Saturday, 14 April 2012

Israeliyyat : Stories from Israelites

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

I feel very sad today. Actually I am always sad in this life. I don't know when I was so happy though I sometimes laugh or smile in front of people. I actually never realize that I am in existence. I just want to talk about Israeliyyat. 

Why am I Talking about This?

We are of Hadrami descents. Hadrami kings or the Taba'i nobilities are Southern Arabs who were converted into Judaism by Aronic cohens from Yathrib (old Medina) before prophet Muhammad s.a.w was born. Judaism was actually the tribal religion of the Hebrews and it is only restricted to others after the massacre which was committed by an Arab Jew king in Southern Arabia.

Sometimes when I saw some Sayyids calling themselves as Taba'i, I was confused. Were their ancestors Yemenite Jews but why they're claiming themselves the descents of Muhammad s.a.w? I am aware about those who call themselves Sayyids. Our people are also connected to them through few clans such as the Jamalullail, Shahabuddin and the al-Yahya clans. They are all Yemeni clans. However I never consider them as my relatives because most of them are rich people. Some that I know actually I never shake hand with them when I meet them not even introducing myself. I am afraid my hand is filthy to touch their "holy" hands and we are nobody to them or anyone.

After I learned about our Yemenite history. I sometimes call myself a Hebrew because it reflects our ancestors' historical land in Yemen. There were few Medinan and Yemenite Jews who reverted to Islam during the period of Muhammad s.a.w as they witnessed his prophethood. One of them is Abdullah bin Salaam radhiallahu 'anhu.  He is actually a person considered as a saint by our people and he was a Levite Jew priest. Levite is a priestly tribe of Jews, prayer services could only be conducted by them.

Those who said that Islam copy this or copy that from Judeo-Christian traditions for me are simply idiots. Our Lord is just One. It is useless to argue with idiots. It is best to just shut up and observe more rather than talking because when we talk a lot the guidance will be stopped and silly things come out. I don't like also seeing fellow Muslims talking about Bible this and Bible that while they do not even touch the branches knowledge of Islam such as Seerah (History and Chronicles of our Ancestors), Tafseer (Quranic Interpretations), Tajweed (Quranic Recitation Laws), Hadith, Quran and etc. That is why I find it hard for me to mingle with people. Last time I heard few Islam Shumul brothers talking about Bible in musalla. I am lazy to join their halaqah. Not because I am stingy to share my experience or sharing view. I am just afraid they can't accept what I am going to talk to them. It is easy to just talk I can just do it without having to consider anything. But after all whatever I am doing I am taking care about the unity of the nations.

I love to go to see how people manage the corpse if I am free to remind me it is important and I will also die or going to listen about pilgrimage and salat services rather than comparing this and that. It is wasting the time. We just talk but we never experience anything. In case for example we talk about the late Ahmad Deedat researched about this and that. That is his researches and observation. Not ours. His condition and period of time is different so we have to take into consideration about this too. I was a kafir before so basically I know how a kafir thinks. I don't care about any people wanted to attack Muslim's faith. The power of Guidance is within His Will and He is the One who takes care the affairs of the universe. Human have their own choice and is given mind so use the mind wisely with the guide from scripture and His revelation.        

I don't know about Muslims in other region such as in China as you people are a bit isolated from mainstream world. I wanted to talk with you people about this because Yemenite Arab descents were also taught with these. I would like to know your view about this but I think I must also find suitable people and not "kids" and also those who do not simply assume me a "Malay". About South East Asian Muslims, they are exposed to Middle East issues as what you can see, we Middle Easterners descent had also exist here since 300 years ago not to take into account those who had already assimilated into native society or perhaps had also embraced native religion such as those in Thailand and Myanmar. Our ancestors were their teachers.    


In its simplest term, Israeliyyat is a term to refer to information, narrations and stories which were taken from the Israelites and the Nazarenes (Christians). It covers ancient nations' stories, prophets and messengers' of the God stories and narrations about the creation of the universe. Some scholars had also make this definition broader to cover other tales such as from Zoroastrian (Iranian religion). In seerah that we learned in madrasah, Zoroastrians are known as Shibhu Ahlul Kitaab which means resembles the people of the scriptures.

So, whatever exegesis related to Israeliyyat or Israeliyat interpretation refer to exegesis of the scripture were made based on the narrations and reports from Jews and Nazarenes sources or foreign elements which were absorbed into the exegesis. Israeliyyat is actually exegesis from Jews teachers and rabbis known as Midrash. So brothers and sisters when wanted to talk about these people instead of just reading something in surface or listening in forums from second-hands why not consider getting it from first sources? If we think that we are not capable to have contact with priests or rabbis so we just first study something step by step and avoid talking about what we have no knowledge about.

What is the Role of the People of the Scriptures in This Matter?

Jews and Nazarenes are known as the people of scriptures. This actually specifically refers to their priests and jurists. For me the same thing also goes to Muslim since Muslim posses the scripture (Quran). So, we are the people of scripture. The Jews and Nazarenes were revealed with the Torah and gospels as what has been mentioned by the Lord in surah al-Maaidah verse 15.

