The News Agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Who is a Muslim or Jew?

By: for The Houston Chronicle on Oct. 10, 2009
World News
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Google Images
Children of Abraham – Jews and Muslim. Many believe that Jews and Muslims cannot co-exist. But in fact both religions emphasize the need to live peacefully with others.

When I heard of the bizarre case recently in Ohio, in which Carolyn Savage, due to the mistake of a fertility clinic, gave birth to a baby boy that didn't genetically belong to her, but belonged to Paul and Shannon Morell of Detroit, it reminded me of a case in Virginia in the late 90s in which two baby girls accidentally got switched by hospital nurses and each got sent home with the wrong parents.

That switch led to a 31 millon-dollar lawsuit against the University of Virginia Medical Center in 1998.

Such switches or errors are sometimes covered up or not caught and are apparently more common than generally believed. The switch theme is common also in literature: Moses, a Jew, grew up with a non-Jewish family in Egypt, while Lord Krishna was switched at birth in India because the evil King Kamsa had heard a prophecy that a divine child would be born who would kill him. To protect his own child, Krishna's father switched him with another new-born while the second mother was sleeping. 

Now how, you might wonder, does this relate to the strange title of this blog? Well, we tend to identify ourselves by the surroundings we find ourselves in after our birth. For instance, for a while, most of the Egyptians around him didn't know that Moses was Jewish.

I am not from the Jewish or Islamic traditions, but I've heard that if a baby is born from a Jewish mother, Jews consider that person a Jew in some way; for some reason in their rabbinic or scriptural tradition, having a Jewish mother is deemed more important in some way than having a Jewish father. So apparently, a child born to a Jewish mother and a Christian father would, I have been told, be considered Jewish.

The case in Ohio got me thinking about a hypothetical case: what if the sperm from a Muslim father somehow got accidentally put in the womb of a Jewish mother?

I have been told that in Islamic understanding, if the father of a child is a Muslim, the child is considered a Muslim, at least in some sense. In such a hypothetical case, the mother would be Jewish and the father Muslim, and according to Jewish and Muslim scriptural interpretations, the child would be considered both Muslim and Jew, from the perspective of the different traditions.

In the real world, there must also be married couples in which the mother is Jewish and the father Muslim. I believe that what makes a person of a certain faith has less to do with the conditions of birth, but the free will of the person to follow a faith after they're born. According to the principles of bhakti yoga, the soul is not Hindu, Jew, Muslim, etc. but can follow a faith and then becomes so identified. But the same soul can change faiths, too. In bhakti yoga, the real eternal religion - sanatan dharma -is a person's individual relationship to God.

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