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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Jewish Sages in Islamic Lands Identify the Arabs/Muslims as Israel's Worst Enemies

Moses Maimonides and Bahya ibn Pakuda, Jewish scholars and philosophers in Islamic-ruled lands both asserted that Islam or the nation of Ishmael [=Arabs or Islam] were more hostile and cruel to the Jews than any other nation or religion.

Maimonides [Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, abbreviated as Rambam; 1135-1204] was born in Spain but had to leave because of Muslim Almohad oppression. He made his way through Morocco to the Land of Israel --then fought over by Crusaders and Muslim Fatimids-- where he lived in `Akko, Jerusalem and Hebron. Because of the difficult situation in Israel, he and his family moved to Egypt where he became a physician, serving as Saladin's doctor. He divided his time between medical practice, Jewish communal affairs [he was nagid, official head of the Jews], and scholarship. Jews in Yemen addressed a query to him about how to respond to the Muslim persecution that they were then undergoing in Yemen. In his famous answer to them, Letter to the Yemenites, he wrote, among other things:

. . . God has exiled us among this fanatic nation which is so clever in increasing our sufferings, persecutes us with its hatred, and oppresses us more than any other. . .
The nation of Ishmael, which harms us and decrees laws against us . . . as never any people did which rose up against Israel, harms us, humiliates us, and hates us so much as they [Ishmael] do. [Yahudiya Masriya [= Bat Yeor], Les Juifs en Egypte (Geneva: Editions de l'Avenir, 1971), pp 24, 71]

Bahya ibn Pakuda [1050?-1120] lived in Spain where he wrote his philosophy. His important work was The Duties of the Heart, which was very widely read among the Yiddish-speaking Jews in Eastern Europe. In accord with Maimonides, he wrote:

The Sons of Ishmael are harsher than the Sons of Esau [= Christians].
[Yahudiya Masriya, p 24, quoted by A.S. Halkin in his edition of Maimonides' Epistle to the Yemenites, New York]

Contrary to what many apologists for the Arabs want us to believe, Jews who actually lived in Islamic states, under the unquestioned control of the laws of dhimma, believed that the Arabs/Muslims were crueler to the Jews and hated them more than the Christians did.

As to Ibn Pakuda's use of Sons of Esau to refer to Christians, here is the reason. Jews under Roman oppression referred to Rome by the code name of Edom, probably due to the rhyme [actually, Rome in Hebrew was Romi, which is close enough]. The Christian world grew out of the Roman empire which it took over after Constantine. Now, Esau is considered the ancestor of Edom in the book of Genesis. Hence, Christians are called sons of Esau.

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Coming: poems of Zion, the status of Jews in Muslim lands, Jews in Jerusalem under Muslim rule


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