Palestine: God's Covenant with Abraham
One of the arguments given for the occupation of Palestine by the European Jews and supported by Christians is that God promised Abraham that his progeny would be given Palestine; therefore, Jews are the only descendants of Abraham and inheritors of the land. This promise is in the Jewish Tanakh (Christian Old Testament) and it is, therefore, incumbent upon the Christians to help the Jews in attaining the goal of the Jews.
by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.
Let us examine the claim that God promised Palestine to the Jews in the light of the Bible and the Qur'an.
(i) We read in the Bible: "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.'" Gen. 12:1-2. "Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.'" Gen. 12:7 (RSV)
(ii) We read in the Qur'an: "Recall when Abraham's Lord tested him in certain matters and when he successfully stood the test He (God) said: 'Indeed I am going to appoint you a leader of humankind.' When Abraham asked: 'And is this covenant also for my descendants?' the Lord responded: 'My covenant does not embrace the evil doing transgressors.'" 2:124
Muhammad Asad (his original name was Leopold Weiss, Austrian-Polish by nationality), a convert to Islam from Judaism, wrote in his Message of the Quran, Translation and Commentary, commenting on this verse: "This passage, read in conjunction with the two preceding verses, refutes the contention of the children of Israel (modern day Jews) that by virtue of their descent from Abraham, whom God made 'a leader of men', they are 'God's chosen people'. The Qur'an makes it clear that the exalted status of Abraham was not something that would automatically confer a comparable status on his physical descendants, and certainly not on the sinners among them."
Does Bani Israel (Jews) qualify to inherit the covenant of God with Abraham?
When one reads the Bible he/she finds that this is the most anti-Semite (anti-Jew) book in the world. The following is in no way an exhaustive study of the Bible for finding God's condemnation of the Jews but an introduction to the study of the topic. I hope that someone will undertake a thorough study of the Bible and history of the Jews to present truth to the world. My very scanty and brief study of the topic is presented below.
Evils and transgressions of Bani Israel and God's anger
The Bible agrees with the Qur'an, commented by Muhammad Asad.
1. The first transgression of Bani Israel (children of Jacob or Ya'qoob) was committed by the ten sons of Jacob against his eleventh son, Joseph or Yusuf. Due to their jealousy the ten half-brothers cast him into a dry pit so that he may die there or they may sell him in the hands of an Ishmaelite caravan (Gen 37:23-24).
2. Joseph's father, eleven brothers and their families entered Egypt and joined the aristocratic class of the people. Apparently, it was because of Bani Israel's transgressions that God caused them to be sold into the slavery of the Egyptians where they remained for centuries until God sent Moses to free them.
3. Moses was sent by God to free the Bani Israel from the Egyptians. He brought them to Sinai when God gave him commandments and the law but they disobeyed Moses (Ex 16:19-20, 20:11-26, chapters 21-23 and Deut 31:27).
4. When God called Moses to the mountain for giving him the law, Bani Israel fell into the worship a golden calf (Ex chapter 32) and God called them "stiff-necked" (Ex 33:3-4). Even in our time we find Jews are worshippers of the golden calf in the form of the worship of money and wealth (crass materialism) rather than righteousness.
5. Moses conveyed the order of God to them to enter and take over Canaan (Ex 34:11-16) but Bani Israel refused to obey him (Deut 9:21-24, Num 11:1-6, Num 14:1-4) and Moses complained to God (Num 11:12-15). Naturally, God's anger fell upon Bani Israel (Num 12:9-10, Num 14:10-34).
6. God sent commands against nakedness, adultery and homosexuality but Bani Israel disobeyed (Lev 18:6-23) and they continued to disobey even in our time in the name of freedom and sex between consenting adults.
7. God is just and He punishes all those tribes and towns who disobey His commands. We find that God punished Damascus (Amos 1:9-10), Edom (Amos 1:11-12), Ammonites (Amos 1:13-14) and Moab (Amos 2:1-3). God announced His punishment for Judah and Israel (Amos 2:4-8). God mentions His favor to Judah and Israel of taking them out of Egypt and taking them out of the desert after forty years of punishment (Amos 2:10-11) yet they disobeyed Him again and again.
8. Another crime mentioned was when the prophets warned the Bani Israel and prophesied God's punishment, they warned the prophets and commanded them not to mention prophecies of doom: they threatened them (Amos 2:12). Finally God's decision came that Bani Israel would be destroyed but not completely (Amos 9:9-10). In Amos 9:11-15 we find God's promise to Bani Israel to raise them again, which was fulfilled in the 6th century BCE during the time of Cyrus. No one can present establishment of Israel as fulfilling of God's promise because the modern state is filled with racism, injustice and committing all the sins mentioned in the Bible for which these people were punished for three millennia.
