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Is Islam avodah zarah? The reason why I ask is because in Mecca, at the Kaaba there is a black stone which the Muslims kiss and believe is holy.

Is kissing the stone and believing it's holy a problem of A"Z? Does it matter if the stone was worshipped as an idol by somebody else before it became important to Islam, as some say it was?

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    Beliving something is holy doesn't mean you believe it's a deity. We believe the Luchot are holy.
    – Double AA
    Aug 9, 2016 at 18:24
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    Do they believe the stone is God? Avodah Zarah means "foreign worship." Are they worshiping it?
    – Daniel
    Aug 9, 2016 at 18:34
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    @PlonibenAlmonitzedek I've made an edit to focus this question. Please feel free to edit in a description of what happens at the stone. Try to be descriptive, not prescriptive -- what they do is relevant to the question, but your personal opinion about it isn't especially. (Or, if you have sources and want to answer your own question, you can do that.) Aug 10, 2016 at 2:08
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    We kiss the tefillin at certain parts during davening and believe they are holy, but that doesn't make us worshippers of tefillin. (Incidentally, the tefillin are black boxes...)
    – ezra
    Dec 11, 2017 at 4:01

6 Answers 6

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Many jewish/rabbinical sources state that it is.

https://web.archive.org/web/20210226122037/https://www.jerusalem-herald.com/single-post/2017/12/13/is-islam-idolatry

"it appears that a legal opinion[that islam is not idolatry] based on only one source (the Rambam) is being presented as the accepted mainstream position of the religion."

"the assertion that there is “no denial of Hashem in their religion or anything else that should cause them to be considered idol-worshippers” completely mischaracterizes the opinions of leading Jewish legal authorities. A significant and complex issue is being presented simplistically, and as a result many observant Jews receive a misimpression pertaining to their religion’s outlook."

" researcher Menachem Gottlieb of Jerusalem, clearly lays out the opinions of leading Jewish scholars throughout the generations "

"Rabbi Nachshon Gaon, one of the Gaonic legal authorities and head of the academy of Sura, in modern day Iraq, from 875 to 882 CE. He declared: “So we see the Ishmaelite (i.e., Arab) today is an idol worshiper even though he does not realize that he worships.” He further cited the rabbinic teaching that Mecca is one of five places in the world where idol worship goes on constantly."

During the 11th-12th century CE, the R”i Migash, as quoted by the Meiri, ruled that the Muslims continued in the practices of the pre-Islamic pagans.

Ibn Ezra wrote in his commentary to the Book of Daniel (11:30) that, “The men of Mecca did not turn to his [Muhammad’s] religion until he swore to them that he would not remove the Markolis worship, and it is not necessary to elaborate.”

In his commentary on the aforementioned Talmudic ruling from tractate Sanhedrin, the Ramah (12th-13th century CE) specified regarding the pillars of Markolis in Mecca that “since its worship is in throwing, when one throws, he is guilty [of idol worship].” In this way he clearly ruled that in throwing rocks at the pillars, Muslims were engaging in idol worship.

the Ritva (13th-14th century CE), who said that while Muslims are monotheists, their religion is considered “complete idol worship.”

The Ritva’s ruling was directly cited by the Radbaz (15th-16th century CE)

In his commentary on Sanhedrin, the Ran wrote in the 14th century CE that like the Christians, the Muslims by worshiping their religious objects were engaging in “divine worship” of idols, and therefore “their (i.e., the Muslim’s) ruling is of idol worship.” Incidentally, the Ran also referred to Muhammad as “the crazy person of the Ishmaelites.”

In his classic Torah commentary on Deuteronomy 4:28, addressing idols of “wood and stone,” the Rashbatz (14th-15th century CE) .[christianity and islam being idolatry]. he also spoke about the phenomenon of self-censorship among Jewish scholars on this topic, stemming from fear of persecution under Muslim rule

Rabbi Yosef Karo (15th-16th century CE), author of the renowned Jewish legal work The Shulchan Aruch, weighed in on Islam in his mystical book Maggid Meisharim. There he spoke of entering a Sufi Muslim house of worship, and later the same night being told by an angelic being that this constituted “turning to the idols and going after the Baalim.”

In a modern ruling, former Hebron and Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior noted that in rejecting the sale of land in Israel to Muslims for Heter Mechira, the Hazon Ish referenced the Radbaz’s ruling that Islam is considered idolatry and one must die rather than convert. In his review of the issue, Rabbi Lior clearly showed the ban on selling land in Israel to a non-Jew does indeed apply to Muslims.

