Jews Who Lived Under Muslim Rule

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    Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura wrote this
    in a letter to his father in year 1488 August 15:

    “Jews in Muslim lands make themselves appear poor.

    They go about like an impoverished, despised people,
    with their heads bowed before Muslims.”

    FROM: Pathway to Jerusalem: the Travel Letters of Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura, written between 1488 and 1490 during his journey to the Holy Land (page 40) translated in English by Yaakov Dovid Shulman, year 1992, 93 pages, CIS Publishers, Lakewood, New Jersey, ISBN 1-56062-130-3

    Please remember this quick quote from a very reliable source, when people [who do not know what they are talking about] try to tell you that Jews who lived in Muslim countries were treated well.


    No Jews have been treated well anywhere in Golus.

    That’s what Golus is about. Hashem is reminding us we are not at home. (No, not even in Israel; that’s part of Golus too, today.)

    That all said, however bad the Muslims treated us, the Christians and Europeans treated us far far far worse than the Muslims and Arabs ever did. Compared to the Christians/Europeans, our times in the Arab/Muslim lands was a comparative paradise, on a relative basis.


    No one says it was great all the time, but there were no crusades, inquisitions, tach vetat, monthly expulsions and pogroms, and no Holocaust.

    Galus is bitter. It was bitter among arabs, and it was a nightmare among Europeans.


    Every few decades there was some massacre there. The worst persecution might have been in Yemen.

    The Almohads were terrible, which explains what RabeinuBachyei wrote in רבינו בחיי [בראשית כא יד ד”ה ויתכן].
    And the Rambam’s letter is famous .
    [‘אגרת תימן’ להרמב”ם דף יד].

    Overall Dhimmitude treatment was the attitude – second class.

    However, we must remember that there were many periods of good times for Jews among the Arabs, when in Europe it was not.
    And we should remember their reception after Gerush-Sfarad.
    Until Shavuot 1941 תש”א there were no massacres in Iraq recorded, but after the Nazi propaganda by Fritz Grobba, al Sabawi’s Mein-Kampf into Arabic / Palestine Mufti al Husseini and his pals who escaped there from the Brits in 1937 – hate incitement intensified resulting in the Farhoud pogrom where some estimate up to a 1,000 died. Children were thrown in the waters in front of parents and other brutalities which I prefer not to detail here…


    Dear @SQUARE_ROOT, I found online the French version of the Book you mentioned, printed in 1866, I translated it into English:

    Schwab, M., Bertinoro, O. (1866). Voyages: Lettres d’Obadia de Bertinoro, 1487-89. France: au bureau des Archives israëlites.
    PAGE 23:

    In general, they present themselves in all Islamism as poor and deprived of everything; they have a shabby dress like beggars, and they bend their backs to the Muslims.


    I haven’t read this in the original or in the translation. But your own quote doesn’t support your theory.
    They MAKE themselves APPEAR poor… but are not poor?
    They go about LIKE an impoverished people… but are not actually impoverished?
    Yaakov according to meforshim didn’t need food from Mitzrayim but pretended to, so as to not arouse the ire of his countrymen.
    Same idea everywhere in Golus. We need to keep a low profile.

    Shimon Nodel

    The Rambam wrote that Jews under the Muslims were persecuted far more than any other civilization in history. He lived well into the era of crusades and Christian persecution.

    Any historian can tell you as a matter of fact that up until the holocaust, Jews in Europe were treated exceedingly better than those in Muslims lands. You don’t learn about Muslim persecution of Jews because it was so constant and brutal, that it wasn’t limited to specific events. The corruption, extortion, injustices, the stifling of all cultural and economic development, and the frequent slaughters and executions were a normal and constant routine. However, in European countries (even in the more backwards regions of Eastern Europe) the severe persecutions were limited to sporadic events. Jews did have the benefit of lawful governments and relative stability.
    This is precisely what enabled the Ashkenazi population to explode from barely more than 1 million in the year 1800 to over 13 million in the 1930s. Sfardim increased from less than 1 million in 1800 to about 5 million in the 1930s (and that’s already many decades after being under European influence and colonization).

