Can you please tell me the meaning of “Children of Israel” in the Quran?
Israel is another name for Prophet Ya`qoub, grandson of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). Ya`qoub is known as Jacob in the Bible. The Children of Israel are Jacob’s descendants. He had twelve sons, and the descendants of his sons make up the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Israel/Jacob is the father of all Jews, meaning that the Children of Israel means “genetic Jews”, people who are Jewish by birth. The Quran also uses yahood to refer to Jews, which means “genetic-cultural Jews”, Jews who are Jews by genetics, and who consider themselves part of the world’s Jewry and act as a specific culture and interest group.
In Islam, a person can be Muslim and belong to the Children of Israel (i.e. be a genetic Jew), since belonging to the Children of Israel is a matter of genetics, similar to being Arab or Indo-European.
But a person cannot be Muslim and yahood, because being yahood means that one accepts to be part of Judaism to a greater or lesser degree.
These distinctions are lost on many Muslims and many people in the West, especially since some Jews act as if they are “just a faith” like Islam and Christianity, when they are not just a faith. If they were just a faith, how could Israel use genetics to decide who to give Israeli citizenship to (since only a Jew can get citizenship)? According to the racist thinking that rules in Israel, an Arab’s genes are not good enough to make them citizens, while a Jew’s genes are. It is all about race, similar to the apartheid government of South Africa treating whites as first class citizens and blacks as subhuman.
The Children of Israel refers to Jews-the-genetic-group (i.e. the Jewish race), yahood refers to Jews-the-genetic-and-cultural group, those of the Jewish race who are part of Jewish culture (even if they are not religious). The word Jew in English, among those who understand history, has the same meaning as yahood.
What “Jew” means is similar to what “WASP” means (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). WASP refers to people of European and Protestant heritage, which includes many of the white people who live in the West. WASPs are both a genetic group and a cultural/religious group (even though they are not very religious in general). Jews, instead of having white genes, have Jewish genes, and instead of belonging to Protestant culture, belong to Jewish culture (even if they aren’t very religious).
Some people can be found in the West who think that one stops being a Jew if one stops “practicing”. This is like saying one stops being a WASP if one stops “practicing”. Being a Jew, and being a WASP, is not something you practice, it is something you are.
For Jews and WASPs, there is a religious tradition that originally defined their culture, but to most Jews and WASPs, religion is something that’s only useful during weddings and funerals, although both groups retain some of the teachings of their religions. Thus many Jews, even the atheists among them, continue to maintain the Hebrew Bible idea of considering themselves a superior species of humans, separate from all other humans, and continue to view the world in terms of Jews vs. non-Jews. WASPs, too, continue to value Christian ideals to some degree, and their culture of respecting fairness, equality and hard work was originally inspired by Biblical ideas.
Question from a reader
Asalaamualaykum. who founded Judaism?, was it the children of Israel? (Yacoub) did they become jews after Moses? before the coming of Jesus? Would be grateful for any info into the history of Judaism and children of Yocoub.
Judaism as we know it today was established by Moses (Prophet Musa peace be upon him). The same way that Islam is based on the teachings of the Quran, Judaism is based on the teachings of the Torah, the revelation that was given to Moses.
The Torah makes up the first five books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books contain the message and the laws of the original Judaism that was founded by Moses (with some corruptions).
The Jewish race (people of Jewish genes) existed before Moses, since their existence starts with Israel/Jacob, about 400 years before Moses according to Biblical chronologists. Before Moses, they followed the religion of Abraham and Israel.
The Jews before Moses are known as Hebrews, since in current usage Jew means a person of Jewish genes who is a follower of Moses’ religion/culture. But genetically and culturally the Hebrews and and the Jews are the same people. Once the Hebrews acquired Moses’ religion, they reformed into Jews.
Today’s Judaism is very different from the original Judaism because it follows the Talmud (writings of rabbis), which creates a new religion on top of the old religion and legalizes things like usury.
In Islamic thinking, Jesus was the Jewish messiah that was sent to correct and reform Judaism and ban the evils that the rabbis had legalized, such as usury. The rabbis tolerated for a while, until he started to threaten their profits by attacking the Temple (which was the Jewish Wall Street of that time where usury was practiced). Within one week Jesus was to be crucified for this unforgivable sin. In Islam, we believe that God saved Jesus, as is narrated in the chapter 3 of the Quran:
54. They planned, and God planned; but God is the Best of planners.
55. God said, “O Jesus, I am terminating your life, and raising you to Me, and clearing you of those who disbelieve. And I will make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return; then I will judge between you regarding what you were disputing.
In verse 55, God promises Jesus that He will ensure that the Jews and non-Jews who followed Jesus (the Christians) will be forever superior to the Jews who disbelieved in Jesus (Jews who continued to follow Judaism). This prophecy has continued to remain true to this day. Despite all Jewish efforts to stamp out Christianity, it went on to become the official religion of the Roman Empire, and since then Christian powers have always been orders of magnitude more powerful than Jewish powers.