Rabbi Uri Sherki, director of the Brit Olam Noahide World Center, [makes an interesting point that muslims don't worship the full divinity, rather just the traits of judgment and strength, islam lacks personal group prayer as it lacks the concept of a compassionate God]

As for RAMBAM. While the Rambam did say that Islam was monotheist, and that their three practices of idol worship were now disconnected from idolatry, he also wrote in his legal responses (Tshuva 269) that Muslims were “not far from idol worship.” Elsewhere (Mishneh Torah, Halachot Tshuva Chapter 3), he clearly stated that the Muslims “deny the Torah.” This stands at clear odds with claims that Islam worships the same G-d as Judaism, and indicates the Rambam’s position was not as clear-cut as many present it. [RAMBAM also stated in his responsa, that it's forbidden to teach muslims Torah]

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Another rabbi not mentioned in that article, the Tzitz Eliezer , considered Islam as idolatry. see Jews allowed to pray and join Muslim congregation in Mosques and Experiences

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  • Yes but does it not depend on modern worshippers' understanding of their religion?
    – The GRAPKE
    Dec 3, 2020 at 22:28
  • @TheGRAPKE Modern muslims do it with the same idea as ancient muslims. Mohammed took over the site, kept the practise but changed the beliefs/meaning. So what those rabbis said applies the same then as now. Hence for example those quotes take that into account, and say "the Ishmaelite (i.e., Arab) today is an idol worshiper even though he does not realize that he worships". So even Maimonides, a rabbi that says they are not idol worshippers, even says they're "not far from idol worship".
    – barlop
    Dec 4, 2020 at 1:21
  • Does not the Rema say that shituf ha'Shem im davar acher is not avodah zarah for a goy, in which case Islam could not possibly be avodah zarah?
    – The GRAPKE
    Dec 4, 2020 at 1:28
  • @TheGRAPKE The ramah mentions the worship practise employed in that location, not about what is in the mind of people there. So it's not saying they are or are not committing shituf. And the ramah said "when one throws, he is guilty" , so he's saying that when they go and do that practise in that location, they are committing idol worship. Maybe it's possible he meant the people before the muslims, though that's reading in. And other rabbis I mentioned explicitly state the muslims
    – barlop
    Dec 4, 2020 at 3:11
  • This article is a polemic not an honest analysis and is written on a biased site intended to serve certain political interests. There are many distortions here (too many to fit in comments). Reader beware. Apr 27 at 15:02
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Is Islam avodah zarah? The reason why I ask…

Irrespective of the reason you ask, let's address your question.

As already covered elsewhere on this site, Islam is not considered avoda zara according to, at least, the majority of halachic authorities.

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  • You write "Islam is not considered avoda zara according to, at least, the majority of halachic authorities." <-- what about Rabbi Nachshon Gaon(one of the Gaonic legal authorities and head of the academy of Sura). The R”i Migash, as quoted by the Meiri. The Ramah. The Ritva. The Radbaz citing the Ritva. The Ran. The Rashbatz. and maybe others.. The tzitz eliezer.
    – barlop
    Dec 3, 2020 at 17:55
  • @barlop Apparently they are in the minority.
    – Double AA
    Dec 9, 2020 at 18:08
  • @DoubleAA msh's reference links only mention one source stating that it's idolatry(the tzitz eliezer), so I don't think he really looked into others when he made his statement. My answer here mentions lots of sources stating that it's idolatry,
    – barlop
    Dec 10, 2020 at 6:43
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From what I understand it is a focal point of prayer not an object being worshipped. Like when we face Jerusalem in prayer it is similar to that for them. They believe Abraham built it.

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Rav Moshe Heinemann writes in Hilchos Kishuf v'Avodah Zara (3:4):

I don’t believe Islam is Avodah Zarah. Islam is not our religion – I don’t want anyone to make a mistake with what I’m saying in that it is not Avodah Zarah. Islam has their Quran, which is their Bible, and it doesn’t say the same thing as it says in the Torah. Therefore, it’s not for us, but for them it’s not Avodah Zarah because they believe in the Ribbono Shel Olam...I’m not really an expert in the religion of Islam, but I believe they are not considered an Avodah Zarah. They believe Muhammad is a prophet and don’t worship him, rather they serve the Ribbono Shel Olam.

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Here is the Rambam's responsum on the matter (Teshuba 149):

