The term “anti-Semitic” is thrown around very loosely. It sometimes seems that you might be an anti-Semite if you don’t eat bagels! 😆 However, the accusation that Muslims hate Jews is frequently supported by saying that the Qur’an calls Jews “apes and pigs”.
(From Muhammad Asad’s English version of the Qur’an): [2:63] AND LO! We accepted your solemn pledge, raising Mount Sinai high above you, [and saying,] “Hold fast with [all your] strength unto what We have vouchsafed you, and bear in mind all that is therein, so that you might remain conscious of God!” [2:64] And you turned away after that! And had it not been for God’s favour upon you and His grace, you would surely have found yourselves among the lost; [2:65] for you are well aware of those from among you who profaned the Sabbath, whereupon We said unto them, “Be as apes despicable!”
Or again from Muhammad Asad’s version:[5:59] Say: “O followers of earlier revelation! Do you find fault with us for no other reason than that we believe in God [alone], and in that which He has bestowed from on high upon us as well as that which He has bestowed aforetime? – or [is it only] because most of you are iniquitous?” [5:60] Say: “Shall I tell you who, in the sight of God, deserves a yet worse retribution than these? They whom God has rejected and whom He has condemned, and whom He has turned into apes and swine because they worshipped the powers of evil: these are yet worse in station, and farther astray from the right path [than the mockers].”
There you have it, clear as day: to the followers of Muhammad, Jews are less than human – apes and pigs (swine)! Horrors! What a despicable religion! 🙄 Surely we know that the Bible never said anything like that.
Of course, what is overlooked in the above quotations is that the condemnation of being apes and pigs is not directed at all Jews, and it is not directed at them based on their Jewishness. Consider that in the first passage, the verse immediately preceding the first verse I quoted says this: [2:62] VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
And in Sura 5, just a few verses after the “apes and swine” verse, we read this (almost exactly the same as 2:62): [5:69] for, verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
Obviously, according to the Qur’an, not all Jews are alike; and for that matter, not all Christians are alike, nor all Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims. There are some Jews (and Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims) who believe in God and the Last Day and do good works; these have God’s blessing. Therefore, any condemnation from God for Jewish people is not based on their “Jewishness”.
But there are other Jews who deliberately disobey the revelation from God which they were given. One particular instance of this is mentioned in 2:65 quoted above: those who deliberately violated the Sabbath. Those disobedient Jews are the ones whom it is said that God rejected and left to stray so that they became like brute beasts. Having turned their backs on God and His commandments, they are left to become as devoid of spiritual awareness as apes and pigs. This is just another way of saying that God condemns them to be (spiritually) blind, deaf, and even dead.
In Sura 5, this same truth is evident. The ones whom God has rejected and condemned are those who are said (at the end of verse 59) to be “iniquitous” or disobedient. Verses 61 and 62 go on to describe these “apes and pigs” this way: [5:61] For, when they come unto you, they say, “We do believe”: whereas, in fact, they come with the resolve to deny the truth, and depart in the same state. But God is fully aware of all that they would conceal. [5:62] And thou canst see many of them vie with one another in sinning and tyrannical conduct and in their swallowing of all that is evil. Vile indeed is what they do! These are the ones whom the Muslim believers are told not to take as allies, because they mock, ridicule, resent, and reject the Muslims. They most certainly are not godly Jews or Christians.
5:60 is addressed to those who resent and mock the Muslim believers. If I may be allowed to give my interpretive paraphrase of the question, it is this: “Would you mockers like to know who is more deserving of punishment than what you imagine to be due to these whom you are mocking?” And at the end of the verse, where Muhammad Asad has interpolated “than the mockers”, I believe the actual meaning is “than those whom you are mocking”. The idea is: “you imagine that these Muslims have strayed from the right path and are worthy of God’s rejection and punishment; but the fact is that you mockers are the ones who are truly astray. You are in danger of becoming like those whom God condemned to be as spiritually insensitive as brute beasts.”
So the Qur’an is not “anti-Jew”; but like the former Hebrew Prophets, the Arabian Prophet is told to pronounce judgment on those who disobey God’s commands and covenant. And he warns his hearers to beware lest they become like those who were formerly condemned. But the good news of Gods forgiveness and kindness is proclaimed to those who truly believe in God and bring forth the fruit of righteous deeds.
People sometimes assert that the Bible never calls Jews by such names as “apes and pigs”. I have to differ, because Jesus is reported to have said (Matthew 7:6, English Standard Version): Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. This was not said just to Jesus’ disciples, as he was preparing them to go out and preach to Gentiles after he departed from them; it was a general ‘sermon’ being delivered to a great crowd of ‘ordinary’ (Jewish) hearers. Matthew 5:1 might perhaps make it sound like Jesus was just instructing his disciples after he went up a mountain to escape the crowds. But Matt. 7:28 informs us that, while Jesus disciples may have gathered close around him, he was in fact addressing the crowds as well. And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching. He is telling the people not to try persuading, with “pearls of wisdom”, those of their acquaintances who were completely insensitive to spiritual things. Such people are like mere animals such as dogs and pigs. They won’t value spiritual “pearls”, and are more likely to attack you than thank you for your kindness.
So Jesus was telling his listeners that even though their friends, acquaintances, and leaders were Jewish, not all Jews are alike. Some were so far from being “children of the kingdom” that they were “dogs and pigs”.
In fact, I suspect that it was primarily those who were considered to be teachers and leaders that Jesus was referring to. He is rather “notorious” for denouncing the Pharisees and Scribes as hypocrites and blind guides. Both Jesus and his cousin John (the ‘Baptist’) called those teachers and leaders a “brood of vipers”. So Jesus also here referred to them as dogs and pigs.
Peter also, in 2 Peter 2, compares false prophets and teachers to dogs and pigs: 2Pe 2:22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” In verse 12, Peter had referred to these apostates as “irrational animals”: But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction.
Peter was at least primarily an apostle to the Jewish people (the “circumcision”). Here is what the apostle Paul (in his letter to the Galatian believers) said about an agreement he reached with Peter, James, and John: Gal 2:7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised Gal 2:8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), Gal 2:9 and when James and Cephas [Peter] and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. So Peter’s letters were probably written to Jewish believers, and the apostates he referred to were probably Jewish people who had believed in Jesus the Messiah and then abandoned that belief – resulting in them falling into all manner of crude sins, like “irrational animals”.
But even if Peter was primarily addressing Jewish believers, and referring to Jewish apostates, it’s not as if only Jews are capable of acting like animals. 🙂 What Peter said is just as applicable to anyone who deliberately rejects God’s truth, whether Jew or Gentile.
So to summarize: the Prophet Muhammad was indeed told to say that God had condemned certain Jews as despicable apes and pigs – those Jews who deliberately violated God’s commandments, not all Jews and especially not godly Jews. Jesus Christ and Peter did precisely the same thing. Jesus and John (the ‘Baptist’) also referred to Jewish teachers and leaders as vipers. God’s Prophets do not hesitate to “call a spade a spade”. When people are left by God to become like animals in their behavior and lack of spiritual awareness, those who submit to God are not afraid to say so.
But God’s Prophets and those who follow the Prophets’ teaching are not “anti-Semitic” (or anti-Greek, anti-French, anti-English, etc.) They will proclaim God’s just judgment on deliberate sinners from any nation or ethnicity, while proclaiming God’s favor toward those who believe and do righteousness.