I had a dialogue with a prominent Jewish Rabbi at the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, Alberta, Canada. Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman was our guest. The dialogue was on the Jewish beliefs about Allah (God) and the Prophets of Allah. In the Islamic terminology it is called Tauheed-o-Risalat (). Here are the main points of the dialogue.
Imam Syed: What are the Jewish beliefs about God?
Rabbi Howard: Jews believe in one God. We worship only one God – the Creator. God created all of us. God is the supreme authority and He is the sustainer and the provider. God has no partners and no associates.
Imam Syed: This is what Muslims also believe. Do Jews believe in the Prophets and the Messengers of God?
Rabbi Howard: Yes, we believe in the Prophets and the Messengers of God. In fact, in Torah (the Jewish holy book) several prophets are mentioned such as Noah, Moses, etc. We believe that Prophet Ezra (Ozair) was the last prophet. We do not believe that David (Dawood) was a prophet. He was a king, not a prophet. Also, we consider Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be “patriarchs” – founding fathers of our people. We do not think of them as prophets. Indeed, the only genuine prophet in the Torah is Moses.
Imam Syed: What Jews believe about Prophets? Were they human?
Rabbi Howard: Prophets were human beings. They were just like you and me.
Imam Syed: Do Jews believe that the Prophets and the Messengers of God commit sins and make mistakes?
Rabbi Howard: Yes, absolutely. They were all human and some of them did commit sins and made mistakes. For example; Moses made the mistake of hitting the rock (to produce water) when God did tell him to hit the rock. As a result, Moses was sentenced to die before entering the Promised Land. Moses also did a lot of complaining to God, declaring that he was not able to lead such a stubborn people. It appears that God did not appreciate hearing Moses’ complaints.
Imam Syed: What happens to the Prophets and the Messengers of God after they die?
Rabbi Howard: Same thing that will happen to me and you, dust to dust. They died just like any other human.
Imam Syed: Don’t you believe that the Prophets and the Messengers of God are spiritually alive in their graves?
Rabbi Howard: No, we do not believe that. They are all dead. They do not exist anymore.
Imam Syed: Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was the highest ranking prophet in the Jewish faith; do Jews believe that Moses has any role to play in today’s time?
Rabbi Howard: Moses was a Prophet. God gave him Torah. We show our respect for Torah. Moses is dead and he does not play any role anymore. There is no role for Prophets and Messengers of God left.
Imam Syed: How you show your respect towards Moses and other Prophets mentioned in your holy book Torah?
Rabbi Howard: Prophets and Messengers of God were historical figures of their time. They were great people. They served humanity. God spoke to them. God gave Torah to Moses and Moses gave to his followers and one generation passed Torah to the next.
Imam Syed: Do you believe that Moses (peace be upon him) OR other Biblical Prophets can intercede for their followers in front of God.
Rabbi Howard: No, we do not believe that Prophets can help any one after they have died.
Imam Syed: If someone makes fun of Moses OR other Biblical Prophets, will the Jews be offended?
Rabbi Howard: No, we will not be offended. Again, Prophets are human just like us. We make fun of each other, so we can make fun of them too.
Imam Syed: Do you believe Adam, Lot, Jesus, Zachariah, John the Baptist, were Prophets of God.
Rabbi Howard: No, we do not believe that they were the prophets. We believe Jesus was a Rabbi.
Imam Syed: Is it OK for a Jewish person to ask God for some thing in the name of Moses OR other Biblical prophets? For example; can you say, “O’ God help me in Moses’ name?”
Rabbi Howard: No, we don’t. We directly ask God for any help. We do not have to say in Moses’ name.
Imam Syed: Thanks Rabbi Howard for sharing your beliefs about Prophets of God with us. You may be surprised to know that there are few Muslim sects who exactly follow your beliefs but they call themselves Muslims. However, majority of Muslims including me have very different beliefs about the Prophets and the Messengers of Allah.
We are Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t Muslims. We love, honour and have utmost respect for all the Prophets and the Messengers of God including Moses (peace be upon him), Jesus (peace be upon him) and Muhammad (peace be upon him). We do believe that the Prophets were human but we believe they were the best human beings. We believe that the Prophets and the Messengers of Allah do not commit sins. They are MA’SOOM (sinless).They were completely protected by Allah from committing sins. We believe that all the Prophets and the Messengers of Allah including Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are spiritually alive in their graves. Our holy book Qur’an forbids us to call Martyrs dead. If Martyrs are not dead how Prophets and the Messengers of Allah can be dead? They are far higher in ranks than the Martyrs. We believe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) listen our salutations and responds to us. We believe that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) will intercede for us on the Judgment Day. We believe that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is still our prophet. He will be the Prophet until the Judgment Day. He will be our Prophet on the Judgment Day.
In every prayer (salat) we send our salutation on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his progeny (peace upon them). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lives in our hearts. We try to imitate Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in our lives. We pray the way he prayed. We try to live the way he lived. We celebrate his birth, life and the message (Islam) every day. We celebrate his birthday called Eid Milad un Nabi (peace be upon him) every year in order to remind people how greatest of all he is. I love Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) more than my own life, my children, my parents and every thing else. I believe the dust particles that touched the shoes of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are one of the luckiest creations of Allah. The holiest part of the earth is that earth which touches the body of my beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his grave.
In our holy book, Qur’an Allah praised Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in every chapter. Allah never got upset or angry at Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In fact, Allah promised him the highest honours in this world and in the next world. Allah and His angels send blessings on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) every moment of the day and night. According to Qur’an, among the entire creation of Allah, the one who is praised most is Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Every next moment he is exalted by Allah.
We believe in the oneness of God just like Jews do but We also believe that Allah (God) made Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the final and the last Messenger towards entire humanity. My salvation lies in his obedience. Many Muslims have started following Jewish Tauheed (oneness of God) as Islamic Tauheed. This is causing a serious confusion among Muslims. My belief in the oneness of Allah will not benefit me unless I respect and honour Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). That’s the way the early Muslims believed and that’s the way the tradition of Islam continues today except for those Muslims who follow Jewish Tauheed (oneness of God).
Regarding the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the only difference between his today’s life and his life 1400 years ago is the following. Fourteen hundred years ago, he was visible to everyone; Believer OR Non-Believer. But today, He is visible to the Believers only, those who love and follow him. We believe in the living Prophet, not a dead prophet. Our Prophet lives in our hearts and that’s the Islamic Tauheed-o-Risalat.
Finally, According to Qur’an the purpose of life is to worship Allah. Allah says, “I have created human and Jinn for my worship”. The worshiping of Allah is best done by those who accept whatever the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) gives and stay away from whatever Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) forbids. We worship Allah only but we worship Allah the way Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) worshiped Him.
May I live and die for him (peace be upon him). May I serve his (peace be upon him) DEEN (religion) to the best of my abilities. May I be the humble servant of his Progeny and his Companions (May Allah be pleased with all of them) on the Judgment Day. May Allah bless me, my family, all Muslims and the entire humanity with the Mercy (RAHMAH) of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Ameen.