Many Muslims have asked our Jewish staff “if the Quran serves as a guidance for mankind, why don’t you follow it?” This article explains why even if they believed that were true, Jewish law prohibits them from converting to Islam
The Quran teaches the text of the Torah isn’t corrupted
If you were to show any Orthodox Jew sura 5:44 in the Quran he would surely declare “Sadaqa Allahu ‘l-Azeem”, as the text echoes something they’ve been proclaiming for 2,300 years:
the rabbis and scholars [were] entrusted [with] the Scripture of Allah.
- Quran 5:44
Without an awareness of Jewish history one can only guess at the sura’s meaning, but the clarifying keyword is “rabbis” – as up until the birth of Islam the only group of Jews that referred to their leaders as rabbis were the Pharisees. They called their spiritual leaders in Israel “rabbi” (A similar term “rab” referred to Babylonian leaders, while “rabban” described the leader of these Jews).
This is important because 2,300 years ago a group of heretical Jews (the Sadducees) rejected the Oral Law (which the rabbis codified in the Talmud). The Oral Law was a verbal scripture given to Moses AS at the same time he received the Torah and we feel it is the only scripture the Quran could be referring to. This is confirmed by the Quran’s repetition of ideas found exclusively in the Oral Law1 – if it didn’t have Divine source, why would the Quran repeat these themes?
Could sura 5:44 actually be the Quran’s declaration that the truth is with the rabbis and not heretics. If so this scripture (the Torah and Talmud) has been perfectly preserved and passed down from generation to generation, from rabbi to rabbi.2
A Jewish convert to Islam can’t keep the Quran and Torah
If we accept that the Torah hasn’t changed since the era of the rabbis (which is the academic and religious consensus), then the Quran cannot act as a guidance for the Jews if it contradicts any of the laws of the Torah.
The revealed things apply to us and to our children forever: that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah.
- Deut 29:28
However, upon inspection there are numerous instances where a Jew would have violate the Torah if he were to follow the Quran:
- If Shavuot or Sukkot fell on Ramadan a Jew is commanded to eat – yet a Muslim is commanded to fast.
- The Quran permits all the food from the sea, yet the Torah forbids all the food from the sea, unless it has fins and scales.
- The Quran forbids alcohol, yet the Torah permits its
There are many more examples, but all we need is one contradiction to establish that its impossible to keep both books.
A Jew cannot convert to Islam
The Torah states that even when threatened with death, a Jew cannot convert to an idolatrous religion. So what is the law regarding Jewish apostates to Islam?
- Jews that voluntarily convert to Islam
- They have committed a treacherous act of heresy as they have abandoned the Torah.3
- Jews that are forced to convert to Islam
- According to the Rambam, if the Jews privately follows the Torah then they should not take their own life, as this is only permitted when threatened with idolatry4 (which Muslims abhor).5
- According to the Radvaz and Ritva, Jews should give up their life and die as martyrs rather than convert to Islam. They ruled this way because some Muslims believe the Quran replaced the Torah and if any Jew that took shahada they would be conceding to this claim.6
As one cannot keep both the Torah and Quran, every rabbinic authority agrees that by converting to Islam a Jew is committing a sin. The issue which divides the rabbis is forced conversion, of which the mainstream view is that when faced with certain death it is better to convert to Islam. The rabbis justify this by highlighting that Islam is a noble religion who’s adherents submit to the One true God (a leniency that was not extended to other faiths).
The Quran alludes to this by declaring that the righteous Jews have a place in Jannah7, surely it would only state this if Allah SWT wanted the Jews to follow their scripture.
- One who saves a life save an entire world, the concept of an immortal soul and afterlife, that the mountain was lifted over Bani Yisrael.
- For a Muslim to say the text of the Torah was corrupted they’d need to prove the corruption took place after the Talmudic era. From this period the Torah was perfectly preserved in its original form, in rabbinic translations and in their commentaries. Those that claim there was a textual corruption (Ibn Hazm, Wellhausen, Graf) date this corruption to the era of the scribes (long before the rabbis) – something the Quran would appear to refute.
- Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Teshuvah 3.20
“One who separates himself from the Community, even if he does not commit a transgression but only holds aloof from the congregation of Israel, does not fulfill religious precepts in common with his people, show himself indifferent when they are in distress, does not observe their fast, but goes in his own way, as if were one of the gentiles and did not belong to the Jewish people-such a person has no portion in the world to come”
- Maimonides – Iggeret HaShamad
“Now if he did not surrender himself to death but transgressed under duress and did not die, he did not act properly and under compulsion he profaned God’s name. However, he is not to be punished by any of the seven means of retribution. Not a single instance is found in the Torah in which a forced individual is sentenced to any of the punishments, whether the transgression was light or grave. Only he who acts voluntarily is subject as Scripture directs: ‘But the person…who acts defiantly…that soul shall be cut off'”
- Rav Abraham Maimuni (The Soteriology of R. Abraham Maimuni, Gerson D. Cohen p85)
“Now regard to this matter [washing of the orifices of the before prayer], let it be clear that whoever has bathed at home or washed his hands and feet for the sake of prayer has fulfilled his duty for having immersed himself voluntarily he is on the verge of fulfilling his obligation. Whoever washes his forearm and imposes upon himself the obligation of washing behind his ear, combining the tangled hair of his head and washing his orifices before prayer after the fashion of the Gentiles, let him refrain and desist, since that is not Jewish practice and is not warranted by either written or oral tradition. However, I cannot say unequivocally that this practice is in the category of Gentile religious practice (Chukat haGoyim), inasmuch as those who practice these rites, namely the Muslims, are monotheists who abhor idolatry. Nevertheless there is certainly no compelling need for copying them in this way, for our law usage are quite sufficient, by God…”
- Ritva on Pesachim 25b
“And you should know that the faith of the [Muslims], although they believe in the unity of God, it is considered complete idolatry in terms of getting killed and not converting, for one who admits to their faith denies the Torah of Moses, saying that it is not true as it is in our hands, and anything like this is complete idolatry, and they (Chazal) did not say by other commandments that one should transgress rather than get killed where their intent is to have one transgress, except in a circumstance where they tell him to violate Shabbat in order to transgress his religion, but not in a circumstance where they tell him to violate Shabbat so as to concede that your Torah is not true and God did not command to keep Shabbat. So I have heard.”
- Quran 2:62
Verily! Those who believe [Muslims] and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.