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Jews in Early Islām: Inconvenient History for Zionists

Have Zionists forgotten how the Muslims treated the Jews? Part 1

Islām is a religion of mercy to all people, both Muslims and non-Muslims. The Messenger of Allāh was described as being a mercy in the Qur’an due to the message he brought for humanity:


“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to all the worlds.” [1]

When a person analyses the legislations of Islām with an open mind, the mercy mentioned in this verse will definitely become apparent. One of the aspects constituting an epitome of this Mercy is the way the legislations of Islām deal with people of other faiths. The tolerant attitude of Islām towardsnon-Muslims, whether they be those residing in their own countries or within the Muslim lands, can be clearly seen through a study of history. Muslim jurists use the term ‘Dhimmi’ or ‘Ahl ul-Dhimma’ – ‘People of the Covenant’ to refer to non-Muslim residents and means a treaty of protection for non-Muslims living in Muslim territory.

At a time in which we see the Zionist state of Israel committing atrocities against the Muslims in Gaza in the name of defending the ’Jewish state‘, it is worth reminding the Zionists and their sympathisers how the Jewish people were treated as People of the Covenant throughout the history of Islām.

During the life of the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam)

When the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) migrated from Makkah to Madīnah, there was a small community (three tribes) of Jews there, with Arab communities constituting the majority of the population that resided there. The immediate result of the Prophet’s migration to Madīnah was peace and unity between the communities of Aws and Khazraj. The Prophet, motivated by the general welfare of citizens of Madīnah, decided to offer his services to the remaining communities including the Jews and as such, the Treaty between Muslims, non-Muslim Arabs and Jews of Madīnah was put in writing and ratified by all parties. The document referred to the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) as the Prophet and Messenger of God but it was understood that the Jews did not have to recognise him as such for their own religious reasons. The major parts of the document with respect to the Jews were: [2]


“Whosoever among the Jews follows us shall have help and equality; they shall not be injured nor shall any enemy be aided against them…No separate peace will be made when the Believers are fighting in the way of Allāh…The Believers shall avenge the blood of one another shed in the way of Allāh…Whosoever kills a Believer wrongfully shall be liable to retaliation; all the Believers shall be against him as one man and they are bound to take action against him.”

“The Jews shall contribute (to the cost of war) with the Believers so long as they are at war with a common enemy. The Jews of Banu Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa’idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu Tha’labah, Jafnah, and Banu al-Shutaybah enjoy the same rights and privileges as the Jews of Banu Aws.”

“The Jews shall maintain their own religion and the Muslims theirs. Loyalty is a protection against treachery. The close friends of Jews are as themselves. None of them shall go out on a military expedition except with the permission of Muhammad, but he shall not be prevented from taking revenge for a wound.”

“The Jews shall be responsible for their expenses and the Believers for theirs. Each, if attacked, shall come to the assistance of the other.”

This document came to be known as the Ṣaḥīfat al-Madīnah ‘Constitution of the Islamic State of Madinah’. The historian Mark Graham states: “Muhammad’s brilliance lay in politics as well as spirituality. One of the most extraordinary events to take place during this time was the drafting of the Covenant of Medina, what some consider to be the world’s first constitution. This amazingly foresighted document was a revolutionary step forward in civil government.” [3]

As for the Prophet’s treatment of the Jews in general, there are many examples that show his kindness to them. For example, a young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet and he became sick, and so the Prophet went to visit him.[4] It is also reported that a funeral of a Jew passed before the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). As a sign of respect, the Prophet stood up. As a result the Prophet was asked “Why did you stand up for a Jewish funeral?” The Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) replied, “Is it not a human soul?[5] It should also be remembered that in order to tie civil bonds and to express his nearness to the Jews in his ancestry, the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) married Safiyyah bint Huyay (radiyAllāhu ‘anha), daughter of the chief of the Jewish tribe of Banu al-Nadīr. She was captured during the Battle of Khaybar and as an honourable gesture showing the magnanimity of Islām, the Prophet freed and married her.

During the rule of the Rightly Guided Caliphs

Modern welfare states provide social benefits to their poor citizens, but arguably Islām preceded all nations in establishing social security services for Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Umar b. al-Khattāb (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu) the second caliph of Islām, once passed by an old, blind man begging in front of a house. Umar asked him which religious community he belonged to. The man said he was Jewish. Umar then asked him, “What has brought you to this?” The old man said, “Do not ask me, poverty and old age.” Umar took the man to his own home, helped him from his personal money, and then ordered the head of the treasury, “You must look after this man and others like him. We have not treated him fairly. He should not have spent the best years of his life among us to find misery in his old age.” Umar also relieved him and others in his situation of paying the Jizya(the tax non-Muslim subjects were required to pay for protection in the Muslims lands, similar in value to the alms obliged on the Muslims).[6]

When Umar was handed the keys to Jerusalem, he guaranteed the rights of all faiths, including the Jews. On one occasion, some Muslims usurped a piece of land belonging to a Jew and then constructed on it a mosque. The justice of Umar and indeed Islām is such that he ordered the demolition of the mosque and the restoration of the land to its Jewish owner. Dr Hamidullāh in his book ‘The Status of non-Muslims in Islam’ says that a Lebanese Christian scholar, Professor Cardahi, wrote in 1933 about this land: “this house of the Bait al-Yahūdi, still exists and is well-known.[7]

Another example of the justice of Islām in its treatment of the Jewish community is found in the time of the fourth caliph of Islām. Once, a dispute arose between Alī b. Abī Tālib (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu), when he was the Caliph, and a Jewish man. Both parties took their disputes to a judge, Shurayh al-Kindi.  Shurayh relates the details of what happened:


“Alī found he was missing his coat of mail, so he went back to Kūfa and found it in the hands of a Jewish man who was selling it in the market.  He said, “O Jew, that coat of mail is mine!  I did not give it away or sell it!” The Jew responded “It is mine.  It is in my possession.” Alī said, “We will have the judge rule on this for us.” So they came to me and Alī sat next to me and said, “That coat of mail is mine; I did not give it away or sell it.” The Jew sat in front of me and said, “That is my coat of mail.  It is in my possession.”

