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In the Name of God بسم الله
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Why does the Quran tell us that the Jews claim Ezra (ʿUzayr) is the son of God (Quran 9:30), when Jews do not make this claim or anything approaching it? This is not a question that arose just recently during an interfaith panel. It’s not a new question at all. Even in the ninth century, the Zaydi Imam and renowned scholar al-Qāsim b Ibrāhīm al-Rassī (d. 860 CE), who had studied Jewish and Christian scriptures in Egypt and who had engaged in debates with priests and rabbis, said that he had never encountered a Jew who believed Ezra was the son of God.1 Nor was this a question that Muslims pondered at ease in the libraries of Baghdad or Cordoba. As early as the ninth century, Muslim scholars like al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 868, who wrote a famous rebuttal of Christianity) were being confronted by Christian opponents who argued that the Ezra claim was evidence that the Quran contained patent falsehoods. So is the Quran wrong in attributing this belief to Jews? Is it rebutting the belief of a community that never actually held that belief? How should we understand this? An explanation given by Muslim scholars from the time of al-Jāḥiẓ and al-Ṭabarī (d. 923) was that this belief had, in fact, been held by a group of Jews in Arabia, but that this sect had died out. Ibn Ḥazm, the famous Andalusian scholar (d. 1064), wrote that there was a group of Jews in Yemen who believed this.2 (Interestingly, an inscription from a 4th-6th-century CE Jewish temple in South Arabia suggests possible angel worship).3 A second explanation was that this Quranic verse related to the verse immediately following it: ‘They have taken their rabbis and monks as lords apart from God…’ (Quran 9:31). In other words, Jews venerated Ezra so much that it was as if he were a god to them.4] Muslim scholars found a basis for the first claim – that some Jews actually considered Ezra to be the son of God – in a Jewish work entitled The Fourth Book of Ezra (probably composed in the first century CE), which had not been included in the Hebrew Bible but which rabbis still read and consulted (it belongs to a body of works known as the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, namely works that claimed to be written by some Old Testament figures such as Enoch but which were really produced in the Hellenistic or early Roman periods). Fourth Ezra tells how Ezra led the Children of Israel after their return from the Babylonian exile, when their scriptures had been lost (this is all in the Bible’s book of Ezra as well). Ezra is given inspiration by God to reconstitute the Torah in 451 BCE. As a reward, God tells Ezra that “You shall be taken up from among men, and henceforth you shall live with my son….” Here it is important to remember that, like the belief of the Quraysh that angels were the daughters of God (“We worship the angels, who are daughters of God,” said the Quraysh to the Prophet in Ibn Isḥāq’s Sīra; see also Quran 17:40, 37:150-53), in Jewish scriptures of this period angels were called the children of God.5 But there does not seem to be any strong evidence that the Jews of western Arabia at the time of the Prophet ﷺ believed this about Ezra. The problem is that we do not have any external sources (in other words, non-Muslim sources) for what Jews in Arabia believed. As F.E. Peters observed, the Quran is pretty much the only source we have for what Jews believed in seventh-century Arabia.6 Another possibility is that ʿUzayr as mentioned in the Quran was never a one-for-one counterpart of Ezra. First, the Quran does not actually specify that Jews believed that Ezra was the son of God; it says that they said that ʿUzayr was the son of God. The Quran provides no more information about ʿUzayr, nor do the mainstay Hadith collections. A Hadith in Sahih al-Bukharireiterates the claim made in the Quran, and a Hadith in the Sunan of Abū Dāwūd quotes the Prophet ﷺ as saying that he does not know if ʿUzayr is a prophet or not.7 What other information we find in less critical collections of Hadiths comes from stories drawn from figures like the Successor (and Jewish convert to Islam) Kaʿb al-Aḥbār (d. circa 653) and the early collector of stories of the prophets, Wahb b. Munabbih (d. 732), without any chain of transmission to any authoritative source.8 The persona of Ezra was highly complex in the milieu in which