Since prophet Muhammad s.a.w was still around, people of scriptures were also there. Some companions of prophet Muhammad s.a.w also referred to people of the scriptures when trying to get the explanation and interpretation of the stories mentioned in the glorious Quran for example about the miracles of prophet Jesus a.s, about previous nations such as the dwellers of the cave and others. Their intention is to get the explanation about the stories which has similarities with what has been mentioned in Torah and Gospel. For me, the Lord who reveals Torah and Gospel is the same Lord. It's not even a big deal or nothing to be surprised of. The stories in Quran are more simple as it serves moral purposes and poetic while in Torah and Gospel most of them are detailed in form of figures and others. The connection between stories is a factor for people getting explanation for each other. About poetic or not, only an Arab could understand his culture and language. 

Are We Allowed to Use Israeliyyat Exegesis for Da'awa Purposes?

Everyone should first see the position of the narration from Israeliyyat. In this matter, scholars of Islam have divided this into three parts:

1. Information and narration is of no doubt as it is validated by the glorious Quran and Sunnah. Whatever is categorized into this first part can be narrated again and being used in arguments. This is like what has been mentioned by prophet Muhammad s.a.w : "And narrate this from the Children of Israel, nothing wrong with it..." (Sahih Bukhari no. 3451). 

2. Information and narration is known as lies and it is not in accordance with Quran and Sunnah. All those which are categorized in this part are prohibited from being narrated, using it as an argument or asking about them.

3. Whatever which has been explained are of no comment as it is not categorized in both the first and second parts. We do not agree with it nor we claim it as lies. It is from the hadith of prophet Muhammad s.a.w which says: "Do not agree with the people of scriptures and do not say that they are lying (Sahih Bukhari no. 4485). 

From these explanations, it is obvious that some of the narrations and exegesis from people of the scriptures could be used in performing da'awa and some are prohibited from being narrated because of their doubtful origin. It is because in our society, people will be so happy if they could listen to something which is detailed. This why sometimes Israeliyyat being used as to bring people attention to listen about the God. The intention is good but if it is misused, it could make people deviating. So, scholars should be more careful when narrating stories from the glorious Quran and have to make sure that they are valid and of known origin. It is since the public could not differentiate what is Israeliyyat or what is not. When they read anything being told in magazines or books, they just believe it without questioning or asking about it and making it the basis of their faith.     

Is the Israeliyyat Exegesis  Harmful to the Shariah?

According to Dr. Abdul Rashid Ahmad from Islamic Education Academy, University Malaya says that it depends whether it is in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah or not. If not in accordance, then of course it is harmful to the Shariah. It should be discarded and just a waste of time to be spread around because they are nonsensical. For example the exegesis or explanation about prophet Ayyub (Job) a.s. who was said as bed-ridden for many years until his body was infected with scabies and worm-eaten. His flesh was said as fall off from his bones. This story might be exaggerated.

Another one is like what has been seen in Hashishah Tafseer Jalalayn by as-Sawi where an explanation in the book was about the earth is on the horn of a bull and the bull is on a whale (exegesis of surah Nun by as-Sawi). The exegesis also talks about the story of prophet Solomon a.s. who had build a palace where its floor is made of glass. When Queen Sheba walks on it she thinks that it is a pond so she flicks up her gown so prophet Solomon a.s had saw her calves which was claimed by a genie as fury like camel's. It seems like unfit for a noble prophet to do something wickedly just to see woman's calves (Tafseer Jalalayn Surah an-Naml verse 44).

In other explanation, there is also a mention about prophet Solomon a.s. had missed his 'Asr prayer service due to that he was occupied checking horses for a battle (Tafsir Jalalayn Surah Saad verse 31). These examples are some illogical examples which came from Israeliyyat or Midrash. Others like the earth is located on bull's horn is also nonsensical.     

How to Detect Israeliyyat Exegesis and Explanations of the Quran?

The majority of the explanations connected to Israeliyyat happens when interpreting the verses related to Quranic stories. Any detailed explanation about Quranic verses must be taken into attention whether it is from validated sources or else.

Methods to Detect Its Validity

1. Evaluate the narrations whether it is in accordance to Shariah Islamiah or not.
2. Logical or sensical. Many of the narrations from Israeliyat are also non-sensical.
3. It could be detected through comments made by the writer of explanations when he explains something related to Israeliyyat in his exegesis kitab.

Books to Refer

There are also some scholars like Ibnu Kathir who mentions Israeliyyat in his exegesis kitab. He mentions it as Israeliyyat just to inform society about so people are aware about it. It could also be referred in books such as:

1. Abu Shahbah, Muhammad bin Muhammad. 1408. Al-Israeliyyat wal Mawdu'at fi Kutub at-Tafseer.
2. Al-Dhhabi, Muhammad Husayn. 1987. At-Tafseer wal Mufassirun.
3. Abdul Wahhab Abdul Wahhab Faid. 1978. Ad-Dakhil fil Quranul Karim.

There are also many studies done in Malay but I don't know whether it is abundant in Chinese or Japanese. I just mention this so people could be aware and start doing translation for religious knowledge purposes since today is modern days not like old days where Chinese was an ancient language. Don't be stingy share with brothers and sisters. I am reading the Kitab Han which is the synthesis of Confucianism tradition and Islam and it is tough. Some of new characters are severely being cut off and I can't recognize them as compared to traditional characters. I am sweating when reading it and shy to get help from Muslim brothers from China because I think they must be busy. I am doing this as a service for Him and I will still work for Him with my heart when I am done with this "torture" in the university. 

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace and love amin!

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