Life of Jews Under Abbasids Caliphate

Philip K. Hitti writes in his book “History of the Arabs” a short account of life of Jews under Abbasid Caliphate ( 750 – 1258):

As one of the “protected” peoples the Jews fared on the whole even better than the Christians during the Abbasid era of Caliphate, and that in spite of several unfavorable references in Quran. Jews were fewer and did not therefore present such a problem. In 985, al-Maqdasi found most of the money-changers and bankers in Syria to be Jews, and most of the clerks and physicians Christians. Under several Caliphs, particularly al-Mu’tadid (892-902), we read of more than one Jew in the capital and the provinces assuming responsible state positions. In Baghdad itself the Jews maintained a good-sized colony which continued to flourish until the fall of the city. All Jews owed allegiance to the Baghdad Caliphate.

A Case of Promoting Intermarriages In Islam

The practice of Thar (vendetta) prevailed among the heathen Arabs; blood-feuds annihilated tribes. There was not a family without blood-feud, in which the women were often murdered. There was no concept of man being murdered as innocent, thus the bloody feuds lead to frequent unwarranted deaths.

Prophet Muhammad, with a deeper conception of the remedies to be applied, connected various rival families and powerful tribes to each other and to himself by the intermarriage ties.

One of the wives of Prophet, Muhammad was called Juwairiya. She was the daughter of Haris, the chief of the Bani Mustalik, and was captivated by a Muslim soldier in a military expedition attempted to quash their rebellion. She had made an agreement with her capturer to emancipate for a stipulated amount of money. She petitioned Muhammad for the sum, which He gave her at once. In realization of this benignity, and in indebtedness for her liberty, she offered her hand to Muhammad, and they were married. As soon as the Muslim heard of this alliance, they said amongst themselves the Banu Mustalik are now connections of the Prophet, and we must treat them as such. Each victor thereupon expedited the release of the prisoner he had made in the military campaign, and a hundred families, thus regaining their liberty, blessed the marriage of Juwairiya with Muhammad. This not only lead to the victor’s goodwill in treating the vanquished but also brought two tribes closed to each other, enhancing the strength of Muslims.

Akbar S. Ahmed in his book “Discovering Islam” writes that many acts of the Prophet support the claim that Islam was supreme to the tribe: his marriages outside the clan, his preference of Bilal – a black slave, as the first muaezzin of Islam – and explicitly, for history to hear, his words at Arafat decrying race and caste divisions. There is no doubt that the tribe provided security to its members and a kind of stability to society. But its jealous exclusiveness based on nasab, ancestry, created and perpetuated divisions among people. These divisions assumed mythical proportions.

Caste, class or race would are barriers to attaining the Muslim ideal or the highest status in Islam. A person is to be judged by his behaviour not his lineage – ‘nurture’ not ‘nature’.

In another event, Safiya, a Jewess, had also been captivated by a Muslim in one of the military campaign against Khaibar. Prophet Muhammad emancipated her too and elevated to the position of His wife at her request.

The progress of nation and the advancement of ideas lead to a partial amelioration in the condition of the nation. But the pride based on casteism, clanism, racism and religionism has given rise to different divergent theories which is in fact a hurdle in the social exaltation of especially the women among the different classes in Pakistan.

The Prophet of Islam enforced as one of the indispensable teachings of his credo, “respect for women.” He placed them on a footing of complete equivalence with men in the practice of all legal powers and functions.

Prophet Muhammad had given women right of self-determination and a freedom of choice. He treated them with humanity. However, His followers have excluded her from justice.

A woman who is sui juris can under no circumstances be married without her own express consent, not even by the Sultan or Caliph, as argued by the number of Muslim jurists.

Undoubtedly, the comparatively backward condition of Muslims today is the result of a number of facts, such as the abnegation of intermarriages, which is also a strong barrier to melioration, rather than of any other special feature in the laws and practices of the Islam.

In many circles in Pakistan, which is a Muslim-dominated country, still to-date the inter-clan, inter-racial, inter-ethnic, and inter-faith union is discouraged and often disapproved if happens without the consent of parents or guardian. It needs to be reminded to the society that the “sacrilegious wars”, which lasted for forty years in the Arabian Peninsula, were concluded by the Prophet Muhammad via the inculcation and wise practice of intermarriages.

Each epoch has its own standard. What is suitable for one time may not be suitable for the other. All institutions of Islam, such as the intermarriages, are the offspring of the circumstances and necessities of time. We should bear in mind the historic value and significance of the acts of intermarriages that took place 1400 years ago.

