Allah's special little apes and pigs
It has been bandied about in the media that Islamic fanatics shriek that Allah turned certain Jews into apes and pigs. Is this true?
If it is, where does this harsh polemics come from? Do they get it from the hadith (Muhammad's sayings and deeds outside of the Quran)? From later traditions? From thin air?
Sadly, fanatics get it from the Quran itself, in three different verses: 7:166, 2:60, and 5:65.
To show how, we follow a specific method of exegesis (detailed analysis of a text), where relevant. First, the historical context of the three verses is explained, so their meaning can be made clear. Second, the literary context of each one is described, so we do not take them out of context—a frequent reflexive reaction from Muslims. Third, we quote them from a reputable Muslim translator, not a Western one, so that the Muslims speak for themselves in their sacred book. Fourth, we explain the content of the verse itself, such as key words. Fifth, we compare them with a passage or two from the New Testament, so we can put Islam into a clear perspective. And finally we look at how fanatics use the verses.
The historical context of this sura (chapter) is Muhammad's persecution by his fellow Meccans before his Hijrah or Emigration from Mecca to Medina in AD 622. Still, despite this persecution, Muhammad seeks to demonstrate that his revelations are superior to the Torah and Moses, and this brings us to the literary context, which is far more revealing of the content of Sura 7:166 than the historical context.
After recounting the stories of various prophets, Muhammad comes to Moses (v. 103) and sketches out Moses' mission: he liberates the Children of Israel from the grip of Pharaoh (vv. 103—137); he encounters God on Mt. Sinai on which he receives the Two Tablets (vv. 142—147); and finally he confronts Israel's transgression in worshipping the golden calf (148—156). Now Muhammad turns to himself and asserts that the Torah (and the Gospels) describes himself and his Quran; he is now the one who commands people to do good and forbids them to do wrong; that is, he is the one who is rightly guided and who now fulfills and completes Moses (and Jesus).
Muhammad then recounts a legend—not found in the Talmudists—about Jews fishing or working on the Sabbath in a town that tradition says was located on the Red Sea (vv. 163—167). God made fish appear on the surface only on the Sabbath, never on weekdays. This tempted some Jewish fishermen to break their holy day of rest, ignoring their teachers' warnings. The Sabbath—breakers become so arrogant and deep in their violations that God addresses