The People of the Book: The Fourth Day of Advent

After completing Surah 5, I couldn't help but notice how frequently The People of the Book (Jews and Christians) have been mentioned throughout the Quran, possibly as much as every other page. The Islam shares the traditions, heritage, and prophets with these two monotheistic faiths. ??They all three worship the same God. ??

But I will be honest, some parts of the Quran are difficult to read as a Christian (probably as a Jew as well) because if the words are taking literally (as a charge to the Christian reader), it seems to call the Christian to view Jesus on the same level of other prophets and claim Mohammed, PBUH, as equal to them as well. ??It seems to call the Christian to "convert" to Islam. ??

I tend to see deep value in all world religions. ??I tend to believe that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, though deeply related to each other, stand alone as three complete and full faiths that need no fulfillment through other revelations or scriptures (Christi fulfilling Judaism, the Quran fulfilling both Judaism and Christianity). ??

But as I was reading the Quran, I wondered if this is how a Jew must feel reading the New Testament. ??Let me explain. ??There are definitely positives, through the interfaith cooperation lens, in religions having shared traditions. ??These religions can relate in harmony over believing in the same God, sharing the same prophets and customs and stories. ??A shared value in serving the poor and sick. ??Through these shared beliefs, the Abrahamic faiths can perpetuate a peaceful existence together.

But sharing traditions can also be troublesome as the new religion emerges in the timeline. ??When Christianity emerged from the foundations of the Israelite/Jewish faith, one of its tasks seemed to be to denounce the old faith and bolster the new faith through commendations to convert and warning of hell to those who remain dedicated to the previous faith. ??Whether this is absolute truth or a tactic of Christians to increase numbers or even somewhere in between, this characteristic was a contributor to the difficult relations that Jews and Christians have endured throughout the years. This unique task of the newcomer religion to establish itself by devaluing the status quo has been interpreted by Christians that Christianity is a fuller, truer revelation of God. ??And in turn, it has led to many Christians holding a prejudiced view towards Jews.

In a similar way, it seems the Islam denounced the staus quo (Judaism and Christianity) to establish itself, and uses fear of hell to motivate The People of the Book to convert. ??Has this been interpreted by some Muslims to have a prejudiced view towards Christians and Jews, and Christians/Jews toward Muslims? ??

I don't think we have to read our holy scriptures, even in the face of text, to hold prejudiced views of each other, to think we are better than another. ??We can read through a historical critical lens. ??We can reinterpret the texts with the help of commentaries and scholars. ??We can read it through the lens of literary criticism. ??There are many ways to do this. ??

But maybe, the Muslim/Christian relationship can learn from the Jewish/Christian relationship. ??What can we learn from the history of Christians mistreating Jews? ??And how did Christians and Jews finally begin to live in harmony and value each other?

Just as Christianity was a new revelation in the tradition of the Jews, Islam is a new revelation in the tradition of the Jews and Christians. ??How can Muslims and The People of the Book begin to live in harmony? ??How can we overcome the difficult reality of the "new revelation" in the tradition of the Abrahamic faiths. ??What can we do to truly represent the people of God, who share the values of love, forgiveness, peace, and hope? ??The answer just may be in the history of the Jewish Christian relationship. ??Maybe, answers lie in medieval Spain, where all three faiths lived in total harmony. ??Maybe, answers lie in the USA as we recover from 9/11 and build a diverse community of love and respect. ??It's a crucial time in history. ??Let us be on the right side of history. ??Let us strive for a community of interfaith cooperation.

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