said to his family: Remain here. Indeed, I have noticed a fire. Perhaps from it, I shall bring you a firebrand; or, I shall find at the fire some guidance [on our way]. So, when he came to it, he was called: O Moses! Indeed, it is I [the One who is] your Lord! … [Surah Ṭâ Hâ, 20:10-12]
Torah: “An angel of the LORD appeared to [Prophet Moses] as a blazing fire out of a bush. He saw that the bush was on fire but that it was not burning up…When the LORD saw that [Prophet] Moses was coming closer, he called to him from the middle of the bush…I am the God of your ancestors… (Bible, Exodus 3:2-6)
The Quran speaks of Jews —and of others who have received God’s guidance (including the Torah and the Quran), who believe in divine guidance and who live righteously, accepting that they are accountable to God— as equal believers, parallel to Muslims and others in the eyes of Allah: “Indeed, those who believe [in Islam], and those who are Jews and Christians, and the Sabians, whoever [among them truly] believes in [God] Allah and the [coming Judgment of] the ‘Last Day’ and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord [in full], and there shall be no fear for them [when they assemble for Judgment Day]. Nor shall they ever grieve [over the life of this world]. [Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:62, and again in Surat Al-Mâ’idah, 5:69]
Keeping in mind this clear principle stated in the Quran, we can reach the following conclusion: The basic Hadith “You and the Jews would fight against one another until a stone would say, ‘Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.’ must be understood to imply that the fight would be legitimate only between unfaithful Jews and unfaithful Muslims! How so?
Consider this: Not all people who call themselves ‘Jews’ can be described as in the Quranic ayah above (i.e., believing in the Torah and living righteously, knowing that they are accountable to God). Similarly, and just as important: Not all people who call themselves ‘Muslims’ can be described as in the Quranic ayah above (i.e., believing in the Quranic ayât and living righteously, knowing that they are accountable to God)!
Unfortunately, some Muslims today might understand these words of the Hadith, ‘Come here, O Muslim — there is a Jew, so kill him’ in a less than congenial way: One Muslim may believe: The impact and implication of this Hadith should be that when one believer (a Muslim) so hates another believer (a Jew) —or vice versa—then the Last Hour/end days are near.
The followers of Prophets Muhammad and Moses (Muslims and Jews) are supposed to be the bedrock of humanity. We share a common history and a common future, and if we are so lost…so blinded by a hatred for each other, then isn’t our massive loss of faith complete! Hasn’t the Last Hour/end of times arrived; when the devastating, and horrifying wars of Juj and Majuj—Gog and Magog— will occur (the Syrian civil war is a foretaste of that)!
Another Muslim may believe: The Qur’an itself condemns ALL Jews to “Hell” unless they admit that the Torah is false for Jews and that all prophetic foretelling related to the coming of Prophet Muhammad has been edited out. In short, that 100% of Jews are going to “Hell.” Ergo, if all Jews are going to “Hell,” then all that “bedrock of humanity” is contrived.
Hopefully, the last view will not prevail and this way of thinking will not determine the brotherly and cooperative future of all three Abrahamic religions. We already see evidence of increasing abandonment of traditional religious structures and deteriorating behaviors as a result of the many examples of sexual, and political sinfulness being seen among religious leaders in all three religious communities.
It is up to all believers, Christians, Jews and Muslims, to stand up and publicly oppose bigoted, hate-filled attacks that people within our own religious community make against other religious communities. The Qur’an declares that Allah could have made all of us monotheists, a single religious community, but that He didn’t; and that our diversity was in order to test our commitment to the religion that each of us have been given by our same one God:
“To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [with one religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race [compete] to [do] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.” [Surat Al-Mâ’idah, 5:48]
This Quranic statement indicates that religious pluralism is the will of God. Yet for centuries many believers in the one God have chided and depreciated each other’s religions; and some believers have even resorted to forced conversions, expulsions and inquisitions. Monotheists all pray to the same God, and all prophets of monotheistic faiths are inspired by the same God. So how did this intolerance come about, and how can we eliminate religious intolerance from the Abrahamic religions?
First understand this, Greek philosophy —with its requirement that truth must be unchanging and universal— influenced most teachers of sacred scripture during medieval times to believe that religion was a zero sum game: The more truth I find in your scripture, the less truth there is in mine!
Instead of understanding differing texts as complementary, they made them to be construed as contradictory as they could make them; they declared the other religion’s sacred text to be false. Instead of being open to interpreting texts —both their own and the texts of others— to promote harmony and friendship, they interpreted texts to justify distain, contempt and hate.
If religion is to promote peace in our pluralistic world we must reject the zero sum game ideology, and promote the pluralistic teachings that already exist within our own sacred scriptures.
In addition, since the ‘Last Hour’ is when the devastating, and horrifying wars of Juj and Majuj—Gog and Magog— will occur (the Syrian civil war is a foretaste of that), this Hadith should be used as a strong warning against religious warfare and conflict, and not an advocate for religious warfare.
Indeed, all texts that might seem to encourage or demand attacks on other religious communities must be properly understood as applying specifically to the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, who lived under continual attack from the pagan Arabs of Makkah, and also from some of their Christian and Jewish allies in Madinah.