Imagine a world where Muslims, Christians and Jews live in peace

If there are moments in history where it’s possible for humanity to make a paradigm shift, I hope this is one of them. I’m writing this to Muslims, Christians and Jews, but the rest of you might be interested as well. None of us like the direction things are going, and it’s probably a little late to be pointing this out, but I think we’re all losing the most important battle in our much-denied war over the Holy Land. For the sake of a few small patches of real estate our collective body count has been climbing for the last sixty years, but we’ve conceded the issue of exactly what it is that we’re fighting about without even a whimper.

We’ve apparently all agreed that religion is the problem in the Middle East. Whether it’s Muslim terrorists, greedy Christians or racist Settlers, we all blame someone. We’re all struggling to prove that our path is better than the rest, and so there’s a growing consensus that the birthplace of all our faiths is home or two or even three incompatible religions. Like Pepsi versus Coca-Cola, we’ve turned it into a brand war. Marketers love marketing, and it’s understandable that politicians would want to believe that politics is the only path to peace in the Middle East, but the real tragedy is that we’ve gone along with them. Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth.

When you get down to what Islam and Judaism say about God and us and the rest of creation, it’s hard to tell us apart. Most Christians will agree that the only thing that really makes them different is their commitment to the Holy Trinity. We’re all convinced we were created by the God of Abraham. We all believe that He’s talked to us through His Books, His Prophets and His Angels ever since. Except for the few parts we don’t agree about, we’ll all even concede that those Books, Prophets and Angels have said pretty much the same sorts of things. It’s shocking, but the same is true when you look when you what all our books say about Israel. In fact, the Quran is clearer about Jews having a right to live there in peace than the Torah!

The Jewish claim to the land is based on a passage you can find in the eighteenth chapter of the first book of either the Bible or the Torah. In Genesis 18:17-19, God asks:
Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.

There’s no question the deal is conditional, and depends on how the children of Abraham “keep the way of the Lord”. The Quran, on the other hand is more definitive. Al-Maeda 5:20-21 proclaims:
Remember Moses said to his people; “O my People! Call in remembrance the favor of Allah unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what he had not give to any other among the peoples. O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be over-thrown to your own ruin.”

The word most translations present as meaning “assigned” is actually much stronger than that implies. “KatabAllahu” really means something much closer to “destined” or “God-ordained”. Since that means that the Quran says it’s part of Allah’s plan for humanity for Jews to live in Israel, I think it’s fair to ask: What’s the problem?

“Live in Peace” gets complicated when you add the word “together”. For Muslims, Al-Isra 17:104 is clear that together is part of God’s plan too.
And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel, “Dwell securely in the land of Promise”: But when the second of the warnings came to pass, We gathered you together in a mingled crowd.

It would be nice if mingled crowd described of the way people are living in the Middle East today. Collection of warring mobs is closer to the truth, but that only brings us back to God’s real plan for peace in the Holy Land.  When you actually sit down and read what He has to say on the subject, it turns out the One who made us all has always intended for Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together, and that He wants us to live that way in peace.

Back in the first century of Islam in the days of the rightly guided Caliphs, it’s amazing the lengths they went to, getting along. Al-Ankaboot 29:46 told them: “Do not argue with the people of the Book (Christians and Jews), except in the politest manner.” In disputes, An-Nahl 16:125 commanded them to: “Dispute in ways that are best and most gracious.” Back then Muslims knew that true Islam requires that all humans be treated equally, without discrimination. When the Prophet Muhammad settled in Medina, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Pagan Arabs lived in peace. The Prophet told his followers: “Whoever hurts a non-Muslim, I shall be his complainant, and for whomever I am a complainant, I shall ask for his rights on the day of Resurrection.”  He also proclaimed: ‘Whoever persecutes a non-Muslim or demands work from his beyond his capacity or who takes something from him with evil intentions; I shall be a complainant against him on the day of Resurrection.”  Finally, he stated: “He who hurts a non-Muslim hurts me, and one who hurts me, hurts God.”

As Islam spread, it also spread the idea of government by ”Shura” or “Mutual Consultation”, a community based form of democracy. Muslims protected the rights and freedoms of everyone. When the son of the Governor of Egypt slapped a Christian who won a race ahead of him, Umar, the second Caliph, ordered the son to be beaten by the Christian and said: “How could you make slaves of these people who had been born free?” When he learned that Muslims had confiscated the land of a Jew to build a Mosque, he ordered the Mosque destroyed and the land returned. When Umar entered Jerusalem in victory, he visited the Christian church there. When the Muslim prayer was due, the Christian patriarch invited him to perform it. Umar refused, saying: “I fear that once I have my prayer in this church, the coming generations of Muslims would say that in this place Umar had performed his prayer and therefore it has become a Mosque. I want the church to remain a church.”

For their part, both the Torah and the Bible have explicit instructions regarding how Jews and Christians are supposed to conduct themselves towards others. Exodus 22:21 tells them:
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”
Leviticus 19:33–34 expands on this:
“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Finally, Leviticus 24:22 confirms:
“You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.”

According to both 1 Kings 8:41–43 and Isaiah 56:7 both Jerusalem and the Temple are meant for everyone:
“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name—for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.”

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—these will I bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Finally, Ezekiel 47:21-23 told Jews that when they take control, they’re supposed to treat the people who were already living there like family:
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord.

Unfortunately, no Jew has read the word most Bibles translate as “alien”, “stranger”, or “sojourner” that way for two thousand years. Back in the early days of the Talmud Israel had endured a series of invasions, first by the Babylonians, then by the Greeks and the Romans. It just wasn’t possible for them to obey a law requiring that Jews treat aliens the same as Jews when those aliens were foreign invaders, imposing laws of their own! Rabbis decided that the word “Ger” only meant “Convert”, even though the same word is used to describe the Jews themselves as strangers when they living in Egypt. It worked so well back then that no one’s ever changed it back.

Can you imagine a world where Muslims, Christians and Jews acted as if God loves us all, and wants us to live in peace? Our religions have actually been telling us how to do it all along. We’ve all got our radicals, and we’re all going to have to learn to ignore them, but it should be easy to tell them apart. The bad ones have one thing in common: they all use faith to force others to do what they want us to do. The good guys (and girls) know that faith is about doing what God wants and trusting Him to look after the rest.

Political solutions are really no better: negotiation is always about making the best deal for you, but faith is really about making the best deal for everyone. Our books all agree that we’re going to have three religions until the end. Jews are waiting for the Messiah to come, and Muslims and Christians are both looking forward to Jesus coming back, but God has told us all that until then He wants us to be good to each other. We are all the Children of Abraham. That makes us family. Maybe we should all try to live that way?


Written by Dr. David Liepert