of Islam and the Jews: Basis of Conduct, Acceptance, Respect
By Faysal Burhan, Edited by Michael D. Berdine
Islam Denounces Violence -- Freedom of Belief, no Compulsion in Islam
Islam does not Command Muslims to Kill Westerners, Christians or Jews
The Constitution of Medina -- Other Historical Accounts
America is the land of opportunity, where people of different ethnicity and nationality together share a common land. Muslims and Jews have a chance here for better understanding of one another and for participating in activities that would bring mutual benefits to both communities.
Unlike the popular conception, Islam is not a hostile religion. Acceptance, kindness, respect and cooperation are divine Islamic principles revealed to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (p) for conducting his affairs with the People of the Book (the Jews and Christians). These principles have led to the establishment of the constitution of the first pluralistic community known in history, in the City of Medina, in the Arabian Peninsula, in the year 622 CE. The Constitution of Medina is the first written civil and political law spelling out the freedom of worship, trade and speech, community defense against its enemy, promotion of justice and goodness, and the fighting of evil.See The Constitution of Medina section below.
The city of Medina is where people of different faiths and nationalities, including Jews, Muslims, Ethiopians and Persians lived together in cooperation, peace and harmony.
This article addresses certain Jewish and Muslim historical events and Islamic principles relevant to the mutual benefits for both Jews and Muslims. Furthermore, the divine laws and the historical events are proofs that Muslim relations with the People of the Book are based on acceptance, consideration and collaboration.
There is a beautiful book written by the Christian Scholar and Archaeologist, Dr. William Baker, entitled “More in Common than you Think – A Bridge Between Islam and Christianity. Although the subject of this book is about the Prophet of Islam and the Jews, Christians and other ethnic groups are treated in the same manner. I strongly recommend not only Christians to read it, but every man and women of any faith.
Although, some hostilities and differences between the Muslims and the Jews occurred during and after the life of the Prophet (p), the causes were not that Islam changed its standards, but rather were due to the breaking of covenants such as that of the tribe of Quraythah with the Prophet, as we will see later under the title: "Harmony is the Goal of Every Muslim." Recreantly, hostility between the Jews and Muslims is about the conflict in Palestine. As President William Clinton, Palestinian Authority Leader Yassir Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu and others, are moving toward peace in the region, we hope that justice and peace will return to that part of the world.
Next is a focus on some of the universal Islamic principles relevant to the topic and which include Christians and others.
Compulsion (Freedom of Belief)
Compulsion in religion is incompatible
with the spirit of faith. This is certainly true of the Islamic
Faith. Religious belief must depend on people's free-will and
choice. Islam establishes that people's belief must come by
conviction. A believer is one who willingly, through the signs
of God in the universe and in himself, and through inner-self
satisfaction, accepts the faith of Islam. The Holy Qur'an is
full of verses and examples on this subject. Since belief by
conviction is not our topic here we will not discuss any of
these relevant verses. Confirming the "no compulsion-in-religion"
Islamic principle, however, the following Qur'anic quotations
"If it had been the Lord's Will, they would all have believed- all who are on earth: will you then (Muhammad) compel mankind, against their will, to believe?" Qur'an, 10: 99.
Another Qur'anic verse states:
there be no compulsion in religion, truth stands out clear from
error." Qur'an, 2: 256.
The two verses above basically establish the principle that
no-force, or pressure is to be used or applied to force people,
including Christians and Jews to be Muslims. This principle
is clearly reflected in the life and practice of the Prophet
Muhammad, and is reflected in the Constitution of Medina, discussed
below, which guarantees the freedom of worship for all.
Qur'an Teaches Peaceful Dialogue
A Muslim is encouraged to carry
out an intellectual dialogue with the People of the Book to
establish and improve relations. Following are two examples:
"Say O people of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God. If then they turn back, say: "Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to God's Will)." Qur'an, 3:64.
"Say: We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another." Qur'an, 3:84.
After all, it is an integral part of Muslim's faith to honor
the Prophets Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all other prophets of
God, and follow their teachings.
Islam teaches the Muslim to be kind, tolerant and understanding,
and to establish fraternity among all people. The Qur'an tells
us that God has made people into nations and tribes in order
to know and deal with each other in kindness, and that the best
of us is he who is more pious than others.
