Faith-based nomenclature in the Qur’an

Religious groups referenced in the Qur’an

This article from The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation looks at Qur’anic usage regarding the groups typically rendered Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Jews

The English word Jew is a fairly recent innovation. The letter j entered usage only around the middle of the 15th century. In the New Testament gospel accounts, in the Latin of the Vulgate, Jesus is portrayed at the crucifixion under a sign which reads Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum.

Jesus is referred to as a Jew for the first time in the New Testament in the 18th century. The term is a contracted, corrupted English word for the 4th century Iudaeus found in the St. Jerome’s Vulgate.

What it is to be a Jew emerges from within three conflated and questionably applied concepts:

  • A person who professes a form of the religion known today as Judaism
  • A person who claims to belong to the racial group of ancient Semites
  • A person directly a descendant of a nation which claims residence in Palestine in ancient times

The concept of Judaism was coined by Flavius Josephus in order to pit it against Hellenism, by which was understood the manners, morals, customs and institutions which had spread from Greece across the world, but the term remained unknown to the people to whom it referred until later when they read Christian literature.

Like many who have taken the trouble to research such questions, I held for some time that the majority of people who identify today as Jews have no genetic connection with Semites but are descendants of the Khazars. However, the primary sources for such assertions are themselves Jewish, and while I do not dismiss them on that basis, I think one should not lose sight of the fact that non-Jewish assessments of behaviour commonly ascribed to those Jews of today who are supposedly of Khazarian origin is frequently encountered in the centuries preceding Khazaria’s embrace of Judaism. Secondly, images dating back to antiquity (and unquestionably predating Khazarian Jewry) depicting Jewish persons bear a ready comparison with features typically associated with both Ashkenazi as well as Sephardic Jews. In short, I tend to the opinion that Jewish lines generally do go back to antiquity and that the Khazarian discussion is something of a distraction and smokescreen. However one defines Jews, the Qur’an is clear that some among them are entirely righteous and that those among them who are will have their reward.

Points of interest:

  • The root h-w-d means – in addition to to be ‘Jewish’ to turn to good from evil, to repent, to turn to the truth, to turn, to turn towards (in which sense it is undeniably used at 7:156)
  • The name of the prophet Hūd is based on the same root (see 7:65, 11:50, 11:53, 11:58, 11:60, 11:89, 26:124)
  • It is the Rabbinic literature which emphasises the idea of the Jews as chosen people possessing souls qualitatively different (i.e. superior) to those of non-Jews; the redacted version of the Torah produced by Ezra also presents the mitzvot within the matrix of a racial policy


alla
dhīna hādū – those who hold to Judaism

2:62, 4:46, 4:160, 5:41, 5:44, 5:69, 6:146, 16:118, 22:17, 62:6.

In previous editions of this book, this term was rendered Jews. Since then, I have noticed that this formula occurs in combination with mention of other faiths (those who heed warning, Nazarenes, Sabaeans and Magi) – i.e. creeds one may choose to follow, and not based predominantly on racial requirements (at 2:62, 5:69 and 22:17). On that basis, I take alladhīna hādū to mean those who are Jews by faith but not necessarily by race.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

hūd – such as hold to Judaism

2:111, 2:135, 2:140.

This term is only found set in contradistinction with Nazarenes (and thus, with those who hold to a creed rather than those with a racial orientation). Therefore, I take the term to be functionally equal alladhīna hādū above.

It is noteworthy that this word is identical to the name of the prophet Hūd.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

yahūdi – one who holds to Judaism

3:67

We can confidently accept this value as the singular of the value above since, like it, it occurs in contradistinction with Nazarene.

The instance in the text is footnoted.

al yahūd – Rabbinic Jews

This convention occurs 8 times: 2:113, 2:113, 2:120, 5:18, 5:51, 5:64, 5:82, 9:30.

I render this as Rabbinic Jews (as opposed to those Jews who simply hold to the Torah and mitzvot) on the basis of 9:30 which states that this group claims Ezra as the son (ibn) of God. The usage of ibn in such a context clearly denotes favoured one or pertaining to rather than son in the exclusively biological sense which in Qur’anic parlance is walad.

Ezra represents the point at which the Torah and the Talmud were conflated which event provided the intellectual and cultural material for the Talmud’s later ‘secular’ manifestations: Political Marxism, Cultural Marxism, Nihilism, Fraudulent Scientism and Psychology, and Zionism – which are related cultural strategies aimed at defining Jewishness in terms of external enmity while racially undermining, debasing and enslaving non-Jews.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

Nazarenes

The Qur’an does not use the term Christians. It uses the term Nazarenes which occurs 14 times in plural (2:62, 2:111, 2:113, 2:113, 2:120, 2:135, 2:140, 5:14, 5:18, 5:51, 5:69, 5:82, 9:30, 22:17) and once in singular 3:67.

I rendered this word Christians in the first versions of this book. I now render it Nazarenes for two reasons: in order not to privilege the Christian extension of the Egypt-Palestine thesis over the Arabia Felix thesis (see Article XVIII), and also as part of my related general decision to render all proper names in keeping with the Arabic original.

Points of interest:

  • In all cases where distinctions are to be made between general religious groups (2:62, 5:69, 22:17) they are listed along with alladhīna hādū, never with yahūd or hūdan
  • There is no racial aspect to Nazarenes equivalent to bani isrā’īl
  • There are two categories indicated:
    • The Nazarenes
    • Those who say they are Nazarenes
  • Along with al yahūd (those under Rabbinic Judaism) they claim to be God’s chosen ones

All instances in the text are footnoted.

Muslims

2:128, 2:128, 2:132, 2:133, 2:136, 3:52, 3:64, 3:67, 3:80, 3:84, 3:102, 5:111, 6:163, 7:126, 10:72, 10:84, 10:90, 11:14, 12:101, 15:2, 16:89, 16:102, 21:108, 22:78, 27:31, 27:38, 27:42, 27:81, 27:91, 28:53, 29:46, 30:53, 33:35, 33:35, 39:12, 41:33, 43:69, 46:15, 51:36, 66:5, 68:35, 72:14.

The Traditionalist claim that muslimūn as used in the Qur’an bears any correlation with what Muslims means today is disingenuous, manipulative and provably false.

Words evolve new meanings over time. To apply the Traditionalist’s claims for the word muslimūn to its usage in the Qur’an would be like insisting that a particular famous brand of cigarette sporting a famous desert beast is, in fact, a camel.

The word muslimūn means those who have yielded or submitted or surrendered (in most contexts: to God). That is all.

All men of God have been muslim. Ādam was muslim. Nūḥ was muslim. Ibrāhīm was muslim. Mūsā was muslim. ʿĪsā was muslim. Muḥammad was muslim. The Traditionalist uses this fact to try to slip his religion past the goalposts of the uncritical mind and into the Qur’anic historical narrative to create the idea that his sectarian understanding is in some way intrinsic to the Qur’an. Any measure of sustained intellectual effort demonstrates precisely the opposite.

If we are to be satisfied with the argument that Ibrāhīm was in some way a Sunni Muslim (or any other brand of sectarian Islam) – that he prophetically anticipated the avalanche of extra-scriptural injunctions which would later comprise that religion – we are become no different to the Trinitarian Christian who works backwards with preconceived values to ascribe meanings to past events which they objectively do not have, or the Rabbinic Jew for whom the righteousness of God is a function of the Almighty’s commendable good sense and prescience in correctly anticipating the racial supremacy and inherent specialness of a future race called (much later still) Jews. All such ideas are repudiated by the Qur’an.

This value is rendered literally as submitted throughout.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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