During the latter part of the first millennium BCE the Children of Israel became divided into different groups. Each of these groups had a different approach to religion and some were representative of true religion, whilst others were spiritually misguided.
However, like today’s situation amongst the Muslims, it must be remembered that these groups were manned by the politically and religiously active people and many of the poorer Israelites remained unaffiliated.
In particular there was an unbridgeable gap between the believers amongst the Bani Israel between those Jews who failed to recognize Yahweh (Allah) as the God of all people and the wise Israelites who were the believers amongst the people.
The ignorant party of Jews considered that God was only for the Jews and in their Jewish racialism they were the intelectual ancestors of the extreme Zionists and extreme modern Jews who ascribe value only to the Jewish race.
This ignorant party were excessively attached to the temple and the Zadokite priesthood, but they ignored and distorted much of the Torah, which God had revealed to them, especially where it didn’t suit their ideology.
The ignorant group was to be especially prevalent in the sect of the Sadducees (Zadukim in Hebrew), the small and select band of religious functionaries who had control of the Temple of Solomon.
The misguided amongst them were marked by their collaboration with the Polytheist enemies of God and by their denial of the hereafter.
Although the Sadducees made a great show of being attached to the letter of the written Law (Torah) they mostly rejected the oral Law (Talmud). This was a great mistake, because the Torah had been destroyed and re-written from memory a number of times. It was not the perfect Scripture that Allah had revealed, but rather an imperfect attempt at recreation of that scripture.
At the same time many things which were lost from the Torah had seemingly been retained in the Talmud (of that era), which was based upon the interpretation of the Torah. By rejecting the whole Talmud they rejected much of the Islamic Israelite Deen (way of life).
The Sadducees were mostly from amongst the rich of the Israelites and in truth, for many of them, their focus in life was the earthly existence. They monopolized the money, power and the priesthood of Israel.
The Sadducees were the intellectual ancestors of the religious people who would later retain a show of religion, but who were really motivated by secular concerns. Some Muslim modernists are much the same as them and they include unjust pseudo-scholars who have been given power and influence by corrupt institutions and governments hostile to Divine ways.
The second party was mostly made up of the believers (Muslims) from amongst the Israelites. They stressed the universal nature of Yahweh (Allah/God) and they generally promoted the way of life that God had prescribed for the Israelites in the Torah and Psalms.
This group was that of the Pharisees (Perushim in Hebrew), which means in means interpreters or separated ones in Hebrew. They emerged in around 160 BCE and they were the heirs of the Prophetic teachings of Ezra (Uzair (as) and as such they were largely the representatives of Israelite Islam.
The Pharisees were believers in Allah, the Torah and Talmud (which contained the Sharia for the Israelites) and they worked good deeds in this life in preperation for the hereafter (Akhira). The Pharisees were dedicated to religious learning (Ilm) and they tried to understand the deeper meanings of the Torah.
It was they who increased the morality of the Israelites and revived belief amongst them, but in later years many Pharisees would come to loose understanding of the spirit of the Law, because the focused to much upon its letter. Amongst the Children of Israel the Pharisees were the philosophical ancestors of both the Rabbinical Jews and the Israelite believers who would follow the the blessed Prophet Jesus (pbuh), yet both the Rabbinical Jews and the Prophet Jesus (as) would criticize the excessive ‘nitpicking’ and obsession with minute scriptural points that sometimes characterized the Pharisees.
The “Pharisees” of the Ummah of Muhammad (saws), are those scholars and students of knowledge who forget the spirit of the religion and instead obsess and argue over minor differences in understandings of Divine Law. They are a headache for those near them and tend to make things excessively difficult for those who listen to them.
The third group was that of the Zealots. The indeed played an important role in fighting the Herodian tyranny and the brutal Pagan Roman Empire that occupied the Holy Land, but their way of doing things wasn’t always a helpful one at all and one may wonder how effective their approach was at changing things for the better.
God encourages peaceful life, but He does not enjoin Pacifism in the Bible or the Qur’an, yet neither has he sanctioned his creatures to enter seemingly un-winnable and very self-destructive conflicts either. The Muslim warriors who have followed the path that the Zealots took could benefit from realizing this.