אלו הישמעאלים אינם עובדי ע"ז כלל, וכבר נכרתה מפיהם ומלבם והם מיחדים לאל יתעלה יחוד כראוי, יחוד שאין בו דופי, ולא מפני שהם משקרים עלינו ומכזבים ואומ' שאנו אומרים שיש לאל יתעלה בן נכזב, כך אנחנו עליהם ונאמר שהם עובדי ע"ז. התורה העידה עליהם: "אשר פיהם דבר שוא וימינם ימין שקר". והיא העידה עלינו "שארית ישראל לא יעשו עולה ולא ידברו כזב ולא ימצא בפיהם לשון תרמית". ואם יאמר אדם שהבית שהם מקלסין אותו בית ע"ז הוא, וע"ז צפונה בתוכו שהיו עובדין אותה אבותיהם באותו הבית, מה בכך? אלו המשתחוים כנגדו היום אין לבם אלא לשמים. וכבר פירשו רז"ל בסנהדרין (דף ס"א ב) שאם השתחוה אדם לבית ע"ז [והוא] סבור שהוא בית הכנסת הרי לבו מסור לשמים. וכן אלו הישמעאלים היום כולם טף ונשים נכרתה ע"ז מפיהם וטעותם וטפשותם בדברים אחרים היא שאי אפשר לאומרו בכתב מפני פושעי ורשעי ישראל, אבל ביחוד השם יתעלה אין להם טעות כלל ובאמת שהיה לישמעאלים מקודם באותם המקומות שלשה מיני ע"ז פעור ומרקוליס וכמוש, והם עצמם מודים בדברים אלו היום וקוראין להם שמות בלשון ערבי. פעור (עי' ה עבודה זרה פ"ג ה"ה) עבודתו שיפעור עצמו לפניו או שיניח ראשו ויגביה ערותו למולו כמו שאלו הישמעאלים משתחוים היום בתפלתם, ומרקוליס עבודתו ברגימת האבנים, וכמוש עבודתו בפריעת הראש ושלא ילבש בגד תפור ודברים אלו כולם מפורשים וידועים אצלנו (עי' גמ' ע"ז ס"ד א') מקודם שתעמד דת הישמעאלים, אבל הישמעאלים היום אומרים זה שנפרע ראשנו ושלא נלבש בגד תפור בתפירות הוא כדי להכנע לפני האל יתעלה ולזכור היאך יעמוד האדם מקברו, וזה שנשליך האבנים בפני השטן אנו משליכים אותם כדי לערבב, ואחרים מפקחיהם נותנים טעם, ואומרים צלמים היו שם ואנו רוגמים במקום הצלמים כלומר שאין אנו מאמינים בצלמים שהיו שם, ודרך בזיון להם, אנו רוגמין אותן, ואחרים אומרים מנהג הוא כללו של דבר אע"פ שעיקר הדברים יסודם לע"ז אין אדם בעולם משליך אותם האבנים ולא משתחוה לאותו המקום ולא עושה דבר מכל הדברים לשם ע"ז לא בפיו ולא בלבו אלא לבם מסור לשמים

Translation (from the author of the Sefer Toldoth Adam blog):

The Ishmaelites are not at all idolaters, it has already been eradicated from their lips and their hearts and they attribute to God a oneness that is fitting, a flawless conception of oneness, and just because they lie about us and engage in deceit by claiming that we attribute to God a son we should not also lie about them and say that they are idolaters. The Torah testifies concerning them: “Whose mouth speaketh falsehood, and their right hand is a right hand of lying.” And it testifies concerning us: “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth.” And should a person say that the house which they extol is one of idolatry, and that in that very house there are idols within which their ancestors worshiped, of what matter is it? Those that prostrate before it today, their minds are not directed towards anything but heaven. And our Sages already explained in the tractate Sanhedrin (61b) that if a person prostrated before a house of idol worship having mistakenly reasoned that it was a synagogue, surely his mind was [nevertheless] surrendered to heaven. And similarly the entirety of the Ishmaelites today, including their women and children have eliminated idolatry from amongst them though their errors and stupidities concerning other matters cannot be discussed in writing due to the transgressors and evil ones (who may inform on us), however concerning the oneness of God may He be exalted they do not possess any error at all and in truth the Ishmaelites of these places formerly committed themselves to three different kinds of idolatry – Pe’or, Merqulis and Kamosh, they themselves even admit of this today and call them names in Arabic. The service of Pe’or consisted of exposing one’s self before it or lowering one’s head and raising one’s privates above just like the Ishmaelites prostrate today in their prayers, the service of Merqulis consisted of pelting it with stones and the service of Kamosh consisted of uncovering one’s head [i.e. shaving it] and not wearing ornate [lit. woven] garments, and the all of their practices were already known to us previously [i.e. through rabbinic tradition] that such is the religious practice of the Ishmaelites, but the Ishmaelites today say that the uncovering of their heads and their refrain from embroidered clothes is in order to humble themselves before God and as a reminder of how man will find himself in his grave, and the stones they cast before Satan in order to confuse him, and some of their enlightened ones give a rationale to the effect that there had once been graven idols there and so they are stoning a place of graven idolatry as if to say “we do not believe in these graven idols and as a means of rendering them despised we pelt them,” and others say simply that it is a custom. The general principle of the matter is that even though the root of these matters and their foundation is that of idolatry, no man will ever cast stones, prostrate towards the place or anything else in the name of idol worship, not in his mouth and not in his mind, rather his mind is surrendered to heaven.

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It is my view that kissing the black stone and believing it is holy is not equivalent to idol-worship.

My support for this view comes from the fact that we (lehavdil elef alfei havdalos) kiss objects that we believe to be holy without serving them (G-d forbid).

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