Comparing Religions through Law: Judaism and Islam

By Jacob Neusner; Tamara Sonn | Go to book overview

2

THE AUTHORITATIVE LEGAL DOCUMENTS OF JUDAISM AND ISLAM

Ours is a task of describing the facts of the two religions subject to comparison, so organizing these facts as to permit comparison both explicit and otherwise. We begin with the basics: the law of Judaism, the law of Islam, and where we are likely to locate it.

A


Where do we look for the law?

Both Judaism and Islam present themselves as traditional religions. In other words, they are religions that receive revelation from God through prophets and hand on that revealed truth from generation to generation. “Tradition,” then, means that which is handed on out of the past; a traditional religion identifies a particular point at which, in the past, a truth was set forth to be preserved and handed on for generations to come, to serve as authority for all time. A traditional religion attributes to God the origin of such an enduring truth, and Judaism and Islam concur that God gives truth through prophets, men chosen for that purpose. Both agree, moreover, that God’s revelation takes the form of specific, verbal statements; God reveals not only Himself but what He wants from human beings. Then the tradition of Judaism or of Islam addresses not only God’s word, but God’s exact words, sentences formulated in a particular language by God for the prophet to hand on ultimately to us.

When, therefore, a Judaic religious authority or rabbi wants to find the law, in the classical statement of Judaism he consults the record of the tradition, written and oral, of God’s revelation to Moses at Sinai. Hence the word “tradition” carries a heavy apologetic charge. The law is represented, from start to finish, as a seamless, cogent, and harmonious statement of God’s will, to be located in the Torah. The written tradition (“the Torah in writing”) is set forth in the Hebrew scriptures, particularly in the Pentateuch (“Five Books of Moses”), and, within the Pentateuch, in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The oral tradition (“the Torah in memory”) is ultimately preserved in a variety of documents that reached closure in the

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Comparing Religions through Law: Judaism and Islam
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Comparing Islam and Judaism in Particular 1
  • 2 - The Authoritative Legal Documents of Judaism and Islam 18
  • 3 - The Intellectual Sources of the Law 61
  • 4 - The Working of the Law 103
  • 5 - The Working of the Law 127
  • 6 - Disproportions 153
  • 7 - Unique Categories 191
  • 8 - Epilogue 240
  • Notes 253
  • Index 261
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