Antisemitism in the Hadith and Early Muslim Biographies of Muhammad, Part 1
Motifs and Historical Manifestations
Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
By Andrew G. Bostom

Danish translation: Antisemitisme i hadith og tidlige muslimske Muhammed-biografier, del 1
Source: Gates of Vienna, April 3, 2012
Published on April 28, 2012


The contemporary pronouncements of the Islamic Center of Cleveland’s clerical “Imamate”—Fawaz Damra and his erstwhile replacement Ahmed Alzaree—illustrate an ancient, but continuous tradition of anti-Jewish incitement by Islam’s “popular preachers,” very much alive today. And the historical treatment of Jews in Muslim societies—chronic oppression, punctuated by outbursts of mass anti-Jewish violence, forced conversion to Islam, or expulsion—has been consistent with such sacralized religious bigotry. Promoters of modern jihad genocide from the former Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, to contemporary Hamas clerics, have repeatedly invoked Islam’s Jew-exterminating eschatology.

George Vajda’s 1937 essay “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit” (“Jews and Muslims According to the Hadith”)—a magisterial 70-page treatise discussed at some length herein—remains the definitive study of Jews and their relations with Muhammad and Muslims, as depicted in the hadith. Vajda’s research demonstrates how Muslim eschatology highlights the Jews supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—and as per another tradition, the Dajjâl is in fact Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions state that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan, or Jerusalem. When the Dajjâl is defeated, he and his Jewish companions will be slaughtered— everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree. Thus, according to a canonical hadith—incorporated into the 1988 Hamas Charter (article 7)—if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!”

George Vajda (d. 1981)

Vajda also emphasizes how the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology casting the Muslims’ sins upon the Jews. And in the corporeal world, Vajda observes, “distrust must reign” in Muslims relations with the rebellious Jews. But it is the Jews stubborn malevolence, Vajda further notes, that is their defining worldly characteristic:

Jews are represented in the darkest colors. Convinced by the clear testimony of their books that Mohammed was the true prophet, they refused to convert, out of envy, jealousy and national particularism, even out of private interest. They have falsified their sacred books and do not apply the laws of God; nevertheless, they pursued Mohammed with their raillery and their oaths, and harassed him with questions, an enterprise that turned to their own confusion and merely corroborated the authenticity of the supernatural science of the prophet. From words they moved to action: sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.

Vajda concludes that these archetypes, in turn, justify Muslim animus towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination”, as dhimmis, treated “with contempt”, under certain “humiliating arrangements.”

Hartwig Hirschfeld’s detailed analyses of Muhammad’s interactions with the Jews of Medina as depicted in the earliest pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad (sira; sirat) describes the “mutual disappointment” that characterized their relationship, and the predictably disastrous results for the Jews.

The Jews, for their part, were singularly disappointed in their expectations. The way in which Muhammad understood revelation, his ignorance and his clumsiness in religious questions in no way encouraged them to greet him as their Messiah. He tried at first to win them over to his teachings by sweetness and persuasion; they replied by posing once again the questions that they had already asked him; his answers, filled with gross errors, provoked their laughter and mockery. From this, of course, resulted a deep hostility between Muhammad and the Jews, whose only crime was to pass a severe judgment on the enterprise of this Arab who styled himself “God’s prophet” and to find his conduct ridiculous, his knowledge false, and his regulations thoughtless. This judgment, which was well founded, was nevertheless politically incorrect, and the consequences thereof inevitably would prove to be disastrous for a minority that lacked direction or cohesion.

Muhammad’s failures or incomplete successes were consistently recompensed by murderous attacks on the Jews. Thus Muhammad developed a penchant for assassinating individual Jews, and destroying Jewish communities—by expropriation and expulsion (Banu Qaynuqa and Nadir), or massacring their men, and enslaving their women and children (Banu Qurayza). Subsequently, in the case of the Khaybar Jews, Muhammad had the male leadership killed, and plundered their riches. The terrorized Khaybar survivors—industrious Jewish farmers—became prototype subjugated dhimmis whose productivity was extracted by the Muslims as a form of permanent booty. And according to the Muslim sources, even this tenuous vassalage was arbitrarily terminated within a decade of Muhammad’s death when Caliph Umar expelled the Jews of Khaybar.

