EditorMarch April 2007

A Muslim Initiative on Palestine

Future Islam

A Muslim initiative on Palestine is long overdue. So far, the Muslims have been mainly responding to the initiatives of the others. This has put them on a receiving end leaving little room for them to envision a future beyond the initiatives laid down by their opponents. Now after half a century of unmindful military adventures it has become clear to the thinking minds in Israel that a third word war is no solution to the Palestinian question. The Muslims too on the other hand realise that a mere armed struggle or suicide bombing hold no promise of delivering them from the present impasse. Both sides find themselves in a catch-22 situation.

First, a few words about the Jewish mind. The Jews once known for ‘arrested development’ are out today to push history towards apocalypse. They have long been waiting for the Messiah who, they believe, would restore to them the Kingdom Solomon and David. In their desperate search for a Messiah, many a Bar Kokhba and a Sabbatai Zevi have taken often them on a ride. Now the Christian evangelists are exploiting it to the full, pushing the Jews in dangerous directions, for a head on collision with history itself. Today, a Jewish-Christian alliance for the Final Redemption of Israel may appear to be a convenient proposition but the future historians will write that in their desperate push for apocalypse the Jewish nation had become a mere tool in the hands of misguided evangelists.

The Jewish-Christian alliance that is hell bent on accelerating the events leading to Armageddon is rooted in a flawed mythical thinking. While the Jews believe that the advent of the messiah will herald a new beginning for them, the Christian evangelists, on the other hand, view it essentially as a fulfilment of their own cherished scheme. According to this view, rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem will culminate in the second coming of messiah. Evangelical Christians, in a way, are pushing the Jews towards Armageddon in which according to some folk-lore accounts almost two third of the Jewish population is destined to perish. This mythical thinking among the Jews and some sections of Christians and their allies has not only created unending woes in Palestine, it has also been instrumental, to a great extent, for American misadventures in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Jewish empowerment in our time has been rather problematic. It is for the first time in their history when the Jews are enjoying political power in Palestine and are in a position to wield considerable amount of influence globally. Jerusalem is now very much under Jewish control. Yet the halakaic complexities have made it impossible for them to rebuild the long cherished Third Temple. Not long ago, in 1948, the creation of the Jewish state was viewed as a miracle, a clear indication that God was on their side. In 1967 when the Israeli Army took over Jerusalem without any significant resistance the world Jewry looked at the six-day war as unfolding events of the Final Days. Yet during the so-called momentous days of God’s great favour a third temple in Jerusalem could not be conceived. The Jewish Redemption is no political project. It is rather halakaic. The ordinary Jew however many not be allowed to concede to this fact.

As per halakaic rulings the present day Jews are ‘ritually impure’ and hence they are not allowed to step in the kotel, the Temple Mount. Any violation of this is punishable by death, kareth. To attain the ritual purity, they need the ablution of the ashes of a red heifer correctly administered by a Cohen. And neither a red heifer nor a qualified Cohen is available in our time. Supposing they somehow solve the riddle they would still need an Alter. Locating the alter in the Temple area is again problematic as the halakaic rulings about exact location of the Alter is very precise. It is said that at the time of building the second temple they had reliable witnesses. The prophets Haggai, Zephaniah and Malachi could testify to the exact spot. Today they do not have any such figure. If there is any hope it is relisable only when the prophet Elijah comes. The third temple even if it is built, will be a defunct institution as there is no Sanhedrin to choose a high priest. For a valid Sanhedrin, the council of 71 Rabbis, its members must be of Mosaic ordination, i.e., tracing an unbroken chain of transmission since Moses. This chain, they believe, remains broken since the year 358 C.E. owing to the persecutions Constantine imposed upon the Jews. Then there is the issue of ten lost tribes of Israel who are yet to be traced and make a come back.

Given the Jewish hankering for the Third Temple, this is a very depressing scenario. The secular Jews who hardly care for halakaic rulings are in no mood of wasting their time in waiting. In fact the very creation of Israel owes to its initiative to the Zionist aspirations when a group of ‘emancipated Jews’ took the matter to their hands instead of passively wishing one another ‘next year in Jerusalem’. However, they do not want to push the temple issue any further, as they fear it may open a Pandora’s box of unending halakaic debates, pitting one Jewish sect against the other.

