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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A look at Abrahamic Religions — 4

Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Part Three is here

A friend of mine from Lahore was here and staying at our place. She asked me about Gog and Magog (Ya'jooj and Ma'jooj, in Arabic) … and what the Abrahamic Religions had to say of them. So that's where I will be heading this time, but here's a small preamble that is important.

If we are to consider the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions Abrahamic, there must be something that is similar among them. Abraham, of course, stands as the Father of all three religions and so do many of the texts in the books that are often similar and, at other times, differing in their details but common.

Jews don't accept the Catholic or the Protestant versions of the Old Testament Bible (yes they are different, too), except for the first 5 books which the Jews consider the Jewish Bible: the Torah. They obviously do not accept the New Testament at all.

The Christians accept the Old Testament (OT) - except for the number of books that the Catholic Version has, as opposed to the Protestant Version. But both sectors accept the New Testament (NT) - a collection of the Jesus's Ahaadiths and a few Epistles and other stuff that were put together 70 years onwards after Christ's Death (and Resurrection). But they do not accept the Muslim book, the Qur'an, as a religious work at all.

Most Muslims accept all the books given above. The Qur'an is their book and the others are mentioned in the Qur'an. Although there is a difference in how one interprets the aayaahs: There is a Saheefaé Ibrahim mentioned in Qur'an and becomes another book (apart from the one mentioned below) that is no longer available.

Almost all Muslims believe that there are 4 Books mentioned: Torah, Züboor, Injeel, and the Qur'an. Some members of a Muslim sect, however, also believe that Qur'an was not mentioned at all, because ''we are reading it and accept it as the word of Allah. The fourth book is really Saheefaé Ibrahim''. The Khalafiyya Shias (now extinct)- who believe in the importance of Fives - correctly believe there are 5 books mentioned in the Qur'an.

In addition to the total absence of Zuboor, a book sent to Hazrat Dawood (the OT's Psalms of David allegedly contain some of it), there is the Qur'anic saying that Jews and Christians have altered their works in many places. Often the Qur'an corrects it. Here is a basic example:

Exodus [20.11]
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Qur'an [50:39]
And verily, We created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six periods, and no weariness touched Us.

A major difference lies in the Muslim and Christian understanding of Injeel (the word in English is Evangelism, which means Good Tidings). The Christians believe that Jesus gave them the Good Tidings of the world coming to an end when we would all be with God. Muslims believe that this was a book sent down to Jesus and the Good Tidings were about the coming of the final prophet.

The Christians do not accept that a book came down to Jesus, at all. In fact my teacher, a priest at my school, said Jesus IS God so there was no reason for a book to be sent by Himself to Himself. The Qur'an says there was such a book. A major dispute, here!

Let us now get back to Gog/Ya'jooj and Magog/Ma'jooj

Let's start with the Qur'anic beliefs, since they apply to the majority of my readers and to, specially, my friend.

Chapter 18 Surah Kahf:

94 They said: "O Dhül-qarnain! the Gog and Magog (people) do great mischief on earth: shall we then render thee tribute in order that thou mightest erect a barrier between us and them?"
95 He said: "(The power) in which my Lord has established me is better (than tribute): help me therefore with strength (and labor): I will erect a strong barrier between you and them:
96 "Bring me blocks of iron." At length when he had filled up the space between the two steep mountain sides he said "Blow (with your bellows)." Then when he had made it (red) as fire he said: "Bring me that I may pour over it molten lead."
97 Thus were they made powerless to scale it or to dig through it.

Chapter 21 Surah Anbiyaa:

96 Until the Gog and Magog (people) are let through (their barrier) and they swiftly swarm from every hill.
97 Then will the True Promise draw nigh (of fulfillment): then behold! The eyes of the unbelievers will fixedly stare in horror: "Ah! woe to us! we were indeed heedless of this; nay we truly did wrong!"

Who is Dhül-qarnain? The translation of the term is 'the one with two horns' and is accepted by many Muslims as Alexander the Great because he wore a Skull Cap that had 2 horns on it. However, there is another school that believes that it is Cyrus the Great and you can see a Video about it here.

The Jewish and Christian stories differ strongly from the Cyrus story and have Alexander as the King.  According to Muslims these books have been changed over time. The stories in both (Jewish and Christian) books are heavily contradictory within themselves.

1. Gog and Magog appear in the Hebrew Bible as individuals, peoples, or lands. Yes. All three are mentioned and they change after a few chapters.

2. In Ezekiel 38, Gog is an individual and Magog is his land.

3. In Genesis 10 Magog is a man, but no Gog is mentioned.

4. Centuries later Jewish tradition changed Ezekiel's Gog from Magog into Gog and Magog. This is the form in which they appear in the Book of Revelation, although there they are peoples rather than individuals.

5. A legend was attached to Gog and Magog by the time of the Roman period, that the Gates of Alexander were erected by Alexander the Great to repel the tribe. Romanized Jewish historian Josephus knew them as the nation descended from Magog the Japhetite, as in Genesis, and explained them to be the Scythians.

6. In the hands of Early Christian writers they became apocalyptic hordes, and throughout the Medieval period variously identified as the Huns, Khazars, Mongols, Turanians or other nomads, or even the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

7. The legend of Gog and Magog and the gates was also interpolated into the Alexander romances. In one version, "Goth and Magoth" are kings of the Unclean Nations, driven beyond a mountain pass by Alexander, and blocked from returning by his new wall.

8. Gog and Magog are said to engage in human cannibalism in the romances and derived literature.

I presume these tales and legends, as well as the beliefs from which they come, should answer my friend … and any others who are interested in religious geography, history, and legends that spring around them later.

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