the Quran was revealed. The figures of Enoch (Idrīs in the Islamic tradition) and Ezra were intermingled in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods (roughly 300 BCE – 100 CE), particularly in a body of religio-philosophical writing called the Hermetic Corpus (appeared in Greek circa 1st – 4th centuries CE).9 All this occurred before Islam, so it would not have been the Quran confusing Ezra with someone else. The Quran would have been referring to a character who had already emerged as a composite figure in the overall body of Judeo-Christian material circulating in the Near East in the centuries before Islam. Enoch and Ezra were closely associated with one another because both were referred to as ‘The Scribe’ and both were elevated to angelic status. But in the case of Enoch, he was not simply referred to as an angelic ‘son of God.’ In another famous Old Testament Pseudeprigrapha, The Book of Enoch (which dates early second century BCE to first century CE), Enoch is raised up to the status of the righteous ‘son of man,’ i.e., an angel with the appearance of a man (II Enoch 46.1, 71.14). But in III Enoch (which perhaps dates from 5th to the 7th centuries CE) he is transformed into the Metatron (yes, Metatron!), a super archangel who is designated the ‘lesser God (Yahweh)’ (III Enoch 12.5).10 The figure of the Metatron appears in the Babylonian Talmud11](circa 500 CE), the predominant expression of rabbinic Judaism in the Near East at the time, as well as in the Hekhalot literature (literature of mystical ascent), which developed in the region from the 6th-7th centuries.12 While we do not have direct information from Jewish sources about what the Jews of Arabia believed at the time of the Prophet ﷺ, we do know that many of the other beliefs that the Quran mentions Jews having were, in fact, found in the Babylonian Talmud (for example, the belief that Abraham would descend into Hell to remove all the Jews, and thus that they would only be punished there ‘for an hour’, reminiscent of Quran 2:80).13 And we know that a belief in Ezra/Enoch assuming the status of a super angel was common among Jews in Babylon/Iraq, the nearest and most influential center of Jewish thought and lore in the area in which the Quran was revealed. In fact, in 8th-century Baghdad, when a Jewish movement named Karaite Judaism emerged as a response to Rabbinic Judaism, one of its criticisms of mainstream Rabbinic Judaism was that it worshiped the Metatron as a archangel and substitute for God.14 The question of what the Quran means by its mention of Jews and ʿUzayr reminds us of an important question, one that has occupied Muslims since the death of the Prophet ﷺ: Is everything in the Quran eternally binding upon Muslims? If not, how do we know which parts are and which parts aren’t? This would require volumes to answer, since it is, in truth, the single greatest engine of thought in the Islamic tradition. But briefly, Muslims have always held that the Quran was and remains ‘suitable for all times and all places (ṣālih li-kull zamān wa kull makān).’ But this applies to the revelation as a whole, not to all its particular rules and references. To offer a blunt, non-legal example: ‘Perish the hands of Abū Lahab’ (Quran 111:1) will always be true, but it only applies to one person – Abū Lahab – and he has been dead for fourteen centuries. In the realm of law that could be binding on Muslims, the ulama have also concluded that some legal commands of the Quran applied only in the time of the Prophet. For example, in Surat al-Mumtahana, God commands the Muslims to refuse to return Meccan women who had fled to Medina as Muslims but instead to compensate their husbands by sending them the equivalent of the mahr. Although a minority of scholars has considered this ruling to have continued, so that, when believing women flee from outside the Abode of Islam to Muslims lands, Muslims might have to compensate their husbands, the vast majority of Muslim scholars consider this ruling to have ceased to apply.15 In the case of the Jews and ʿUzayr/Ezra, the same principle applies to a question of theology. The Quran’s discussion of what Jews believe ceases to be applicable once they stop believing it, and it would be sheer ignorance for Muslims to insist that our discussions with Jews hinge on obsolete tenets of faith. Note: It’s also possible that, in the religious climate of pre-Islamic Arabia, ʿUzayr was actually a reference to Azarias, a figure connected to the Old