9. We read: "And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, forgetting the Lord their God, and serving the Ba'als and the Ash'roth. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cu'shan-rishath'im king of Mesopota'mia; and the people of Israel served Cu'shan-rishath'im eight years" (Judges 3:7-8).
10. We find that Israel again did evil against the Lord and this time He sold them into the slavery of Eglon the king of Moab for eighteen years (Judges 3:12-14).
11. The people of Israel again did evil against the Lord and this time He sold them into the slavery of Jabin king of Canaan, who oppressed them cruelly for twenty years (Judges 4:1-3).
12. We find that the people of Israel did evil again and this time the Lord sold them into the slavery of Mid'ian (Ishmaelites) for seven years (Judges 6:1-2).
13. The next time Israel did evil the Lord sold them into the slavery of Philistines and Ammonites for eighteen years (Judges 10:7-9).
14. The people of Israel did again what the Lord forbade them from doing, the Lord again gave them into the hands of Philistines for forty years (Judges 13:1).
15. God brought destruction upon Bani Israel by the hands of Chaldeans and Prophet Habakkuk cried to the Lord (Hab 1:1-17). The God of Bani Israel declared Himself to be a jealous God and wrathful (Nahum 1:2, 2:13 and 3:5).
16. When Bani Israel performed the rituals, they were free of sincerity and they despised God-given food (Malachi 1:14, 2:2-3), God cursed them (Malachi 2:7-9) and declared that their offerings were not acceptable (Malachi 2:13 and chapter 4).
The fate of Bani Israel is sealed
Finally, God's decision was announced in the Bible:
The Qur'an agrees with the Bible and has very stern warning to Bani Israel as we read:
This happened to Bani Israel after God delivered them after centuries of slavery under the Egyptians. It seems that the Bani Israel was stubbornly bent upon disobeying the Lord except for brief periods of good conduct. There had to be a time when God would turn away from them and never to deliver them from the slavery and torment under the gentile nations. In America today some states have laws of "three strikes, you are out" meaning that after three convictions of felonies there is mandatory life imprisonment. Why should God not pass such a judgment against Bani Israel after numerous crimes worse than felonies over a period of 1800 years? It is obvious that the God of Israel has removed them from inheriting the covenant of Abraham. If Jews want to live in Palestine, their only choice is to live there in peace as a respected minority as they have lived for almost thirteen centuries in the Muslim world.
God's covenant with Ishmael
We find God's covenant with Ishmael:
In Gen 17:20 God treats Ishmael even better than Isaac because Isaac did not have twelve princes that were given to Ishmael right away. The twelve tribe of Bani Israel came from Jacob. I will discuss the point of making a great nation further down this article.
Historical evidence that Bani Israel were excluded from God's covenant with Abraham
Bani Israel Rule over Palestine. The Prophet Abraham perhaps lived around the 18th century BCE (before Christian era). The exodus under the leadership of Moses took place around 1290 BCE. Canaan (later to be known as Palestine) was conquered under Joshua around 1250 BCE. God appointed Saul (Talut) as the king of Bani Israel around 1020 BCE who ruled for about twenty years. David succeeded Talut and ruled for 39 years until 961 BCE. Solomon succeeded his father and ruled for 36 years until 925 BCE. Shortly afterwards the Assyrians defeated Israel and occupied a part of the kingdom. The Babylonian king Nebuchednezar occupied Judah, independent kingdom in 586 BCE. He destroyed the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, and took thousand of Bani Israel in chains as captives to Babylon. However, in 520 BCE King Cyrus allowed Bani Israel to return to Palestine and he sponsored rebuilding of the Temple, which was completed in 515 BCE. Israel was never to become an independent state until 161 BCE. Around 330 BCE Israel came under the rule of the Greek kings. From 161 to 104 BCE for 57 years Maccabees, an Israeli freedom movement, made Israel a free and independent state. Maccabees were defeated by the Romans and entire Palestine and Syria came under their rule. In 70 CE (Christian era) Titus exiled Jews from Jerusalem and in 135 CE all Jews were either murdered or exiled from Palestine by the order of the Roman emperor with the decree never to enter Palestine again. Under the Roman rule and later in the Byzantine rule, Jews were barred from entering Palestine. Jews were allowed to enter Jerusalem again by the second caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab in 638 CE. They began to trickle into Palestine and lived happily as a respected and protected minority under the Muslims until 1930s when they began terrorism to drive the Palestinians out of their homes and properties rendering almost 800,000 of them as refugees. Finally, the state of Israel was established by Arab and Muslim hating western powers under the cover of a U.N. resolution in 1948. From the beginning of time until 1948 Bani Israel were able to rule Palestine for a total of only about 382 years out of 32 centuries of Bani Israel (Jewish) existence, even that in broken periods. Does it look like God gave Palestine to the Bani Israel or made them a great people? I don't think so. On the contrary the God of Bani Israel made them a most despised people and kept them alive as a lesson to mankind. This is the fate of Jews collectively but among them there are numerous good, decent, justice and peace loving people. Muslims do not hold anything against the Jews; in fact, Muslims have been their best friends and protectors from 638 until the 1930s. However, Muslims are against the Zionist movement that exiled the natives of Palestine from their ancestral home, robbed them of their properties, killed them by the hundreds of thousands; murder and plunder of Palestinians by the hands of Jews using American money and armaments continues to date. This is the way the Jews have rewarded Muslims for their hospitality, good treatment with respect and allowing the return of the Jews to Palestine.
