Islamic Perspectives

Islam and Judaism have common names of God

Rabbi Allen Maller
malleraj@aol.com

All of God’s names except one are appellations: titles and descriptions. Thus to say that God is a King or Judge describes one of many ways God acts. To say that God is the Prince of Peace or the Compassionate One is to describe one of God’s many characters or personality traits.

While each name is only one of the many appellations of the one universal creator of space and time; Christianity, Islam and Judaism also have one Divine name that is always in the believer’s heart and soul, especially during prayer.

On the other hand, Divine Mercy and Compassion are universal attributes ascribed to God in most, if not all, of the world’s religions. Because Hebrew and Arabic are brother languages many of the titles of God not only describe the same attribute, they even sound the same. For example:
Arabic           Hebrew              English
Ar-Rahman          Ha Rakhaman    The Compassionate One
Ar-Rahim                 El Rakhum         The Merciful One


Most of the similarities between Christian, Jewish and Muslim appellations of God reflect similar philosophical views of God’s attributes. But the personal (prayer) name each religion uses reflects the unique religious experience of its believers and its own sacred scriptures.

Hadith Qudsi provide good examples of the shared values of Islamic and Jewish common values: “When Allah decreed the Creation, He pledged Himself by writing in His Book which is laid down with Him: ‘My Mercy prevails over My Wrath.’”  (Hadith Qudsi 1).

And in the Jewish Oral Torah Rabbi Zutra ben Tobi said in the name of Rab, that God continually prays: “May it be My Will that My Mercy overcomes My Anger, and that My Mercy prevails over My [other] Attributes, so that I may deal with My children with the attribute of mercy and, on their behalf, stop short of the boundary of strict justice” (Talmud B’rakhot 7a).

Another shared value between Jews and Muslims is that Divine Mercy will be shown to those who fail their test, and yet humbly accept God’s judgement, as Hadith Qudsi - 32 reports: “A man sinned greatly against himself, and when death came to him he charged his sons, saying: When I die, cremate me, then crush and scatter [my ashes] into the sea, for, by Allah, if my Lord takes possession of me, He will punish me in a manner in which He has punished no one [else]. So they did that to him.”

Then Allah said to the earth: Produce what you have taken-and there he was! Allah said to him: What induced you to do what you did? He said: Being afraid of You my Lord; and because of that Allah forgave him.”

In a similar way a Hassidic Rabbi, Elimelech of Lizensk,who was a great scholar and at the same time, was very humble, once said, “When I will pass on and come to the World-to-Come they will ask me, did you study Torah to the best of your ability? I will answer, no. Did you pray to the best of your ability? I will answer, no. Did you do good deeds to the best of your ability? I will again have to answer no.

Then they will say to me, You are very honest, and for this alone you are worthy of a reward in the World-to-Come.”

Finally, I offer an almost exact parallel between the Qur’an and the Oral Torah. Mishnah 4:5 states, “Whoever destroys a single Israelite soul is deemed by Scripture as if he had destroyed a whole world. And whoever saves a single Israelite soul is deemed by Scripture as if he had saved a whole world.”

And the Qur’an (5:35) states: “We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”

The only difference between the two statements is that the Holy Qur’an explicitly states that judicial execution of murderers and inciters of sedition is not prohibited, and that is exactly what the Mishnah also teaches.   

Academics, who do not believe that Prophet Muhammad was an inspired prophet of God, often say that he took ayah 5:35 from the Jews because the Mishnah is four centuries older than the Qur’an. This is not true.

The Qur’an states clearly that Allah had already ordained this for the Jews; so why is it surprising that it is actually found in the Oral Torah (Mishnah) of the Jews.  

While each monotheistic religious community receives many different laws and rituals from its own prophet, there can be no major differences between them in the basic principles of avoiding idol worship and associating any other being with the one God of Abraham.

Rabbi Maller’s website is: rabbimaller.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2016 on page no. 20

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