Muhammad’s brutal conquest and subjugation of the Khaybar Jews, and their subsequent expulsion by one of his companions, the (second) “Rightly Guided” Caliph Umar, epitomize permanent, archetypal behavior patterns Islamic Law deemed appropriate to Muslim interactions with Jews.

Historical and contemporary examples are briefly adduced to illustrate the ongoing relevance of archetypes from the hadith and sira as sources of Islamic antisemitism, past and present.


Fawaz Damra [1] , the former Imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, was touted as a promoter of interfaith dialogue even after [2] evidence of his participation in fundraising events for the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) [3] , was produced, along with a videotape of the Imam telling a crowd of Muslim supporters in 1991 [4] 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 [5] back to the West Bank in January 2007.

And just this past October 30, 2007 it was announced [6] 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” [7] , ostensibly accepted the position as noted on October 26, 2007, then pre-emptively resigned a few days later [8] , after the contents of “khutbahs” (sermons) he had delivered on March 7, 2003, were revealed. [9]

Alzaree’s March, 2003 sermons were in fact far worse than had been portrayed by the Cleveland media. [10] One assumes that either they were not read at all, or at best only perused, and those reading these sermons, by and large, had no idea about the virulently Antisemitic motifs in the Qur’an and hadith (i.e., the words, deeds, and even physical gestures of Muhammad as recorded by pious Muslim transmitters). Moreover, these sermons were also virulently Christianophobic, invoking combined anti-Christian/Jew-hating motifs from the Qur’ran [11] (for example, Qur’ran 4:157-159), as well as anti-Christian eschatology (linked explicitly to Jew-hating eschatology) from the hadith, particularly with regard to “Jesus,” or to be precise, the Muslim simulacrum of Jesus, “Isa,” as characterized in Islam’s foundational texts. Alzaree simply recounts Islamic doctrine (as per the Qur’an and hadith) regarding “Isa”—the Muslim Jesus [12] —which emphasizes the Jews overall perfidy, especially their gloating (but unknowingly “false”) claim to have killed Isa. According to this sacralized Islamic narrative, Isa is merely a Muslim prophet whose ultimate “job description” includes the destruction of Christianity. Thus Alzaree’s sermon invokes the canonical hadith [13] that this Muslim Jesus—who was never crucified—the perfidious Jews prodding the Roman’s to kill Isa’s “body double” [14] —will return as a full-throated Muslim to break the cross, kill the pig, and end the payment of the deliberately humiliating Qur’anic (9:29) poll-tax demanded of Christians (i.e., the jizya). This hadith states, “He [Isa] will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizya” [15] —because Christians will be converted to Islam (and thus exempt from the jizya), or eliminated—“Allah will perish all religions except Islam.” Alzaree concluded the second sermon with an apocalyptic canonical hadith [16] —repeated in the 1988 Hamas Charter, article 7 [17] —stating if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!”

Thus the blatant Jew-hatred expressed by Damra and reiterated (in tandem with anti-Christian motifs) by Alzaree—this erstwhile “Imamate of Cleveland”—was fully sanctioned by—indeed they were merely quoting directly from—the core religious texts of Islam, i.e. the Qur’an, hadith, and early Muslim biographies of Muhammad.

More than four decades ago (in 1964), Moshe Perlmann the pre-eminent scholar of Islam’s ancient anti-Jewish polemical literature, observed [18] ,

The Qur’an, of course became a mine of anti-Jewish passages. The hadith did not lag behind. Popular preachers used and embellished such material.

In an earlier study (published 1948) of 11th century Muslim Spain [19] —dealized, falsely, as the paragon of Islam’s ecumenism—Perlmann had described how such polemical tracts and sermons incited the mass violence which destroyed the Jewish community of Granada during the catastrophic 1066 pogrom, with its death toll of some 3000 to 4000 Jews. [20] This figure equals or exceeds the number of Jews reportedly killed by the Crusaders during their pillage of the Rhineland, some thirty years later, at the outset of the First Crusade. [21]

The modern pronouncements of Cleveland’s clerical “Imamate”—Damra and Alzaree—reflect an ancient, but continuous tradition of anti-Jewish incitement by Islam’s “popular preachers,” very much alive today. And the historical treatment of Jews in Muslim societies—chronic oppression, punctuated by outbursts of mass anti-Jewish violence, forced conversion to Islam, or expulsion [22] —has been consistent with such sacralized religious bigotry. Promoters of modern jihad genocide have repeatedly 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 [23] , composed a 1943 recruitment pamphlet for Balkan Muslims entitled, “Islam and Judaism”. [24] This incendiary document was rife with antisemitic verses from the Qur’an, as well as Jew hating motifs from the hadith, and concluded with the apocalyptic canonical hadith [25] describing the Jews’ annihilation. Forty-five years later the same hadith [26] was incorporated into the 1988 Hamas Charter, making clear its own aspirations for Jew annihilation. 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.