In the 19th century Eastern Europe when the Jewish leaders were calling for a return to Palestine they argued that since the messiah would come in the land of Canaan, the Jews were to assemble there to give the messiah a warm welcome. This little twist in Jewish thinking later paved the way for the creation of Israel. Creating a Jewish state has never been and is not a religious obligation for the Jews. Rather, it is against the halakaic rulings for the ordinary ‘impure’ Jews to venture on a divine project. The Zionists however left no stone unturned to make the world Jewry believe that the state of Israel was an integral part of their religious worldview. Today a fake Sanhedrin exists in Israel and attempts are underway to breed a red heifer. The Jews around the world are continuously told that the sole purpose of their life is to support the Israeli state in some way or the other.

The Zionists no doubt were successful in settling millions of Jews in Israel, nevertheless, some two-third of the world Jewry is still living outside the Israeli borders. In recent years, the Jewish immigration to Israel has waned and many of the young Jews are thinking of settling somewhere else. According to a survey published in ynetnews.com, 33% of the young Jews (18-29 years) want to leave Israel. And the new generation of Jews living in America feels no emotional link with Israel. They are the ‘cool Jews’, as dubbed by the Jewish intellectuals. They are critical of the Israeli policies and find it difficult to side with the bunch of corrupt politicians who, they blame, have hijacked the Jewish agenda. Inside Israel, the religious fervour that once was the hallmark of a nation experiencing its renaissance and who once believed – following their victory in the six-day war, that God was once again out for their active support, that sublime feeling of sweet Godly touch is no longer part of the Jewish psyche.

Taking stock of the situation from the Jewish angle, the creation of the Israeli state has been a frustrating experience. In their enthusiasm to accelerate the process of history, the Zionists have rather unwittingly become a tool in the hands of Evangelical Christians who have pushed them for a head on collision with the Muslim people, their traditional ally who had provided the Jews a safe haven for many centuries, a fact widely acknowledged in Jewish sources. This artificial push to history has been disastrous for the Jewish nation. In their mad pursuit of Jewish glory they have become rather the apprentices of Swastika, as pointed by Erich Fried, the famous Jewish poet:

you apprentices of the Swastika

you fools and changelings of history

whose Star of David on you flags

turns even quicker

into that damned symbol with its four feet

that you just do not want to see

but whose path you are following today

In a purely religious project of Jewish Redemption the secularised ruling elite find themselves at a loss. They do not know what to do next. In Israel, the young Jews have started questioning whether it serves any purpose to make Israel their home. When would the messiah come if he would come at all? At a recent Herzliya conference, a prominent Jewish thinker, Noble laureate Professor Israel Aumann frankly admitted that the state of Israel is facing today ‘an existential threat’, a phenomenon not so loudly termed as ‘post-Zionism’.

Today the modern Jews are willing to have a critical look at the Jewish project of Final Redemption. They might be dubbed by the extremists as ‘self-hating Jews’, nevertheless, their number is significantly on the rise.

Now it is for the Muslim people to make conscious their Jewish brethren and sisters of the delusions that they have lived in for so long. As upholders of the last revelation, we Muslims have a religious obligation to rescue the nations trapped in the myths of their own making. However, a Muslim initiative cannot be effective unless we have a true insight into the apocalyptic vision of the Jewish mind and its real import. As Muslims we have no inhibition to say it loud and clear that we are no other but true practitioners of Abrahamic religion. Christ is one of our beloved prophets. And if it so happens that one day he surfaces in Israel, we Muslims will be the first to welcome him. We will feel honoured to open on him the golden gate of the holy sanctuary. In fact it were we who restored the sanctity of the Temple Mount when our leader caliph Omer took over the city from Christian control. Further, it was under the Turkish control, in the sixteenth century, when we traced the Western Wall and invited the Jews to join us in the worship of one God. The apocalyptic vision that assigns a key role to the second coming of messiah is not only prevalent among Christians, there are many Muslims who equally share this myth. Some popular traditions even lay out graphic details of how one day the messiah will descend from a heavenly cloud on a white dome in Damascus. Whether one likes such stories or not, the wisdom lies in letting the future unfold itself and in postponing the fighting till the messiah comes.

Of the Jews, the Qur’an tells us that among them are some noble souls who care for truth (fi qaume moosa ummatun yahdoona bil haqq). We should have no inhibition in inviting the God-fearing souls among the Jews for an honest and frank dialogue as stipulated in the Qur’an: ‘O ye who adhere to a divine book! Come to common terms as between us and you; that we worship none but Allah, that we associate no partners with Him, that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah’ (Qur’an, 3:64).

Rashid Shaz
New Delhi
01 March 2007

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