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Jews in the Empires of Islam

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Jews in the Empires of Islam Living, Learning, Loving, and Loathing in the Middle East After the death of Muhammad in 632 CE, the young Muslim community came under ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Jews in the Empires of Islam


1
Jews in the Empires of Islam
  • Living, Learning, Loving, and Loathing in the
    Middle East

2
Introduction to Muslim Empires
  • After the death of Muhammad in 632 CE, the young
    Muslim community came under strain.
  • The community immediately chose the Prophet's
    close companion and father-in-Law Abu Bakr, as
    his successor. Abu Bakr was known as the first
    caliph and took swift military action against the
    communities that wanted to break away.
  • These campaigns, known as the apostasy wars,
    effectively consolidated Arabia under Muslim
    control within two years.
  • -- Paraphrased from as good a source as any the
    BBC http//www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam
    /history/earlyrise_2.shtml

3
Umayyad Empire (661 750)
  • Capital in Damascus
  • Sets precedent for other Muslim Empires
  • Consolidates lands under Islamic rule and extends
    borders of the Islamic Empire from the Atlantic
    Coast to China
  • Sets the precedent for further expansions
  • Creates culture of learning, translation, study

4
Abbasid Empire (750 1258)
  • Took over Persia and other portions of Central
    Asia
  • Presided over unprecedented era of intellectual
    interchange
  • Arabic as common language of intellectual
    discourse
  • 80 of all Jews were living within the same
    Empire!

5
YES! 80 of Jews in Single Empire!
  • Baghdad becomes preeminent center of Jewish
    learning
  • Babylonian Talmud codified during this period
    (increasing evidence suggests final redactions in
    8th Century or later!)
  • Propaganda to spread Talmud
  • Preeminence of the Babylonian Gaonate

6
Putting the pieces together
  • 80 of Jews in a single empire
  • Common language for them Arabic
  • Codification of Jewish law
  • Translation of Greek philosophy into Arabic being
    disproportionately done by Jews
  • Major academic and political institutions in the
    capital of the Abbasid Empire
  • Nasi
  • Gaon (also Gaon of Palestine)

7
Put them together and
  • You get a sophisticated, outwardly turned Jewish
    intellectual and social center, and
  • ALMOST THE ENTIRE JEWISH WORLD LIVING UNDER A
    SINGLE SET OF LAWS

8
Controversial Claim Could it be that Judaism
might not have survived the Middle Ages without
the existence of Islam?!
9
A shift in focus
  • During 10th Century, Baghdad and other Abbasid
    cities outgrow the agricultural hinterlands that
    support them
  • Huge problems unrest
  • Empire begins to decline parts split off
  • It was just too big to stay unified too large to
    oversee

10
Parallel trends for Jews
  • Gaonate in Baghdad presides over too large an
    area
  • Rival communities namely in al-Andalus, (modern
    day) Egypt, and the Rhineland shift the focus
  • Jewish communities stop donating to the Gaonate
    and stop paying homage to it
  • Result Diffusion of Jewish intellectual and
    political clout

11
Al-Andalus New Center for Jewish Life in the
Diaspora
  • How did it get this way?
  • What is al-Andalus?
  • Who were its major intellectuals?
  • What roles could Jews play in the society?
  • Cant answer all of the questions, but will try to
    illustrate a couple of points

12
Al-Andalus through the eyes of a Jewish
Intellectual
13
Medieval Polemics What can we glean from them?
  • In mocking an opponent He apparently finds no
    distinction between one who turns to
    idolatryvoluntarily, like Jeroboam and his
    associates, and one who will under compulsion say
    of someone that he Muhammad is a prophet
    because he is afraid of the executioners sword.
  • Jesus is an Illegitimate child May his bones
    be ground to dust

14
Polemics can be telling
  • Who wrote the earlier quotes?
  • What prejudices do they reveal
  • What can that teach us about religion in the
    Middle East during the first six centuries
    following the birth of Islam?

15
Moses Maimonides Imperfect inter-religious
leader
  • Known in three worlds
  • Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon
  • Musa ibn Maymun
  • Moses Maimonides

16
Contemporary Saudi Arabian professor, Huseyin
Atay, once quipped that If you didn't know he
was Jewish, you might easily make the mistake of
saying that a Muslim was writing."
  • How could this be possible?!

