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Jewish scholar lectures on ‘How Islam Saved the Jews’

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University of Alabama at Birmingham

University of Alabama at Birmingham

AL.com: by Greg Garrison —

David J. Wasserstein, a professor of Jewish History at Vanderbilt University, will lecture on “How Islam Saved the Jews” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

The free, public lecture will take place at UAB’s Volker Hall, Lecture Room A, 1670 University Blvd. The event is co-sponsored by the UAB Department of History and the Birmingham Islamic Society.

“It’s a chance for Jews and Muslims who are now often at odds politically to reflect on our glorious historical past and for a moment forget about our political differences, and work on future peace,” said Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society.

Wasserstein will discuss how the spread of Islam after Muslims conquered Mecca in 630 A.D. led to a thriving Muslim culture that also allowed a thriving Jewish subculture, until about 1300 A.D.

“Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond,” Wasserstein wrote in The Jewish Chronicle. “Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms – all for the better.”

If not for the Muslim conquests, Jewish culture might have died out, Wasserstein believes.

“The political unity brought by the new Islamic world-empire did not last, but it created a vast Islamic world civilization, similar to the older Christian civilization that it replaced,” Wasserstein wrote in The Jewish Chronicle. “Within this huge area, Jews lived and enjoyed broadly similar status and rights everywhere. They could move around, maintain contacts, and develop their identity as Jews. A great new expansion of trade from the ninth century onwards brought the Spanish Jews – like the Muslims – into touch with the Jews and the Muslims even of India.”

Wasserstein has written several books, including “The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings, Politics and Society in Islamic Spain, 1002-1086” and “The Caliphate in the West; An Islamic Political Institution in the Iberian Peninsula” and he co-authored “The Legend of the Septuagint, From Classical Antiquity to Today.”

Wasserstein received his Ph.D from Oxford University in 1982. His research interests include medieval Islamic history, medieval Jewish studies, Islam in Spain, Islamic numismatics and minorities in the Islamic world. With a background in classical studies, he is also interested in the classical tradition in Islam, and in particular in the ways in which Judaism, Islam and the classical world intersect culturally, linguistically, and politically.

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Posted by on April 22, 2014. Filed under Americas,Islam,Jewish Faith,Judaism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

13 Responses to Jewish scholar lectures on ‘How Islam Saved the Jews’

  1. Rafiq A. Tschannen

    April 23, 2014 at 5:26 am

    Until Arabs / Palestinians were made to pay for the sins of the Nazis / Germans there was no reason for Muslims and Jews to be enemies. After all Muslims are even permitted to take Jewish ladies as their wives.

  2. Rashid Ahmad

    April 24, 2014 at 4:32 am

    I still remember Israel’s former foreign minister Abba Eban once saying “The most golden period of modern Jewish history was under the Muslims in Spain, where the most famous Jewish Philosopher. Mamonides was patronized, and exalted.” Among many many other areas of Jewish recognition and honors bestowed by Muslims on the Jewish citizens was appointments of Jews to the positions of generals, ministers and administrators.

    Muslims are also on records as saving the lives of Jews throughout history while they were persecuted by others. To me, they are our brothers, and their religious practices and morals are closest to the Islamic ways

    On the other hand, most persecution and excesses on Jews were perpetrated by a religion other than Muslims (…Holocaust, inquisition, etc… )

  3. Farzana Nazli

    April 24, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Is it possible to bring that culture of religious tolerance and harmony back in Pakistan?
    A strategy is needed to bring that environment of “glorious historical past” for a peaceful future; scholars should think about it seriously!

  4. Namelee

    April 25, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Hopefully the professor is aware of the quranic provisions that muhammadans should not befriend Jews and Christians. …

  5. Zia Shah

    April 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Namelee, you are unable to see any of the Quranic teachings in neutral or positive light, because of your life long biases.

