Is Islam anti-Semitic?

By Maryam Asad

Despite both belonging to what are known as the Abrahamic faiths, there is a lot of tension found among Muslims and Jews. Where Muslims have faced Islamophobia, Jews have suffered anti-Semitism, both at the hands of each other and that of other faiths. Talking specifically in the context of Pakistan, it is seen that Muslims here have more animosity against Jews. The reason for this hostility towards Jews from Pakistani Muslims is the Israel-Palestine issue. Muslims hold a great respect for Palestine and Palestinian people because Islam has given this land huge importance. Therefore, waging a war there is considered a heretic action by the Muslims. Moreover, there is an understanding by the Pakistani Muslims that as the Bani Israel were disowned by Allah for their disobedience, therefore, they are a disreputable nation. We are going to address these issues from both ends over the course of this essay.

Differences of Muslims

The Pakistani Muslims hold their antagonistic sentiments against Jews because of the political situation of Palestine and Israel. They strongly believe that the whole nation of Jews is responsible for the viciousness and genocide happening in Palestine. The Muslims of Pakistan, not understanding the difference between Semitism and Zionism, use these concepts interchangeably. And because of not knowing this difference, they fall prey to anti-Semitism. For their sake, lets clarify these terms first. Zionism is “an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel”[1]. In contrast, anti-Semitism is “discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group”[2].

Zionism is the concept that a large number of Jews themself condemn. As explained by Rabbi Dovid Wessi, the reason for their condemnation is that Zionism is a ‘materialistic movement which is forbidden in Judaism’[3]. In his interview with Al-Jazeerah, he emphasized on the fact that killing people, stealing from them, and establishing their own sovereign nationalist state is forbidden in Judaism. Because their scripture forbids it. Those Jews who support Zionism are condemned by people of their own faith[4].

Muslim scholars, who have the knowledge of the difference between Zionism and anti-Semitism preach to other Muslims to be affectionate towards people of other faiths well. These scholars such as Imam Omar Suleiman have also condemned anti-Semitism. In his words: “Antisemitism and Islamophobia are probably the two closest form of bigotry”.[5]

Differences of Jews

The Jews, on the other side, have been subjected to the violence and genocide at the hands of various faiths. The Holocaust is only one example. The differences we see today between Jews and Muslims is mainly because of the Palestine issue. Some Jews believe the land has been rightfully taken from Palestinians as it is their right because this land was promised to them in their testament. Discussing this argument and whether it even stands or not is not this paper’s subject. However, even if just for the sake of argument, we accept this claim for now, there is no doubt in the fact that waging a war against innocent civilians, wrongfully taking their land and sending them into exile is no way of doing it. And as seen in the previous heading, it is called Zionism. And this is exactly what causes Muslims to oppose Israel. Among Jews themselves, there is a majority who condemn this concept. Rabbi Dovid Weiss is just one name.Throughout Islamic history, there are moving examples of interfaith harmony between the two nations. In the early centuries of Islamic expansion after the death of the Prophet (S.A.W.), Jews and Christians were placed in major administrative positions in conquered territories and the Muslims worked with them to translate important texts, mainly Greek texts with the help of the Christians. In modern history, during the traumatic Holocaust, Muslims helped Jews to a great extent. They helped them escape and provided them with safe heavens. During WWII, the Grand Mosque in Paris rescued the fleeting Jews. This is the kind of harmony Jews and Muslims have been in.[6]

Scholarship in Quran and Hadith[7]

Quran is a very profound scripture in which the Ayahs are interlinked. To understand them batter, Mufasreen[8] are required to read them in the context of their revelation. Certain verses of the Quran, if put out of context, either convey different meaning or lose their meaning altogether. The same is the case with Ayahs revealed about Jews and Christians. In the revelation of the Quran, a very significant thing, as scholar Noman Ali Khan mentioned, is Shaan-e-Nazool i.e., the disclosure context. Therefore, students of the Quran are taught ‘Sciences of the Quran’ prior to the actual tafseer[9] of the Quran. This course teaches them that Ayahs cannot be understood in isolation. Take the example of the following verse:

O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors…” (5:51)

This Quranic verse in isolation shows that Muslims have been instructed not to take Jews and Christians as friends. This way it can be misleading, and not only that, but it can also give rise to Islamophobia. Any believer reading this verse in isolation can think that as these are the words of Allah, we ought not to have a relationship with people of other religions at all. But if we look at the context in which this verse was revealed, it shows a completely different dimension of what this fragment of the Ayah portrays. The verse 5:51 was revealed when Muslims migrated from Makkah to Madinah. They were the minority in Madinah, and the majority was of Jews and Christians. To ensure their security and safety, Muslims entered a peace treaty with Jews and Christians. However, some Jews and Christians broke this treaty, risking the safety of the Muslims[10]. This Ayah mentioned not the word ‘friends’ but the ‘protector friends.’ This verse instructed Muslims not to make Jews their ‘protector friends,’ i.e., those political companions whom you hand over your vulnerability and security. It was to secure Muslims from falling into any trap that would compromise their sovereignty because, at that time, they were in the position of weakness[11].