Muslim Rule over Palestine. In 638 CE Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second Caliph of Islam, conquered Jerusalem without a war and until 1918 Palestine remained under Muslim rule except for a period of 88 years (1099 to 1187 CE) of the rule of the Crusaders. From 1918 to 1948 Palestine came under the rule of the British and then it was divided between Israel and the Palestinians. Only after the 1967 war, initiated by Israel, did Jerusalem came under the rule of the Israelis. It is worth noting that the Muslim rule over Palestine for thirteen centuries was due to the power of Muslims themselves not by a proxy power; whereas, the rule of Israelis in Israel since 1948 is maintained not by the power of the Israelis but by the power of the Americans. If Americans withdraw their support, Israel may fall as a ripe fig into the hands of Muslims in a matter of days.
The historical evidence shows that the Jews were excluded from the covenant of God to Abraham because He did not allow them to have a hold over Palestine but for brief periods, whereas God gave the power to the Muslims to rule for the longest period of time in the history of the land. Evidently God's covenant to Abraham was meant to be for the Arabs, the children of Ishmael.
The meaning of heir
In the line of the prophet Abraham, heir may have one or both of two meanings. Those who are (1) in the line of genealogy of Abraham, and (2) in the line of the faith of Abraham and carriers of his mission. Both, the Jews and the Arabs claim to be the heirs of Abraham through genealogy. Neither of these two nations' claim holds true for 100% of the people in our time. Arab by definition is anyone who speaks Arabic language that may include all non-Arabs who moved to the Middle East and adopted Arabic language and culture. Prophet Muhammad and his contemporary Arabs of the Arabian peninsula belonged to Abraham as they were descendants of Ishmael. Bani Israel due to their jealousy tried to remove Arabs from the genealogy by claiming that Hager, the mother of Ishmael, was a slave girl but not truly a wife of Abraham. This contradicts the Bible itself. The Bible declares, "So, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sar'ai, Abram's wife, took Hager the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife" (Gen 16:3). Note that the adjective wife has been used twice, once associated with Sar'ai and second time associated with Hager indicating no superiority of one wife over the other. This shows, according to the Bible, the original Arabs were equally descendants of Abraham as were the original Bani Israel. Christian and Jewish apologetics may have some irrational rationalization to exclude children of Ishmael from God's covenant to Abraham. Some Muslims have found historical evidence to show that Hager was an Egyptian princess not a maid of Sar'ai; it is evident from Gen 17:20 where God called 12 sons of Ishmael as 12 princes perhaps because their mother was a princess. Among the modern Jews there are three groups by genealogy, (a) Saphardic Jews, (b) Ashkenazi Jews, and (c) miscellaneous other claimants to Judaism. Historically, only Saphardic Jews appear to belong to Abraham through genealogy. According to Arthur Koestler (see his book The Thirteenth Tribe) Saphardic Jews make up fewer than ten percent of the world Jewish population. Something like 85% of the world Jewry are Ashkenazi Jews, which are Caucasian converts as they have light color hair, fairer skin and light color eyes like all other gentile Europeans. The rest of the Jews are either Negroid indicating no Semitic features or belong to other races and nations.
