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Conflict Resolution in the Shadow of Islamic Abrogation

24 March 2010

By Yisrael Ne'eman

Surprisingly, the solution to the world Jihad offensive and Islamic anti-Semitism is found in the Koran itself. Moderate statements and pro-Israelite/Jewish comments exist in no small amount yet today few vestiges of peaceful intent are noticeable among the world's Muslims. The Jihadists base their behavior on a specific interpretation of Islam whose ideological roots reach into the seventh century. As in previous centuries today's Jihadists use "abrogation" (see Koran 2:106) to nullify peaceful verses and instead institute Holy War in the name of Allah to spread Islam.

A moderate, conciliatory, co or multi-existence approach exists side by side with the Jihadists and it too has roots in the seventh century, albeit such an understanding is a minority opinion. Nevertheless such a perspective has the possibility of re-legitimizing itself and challenging the extremists provided Islamic scholars and adherents to Islam consciously emphasize such a theological direction. This perspective is held by such Islamic scholars such as Tawfik Hamid, Abdul Hadi Palazzi and Tashbi Sayyed. This specific theological perspective can lead to conflict resolution between Islam and the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) provided a conscious effort is made by the universal Islamic leadership to do so. This is a long shot but without it the non-Islamic world will be devoid of an internal front on the domestic Muslim scene, making it that much more difficult to defeat Jihadism.

This can be reversed, even if with great difficulty. Not all Islamic scholars, either in the distant past or in the modern period follow in "abrogation". Certainly since 9/11 the debate has intensified the debate (See David Bukay, "Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam" in Middle East Quarterly, Fall, 2007). Chronologically, the later Koranic chapters are belligerent and warlike in the extreme, invoking punishment against the People of the Book and abrogating previous positive statements. The suggestion here is to engage in conflict resolution through the emphasis on a re-interpretation of the Koran. Today extremists lean on Koranic statements to justify themselves while the moderates are seen as Western lackeys and the Jihadists are winning the day.

Any challenge to the Jihadi, anti-Semitic, anti-West and xenophobic world view pressed by these Islamist radicals must come from the Koran – the ultimate Islamic source. The West can only provide a partial solution through secularization, material well being and the temporary military defeat of Jihadism. In times of societal stress Jihadism will return unless an ideological Islamic solution is sought at its source. In short only a moderate Islam, accepting of other world cultures and religions can defeat the Jihadism of today. The winner of the ideological battle in the arena of Islamic thinking today will be the policy makers within tomorrow's Muslim states.

But how so? Abrogated conciliatory/positive Koranic verses towards Jews, Christians and others must now be re-instated. Using the same tools, warlike interpretations can be downplayed or even ignored/abrogated. Conflict resolution can begin with basic understandings between Muslims and Jews. For Jihadists the conflict is perceived as a universal zero sum game, one with Islam pitted against Judaism and world Jewry. Chronologically, the earlier chapters written in the Koran are favorable to the Israelites/Jews. This is in the early period until 624 prior to the outright Jewish rejection of Mohammed as a prophet and the clash in Medina.

There are positive attitudes towards Israelites/Jews in the Koran with the Exodus from Egypt playing a major role with the Koran following the Tanakhic narrative:

Koran (Jonah) 10:89 – 10:93 - We led the Israelites across the sea, and Pharaoh and his legions pursued them with wickedness and hate. But as he was drowning, Pharaoh cried: 'Now I believe that there is no god save the God in whom the Israelites believe. To Him I give up myself.'

'Now you believe!' Allah replied. 'but before this you were a rebel and a wrongdoer. We shall save your body this day, so that you may become a sign to all posterity: for most men give no heed to Our signs.'

We settled the Israelites in a blessed land and provided them with good things. Nor did they disagree among themselves until knowledge was given them. Your Lord will judge their differences on the Day of Resurrection.

This is reminiscent of Exodus, Chapter 14 as the Egyptians drown and the Israelites are settled "in a blessed land" meaning the "promised land". Continuing onwards there are the parallels of the holiness of God's word as revealed in both the Torah and the Koran as quoted below:

Koran (The Story) 28:42 – 28:44 – And after we had destroyed the previous generations We gave Moses the Scriptures as a clear testimony, a guide and a blessing for men, so that they might give thought.