I asked, ‘O Commander of the Faithful (Alī), do you have any proof?’ “Yes” Alī said. “My son Hasan and Qanbarah can testify that it is my coat of mail.” I said, “Commander of the Faithful, the testimony of a son in his father’s favour is not admissible in court.” On seeing this, the Jewish man said, “The Commander of the Faithful (i.e. Alī) takes me before his own judge and the judge rules in my favour against him! I bear witness that no one deserves worship except God and that Muhammad is His Messenger.” The Jewish man accepted Islām, and then addressed Alī saying: “The coat of armour is yours, Commander of the Faithful. You dropped it at night and I found it.”

During the period of Islamic Empires

A further example of how the Jews as People of the Covenant were treated is found in the statement of a famous classical scholar of Islām, Imām al-Awzā’ī in his letter to the Abbasid governor, Sālih b. ‘Alī b. Abdillāh when he writes, “They (Jews and Christians) are not slaves, so beware of changing their status after they have lived in freedom. They are free People of the Covenant.”[8]Acknowledging this fact, Ron Landau wrote:


In contrast to the Christian Empire, which attempted to impose Christianity on its subjects, the Arabs extended recognition to religious minorities, and accepted their presence. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians were known to them as the People of the Covenant; in other words, the nations who enjoyed a protected status.”[9]

We have seen in this article how the Jews were acknowledged as people of the book and a people upon whom Allāh had bestowed many favours in the past, and the interaction of the Muslim community with them was in accordance with this belief. We have seen how the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and his companions justly dealt with them. In part 2 of this article, we will explore how the Muslims dealt with the Jews when they were a global power in the age of empires.



[1] Al-Qur’ān 21:107

[2] Al-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar): Biography of the Prophet, p.394

[3] How Islam Created the Modern World. Amana Publications, 2006, p. 21.

[4] Recorded in Bukhāri

[5] Recorded in Bukhāri

[6] Ahkām Ahl al-Dhimmah by Ibn al-Qayyim, 1/38


[8] Abu Ubayd, al-Amwaal, p. 170, 171, Zaydan, Dr. Abd al-Karim, ‘Ahkām al-Dhimmiyīn wal-Musta’minīn,’ p. 77.

[9] Landau, R, ‘Islam and The Arabs,’ p. 119

About Z A Rahman

Z.A Rahman is a community activist and a member of a large Mosque in the UK. He has a keen interest in politics and history, particularly Islamic history. He also enjoys traveling and has visited numerous countries in the Middle East and North Africa.


  1. Islam is lucky that Jews were around to write down their ridiculous stories. At least the Jews were literate!

  2. Excellent article mashallah

  3. Yes, while it’s true that Jews (and others) may have been treated well in past generations, this of course is not per see something that was derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the Shari’ah), correct? If Muslims did something (or didn’t do something) in the past, how can one say that this is something that is truly part of the Islam, unless if it can be proven that indeed it was derived from Allah’s Divine Revelation.

    As you know, at least according to today’s mainstream Ulema, don’t they say that the blood and property of all non-Muslims (the Yahood, Nasara, and Shi’a Rawafidh, etc.) is halaal? They use the Qisaas verses (their non-combatant women and children, can INTENTIONALLY be targeted), the fact that they vote their leaders in, and the fact that they pay taxes…(BTW, how is it fair that people OTHER THEN THE PERPETRATOR can be targeted, according to Qisaas… The children, the wife, or cousin, etc. of the perpetrator? Why is not the perpetrator solely to blame.. why should people that had NOTHING at all to do with the initial crime – women, children, babies have to be punished according to Qisaas?)

    In other words, bro you of course mean well, but IMO it’s a little unfair and disingenuous to tout or boast about what happened in the past (whether good or bad) especially knowing that again, the Ulema have made it 100% halaal, and Islamically correct, providing many, many fatawa, giving Muslims the green light to target all of the blood and wealth of the non-Muslims, including intentionally targeting non-combatant women, children, and babies, etc. This is the REAL and TRUE Islam that we are seeing today, and this why many Muslims (including myself) are struggling with their eeman… I mean what non-Madkhali or palace scholar do not believe this?

    • Nice try, Mr MI5/Daily Mail. Your painting of a view that practically no scholar has ever had, as a unanimous ‘sunni’ moslem consensus, is not going to get very far on this website, people here aren’t ignorant enough to fall for that.

  4. Samy Merchant

    Very informative article. Zionism is the most dangerous ideology on our planet today. This is because the racism that Zionism espouses has international appeal that runs ACROSS cultures. In fact, the most fervent Zionists are NON Israelis. When Ariel Sharon withdrew his soldiers from Gaza, the American evangelical, Pat Robertson, was absolutely livid with him. How dare Sharon withdraw from “Israel,” whose eternal borders are from the Euphrates River to the Nile, as portrayed by the two blue lines on the Israeli flag. But what is most shocking are the Muslim Zionists, trying to use Quranic verses to justify “Israel’s” existence.

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