Who Is Ezra?

Ezra is mentioned in the Quran in  9:30.

The Jews said, “Ezra is the son of God,” while the Christians said, “Jesus is the son of God!” These are blasphemies uttered by their mouths. They thus match the blasphemies of those who have disbelieved in the past. God condemns them. They have surely deviated. (9:30)

Verse 9:30 is the only place where Ezra(‘Uzair) is mentioned in the Quran. According to traditional Islam, Ezra is considered to be one of the messengers of God. However, as we can see from the verse, God does not specifically identify Ezra as messenger. Yet, since it is mentioned in the Quran that he was idolized as Jesus was, it is reasonable to assume that he was a saintly man, if not a messenger. Jews, on the other hand, hold him in very high esteem. The following quote was taken from the Introduction to the Book of Ezra in the Old Testament (The New American Bible for Catholics, World Catholic Press, 1986).

The genealogy of Ezra traces his priesthood back to Aaron, brother of Moses. This was the accepted way of establishing the legality of one’s priestly office. He is also called a scribe, well-versed in the law of Moses, indicating Ezra’s dedication to the study of Torah, which he sought to make the basic rule of life in the restored community. It was religious and cultic

reform rather than in political affairs that Ezra made his mark as a postexilic leader. Jewish tradition holds him in great honor; the Talmud even regards him as a second Moses, claiming that the Torah would have been given to Israel through Ezra had not Moses preceded him.

Ezra is sometimes accused of having been a mere legalist who gave excessive attention to the letter of the law. His work, however, should be seen and judged within a specific historical context. He gave to his people cohesion and spiritual unity which prevented disintegration of the small Jewish community. Had it not been for the intransigence of Ezra and those who adopted his ideal, it is doubtful that Judaism would have so effectively resisted Hellenism, then or in later centuries. Ezra set the tone of the postexilic community, and it was characterized by fidelity to the Torah, Judaism’s authentic way of life.

Being considered a second Moses, it is possible that some Jews during the time of Ezra or afterwards might have called Ezra the son of God. The Quran teaches us that this was so.

This view of Ezra which has evolved in the Judaic tradition is yet another example of the human tendency to assign ranks to God’s messengers. Notice that there are even those who have the arrogance to say that Ezra would have delivered the Torah if he had preceded Moses. In this way they take it upon themselves to judge and make a decision that none but God can make.

This inclination towards ranking God’s messengers allows the devil to inject

idolatry into the worship of God alone. Once one allows for the possibility that one messenger is better than another, it means that he is then closer to God than other messengers and believers. From there it is not difficult to make the fatal mistake of assigning superior messengers the rank of God’s partner. In the verse immediately following the one in question (9:30) we read:

[9:31]They have set up their religious leaders and scholars as lords, instead of God. Others deified the Messiah, son of Mary. They were all commanded to worship only one God: there is no god except He. Be He glorified, high above having any partners.

The Quran protects us from the dangers of idolatry by teaching us that it is a fundamental trait of the believers that they do not attempt to assign ranks to God’s messengers. An example of this teaching is found in the following verse:

[2:285] The messenger believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and so do the believers. They believe in God, His angels, His scripture, and His messengers: We make no distinction among any of His messengers, and they proclaim: We hear, and we obey. Forgive us, our Lord. To You is the ultimate destiny.

We pray that we will not fall into this satanic trap of idol worship in the name of honoring God’s messengers.

Abdullah and Martha