"O humankind! We created you from a
single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations
and tribes, that you may know and deal with each other in kindness
(not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored
of you in the sight of God (is he who is) the most righteous
of you, and God is Knower, Aware." Qur'an, 49:13.
Thus, Islam bases people's relational
conduct on kindness. Hence, it condemns intolerance, prejudice
and bigotry, and rejects discrimination based on color, creed,
national origin or religion.
The Muslim acceptance applies to all elements of life and must
reflect in all of the Muslim's affairs. The teaching of Islam
towards proper behavior, anger control, patience, treatment
of spouse, parent, neighbor, the young and the old, the friend,
the enemy, the environment and specifically the People of the
Book are evident in the Holy Qur'an and the life and example
of the Prophet Muhammad (p).
In calling people to the Islamic Faith, for example, a Muslim
must be wise, sensitive, humble and considerate. The Qur'an
"Invite (all) to the way of your Lord
with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and discuss with them in
ways that are best and most gracious." Qur'an, 16:25.
The Muslim's acceptance of the Jews and Christians, is even
more intense and specifically addresses the Muslims to prevent
any communication or approach that would lead to dispute, anger
or negative implications between the two parties. Allah instructs
"And dispute not with People of the
Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless
it be with those of them who inflict wrong and injury." Qur'an, 29:46.
The Prophet (p) also said:
it be known, if any one (Muslim) commits injustice, insults,
aggravates, mistreats or abuses a person of the People of the
Book (protected, by the state or an agreement), he will have
to answer me (for his immoral action) on the Day of Judgment." Izzeddin Blaque, Minhaj Alsaliheen,
Thus, the lack of tolerance towards the non-Muslims under Islamic
rule is a grave offense.
Islam Approve Terrorism?
Absolutely not. The human soul is sacred and highly
protected in Islam. As discussed in the previous section (Acceptance
and Understanding) God created people and made them nations
and tribes to deal with each other in kindness and that God's
criterion of differentiation among people is piety. Islam does
not tolerate bloodshed, prejudice or discriminatory actions.
God tells us in the Holy Qur'an:
"If any one kills a person, it would
be as if he killed the whole people, and if any one saves a
life, it would be as if he saved the whole people." Qur'an, 5:32.
What could be stronger condemnation for assassination of an
individual than equating it with slaying all of human kind,
and a greater reward for saving a life than equating it with
saving the lives of all people? The indiscriminate killing of
people is prohibited in the Islamic Faith irrespective of the
mechanism used for killing. The Prophet Muhammad is reported
to have said:
"Whoever fights under an erratic irrational
banner, buffs up angry for a particular (irrational) group or
promotes (irrational) group, or supports (irrational) group
and died in that cause, he died as a disbeliever, and whoever
indiscriminately attacks my people killing the righteous and
the wicked of them, sparing not (even) those with whom is a
covenant (such as Jews and Christians "People of Book"
or others ), and not fulfilling the promises made with those
who have been given a pledge of a security--he belongs not to
me and I belong not to him." Muslim,
Tradition # 3436.
As an extension of saving the human soul from accidental death,
and to promote a healthy community, this verse lays out the
rule of safety in all domains of life. Islam promotes safety
regulations in traffic and public places, calls for providing
safety measures for children such as providing medicine in child-proof-bottles,
institutes safety measures in all industrial, agricultural and
commercial initiatives as well as in public and private undertaking,
such as streets, housings, and dams. Indirectly, this safety
rule protects the ecological system and promotes cleaner and
healthier environment for all the creations of God.
Does the Islamic Faith
order Muslims to kill Westerners or Christians and Jews?
Absolutely not, this is a myth. Islam does not in any way approve
of the killing of innocent people, whether they are Christians,
Jews or of any faith or philosophy. Prophet Muhammad said:
"Whoever kills a person of the People
of Covenant (such as Jews, and Christian or people of others
creeds or philosophy) with whom there is a covenant between
them and Muslims, he or she will not enter Paradise." Bukhari, Tradition # 2930.
