14 Нисана 5784 г., второй день недели, гл. Ахарэй

Is Islam Avoda Zara?

In the above you will find an answer also to another question of yours, namely whether Jews should encourage conversions to Judaism among non-Jews

The Letter and the Spirit, Vol 3 p. 447 19.02.2024 193 (0)
 Is Islam Avoda Zara?
Is Islam Avoda Zara?

By the Grace of G-d

9th of Tammuz, 5740
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr… London,
NW2 3AU,

Greeting and Blessing:

Your letter reached me with some delay. In it you pose some questions relating to the halacha and not simple questions, but basic ones connected with essential aspects and principles.

In general, a letter is hardly the proper medium to discuss such questions; nor is it necessary, inasmuch as in your city there are many Rabbis with whom you could discuss them personally.

To refer to one question in your letter, namely the attitude of the halacha to Islam, whether it is considered avoda zara, etc., no doubt you know that there are various sects in Islam. In the time of the Rambam, the Moslems generally believed in One G-d and, accordingly, the Rambam ruled that from that point of view it is not avoda zara. However, since then the Moslem faith has splintered into various sects and denominations, and it would be necessary to know what changes, beliefs and practices have developed in the various sects before an actual psak din can be made. Thus, the only answer that I can give you to your question is in general terms, namely that at the time of the Rambam and on the basis of the practices of Islam known to him, it was not idolatry, while in regard to Xtianity, there was never a doubt that it was, and continues to be, avoda zara in all its sects and denominations.

For practical purposes, inasmuch as it is not within my sphere of activities to pasken shaalos, you would have to inquire of Rabbis who are experts in the particular field, whose function it is to pasken shaalos. It should not be difficult to find such an authority in London.

I would be remiss if I were not to make the following practical observation. No doubt you know the situation of Yiddishkeit and the problem of assimilation and intermarriage, etc. You must also know of the proliferation of various cults, many of which are definitely idolatrous, which have ensnared many young Jews, both men and women. Many of these cults are also very active in London itself, and their activities are open and public, etc. Sad to say, there has not been an adequate response on the part of Jewish askonim to counter this destructive influence. Even to save one Jewish boy or girl would have warranted the utmost reaction, how much more so when the problem has assumed tidal proportions.

In light of the teaching of our Sages that all Jews are responsible for one another, it is surely the primary zechus and obligation of every Jew, who can do something in this area, to bend every effort to counteract the said influences which affect the very basic principles of our faith.

Moreover, any Jew who diverts his attention, capacities and energies to other irrelevant channels, thereby necessarily diminishes his efforts in the proper direction.

In the above you will find an answer also to another question of yours, namely whether Jews should encourage conversions to Judaism among non-Jews. Surely you know that there is no such imperative in our Jewish faith. On the contrary, we are directed to discourage any would-be ger. Consequently, as mentioned above, and since “G-d has not created anything in the world in vain,” which means also that no person has any excess capacities to squander, it would be a misdirected effort at the expense of what is truly imperative.

May G-d grant that you should utilize your capacities in the proper direction, as indicated above, in the fullest measure.

There is also a timely and relevant message in the anniversary of the Geula of my father-in- law of saintly memory on the 12th 13th of Tammuz, which we are about to observe, the history and significance of which I trust you know. It is that when a Jew firmly resolves to follow the way of the Torah and mitzvos without compromise, regardless of any difficulty that may be involved, G-d’s blessings are assured to overcome all obstacles. No doubt you are familiar with the history and significance of this anniversary.

With blessing,

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