Similarly, one of the other ahadith that is misquoted is that rocks and trees will cry out:

“There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

This Hadith also has a context. Muslims believe that near the end of times, the Dajjal will form his army and he will be a ‘murderous dictator’. This will happen when Jesus Christ will be come one earth. It will be a battle between good and evil; between righteous people including Muslims, Christians, and Jews, united under Prophet Jesus versus misguided people including people of different faiths as well as deviant and fake Muslims under the Dajjal. When both the armies will go into battel, miracles will happen to assist the army of Jesus. One of these miracles is that the stones and trees will speak pointing out soldiers of Dajjal, not innocent bystanders. Other variants of the hadith state that the rocks and trees will simply say, “Here is a rejector of truth hiding behind me!” (Musnad Ahmad 3546) or “Here is a follower of Dajjal!” (al-Buhur al-Zakhirah 1/493) and do not focus on the religious identity.[12]

“The hadith describing the soldiers of Dajjal who happen to be Jewish are in fact referring to a specific cult of 70,000 that takes Dajjal to be their messiah and follows him in his tyrannical actions (Sahih Muslim 2944). Hadith commentary states that those who will become Dajjal’s followers do not represent the global population of Jews but a tiny fraction (Fayd al-Bari, Anwar Shah Kashmiri, 4/197). In fact, most Jews will be righteous folk amongst the forces of good uniting with virtuous Christians and Muslims, embracing the message of all the Prophets, and fighting against the Dajjal”.[13]

How Should We as Muslims Act?

 The main focus of Islam has always been compassion and kindness. There are several ahadith and Quranic verses that prove that we should behave well with people of all faiths. Once Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) saw the funeral of a Jew and stood up out of respect. The companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.) pointed out that the funeral is of a non-Muslim, to which he (S.A.W.) replied: “Is it not a human soul?”[14]

Moreover, Allah has mentioned in the Quran:

Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and fairly with those who have neither fought nor driven you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are fair” (60:8)[15]

Several similar examples can be found in Islam which speak against every violent behavior, be it at hands of a Muslim or a non-Muslim. The proof of it is found in the coming Hadith: Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said:

If anyone wrongs a non-Muslim at peace with us, violates his rights, burdens him with more work than he is able to do, or takes something from him without his consent, then I will be his prosecutor on the Day of Resurrection[16].

This Hadith is incredibly encompassing and fear-provoking. As Muslims, it is a huge deal for us that if we infringe any person’s right, our own Holy Prophet S.A.W. will be the one speaking up against us and speaking-up for that person. It brings us to think about our actions before committing them.

The Bottomline

It should be made clear here that as Muslims, we shall always stand with the Palestinians in their struggle and against the atrocities of Israel and all who commit them. The paper has addressed the question of friendship and harmony with Jews based on their faith. There is no question that we have to take a firm unyielding stand against Israel. However, as the paper has made clear, this is different from antagonizing a people based on their ‘faith’.

In conclusion, we can confidently know that when our Holy Prophet S.A.W. was kind and compassionate regardless of any human’s ethnicity, race, creed or religion, why cannot we? There is no doubt that Muslims and Jews have their difference. But they have their similarities as well.

Islam denounces all forms of anti-Semitism.


[1] “Zionism”, Merriam Webster Dictionary

[2] “Anti-Semitism”, Merriam Webster Dictionary

[3] “Rabbi Dovid Weiss: Zionism Has Created ‘Rivers of Blood’”. Al-Jazeera English, 2012. It can be accessed at:

[4] Ibid

[5] 2018

[6] “The Myth of An Anti-Semitic Genocide in Muslim Scripture”, Yaqeen Institute of Islamic Research. It can be accessed at:

https://yaqeeninstitute.org/justin-parrott/the-myth-of-an-antisemitic-genocide-in-muslim-scripture

[7] Sayings of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.

[8] Those who interpret the text of Quran.

[9] Interpretation

[10] Banu Nazir was one of the dominant tribes of Arab. They were among the first ones to deny the Prophethood of Muhammad S.A.W.. They challenged Holy Prophet, tried to execute him and were eventually exiled from Madinah.

[11] “Anti-Semitic Claims in Quran”, 877-Why-Islam, 2011. It can be accessed at:

[12] The myth of an anti Semitic genocide in Muslim scripture. Yaqeen institute.

[13] ibid

[14] Sahih Bukhari 1250

[15] https://quran.com/60

[16] Sunan Abi Dawud 3052