    Learning history from your high school rebbe doesn’t always work out. (Unless you have a history class from Rabbi Langer.) But reading actual books discussing history will maybe help you get rid of the psoles

    anonymous Jew

    For much of the middle ages Jews had a good life in Europe. Often their biggest protector was the local bishop I


    In the 2,000+ years Jews lived under Arab and Muslim rule, I don’t think even cumulatively all the Arab/Muslim violence inflicted against us added up toany one of the following European/Christian violence against us: 1) the Crusades 2) the Inquisition 3) Tach V’tat OR 4) the Holocaust.

    That’s not to mention that blood libels the Christians came up with every Monday and Thursday, the programs every few decades, the expulsions from so many different European countries, spread generations apart, every Christmas year after year when the priests would set the Christian masses aflame against the local Jewish population (hence nittul nacht), forcing the local Jewish populations to pay the current ruler tremendous amounts of money that couldn’t be met just for the opportunity to live under their bloody rule and so so many more crimes against Jewish humanity every year.

    Don’t forget that it was the Europeans coming from Rome that destroyed the Beis Hamikdash. And the Christian church that accused world Jewry of being collectively guilty of deicide, of “killing g-d”, and thus justifying their most bloody and repeated attempts of genocide against Jewry.


    You can’t easily generalize and you can’t go by how people “feel”. Jews that I know who lived in most Muslim countries are often bitter about their experience, even though historically their experience might have been better than other places. Nobody is going to be excited about being “less prosecuted” than someone else. So, personal anecdotes are subjective, and as mentioned above, different rulers had different effects.

    Same thing in Europe – Polish Jews are very bitter about their pre-WW2 experiences, even as their circumstances were much better than nearby evil empires of Russia and Germany – and there were so many Jews in Poland because they moved their from other places. Maybe, they had higher expectations from a democracy and previous experiences, when both Poles and Jews were under Russians.


    The golden age of Jewish Arab relations came to a screeching halt once the Zionists came to the scene (starting in 1898 and in full swing by 1917) and announced their plans to take over the Holy Land.


    For the greatest contrast of the difference between living under Muslim rule versus living under Christian rule, simply contrast our experience living in Muslim Spain versus our experience in Christian Spain after the Christians ousted the Muslim rulers from Spain.


    As mentioned above, Muslim rulers included Almahids that Rambam ran away from and thought to be the worst (not that he moved to artzot ashkenaz, of course 🙂

    Shimon Nodel

    @ujm you’re just either lying or woefully ignorant. No one is denying all of the atrocities under Christian rule. It is severely exaggerated. Xmas pogroms were not an annual occurrence. The large scale tragedies were intermittent amd infrequent. There was almost always a lawful government in control in various degrees of efficacy.

    Your claims about Muslim rule are about as true as my super ability to levitate myself at will


    Mr. Nodel:

    The Holocaust alone outweighs ALL the Arab atrocities *combined*.

    The Crusades alone outweighs ALL the Arab atrocities *combined*.

    Tach V’tat alone outweighs ALL the Arab atrocities *combined*.

    The Inquisition alone outweighs ALL the Arab atrocities *combined*.

    And the above are just four examples. Stop being a Christian/European apologist.

    And like mentioned previously, do not forget the European destruction of Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdash.


    Pre-zionism, most Jews living in Muslim countries were subjects of the Ottoman Empire (note they were subjects, unlike most Jews in the Russian Empire who were tolerated aliens but not subjects).
    As was true of almost all Christian and Muslim countries, Jews had legal rights similar to African Americans under “Jim Crow”-meaning you had some rights, some of the time. Compared to 19th century Europe, Ottoman Jews weren’t subject to conscription (until the very end, which is after the start of zionism — and in fact in Muslim and Christian countries, Jews did not have the right to bear arms which at least precluded conscription). A major difference between Muslim and Christian countries was the rarity of pogroms and mass expulsions in Muslim countries, as opposed to the Christian countries. Also the Muslims were not as anxious as the Christians to convert Jews (this had to do with the tax system, the government lost money if a Jew converted to Islam). Pre-zionism in the Arab countries (and pre-“enlightenment” in Europe), we had communal autonomy which made up for the lack of civil and economic rights.

    In all fairness, compared to the United States in the late 20th century (it may be going downhill as we enter the “woke” era), the rest of golus was horrible, but we survived.


    Shimon Nodel, the historians say something along the Ujm’s lines, not yours. So, tone down the rhetoric, maybe.


