15.1 Relationship with the Jews
At first the Messenger was well received by the Jews of Medina. They saw how powerful his followers were and thought they could eventually use them to fight in their wars against the Christian tribes of Najran. Mohamed, benevolent and trusting, met their show of friendliness most cordially, and made treaties with them, mentioned earlier, that gave them freedom and security. He used to sit with their elders discussing religion, teaching and explaining, just as he did with his own followers.
As the Jews were not sincere in their attempts at understanding, instead of being delighted, they began to fear Mohamed. This new religion was so clear and logical that they feared the reaction of their own people. They had, however, given them permission to attend the Messenger's sessions and they could not abruptly withdraw it.
One day there occurred a momentous and significant event that brought the Jews' resentment out into the open and showed what their true feelings were. Their most learned scholar and devout rabbi went to discuss religion with the Messenger. This rabbi had found in the ancient books of the Jews that the last and greatest of the prophets was yet to appear and that he was clearly described. The rabbi applied the description to Mohamed and finding that it fitted him so well, he had become more and more convinced that Mohamed was indeed this last and greatest prophet.
This Rabbi, who was re-named Abdullah ibn Salam by the Prophet, professed his belief and made one request. He asked the Messenger to hear the opinion of his people about him before he announced to them his entry into Islam.
Accordingly, the Messenger called them and asked what they thought of their rabbi. Not understanding the reason for the question, they replied,
"He is our most learned scholar, our master and the son of our master, and our greatest man."
Whereupon Abdullah ibn Salam appeared and announced his entry into Islam, inviting them to do the same, but they rejected him and the truth he had embraced. They rapidly changed their tune and began to revile him among their people in an attempt to prevent any of them following him.
When the Jews realized that they were not going to be able to make Mohamed and his followers fight their wars for them and that they were not going to be able to regain dominance in Medina, they began to wage a devious war upon the Prophet, which makes the slanders against him seem crude. It was a war of cunning insinuations and subtle arguments, and because of their knowledge of previous revelations they were experts at this. Their aim was to make people doubt and to waste the Messenger's time and energy upon questions whose answers they already knew and which could be found in their own books. They sat with the Muslims, pretending to believe, and then asked questions that served only to deprive others of the Messenger's teaching. Such questions were,
"If Allah created everything, then who created Allah?"
Thereupon the holy verses were sent down to say:
"Allah is One,
Allah the Everlasting.
He has not given birth,
He was not born. He has
absolutely no peer." (112)
The Jews were well aware that Allah is One. Most of the precepts of Islam were not new to them, for, in principle, the precepts of Allah are unchangeable, eternal and the same for all peoples. The Koran differs from the Torah and the Bible only in the parts of the previous revelations that have been altered by man. Their aim was to quibble and cast doubts in the heart of those who believed.