Jewish and Christian Converts to Islam

Some Questions for Muslims to Ponder

Sam Shamoun

Christians are often asked why do they not observe specific commands of the OT in light of Jesus’ claim that he came to fulfill, not destroy, the Law and the Prophets (cf. Matthew 5:17-20). For instance, the Law forbids consuming pig meat and instructs believers to circumcise all male infants on the eighth day, commands that the apostle Paul said that Gentile believers were not required to observe. Muslims see this as proof that Paul was a false apostle and that Christians should shun his teachings since they violate both the OT and Jesus’ own instructions.

An example of a Muslim who uses this type of reasoning is Shabir Ally:

Both the Bible and the Qur’an prohibit the eating of pork. Muslims are aware of this prohibition and observe it strictly.
However, most readers of the Bible say they do not know where they can find this in the Bible…

What remains, then, is that Jesus, on whom be peace, upheld the prohibition against pork. His disciples also upheld it, and so must all his followers. Those who fail to uphold it need to be informed and reminded of this rule from God. This is one reason why God sent His final messenger, on whom be peace. God says:

"O people of the Scripture! Now has Our Messenger come unto you, expounding unto you much of that which you used to hide in the Scripture, and forgiving much. Now has come unto you light from Allah and a plain Scripture."
(The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an 5:15). (Eating Pork; source)

Another Muslim polemicist writes that Paul broke the covenant of circumcision as taught in Genesis 17:14:

Paul fails to realize that to keep circumcision is to keep God's law and he is breaking it. (Bassam Zawadi, Paul Broke the Covenant of God; source)

These statements presuppose that Islam makes it mandatory for its converts, specifically Jewish ones, to continue to observe OT laws such as Sabbath, dietary restrictions etc. After all, there are many places where God commands the Israelites to honor the Sabbath:

"Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, "You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested."’" Exodus 31:12-17; cf. Exodus 20:8-11

The Quran seems to accept that Jews are obligated to keep the Sabbath sacred and mentions the punishment that some Jews incurred for breaking it:

O ye People of the Book! believe in what We have (now) revealed, confirming what was (already) with you, before We change the face and fame of some (of you) beyond all recognition, and turn them hindwards, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-breakers, for the decision of God Must be carried out. S. 4:47

Ask them concerning the town standing close by the sea. Behold! they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. For on the day of their Sabbath their fish did come to them, openly holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they came not: thus did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression. When some of them said: "Why do ye preach to a people whom God will destroy or visit with a terrible punishment?" - said the preachers: "To discharge our duty to your Lord, and perchance they may fear Him." When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: "Be ye apes, despised and rejected." S. 7:163-166; cf. 2:65

And for their covenant we raised over them (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai); and (on another occasion) we said: "Enter the gate with humility"; and (once again) we commanded them: "Transgress not in the matter of the sabbath." And we took from them a solemn covenant. S. 4:154; cf. 16:124

But there is a conflict of interest here since Muhammad deliberately adopted Friday as the day of assembly in order to slight Jews and Christians:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
I heard Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) saying, "We (Muslims) are the last (to come) but (will be) the foremost on the Day of Resurrection though the former nations were given the Holy Scriptures before us. And this was their day (Friday) the celebration of which was made compulsory for them but they differed about it. So Allah gave us the guidance for it (Friday) and all the other people are behind us in this respect: the Jews' (holy day is) tomorrow (i.e. Saturday) and the Christians' (is) the day after tomorrow (i.e. Sunday)." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 13, Number 1; see also Number 21)

Moreover, one of Muhammad’s widows, a Jewish captive who converted to Islam, was accused of observing the Sabbath, an accusation which she vehemently denied:

She still underwent difficulties after the death of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam). Once a slavegirl she owned went to the Amir al Muminin Umar and said, "Amir al Muminin! Safiyya loves the Sabbath and maintains ties with the Jews!" Umar asked Safiyya about that and she said, "I have not loved the Sabbath since Allah replaced it with Friday for me, and I only maintain ties with those Jews to whom I am related by kinship." She asked her slavegirl what had possessed her to carries lie to Umar and the girl replied, "Shaitan!" Safiyya said, "Go, you are free." (Safiyya bint Huyay [based on a book by Ahmad Thompson]; source; see also here)

This is a rather perplexing statement in light of the arguments of so many Muslim apologists and polemicists who accuse Paul and/or the NT writers of setting aside certain OT commands, which presupposes that a true messenger or prophet would never allow such things to take place. One would therefore think that Muhammad and his Quran would enforce Sabbath observance upon the Jews.

And what do we say about the food laws of the OT? After all, the OT doesn’t merely forbid pig meat but also prohibits the consumption of camel meat and certain sea creatures, all of which the Quran makes permissible for eating (cf. Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14; S. 5:96; S. 6:142-146; S. 16:14; S. 22:36).

There is more to the story. The Quran will only permit a man to remarry a former spouse if she has married and divorced another husband, a command that Yahweh says is an abomination! (Cf. Deuteronomy 24:1-4; S. 2:230)

With the foregoing in mind we would like to ask the following questions to those Muslims who often attack the NT on the grounds that it sets aside specific OT injunctions:

Further Reading

Sam Shamoun's answer to Bassam Zawadi's response.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page