Testament Book of Daniel. He is one of the Jews thrown into the fire by the Babylonians. But instead of burning, he looks like ‘a son of God’ (Daniel, 3:25). This story was reported by Wahb b. Munabbih and Ibn Qutayba (d. 889).16 http://drjonathanbrown.com/2016/the-quran-the-jews-and-ezra-as-the-son-of-god/#comment-53 ^ For the longest time,I thought Uzayr was either Ezra or perhaps Elijah but Dr.Brown might be on to something with the theory of Azarias being the Uzayr mentioned in the Quran. Especially when you consider how sketchy our current knowledge of pre-Islamic Arabia. As a Shia Muslim, I believe that the Quran and the messenger who revealed it are infallible, so to say that Uzayr is either Elijah or Ezra makes no sense when you consider or have the same beliefs as I do. This Azarias figure is quite interesting when the Book of Daniel said he looked like a "son of God" when the Babylonians threw him into the blazing furnace; The man might very well be the Uzayr of the Quran. I am wondering if there are references to this figure in the Babylonian Talmud or other Rabbinical literature? Any thoughts? @Netzari @Yoel @wmehar2 @Qa'im @reisiger (Sorry Qaim, reisiger and Waseem, I know you guy aren't Jewish but you guys have interesting insights, maybe you can help?)
Asalamalikum, I know this isn't a therapy website, but I just want to know if this happens to anyone else? I have these weird thoughts/voices in my head that are not nice. I don't like them, and sometimes I feel suicidal and I roll up in a ball and cry. I don't like to explain what exactly happens inside my head because I don't like thinking about. But basically it's nothing nasty or dirty. It's all about God and other religious stuff. Just imagine literally hearing the Shaytan talking to you, and telling you bad stuff about God..and etc.. The thoughts or voices don't tell me to do anything bad, just bad stuff about my creator. These weird things cause me to sometimes pray faster to keep my mind just moving, sometimes I have to sleep with The Quran hugged to my chest. I mean they aren't nice. I have no doubt in Allah, his messenger, Islam, or Ahulbayet. Of course I am always sending my sallam to The Holy Prophet and HIs Pure Family. And always saying "asgafurallah rabi" or "a'thubilAllah min alshaydan rajam" Literally ALL the time. It gets annoying because I wish to say these for the sake of remembering Allah. But no, I have to say them because to get these thoughts out of my mind, which half the time doesn't work. My mom wants me to see a therapist but I don't want to. Does this happen to anyone else?I always fear Allah will hate me, or I will go to hell. I don't know what to do? What in the world could it be?My biggest fear which causes me to sometimes commit self harm, cry, etc.,is the fact that Allah might not forgive me, that he hates me because of these thoughts or voices. (I can't tell the difference) Thanks so much for taking the time to read and answer. May Allah Bless you all Duniya w Akira.
(salam) Just a thought quickly put down, no real thinking going into it. Simple and short. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Death, death is everywhere, No not good death, nowhere, Watching news for signs of humanity, Instead, tears falling like gravity, Endless, driving me to insanity, Yet, becoming more like normality, Now only flowing like thick honey, Deserved enough to pay the blood money, Tears, no more, Cares, no more..
In His Name, the Most High Salam My blog has gone through a slight transformation and is now titled "The Spiritual Path of Ehsan" with the new "Journal" category as its main section of updates. As lovers of Ahl al-Bait(A) and seekers of the divine presence we come across many ideas, thoughts and inspiring literature in our journey. The idea with the journal is to collect all of these thought provoking gems in (mostly) short and simple to read posts as a point of reference for myself as well as others who might find it interesting. It could be a quote I stumble upon and wish to write down, or a thought which I'm reflecting upon, or something I've listened to etc etc. Basically a spiritual journal. The first post has already been made and I will inshaAllah put up new posts in this thread as they are published. The need of a spiritual master http://www.ehsan.me/...iritual-master/ Please feel free to comment and discuss the posts as well as share your thoughts and give feedback. Salam Ehsan
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