    There’s a reason it says, as everyone knows and needs no reminder, Eisev Soneh L’Yaakov rather than Yishmael.

    As an aside, on a slightly tangentially related note, it is forbidden to enter a Church whereas it is not only permitted to enter a Mosque, but one may even daven in a Mosque.


    Each and every time, some preacher invoked/invokes the Banu Qurayza, Khybar earlier massacre of Jews in Madina.

    After making a “peace” agreement with the Jews, attacking them as they disarmed themselves.
    A tribe of some 700 were decapited after given the choice if to convert which the holy Jews refused.

    (See also:
    Chaim Schloss, “2000 Years of Jewish History: From the Destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash Until the Twentieth Century,” Feldheim Publishers, 2002, chapter 6.)


    Here are some events prior to the excuse of “zionism.”

    * 1066: execution of Rab Shmuel haNagid and ‘Garanda Massacre’ – 4-5,000 Jews died. The razing of the entire Jewish quarter in the Andalucian city of Granada.

    * 1013: Under Umayyad rule,
    The inhabitants of Cordoba including Jews were massacred and looted. It is said that 2000 of them were murdered.

    * 1033: Fez, Morocco, pogrom, Muslims massacres more than 6000 Jews and took away their women and robbed their belongings.

    * 1172+: The Almohads, who had taken control of much of Islamic Iberia by 1172, were far more extremists than the Almoravides, and they treated the dhimmis harshly. Jews and chr. were expelled from Morocco and Islamic Spain.

    * Maimonides (Epistle to the Yemenites), consoling the Jews of Yemen for the tortures they suffered and exhorting them to remain true to their faith , no matter what the cost. Despite the remoteness of their abode , the Yemenite Jews never lost contact with the spiritual movements in world Jewry. Their religious life was based entirely upon the Talmud.

    * 1465: Fez, Morocco, Muslim subjects overthrew the last Marinid ruler who had appointed many Jews to high positions. Grudges leading to massacre the entire Jewish community of the city. The community was temporarily converted but soon reverted to Judaism.

    * 1517: Safed [Tzfat] Israel, Jews were evicted from their homes, robbed and plundered, and they fled naked to the villages.

    * 1679–1680: Imam of Yemen (Rassid dynasty) – Jews of nearly all cities and towns in Yemen exiled to a remote desert and left to die.

    * 1840-1908: after the Damascus affair – blood libel, riots and massacres of Jews were carried out in Aleppo (1850, 1875), Damascus (1840, 1848, 1890), Beirut (1862, 1874), Dayr al-Qamar (1847), Jerusalem (1847), Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901–02), Mansura (1877), Alexandria (1870, 1882, 1901–07), Port Said (1903, 1908), Damanhur (1871, 1873, 1877, 1891), Istanbul (1870, 1874), Buyukdere (1864), Kuzguncuk (1866), Eyub (1868), Edirne (1872), Izmir (1872, 1874).

    * 1864: Solica (Sulaika) Hachuel – The Moroccan Teenager Who Died for Her Jewish Faith.


    Note: While, overall, in Chr. Countries it was far worse. Facts should not be altered, nevertheless. Truth to be told, there were some prolonged good times in Europe, but the European historic bloodshed and persecution is incomparable, of course.


    Correction: 1066 Granada Massacre : execution of Rab Shmuel haNagid’s son – Yosef.


    Dear @BaltimoreMaven, please do not compare that type of writing with today’s vocabulary. What Rab Ovadia meant to say is clear. That they are put down by the Muslim maters – in today’s language.


    you can _try_ davening in a Mosque, not sure whether you’ll get arrested though. But this is about Muslims being true monotheists, which does not prevent them from committing other atrocities, like quickly forgotten ISIS or still out there Iranians.

    Shimon Nodel

    Incredible how much choshech there can be when information is so readily available. When did people become so averse to education?


    So, just wanted to clarify a point regarding the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

    Rome was the instrument, no doubt, but one mustn’t suppose the legions involved only Italians or even only European troops. The legions’ troops included Syrians, North Africans and other non-Europeans. It is also speculated that 1/3 of the total force was composed of auxiliaries from the neighbouring nations (Nabateans, Samaritans, etc.).

    So… interesting back and forth. Thanks all!

    Just wanted to point out, if we’re holding Christian Europe’s ancestors responsible for the Churban, we would also need to hold Muslim’s N. African and Middle Eastern ancestors responsible.




