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Islam’s Jew-Hating Hadith in Context

The infamous hadith about the Jew hiding behind a tree is not some apocrophyl canon held in esteem by an unimportant few, but runs parallel to anti-Jewish motifs throughout the Koran.
Muhammad Al-Arifi

Muhammad Al-Arifi

Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Arifi made the following “observations” which aired on Palestinian Arab Al-Aqsa TV, September 12, 2008:

Studies conducted in Tel Aviv and in the Palestinian lands occupied by the Jews showed that they plant trees around their homes, because the Prophet Muhammad said that when the Muslims fight the Jews, each and every stone and tree will say: “Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” The only exception is the gharqad tree, which is one of the trees of the Jews, and if they hide behind it, it will not reveal their presence. According to reports of people who went there and saw it with their own eyes, man Jews plant gharqad trees around their homes, so that when the fighting begins, they can hide behind them. They are not man enough to stand and fight you.

Muslim Waffen SS soldiers reading a pamphlet by the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj-Amin el-Husseini.

Muslim Waffen SS soldiers reading a pamphlet by the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj-Amin el-Husseini. From Jennie Lebel’s 2007 biography of the Mufti.

These Jew-hating motifs were reiterated by Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Talat Afifi, during an interview shown on Sada Al-Balad TV, March 14, 2013. In response to an interviewer’s query about visiting Israel with “only with a Palestinian visa,” Afifi replied,

This is premature. Let’s wait until it happens. However, we hope that the words of the Prophet Muhammad will be fulfilled: “Judgment Day will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the rocks and the trees, but the rocks and the trees will say: Oh Muslim , oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him – except for the gharqad tree, which is one of the trees of the Jews.” We fully believe that the future of this land lies with Islam and the Muslims.

While such hatemongering statements appear utterly bizarre to Jews devoid of any understanding of Islam’s foundational texts, and notwithstanding Sinem Tezyapar’s attempt to negate this reality in The Jewish Press, Egyptian cleric Ali Afifi, and earlier, Saudi cleric Al-Arifi’s inflammatory references to Jews, have sacralized origins immediately apparent to Muslim audiences. The crux of their remarks, in fact, merely reiterate verbatim, a canonical hadith, specifically Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985, which is also featured prominently in the Hamas Covenant, article 7.

Briefly (see 1, 2, 3, 4 for an in depth 4-part discussion), what are the hadith, and which specific antisemitic motifs do they contain? Hadith, which means “story” (“narrative”), refers to any report of what the Muslim prophet Muhammad said or did, or his tacit assent to something said or done in his presence. (Hadith is also used as the technical term for the “science” of such “traditions”). As a result of a lengthy process which continued for centuries after Muhammad’s death (in 632), the hadith emerged for Muslims as second in authority to the Koran itself. Sunna, which means “path” refers to a normative custom of Muhammad or of the early Islamic community. The hadith “justify and confirm” the Sunna. Henri Lammens, a seminal early 20th century scholar of Islam, highlighted the importance of the Sunna (and, by extension, the hadith):

As early as the first century A.H. [the 7th century] the following aphorism was pronounced: “The Sunna can dispense with the Koran but not the Koran with the Sunna.” Proceeding to still further lengths, some Muslims assert that “in controversial matters, the Sunna overrules the authority of the Koran, but not vice versa”…all admit the Sunna completes and explains it [the Koran].

The hadith compiled by al-Bukhari (d. 870) and Muslim b. al-Hajjaj (d. 875) are considered, respectively, to be the most important authoritative collections. The titles Sahih (“sound”) or Jami, indicating their comprehensiveness, signify the high esteem in which they are held. Their comprehensive content includes information regarding religious duties, law and everyday practice (down to the most mundane, or intimate details), in addition to a considerable amount of biographical and other material. Four other compilations, called Sunan works, which indicates that they are limited to matters of religious and social practice, and law, also became authoritative. Abu Dawud (d. 888), al-Tirmidhi (d. 892), Ibn Maja (d. 896), and al-Nasi (d. 915) compiled these works. By the beginning of the 12th century, Ibn Maja’s collection became the last of these compilations of hadith to be recognized as “canonical.”

Before one can fully appreciate the major antisemitic themes in the hadith, it is critical to understand the antecedent Koranic motifs of Jew hatred which these hadith “complete and explain.” The Koran’s central anti-Semitic motif decrees an eternal curse upon the Jews (Koran 2:61/ reiterated at 3:112) for slaying the prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah (It should be noted that Koran 3:112 is featured just before the pre-amble to Hamas’ foundational Covenant).  This central motif is coupled with Koranic verses 5:60, and 5:78, which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60)—as invoked by Egyptian Prime Minister Morsi—or simply apes, (i.e. verses 2:65 and 7:166), having been “…cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus, Mary’s son” (5:78). Muhammad himself repeats this Koranic curse in a canonical hadith (Sunan Abu Dawoud, Book 37, Number 4322),

“He [Muhammad] then recited the verse [5:78]: ‘…curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary.’” 

