Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Hadith of Hate: There is Only One Context

This article first appeared in New English Review.

"Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews."

From the Middle East to Europe to the US to Canada  and elsewhere, the above hadith (the reported sayings of the Prophet Mohammad) is recited with regularity in many mosques by imams in their sermons. It is even quoted in the Hamas charter. Just in the past few days, an imam in the Norrebro mosque (Copenhagen, Denmark) was actually charged by Danish authorities for citing it in a sermon. It has been attributed to Hatem Bazian, an activist Muslim professor at UC Berkeley and a dedicated foe of Israel. It has been recited in mosques in Raleigh, North Carolina and Houston, Texas in the wake of President Trump's announcement that he would move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In 2016, an imam recited it in a Montreal mosque. Just last month, a report surfaced of an imam in Toulouse, France reciting it. These are just a few examples. In addition, there have been many other incidents of imams in the West using similar language to condemn Jews and pray for their death.

In 2009, I attended an interfaith event at Chapman University in Orange County and had a chance to ask an imam about this hadith. The answer I got was downright misleading if not an out and out lie.

While it is true that Islamic scholars continually study hadiths to determine how reliable they are, this particular hadith is considered valid by the leading schools of Islamic thought. Here is an "explanation" of the hadith from an Islamic source. It puts the blame on the Jews, but provides insight into the idea of dhimmitud, whereby non-Muslims can live under Muslim protection as long as they submit and live as second class citizens.

(Those Jews who do not live up to the "covenant" can always hide behind rocks and trees.)

There is no sugar coating this hadith. There is only one context. When reportedly spoken by Mohammad 1400 years ago, it meant, "Kill the Jews". When it is spoken today, it means, "Kill the Jews". To bring up some treaty that Jews broke (in the Arabian peninsula) in Mohammad's time and apply it to modern times everywhere is twisted and illogical thinking. To recite it  as part of a sermon in a mosque (or anywhere else) is simply inciting hate and violence. It is bad enough when we hear about it coming out of the Middle East; it is much worse when it comes out of Western mosques.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

There is no evidence that Mohammed ever said it. The hadiths, unlike the Koran, were composed centuries after his death, and were likely the products of fertile imaginations, wishful thinking, and political opportunism.

But I'm trying to figure out an objective legal basis for saying its OK to suppress a mosque quoting a haddith that says "kill the Jews," but not OK to suppress a church teaching "a man who lies with a man as with a woman shall be stoned to death."

I'm actually in favor of letting religions teach what they believe to be true without state interference. I think we can draw the line at, if the sacred precincts are being used to store weapons for an insurrection, police may enter the church to confiscate them.

But its still a thorny question.

Gary Fouse said...

It is the work of the Islamic scholars to try and trace the sayings right back to the Prophet through the generations. That and other factors determine whether a hadith is "strong" or weak".

What Christian churches are preaching the stoning of adulterers today? If so, I condemn that as inciting murder.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

The work of scholars centuries later is authoritative to anyone who accepts X scholar as having traced their interpretation back to the Prophet. But, that is highly conjectural, not unlike the claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church established by Christ and his Apostles.

Gary Fouse said...

Of course, but in Islam, it is the scholars who are the authorititave sources. BTW, did you know there is no modern archeological evidence that a city called Mecca even existed during the time of Mohammad?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

For every Ph.D there is an equal and opposite Ph.D. over one thousand years and several thousand miles, something similar is at work among religious scholars. I could prove, with a little cherry picking, that the Roman Catholic Church either denounces or embraces Aristotle. I find that assertion of archaeological evidence rather difficult to credit, given that Mecca is clearly referenced within historical times. It was a significant trading center before Mohammed was born, although it may have been mostly a grandiose collection of tents, which would leave rather little "archaeological evidence."