Recently a co-worker of mine quietly said, “Is it bad that I don’t know who Judas is?”

Although I was initially taken aback, I quickly realized that she has no real reason to know the story of Judas: even if Muslims consider Christians and Jews “People of the Book,” they would have little occasion to actually read our holy texts. A lot of Christians, to say nothing of secular Westerners, haven’t read the Bible either. But most of us know the story of Jesus, and by extension Judas, anyway, because it’s become a part of the larger culture.

Relating the story to my colleague, I mentioned Jesus Christ Superstar, which is the source of much of my understanding, and thinking, about Judas–I didn’t have to read the Bible to know the story and, because my knowledge came from an arguably blasphemous source, my take on Judas is tinged with a radical, hippie-flavoured veneer. Whether Judas betrayed Jesus for silver or to fulfil his destiny is one of the great theological debates, and can be had whether you’re a believer or not.

I wonder which universally-relatable stories I’m missing out on because knowledge of the history of Islam and the Qu’ran is as lacking in Western societies as tales of the Last Supper and the 12th disciple are in young Somali-Canadians. Who is Muhammad Ali (not the boxer, but his namesake?), and what could I learn by studying his life?

The story I told her:

Judas and Jesus were best mates at school but Judas was always jealous because Jesus was better at sports and had an easy way with the birds. Still, they went into business together as freelance prophet and disciple. But Judas thought they’d switch off roles as they moved from city to city: being a disciple was hard work while being a prophet was where the real money was. When Jesus started making time with the lass Judas fancied, the disciple had had enough and sold his stake in Salvation, Inc. for 30 silver pieces, intending to set up shop in another town and help the poor there. But when Jesus got nicked by the bill for claiming divinity, Judas was blamed for betraying his old son and, knowing his propheting days were over, packed it in, offing himself in a right nasty way.

Hey, it’s not up to me to spread the so-called truth.

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