Oh Zionists, have you forgotten how Muslims treated the Jews? Part 2
In part 1 (click here to read) we saw how Jews were treated in early Islām. Now, we look at how they were treated in the age of Islamic empires.
Many non-Muslim historians and chroniclers attest to the way in which Muslims treated non-believing subjects of the Islamic empires, including the Jewish community. Leon Poliakov writes that Jews enjoyed great privileges and their communities prospered much in the Islamic State. He states that there was no legislation or social barriers preventing Jews from conducting commercial activities within the Muslim lands in contrast to elsewhere at the time. Commercial and craft guilds did not exist like those in Europe. He further adds that Jewish people under Islamic rule were not excluded from any specific profession and many Jews migrated to areas newly conquered by Muslims and established communities there.
Many examples of how Muslims defended Jewish citizens in this period of Islamic empires can be given. The great ‘Sheikh of Islām’ Ibn Taimiyya personally interceded for the release of Christian and Jewish prisoners. After the demolition of Syria at the hands of the Tatars, Ibn Taimiyya approached their leader for release of their captives. The Tartar leader agreed to release the Muslim prisoners, but Ibn Taimiyya protested: “We will only be satisfied if all the Jewish and Christian prisoners are released as well. They are people of the covenant. We do not abandon a prisoner whether from our own people or from those under a covenant.” He persisted until the Tartars released all of them.
Salāh al-Dīn and the Crusaders
Under the Crusader Christian rule of Jerusalem, there was a ban on Jewish settlement in the Holy Land. When Salāh al-Dīn liberated Jerusalem, he overturned the ban and allowed the Jews to return. During the course of the following years, parts of the Holy Land shifted between Muslim and Christian control; each time the Christians conquered any city, the Jews were expelled, and restored when the Muslims re-conquered it. The Jewish historian, Nissim Rejwan states that:
“It is interesting to note here that, as far as Palestine is concerned, the right of Jews to “return” to live in this small area of land was accepted by all successive Muslim rulers from the Muslim conquest to the end of the nineteenth century, when Zionist settlement there became entangled in European foreign policy.” 
Perhaps the greatest legacy that exemplified the tolerance shown by Muslims towards the Jews was in Umayyid Islamic Spain, al-Andalus, from the 8th Century onwards. Here, Jews had perhaps flourished more than in any other time in their history since their exile from the Holy Land at the hands of the Romans.
Before the Umayyid rule however, life for the large Jewish community in Spain was extremely oppressive under the Christian Visigoths. Under the Third and Sixth Councils of Toledo (589-638 CE), Jews were to be forcibly converted to Christianity, and laws were passed such that if any Jew refused to convert, he or she would be lashed 100 times, have all their possessions confiscated and be banished from the land.
The conquest of Spain by the Muslim Mujāhidīn led by the young general, Tāriq b. Ziyād, freed the major Spanish population of Jews from Christian Visigothic oppression and tyranny; they were seen as saviours by the Jews who had in fact fought alongside them. The Jews in Spain were soon fully integrated into the Islamic State and given great autonomy to conduct their state of affairs. They had the privilege of being consulted on important matters. They were sometimes deputed to embassies in foreign countries and their valuable opinions were sought on the administrative affairs of the state.
Within a century of their activity, the Umayyids with assistance of the Jews, had developed a civilization based in Cordoba that surpassed that of any in Europe and the state was the most populous, cultured, and industrious land of all Europe, remaining so for centuries. The historian Martin Hume states: “Side by side with the new rulers lived the Christians and Jews in peace. The latter rich with commerce and industry were content to let the memory of their oppression by the priest-ridden Goths sleep.” Most of the Jews in the world were now inhabitants of a single Islamic State and thus, for the first time since the beginning of their diaspora, the Muslim state in Spain brought Jews into a single cultural, economic, and political system which gave rise to the Jewish ‘Golden Age’, particularly after 912, during the reign of ‘Abd al-Rahmān III and his son, al-Hakam II. Jewish economic expansion was unparalleled. During ‘Abd al-Rahmān’s term of power, the scholar Moses ben Enoch was appointed rabbi of Cordoba, and as a consequence al-Andalus became the international centre of Rabbinical studies.