Having earlier described the antisemitic motifs in the Qur’an [27] , as well as their historical manifestations across space and time, the current paper examines in complementary fashion, the antisemitic motifs in the hadith, and earliest pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad, or sira.

Antisemitism in the Hadith

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. [28] (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 Qur’an itself. [29] Sunna, which means “path” refers to a normative custom of Muhammad or of the early Islamic community. [30] The hadith “justify and confirm” the Sunna. [31] Henri Lammens highlights the importance of the Sunna (and, by extension, the hadith): [32]

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

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. [33] James Robson summarizes their comprehensive content: [34]

In addition to giving information about religious duties, law and everyday practice, they contain a considerable amount of biographical and other material. Nothing is too unimportant to form a valid topic for tradition. Guidance is given even on the most intimate matters of personal life. The compilers of Tradition seem to have had a keen desire to leave nothing to chance, so guidance is to be found on almost every conceivable subject.

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.” [35]

Despite appearances of rigor in the methods employed to assemble the various canonical hadith collections [36] , the meticulous studies of Ignaz Goldziher [37] and Joseph Schacht [38] (and others) demonstrate that while the hadith reflect theological-juridical “tendencies” during Islam’s formative early centuries, they are useless as a source of objective historical information. Schacht argued for abandoning the “one-sided traditional sham-castle” based upon [39] ,

..the gratuitous assumptions that there existed originally an authentic core of information going back to the time of the Prophet, that spurious and tendentious additions were made to every succeeding generation, that many of these were eliminated by the criticism of isnads [“chains” of pious Muslim transmitters] as practiced by the Muhammadan scholars, that other spurious traditions escaped rejection, but that the genuine core was not completely overlaid by later accretions

Alternatively, Schacht, a legal scholar, urged that these deconstructed “materials” be re-evaluated in their real context, i.e., the evolution of Islamic law, especially during the time of al-Shafi‘i (d. 820; after whom the Shafi‘ite school of Islamic jurisprudence was named). [40] Sixty years earlier Goldziher had suggested more broadly that although ahistorical, the hadith reflected important aspects of social and religious development during the first two centuries after the advent of Islam: [41]

In the absence of authentic evidence it would indeed be rash to attempt to express the most tentative opinion as to which parts of the hadith are the oldest original material, or even as to which of them date back to the generations immediately following the Prophet’s death. Closer acquaintance with the vast stock of hadiths induces skeptical caution rather than optimistic trust regarding the material brought together in the carefully compiled collections.
The hadith will not serve as a document for the history of the infancy of Islam, but rather as a reflection of the tendencies which appeared in the community during the maturer stages of its development….the greater part of it [the hadith, reflecting] the religious…and social development of Islam during the first two centuries

The conception of Goldziher provides a useful framework for an examination of the anti-Jewish motifs in the hadith.

George Vajda’s 1937 essay “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit” (“Jews and Muslims According to the Hadith”) [42] —a magisterial 70-page analysis—remains the definitive study of Jews and their relations with Muhammad and Muslims, as depicted in the hadith. Vajda, in light of the scholarship of Goldziher (especially) on the inadequacy of the canonical hadith as “history,” chose not to limit himself to these six collections: [43]

As soon as one renounces using the hadiths as absolutely sure and trustworthy documentation, it is evidently vain to try to take account of the value judgments that Muslim criticism emits regarding any isolated tradition, any collection, or the individual credibility of any traditionalist. Therefore I have been very wide-ranging in making use of documents and the “six books”, as well as of the Musnad by Ahmed ibn Hanbal and the Muwatta by Malik, not forgetting the commentaries to which I was able to have access, Kastalani on Buhari, Nawawi on Muslim, and Zurkani on the Muwatta. Ibn Sa’d’s Tabakat and Tabari’s Tafsir have also been consulted. It would no doubt have been possible and even desirable to prolong this promenade through the vast fields of the hadith.

