Muslim and Jew

Shared Beliefs

The relationship between Islam and Judaism is significant and unique, Judaism being the closest in religious tradition to Islam in theology, heritage and practice.

  1. Belief in One God
  2. Abraham and Moses
  3. Fasting and Prayer
  4. Religious Law and Diet
  5. Cirmcumcision, Modesty and Charity
  6. Jerusalem

Belief in One God

Judaism and Islam share the most fundamental principle of their faiths – the belief in one God.

Judaism and Islam share the most fundamental principle of their faiths – the belief in one God. The Jewish Bible and the Quran attest to a sole Creator. The Torah says: "I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6) The Quran says: "He is God, The One and Only." (Quran 112:1). The Arabic word for God, Allah, shares the roots for one of the Hebrew names of God – Elah. Both faiths believe in God’s neutrality – God is neither male nor female. Back to Top


Jews and Muslims hold Abraham very close to their hearts.

Jews and Muslims hold Abraham very close to their hearts. Muslims send blessings on him and his family at least five times a day in their set prayers. Jews, like Muslims, mention Abraham in their prayers when they ask God to shield them, like He promised to shield Abraham (Genesis 15:1). The Quran refers to him as ‘a friend of God’, a ‘man of truth’ and a prophet. Abraham is seen as the father of the Arabs and of the Jews, through his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. The two faiths differ over which of Abraham’s sons was offered in sacrifice –Islam claims it was Ishmael, Judaism claims Isaac. The lesson though, remains the same: of total obedience to God’s command which lends the figure of Abraham such reverence.


The story of Moses is perhaps the most widely known of all the prophets of the different faiths. Moses is mentioned in the Quran more frequently than any other prophet. His powerful life story is replete with lessons, moral guidelines and miracles. Miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea and the burning bush are stories shared in the Jewish scriptures. In Judaism, Moses is regarded as the most important prophet, as a leader of the Children of Israel. Moses has the remarkable standing as the only prophet, according to both Islam and Judaism, who God chose to speak to directly. As such, Moses is held in deep respect and regard by both Muslims and Jews. Back to Top


Fasting presents an opportunity for spiritual reflection for both Muslims and Jews.

The concept of self-discipline and abstinence is a practice common to both Judaism and Islam. Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for Jews who fast from sundown to sundown, in order to cleanse the soul and seek forgiveness for their transgressions against God and against other people. On this day, Jews also abstain from marital relations, bathing, wearing leather shoes and from applying lotions to the skin. The second major fasting day for Jews is Tisha B’av, which is a commemorative fast, to remember when the Babylonians destroyed the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem, along with other tragedies like the Holocaust.

For Muslims, there is a month of fasting that resembles some parts of the Jewish fast: from dawn to sundown each day in Ramadan, Muslims increase in acts of reflection, repentance, worship and charitable deeds, and abstain from food, drink, marital relations, and gossip. Fasting presents an opportunity for spiritual reflection, for both Muslims and Jews.


Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam, and provides the framework of a Muslim’s daily life to establish a constant, intimate connection with their Creator. Muslims perform five set prayers a day at dawn, after midday, mid-afternoon, sundown, and nightfall. Judaism also directs its followers to pray; Jews pray three times a day – morning, afternoon and evening, again to maintain a close connection with God and to mark their devotion. Back to Top

Religious Law

Islam and Judaism share a dimension unique to their faiths – a comprehensive system of law. Shariah for Muslims draws out guidelines for all dimensions of life from the private to the public sphere. Similarly, Halakha for the Jews, lays out a set of rules on how to lead daily life. Halakha literally means, ‘the path that one walks’. Shariah also means a way or path, literally a waterway leading to a main source.

Islam and Judaism share a dimension unique to their faiths – a comprehensive system of law.


Halal literally means lawful, and kosher or kashrut similarly means that which meets legal requirements. The terms halal and kosher have a much broader meaning in terms of what is permitted for followers of the faith, but they have come to be used most frequently in referring to food. Both Islam and Judaism have clear guidelines on dietary requirements – for example both eat meat that has been slaughtered in a certain manner, where the name of God has been invoked and the throat of the animal is cut swiftly to allow the blood to drain. Both Jews and Muslims are not permitted to eat pork. Back to Top


The practice of male circumcision is common to both Judaism and Islam. It is a religious obligation for Jewish boys to undergo a Brit Milah – a circumcision ceremony, usually performed when baby boys are eight days old. Circumcision is commanded in Genesis 17:10-14 as an outward sign of a man's participation in Israel's covenant with God. In Islam, circumcision is a recommended practice of their Prophet Muhammad, though is not mandatory.

Modesty is a character trait of Moses who is described in the Torah as exceedingly humble.


Modesty is a quality encouraged in both Judaism and Islam. Muslims, both men and women, are encouraged to behave and dress with humility, or ‘hayah’ – the external to reflect the internal humbleness of character. This principle also finds its parallel in Judaism: Tzinut (modesty) is a character trait of Moses who is described in the Torah as ‘exceedingly humble’, and thus is emulated by Jews. Covering the hair for Muslim women is something familiar for Jewish women, who are likewise instructed to cover their hair, though with the latter, the ruling extends only to married women.


Charity is pertinent to the value system of each faith tradition, and is strongly encouraged for Muslims and Jews alike. Sadaqa, for Muslims, and tsedaka for Jews who consider it an act of justice features in their respective religious texts. Early sections of the Hebrew Scriptures bear reminders of the obligation to care for the poor – especially widows, orphans and strangers. The Talmud instructs Jews to give at least ten percent of their annual net income to tzedakah.
Charity is a proof of faith Prophet Muhammad encouraged the Quranic instruction to give charity to the needy, orphans and widows, and stated that “Charity is a proof of faith.” Back to Top


The holy city of Jerusalem holds great significance with Muslims and Jews. In Islam, it marks the site of the first direction of prayer or ‘qibla’ – Muhammad had instructed the Muslims to face Jerusalem while the Kabah of Mecca was filled with idols. This initial act expressed unity with the monotheistic Jews who prayed towards Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem marks the place where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to the Heavens on his miraculous Night Journey. Jerusalem is deeply sacred to Jews who view it as their holiest city. It is from Jerusalem that Jews believe God expanded the world. It holds the site of the Temple Mount – where King Solomon of Israel built the first temple in the tenth century BCE. The Western or Wailing Wall, is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the second Temple which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 70 CE. Solomon is viewed by both faiths as a man of great wisdom and spiritual insight. Muslims hold him in high esteem as a prophet. Back to Top

Muhammad faced Jerusalem in prayer while the Kabah was filled with idols. This initial act expressed unity with the monotheistic Jews.

Stories of Coexistence


Medieval Islamic Spain saw the rise of one of the most famous figures in Jewish history, Moses ben Maimon or Maimonides. Born in Cordoba in the twelfth century, he was a leading philosopher, physician and rabbi and was well respected by the Muslims. He studied in Fez, Morocco, where he produced his famous fourteen volume canon on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah. He eventually settled in Egypt where he became physician to the famous Sultan and general, Saladin.

"It was Muslim Spain, the only land the Jew knew in nearly a thousand years of the dispersion, which made the genius of physician Moses Maimonides possible." Rabbi Minken