    For the Mal’achim were saying: “RibomoShelOlam , for one who is destined to kill Your children with thirst, You are bringing up a well?!” And He answered them, “What is he now, righteous or wicked?” They replied, “Righteous.” He said to them, “According to his present deeds I judge him” (Gen. Rabbah 53:14). And that is the meaning of “where he is.” Now where did he kill the Israelites with thirst? When Nebuchadnezzar exiled them, as it is stated (Isa. 21: 13f.): “The harsh prophecy concerning Arabia, etc. Toward the thirsty bring ye water, etc.” When they led them beside the Arabs, the Israelites said to their captors, “Please lead us beside the children of our cousins Ishmael, and they will have mercy on us,” as it is stated:“the caravans of the Dedanites.” Do not read דְדָנִים (Dedanites) but דְוֹדִים (uncles). And these [Ishmaelites] went forth toward them and brought them salted meat and fish and inflated skins. The Israelites thought that they were full of water, but when one would place it into one’s mouth and open it, the air would enter his body and he would die …


    I dont know how to measure level of depravity or torture but if you look at sheer numbers, the holocaust alone outnumbered all those killed in muslim countries, like ujm says.

    that isnt to say that things were even decent under Muslim rule like akuperma implies – at times they were just as awful but never on the same scale.

    and anyone who believes that the creation of israel caused the muslims to hate the jews is simply ignorant. jews in muslims were continuously subject to pogroms and forced conversions – in the middle ages and into the late 1800s as Historian points out – but again – never on the scale experienced in europe – but definitely not caused by israel.


    Still, as far as being compared, I tend to agree with ujm, asides from the Almohad genocidal drive of Jews throughout the entire area ( sefer ha-Qabalah כמובא בספר הקבלה לראב”ד הלוי) which we all lack info about the numbers.


    Overall it was worse in Europe than in Muslim countries. Zionism incitied rage in Arab countries towards Jews. It’s a fact that Zionists won’t admit but it’s the truth.


    Regarding the Churban, the Abarbenel’s opinion is that Bnei Yishmael were also helping the Romans…..


    Maurice Roumani, The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, (Tel Aviv: World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, 1977):

    Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293-4, 1301-2), Iraq (854­-859, 1344) and Yemen (1676). .., Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465 and 1790-92) and Baghdad (1333 and 1344).

    Patterson, D. (2010). A Genealogy of Evil: Anti-Semitism from Nazism to Islamic Jihad. United States: Cambridge University Press, p.55:

    Then there is Ibn Tumart (c.1080–c.1130), who, according to the medieval sage Abraham ibn Daud, undertook a campaign of extermination against the Jews, when he “decreed apostasy on the Jews, saying, ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.’ Thus he wiped out every last ‘name and remnant’ of them from all his empire, from the city of Silves at the end of the world until the city of al-Mahdiya.”


    Lewis, B. (1984). The Jews of Islam . New Jersey: Princeton University Press, p. 168:

    From the late eighteenth century through the nineteenth century, expulsion, outbreaks of mob violence, and even massacres became increasingly frequent. Between 1770 and 1786 Jews were expelled from Jedda, most of them fleeing to the Yemen.

    In 1790 Jews were massacred in Tetuán, in Morocco;

    in 1828, in Baghdad. In 1834 a cycle of violence and pillage began in Safed.

    In 1839 a massacre of Jews took place in Meshed in Iran followed by the forced conversion of the survivors, and a massacre of Jews occurred in Barfurush in 1867. 

    In 1840 the Jews of Damascus were subject to the first of a long series of blood libels in many cities….


    ‘Eisov Sone’ is not exclusive, it’s symbolic, since it was said on וישקהו..

    In fact:

    * דאמרי תרוייהו מאי הר סיני, הר שירדה שנאה לעכו”ם עליו… ומה שמו חורב שמו. (שבת סט א).

    * שאין אומה בעולם שיהיו שונאים לישראל כבני ישמעאל (רבנו בחיי, בראשית כא יד).


    Now, regarding blaming the “Zionists” …

    Despite, me not being a “Zionist,” facts first:

    * 1834 looting of Tzfat (Safed)… 33 days of horror! [סיון תקצ”ד]

    * The Damascus Affair blood libel – and the massacres that followed in many cities was in 1840 and years that followed.