This myth about Muslims entering Paradise by killing Christians
or Jews or Westerners, may have been a misinterpretation of
the saying of Prophet Muhammad "All
those who die today will enter Paradise," during
the Battle of Badr. Let me shed some lights surrounding this
The Battle of Badr was the first battle to take place between
the Muslims and the Pagans. The battle took place in the first
year after the Prophet migrated to Medina, 623 AD, escaping
the torture and execution of Muslims by the Pagan Quraysh tribes
of Mecca. In Medina, the Prophet joined his followers, who were
similarly driven out of Mecca leaving behind their families,
homes, and belongings, much of which was confiscated by Quraysh.
The Muslims learned about a caravan of goods belonging to Quraysh
coming from Syria into Mecca. The Prophet and his companions
decided to intercept the caravan and prevent it from reaching
the Quraysh. The Prophet and three hundred of his people left
the city to intercept the caravan. The Prophet had no intention
to enter into a battle of any kind. The Muslims had no idea
that they would be engaging the Meccans in a battle field.
The Meccans learned about the Muslim's intention of intercepting
the caravan, summoned themselves and made an army of one thousand
people to go and save the caravan from the Muslims. Meanwhile,
the leader of the caravan, Abu Sufian learned of the Muslim's
move, therefore changed the route of the caravan and escaped
the Muslims into Mecca safely. Even though the caravan escaped
into safety, Quraysh with its mighty force refused to listen
to one of its prominent leaders, Alwaleed ibn Al Mugheerah,
to return to Mecca, but insisted to “meet the Muslims
in the battle field and destroy them.”
It was here, where Muslims were few and were not equipped to
go into war, the Prophet said: "All
those who die today will enter Paradise." Although,
the saying can take several different interpretations, but none
of them can be interpreted as saying, "if you kill a Christian
or a Jew or a Westerner you will enter Paradise."
First, the Prophet was facing the Pagans of Mecca, not Christians
or Jews or Westerners. Second, the Prophet's word "today"
limits the act of entering Paradise by dying to those who would
die that day only. Thirdly, the words of the Prophet were made
in a situation of “defense,” not of offense.
Prophet told his companions: "Those who die (in self defense)
will enter Paradise." He did not say 'all those who kill
will enter Paradise'. This principle is also in line with the
philosophy of Islam regarding prevention of bloodshed and war.
See the earlier Section: Dose Islam Approves of Terrorism?
How can this quotation of the Prophet be twisted to mean the
killing of Westerners? On the contrary, the Muslims and the
Jews joined each other a few months earlier and formed an alliance
to defend the city of Medina against the Pagans. Furthermore,
prior to this, Prophet Muhammad had sent his followers to Abyssinia,
escaping Quraysh's execution and to be protected by its Christian
King, Negus. Nine years before this Battle and for many more
years to come, the Muslims and Christians were allied. This
was and still is the policy of Islam regarding the People of
the Book, Christians and Jews.
Second, the Islamic philosophy of martyrdom entering paradise
is no different than the concept of martyrdom in Christianity.
This philosophy too cannot be interpreted as a permission to
kill Christians, Jews, Westerners or any human being.
The Constitution of Medina is a magnificent historical document,
authored and dictated by Prophet Muhammad (p) as the law of
a land inhabited by different ethnic groups and nationalities.
This document constituted the law to ever govern unified Jews
and Muslims in a single state. This manifestation established,
political rights, citizen obligations, freedom of belief, freedom
of speech and trade, the sanctity of life, the prohibition of
bloodshed and crime, and the laws of municipalities and justice.
The document also secured and promoted cooperation and fraternity
among all people of any creed, color, ethnicity, and lineage,
and sets out the criterion of righteousness as the base of distinction.
In the year 622 CE, Prophet Muhammad (p) migrated from Mecca
to Medina ending a 13 years of strife calling the people of
Quraysh (a major governing tribe in Mecca) to Islam, and escaping
their latest plot to assassinate him. Here in the city of Medina,
where he had already made many supporters some of whom had migrated
earlier from Mecca (the Emigrants) and others who received Islam
and accepted it in Medina (the Helpers).
The city of Medina and its surrounding area was home to many
Jewish and Arabian tribes. Resident in the city were also people
of different national origins including Romans, Persians and
Ethiopians. This community of multi-religious beliefs and nationalities
was subjected to a new pluralistic law.