The Ottoman Empire
The reality is that non-Muslims were treated with more tolerance by the Muslims than even by other sects of their own religion. Thomas Arnold mentions in his ‘Invitation to Islam’ that there were many people in Italy at that time who longed for Ottoman rule. He also mentions that many Jews fled persecution in Spain at the end of the 15th century and took refuge in Ottoman Turkey. Even before their persecution by the Spanish, Jews were immigrating to the Ottoman lands in great numbers. Among these immigrants was Rabbi Yitzhak Sarfati, a German-born Jew of French descent, who became the Chief Rabbi of Edirne and wrote a letter inviting the European Jewry to settle in the Ottoman Empire, in which he stated that: “Turkey is a land wherein nothing is lacking” and asked: “Is it not better for you to live under Muslims than under Christians?”
During the 15th century in Europe, slavery, race discrimination, religious intolerance and the cruelties and atrocities of the inquisition resulted in the expulsion of the Jews from Spain at the hands of the Christian rulers. Sultan Bayezid, the ruler of the Ottomans at that time, heard of the evil inflictions upon the Jews in Spain who were longing for refuge and a resting place. He took pity on them, wrote letters and proclaimed that the Jews were to be given a safe haven in the Empire.
During the rule of the Ottoman Caliph, Sultan Suleiman, he came to know of an area which was the original construction of Masjid al-Aqsa which included the section of a wall and he ordered for its restoration. As a means of provision to the Jews due to the importance they perceived that the area might have had for them historically, Sultan Suleiman ordered his court architect, Sinan to build an oratory for them there. Ironically, had it not been for this gesture of goodwill, there would never have been what Zionists lay claim to today—what has been renamed as the “Wailing Wall”. There are no evidential historical proofs of Jewish people assembling anywhere near Masjid al-Aqsa to pray before the period of Sultan Suleiman to suggest that the particular area around the Masjid was considered as holy to them in any way. And yet today, the Zionists openly call for the destruction of the Masjid in an effort to expand the “Wailing Wall” and to build a Temple in its place.
A further example of tolerance and kindness towards the Jewish people can be found in the Sultan of Morocco, Muhammad b. Abdullāh, who issued an edict on February 5th 1864 CE to his civil servants and agents who performed their duties as authorised representatives in his territories. He states:
“They must deal with the Jewish residents of our territories according to the absolute standard of justice established by God. The Jews must be dealt with by the law on an equal basis with others so that none suffers the least injustice, oppression, or abuse. Nobody from their own community or outside shall be permitted to commit any offense against them or their property. Their artisans and craftsmen may not be scripted into service against their will, and must be paid full wages for serving the state. Any oppression will cause the oppressor to be in darkness on Judgment Day and we will not approve of any such wrongdoing. Everyone is equal in the sight of our law, and we will punish anyone who wrongs or commits aggression against the Jews with divine aid. This order which we have stated here is the same law that has always been known, established, and stated. We have issued this edict simply to affirm and warn anyone who may wish to wrong them, so the Jews may have a greater sense of security and those intending harm may be deterred by greater sense of fear.” 
During the Holocaust
During the holocaust of the Jews in Europe, Muslims went to great lengths to protect them. There are many such stories, in particular the story of Bosnian Muslims who went to great lengths to preserve Jewish tradition by safeguarding the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 600-year-old manuscript which narrates the Exodus from Egypt. In 1492, when Spain expelled the country’s Jews, a refugee carried the book to Italy. It was then taken to Bosnia by a rabbi who passed it down through his family until a descendant, Joseph Cohen, sold it to the National Museum in 1894. When a Nazi official came to seize the Haggadah during World War II, two men spirited it through Nazi checkpoints, carrying it to a village in the mountains above Sarajevo. A Muslim cleric kept it hidden beneath the floor of a Mosque until the war ended. During Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, Dr Enver Imanovic, the Muslim museum director, and several Serb policemen risked sniper fire to reach the museum, and concealed the Haggadah in a safe at the National Bank, where it remained until the end of the war and so it remains today.
