This is my last post for 2013 and the blog will be quiet for the next couple of weeks while I collate the necessary material for the next big article I have planned.
Comparative religion – the Abrahamic religions to be specific – was a something of a hobby of mine a few years back. Whilst investigating Christianity I’d spend many hours delving into books on textual criticism (including the so-called JEDP hypothesis), the works of the early church fathers (“Dialogue with Trypho” and “Contra Celsus” being my two favourites) and the development of the Biblical canon. For my study of Judaism I immersed myself in researching the Talmud, the targums, the exegesis of Rashi and reading up on leading medieval Jewish luminaries such as Maimonides and Nahmanides.
During my study the parallels I discovered between Judaism and Islam on several core theological issues were striking and particularly illuminating. However, I have neither the time nor the inclination at this precise moment to go into any great detail on the subject so I shall confine myself to quoting two ahadith along with two excerpts from the Talmud.
(i) ‘May it be My will that My mercy may suppress My anger, and that My mercy may prevail over My [other] attributes, so that I may deal with My children in the attribute of mercy and,on their behalf, stop short of the limit of strict justice’. [Berakoth 7]
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “When Allah created the Creation, He wrote in His Book–and He wrote (that) about Himself, and it is placed with Him on the Throne–‘Verily My Mercy overcomes My Anger.'” [Sahih Bukhari]
(ii) When R. Akiba was taken out for execution, it was the hour for the recital of the Shema’, and while they combed his flesh with iron combs, he was accepting upon himself the kingship of heaven.His disciples said to him: Our teacher, even to this point? He said to them: All my days I have been troubled by this verse, ‘with all thy soul’, [which I interpret,] ‘even if He takes thy soul’. I said: When shall I have the opportunity of fulfilling this? Now that I have the opportunity shall I not fulfil it? He prolonged the word ehad [one] until he expired while saying it. [Berakoth 61]
Narrated Khabbab bin Al-Arat: We complained to Allah’s Apostle (of the persecution inflicted on us by the infidels) while he was sitting in the shade of the Ka’ba, leaning over his Burd (i.e. covering sheet). We said to him, “Would you seek help for us? Would you pray to Allah for us?” He said, “Among the nations before you a (believing) man would be put in a ditch that was dug for him, and a saw would be put over his head and he would be cut into two pieces; yet that (torture) would not make him give up his religion. His body would be combed with iron combs that would remove his flesh from the bones and nerves, yet that would not make him abandon his religion. By Allah, this religion (i.e. Islam) will prevail till a traveler from Sana (in Yemen) to Hadrarmaut will fear none but Allah, or a wolf as regards his sheep, but you (people) are hasty. [Sahih Bukhari]
Note: The Shema is an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God. The first line reads in English as, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”. It is the direct equivalent to the Islamic affirmation of Tauheed (oneness of God) encapsulated in the phrase “La ilaha ilallah” or “There is no God but Allah”.