And the related verse, 5:64, accuses the Jews—as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did in a January 2007 speech, citing Koran 5:64—of being “spreaders of war and corruption,” a sort of ancient Koranic antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The centrality of the Jews’ permanent “abasement and humiliation,” and being “laden with God’s anger” is clearly enunciated in the most authoritative Muslim exegetic literature on Koran 2:61/3:112, both ancient and contemporary. By nature deceitful and treacherous, the Jews rejected Allah’s signs and prophets, including Isa, the Muslim Jesus. Classical and modern Koranic commentators, when discussing Koran 5:82, which includes the statement, “Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of men to the believers are the Jews,”  also concur on the unique animus of the Jews towards the Muslims, which is repeatedly linked to the curse of  Koran 2:61/3:112. For example, in his commentary on 5:82, the great Muslim historian and renowned Koranic exegete al-Tabari (d. 923) writes,

In my opinion, [the Christians] are not like the Jews who always scheme in order to murder the emissaries and the prophets, and who oppose God in his positive and negative commandments, and who corrupt His scripture which He revealed in His books.

Tabari’s classical interpretations of Koran 5:82 and 2:61,  as well as his discussion of the related verse 9:29 –a jihad war proclamation—mandating the Jews (and Christians) payment of the jizya (Koranic poll-tax), represent both anti-Semitic and more general anti-dhimmi (i.e., non-Muslims subjugated by jihad) views that became, and remain, intrinsic to Islam to this day. Here is Tabari’s discussion of 2:61 and its relationship to verse 9:29, which emphasizes the purposely debasing nature of the Koranic poll tax:

“[A]basement and poverty were imposed and laid down upon them”, as when someone says “the imam imposed the poll tax (jizya)on free non-Muslim subjects,” or “The man imposed land tax on his slave,” meaning thereby that he obliged him [to pay ] it, or, “The commander imposed a sortie on his troops,” meaning he made it their duty.…God commanded His believing servants not to give them [i.e., the non-Muslim people of the scripture] security—as long as they continued to disbelieve in Him and his Messenger—unless they paid the poll tax to them; God said: “Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden—such men as practice not the religion of truth [Islam], being of those who have been given the Book [Bible]—until they pay the poll tax, being humble” (Koran 9:29).

The dhimmis [non-Muslim tributary’s] posture during the collection of the jizya- “[should be lowering themselves] by walking on their hands, …reluctantly

… His words “and abasement and poverty were imposed upon them”, ‘These are the Jews of the Children of Israel’. ..‘Are they the Copts of Egypt?’…“What have the Copts of Egypt to do with this? No, by God, they are not; but they are the Jews, the Children of Israel.…By “and slain the prophets unrightfully” He means that they used to kill the Messengers of God without God’s leave, denying their messages and rejecting their prophethood.

Indeed the Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process. The Jews’ ultimate sin and punishment are made clear: they are the devil’s minions (4:60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47), and if they do not accept the true faith of Islam—the Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113)—they will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and swine (5:60), and burn in the hell fires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19).

The Koranic curse (verses 2:61/3:112) upon the Jews for (primarily) rejecting, even slaying Allah’s prophets, including Isa/Jesus (or at least his “body double” 4:157-4:158), is updated with perfect archetypal logic in the canonical hadith: following the Muslims’ initial conquest of the Jewish farming oasis of Khaybar, one of the vanquished Jewesses reportedly served Muhammad poisoned mutton (or goat), which resulted, ultimately, in his protracted, agonizing death. And Ibn Saad’s sira (i.e., one of the earliest pious Muslim biographies of the Muslim prophet) account maintains that Muhammad’s poisoning resulted from a well-coordinated Jewish conspiracy.

George Vajda’s seminal 1937 analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs in the hadith remains the definitive work on this subject. Vajda concluded that according to the hadith, stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic: rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature: “sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.”

Here is but a very incomplete sampling of pogroms and mass murderous violence against Jews living under Islamic rule, across space and time, all resulting from the combined effects of jihadism, general anti-dhimmi, and/or specifically anti-Semitic motifs in Islam: 6,000 Jews were massacred in Fez in 1033; hundreds of Jews were slaughtered in Muslim Cordoba between 1010 and 1015; 4,000 Jews were killed in Muslim riots in Grenada in 1066, wiping out the entire community; the Berber Muslim Almohad depredations of Jews (and Christians) in Spain and North Africa between 1130 and 1232, which killed tens of thousands, while forcibly converting thousands more, and subjecting the forced Jewish converts to Islam to a Muslim Inquisition; the 1291 pogroms in Baghdad and its environs, which killed (at least) hundreds of Jews; the 1465 pogrom against the Jews of Fez; the late 15th century pogrom against the Jews of the Southern Moroccan oasis town of Touat; the 1679 pogroms against, and then expulsion of  10,000 Jews from Sanaa, Yemen to the unlivable, hot and dry Plain of Tihama, from which only 1,000 returned alive, in 1680, 90% having died from exposure.

