A Day of Retrospection for Jews and Muslims

By: Shabbir A. Abbas

Unfortunately, in the last century the narrative of Jewish-Muslim relations has been marred by episodes of violence and hate; ignored by many however is that both religions derive from the same source, Abrahamic monotheism. Therefore Judaism and Islam are not related just functionally, as are all faiths, but share a mutual history hence the two religions need not to be seen as adversaries but more like siblings, the spiritual children of Ishmael (Muslims) and Isaac (Jews).

On the 23rd of September, in a rare sign of inter-religious cohesion, both Muslims and Jews spent the day intensely retrospecting themselves, becoming cognizant of one’s previous wrong-doings and purifying one’s future intentions for it was the day of atonement for both religious groups. Yom Kippur for the Jewish community and Yawm al-’Arafah for the Islamic community falling on the same day is most surely a special occasion worthy of note, for Muslims follow a lunar calendar thus causing alignments like this a once in a millennia occurrence. For Jews the day consists of fasting (refraining from food and drink) along with variety of observances, but the major focus is on repenting for one’s sins, similarly for Muslims (those not on Hajj) fasting and the recitation of certain prayers is a means of repenting for one’s sins; doing so for both communities acts as an expiation of sins cleansing oneself for the coming year for Jews and the year prior and post for Muslims.

For Jews, Yom Kippur signifies the reception of the ten commandments by Moses, whereas Yawm al-’Arafah for Muslims signifies the day prior to Abraham’s binding of his son. Both events are recognized by Jews and Muslims, and both have an overlaying transcendental message of sacrificing one’s own desire for the greater good. If Jews and Muslims were to reflect on this the unfortunate narrative of the previous century could be replaced with the familial affection both truly have for each-other; hence a true atonement.


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