WHAT DID KOHLER REALLY SAY ABOUT ISLAM?

Sufi Muslim Hamza Yusuf is fond of citing Jewish scholar Dr. Kaufman Kohler’s seemingly positive statements concerning Muhammad and his role in bringing about the Messianic Era. I have, therefore, decided to quote what Kohler actually wrote for the benefit of the readers, lest they be deceived by the lies and misinformation of Muhammad’s such aa Yusuf.

1. “It shall come to pass on that day that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea. … And the Lord shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall the Lord be One, and His name one.” These prophetic words of Zechariah may be applied to the two great world-religions which emanated from Judaism and won fully half of the human race, as it exists at present, for the God of Abraham. Though they have incorporated many non-Jewish elements in their systems, they have spread the fundamental truths in the Jewish faith and Jewish ethics to every part of the earth. Christianity in the West and Islam in the East have aided in leading mankind ever nearer to the pure monotheistic truth. Consciously or unconsciously, both found their guiding motive in the Messianic hope of the prophets of Israel and based their moral systems on the ethics of the Hebrew Scriptures. The leading spirits of Judaism recognized this, declaring both the Christian and Mohammedan religions to be agencies of Divine Providence, intrusted [sic] with the historical mission of cooperating in the building up of the Messianic Kingdom, thus preparing for the ultimate triumph of pure monotheism in the hearts and lives of all men and nations of the world. These views, voiced by Jehuda ha Levi, Maimonides, and Nahmanides, were reiterated by many enlightened rabbis of later times. These point out that both the Christian and Mohammedan nations believe in the same God and His revelation to man, in the unity of the human race, and in the future life; that they have spread the knowledge of God by a sacred literature based upon our Scripture; that they have retained the divine commandments essentially as they are phrased in our Decalogue; and have practically taught men to fulfill the Noahitic laws of humanity. On account of the last fact the medieval Jewish authorities considered Christians to be half-proselytes, while the Mohammedans, being pure monotheists, were always closer to Judaism. (Dr. Kaufman Kohler, Jewish Theology: Systematically and Historically Considered [The Macmillan Company, 1918], Part III. Israel and the Kingdom of God, LVII. Christianity and Mohammedanism The Daughter-Religions of Judaism, pp. 426-427)

4. … He offered the Jews inducements to recognize him as the last, “the seal,” of the prophets, by promising to adopt some of their religious practices;  but when they refused, he showed himself fanatical and revengeful, a genuine son of the Bedouins, unrelenting in his wrath and ending his career as a cruel, sensuous despot of the true Oriental type. Nevertheless, he created a religion which led to a remarkable advancement of intellectual and spiritual culture, and in which Judaism found a valuable incentive to similar endeavors. Thus Ishmael proved a better heir to Abraham than was Esau, the hostile brother of Jacob. (Ibid., pp. 429-430; bold emphasis mine)

11. … From the sources of information we have about the life and revelation of Mohammed, we learn that the origin of the belief in Allah, the God of Abraham, goes back to an earlier period when Jewish tribes settled in south Arabia. Among these Jews were traders, goldsmiths, famous warriors, and knights endowed with the gift of song, who disseminated Jewish legends concerning Biblical heroes. Amid hallucinations and mighty emotional outbursts this belief in Allah took root in the fiery soul of Mohammed, who thus received sublime conceptions of the one God and His creation, and of the world’s Judge and His future Day of Judgment… In spite of all these facts, the Jews could not be brought to recognize the uneducated son of the desert as a prophet. Therefore his proffered friendship was turned to deadly hatred and passionate revenge. His whole nature underwent a great change; his former enthusiasm and prophetic zeal were replaced by calculation and worldly desire, so that the preacher of repentance in Mecca became at the last a lover of bloodshed, robbery and lust. Instead of Jerusalem he chose Mecca with its heathen traditions as the center of his religious system and aimed chiefly to win the Arabian tribes for his divine revelation. (Ibid., pp. 441-442; bold emphasis mine)

12. It cannot be denied that the Mohammedan monotheism has a certain harshness and bluntness. It cannot win the heart by the mildness of heaven or the recognition of man’s individuality. Islam, as the name denotes, demands blind submission to the will of God, and it has led to a fatalism which paralyzes the sense of freedom, and to a fanaticism which treats every other faith with contempt. Islam has remained a national religion, which has never attained the outlook upon the whole of humanity, so characteristic of the prophets of Israel. Its view of the hereafter is crude and sensuous, whiles its picture of the Day of Judgment bears no trace of the divine mercy. On the other hand, we must recognize that the reverence of the Koran lent the “Men of the Book,” the representatives of culture, greater dignity, and provided a mighty incentive to study and inquiry. Damascus and Baghdad became under the Caliphs centers of learning, of philosophical study, and scientific investigation, uniting Nestorian, Jew, and Mohammedan in the great efforts towards general enlightenment. The consequence was that Greek science and philosophy, banished by the Church, were revived by the Mohammedan rulers and again cultivated, so that Judaism also felt their fructifying power. Our modern Christian civilization, so-called by Christian historians, is largely the fruit of the rich intellectual seeds sown by Mohammedans and Jews, after the works of the ancient Greeks had been translated into Syrian, Arabic, and Hebrew by a group of Syrian Unitarians (Nestorians [sic]) assisted by Jewish scholars. (Ibid., p. 443; bold emphasis mine)

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