Muslim anti-Jewish violence — including pogroms and forced conversions — was recurring throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which rendered areas of Iran (for example, Tabriz) Judenrein; the 1834 pogrom in Safed where raging Muslim mobs killed and grievously wounded hundreds of Jews; the 1888 massacres of Jews in Isfahan and Shiraz, Iran; the 1910 pogrom in Shiraz; the pillage and destruction of the Casablanca, Morocco ghetto in 1907; the pillage of the ghetto of Fez  Morocco in 1912; the government sanctioned anti-Jewish pogroms by Muslims in Turkish Eastern Thrace during June-July, 1934 which ethnically cleansed at least 3000 Jews; and the series of pogroms, expropriations, and finally mass expulsions of some 900,000 Jews from Arab Muslim nations, beginning in 1941 in Baghdad (the murderous “Farhud,” during which 600 Jews were murdered, and at least 12,000 pillaged) — eventually involving cities and towns in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Aden, Bahrain, and culminating in 1967 in Tunisia — that accompanied the planning and creation of a Jewish state, Israel, on a portion of the Jews’ ancestral homeland.

The annihilationist sentiments regarding Jews expressed by Muhammad Al-Arifi and Talat Afifi, and incorporated permanently into the 1988 Hamas Covenant, are also rooted, directly, in Islamic eschatology, or “end of times” theology. As characterized in the hadith, Muslim eschatology highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered— everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharqad tree, as per the canonical hadith included in the 1988 Hamas Charter (article 7).

Another hadith variant, which takes place in Jerusalem, has Isa (the Muslim Jesus) leading the Arabs in a rout of the Dajjâl and his company of 70,000 armed Jews. And the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology—on the day of resurrection the vanquished Jews will be consigned to hell fire, and this will expiate Muslims who have sinned, sparing them from this fate.

Professor Moshe Sharon provided a very lucid summary of the unique features of Shi’ite eschatology, Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s deep personal attachment to “mahdism,” and the  key point of consistency between Shi’a and Sunni understandings of this doctrine—which emphasizes Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985—noting:

both Shi’ites and Sunnis share one particular detail about “the coming of the hour” and the dawning of messianic times: The Jews must all suffer a violent death, to the last one. Both Shi’ites and Sunnis quote the famous hadith [Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985]  attributed to Muhammad…

Professor Sharon further observes,

Not one Friday passes without this hadith being quoted in sermons from one side of the Islamic world to the other.

The rise of Jewish nationalism—Zionism—posed a predictable, if completely unacceptable challenge to the Islamic order—jihad-imposed chronic dhimmitude for Jews—of apocalyptic magnitude. As historian Bat Ye’or has explained,

…because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery [pace Koran 17:4-5/ 7:168; and 2:61/3:112], the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad.

This is exactly the Islamic context in which the widespread, “resurgent” use of Jew annihilationist apocalyptic motifs, would be an anticipated, even commonplace occurrence. And for seven decades, promoters of modern jihad genocide have consistently invoked Islam’s Jew-exterminating eschatology.

Hajj Amin el-Husseini, ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, and Muslim jihadist, who became, additionally, a full-fledged Nazi collaborator and ideologue in his endeavors to abort a Jewish homeland, and destroy world Jewry, composed a 1943 recruitment pamphlet (see Jennie Lebel’s 2007 biography of the Mufti , pp. 311-319) for Balkan Muslims entitled, “Islam and the Jews.” This incendiary document hinged upon anti-Semitic motifs from the Koran (for example, 5:82), and the hadith (including Muhammad’s alleged poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess), and concluded with the apocalyptic canonical hadith describing the Jews’ annihilation.

Forty-five years later the same hadith was incorporated into the 1988 Hamas Covenant, making clear the jihad terrorist organization had its own aspirations for a genocide of the Jews. Sheer ignorance of this history and theology are pathognomonic of much larger and more dangerous phenomena: the often willful, craven failure to examine and understand the living legacy of Islam’s foundational anti-Jewish animus, or acknowledge the depth of Jew hatred that pervades contemporary Islam’s clerical leadership, including within major Muslim communities of the United States.

