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HomeCulturalRabbi Oury Cherki’s Open Letters to Islam Intersects with Contrast and Convergence

Rabbi Oury Cherki’s Open Letters to Islam Intersects with Contrast and Convergence

Brit Olam Institution Head Rabbi Oury Cherki argues that Non-Jews Who Practice the Ten Commandments from Allah fulfills his obligations towards achieving salvation.

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Brit Olam Institution Head Rabbi Oury Cherki argues that Non-Jews Who Practice the Ten Commandments from Allah fulfills his obligations towards achieving salvation.

In February, Rabbi Oury Cherki visited the United Arab Emirates following the publication of his Open Letter to Islam sent to Imams and Scholars with the intention to build a bridge between the faiths.

Rabbi Oury met with senior leaders led by Chairman of the Defense Affairs, Interior & Foreign Affairs Committee at the UAE Federal National Council H.E. Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, including, Director of the Preaching Department at the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, Vice Chairman of the Sharia Committee of the Zakat Fund Sheikh Muhammad Talib al-Shahi.

During the meeting Cherki discussed the concept of Dar Al-Islam – territory for which Muslims are obligated to wage religious war to reconquer.

“The most central religious claim of Islam against Israel is that of Dar Al-Islam, according to which Muslims are obligated to use force to conquer the land that had previously been under Muslim control. Judaism’s main issue with Islam is, of course, that [some] views do not recognize the legitimacy of Judaism’s connection to the Land of Israel and therefore attack Israel because of it being Dar al-Islam…The recognition of Israel as a legitimate state will solve most of the acute problems between Islam and Judaism and will build between them a bridge of faith,” says Cherki.

In response, Al-Nuaimi stated that the perspective that defines Israel as Dar al-Islam is “a lie, fabricated only in the past 100 years”.

“Stop trying to justify your existence; you are an established fact, and Jews are part of the Middle East,” says Al-Nuaimi.

According to Cherki, Al-Nuaimi’s words constitute a historic beginning toward building a bridge of faith between Judaism and Islam.

Cherki also argued that the Islamic world should recognize that the Jews are a nation and not a religion – a topic of great consequence in Islamist claims against Israel’s existence.

“Israel is legitimate regardless, and the Jews are free to define themselves as they see fit,” says Al-Nuaimi.

Cherki also raised the topic of the closing of ijtihad – the mechanism of oral law in Islam, which ended centuries ago.

“The closing of ijtihad was a big mistake. This topic is particularly important for inter-religious understanding,” says Al-Nuaimi.

The Emirati representatives at the meeting expressed an interest in learning in greater detail the meaning of “The Bridge of Faith,” the Rabbi’s open letter to Islam, and asked to receive a copy of the 12-century Jewish manuscript mentioned in the letter.

“In Islam, there are good ones, and there are bad ones; we are the good ones,” says Al-Nuaimi.

During the course of his visit, Cherki met with additional senior leaders in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi, including Sheikh Al-Mansuri, who founded a Holocaust Museum in the UAE, the former Bahraini Ambassador to the United States (herself a Bahraini Jew), the former American Ambassador to Oman, and the Jewish businessman Eli Epstein.

As a follow up to the meeting in February, Cherki sent a new open letter in April to the scholars of Islam reiterating his position that “the State of Israel should not be regarded as a foreign entity imposing itself on the Muslim world”.

“On the contrary, it should be seen as the realization of divine justice as found in the Quran and the Torah: the return of the land to its rightful owners. It should be recognized that when Israel was founded in 1948, political rule was not taken from the Arabs but rather from the British, who conquered it from the Ottomans,” argues Cherki.

In the letter, Cherki posits the right of the Israeli people to the Land of Israel.

“One of the fundamental obstacles to constructive dialogue between Judaism and Islam is the claim that Judaism is a religion but not a nation. However, from the perspective of Judaism, the Jewish nation is, first and foremost – a nation. Therefore, all of Jacob’s descendants are part of the Jewish nation, whether they believe in the Torah or not, and thus, they are included among the inheritors of the land of Israel,” says Cherki.

According to Cherki, The Jewish State should be recognized as the manifestation of the divine promise to return the nation of Israel to its land.

Cherki quotes Sura 5,20: “Bear in mind the words of Moses to his people. He said: ‘Remember, my people, the favor God has bestowed upon you. He has raised prophets among you, made you kings, and given you what He has given to no other nation. Enter, my people, the holy land God has assigned for you. Do not turn back, or you shall be ruined.’ [The Jewish State] should be seen as the realization of divine justice as found in the Quran and the Torah: the return of the land to its rightful owners,” says Cherki.

As for matters on which Judaism and Islam converge, Cherki discusses the status of Pr. Muhammad from a rabbinical perspective.

“Although there would have to be positive evidence of Muhammad’s prophecy for him to be accepted as a prophet by the Jews, Judaism approves that non-Jews believe in and take Muhammad as their prophet. We should also point out that Judaism and Islam include many of the very same commandments, such as refraining from eating pork, additional dietary requirements, modest dress, and more,” says Cherki.

On the matter of the ten commandments as handed down by Allah to Pr. Moses, Cherki also affirms the inter-connectedness between the faiths when it comes to the question of the salvation.

“In principle, Islam accepts the same commandments that Judaism calls the Seven Noahide Laws as obligatory. From Judaism’s point of view, if a non-Jew observes these seven commandments, acknowledging that they were given by the One God to all mankind, he fulfills his obligation. These commandments, which serve as a point of meeting between Judaism and Islam, are the prohibition of idolatry, the prohibition of cursing God, the prohibition of murder, the prohibition of sexual deviancy, the prohibition of theft, the prohibition of eating meat torn from a living animal, and the positive obligation to establish courts of justice and a penal system. The fact that Islam accepts these commandments and that from a Jewish perspective, whoever observes them is in good standing has important implications in practical halacha for building a bridge between the believers in the One God,” says Cherki.

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