Wednesday, December 28, 2005

No New Revelation

How can a revelation replace another if the revelation (is claimed) to be reiterating, not replacing, another (not previous) revelation? This would be like replacing something with another version of the same thing. With respect to Islam, this is the true backbone of the religion, its replacement of the Judaism and Christianity that came before it; this claim deserves some attention.

First of all, we must contend with the notion that a revelation replaces another in the first place. For example, Islam's central belief is the replacement of Judaism and its tenets; why? The answer that Islam gives is that the Jews, the supposed followers of Judaism, went off the path and strayed from the message of the Torah and the reiterations of the prophets. Not to mention, they also deliberately altered the text for their own purposes, i.e., to advocate a lie that they were the only chosen people.

However, why must one group's revelation be intended for another? For example, G-d gave the Torah to the Jews when there were no other people in the world that were ready to accept and embrace a notion of pure monotheism, and it is necessary to mention that there were no Muslims alive at this point in human history. If the Muslims had been alive then, then they could have accepted the monotheistic point of view. Thousands of years later, when the Arabs, through their figure Muhammad, had their own monotheistic revelation, it did not suffice them to live with it on their own, they felt that they had to spread their particular monotheistic viewpoint to the Jews. The question is "why" and the answer is that they viewed (and had to) Divine Revelation as a continuing process. In this they are right save for one minor mistake; the Jews also believe in continual Divine Revelation, but in the sense that G-d reveals Himself from one group to another until the whole world is united under Him. To contrast, Islam believes in continual Divine Revelation in the sense that one Revelation has to replace another; it is not sufficient that different groups of people exist in the same world with different understandings of pure monotheism. This attitude is what gave the Jews the ability to accept the theology and existence of Islam, while the opposite of this attitude is what made Judaism intolerable Muslims.

We must also wonder what more there is to be learned by a new revelation; if G-d gave the eternal Torah to the Jews, there is nothing new for Islam to teach to Jews, which would also mean that Jews can remain Jews and be honest to G-d's will. This makes Islam irrelevant for Jews, which is one reason why Muhammad had such a violent reaction to Jews when they rejected him.

But it doesn't make Islam irrelevant for Muslims; they were not around when the Torah was given to the Jews, and it's quite possible (and wise) to consider Islam "Torah for Muslims," the problems begin when Muslims want Jews to become like Muslims. For instance, Muslim tradition explains that the prophets of the Torah, which describes them as "Muslims," castigated the Jews for straying from G-d's message, which would have returned them to G-d, to submission, or Islam. When we consider that the prophets were Jews telling Jews to return to the Torah, it makes sense, but when Muslim tradition defines those who followed G-d as Muslims and those who didn't as non-believers (who just happened to be Jews), then we get a formula for confusion. Indeed, we can say that Jews are still supposed to live with the Torah, while Muslims are supposed to live with Islam. It is inaccurate to say that Islam replaces Judaism, but rather that Islam replaces polytheism for Arabs in the same way that Judaism did for the Hebrews. Having said that, there is nothing for the Jews in Islam; all that they need and indeed, all that G-d asks of them is required in the Torah. Islam is not a "final revelation" in the sense that they replace one another, it is "the only revelation," for Arabs. Islam should be careful not to turn the final revelation into the final solution.

Furthermore, let's be honest, the Jews have been around longer than the Muslims, which has given them the opportunity to shift with the times and adapt their own monotheistic tradition in concordance with the Torah's Law on their own; there is nothing that Islam, the Q'uran, or Muslim jurisprudence can contribute to this process. In fact, all it can do is the opposite, it can fight the Jews and try to force change on them in ways that they do not approve, which, unfortunately, it has done repeatedly and continuously through history; this can largely be attributed to its necessity of viewing itself as the final and only revelation that everyone must conform, confirm, and convert to. Jews have had their own struggles with the surrounding world when it came to the exposure of monotheistic ideals to the pagan and polytheistic world and have caused struggles and even rifts in the Jewish religious sphere, not to mention, another religion (Christianity). Islam should worry about its own internal realities and less about Judaism's life, which, not to mention, would be an adviseable political strategy for Arabs when it comes to Israel; there is a clear connection between these two Muslim attitudes towards things external. Islam's aggression is also attributed to the power (that it once had), which meant that it reached harmony with its neighbors in ways other than letting them practice their own religions, but through power.

But the struggle to bring the knowledge of monotheism to the world cannot end, although it will have to change in form without taking away from its core truths, and violent force is not the proper, nor the effective means. Islam cannot be blamed for attempting to unify people under a monotheistic vision, for this too is the Messianic vision of Judaism and the Torah; the only thing that can be called into question is the method, and even more than this, Islam's urge to replace Judaism as part of this process of bringing knowledge of monotheism to the world. If monotheism is truly what Islam wants (which is what the Jews want), then it will have to relinquish its belief that it has the monopoly over G-d and see Judaism and Jews for what they are, the original and perpetual bringers of this type of knowledge to the world, not as corrupted sinners. Notice that Judaism does not call for, or try, to replace Islam with Judaism, for considering Islam's numbers and purported belief, it is clear that it has a high potential for goodness; we are all waiting for it to be unlocked and released. Afterall, Jewish tradition says that Ishmael did t'shuva (a loose translation of 'repented') and was a "tzaddik," a righteous person.


haKiruv said...

I really like your blog!...very refreshing to see good posts. Keep up the good work!

jjew said...

Thank you very much, Torah T'mimah, and I'm glad you're enjoying it! Keep visiting, my friend, and may Hashem bless you in all your paths! Yaniv...