The remainder of this discussion of antisemitism in the hadith relies upon the themes developed by Vajda, amplified with excerpts from the canonical hadith, and other Traditions, themselves.

Both anti-dhimmi and specific anti-Jewish motifs figure prominently in Vajda’s detailed assessment. He begins by emphasizing Goldziher’s prior “discovery” of the animating principle prescribed for Muslims with regard to the customs of non-Muslims: khalifuhum, which means, “do not do like them.” [44] Vajda illustrates this attitude with regard to basic grooming and dress: [45]

“Leaving his apartments, the prophet found old men Ansar whose beards were white. He told them: ‘Assembly of Ansar, dye yourselves red or yellow and do the contrary of the people of the Book.’ We told him: ‘Apostle of Allah, the people of the Book wear the sirwal (pantaloons) and do not wear the izar.’ The prophet says ‘Wear the sirwal and wear the izar, and do the contrary of the people of the Book.’ We told him ‘The people of the Book wear ankle-boots (huff) and do not wear sandals (na’l).’ He says: “Wear ankle-boots and wear sandals, and do the contrary of the people of the Book.’ We told him: ‘The people of the Book trim their beards and grow their mustaches.” He says: “Trim the mustache and grow the beard, and do the contrary of the people of the Book.”
“... grow your beard, remove your mustaches, alter your white hair and do not resemble Jews or Christians.”
The prophet also forbids as a Jewish custom the qaza (partial removal of the hair).
Also branded was the use of false hair/hairpieces/wigs. According to a tradition reported in several compilations (Sa’id b. al-Musayyab and Humayd b. ‘Abdalrahman), during the last khuTba that he pronounced in Medina, the caliph Mu’awiya I showed the faithful a toupée of false hair, saying “I never saw that done except among the Jews, the prophet had called it ‘falseness’ (zur)’’; or in another version: “people of Medina, where are your wise men? I heard the prophet, who prohibited doing the like and said: ‘the children of Israel perished when their women took [false hair]’.”
Almost always it is recommended to dye the hair in contrast to the Jews, (or to Jews and Christians).

Even sanctioned Muslim practices of onanism/masturbation, and bestiality (as Vajda notes, “…on which the hadiths cited by Tabari [d. 923] give such exact, if repellant details” [46] ), in particular with slaves whom the Muslims wished to avoid impregnating, became a source of friction vis a vis the Jews. [47]

The Jews protested against this procedure [coitus interruptus with slaves]. Here is what a tradition of Abu Sa’id al-Hudri relates: someone comes to find the prophet and tells him: “I have a slave with whom I interrupt coitus, for I do not want her to conceive, but I want what men want. But the Jews claim that coitus interruptus is an attenuated case of the exposure of newborn girls.” The prophet replied: “The Jews have lied. If Allah wants to create it, you are not capable of preventing [the child from being conceived].”
The same Companion found himself implicated in an analogous incident after the expedition of al’Muraysi in year 5 [after the Hijra, i.e., 622]. The partial restraint of the Muslims, permitting them the satisfaction of their concupiscence without compromising the hope for ransoming the captives, was approved by the prophet, with the same motive as in the preceding hadith. But when Abu Sa’id wanted to sell a young girl from the booty, a Jew observed at the market that she was certainly pregnant by him; the Muslim assured him that he had practiced ‘azl, to which the Jew replied that it was an attenuated form of coitus. Informed of this discussion, the prophet could only denounce the lies of the Jews.
The frankly reproving attitude of the Jews toward the sexual dissipation of the Arabs may be illustrated by many Talmudic texts. They found conjugal relations during the day repugnant, at least unless they were invisible. The indecencies committed in the course of the act implied physical infirmities for any child: muteness, deafness, blindness, paralysis. Onanism was severely reproved.

The customs to be observed at funerals, the matters of burial plots and tombs, and more decidedly, Muhammad’s view of the fate of buried Jews, also illustrate anti-Jewish animus. [48]