The other type of heir is by faith. The true monotheists in the faith of Abraham are Muslims and deserve to be called the inheritors of God's covenant with Abraham. Muslims propagated the faith of Abraham, true monotheism (tawhid), all over the world.
The Jews have corrupted the monotheism of Abraham and in the past they became pagans and idolaters frequently for which God disgraced them. This point has been discussed above under the subheading, "Evils and transgressions of Bani Israel…" The worst transgression of the Jews of our time is their crass materialism, that is, worship of the wealth and power. Besides, Jews made Abraham's faith exclusively for themselves making other people unworthy to invite and convert. In fact, Jews considered themselves to be a superior race worthy of many of God's special privileges denied to other nations. There is a lot of racism in the teachings of the Mishna and Talmud rendering people other than the Jews to the level of animals and insects to be trampled, used and killed at will. Abraham was neither a racist nor an idolater.
Christians do not even have a claim over the covenant of Abraham; therefore, they are not included in this discussion.
The meaning of making Abraham's name great
When God told Abraham that He will make his name great, what did God mean? It may mean that his true descendants will (a) promote his faith worldwide; (b) it may mean that they will be the largest single faith in the world; (c) it may mean that Abraham's faith will be the only faith remaining in the world and all other faiths and -isms will die out; (d) it may mean that Abraham's descendants will create a great civilization in the world; (e) it may mean that his true followers will fill the world with economic justice and equality of mankind removing all kind of prejudices and discrimination based on race, skin color, gender, origin of birth, social and economic status; (f) it may mean that the children of Abraham will multiply exceedingly, spread and rule the largest geographical area of the world, if not the whole earth.
In Gen 12:2 God promised Abraham to make him a great nation and in Gen 17:20 God also made a similar promise to Ishmael to make him a great nation. This shows that Gods promise of making Abraham a great nation was to be realized through the descendants of Ishmael but only the righteous ones, which is the same promise appeared in the Qur'an 2:124 quoted in the beginning of this article. Bani Israel themselves canceled out any covenant made to the children of Isaac and Jacob through their refusal to obey God's prophets, a few examples have already been given above. Let us look at the possibilities of the meaning of a "great nation".
(a) Promoting the faith of Abraham. Bani Israel became a racist people and refused to promote the faith of Abraham to mankind whereas Muslims did promote his faith worldwide providing the opportunity of accepting the faith of Abraham. Consequently, people of every nation, every race and color have come to Islam making it the most successfully proclaimed pluralistic faith in the world. Muslims today constitute 20-25% of the world (1.2 to 1.5 billion) spread over the entire globe and increasing. Jews are fewer than 15 million (and declining), that is 0.25% of the world population or 1% of the Muslim population. Naturally, Muslims make a much greater nation than the Jews.
(b) The largest homogenous single faith in the world. It is believed that Christians are the largest single faith in the world but this claim could easily be refuted. Christians are divided into three major sects, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. Each of the three claims that they are the only true Christians and the others are non-Christians or pagans. If we study these religions, we find that each one is a separate religion; therefore, Christianity is not a homogenous single faith; only Islam is. Some may argue that there are Shi'as and Sunnis but this objection is not true. Those who claim one or the other is out of Islam are a negligible minority; the fundamentals of Shi'ah and Sunni are one and the same. The Jews are only fifteen million worldwide making them a negligible minority and a cult-like group. Such a small group is further divided into three groups of Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed; Orthodox and Reformed are so far apart that they cannot see each other eye to eye. Sunni-Shi'ah conflict is endemic and local and limited to a few people.
(c) The only faith surviving in the world. We have not reached that stage yet. Judaism is shrinking whereas Christianity and Islam are still expanding. However, it is noteworthy that the rate of expansion of Islam is higher than Christianity. There are millions of Christians converting to Islam and the reverse flow is negligible.
(d) Creating a great civilization. Jews have not created any unique civilization in the world with any lasting impact. Western civilization is a mix of Greek-Roman-Christian-Islamic civilization with some impact of the Jews, Chinese, Indian and other nations. Muslims created a new civilization that is unique in art, architecture, education, philosophy, sciences and embracing every other area of human activity. The impact of Islam may been seen worldwide. Muslims truly became a great nation fulfilling God's covenant to Abraham. In Islam Arabs played an overwhelming role in developing "Islamic" civilization. Major impact is seen from the periods of the Umayyad and the Abbasid era, both belonged to the Quraysh, direct descendants of Abraham through his son Ishmael.
