In a rare turn of events, a Brooklyn-based Imam publicly attempted to reinterpret some of the harsher Islamic traditional texts that make harsh statements against Jews.
In a speech made earlier this year, Imam Tareq Yousef al-Masri, from the Oulel-Albab mosque in Brooklyn, called for the re-examination of Islam’s relationship to the Jewish nation.
“This hadith is very strange, and we should reexamine it, because it leads Islam to disaster. It says: ‘Judgment Day will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews, and then the rocks and the trees will say: Oh Muslim, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’” al-Masri was quoted as saying by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
The Hadith is a collection of reports purporting to quote what the Islamic prophet Muhammad said verbatim on any matter. The reports were collected by his companions and passed down through tradition. While different branches of Islam refer to different collections of Hadith,many times the same incident or statement may be found in the Hadith of different traditions. One group of Muslims, known as Quranists, reject the authority of the Hadith entirely.
However, the specific Hadith quoted by al-Masri is well known and even appears in article seven of the Hamas Charter of 1988. The Brooklyn Imam publicly questions the validity of this Hadith and its chain of transmission.
“If a Hadith is narrated by 40 or 50 of the Prophet’s companions, we may deem it a reliable Hadith. But if only one or two of the Prophet’s companions narrate it, we should not take it at face value and base our entire relationship with the Jews upon it,” he explained.
“We have no religious dispute with anyone,” al-Masri openly stated. “As the Koran says: ‘And among the people of Moses is a community which guides by truth and by it establishes justice…’ We cannot say that all Jews are bad. The Jews here, in America, are a million times more honorable than the Muslims.”
“Our dispute is with [Israeli] bully politicians – not because they are Jews, but because they are bullies,” said the liberal Imam.
While al-Masri suggested that the Quran should be the ultimate decider upon how Muslims relate to Jews, he pointed out that it too has negative passages that refer to Jews. One such example: “You shall find the strongest people in enmity towards the believers to be the Jews and the polytheists.”
However, Masri expressed his belief that such passages do not refer to all Jews, nor to Jews for all time. “Does the word ‘Jews’ here refer to specific Jews or to all of them? It could mean the Jews who lived in Medina when these verses were conveyed, or it could refer to all the Jews,” rationalized the Imam. “The Koran did not refer to all the Jews.”
In previous speeches, al-Masri has come out against the radicalized version of Islam favored by Muslim extremists. In a January speech, al-Masri was quoted by MEMRI as saying that “Muslims of the religious sector are time bombs.”