You [Mohammed] were not present on the western side of the Mountain when We charged Moses with his commission, nor did you witness the event. We raised many generations after him whose lives We prolonged. You did not dwell among the people of Midian, nor did you recite to them Our revelations; for We sent forth to them other apostles.

Moses was given the Scriptures or Torah on the Mountain (Sinai). It is made clear to Mohammed by Allah that he was not present when the Torah was given to Moses and (by inference) the Children of Israel.

To signify the importance of the "Sinai motif" the Children of Israel have been "exalted" above the other nations;

Koran (Kneeling) 45:16 – 45:18 – We gave the Scriptures to the Israelites and bestowed on them wisdom and prophethood. We provided them with good things and exalted them above the nations. We gave them plain commandments: yet it was not till knowledge had been vouchsafed them that they disagreed among themselves from evil motives. On the Day of Resurrection your Lord Himself will judge their differences.

The Israelites were given the Scriptures, prophethood, wisdom and the commandments. Although disagreements erupted among the Israelites themselves and were often due to "evil motives" it is not the place of men to judge them. They will be judged only by Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Allah "exalted them above the nations", a clear reference to the definition of the Hebrew "sgula" meaning a "treasure" or "virtuous" people as recounted in Exodus 19:5.

Upon accepting the Torah and sealing the covenant at Sinai the trek continues with both blessings and aid from God alongside His condemnation of the Israelite failure to fully show faith:

Koran (Ta Ha) 20:79 – 20:84 – Children of Israel! We delivered you from your enemies and made a covenant with you on the right flank of the Mountain. We sent down manna and quails for you. 'Eat the wholesome things with which We have provided you and do not transgress, lest you should incur My wrath, We said. 'He that incurs My wrath shall assuredly be lost, but he that repents and believes in Me, does good works and follows the right path, shall be forgiven. But, Moses, why have you come with such haste from your people?'

Moses replied: 'They are close behind me. I hastened to You so that I might earn Your pleasure.'

Here is the Muslim recounting of the covenant between God (Allah) and the Children of Israel. The covenant promises the Land of Israel (or Canaan) to the Israelites.

Zionism in the Koran

Continuing onwards, we are reminded of the destruction of Pharaoh's forces in the Reed (Red) Sea while the Israelites are instructed to live in "this land" and with the promise that all will be assembled in the "hereafter" or afterlife – End of Days:

Koran (The Night Journey) 17:103 – 17:104 – Pharaoh sought to scare them out of the land: but We drowned him, together with all who were with him. Then We said to the Israelites: 'Dwell in this land. When the promise of the hereafter comes to be fulfilled, We shall assemble you all together.'

And then the persecuted Israelites were rewarded "dominion over the eastern and western lands which We had blessed", a clear reference to the Holy Land both east and west of the Jordan River, thereby fulfilling the word of the Lord.

Koran (The Heights) 7:137 – We gave the persecuted people dominion over the eastern and western lands which We had blessed. Thus your Lord's gracious word was fulfilled for the Israelites, because they had endured with fortitude; and we destroyed the edifices and towers of Pharaoh and his people.

And finally there is the Night Journey discussing the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, both of which were destroyed, the former by the Babylonians and the latter by the Romans. This is the firm affirmation in the Koran of the existence of both sanctuaries.

Koran (The Night Journey) 17:1 – 17:10 – Glory be to Him who made His servants go by night from the Sacred Temple to the Farther Temple whose surroundings We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He alone hears all and observes all.

We gave Moses the Scriptures and made them a guide for the Israelites, saying: 'Take no other guardian than Myself. You are the descendants of those whom We carried in the Ark with Noah. He was a truly thankful servant.'

'Twice you shall commit evil in the land. You shall become great transgressors'.

And when the prophecy of your transgression came to be fulfilled, We send against you a formidable army which ravaged your land and carried out the punishment with which you had been threatened.

Then We granted you victory over them and multiplied your riches and your descendants, so that once again you became a numerous people. We said: 'If you do good, it shall be to your own advantage; but if you do evil, you shall sin against your own souls.'

And when the prophecy of your second transgression came to be fulfilled, We sent another army to afflict you and to enter the Temple as the former entered it before, utterly destroying all that they laid their hands on.

We said: 'Allah may yet be merciful to you. If you again transgress, you shall again be scourged. We have made Hell a prison-house for the unbelievers.'

