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Jewish Supporters Of Prophet Muhammad – OpEd

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The Qur’an says: “There are, certainly, among Jews and Christians, those who believe in God, in the revelation to you (Muslims), and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to God. They will not sell the Signs of God for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord.” (3:199)

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One of them, according to Ibn Ishaq the earliest biographer of Prophet Muhammad, was Rabbi Mukhayriq, a learned leader of the Tha’labah tribe or clan, who fought along side Prophet Muhammad in the battle of Uhud on March 19, 625 AD, and died in that battle. That day was a Saturday and Rabbi Mukhayriq had addressed his people and asked them to go with him to help Prophet Muhammad.

His clan’s men declined, saying that it was the Sabbath. Halakah (Orthodox Jewish Shari’a), states that Jews are not supposed to go to war on the Sabbath unless they themselves are directly under attack. Since the pagan Arabs from Makka only wanted to persecute the Muslims in Medina as they did for so many years in Makka; the clan’s men did not follow Rabbi Mukhayriq.

The Torah (Deuteronomy 20:8-10) does say: Jewish men who fear or are disheartened (by thoughts of fighting on the Sabbath) should be told to go home.

Rabbi Mukhayriq announced that he would risk his life to protect Prophet Muhammad and if he died in the battle, his entire wealth should go to Prophet Muhammad. Rabbi Mukhayriq did die that day in battle against the Polytheistic idol worshiping Meccans. When Prophet Muhammad, who was also seriously injured in that battle, was informed about the death of Rabbi Mukhayriq, Prophet Muhammad said, “He was the best of Jews.”

But why didn’t most of Medina’s Jews support Prophet Muhammad as a non-Jewish descendant of Prophet Abraham, the Hebrew (Genesis 14:13)?

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I think most of them were afraid that after the death of Prophet Muhammad, his ex-pagan polytheist followers would turn him into a son of God and worship him, just as the followers of Jesus turned him into a Son of God, and not only worshipped him; but persecuted Jews who refused to worship Jesus. 

The second factor was the widespread belief within the Jewish community that the age of prophecy had ceased long ago. By the first century CE the belief that the study of Wisdom [Torah] could connect believers with God’s words became common: “Although she [wisdom] is only one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God [like Abraham], and prophets [like Solomon].” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:27) 

In the third century Rabbi Avdimi summed up all the different views: “Since the destruction of the Temple prophecy has passed over to sages, the demented [schizophrenics] and to children; and the sage-scholar is superior to the prophet.” (Talmud Baba Batra 12a) This was true for Jews; but a non-Jewish descendant or Prophets Abraham and Ishmael who was God’s Messenger to the Non-Jewish world was still possible.

Ibn Ishaq also wrote that Rabbi Mukhayriq: “Recognized the Apostle of Allah by his description, and by what he found in his scholarship. However, (since) he was accustomed to his own religion, this held him back (from converting to Islam)”.

Ibn Ishaq does not mention which Torah verses led Rabbi Mukhayriq to support the idea of a non-Jewish, Arabic speaking prophet as a legitimate prophet of God since all Jews knew that the end of the last book of the Torah states that God will raise up a future prophet like Prophet Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18); and also states that there will never be another Prophet like Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:10)  How can both statements be correct?

I think that Rabbi Mukhayriq took this verse in Deuteronomy 18:18 literally: “I will (in the future) raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you (Moses); and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” All orthodox rabbis gloss ‘brothers’ to mean fellow Israelites, but the literal meaning of the Hebrew word is biological brothers; and could mean a future non-Jewish brother prophet who would be a descendant of Prophet Isaac’s brother Prophet Ishmael. 

This fits in with another Torah statement: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me (Moses) from among you, from your brothers— to him you shall listen— just as you (Jewish People) desired of the Lord your God at Horeb (Sinai) on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the (direct) voice of the Lord my God, or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me (Moses) ‘They (the Jewish People) are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their (non-Jewish) brothers (Arabs and Jews are descendants of two brothers). And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them (your non-Jewish descendants of Isaac’s brother Ishmael) all that I command him.”  (Deuteronomy 21:15-18) 

So the answer to the question ‘how can Prophet Muhammad be a prophet like Prophet Moses’ is that the Torah ends with the statement: “Since that time (at Sinai) no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew (spoke to directly) face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10)  

Precisely because Prophet Muhammad did not rise up within the Children of Israel, or in the Land of Israel, he can be a non-Jewish prophet like Prophet Moses, who speaks the words of God to all non-Jews as he received them from Allah, not face to face like Prophet Moses, but from Angel Gabriel like all other prophets.

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.

One thought on “Jewish Supporters Of Prophet Muhammad – OpEd

  • March 25, 2022 at 8:15 pm
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    Dear Rabbi Allen S. Maller,

    Shalom!

    I plead to the Almighty to bless you and to guide you on His Right Path, to make you a cause for a world peace, for a true Brotherhood between the Muslims, to whom I belong, and the Jews, to whom you, Sir, belong. I am an Iraqi-American who lived in the United States for 31 years and met a number of Jews some of whom were good and others were not. I think if people get rid of their prejudices and blind biases, they can live with each other in peace and harmony. May you be blessed, Sir.

    Reply

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