Albania also acted as a safe haven for the Jews in Europe at the time it contained a majority Muslim population. Norman Gershman, a photographer and historian who travelled throughout Albania documenting the accounts of Muslim families who protected Jews, put out a book detailing these entitled ‘Besa: Muslims who Saved Jews in World War II’. The stories of Muslims in Gershman’s book reveal that they understood ‘Besa’ as an expression of the Qur’anic teachings of mercy, hospitality, and protecting the weak. Kujtim Civeja, a member of a traditional Muslim family of scholars, said:
“Our father wrote that when he had the opportunity and privilege to shelter so many Jewish families it gave him joy to put into practice his Islamic faith. To be generous is a virtue.”
We have seen from part 1 and 2 of this article that the generations of Muslims from the time of the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) right up to the modern era at the time of the holocaust, Muslims always protected the Jews. Islamic history is replete with beautiful examples of justice meted out by Muslims towards non-Muslims. It bears witness to the fact that Jews were always officially treated with kindness and protected as a weak group of people scattered across a number of different continents. It also dispels the myth that Muslims seek to “wipe Jews off the map”, that has never been the case and remains so. During the same period however, it is clear that the European and the Western world mistreated and persecuted the Jewish people usually under the premise that they were responsible for the alleged crucifixion of ‘Īsā (‘alayhi al-Salām).
The Zionists have no regard for the life that the Jewish people enjoyed under Muslim rule for hundreds of years. They offer no thanks or preparedness to repay the gesture of goodwill, kindness and compassion shown to the Jewish people but instead they appropriate Muslim land, illegally occupy it, and establish illegal settlements. The ‘Defence Force’ they developed has been directed at their historic hosts, with which they kill their young, women and elderly, imprison their weak and destitute people and continually bomb their land. If anyone were ‘anti-Semitic’ it is indeed the Zionists themselves. The Zionist state of Israel has invested much time and expense in its walls and ‘Iron Dome’s to fortify itself thinking it will keep them secure. Yet will they not ponder that even the Iron barrier built by Dhul-Qarnayn to keep out Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj (Gog and Mogog) will give way as stated in the Qur’ān:
“He said: ‘this is a mercy from my Lord but when the promise of my Lord comes to pass, He will make it level with the ground, and the promise of my Lord is every true’” 
For the Muslims, the promise of Allāh will indeed come to pass and what is certain is that one day, justice will prevail against the Zionist state of Israel, and the Palestinians will have their freedom inshā’Allāh and with every day that passes, that certainty becomes closer to being realised.
 Poliakov (1974), pg.68-71 and Cohen, Mark R. “The Neo-Lachrymose Conception of Jewish-Arab History.” Tikkun 6.3 (1991), 58.
 Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘Ghayr al-Muslimeen fil-Mujtama’ al-Islami,’ p. 10
Israel’s Place in the Middle East: A Pluralistic Perspective, by Nissim Rejwan, p.40]
 The Restoration of the Jews: The Crisis of All Nations; to which is Now By James Bicheno.
 Stanley Lane Poole, ‘The Moors in Spain’.
 Hume, Martin A. S. The Spanish People: Their Origin, Growth and Influence. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1901.
 Arnold, Thomas, ‘Invitation To Islam,’ p. 183
 B. Lewis, “The Jews of Islam”, New York (1984), pp. 135 – 136]
 Shaw, S.J. (1991) ‘The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and The Turkish Republic’, Macmillan, p.11-33.
 Vilnay, Zev (2003). “How the Wall was discovered”. Legends of Palestine. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 61–2 and Armstrong, Karen (April 16, 2001). “Islam’s Stake”. TIME
 Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘al-Aqaliyyat ad-Diniyya wa-Hal al-Islami,’ p. 58-59
 Al-Qur’ān: 18:98
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.