The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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236 · Rachel Maissy-Noy

came to an end and Judaism marked the main existence of the exiles.
Thus, wherever the Jews settled down, they integrated into the existing
societies and became an inseparable part of their social and cultural his-
tory. This means that as time passed outside the Jewish territory, their
belonging to one nation was cut off, since they lost the tradition of a
common past on a common land. This view is clearly expressed by Ḥasan
Khalifa, who writes:

Jewish history differs from general human history by being a his-
tory of groups and minorities dispersed in various countries. This
means that there is no general Jewish history in the traditional
sense. Nor is there a general political history in the accepted histori-
cal sense, since the political significance of the history of any nation
or people is reflected in the states that this nation built during its
ancient, medieval, or modern history. This rule does not apply to
Jewish history because the lack of a state turned this history into
a dependent and non-autonomous one.... And therefore, the po-
litical periods according to which Jewish history is divided are not
Jewish periods or such emanating from Jewish history, but rather
the historical periods of various nations who ruled the Jews.^16

The Question of the Existence of a Specific Jewish Culture

Another common claim suggests that all written works of the Jews had
been copied from the surrounding culture. According to Ḥasanen Fu ̓ad
̔Ali and Ḥasan Ẓaẓ before him, this had already begun in antiquity when
the Hebrews adopted the main principles of the faith of the peoples in the
ancient Near East. This idea was supported by the archaeological excava-
tions in Tel el-Mardikh (Ebla) and Ras Shamra (Ugarit), where archives
of clay tablets were found inscribed with texts that preceded the biblical
texts and that described events parallel with the story of the Deluge, the
code of laws and commandments, and the war hymns.^17
Another cultural characteristic for which originality was doubted is
the Hebrew language. One of the most prominent opinions on this matter
is that the Jews lost their national language at an early stage of their his-
torical development. This assertion must be examined in light of the fact
that language is understood by historians of the nationalist stream to be
one of the main characteristics of nationhood, if not the most important
one. In his book Comparison between the Religions, Aḥmad Shalabi remarks

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