Another tradition (‘Bada b. al’Samit) recounts that in following funerals, the prophet had the habit of standing until the dead person was put in his tomb. One day a haber [rabbi] passed and told him that the Jews did likewise, at which Mohammed invited those attending to sit down so as not to do as the Jews.
Still, in another opinion, “one should not go with slow steps with the coffin like the Jews do.” ‘Imran b. al-Husayn (died 52) ordered when dying: “when after my death you take me outside, go quickly and do not walk slowly like the Jews and the Christians.”
A hadith that was widespread relates that during his agony the prophet cursed the Jews and Christians who had taken the tombs of their prophets as sites of worship.
When the prophet was taken by an attack, he threw a hamisa (a sort of robe) over his face; when he came around, we lifted him while he said: ‘May God curse the Jews and the Christians, they have taken the tombs of their prophets for sites of worship’ (Aysha adds: ‘he put them on guard [Muslims] against similar practices’). Elsewhere, one finds this curse without the tale that frames it, Abu ‘Bayda relates it as the prophet’s last recommendation, at the same time as the order to expel the Jews from the Arabian peninsula.
“Aisha (the wife of the Prophet) Once Allah's Apostle passed by (the grave of) a Jewess whose relatives were weeping over her. He said, ‘They are weeping over her and she is being tortured in her grave.’”
“’Amra daughter of 'Abd al Rahman narrated that she heard (from) 'A'isha and made a mention to her about 'Abdullah b. 'Umar as saying: ‘The dead is punished because of the lamentation of the living.’ Upon this 'A'isha said: ‘May Allah have mercy upon the father of 'Abd al-Rahman (Ibn 'Umar). He did not tell a lie, but he forgot or made a mistake. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) happened to pass by a (dead) Jewess who was being lamented. Upon this he said: ‘They weep over her and she is being punished in the grave’.”

Moreover, public lamentation over the dead became forbidden to the Jews (and Christians). [49]

The hadith further condemn certain physical gestures for being specific to Jews. [50]

A hadith disapproves of Muslims who salute each other by making a sign with their fingers like the Jews, or with the hand like the Christians. Aisha did not like her protégé Masruq to put his hands on his hips for, she said, only the Jews do that.
Raising the hands in prayer is a Jewish gesture.
One should not sway (nawadan) while praying, as the Jews do.

The hadith also portray the Jews hatred and jealousy of Muhammad. Vajda observes that according to the hadith [51] ,

…the Jews knew very well that it was Mohammed who should accomplish the prediction of their books. If, then, they did not follow him, this was not out of ignorance but out of jealousy and national particularism.

He then provides two examples of this recurring motif [52] :

“The apostle of Allah entered the Bayt al-Midras and said: ‘Send me the wisest person among you.’ They said: ‘It is Abdallah b. Suriya.’ The apostle of Allah remained alone with him and adjured him by his religion, by the blessings that God had showered [on the Jews] by nourishing them with manna and [salwaa] quail and protecting them by clouds [to answer him]: ‘Do you know that I am the apostle of Allah?’ He answered: ‘By God, yes, and of course these people [the Jews] know what I know and that your description is clearly found in the Torah, but they are envious of you.’ [The prophet:] ‘What prevents you yourself?’ He answered: ‘I feel repugnant at doing otherwise than my people, but perhaps they will follow you and convert to Islam, and then I will convert [also]’.”
“A Jew said to his comrade: ‘Let us go find the prophet to ask him about this verse (Koran 17:101): “We brought Moses nine signs”.’ His comrade says: ‘Do not say prophet in speaking of him, for if he heard this, he would have four eyes.’ They ask him and he tells them: ‘You would not associate anything with God, you would not commit larceny, you would not fornicate, you would not kill the soul that God has forbidden, except through justice, you would not practice magic, you would not lend at usury, you would not deliver the innocent to the men invested with authority to be put to death, you would not slander an honest woman [var. you would not desert the army on campaign] and on you, Jews, it is especially imposed to not violate the Sabbath.’ He embraced his hands and his feet, saying: ‘We confess that you are a prophet.’ He said: ‘And what prevents you from following me?’ They replied: ‘David prayed that [prophecy?] never quit his descendants and so we fear that the Jews would kill us if we converted to Islam’.”