    The verse that you allude to is in the chapter 5 of the Quran and the same chapter also has the following verses:

    And thou shalt assuredly find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ to be the nearest of them in love to the believers. That is because amongst them are savants and monks and because they are not proud. (Al Quran 5:83)

    This day all good things have been made lawful for you. And the food of the People of the Book is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And lawful for you are chaste believing women and chaste women from among those who were given the Book before you, when you give them their dowries, contracting valid marriage and not committing fornication nor taking secret paramours. (Al Quran 5:6)

    Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 5:70)

  6. Namelee

    April 25, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Zia,
    It is good to see how you hang yourself with your own rope.The verse you quoted says nothing about the Jews who are the people we are writing about.
    Is it not true that Muhammad taught that the hour will not come until the rock tells the muhammadan that “there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him”?
    During the recent visit to Saudi Arabia by Barack Obama, the Saudi authorities refused to issue a visa to a Jewish journalist who was slated to go on the trip.
    Has the muhammadan hostility towards the Jew abetted? It has not and will never because that hatred is ‘divinely’ ordained.

  7. Zia Shah

    April 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Many a Muslims are denied visas to come to Western countries for a myriad of reasons, so that means nothing.

    Jews are our cousins and my relatives and sons and daughters of my Great Grand Pa, Baba Abraham, may peace be on him. What else you want me to say and they are truly Monotheist, unlike you, who sometimes confuses one with three.

    Read two of the verses I quoted above again:

    This day all good things have been made lawful for you. And the food of the People of the Book is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And lawful for you are chaste believing women and chaste women from among those who were given the Book before you, when you give them their dowries, contracting valid marriage and not committing fornication nor taking secret paramours. (Al Quran 5:6)

    Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 5:70)

  8. Namelee

    April 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Zia,
    That is very interesting. Perhaps you can recall an instance when a muhammadan journalist on a presidential visit was denied a visa. If there is no such precedent, then the action of the Saudis is quite a big deal because it goes to prove their animosity towards the Jews. That is racism.

    I have said here before that 1+1 does not always give two. Quite often the sum is still one. A sperm and an egg will not ordinarily produce two fetuses but one. In muhammadan parlance, one body and one soul/spirit will give one human being. What is true of 1+1 is also true of 1+1+1. So, be guided accordingly.

  9. Ghulam Sarwar

    April 25, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    namelee has no real reply to anything quoted from the Quran. Namelee is busy misguiding about the Quran, such as words shown below from namelee post dated April 25, 10:54 a.m.:
    Hopefully the professor is aware of the quranic provisions that muhammadans should not befriend Jews and Christians.
    ———————-
    That is a false accusation. I give the right meanings here:
    Hopefully the professor is aware of the quranic provisions that muhammadans should not take Jews and Christians as their Guardians.
    That is the right report.

  10. Nadi

    April 25, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    At the time when Jews went into Minorities under Roman Empire where new sudden dawn for Christian had arrived and when Christians had no good feelings for Jews and they had some long awaited maths to settle down. And Jews had no earth under the sky. And they were moving further towards the east, especially near Mekkah and were looking for That Prophet to come. So Allah Mercied on them and He raised That Prophet and told him, the truth of their religion and gave Muslims firm grounds against Roman and Persian Empires which brought peace and stability for wandering Jews for many many years. Anyways – this is a past, and even if there was anything done wrong by some Muslims, Christians or Jews, there is no need to let these shadows of the past linger on the heads of new borns, who never played any role in the mistakes of the past. Long Live Peace! Amin!

  11. Namelee

    April 25, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Ghulam Sarawr,
    You are very amusing. There are scores of versions of the quran and hardly do any two of them say the same thing or use exactly the same words. I have versions where both words ‘friend’ and ‘guardian’ are used. The two words will be broken down to ‘associate’.

  12. Nadi

    April 26, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Namelee –
    Good point from you but As Arabic has different meanings so you can translate it in best way suitable to the overall picture or truth around or suitable to the context etc. – you are talking of translations not original Arabic Text. If you like, you can read it as a Friend or Guardian (both words look fine to me as both basically compliment on an other). Thanks