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Imam at Trump's Prayer Service Recited a Condemnation of Jews and Christians

Honoring a tradition that dates back to America’s first president, George Washington, in New York (described here, The Daily Advertiser, April 23, 1789, p. 2), within 24 hours of his swearing-in, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attended a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral.

The Saturday prayer service was a modern “interfaith event” which included (as described here, p.11, and seen in this video clip) a recitation by Sajid Tarar, an advisor at Medina Masjid of Baltimore.

He recited the Koran’s very brief first sura, or chapter: the so-called “Fatiha,” or “Opening,” consisting of seven short verses (verses 1-6; verse 7).

As I noted in a tweet shortly after viewing Saturday’s event, regarding verse 7:

“At Natl Cathedral Today ,1/21/17, Koran 1:7, A Curse on Jews, & Rebuke of Christians Recited in Front of Pres Trump.”

This high-profile ecumenical event illustrates starkly the conundrum of mainstream Islamic practice within our free, multi-confessional, but overwhelmingly non-Muslim society. Pious Muslims repeat the Fatiha, including verse 7, up to 17 times per day during their five requisite prayer sessions, and the accompanying “subunits” of prayer (see pp.49-50). While verses 1-6 are confined to Muslims re-affirming their personal devotion to the Islamic creed, and its deity, Allah, verse 7 launches into open condemnation of other faiths -- specifically Judaism and Christianity.

An authoritative modern Koranic translation by Drs. Muhammad al-Hilali and Muhammad Khan (p.12) of the Fatiha’s concluding verse 7 includes parenthetical references to the Jews (after the word “anger,” or in the translation distributed at the inaugural prayer service, p.11, “wrath”), and the Christians (after the word “astray"):

The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).

The Hilali-Khan translation of Koran 1:7 provides a detailed justification of its references to the Jews as those who have engendered Allah’s anger, and the Christians as the ones who have gone astray. The specific references to Jews and Christians in the Hilali-Khan translation of the Fatiha’s final verse comports both with the canonical hadith (the sacred “traditions” of Muhammad and the early Muslim community) interpretation of these verses, and classical and modern Koranic commentary (“tafsir”) interpretations by the leading luminaries of this discipline in Islam -- a consensus of thought stretching literally from the 7th through the late 20th centuries. Moreover, leading contemporary, mainstream scholars of Islam -- both non-Muslim and Muslim linguistic and textual analysts -- share this understanding of how Koran 1:7 is to be interpreted.

For over thirteen centuries, through our contemporary era, the consistent, collective understanding of Koran 1:7 -- the Fatiha’s last verse -- is that Jews and Christians are being insulted, even cursed (especially in the case of the Jews) eternally for their “spiritually aberrant” ways.