(e) Justice and equality for mankind. The Muslim civilization filled the earth with justice and equality the way no other system achieved it. Islam initiated the process of freeing slaves, gave property rights for women fourteen centuries ago, Qur'an declared women to be equal with men (Qur'an 16:97) and gave them dignity rather than making them an object of pleasure for men. Equality of people was declared in the Qur'an (49:13) and taking money from the rich and giving to the poor was mandatory (Qur'an 57:7, 59:7, 2:177, 2:215, 2:219, 2:261-273, 9:60). In law it was made mandatory to give true witness (Qur'an 4:135 and 5:8). This was the Islamic justice that induced Spaniards to invite Muslims to conquer their country and establish a just rule. Similarly, earlier Syrians had preferred Muslims to their co-religionists, Byzantine, as rulers. This is an independent topic and a lot has been written by the Muslims. Jews on the other hand became known as loan sharks becoming rich at the expense of others, merciless exploitation of the gentiles as well as weak and poor of their own.
(f) Rulers over the world. Muslims established the largest empire in the known world of the time and remained as the Super Power of the world until the rise of European colonialism. We are seeing the shrinkage of hold of the West over the world. We have not reached the end of time yet and time will show the truth of Islam and God's covenant will be fulfilled by the hands of Muslims. Jews never ruled an area larger than Palestine and remained an insignificant power even during the periods of David and Solomon, the mightiest Bani Israel power.
Arabs and Muslims are not anti-Semite
1. Arabs who constitute nearly 20% of the Muslim world population are themselves Semitic people; naturally, they will not hate themselves. Then, how can other Muslims hate their own brethren? Muslims have no reason to hate Jews but rather hate the Zionist philosophy and activities.
2. Unlike Christians, Muslims do not blame the Jews for crucifying or killing Jesus because Qur'an absolved the Jews of this allegation. We read in the Qur'an, "they (Jews) did not slay him (Jesus Christ), and neither did they crucify him…" (4:157).
3. In the 13 centuries of history from 638 to the 1930s, there was no animosity between Muslims and the Jews. There have been rare and isolated occasions when a "Muslim" ruler persecuted Jews but he was an equal opportunity persecutor who persecuted Christians as well as Muslims except his own narrow sect. In fact, Muslims have been best friends of the Jews throughout Islamic history.
4. After 9-11 George Bush declared, "You are either with us or against us" meaning that if you are not an ally of the U.S., you become automatically an enemy. George Bush did not invent this idea but adopted the Zionist policy. The Zionists use the whip of anti-Semitism against anyone or any people or a government who are not 1000 percent supporters of the Zionism and Israel. There is no room for even-handed policy or neutrality in the Middle East. I think it was William Rogers, Secretary of State in 1970s who said that he would follow "even handed" policy in the Middle East; he was immediately haunted, labeled as an anti-Semite and was removed from the administration. There is a need to remove this blackmailing whip of "anti-Semite" from the hands of the Zionists and Israelis.
The claim of the Israelis, supported by the Christians of the West, that only the Jews are inheritors of God's covenant with Abraham has been examined above. The following is concluded:
1. In the light of the Bible and the Qur'an, God's covenant would not extend to the sinners and transgressors from Abraham's progeny.
2. In the light of the Bible, the Jews have proven themselves to be sinners and transgressors making them unworthy of inheriting God's covenant with Abraham.
3. God made an independent covenant with Ishmael to make him a great nation.
4. The political history of Palestine shows that Bani Israel ruled the land for less than 400 years whereas Ishmaelites ruled it for 1280 years of the 3200 years of the existence of Bani Israel. Ishmaelites got control over Palestine within 28 years of the rise of Islam whereas Bani Israel got power over it more than five centuries after the birth of the tribes of Bani Israel. It shows that God's choice to pass on the inheritance of Abraham was for the people of his faith more than his descendants. Ishmaelites fit both criteria under Islam.
5. Making Abraham's name great or making him a great nation may have several meanings. Six criteria have been studied under this heading and found that only Arabs (Ishmaelites) and Muslims fulfill the criteria whereas the Bani Israel are left behind and lost in the dust.
After this study, it will take courage and neutrality to accept the Muslim's claims to Palestine. The prejudiced West, due to its hatred of Islam and Arabs, appears to be incapable of accepting the obvious. It will take only God's miracle to convince the West about the Truth. Obviously, the claim of the Jews to Palestine supported by the western Christians is absurd and laughable.
July 10, 2003