17
General biographical information
  • Born in Cordoba, al-Andalus (Modern Spain) in
    1135
  • Died in the Ayyubid Empire (Modern Day Egypt) in
    1204
  • Rabbi, judge, philosopher, doctor, scholar,
    activist, heretic
  • Major works Mishneh Torah, Guide to the
    Perplexed, dozens of medical treatises

18
Islams intellectual undertakings
  • Greek philosophy and science became available in
    Arabic towards the end of the Umayyad reign (750
    C.E.) and the beginning of the Abbasid Dynasty
    (762 C.E.).1
  • If Muhammads Prophecy contained in it all
    wisdom, why be afraid of other sources of
    knowledge?
  • Translation operations begin in Damascus entire
    movement of translation continues on work in
    Baghdad
  • Aristotle, Plato
  • Great mobility of scholars from one area to the
    next
  • Jews and Christians share in these intellectual
    developments, too
  • 1 Saliba, George. Islamic Science and the
    Making of the European Renaissance. Cambridge,
    Massachusetts MIT, 2007 page 73.

19
What problems could a little philosophy cause?
20
All Kinds
21
Philosophy spreads
  • Across North Africa and Arabian Peninsula
    (particularly Baghdad)
  • Kalam School of Aristotelian thought
  • Platonic schools of thought
  • But nowhere more than

22
Al-Andalus
23
Brief history of al-Andalus
24
Continuing to spread Islam
  • In the first of several invasions from Africa,
    Tariq Ibn Ziyad, a strong-willed Berber military
    commander, crossed the Straits in 711 and rapidly
    pushed northward.1 Supported by reinforcements
    from his governor, Musa Ibn Nusayr, in 712, Tariq
    quickly wrested the peninsula from the Visigoths
    and placed it under Muslim rule by 715.2 They
    hastily dismantled vestiges of the previous
    regime and established al-Andalus as a Muslim
    emirate by 716, with Cordoba as its capital.3
    But it is easier to conquer than it is to rule.
    Musa failed to create a stable government to take
    place of the feeble one it had replaced.4
  • 1 The most recent invasion was from General
    Francisco Franco from Morocco in 1936.
  • 2 Menjot, Denis, Les Espagnes médiévales
    409-1474. Paris  Hachette, 2001 page 41.
  • 3 OCallaghan, Joseph F. A History of Medieval
    Al-Andalus. Ithaca Cornell, 1975 page 95.
  • 4 OCallaghan, Joseph F. A History of Medieval
    Al-Andalus. Ithaca Cornell, 1975 page 95.

25
Last Umayyad Emirate
  • For nearly forty years, a series of weak emirs,
    appointed by the governor of North Africa, were
    unable to unify al-Andalus.1 Particularly
    challenging were relations between the diverse
    groups of Muslims who had settled in the region.
    Conflicts broke out between two prominent Arab
    tribal groups, as well as between North African
    Berbers and Arabs.2 The infighting became
    fierce and might have ended in outright civil war
    had it not be for Abd al-Rahman, a prince from
    the rapidly declining Umayyad Empire, who
    abandoned its capital of Damascus in 750 and
    maneuvered his way to the throne in al-Andalus.
  • 1 Ibid.
  • 2 Ibid.

26
Jews are a beloved ally
27
Okay maybe not like that
  • Though Abd al-Rahman was at times a brutal
    leader, he treated his Jewish and Christian
    subjects with remarkable respect. He recognized
    that they were not involved in the intertribal
    strife that continued to simmer throughout the
    kingdom and did not pose a significant threat to
    his reign.
  •  

28
Why else reach out to Jews?
  • Moreover, they served as a major source of tax
    revenue, since their status as dhimmis (religious
    groups exempt from conversion to Islam due to
    their Abrahamic origins) was accompanied by a
    supplementary levy. The Emir remained concerned
    for the stability of his domain and was both
    prudent and genuinely open-minded in his
    willingness to reach out to non-Muslims. Ashtor,
    47-49.

29
Result
  • Emirate that in time came to rival the Abbasid
    Empire
  • Singular Jewish community, rivaling that of the
    Abbasid Empire
  • In both spheres, Baghdad and Cordoba became
    rivals
  • By the 10th Century, Cordoba was clearly the
    preeminent cultural capital

30
Ousted
  • When forced to leave, Jews felt dejected!
  • Almoravid invasion (1086)
  • My time has purged me from among them the
    intellectuals of al-Andalus and appointed me to
    live in a desert of wild beasts Beasts, though
    they starve for a morsel of intellect, thirsting
    for waters of faith. Moses Ibn Ezra
  • - Decter, Jonathan P. Iberian Jewish
    Literature. Bloomington Indiana U, 2007 page
    41.
  •  

31
Out Forever
  • Almohad invasion (1147)
  • Maimonides life goal rebuilding the
    intellectual home he was born in
  • Could not find it in Christian Domains at the
    time
  • Tried North Africa
  • Tried the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem
  • Finally found refuge in the (Egyptian) Empire of
    Saladin (Salah al-Din)

32
Never satisfied, always striving
33
At least he left an intellectual party for us to
enjoy!
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