Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Monday, February 4, 2008

Unconscious or conscious anti-Semitism in Al-Fatiha?

Reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book "The Caged Version" in an attempt to understand her wounding and subsequent rejection of Islam, I came upon this passage which relates directly to the politicization of Al-Fatiha by many Muslim commentators:

"As a child I used to hear nothing but negative comments about Jews. My earliest memory dates from the time we lived in Saudi Arabia in the mid-seventies. Sometimes we would have no running water. I remember hearing my mother wholeheartedly agreeing with our neighbor that the Jews had been pernicious again. Those Jews hate Muslims so much that they'll do anything to dehydrate us. "Jew" is the worst term of abuse in both Somali and Arabic. Later, when I was a teenager living in Somalia and Kenya, from the mid-eighties onward, every prayer we said contained a request for the extermination of the Jews. Just imagine that: five times a day. We were passionately praying for their destruction but had never actually met one. With that background experience, and my loyalty to the political, cultural, and religious variant of Islam, which I (and millions with me) inherited from my childhood, I arrived in the Netherlands. Here I came into contact with an entirely different view of the Jews: they are human beings before anything else. But what upset me more was learning about the immense injustice that had been done to the people labaled "Jews." The Holocaust and the anti-Semitism that led to it cannot be compared to any other form of ethnic cleansing. This makes the history of the Jews in Europe unique."

~ Excerpted from "The Caged Version" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, p. 98

One particular commentary entitled "Key to al-Fatihah" published by the Islamic Foundation, authored by Abdur Rashid Siddiqui (formerly a Secretary General of the UK Islamic Mission and a past Chairman of the Shura Council of the Islamic Society of Britain) illustrates how susceptible the hermeneutics of the Holy Qur'an are to being (mis)interpreted, (mis)construed or politicized based on one's personal or a collective political bias.

He begins by discussing the meaning of al-ghadab, then he proceeds with an analysis that
borders on anti-Semitism, exemplifying a current of thinking about Jews and Christians
referred to in the Holy Qur’an as “ahl al-kitab “ or “People of the Book” which is
unfortunately very prevalent in Muslim circles and communities world-wide:

"1. Meaning The literal meaning of al-Ghadab is hardness. Hence a hard rock is called Ghadabah and a deadly poisonous snake is called ghadub. Thus, anger is called ghadab and an angry person is referred to as ghadban. Ghadab is a relative state and varies. The hardness of a rock, the poison of a snake and the anger of a human being differ in their manifestation but all possess a quality of extremism. Allah (swt) is above feelings and sensations that we experience and, thus, we cannot really comprehend the quality of His Anger.

2. Analysis The word ghadab signifies anger, displeasure and wrath. Those who incurred Allah's Wrath are those who were deprived of His Favours and received punishment:
Thus they (Jews) have drawn on themselves Wrath upon Wrath, and humiliating is their punishment of those who reject Faith. (al-Baqarah 2:90) They (Jews) were covered with humiliation and misery, they drew on themselves the Wrath of Allah. (al-Baqarah 2:61)

It is instructive to note the word maghdub is used impersonally and means that their actions are responsible for Allah's Wrath. Thus, the Jews either rejected the Shari'ah of Allah, or if they accepted it, they tried to distort it or mould it to suit their own desires. Thus, they incurred Allah's Wrath. Their worst crime was to conceal the Truth. For this they were deprived of Allah's blessings and incurred His Curse which is signified by the word la'nah.

Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We made it clear for the People in the Book - on them shall be Allah's Curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse. (al-Baqarah 2:159) (2001, pp 45-46).

Hamid Algar too, in his "Surat Al-Fatiha - Foundation of the Qur'an" confirms that there are numerous commentators who take a similar narrow approach:

“What groups constitute those two negative categories? Again, many commentators suggest relatively restricted interpretations. “Those who have incurred anger” are said to be the Jews and “those who are straying” are said to be the Christians.” (1997, p. 41)

From the perspective of a more esoteric tradition, the above analysis, in pointing fingers at other Abrahamic faiths, would be considered completely flawed and derelict. In response, one could cite the Holy Qur'an in al-Baqara itself in Sura 2:62:

"Those who believe (in the Quran),
And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures),
And the Christians and the Sabians,
- Any who believe in God And the Last Day,
And work righteousness,
Shall have their reward With their Lord:
on them Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve."

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