Despite being convinced of the authenticity of Mohammed’s divine mission, as Vajda notes, the hadith accusation that the Jews did not become votaries of Islam due to pride in their birth and appetite for domination, became a recurrent theme in later Muslim polemics. [53]

Striking evidence of Jewish perfidy in the hadith is illustrated by their continual, surreptitious cursing of the Muslims while ostensibly offering proper greetings [54] :

“A Jew greeted the apostle of Allah by saying al-sam ‘alayka (May poison be on you, for may peace be upon you.) [The prophet said:] ‘Bring him to me.’ He told him: ‘Did you say al-sam ‘alayka?’ ‘Yes.’ The apostle of Allah said: ‘When the people of the Book greet us, say wa’alayka’.”
A slightly more developed version: “When the prophet was sitting amid his companions, there comes a Jew who greets them. The prophet had him come back and asked him: ‘What did you say?’ ‘I said al-sam ‘alayka.’ The prophet concluded: ‘When an individual of people of the Book greets you, say and to you, meaning what you have said’.”
A slightly dramatized tale: “A Jew passed by the prophet and his companions, greeted them, and the prophet’s companions returned the greeting. The prophet declared: ‘He said al-sam ‘alaykum.’ They apprehended the Jew, brought him back, and he admitted it. The prophet said: ‘Render back to them what they said’.”
Another version features ‘Omar with his habitual violence: “An individual of the people of the Book arrived and greeted the prophet by saying al-sam ‘alaykumi. Then ‘Omar said: ‘Apostle of Allah, should I cut off his head?’ He answered: ‘No. When they greet you, say wa’alaykum’.”
Elsewhere, the scene is embellished by Aysha’s intervention: “The Jews came to find the prophet and told him al-sam ‘alayka. The prophet replied [to them]: ‘Al-sam ‘alaykum.’ Then Aysha cried: ‘Al-sam ‘alaykum, brothers of monkeys and pigs and the curse of Allah and his anger!’ The prophet said: ‘Gently.’ She replied: ‘Apostle of Allah, did you not hear what they said?’ The prophet: ‘Did you not hear what I replied to them? [Know] Aysha [that] gentleness ornaments everything, but everything is spoiled if one suppresses it’.”

Vajda offers these explanations for why the hadith are so richly endowed with (and “pleased to raise”) examples attesting to Jewish perfidy. [55]

It is impossible for a real incident to be the basis of this group of anecdotes, which are mutually irreconcilable. But it is also probable that they were born of the desire to legitimate a governing arrangement whose practical application must have suffered some difficulties in conquered countries, where even the most elementary relations were daily making the new masters confront a significant non-Muslim population.
This important series of hadiths illustrates so vividly the insolence and crudeness of Jews that later, when the jurists (fukaha; especially Western ones) decreed pitiless sanctions against whoever insulted or mocked the prophet, it was wondered why Mohammed had not dealt severely with the Jews who saluted him with al-sam ‘alaykum. The cadi/judge ‘Iyad replied: ‘especially [he used] diplomacy so as not to scare minds away at the start of Islam by rigorous measures; in addition, the incriminating words of the Jews had not been pronounced distinctly enough to constitute a public outrage.’


[1] The Investigative Project on Terrorism. Individual Terrorists. Fawaz Damra.

[2] The Investigative Project on Terrorism. Al Arian’s “Active Arm.” April 7, 1991.

[3] The Investigative Project on Terrorism. Fawaz Damra Fund Raising for Jihad. April 7, 1991.

[4] NOW, Week of 7/7/06, Public Broadcasting System. Profile: Imam Fawaz Damra

[5] “Brother says deported imam was arrested by Israel in West Bank upon his arrival.” The International Herald Tribune, January 8, 2007. or

[6] David Briggs. “Islamic Center of Cleveland imam Ahmed Alzaree resigns before starting job.” October 30, 2007. The Cleveland Plain Dealer

[7] David Briggs. “Islamic Center hires new imam to replace deported” September 25, 2007. The Cleveland Plain Dealer

[8] Briggs, “Islamic Center of Cleveland imam Ahmed Alzaree resigns before starting job.”

[9] “The Day of Judgment.” By Imam Ahmed Alzaree. Friday, March 7, 2003

[10] Briggs, “Islamic Center of Cleveland imam Ahmed Alzaree resigns before starting job.”

[11] Andrew G. Bostom. “Antisemitism in the Qur’an: Motifs and Historical Manifestations.” Dhimmi Watch, April 7, 2008. No longer accessible on Dhimmi Watch/Jihad Watch, but can be found on several other sites including

[12] Mark Durie. “Isa, the Muslim Jesus.” In, Robert Spencer, editor, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 2005, pp. 541-555. [Online version:]

[13] Sunan Abu Dawud Book 37, Number 4310:
Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus (peace be upon him). He will descent (to the earth). When you see him, recognize him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.

[14] Andrew Bostom. “Jews as Christ-Killers in Islam.”, Wednesday, March 03, 2004.

