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In Islam, Ahlul al-Kitaab have a special, protected status. For example, a Muslim man may marry a Jewish or Christian woman. Because of this, it is relevant to determine who is a Jew or a Christian.

It is easy to determine who is a Christian because anyone who professes a belief that Jesus is the divine son of God is accepted as a Christian. The same is not true, however, for Jews. It takes more to convert to Judaism (according to Jews) than simply professing a belief in Judaism. There is a whole long process, and the question of who is considered a Jew is controversial even among Jews themselves. For example, a Reform conversion would not be accepted as valid by Orthodox Jews. So according to the Orthodox Jews, someone who had a Reform Jewish conversion is not Jewish at all!

So, for the purposes of the special protections granted to Jews and Christians, who is considered to be Jewish by Muslim doctrine? Is it anybody who professes belief in Judaism? Anyone who has had an Orthodox conversion? Maybe Reform conversions are ok? Perhaps only someone who is a descendent of the Jews who escaped Egypt and who has no conversions in his family is Jewish?

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    Acc to my knowledge, in Islam those who believe in the books of Allah are Ahlul al-Kitaab (no difference between converts and others), those who do not believe e.g. atheist Jews, I do not think they can be considered Ahlul al-Kitaab. In Jewish communities, an atheist will be considered Jew if his/her ancestors were Jew. But in Islam your parentage, tribe and race etc does not really mean anything, just your belief matters (because Islam is universal). There are Jews who converted to Islam, but I have not heard anyone referring to them as Jewish Muslims. – blackfyre Feb 19 '15 at 20:16
  • I think your question is getting its focus away from the Islamic part i.e. "For example, a Muslim man may marry ..." to who is a Jew according to Islam, which could either be "too broad" or "primarily opinion based" – servant-of-Wiser Apr 14 '15 at 22:25
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    @servantofWiser I don't see how this question could be called either too broad or primarily opinion based. How can there be a law that applies to people who have the status of being a Jew without there being a definition of what a Jew is? I think the question is well-stated. – Daniel Apr 14 '15 at 22:56
  • yes, but defining "What a Jew is" all from scratch is too broad, unless it be specifically linked to the example, I mean to say, Instead of "What a Jew is..?", "which type of Jew can a Muslim marry" thereby linking it directly to the example... I hope u get it... – servant-of-Wiser Apr 14 '15 at 23:01
  • @servantofWiser no I don't – Daniel Apr 14 '15 at 23:02
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Well we don't run an IQ test based on Qur'an and Hadith even on a Muslim to determine if he/she is a Muslim or not. Just kidding, I mean to say, a community doesn't constantly keep track of ones (a so called Muulim's) activities whether he/she is Praying 5 times or not, fasting or not etc. But all we do as a community to accept one in the Muslim community is see if he/she testifies the Shahada just orally. We don't even know if he/she believes what he/she said or not. But just considering that, we accept one into a Muslim community.

Pretty much of the process remains the same even to accept one as a 'Jew' or not. Again, as I've said, we don't conduct an IQ test based on 'Torah', if he/she scores well enough in that, we'll accept him/her as a 'Jew', or if her fundamental practices are according to 'Torah' (whether it be today's Torah with minor manipulations or the original 'Torah') or not. All we just look into is, if he/she testifies that whether he/she believes in One God or not, whatever name you address God as. All we look is if he/she believes or not. We don't look if he/she is a practicing 'Jew' or not.

Now belief, as we know its a common sense, the 'Jew' needs to testify that "he/she believes there is no God but One God and Prophet Muhammad Moses is God's messenger"

One's saying of above testimony would suffice to be called as an Islamic 'Jew'. (If he/she believes Muhammad (pbuh) is a messenger of God then he/she is accepted to Islam itself directly)


Support:

From here on, I present the support of my above discussion, and if you wanna skip it, you can.

"I had a slave-girl who used to herd sheep for me. One day I discovered that a wolf had killed one of her sheep, and I'm a man from the children of Adam, I get upset like they get upset, and I slapped her in the face. Then I went to the Prophet who impressed upon me the seriousness of my act. I said, 'O Messenger of Allah, should I not set her free?' He said, 'Bring her to me.' He asked her, 'Where is Allah', She said, 'He is above the heavens.' He said, 'Who am I?' She said, 'You are the Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'Free her, for she is a believer.' (Muslim and Abu Dawud).

This is how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tested the woman if she was a believer or not. That is what we're supposed to do as Qur'an 60:10 demands us to do.

O you who believe! When believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them, Allah knows best as to their Faith, then if you ascertain that they are true believers, send them not back to the disbelievers, they are not lawful (wives) for the disbelievers...... That is the Judgement of Allah. He judges between you. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Qur'an 60:10)

How will you examine them, by conducting an IQ test on Qur'an? Nope, by asking two simple questions as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did above in the Hadith. The pretty much remains the same whether to test if a person is Jew or not.

Ask him/her simple questions (not on the entire Torah) that whether his/her definition of God match with the true expected definitions or not. (e.g although if he/she believes there is only God, but what if she believes that if that One God is some Moon God, nope, test failed either reject or help him/her to improvise. Its on you), and some simple questions to test whether if he/she believes that Prophet Moses (pbuh) was a messenger of God or not. If, you're satisfied with his/her explanation, Good, accept him/her as 'Jew', else either reject or help him/her improvise.

Note: This answer attempts to answer "Who is Jew" in general. But this in no way answers whether if a woman can be considered for marriage or not. There goes another discussion for it which would mostly constitute recommendation, although the true technicality remains the same as discussed above. Also this answer presents pretty much the same thing as mentioned by others i.e. Fatemeh, green4rrow in their answers

May the creator guide us all.