During his first year in Medina, Prophet Muhammad (p) laid out
the principles of a pluralistic constitution that ruled the
city of Medina for the next decade and later extended to Arabia
and the Islamic Empire. The new constitution established the
unity and brotherhood between the Emigrants and the Helpers,
instituted the rights and equality of every citizen before the
Similar to local city and county governments in the west today,
the pre Islamic tribal structure was that each tribe constituted
a local autonomy. Each tribe had a leader that kept agreements
with other tribes, set and enforced the law in its territory.
Note also that all the parties to this document endorsed it,
including the eleven Jewish tribes that were resident in the
area. The text of this translation is copied as a whole from
the book, Sunshine at Madinah, published by Islamic Publication
International. Also see Minhaj Alsaliheen, Page 777, and Albidayah
wa Alnihayah, Volume 3, Page 177.
The following is an English translation of the Constitution
of Medina, as recorded by Ibn Hisham. No attempt is made to
follow literally the lay-out of the original. On the contrary,
we have, in places, deliberately departed from the original
paragraphing, and added numeral prefixes to the main paragraphs
of the translation, for the purposes of easy reference and understanding:
"The Messenger of God wrote document
(Stipulating the relationship) between Immigrants and Helpers,
in which he made peace with the Jews and pledged himself to
them that they will be established in security regarding their
religion, wealth and property. He pledged to honor certain rights
for them and demanded that they fulfill certain obligations." The Constitution of Medina reads:
1. In the name of Allah the Compassionate
the Most Merciful. This is a document dictated by Muhammad the
Prophet (p) (governing the relations) between the believers
and Muslims from Quraysh and Yathrib (Medina), and those who
followed and joined them and strove with them. They are one
nation, distinct from all nations. The Immigrants from Quraysh,
according to their established customs are bound together and
shall ransom their prisoners in the kindness and justice common
2. The Banu 'Awf (a Jewish tribe), according to their established
customs, are bound together as before, each group shall ransom
their prisoners in the kindness and justice common among believers.
The Banu Sa'idah, the Banu al-Harith, The Banu Jushm and the
Banu an-Najjar (Jewish tribes) are likewise.
3. The Banu 'Amr ibn 'Awf, the Banu an-Nabeet, and the Banu
al-Aws (Jewish tribes) likewise.
4. Believers shall not leave anyone among them in destitution
by failing to give for him redemption money or blood-wit in
5. A believer shall not take as an ally a freed man of another
believer against him.
6. The God-fearing believers shall be against who ever rebels
or him who seeks to spread injustice, or sin or aggression or
spread enmity between believers; the hands of everyone of them
shall be together against him, even if he be a son of one of
7. A believer shall not slay a believer for the sake of an unbeliever
nor shall he aid an unbeliever against a believer.
8. The bond of God is one, the least of them (believers) may
give protection (to a stranger) on behalf of them. Believers
are protectors one of another, to the exclusion of outsiders.
9. The Jew who follows us is surely entitled to our support
and the same equal rights as any one of us. He shall not be
wronged nor his enemy be assisted.
10. The peace of believers is one and indivisible; no believer
shall make a separate peace without other believers, when they
are engaged in war in the way of God, except when conditions
are deemed fair and equitable to all.
11. In every foray, a rider must take another behind him. The
believers must avenge the blood of one another, if anyone of
them fails fighting in the cause of God. The God-fearing believers
follow the best and most upright guidance.
12. No polytheist shall take the property or person of Quraysh
under his protection nor shall he intervene on their behalf
against a believer.
13. Whoever is convicted of deliberately killing a believer
without legitimate cause, shall be liable to retaliation, unless
the next of kin is satisfied (with blood money). The believers
shall all be against him, and they are bound to keep him under
their custody (until either the next of kin is satisfied or
retaliation takes place).
14. It shall not be lawful to a believer who has accepted this
document as binding, and who believes in God and the last day,
to help an evil-doer or to shelter him. The curse of God and
His anger on the Day of Resurrection will be upon him if he
does, and neither repentance nor ransom will be received from
15. Whenever you have a disagreement amongst you, it must be
referred to God and Muhammad.
16. The Jews shall contribute to the cost of war, so long as
they are fighting alongside the believers.
