Uzair

Uzair
Site traditionally described as the tomb of Ezra at Al Uzayr near Basra.

Uzayr - identified with the Judeo-Christian Ezra (Arabic: 'عزير, 'Uzair, Turkish: 'Üzeyir) - is a figure mentioned in the Qur'an, in the verse 9:30, which claims that he was revered by the Jews as "the son of God".[1]

Although not explicitly mentioned in the Quran among the prophets, Ezra is considered as one by some Muslim scholars, based on Islamic traditions. Ezra lived between the times of King Solomon and the time of Zachariah, father of John the Baptist.[2][3]

On the other hand, Muslim scholars such as Mutahhar al-Maqdisi and Djuwayni and notably Ibn Hazm and al-Samaw'al accused Ezra (or one of his disciples) of falsification of the Torah.[1] Several sources state that the Qur'an refers to Jews who began to call Ezra a "son of God" due to his religious achievements coupled with the misunderstanding of his position in the Jewish faith as a Bene Elohim.[4]

Contents

Quranic statements about perceived Jewish exaltation

The Quran claims that Jews exalted Ezra as a son of God:

The Jews call Ezra a son of God, and the Christians call the Christ a son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Quran 9:30)

These words are an enigma, because no such opinion is found among the Jews, although Ezra was a subject of special appreciation (see Sanh. 21b; Yev. 86b)." The Encyclopaedia Judaica states these are excuses Muslim apologists came up with because of the statement being unfounded. It refers to the explanation H. Z. Hirschberg proposed based on what Ibn Hazm said, (Ibn Hazm was a 10th century Muslim Spanish apologist who never lived in Yemen, yet who claimed there was some group of Yemenite Jews who believed that 'Uzayr was indeed the son of Allah') that perhaps just the righteous of Yemen believed Ezra was the son of God.[5] However there is no evidence of this group's existence.[6] Further refuting this explanation, the Encyclopaedia Judaica entry on Ezra states that Yemenite Jews do not name their children Ezra, who, according to their accounts, cursed the Yemenite Jews to be poor because they would not move to Israel. The claim that Ezra is the son of God also contradicts the Book of Ezra, which is accepted by Jews, in which it is specifically stated that Ezra is the son of Seraiah.

Heribert Busse writes "The only explanation is the presumption that Muhammad, in the heat of debate, wanted to accuse the Jews of heretical doctrine on a par with the heresy of the Christian doctrine that teaches the divine nature of Jesus. In doing so, he could take advantage of the high esteem granted Ezra in Judaism."[7]

View by modern Muslim scholars

In the Qur'an, the verses do not specify to particular groups. For example, when it speaks of the Christians worshiping Christ as the son of God, it doesn't specifically say Trinitarian Christians, instead just using the generic term Christian. Therefore, it obviously does not refer to all Christians, such as Unitarians, who call Christ a prophet rather than son of God. Therefore, this verse refers to those Jews who, according to the Qur'an, did or do call Ezra son of God, rather than the majority who revere him as a scribe. As the Qur'an says:

  • Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
    —Qur'an, sura 2 (Al-Baqarah), ayat 62[8]
  • Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] - those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness - will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.
    —Qur'an, sura 3 (Al-Imran), ayat 113-115[9]

Jewish tradition and literature

A fundamental tenet of Judaism is that God is not bound by any limitations of time, matter, or space, and that the idea of any person being God, a part of God, or a mediator to God, is heresy.[10] The Book of Ezra, which Judaism accepts as a chronicle of the life of Ezra and which predates Muhammad and the Qur'an by around 1000 years, gives Ezra's human lineage as being the son of Seraiah and a direct descendant of Aaron. Tractate Ta'anit of the Jerusalem Talmud, which predates Muhammad by two to three hundred years, states explicitly that “if a man claims to be God, he is a liar.”[11] Furthermore Exodus Rabba 29 says, "'I am the first and I am the last, and beside Me there is no God' I am the first, I have no father; I am the last, I have no brother. Beside Me there is no God; I have no son."[12] However the term 'sons of gods' occurs in Genesis.[13] There are differing interpretations of what this means.[14]

The Qur'anic verse on Ezra appears in one of Maimonides's discussions about the relationship between Judaism and Islam where he says “…they [Muslims] lie about us [Jews], and falsely attribute to us the statement that God has a son.”[15]

Abraham Geiger remarked the following concerning the claim that Jews believed Ezra to be the son of God: “According to the assertion of Muhammad the Jews held Ezra to be the Son of God. This is certainly a mere misunderstanding which arose from the great esteem in which Ezra was undoubtedly held. This esteem is expressed in the following passage ‘Ezra would have been worthy to have made known the law if Moses had not come before him.’ Truly Muhammad sought to cast suspicion on the Jews’ faith in the unity of God, and thought he had here found a good opportunity of so doing.”[16]

In some Islamic narrations, Ezra is the person mentioned in the following Qur'anic verse:[3]

Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet, all in ruins to its roofs. He said: "Oh! how shall God bring it (ever) to life, after (this) its death?" but God caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: "How long didst thou tarry (thus)?" He said: (Perhaps) a day or part of a day." He said: "Nay, thou hast tarried thus a hundred years; but look at thy food and thy drink; they show no signs of age; and look at thy donkey: And that We may make of thee a sign unto the people, Look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh." When this was shown clearly to him, he said: "I know that God hath power over all things." (Quran 2:259)

According to Islamic scholar, Ibn Kathir, after questioning how the resurrection will take place on the Day of judgment, God had him brought back to life many years after he died. He rode on his revived donkey and entered his native place. But the people did not recognize him, nor did his household, except the maid, who was now an old blind woman. He prayed to God to cure her blindness and she could see again. He meets his son who recognized him by a mole between his shoulders and was older than he was. Ezra then led the people to locate the only surviving copy of Torah as the remaining were burnt by Nebuchadnezzar. It was rotting and crumpled, so Ezra had a new copy of the Torah made which he had previously memorised. He thus renovated the Torah to the Children of Israel. Ibn Kathir mentions that the sign in the phrase "And that We may make of thee a sign unto the people" was that he was younger than his children. After this miracle, Ibn Kathir writes that Jews began to claim that Ezra was the 'son of God'.[17]

The commentary of Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi states: Uzair (Ezra) lived during the period around 450 B.C. The Jews regarded him with great reverence as the revivalist of their Scriptures which had beat lost during their captivity in Babylon after the death of Prophet Solomon. So much so that they had lost all the knowledge of their Law, their traditions and of Hebrew, their national language. Then it was Ezra who re-wrote the Old Testament and revived the Law. That is why they used very exaggerated language in his reverence which misled some of the Jewish sects to make him 'the son of God'. The Qur'an, however, does not assert that all the Jews were unanimous in declaring Ezra as 'the son of God'. What it intends to say is that the perversion in the articles of faith of the Jews concerning Allah had degenerated to such an extent that there were some amongst them who considered Ezra as the son of God.

Accusations of falsification

Ibn Hazm, an Andalusian Muslim scholar, explicitly accused Ezra of being a liar and a heretic who falsified and added interpolations into the Biblical text. Ibn Hazm provided a polemical list of what he considered "chronological and geographical inaccuracies and contradictions; theological impossibilities (anthropomorphic expressions, stories of fornication and whoredom, and the attributing of sins to prophets), as well as lack of reliable transmission (tawatur) of the text", Hava Lazarus-Yafeh states.[1][18] In response to attacks on the personality of Ezra, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III defended Ezra as a pious, reliable person.[18] The Jewish convert to Islam al-Samaw'al (d. 1175) accused Ezra of interpolating stories such as Gen. 19:30-8 in the Bible in order to sully David’s origins and to prevent the rule of the Davidic dynasty during the second Temple.[1] The writings of Ibn Hazm and al-Samaw'al was adopted and updated only slightly by later Muslim authors up to contemporary times.[1][18]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Encyclopedia of Islam, Uzayr
  2. ^ Ashraf, Shahid (2005). "Prophets ’Uzair, Zakariya and Yahya (PBUT)" (Google Books). Encyclopaedia of Holy Prophet and Companions. Daryaganj, New Delhi: Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd.. pp. 199–200. ISBN 8126119403. http://books.google.com/books?id=2UqxApJT4JAC&pg=PA199&dq=uzair+was+a+prophet&as_brr=3&ei=RJ4qR8eBN5nKiQGl3py1DA&ie=ISO-8859-1&sig=z2JJi_4OVbBJcni08qyCMP5wu2I. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  3. ^ a b Ibn Kathir; Ali As-Sayed Al- Halawani (trans.). "`Uzair(Ezra)". Stories Of The Quran. Islambasics.com. http://www.islambasics.com/view.php?bkID=80&chapter=12. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  4. ^ http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Contrad/External/ezra.html
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica, p. 1108.
  6. ^ Kate Zebiri, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, The Qur'an and Polemics
  7. ^ Busse, Heribert. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity: theological and historical affiliations, Princeton series on the Middle East, Markus Wiener Publishers, 1998, p. 57.
  8. ^ Quran 2:62
  9. ^ Quran 3:113
  10. ^
  11. ^ Ta'anit (2:1)
  12. ^ http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/tmm/tmm08.htm
  13. ^ The Bible, Genesis, Ch. 6, v. 2
  14. ^ Son of God, Sons of God
  15. ^ Shapiro, Marc B. (Summer 1993). "Islam and the halakhah". Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life & Thought (New York: American Jewish Congress) 42 (167). http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0411/is_n3_v42/ai_14234286/print. Retrieved 2007-11-15. "The Ishmaelites are not at all idolaters; [idolatry] has long been severed from their mouths and hearts; and they attribute to God a proper unity, a unity concerning which there is no doubt. And because they lie about us , and falsely attribute to us the statement that God has a son…" 
  16. ^ Abraham Geiger's book Judaism and Islam chapter 2 part 4
  17. ^ Ibn Kathir, Stories of the Prophets, translated by Shaikh muhammed Mustafa Gemeiah, Office of the Grand Imam, Sheikh al-Azhar, El-Nour Publishing, Egypt, 1997, Ch.21, pp.322-4
  18. ^ a b c Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Tahrif, Encyclopedia of Islam

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