  • This is a pretty good answer. I would prefer it if you included some more direct evidence for your claim, but +1 for now. If you can provide some more direct evidence (perhaps from a more modern Islamic scholar), I would award a bounty for this answer. – Daniel Apr 15 '15 at 11:57
  • I'm accepting this answer since it does answer my question. But my request for a later source remains. If it can be provided, I will award a bounty. – Daniel Jul 16 '15 at 15:53
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This is an interesting question indeed which may be better directed at a scholar as I doubt you're going to find a set definition in any Islamic book and will most likely come from a scholarly interpretation. Depending on who you ask may also determine the answer you receive - which could be a strict definition that rules out a lot of sects as well as a more lenient interpretation which is more inclusive.

I think it gives a better idea if we take a step back and differentiate between the Abrahamic religions to other religions to see why this such status was given to them. The clear distinction between Ahlul Al-Kitaab and other religions is that they all purport to share one fundamental concept with Islam: belief in God as the Supreme Being, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Known as "tawhid" in Islam, and the belief in a prophet (from the Greek language roughly translating to spokesman, for god).

In trying to deduce who falls in and out of Ahlul Al-Kitaab, it would be important to note that neither Judaism or Christianity will be the same religion that it once was during the time of Moses and Jesus. The trinity concept, for example, from what I've read - there aren't many if any clear references to such a concept in the Bible, as well as the fact that the Bible will have also undergone changes to it's original text.

Not a direct answer to your question but i guess it gives a different angle to view from - I couldn't comment on your question (lack of 'reputation')

  • Interesting to note that some violent Islamic extremists deny Ahlu Al Kitab status to today's Christians and Jews under the pretense that they practice faith differently than in the Prophet's days. – System Down Sep 12 '13 at 0:11
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    @SystemDown Violent extremists of all religions are a minority percentage and usually don't reflect the views of the religion they think they're representing. On that basis, I think it is rather pointless discussing their opinion. – green4rrow Sep 13 '13 at 16:38
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Allow me to focus on solely the Islamic part of your question,

For example, a Muslim man may marry a Jewish or Christian woman. Because of this, it is relevant to determine who is a Jew or a Christian.

For that, I would like to mention that one need not perfectly define if a woman is a perfectly called a 'Jew' according Jewish community or not, but if the necessary characteristics are met in her (according to Islam), then she would be considered worth marrying.

Well as we've already dealt with Allowed to marry so called 'Christians' or not?, the same conclusion remains pretty much here too.

To be able to wisely justify on whom to marry as Qur'an 5:5 allows us, we can definitely take help of Qur'an 60:10, i.e. first check if she believes or not.

By the allowance of Qur'an 5:5, we need to understand one basic thing, the very reason why God let us marry people of scripture is because they believe in One God & worship one God keeping aside who their prophet is. If a Muslim is to marry a Jewish woman, he should decide if she is worthy enough to be manageable or not, i.e. if her fundamental beliefs as stated in Qur'an 98:5 about One god, and regular worship etc interfere or contradict with his fundamental Islamic beliefs or not. If they contradict, then she is not the 'Islamic Jew', if they don't contradict, then he can proceed according to Qur'an 5:5, making sure she is chaste & good enough for him.


Further explanation

In Islam, a person is considered a 'Believer'(Mumin) if he believes in One God(Creator) and his prophet(Muhammad peace be upon him). But to be called a Muslim he needs to perform basic obligations like prayer, zakat etc. (Characteristics of Muslim) That is he must be a practising Muslim. It is fairly easy for the community to decide if one is a Muslim or not.

Similarly, if just to say a 'Jew' who believes, we can define her as the one who believes in One God (Creator) and his prophet (Moses peace be upon him). That is the gateway to the religion. But, to be called a perfect one, she has to do what she has been commanded to do in her entrusted Book, Torah (Books revealed to Prophet Moses Peace be upon him) and whether she's practising on it perfectly or not. Qur'an 5:44 (for Jews) & Qur'an 5:47 (for Christians) help support the above explanation.

Qur'an doesn't literally define a typical Jew, but describes a snapshote.g.of what was ordained to them and wherein there behavior was found egregious.

Helpful:

This article by Jews (aggressive though) lists out all the verses of Qur'an where Jews have been mentioned.

May the creator guide us all.

  • As a side note, if you think this answer does not answer the question, fine, to personally recognize if a Jew is an Islamic Jew or not, a muslim will have to obviously study the Judaism sects and their practices to answer in a rather comprehensive way. – servant-of-Wiser Apr 14 '15 at 21:55
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    I'm not asking whether a particular sect of Jews fall under the umbrella of Judaism according to Islam. I'm asking what qualifies any given sect as being Jewish from an Islamic point of view. – Daniel Apr 14 '15 at 22:59
  • "what qualifies any given sect as being Jewish from an Islamic point of view?", that they judge perfectly well completely using their Torah without getting biased, and moreover, they worship One God. 5:44 and 5:47 explain pretty much that... @Daniel – servant-of-Wiser Apr 14 '15 at 23:06
  • as I said, if you're looking for something like that, from the basic level, I can try i think... @Daniel – servant-of-Wiser Apr 14 '15 at 23:15
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According to this verse Ahlul kitab are people who believe in the prophets books. But in some religions some ones call themselves as that religion followers but have their own orders and ethics that none of the prophet had brought them from Allah. Those are still called ahlul kitab. And there is no difference between them and that religion. And if they live in an Islamic society, The Muslims have to treat them like the real believers unless they have some action in opposite of the Islamic society.

I mean it is not the Muslims duty to find out who behave as his religion prophet ordered or not.

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