17. The Jews of Banu 'Awf are one nation with the Muslims; the
Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs, their
freedmen and their persons shall be protected except those who
behave unjustly or sinfully, for they hurt but themselves and
their families. The same applies to the Jews of Banu an-Najjar,
Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa'idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu
Tha'labah, and the Jafnah, clan of the Tha'labah and Banu al-Shua'ibah.
Doing good deeds is a protection against sinfulness. The freedmen
of Tha'labah are as themselves. The close friends of the Jews
are as themselves.
18. None of them shall go out to war, save with the permission
of Muhammad. But none shall be prevented from taking revenge
for a wound inflicted upon him. Whoever kills a man, kills himself
and his household, unless it be one who has wronged him, for
God would accept that.
19. The Jews must bear their expenses and the Muslims bear theirs.
Each must help the other against anyone who attacks the people
of this document. Their condition must be one of mutual advice,
consultation and charity rather than harm and aggression.
20. No man is liable for a crime committed by his ally. Support
must be given to him who is wronged. The Jews must spend of
their wealth, along with the believers, so long as fighting
21. Yathrib (Medina) shall be a sanctuary for the people of
this document. A stranger under protection shall be as his protecting
host, unharmed and committing no crime. A woman shall not be
given protection without the consent of her family.
22. If any dispute likely to cause trouble should arise among
the people of this document, it must be referred to God, and
23. God approves and is pleased with the piety and goodness
in this document.
24. Quraysh and their helpers shall not be given protection.
25. The people of this document are bound to help one another
against any attack on Yathrib. If they are called to make peace
and maintain it, they must do so; and if they make a similar
demand on the Muslims, it must be carried out except with one
who insists on fighting against their religion.
26. To every small group belongs the share which is their due
as members of the larger group which is party to this covenant.
The Jews of the Aws and their clients, are entitled to the same
rights as any other party to this document, together with the
goodness and charity from all parties to it. Charity and good
deeds exclude sinfulness and wrongdoing.
27. There is no responsibility except for one's own deeds.
28. God approves of such truth and goodness as is included in
29. This document shall not constitute any protection for the
unjust or the wrongdoers.
30. Whoever goes out to fight or stays at home is safe in the
city, unless he has committed an injustice or a crime. God is
the protector of whoever honors his commitment to this document,
and is God-fearing and so is Muhammad, the Messenger of God.
Looking into the early Islamic and later history, one runs across
many examples of Islamic and Jewish acceptance and collaboration.
Following are some of these examples.
A - The Prophet (p) Stands up in Respect
for a Jew's Funeral
Historians (see Sahih Bukhari, Tradition Number 1311) report
that as a funeral of a Jew passed before Prophet Muhammad (p),
as a sign of respect he stood up. In doing this, he showed respect
and shared in the feeling of sorrow with Jewish family and community. "Why did you stand up for a Jewish
funeral?" he was asked. The Prophet replied: "Is it
not a human soul?"
B - The Prophet (p) Visits his Jewish
Upon learning of the sickness of his Jewish neighbor, Prophet
Muhammad (p) paid him a visit. During the visit the Prophet
asked the young man to accept Islam. The young man looked at
his father for a permission. The father assented and the young
man accepted Islam. (see Sahih Bukhari, Tradition Number 1356).
C - The Prophet's (p) Marriage to a Jewish
Getting closer to others, and making your enemy your friend
is the way of Prophet Muhammad (p). To accomplish this, Prophet
Muhammad (p) utilized the traditional Arabian way of making
alliance through marriage. Any time a person marries from a
clan outside of his own, he becomes honored by every member
of the clan, and protected by the entire tribe of the bride.
To show his nearness and trustworthiness to the Jews, he married
one of their own. Her name was Sufiah Bint Alnudair, the daughter
of the leader of the Nudair tribe.
D - Harmony is a Goal for Every Muslim
In the year 627 CE, the Quraysh of Mecca marched with thousands
of men and women of Quraysh along with many other Arabian tribes
to attack the Prophet Muhammad in Medina and wipe out the Muslims
for good. As you have seen earlier, the Muslims and the Jewish
tribes had agreed to protect their city against Quraysh.
