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Prozbul

Reader comment on item: The Evil Isn't Islam

Submitted by Gary Dalin (United States), Jul 30, 2002 at 11:05

I'm sorry to report that Dr. Pipes erred in his statement that Judaism had 'slaves' while prohibiting interest and then accepted the use of interest on loans, while prohibiting slaves.

First, the prohibition in Jewish law against interest on loans still stands. This is a prohibition exclusively regarding loans by Jews to Jews and never applied to loans from or to non--Jews.

Second, the Talmud provides a format for converting a loan where interest is prohibited into a business partnership, whereby the partner providing the funds is entitled to a return on his INVESTMENT at a certain rate and within a certain time. The document that allows this to happen is called a PROZBUL and it existed well over 1000 years ago, as it does today. This ancient system, still used every business day among observant Jews, bypasses both the issues of the prohibition of interest and of the shimita year where loans are forgiven every seventh year.

Slaves:

As regarding acceptance of slaves by Judaism, there too is a very big difference. 'Slavery' under Jewish law was actually 'indentured service' and was the solution for bankruptcy. When a person faulted on a debt, such as the money he was required to return and pay as penalty for having stolen from an individual and he could not repay, a court could rule that the individual had to work it off. His treatment is carefully outlined and was extremely humane with penalties to the violator of those rules. Second, the debtor would be liberated at the onset of the Shmita year whenever that occurred, such that there was an outer limit to this forced repayment of money due regardless of the amount.

In many cases his treatment was better than he could provide for himslef. For that reason there is even a procedure whereby he could choose to retain his position voluntarily if there was mutual agreement. Such payers with sweat equity could not be traded as commodities. This procedure ended with the end of the Sanhedrin and the Exile in the first century.

This is completely different from the concept of buying and selling captured slaves as is done in the Moslem world. The two should not be compared.

If, however, Dr. Pipes is refering to the abolition of all the rules altogether by reform Judaism in the late 18th century, that is another matter, as that format of religion eventualy discarded virtually every religious prohibition of Jewish law which is not also illegal under civil law. By doing so, it divorced itself from Classical Judaism and may not be used as an example of what Judaism says or does not say.

Islam has neither a Talmud nor a reform movement, nor is it likely to in any forseeable century. With all due respect, any such possibility of that happening is, well... a Pipe dream.
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