This Koran will guide men to that which is most upright. It promises the believers who do good works a rich reward, and threatens those who deny the life to come with a grievous scourge. Yet man prays for evil as fervently as he prays for good. Truly, man is ever impatient.

Mohammed makes his Night Journey from the Sacred Temple (Mecca) to the Farther Temple (Jerusalem) thereby connecting the two in holiness according to the first verse. Immediately following is the rendition of the mainstay of ancient Israelite-Jewish history. Jerusalem however is never mentioned by name in the Koran.

To summarize – Moses receives the Scriptures and covenant at Sinai. The Israelites arrive in the Land and build the Temple which is destroyed twice due to evils committed by the people. This is perfectly in line with the Jewish understanding of the destruction of both Temples. The Koranic claim of a prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temples is not in the Tanakh but is in religious works such as the Christian scriptures (New Testament) and the Koran itself but only after the fact.

This is similar to the reward and punishment we find in the fifth Book of Moses (Deuteronomy: Chapters 4-11 and 28). The Koran reaffirms this perspective in the last verses of the above quote. With righteousness there is a full redemption for the Israelite descendents in Deuteronomy Chapter 30:1 - 30:5 and then in the Koran:

(The Table) 5:41 – 5:43 – There is guidance and there is light, in the Torah which We have revealed. By it the prophets who surrendered themselves to Allah judged the Jews, and so did the rabbis and the divined; they gave judgment according to Allah's scriptures which had been committed to their keeping and to which they themselves were witnesses.

Allah judges the Jewish People by their adherence to Torah. The prophets, rabbis and divined surrendered themselves to it. Viewing the modern political - international situation, Jewish leadership apparently has provided the correct guidance. Jews have returned to the Land through the establishment of the State of Israel.

There are more Exodus narratives in the Koranic verses 20:1-104, 7:104-160 and 2:47-66 in particular although they do not follow the Tanakhic literature completely. Recollections concerning the Israelite prophets and the Kings David and Solomon are found in 38:17-27 (King David) and 27:14-44 (Solomon and the Queen of Sheba).

This all begs the question – How can a believing Muslim deny Allah's intervention when physically redeeming the Jews in their ancient homeland, the Land of Israel? And the Jews must have been righteous to earn such a redemption and an "Ingathering of the Exiles" otherwise Allah would not have allowed for such an eventuality as He is the ultimate in good.

Decision Making in Political Islam

It may be considered cynical but a decision advocating world Jihad or in favor of universal peace is a political determination. For believers it can be couched as a dictate or inspiration by Allah but in the overall scope this is a determination of policy. War or peace is in the hands of the Muslim leadership throughout the world, both options existing in the Koran. Ultimately Muslims will have to determine if they desire eternal Jihad or if Islam is willing to take its place as one of the world's many religions. One can follow a policy of persuasion, not coercion.

From the non-Islamic side it must be made crystal clear to all Muslims that choosing the Jihadi path will only lead to death and destruction on a level comparable with the Axis German – Japanese defeat in World War II. Such a threat will not deter the true Jihadists but it may very well undermine further possible support for their cause. Those considering the Jihadi direction may decide on a more moderate path for reasons of self, national and religious preservation. It will be in their interest not to have a Jihadi led society. However the West in particular has a credibility problem. Similar to Nazi and Imperial Japanese aggression the Jihadists do not take seriously the democratic Western countries threats of sanctions or military action. Western actions in the present must convince Jihadists they will meet the same end as the Nazis and Imperial Japanese in 1945.

This is the last option. It involves the complete defeat of the previous society in "total war" whereby the destruction is so overwhelming the previous power elite and their ideals become discredited beyond rehabilitation. The victors then impose their values and way of life on the defeated. World Islam may very well face this prospect should Jihadism win the day in their societies.

It is much preferable to foster the rise of a moderate legitimate Islam based on interpretations and emphasis on the Koran's conciliatory verses towards Jews, Christians and by extension the world at large even if this should appear virtually impossible today. Abrogation can be used as a tool in modern conflict resolution just as it is used in fostering world Jihad. Many will dismiss such a thought as wildly unrealistic and optimistic but it appears to defy logic not to work on this internal Muslim front simultaneously while applying external pressures against the advocates of Holy War.

***All quotes from the Koran are from N.J. Dawood's translation in Penguin Classics, reprinted, 1977.