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Why can’t Descendants of Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael Can Live Together Peacefully?

If the descendants of Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael negotiate a settlement that reflects the religious policy that “…there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement [reconciliation] is best.” (Quran 4: 128)

Word For Peace

Rabbis Ron Kronish and Allen S. Maller

Why can’t Descendants of Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael Can Live Together Peacefully?Every year Jews in synagogues worldwide read Genesis chapters 21 and 22 on the first and second days of Rosh Hashanah; the Jewish New Year Festival.

Rabbi Kronish writes: “On these very special days we read about Prophet Ishmael as well as Prophet Isaac. Reading about the patriarch of the Arab people is part of our Jewish tradition because these foundational events are essential to our identity as Jews and Chapter 21—the story of the birth and banishment of Ishmael—establishes our Jewish connection to God’s non-Jewish children.

God saw Ishmael was about to die and the text tells us the God of the Hebrew Bible hears the voice of all children, including Ishmael, in their suffering and misery, as well as in their joyous and hopeful moments.

After these events we next hear about Ishmael a few chapters later, when Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael meet again (Genesis 25:9) at the funeral of their father Abraham. Islamic and Jewish tradition both agree that Prophet Abraham visited Prophet Ishmael’s distant home on at least two different occasions to make sure that his family relationships were suitable. These pre and post funeral reconciliations would be why the Torah’s describes Abraham as ‘contented’ in his old age.

Can we see this as a very good model for family reconciliations [today by] forgiving old hurts? And can it also become a model for the descendants of Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael, contemporary Arabs and Israeli Jews, to find the grounds to attain post military funerals, forgiveness and reconciliation?

Rabbi Kronish’s answer is Yes. “But Jews and Muslims have to overcome some deeply ingrained negative stereotypes of each other. Some of this comes from our understanding –or purposeful misunderstanding — of our sacred texts, which can be very problematic and often lead to negative stereotyping. It is time to choose reconciliation rather than retribution between Jews and Muslims in this world. The time for enmity is over.”

And I would add to the words of Rabbi Kronish that everyone knows how important fasting during Ramadan, and daily worship and prayer are in Islam; but few know that Islam considers reconciling people better than many acts of worship.

Prophet Muhammad said: “Should I not tell you what is better in degree than prayer, fasting, and charity.” They (the companions) said: “Yes.” He said: “Reconciling people, because grudges and disputes are a razor (that shaves off faith).” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, and At-Tirmithi)

Even more amazing the Prophet said: “The one who reconciles people is not considered a liar if he exaggerates what is good or says what is good.” [Ahmad]

This is an excellent guide to dealing with the three-generation old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather than focusing mostly on what the other side did to us, we all should focus on how the conflict has hurt all of us, and how much better our future would be if we could live next to each other in peace.

If the descendants of Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael negotiate a settlement that reflects the religious policy that “…there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement [reconciliation] is best.” (Quran 4: 128)

And in Jewish tradition family harmony is of such importance that a midrash states that the goal even warrants engaging in a “white lie”. When God tells Sarah she will give birth to a son, she says: “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my husband being old also?” But when God speaks to Abraham, God says: “Why did Sarah say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” (Genesis: 18:12-13).

The rabbis comment that God omitted Sarah’s mention of Abraham’s even older age out of concern for their family harmony. And the Sages of the school of Hillel taught that one can praise the beauty of a bride even though she is not very pretty.

The Messenger of Allah said: “He is not a liar who seeks to reconcile between people and says [only] good things.” (al-Bukhaari, 2490)

If we follow these teachings we will bring closer the 2500 year old vision:“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. His new book, The Other Peace Process: Inter-religious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttlefield, in September 2017.

Allen S. Maller is an ordained Reform Rabbi who retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Los Angeles, California. His web site is: www.rabbimaller.com. Rabbi Maller blogs in the Times of Israel. His 2017 book is: ’Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: A Reform Rabbi’s Reflections on the Profound Connectedness of Islam and Judaism’ (31 articles previously published by Islamic web sites).

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