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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

November 1, 2002

Jews are NOT apes and pigs.

I was unsurprised to read in NRO's The Corner the entry by Kathryn Jean-Lopez about the MEMRI "analysis" which purports to demonstrate that the Qur'an calls Jews "apes and pigs".

The verse she is referring to is 5:60 - while I do not deny that the verse has been deliberately misused to justify calling Jews "apes and pigs" - it has nothing to do with Jews. This is a group of ayats that are a kind of dialouge. It is confusing to follow but here is the general gist:

5:57 - (addressing Muslims) - do not choose as *guardians* (actual word
used) those people who follow earlier Revelations but not Islam (ie, Jews
and Christians), and people who are outright disbelievers (in Allah). The
issue of Guardian goes back to 5:55, which has an extensive history in and
of itself, as relates to Ali.

5:58 - Some ignorant Jews and Christians mock you (as a muslim) and your
Azaan (call to prayer) because they do not understand what you are doing
(they do not see it as a form of worship). This should not dissuade you from
doing your actions (duties to Allah).

(personal comment: I have been ridiculed while praying in parking lots. My
wife and I used to go to movies before Baby arrived, and sometimes the
only time we could catch a show was right around sunset. So we would do our
obligatory prayers in the parking lot. To be honest, we are reluctant to do that
nowadays, but this verse demands that we persevere despite that paranoia)

5:59 - addressing Jews and Christians - "is the only reason you hate us
(Muslims) because we believe in Allah, and the revelations that came before
(which you also believe in)? Is this because most of you do not follow your
own scriptures as well as we follow them (the same scriptures) ?

at this point the Muslim understands that they are inheritors to the same
scriptures that Jews and Christians follow. However, they are a target of
ridicule by some in these groups for adherence to these scriptures.

5:60 - addressing Muslims again - Do you want to know who is worse (than
such ignorant Jews and Christians. Note, not ALL, see 5:58)? Those who are
worse are those who Allah has cursed, had wrath upon, had damned to be apes
and swine.. etc . these are far, far worse than Jews or Christians (who mock
the azaan, etc.)

5:61 - The group that is discussed in 5:60 is here revealed to be those who
say (on the surface) I believe in Allah but who actually do not, and seek to
cause dissent and turmoil within the community of believers.

Clearly, the average Jew or Christian who follows their own scriptures, or
who at least does not ridicule Muslim belief, is clearly not the target of
5:59, let alone 5:60.

5:61 is taken by Sunnis to be generally aimed at evil people. Shi'a consider
it aimed at very specific groups of Muslims who subverted the Prophet's
wishes, especially against Ali. This entire section has very little to do
with Jews and Christians per se and has everything to do with the internal
struggles of the followers of the religion against the Hypocrites. These
Hypocrites were a significant threat to Islam at the outset, and saw the
best way to destroy it by trojaning it and working at cross purposes from

Verse 4:91 also has been used by detractors of Islam and by politically-motivated psychotics like OBL. It is commonly represented as enjoining the believer to "kill all the infidels".

But for a full contextual understanding, it is necessary to read 4:88 onwards to 4:91. Also note that 4:91 has been short-quoted by critics, the full verse is:

"Ye will find others who desire that they should have security from you, and
security from their own folk. So often as they are returned to hostility
they are plunged therein. If they keep not aloof from you nor offer you
peace nor hold their hands, then take them and kill them wherever ye find
them. Against such We have given you clear warrant."

This is clearly referring to people who keep attacking you, in which case you are
justified in waging war out of defense.

Verse 4:91 itself has no justification for global war against infidels, it is self-contained in discussing other groups who just wont leave you alone. But the entire thread from 4:88 up to 4:91 is worth reading for even more subtlety.

I also sent this explanation to John Derbyshire,whom I consider honorable in distinguishing the misuses of Islam by evil people like OBL from the inherent message of Islam itself. MEMRI and Mrs. Lopez have failed to make such a distinction.

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About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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