For example, Fawaz Damra, the former Imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, was touted as a promoter of  interfaith dialogue even after evidence of his participation in fundraising events for the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), was produced, along with a videotape of the Imam telling a crowd of Muslim supporters in 1991 that they should aim “…a rifle at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation, and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews.” Convicted in 2004 for lying to immigration officials about his links to the PIJ, Damra, who was born in Nablus in 1961, was subsequently deported back to the West Bank in January 2007.

And on October 39, 2007 it was announced that Imam Ahmed Alzaree—the first permanent successor to Damra—resigned as the new “spiritual leader” of the Islamic Center of Cleveland three days prior to officially beginning the job. Alzaree, who at one stage of the vetting process expressed the unusual reservation that “he would not come to Cleveland because a reporter was inquiring about his background,” ostensibly accepted the position as noted on October 26, 2007, then pre-emptively resigned a few days later, after the contents of two “khutbahs” (sermons) he had delivered on March 7, 2003, were revealed.  Alzaree concluded the second sermon with the same apocalyptic canonical hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985)—repeated in the 1988 Hamas Covenant.

Over 850 years ago, elaborating on the depth of Muslim hatred for the Jews in his era,  Maimonides (in ~ 1172 C.E.) made this profound observation regarding the Jewish predilection for denial, a feature that he insists will hasten their destruction.

We have acquiesced, both old and young, to inure ourselves to humiliation…All this notwithstanding, we do not escape this continued maltreatment [by Muslims] which well nigh crushes us. No matter how much we suffer and elect to remain at peace with them, they stir up strife and sedition.

The Jews and their communal leaders like Maimonides living under Islamic rule in the Middle Ages—vanquished by jihad, isolated, and well-nigh defenseless under the repressive system of dhimmitude—can be excused for their submissive denial. There is no such excuse in our era , however, given the existence of an autonomous Jewish State of Israel, and a thriving Western Jewish diaspora, particularly here in the United States, living under the blanket of hard won protections for their religious freedom, physical security, and dignity.

As a pre-condition to real dialogue—not its miserable simulacrum—Jews and their leadership—religious, political, and intellectual—must demand from their Muslim counterparts acknowledgment and wrenching reform of the sacralized Islamic Jew hatred which is still being taught and promoted in Islamic schools, religious institutions, and even on U.S. university campuses. Speaking as a Jew, let us demonstrate as Jews that we are no longer content living with Maimonides’ 12th century expectations of Muslims, otherwise they will oblige us.

About the Author: Andrew G. Bostom, M.D., is the author of the highly acclaimed The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, and, Sharia Versus Freedom—The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism. Dr. Bostom has published numerous articles and commentaries on Islam in the New York Post, Washington Times, The New York Daily News, National Review Online, The American Thinker, Pajamas Media, FrontPage Magazine.com, and other print and online publications. More on Andrew Bostom’s work can be found at his blog: www.andrewbostom.org.


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4 Responses to “Islam’s Jew-Hating Hadith in Context”

  1. David Weitz says:

    A "Must Read" for everyone interested in the Middle East dispute. Now you will understand why the Arab-Israeli dispute will NEVER be settled until Muslims exorcise the hateful, antisemiticl Hadiths and passages from the Koran from their belief system.

  2. Yechiel Baum says:

    Notice the yamulke being hidden underneath the Kafiya.
    They are jealous of Judaism that we are GODS chosen people while they are born from an Egyptian maid servant and concubine which is low class. making them bastards in the eyes of the Lord.

  3. The author conflicts himself; in the beginning he dismisses my article and writes: "… and notwithstanding Sinem Tezyapar's attempt to negate this reality in The Jewish Press…"
    Then, in the end he demands: "As a pre-condition to real dialogue… Jews… must demand… acknowledgment and wrenching reform of the sacralized Islamic Jew hatred…"
    But when I write against radicals who preach hatred, he is not willing to accept it as an honest call for change! Does he really want dialogue and reconciliation, or is he so deeply invested in his research of the conflict that he rejects any sign of a positive change?
    I am a devout Muslim and my positive approach and interpretation is purely based on Quran, Islam's foundation. And I responded to these question in my previous articles:
    Why It Is a False Statement to Say Jews Are Cursed or Apes According to Islam?
    Why It Is a False Statement to Say Jews Are the Army of Dajjal (Anti-Messiah) According to Islam?
    http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/much-of-what-you-think-you-know-about-islam-is-wrong/2013/01/17/

  4. Donny Kligman says:

    Finally a article with sense! Sinem wants Israel to be part of the "Turkish Islamic Union." We say NO THANKS!

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The infamous hadith about the Jew hiding behind a tree is not some apocrophyl canon held in esteem by an unimportant few, but runs parallel to anti-Jewish motifs throughout the Koran.

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