    * The Balfour Declaration was in 1917.. but the anti-Jewish bigoted incitement was already, for example in Nov 1913 by an Islamist Sheikh who wrote vile anti Semitic poem in ‘Filastin’, which, among other material triggered the ottomans to ban the paper in 1914, for inciting race hatred.
    The paper was reopened under the British in 1921, weeks before the Palestine’s Mufti incited for another pogrom…

    * So what if people want to establish a State there? How does that justify anything?
    Zionists seriously armed themselves AFTER the 1929 Hebron massacre of Non-Zionist Haredi Jews… it’s suffice horrific to read how they butchered the baker…


    Another earlier “trivia”…
    Some “40,000 Jews lived in (Eretz Israel innthe area of) Caesarea alone at the Arab conquest, after which all trace of them is lost.”

    Shimon Nodel

    If people improved their reading comprehension, then maybe they would have noticed that specifically excluded the holocaust from my comparisons. Ever since Napoleon liberated Europe, Jews experienced a significant increase in freedoms and civil rights. Of course everything is from Hashem. Since the beginning of the 1800s, the Ashkenazi population increased more than tenfold. Obviously it is an incredible nes, but you can’t ignore that in Muslim lands, Jewish population has stagnated for centuries and only started to pick up the pace after being under European colonial powers.

    It’s definitely true that European atrocities were far greater in scale. But those were individual occurrences that happened periodically. Overall, Jews were able to live under lawful and effective governments. Muslims however made life so fraught with danger and chaos that it was considered a normal routine, and the tragedies were not as distinguishable. Life was generally much more unstable, and prosperity was almost nonexistent.


    References regarding the Islamist hateful incitement against Jews (masked as “anti zionist”) in 1913 in the [Falastin] Filastin paper and the banning by the Ottomans.

    K.A. Sulaiman, “Palestine and Modern Arab Poetry,” Zed, 1984, p.11:

    Shaykh Sulayman al-Taji, … in November he published a poem, entitled “the Zionist danger” in Filastin… In his poem, he combined Islamic motifs from the Qur’an and hadith to support his nationalist view, as well as tapping into classic European anti-Semitic tropes.

    Elie Kadouri, “Zionism and Arabism in Palestine and Israel”, Taylor & Francis, 2015, p.8:

    Two other incidents in April added to Yishuv anxiety. In Jaffa, citrus-owner. Samuel Tolkowsky complained that Government permission for the reappearance of Falastin, which had been closed down by the Turks for incitement to race-hatred in April 1914, could only be a source of discouragement to ‘moderate’ Arabs and an official invitation to ‘extremists…


    This is how noted historian Wistrich wrote it:

    Wistrich, Robert S., “A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad,” (Random House Publishing Group, 2010), chapter 21 ‘The “Liberation” of Palestine:’

    The Arab case against Zionism during the late Ottoman period was tainted by an anti-Jewishness that had become part of the “daily bread in Palestine,” to quote one prescient observer. In November 1913, a prominent leader of the Palestinian anti-Zionist campaign, Sheikh Sulayman al-Taji from Acre, published a poem entitled “The Zionist Danger” in Filastin. It related to Jews …



    * Jews under Islamism were oppressed and there were massacres every few decades. Yet, over all in Europe the suffering and bloodshed was incomparable (asides from Almohads – which we lavk more detailed info on number of victims). Under the Turks, probably the suffering was the least, in comparison.

    * The “anti Zionism” among the Arabs, at its source stems from intolerance to the “other” at their midst. (Ethnic and religious racism /bigotry).

    * Radical Arab-Islamists dominated the Arab street at least since 1913.

    * Mufti and his gangs succeeded in subduing moderates. (His meeting with/ helping A.H. ym”s and his calls for the Arab world to kill any J… his plans to erect crematoria on Dotan Valley/ hus intervention against rescuing Jewish children into Mandatory Palestine -) revealed also his earlier motivations in their 1920-1921-1929 pogroms).

    * But certain actions by radical Zionists on 1948 made it worse.

    * On top of that, the ’48/’67 victories humiliated the entire Arab world. Not that any Arab entity cares about the “Palestinian” Arabs (nor do extremist Ken Roth or bigoted Omar Shakir of HRW etc.), but the humiliation was collective.

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