In every religious community, most people think that their own prophet, their holy book, their saints and their religious traditions are the truest and the best. This natural human feeling can sometimes lead to an arrogant pride that results in verbal abuse that can lead to physical conflict between believers in different religions.

This arrogant pride in the superiority of one’s own religion should be condemned by all religious leaders. An excellent account of just this kind of condemnation is found in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s), when he was called upon to judge between a Jew and a Muslim in a conflict-laden situation.

Abu Huraira related: Two men, a Muslim and a Jew, verbally abused one another.  The Muslim said, “By Him Who gave superiority to Muhammad (s) over all the people.”  At that, the Jew said, “By Him Who gave superiority to Moses (a) over all the people.”  The Muslim became furious at that and slapped the Jew in the face.

The Jew went to God’s Apostle and informed him of what had happened between him and the Muslim. God’s Apostle said, “Don’t give me superiority over Moses, for people will fall unconscious on the Day of Resurrection and I will be the first to gain consciousness, and behold Moses (a) will be there holding the side of God’s Throne. I will not know whether Moses (a) has been among those people who have become unconscious and then has regained consciousness before me, or has been among those exempted by God from falling unconscious.” (Bukhari Vol. 8, Book 76, #524)

God’s Messenger is so well known for his sense of justice that a Jew could appeal to him, even in a conflict with a Muslim who has attacked this Jew. It is only natural for Jews to think that Moses (a) is the best; and for Muslims to think that Muhammad (s) is the best.

Prophet Muhammad (s) rebukes the Muslim, telling him not to claim that Muhammad (s) is superior to Moses (a), because even on the day of Resurrection, Muhammad (s) himself will not know their relative merit, for although Muhammad (s) will be the first of all the comatose to be revived, Moses (a) will already be there holding the side of God’s throne.

Prophet Muhammad (s) teaches us that claims of religious superiority are wrong, for no human in this world, and perhaps even in the world to come, will know who is the best prophet. Only God knows. Such arrogant comparisons do not help anyone to become a better believer in the one God all mankind should worship, but only polarize believers by inciting partisan fervor.

The miracle of Islam’s birth is that this 14 century-old religion was established by just one Prophet of Tawhid, acting all by himself. Even Prophet Jesus (a) was preceded by Prophet John (a) the Baptist.

Perhaps this is why Natan’el al-Fayyumi, a prominent 12th-century Yemenite rabbi and theologian, wrote in his philosophical treatise Bustan al-Uqul (“Garden of Wisdom”) that God sends prophets to establish religions for other nations, which do not have to conform to the precepts of the Jewish Torah.

Nethan’el explicitly considered Muhammad (s) a true prophet, who was sent from Heaven with a particular message that applies to the Arabs, but not to the Jews. Al-Fayymi’s explicit acceptance of Muhammad (s) as a Prophet of Tawhid for non-Jews throughout the world in general, and all idol-worshiping polytheists in particular, was virtually unknown until recent times beyond his native Yemen, because Yemen was remote from almost all the other Jewish settlements in the Muslim world.

Some scholars might object that Orthodox Jews like Rabbi Nethan’el of Yemen could not possibly believe Muhammad (s) was a legitimate prophet because Orthodox Jews believe that prophecy had ended two to three centuries prior to the birth of Jesus.

Just as Muslims believe that there will be no more prophets after Muhammad (s), and Christians believe that there will be no more ‘sons of God’ after Jesus (a), Jews believed Jews would receive no more Jewish prophets until the Messianic Age. But that only applied to Jewish prophets.

There is no statement in rabbinic literature that states that no non-Jewish prophet will ever come. Muhammad’s (s) tribe traced their descent from Abraham (a) and Ishmael (a), so Muhammad (s) is a Abrahamic non-Jewish prophet like Job (a) (Eiyov in Hebrew- Ayyub in Arabic), who has his own book in the Bible, and is considered to be a non-Jew in most, but not all, rabbinical opinions.

There is no reason why a rabbi could not believe that Prophet Muhammad (s) had been sent by Allah as a Prophet of Tawhid and mercy, to all idol-worshipping polytheists worldwide to deliver the book of the Qur’an to them, and to also be a reforming prophet for those groups among the Jews and Christians who needed reforming.

I also believe that Prophet Muhammad (s) was sent to offer another whole Tawhid sacred scripture, confirming the previous ones, to all idol-worshipping polytheists, so they could join a new universal ummah of monotheists.

This book, the Qur’an, also serves as a guide to help both Jews and Christians reform some aspects of the orthodox teachings of their own religion that had developed over the previous five and a half centuries.

As a Reform Rabbi I believe that Jewish spiritual leaders should modify Jewish tradition as social and historical circumstances change and develop. I also believe we should not make religion difficult for people to practice by adding an increasing number of restrictions to the commandments we received at Mount Sinai.

These are lessons that Prophet Muhammad (s) taught 12 centuries before the rise of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century Germany. Although most Jews today are no longer Orthodox, if the Jews of Muhammad’s (s) time had followed these teachings of Prophet Muhammad (s), Reform Judaism would have started 1,400 years ago.