There is a verse in the Quran stating that Jews said, “Uzair a son of Allah.” Does it exist in Jewish belief?
Submitted by on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 15:21
Dear Brother / Sister,
“The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!” (at-Tawba, 9/30)
Jews said, “Uzayr is a son of Allah.” There were some Jews who said so. According to a narration, Jewish rabbis named Sallam b. Mishkam, Numan b. Awfa, Shas b. Qays, and Malik b. Fays came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and uttered that sentence. It is also narrated that a rabbi named Fanhas b. Azura said, “Allah is poor; we are rich.” There were some people who said similar things in the previous periods. The reason for it was that the Jews stopped acting according to the Torah and started to kill their prophets. There was no one who knew the Torah left; some of them had died and some had been killed; others had forgotten the Torah. Allah had deleted it from their hearts. Finally, the Torah and Tabut (the chest containing the holy relics) were removed.
Afterwards, the Prophet Uzayr, after a hundred years of death, begged and prayed to Allah; he was enabled to memorize the Torah; he went to Sons of Israel at a young age and rewrote the Torah by heart. At that time, they he said, “It is not possible; he is definitely a son of Allah.” Thus, they paved the way for the Christians to say, “Jesus is the son of God” afterwards. When the verse above was sent down, the Jews did not oppose or deny by saying, “We never say such a thing; it is a lie.”
However, that statement was not heard from the Jews who came later probably because the threat of war by Islam had a great effect on them. In that case, not all of them but some of them used to say, “Uzayr is a son of Allah.” Christians said, “Christ is the son of God.” Although some Christians actually said it in the beginning, almost all of them started to say it later on; and they even accused those who did not say so of unbelief. See the information given in the chapter of al-Maida (al-Maida 5/72,73).
They used to say it as son, in the sense of generation and offspring, up to the emergence of Islam; then, some of them began to claim that it was a metaphor, just like a metaphor for honor and dignity, like the phrase “Baytullah”. Thus, the phrase “Son of God” uttered by Jews and Christians, is their word spoken by their mouths. It is not a slander attributed to them by others; it is a statement that came out of their own mouths. However, it is a phrase that has no serious meaning in reality; it is an empty phrase; it is a contradictory and nonsensical thing. They utter it not to express a meaning, but as a word whose meaning is incomprehensible. They resemble those who fell into unbelief before them by saying so.
The polytheists that were mentioned earlier became unbelievers by saying, “Angels are daughters of Allah.” The words of the Jews and Christians related to “son” are just like theirs; it is a kind of unbelief and polytheism. In that case, although they are from the People of the Book, they resemble polytheists. In this respect, they are regarded as polytheists and they are unbelievers, not believers in Allah. May Allah damn them!
It is a curse in Arabic; destruction and damnation are meant by it though the word qatl (killing) is used in the Arabic phrase. How are they deviated? How are they seduced and diverted from the right path? How can they be led astray into such a grave lie and slander as attributing a son to Allah, and into such a clear unbelief and polytheism? How and why are they led to those bad situations? (Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır, the interpretation of the verse in question)
The narrations about Uzayr in Islamic sources bring to mind Ezra, who has an important place in Jewish history. As a matter of fact, there is a similar narrative in 4 Ezra (IV/19-48), one of the “pseudographic” texts.
According to Jewish tradition, Ezra is not a prophet, but he occupies a position above prophethood in Judaism. The Jewish rabbis compared him with the Prophet Musa (Moses) and claimed that he was worthy of receiving the Torah like Moses. According to the Rabbis, if Moses had not come earlier, the Torah would have been given to Ezra. (Sanhedrin, 21b) A. Geiger argues that the expression about Uzayr in the Quran stems from a mistranslation of the expression of excessive respect in the Talmud. (Judaism and Islam, p. 154)
There is no information in Jewish sources that Ezra was exalted as the son of God among Jews. There is no sign of it in traditional Jewish belief either. Therefore, the Jewish scholar Musa b. Maymun regards the information in the Quran as a slander against Jews. (Jacobs, I, 181)
Tafsir scholars such as Tha’labi, Ibn Jarir at-Tabari, Abul-Fida Ibn Kathir, Fakhruddin ar-Razi and Tusi state that the verse does not cover all Jews. (Mahmoud Ayoub, “Uzayr in the Quran and Muslim Tradition”, Studies in Islamic and Judaic Traditions (ed. W. M. Brinner - S. D. Ricks), Atlanta 1986, pp. 9-14)
According to narrations in tafsir books, those who said so were a group of Jews in Madinah. (Ibn Abu Hatim, VI, 1781; Ibn al-Jawzi, III, 424)
Ibn Hazm states that the Sadducees living around Yemen had the belief of accepting Ezra as the son of Allah. According to him, it is the most important belief that distinguishes the Sadducees from other Jewish groups (al-Fasl, I, 99).
Maqdisi, on the other hand, states that the Jews who accepted Ezra as the son of God were Palestinian Jews, that they did it to glorify and honor Ezra, but that the other Jews did not accept it. (al-Bad’ wat-Tarikh, IV, 35)
Iskandarani, who is of Jewish origin, states that the Karaites in Hejaz region had that belief. (Lazarus-Yafeh, p. 53)
The information given about the Jewish groups that describe Ezra / Uzayr as the son of God cannot be verified historically.
However, it is not appropriate to understand the expression in the Quran (at-Tawba 9/30) metaphorically because the fact that what the Jews said about Uzayr is parallel with the Christians’ beliefs about Jesus prevents such understanding.
In fact, the Jews of the Hejaz region at the time when the Quran was sent down had such a belief, and the Jews of the Hejaz were expecting a savior messiah like other Jews. However, the messiah expected by the Jews of this region, who had an esoteric belief, was different. Presumably, they called this messiah Azar or Ozer in Hebrew, meaning “God’s helper” and believed that he was the son of God. Those words were transferred to Arabic as Uzayr.
Accordingly, the word Uzayr in the chapter of at-Tawba can be considered a title given to the messiah, not a name. This messiah, bearing the title of Uzayr, must be Enoch, as Newby points out because the attributes ascribed to Enoch and the attributes ascribed to by Christians to Jesus as Messiah are very similar (Adam, pp. 103-118; see TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi, Üzeyir item)
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