[15] Sunan Abu Dawud Book 37, Number 4310

[16] Sahih Muslim Book 041, Number 6985:
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

[17]The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement – HamasMiddle East Media Research Institute. Special Dispatch Series, No. 1092. February 14, 2006.
Ibn Kathir’s commentary on Koran 4:155-159 also discusses Isa’s (the Muslim Jesus’) role in defeating the Dajjal, and his Jewish minions, invoking the apocalyptic canonical hadith of Jew annihilation, Sahih Muslim Book 041, Number 6985. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 3, Riyadh, 2000, pp. 33-34.)

[18] Samau’al Al-Maghribi. “Ifham Al-Yahud.” [“Silencing the Jews.”] Edited and Translated by Moshe Perlmann. Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 32, 1964, p. 19.

[19] Moshe Perlmann, “Eleventh Century Andalusian Authors on the Jews of Granada” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 1948-49, Vol. 18, pp. 269-290.

[20] Perlmann, “Eleventh Century Andalusian Authors on the Jews of Granada,” p.284; Reinhart Dozy. Spanish Islam: A History of the Muslims in Spain, Translated by Francis Griffin Stokes, London, 1915 (reissued by Kessinger Publishing), p. 653.

[21] Richard Gottheil, Joseph Jacobs. “The Crusades” in The Jewish Encyclopedia

[22] Andrew G. Bostom. The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History. Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y., 2008, 768 pp.

[23] Jennie Lebel. The Mufti of Jerusalem Haj-Amin el-Husseini and National Socialism. Cigoja Stampa, Belgrade, Serbia, 2007. English translation by Paul Munch, 373 pp.

[24] Ibid., pp. 311-320.

[25] Sahih Muslim Book 041, Number 6985

[26] Ibid.

[27] Bostom. “Antisemitism in the Qur’an: Motifs and Historical Manifestations.”

[28] J. Robson. “Hadith”. Encyclopedia of Islam. Edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W.P. Heinrichs, Brill, 2006, Brill Online; J. Robson. “Tradition, The Second Foundation of Islam”, Muslim World, 1951, Vol. 41, pp. 22, 24.

[29] Robson. “Hadith”; Robson. “Tradition”, pp. 22,23

[30] Robson. “Hadith”; Robson. “Tradition”, p.24.

[31] H. Lammens. Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, (reprint) New Delhi, 2002, p. 69.

[32] Ibid., p. 65.

[33] Robson. “Tradition”, p. 31.

[34] Ibid., p. 31.

[35] Ibid., p. 32.

[36] Robson in “Hadith” and “Traditions, pp. 25-30.

[37] Ignaz Goldziher. Muslim Studies. Two Volumes. Translated by C.R. Barber and S.M. Stern, London, 1967-1971, Vol. 2, p. 19

[38] Joseph Schacht. “A Revaluation of Islamic Traditions”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1949, pp. 143-154. Re-published in, Ibn Warraq (editor), The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, Amherst, New York, 2000, pp. 358-367.

[39] Ibid., pp. 366,361

[40] Ibid., p. 360

[41] Goldziher, Muslim Studies., Vol. 2, pp. 18-19.

[42] Georges Vajda. “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit”, Journal Asiatique, 1937, Vol. 229, pp. 57-127. A first time English translation of this essay, in full, is provided in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, pp. 235-260.

[43] Vajda. “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit”, p. 61.

[44] Ibid., p. 63

[45] Ibid., pp. 63-65.

[46] Ibid., p. 72.

[47] Ibid., pp. 72-73.

[48] Ibid., pp. 75-81; Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 376; Sahih Muslim Book 004, Number 2029.

[49] Vajda. “Juifs et Musulmans Selon Le Hadit,” p. 78.

[50] Ibid., pp.83-84.

[51] Ibid., p. 85

[52] Ibid., pp. 86-87.

[53] Ibid., p. 87.

[54] Ibid., pp. 87-89.

[55] Ibid. pp. 88, 90.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School.
He is the author of:
The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books (2005),
The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Prometheus Books (2008),
Sharia Versus Freedom. The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, Prometheus Books (2012),
The Mufti's Islamic Jew Hatred. What the Nazis Learned From the 'Muslim Pope', Bravura Books (2013), and
Iran's Final Solution for Israel. The Legacy of Jihad and Shi'ite Islamic Jew-Hatred in Iran, Bravura Books (2014).