Learning about the Quraysh preparation to attack their city,
the Muslims decided to dig a trench around the city to slow
and confuse the enemy. After the Quraysh and its allies arrived
and camped outside Medina, they sent one of their tribal leaders,
Huyay bin Akhtab Alnudairy to the Jewish tribe of Qurathah to
entice them to break their agreement with Muhammad and to join
them in attacking the Muslims. Knowing Quraysh's intention,
the Jewish tribe of Quraythah closed their castle gates and
did not allow Huyay to enter the castle. Calling the tribe leader,
Ka'ab bin Asad from outside the walls of the castle and insisting
to speak to him proved to be another failure. Determined to
speak to Ka'ab over the next several days, Huyay was finally
permitted to enter into the castle. The tribe leader Ka'ab,
however, told him" You are a cursed man, and I have an
agreement with Muhammad that I am not breaking. I have not seen
of him any thing other than trustworthiness and fulfillment
of promise". Upon this Huyay had left disappointed.
It was reported, however that Huyay was not contented by this,
but insisted on returning to Ka'ab with lucrative proposals
and protection from Quraysh against Muhammad, until he changed
his mind. See Ibn Katheer, Albidayah Wa Alnihayah, Volum 4,
Although it is unfortunate that Ka'ab broke the truce with Prophet
Muhammad (p), this example is a proof of the extent of cooperation
and good relation that took place between the Muslims and the
Jews during this early period. Furthermore, this example is
representative of the good relation, not hostility that both
the Jews and Muslims experienced during this period of the rise of Islam.
E - Natural Feeling of a Jew Towards
the Prophecy of Muhammad (p)
For several days, at the outskirts of Medina, awaiting eagerly
the arrival of Prophet Muhammad (p) and his companion from Mecca,
was a small group of Muslims. Also near by was a Jew, Abdullah
Bin Salaam, picking dates off a palm tree with his aunt on the
ground assisting him. Abdullah was in a better position to spot
the incoming from a far distance. Therefore, he was the first
to see the Prophet and his companion coming. Upon this, he became
overwhelmed with excitement, calling loudly, "Muhammad
has arrived, God is great!" Upon this, his aunt told him
to quiet down saying, "If he was Moses
son of Imran, you would not have shouted as loud." Abdullah responded, "Oh my aunt by
Allah, he is (only) the brother of Moses, son of Imran and is
on his faith." She asked, "Is he the expected Prophet
we have been told about (in the Torah)?" He said, "Yes."
This historical event is only a natural reflection of what is
in the inner-hearts of many of the true believers in God. Abdullah
and other Jewish leaders and individuals accepted Islam along
with many Arabian tribes resident in the city of Medina. -(see
A. Alhalabi, Alsirah Alhalabiyah, Volum 2, page 121).
- Protectors of the Jews
Jewish communities in Anatolia flourished and continued to prosper
throughout the Ottoman conquest. When the Ottomans captured
Busra in 1324 and made it their capital, they found a Jewish
community oppressed under Byzantine rule. The Jews welcomed
the ottomans as saviors. Sultan Orhan gave them permission to
build the Etz ha-Hayyim (Tree of Life) synagogue which remained
in service until 50 years ago.
Early in the 14th century, when the Ottomans had established
their capital at Edirne, Jews from Europe, including Karaites,
migrated there.-(Mark Allen Epstein, The Ottoman Jewish Communities
and their Role in the 15th and 16th Centuries.) Similarly, Jews
expelled from Hungary in 1376, from France by Charles VI in
September 1394, and from Sicily early in the 15th century found
refuge in the Ottoman Empire. In the 1420s, Jews from Salonika
then under Venetian control fled to Edirne. -(Josef Nehama,
Histoire des Israeliies de Salonique.)
Ottoman rule was much kinder than Byzantine rule had been. In
fact, from the early 15th century on, the Ottomans actively
encouraged Jewish immigration. A letter sent by Rabbi Yitzhak
Safati (from Edirne) to Jewish communities in Europe in the
first part of the century "invited
his coreligionists to leave the torments they were enduring
in Christendom and to seek safety and prosperity in Turkey." -(Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam.)
When Mehmet II "the Conqueror" took Constantinople
in 1453, he encountered an oppressed Romaniot (Byzantine) Jewish
community which welcomed him with enthusiasm. Sultan Mehmet
II issued a proclamation to all Jews, "
to ascend the site of the Imperial Throne, to dwell in the best
of the land, each beneath his Dine and his fig tree, with silver
and with gold, with wealth and with cattle…." -(
Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume 16 page1532.)
