Bismillahi ar-Rahman ar-Rahim

The History of the Jews Under Islamic Rule



The issue of how non-Muslims are to be treated under Islamic rule is one of some controversy. Unfortunately, many debates on this topic lack a sound factual basis and are often largely polemic.

The purpose of these pages is, God willing, to take a small step towards remedying this lack.


My Source

The selections I have provided are taken from A History of the Jewish People, edited by Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson. This is a book on Jewish history written by Jewish scholars at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, for Jewish readers (in fact the authors can hardly be described as overly sympathetic to Muslims or Arabs). It covers a vast span of time, from the patriarchs to the Six Day War.

I have chosen selections on two major themes, Jews Under Islamic Rule and Jews in the Holy Land Before Zionism. The first part aims to give a general overview of the condition and status of Jews living under Islamic rule from the seventh century to the present, while the second part focuses on the question of Jews immigrating to and living in Palestine while it was under Muslim rule. The purpose of this second section is to show that historically Muslim rulers and the Muslim people of Palestine did not have a problem with Jews living there. The problems came when the British allowed Jews to colonize Palestine as if there was nobody living there, and the methods that the Zionist movement has used.

The book was published in 1969 and translated into English in 1976. The English translation was published by Harvard University Press. I purchased a copy as a text for a college course in Jewish history that I took in fall 1992 at The Johns Hopkins University.

Note: You can read a review of the book.


Some Notes

For the period from roughly 650 to 1000 C.E., the book focuses largely on the Jewish experience in the Muslim world, with only occasional discussions of Jews in Europe. For the period from 1000 C.E. to the present, the book focuses largely on the Jewish experience in Europe, with only occasional discussions of Jews in Muslim lands.

There is much of value in both sections for those who are interested in a detailed history Jewish life and thought during the mentioned periods. It is also instructive to compare the status and treatment of Jews under Islamic rule with their status and treatment under Christian rule. I have neglected this context in order to focus on two specific issues, but those who are interested in exploring the question further are strongly recommended to purchase the book and undertake a thorough study.


Continue on to:

Jews Under Islamic Rule

Jews in the Holy Land Before Zionism