While some of the then legislations of Islam – i.e. during the time of the presence of Prophet Muhammad and especially the prevalence of the socially deplorable condition in which the Arabian Peninsula was – were only suitable for a specific time, there still are a number of the practices of that time, such as intermarriages, that are needed to be incorporated in our society as a vital practice to gain the best outcome out of it.

While the racism of any kind receives animadversion in Islam, it is however highly encouraged in the lights of the practices of the Prophet Muhammad that the intermarriages need to be taken place to strengthen the ties, create the unity and remove the interfaith feud within the nation. And wherein lies more strength than in unity? No doubt that intermarriages can and will help reduce the substantial racism in Pakistan, and harmonize the inter-provincial and inter-faith interests. Caste, class or race are barriers to attaining the Muslim ideal or the highest status in Islam. A person is to be judged by his behaviour not his lineage – ‘nurture’ not ‘nature’.

PS: Some of the references are from the book “The Spirit of Islam”, by Syed Ameer Ali.

Short Account of Moors Invasion of Spain and Life In Its Early Days

Syed Ameer Ali writes in his book “A short history of Saracens” that, the viceroyalty of Musa bin Nusayr (then Viceroy of parts of Africa under Muslim domination in the time Umayyad Caliph Walid-I) was almost equal to that of Hajjaj bin Yusuf’s governance in the East in extent; but its importance in the demand for administrative ability and general-ship was far greater. It extended from the western confines of Egypt to the shores of the Atlantic.

Whilst Africa was enjoying the blessings of toleration and justice, and was advancing with rapid strides in the path of material prosperity under the Muslim rule, the neighbouring peninsula of Spain groaned under the iron heel of the Gothic Christians. Never was the condition of the country or of the people so bad or so miserable as under the grinding yoke of the Gothic kings. As in the Roman times, the rich, the noble and the privileged classes in general were exempt from taxation ; the middle classes, upon whom alone fell the public burdens, were reduced to ruin and misery. Industrial activity was killed by heavy imposts ; there was no manufacture or commerce ; and a terrible sterility, almost equal to that which has fallen on the land since the expulsion of the Muslims, prevailed all over the Peninsula.

The Jews, who had settled in large numbers in the Peninsula, had suffered terribly from the persecutions of  the Kings, the clergy and the nobles. The old, as a matter of grace, were allowed to retain their religion; but the young were to be brought up in the Christian faith. All marriage within the community was forbidden, and a Jewish slave was henceforth to marry a Christian slave. Such was the punishment meted out to the Jews by the bishops, who held all the power in the land.

The impoverished and ruined citizen, the wretched slave, the miserable serf, the persecuted and hunted Jew, all waited for the relief which was so long in coming. It was in the moment of their acutest agony that the deliverance arrived from an unexpected quarter.Tariq bin Ziyad, who landed at Gibraltar on Thursday 8th Rajjab 92 A.H., April 30th, conquered the Spain. With barely 12,000 men Tariq bin Ziyad defeated a disciplined army of at least five times as large. In less than two years the whole of Spain, as far as the Pyrenees, was in the hands of Muslims. Portugal was conquered a few years later, and was formed into a separate province under the name of al-Gharb, “the West.” A province of modern Portugal is still called Algrave.

The ruthless intolerance and fierce persecution which had characterised the former government made way for a large-hearted toleration under the Muslim rule. The persecuted and downtrodden Jews obtained the right to follow their religion without let or hindrance, and the Christians were secured in the unmolested enjoyment of their faith and laws, the administration of which was entrusted to their own judges. No one was troubled about his faith ; every man, woman, or child was free to worship as he liked or what he liked. The Christians had governors of their own race to collect their taxes and to settle their disputes. Every branch of the public service, and all offices of rank and emolument were open equally to Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Historian Stanley Lane-Poole writes in his book “The Moors in Spain” about the “early days” of Moors administration of Spain: “The Moors organised that wonderful kingdom of Cordoba, which was the marvel of the Middle Ages, and which, when all Europe was plunged in barbaric ignorance and strife, alone held the torch of learning and civilization bright and shinning before the Western world.” Syed Ameer Ali remarks on this: “May modern government might well take a lesson from the Muslim administration of Spain”. When Syed Ameer Ali wrote this Pakistan hadn’t came into being otherwise it would specifically have been about “Pakistan” to take a lesson.

Philip K Hitti writes in his book “History of the Arabs” (Page 551) regarding the period of Christian reconquest (reconquista) that started as early as the fall of the Umayyad caliphate in the eleventh century. In fact, Spanish historians consider the battle of Covadonga in 718 AD, in which the Asturian chieftain Pelayo checked Muslim advance, as marking the actual beginning of the reconquest. Had the Muslims in the 8th century destroyed the last vestiges of Christian power in the mountainous north, the subsequent story of the Spain might have been entirely different.