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Answering Common Misconceptions

26. Qur`an: A Racist Book or a Global Message

Question:

I was reading in the Qur’an, when I found the description of Jews as pigs. I do not understand, this sounds very racist. Muslims always say that Islam is the religion of peace, but it just doesn’t match. Sorry if I sound rude.

Answer:

The meaning of the word “pigs” in the verse (Qur’an 5: 60) should be explained in the context of the complete verse. Similarly, the verse should be interpreted in the context of the whole Surah (chapter), and the whole issue should be understood in the framework of the whole Book (Qur’an) and the message (Islam). Further, one should be fully aware of historical facts, and be alerted of common (forcibly publicized) stereotypes.

The English meaning of the verse is as follows:

-          Say, “Shall I (fully) inform you of a requiting in the Meeting with Allah eviler than that? Whomever Allah has cursed and with whom He is angry and made some of them apes and swine, and worshipers of the Taghut (i.e. idols, and anything worshiped besides Allah), those are in an eviler place and have erred further away from the level way.”

Reference in the verse is obviously to “SOME”, who acted in a mischievous manner towards God, His messages and Messengers. The rationale behind cursing “some” for their sinful stances and deeds could be gradually unfolded if you read through the preceding verses (57-59), meaning:

- O you who have believed, do not take to yourselves the ones who take your religion in mockery and as a plaything – from among the ones who were brought the Book even before you and (from among) the steadfast disbelievers – as constant patrons; and be pious to Allah incase you are believers. And when you call out to prayer, they take it to themselves in mockery and as a plaything; that is they are a people who do not consider. Say, “O you Population of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians), do you take vengeance on us (for anything) except that we have believed in Allah, and what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down earlier, and the most of you are immoral?” (Qur’an 5: 57-59).

You can also read the following verses of Chapter 5 (verses 61-64), or you can go back in the chapter to read (verses 41-47), or forward (verses 70-86). Objective in-depth reading of the chapter and other parts of the Qur’an leads logically to the following:

The words “monkeys and pigs” here are not to scold or revile these ‘persons’, rather, they express condemnation of their ‘deeds’. They do not condemn a specific race or a whole race, but only those whose mentality and conduct are as described. So, it is their deviation from the proper divine guidance that makes such individuals worth of simulation to monkeys (behaving thoughtlessly) and to pigs (neither bashful nor shy of wickedly acts).

The deviations and blunders, for which they deserved such severe descriptions, are not only those referred to in Chapter 5 of the Qur’an, but are expounded in more details in Chapter 2. Further examples can be traced in Chapters 3, 4, 7 and other scattered locations of the Qur’an; from which you can form a long check list.

The Qur’an, in listing these deviations does not as much aim to discredit Jews or Christians as it serves five of the major objectives of Islam:

1-     Emphasize the unity of the message of God by which He sent all His prophets and messengers, starting with Adam then Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus; ending with Muhammad, and including all genuine prophets of God. (Read for example 3:67, 3:99, 2:136. 10:84, 5:44, 5:111, 61:6-7, 10:72, 12:101, 27:31)

2-     Remind mankind that all the messages of all prophets, prior to Muhammad, has been tampered with: either disappeared, compromised with pagan beliefs or intentionally distorted. Revealed texts were either neglected, modified, or replaced with human texts given the status of “holy” books. (Read for example 2:75-79, 3:78, 3:93, 3:187, 5:41).

3-     Offer Islam – as presented in the Qur’an and detailed guidance of the Last Messenger – to be the final universal message to mankind. Thus it was to be preserved unchanged (and it has been) to the end of time. (Read for example: 33:4, 61:9, 15:9, 41:53).

4-     Keep a permanent reminder and warning, to those who accept Islam, not to repeat the mistakes of “some” of the followers of previous messages, as per the check list referred to above. (Read for example: 57:16, 3:105, 33:69).

5-     Present Islam as a universal message and an open invitation to all nations and all generations. Being a universal message, superiority in Islam is not for a particular race, color, or language; nor is it based on wealth, social status or personal talents. Superiority is based only on sound faith, sincere obedience to God, pious behavior, and positive competition in all types. of charity and good deeds. It is only along these scales that people are differentiated in Islamic law and in the Hereafter. (Read example: 34:28, 21:107, 25:1, 49:13).

Applying the guidance of this unique book (the Qur’an), the global nation of Islam was like a crucible, in which all races, cultures and environments were fused into one homogeneous unprecedented “global civilization.” It was the only genuine “global system” of unity, equality, justice and welfare ever witnessed on this earth.

If you have any further queries,  please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks

Related Links:

Is the Quran Hard on Jews?

Fighting with God

Differences between Islam and Judaism

Distinguishing Judaism from Islam

The Stand of the Quran and the Bible towards the Children of Israel

The truth about Anti-semitism