In 1470, Jews expelled
from Bavaria by Ludvig X found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. -(Avram Galante, Histiore des Juifs d'Istanbul, Volume 2.)
On the midnight of August 2nd 1492, when Columbus embarked on
what would become his most famous expedition to the New World,
his fleet departed from the relatively unknown seaport of Palos
because the shipping lanes of Cadiz and Seville were clogged
with Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain by the Edict of Queen
Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain.
Sultan Bayazid II's offer of refuge gave new hope to the persecuted
Sephardim. In 1492, the Sultan ordered the governors of the
provinces of the Ottoman Empire "not
to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to
receive them cordially." -(Abraham Danon, in the
Review Yossef Daath No.4.)
According to Bernard Lewis, "the
Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands,
but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled."
Immanual Abobab attributes to Bayazid II the famous remark that "the Catholic monarch Ferdinand was
wrongly considered as wise, since he impoverished Spain by the
expulsion of the Jews, and enriched Turkey." -(Immanual
Abobab, A Consolacam as Tribulacoes de Israel, III Israel.)
Over the centuries an increasing number of European Jews, escaping
persecution in their native countries, settled in the Ottoman
Empire. In 1537 the Jews expelled from Apulia (Italy) after
the city fell under Papal control and, in 1542 those expelled
from Bohemia by King Ferdinand found a safe haven in the Ottoman
Empire. -(H. Graetz, History of the Jews.) In March of 1556,
Sultan Sulayman "the Magnificent" wrote a letter to
Pope Paul IV asking for immediate release of the Acona Marranos,
whom he declared to be Ottoman citizens. The Pope had no alternative
but to release them, the Ottoman Empire being the "Superpower"
of that time.
In his book, More in Common than you Think, Bridge Between Islam
and Christianity, Dr. William Baker elaborates about the fact
that Muslims view the Torah and the New Testament as inspired
revelations of God and that Islam neither targeted the Jews
nor Judaism. He said, "It is a fact of history that when
the Jews were being persecuted in Europe during the middle ages
they found peace, harmony, and acceptance among the Muslim people
of Spain. In fact, this was the era of Jewish history that they
themselves refer to as "the golden age." In the famous
treaties by Rabbi Minken, he says of this era:
"It was Muslim Spain, the only land the Jew knew in nearly a thousand years of the dispersion, which made the genius of physician Moses Maimonides possible."
- Rabbi Speaking at the First International Islamic Unity Conference
Perhaps, even in the 20th century, where there has been a lot
of hostility between the Muslims and Jews over Palestine, there
are many Jewish people who call for fraternity and "unity
with diversity". It was Rabbi Allen Bennett of San Francisco,
in the interfaith session, at the Islamic Unity Conference,
held in Los Angeles California, August 1996, who admittedly
thought that he had received the wrong call to speak at an Islamic
conference. Yet at the Conference, Rabbi Bennett expressed his
enjoyment and unique experience with the Muslims' hospitalities
and manners. After he spoke about some Muslim and Jewish similarities,
and the possibility of Muslim/Jewish peaceful coexistence, Rabbi
Bennett further said:
"The Jews in this country, who are
such a small minority, have a tremendous obligation to make
the Muslims feel welcome. It is a joy for me to go home not
with a renewed respect, but with increased respect, not with
new hope but with more hope, and I have a big job to do; I have
to become a marketing agent for Islam."
is only here in America that we have this opportunity to hear
people share their thoughts and hopes, and to bring the religious
communities closer together.
In conclusion, The Muslims and Jews co-existed in harmony during
the rise of Islam and beyond. Islam is a friendly religion to
all "It was Muslim Spain, the only land the Jew knew in
nearly a thousand years of the diaspora, which made the genius
of physician Moses Maimonides possible." Acceptance and
virtue are indivisible parts of the Muslim's faith. "The
Jews of Banu 'Awf are one nation with the Muslims; the Jews
have their religion and the Muslims have theirs". These
principles and historical events should create the foundation
for better relations and more peaceful future for both Jewish
and Muslim Communities.