I read that the Rambam considered a Jew who converts to Islam NOT to be an Apikorus(אפיקורוס)\heretic or an ovdei avodah zarah, as opposed to a convert to Christianity who he considered to be heretic and avodah zarah. Is this true? According to the Rambam and other rabbis, is it permitted for a Jew to convert to Islam?

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    "why hesitate to become a Muslim" - Are you trying to proselytize here?
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 17, 2013 at 14:17
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    I've attempted to edit your question into on-topic-ness and out of proselytization. I recommend that you not attempt to use Mi Yodeya as a forum to try to induce Jews to leave Judaism.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 17, 2013 at 14:59
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    Your citation of the Rambam in "Laws of Kings" has nothing to do with whether a Jew can convert to Islam; all it's saying is that the standard for a non-Jew to be considered a "righteous gentile" is very different and than the standards required for Jews. Regardless, a Jew is always a Jew regardless of whether he/she converts to another religion, and the Torah's requirements for Jews remain binding upon them. || Additionally, do Muslims in fact follow the 7 laws "because [G-d] commanded them in the Torah, and informed [the Jews] that Noah's descendants had been commanded to fulfill them"?
    – Fred
    Feb 17, 2013 at 18:49
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    @Ali, as noted above, there are different rules for Jews and gentiles. The covenant between G-d and Israel is exclusive. We have 613 commandments and host of laws of how to fulfill those commandments, as explained in the Oral Law. Gentiles, however, are not obligated to follow those laws, and only have 7 commandments. Thus, according to all opinions, not just the RaMBa"M, a gentile who fulfills those 7 laws may be regarded as righteous. In the RaMBa"M's view, Muslims fulfill that requirement.
    – Seth J
    Feb 19, 2013 at 16:53
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    But a Jew would NOT be allowed to convert, as that would mean failing to fulfill so many other commandments, and it also would necessarily mean rejecting the Oral Law (which is a fundamental belief, according to the RaMBa"M). All his letter did was to assure those who had been forced to convert that they are still Jews and that they can still merit the World to Come if they practice Judaism as best they can under the circumstances. The mere fact that they asked him demonstrates that they did not reject any fundamental laws or beliefs of Judaism (such as the validity of the Oral Law).
    – Seth J
    Feb 19, 2013 at 16:56

3 Answers 3


In his Igerret Hashmad he teaches that Jews forcibly converted to Islam are not automatically or necessarily heretics. However he also limits this to the case presented to him and says that even in that situation martyrdom or fleeing is an option. http://thejewishchronicles.com/maimonides-iggeret-ha-shemad/ http://www.oxfordchabad.org/templates/blog/post_cdo/AID/708481/PostID/13360


There is a Sefer HaNehHomoh by the RaMbaM's father, Rabbi Maimon HaDayan HaSafardi (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/26889) He writes a whole letter to the jews who were forced to convert to islam in his time period. He quotes and explains posukim in order to calm them down and to tell them that they can still perform misSwoth and are still jews. The community at the time were fluent in arabic and not so educated with regards to judaism or its language, due to persecution and what have you. Therefore Rabbi Maimon translated for them the prayer of havineinu, which is a shortened version of the standard shamonei asrei prayer, into arabic, for the people didn't have time to pray or learn. He also says that there will come a time when the oppressors will stop oppressing us and we can live a normal jewish life. From this we see that it is not ok to convert to islam because if it was ok, jews would have been converting long ago without oppression. Not only that RaMbaM calls muslims apikorsim for saying that the Torah was changed. Your statement above is wrong. The christians are ovdei avodoh zoroh, but not apikorsim, muslims are apikorsim but not ovdei avodoh zoroh.


While you are correct that Islam is not heresy, that alone is not sufficient reason for a Jew to convert.

There are many things which are not accepted by Judaism but are not considered so damaging as to be branded heresy. For example, if I say I believe my rabbi is a prophet - that is a statement Judaism will roundly reject according to the mainstream opinion on what constitutes a prophet. But since there is nothing in the fundamentals of Judaism that says my rabbi is not a prophet, my belief is simply a rejected notion but not heresy. Similarly, if I believe that roses are blue and violets are red, I am not a heretic, but of course I am still mistaken.

The same Maimonides who said in his Iggeres HaShmad that one who converts to Islam is not a heretic, denied, in the same letter, that Muhammad was a prophet. He would also certainly deny, therefore, that the Quran is a revealed text. So while according to mainstream Jewish opinion Islam doesn't violate any of the fundamentals of Judaism which would render it heresy, it is still a mistaken belief system.

  • +1 Another distinction you might want to incorporate would be between gentiles and Jews.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 17, 2013 at 15:58
  • @IsaacMoses I am not sure what distinction you refer to. The Rambam was referring to Jews.
    – Dov F
    Feb 17, 2013 at 16:01
  • The quoted passage, from Kings 8:11, is explicitly about gentiles.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 17, 2013 at 16:19
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    -1 Some of the fundamentals of faith for a Jew, as enumerated by the Rambam: "The prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, is true, and that he is the head of the prophets, both those who preceded him and those who followed him"; "I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be exchanged, and that there will never be any other Torah"; and "I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that is now in our possession is the same that was given to Moses."
    – Fred
    Feb 17, 2013 at 18:06
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    Islam contradicts fundamental tenets of the Torah according to the Rambam, thus making Islam heretical in the Rambam's view. However, he did not consider it avodah zarah nor did he consider Jews who were forcibly converted to have the halachic status of "heretics."
    – Fred
    Feb 17, 2013 at 18:14

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