Skip to comments.Was the Islam of Old Spain Truly Tolerant? (The Religion of Peace™ and its idea of inclusiveness)
Posted on 09/27/2003 1:05:33 PM PDT by quidnunc
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they didn't invent it. they brought it to the alentejo. for some reason, it wasn't there before.
Actually, irrigation had been in Alentejo since Roman times.
TERRAIN, SETTLEMENT, AND SEQUENT OCCUPANCE IN EASTERN ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL"..."Roman agriculture was also conservation intensive. They terraced hillslopes, built and maintained drainage channels, and practiced an early form of contour plowing, as well as irrigation and dry farming."
That is historically correct.
It is deeply ironic that Maimonides -- instead of the other Sephardic geniuses such as Solomon ibn Gabirol or Judah Halevi -- should have become the symbol of the Golden Age of Jewry in al-Andalus and of the tolerance practiced there. However, it how little this imaginative portrayal is concerned for the historical facts. At the time of Maimonides' birth in Córdoba in the year 1135, there were almost no Christian communities left in al-Andalus, and there soon would be no Jewish ones, either. In the first century of the Islamic conquest, Christians numbered some 9 percent of the population; now, it was fast approaching zero. What accounts for this tremendous disappearance of believers, which stands in marked contrast to the survival of Christian communities in the countries east of the Maghreb? [tictoc: the Maghreb is North Africa approximately from Morocco to Libya.]
Answers must rely on speculation, based on varying levels of factual support. However, this much appears certain to me: the policies of the Almoravids and Almohads concerning the non-Muslims, up to and including expulsions, forced conversions and massacres, were a factor. Maimonides himself was born in a time of persecution by the Almohads, and by the end of the century in Andalusia and in the Maghreb, there was no synagogue (or church) left, nor did any Jews (or Christians) openly professing their faith remain. In 1148 al-Andalus became part of the Almohad empire. Maimonides was thirteen years old then. It appears that as the persecution of Jews picked up steam, the family left Córdoba and fled "from town to town". While most Jews sought refuge in the Christian countries to the North, or in the Islamic countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Maimonides family remained in Spain as late as 1160, the year for which the presence of the father and his two sons in Fes is documented - strangely enough, in the capital of the Almohad movement. The reasons for their move there are not known.
Scholars have long and ingeniously debated whether or not Maimonides underwent (forced) conversion. In any case, forced conversion was an ever-present threat at the time. In other words, three and a half centuries before the Catholic kings, the Almohads forced the Jews to choose between conversion, expulsion or death. "We are almost completely sunk," wrote the father from Fes, "but we still cling to something. We are overwhelmed by humiliation and contempt, surrounded by the ocean of captivity, and we are sunk in its depths, and the water is up to our faces." In 1165 large numbers of Jews were executed by a court of inquisition, among them the famous Rabbi Judah ha-Cohen, who was burned at the stake. It is unclear whether the Jews had refused to convert to Islam or had "relapsed" after a conversion. The Maimonides family, which was also threatened, managed to escape with the assistance of a Muslim friend, first to Palestine, later to Egypt. There Maimonides settled down, wrote his famous works, and served his patron al-Fadhel, the vizir of Saladin, as a court physician.
However, it is doubtful that this marked the achievement of a state of inter-religious harmony. In his reply to the Jews of Yemen on the occasion of the anti-Jewish pogroms there, he wrote: "Consider, my brethren in faith, that G-d hurled us, on account of our large burden of sin, into the midst of this people, the Arabs, who persecuted us mightily and who have passed deleterious and discriminating laws against us . . . Never has there been a people to burden us, abase us, humiliate us, and hate us as much as they . . . We have been dishonored by them intolerably." And in the last of his preserved letters he wrote that life among the Arabs "casts darkness on the rays of the sun." Now if you ask me, a "Golden Age" this was not!
[ . . . ]
The complaints voiced in the letters written by Maimonides and his father over the humiliation and contempt meted out by the Muslims is a common theme in the Jewish descriptions of Andalusia, even for the most successful and most powerful Jews, such as Hasdai ibn Shapruts, vizir of the greatest of the Caliphs of Córdoba, Abd al-Rahman III. The fact that Jews and (rarely) Christians could rise to high positions in government as vizirs and counselors of the ruler is often cited as evidence of the tolerant climate and the harmony between religions in al-Andalus. However, it would be an anachronistic misunderstanding to assume that this tolerance was tolerance as we understand it today, or that the aim was to implement equality for all citizens, regardless of religion etc., before the law. In fact, the infidels emphatically were not equal before the law!
In al-Andalus the Malikite school of law, oldest of the four orthodox Islamic schools of law, was the only one recognized. According to Islamic law, no infidel may wield power or command over a Muslim, but this was inevitable if they were in elevated positions in government. A ruler who appointed Jews or Christians to high office (or even tolerated them in it), was not enforcing the law but openly breaking it. Thus the infidels owed their elevated position solely to the arbitrary exercise of the unlimited power of the ruler. This ensured that they would be highly loyal to him, for if he fell, often his "court Jews" would fall with him. The interest of the ruler in such a precarious illegal situation (the ulema, i.e., Islamic clerics, theologians and legal scholars, were a significant power in politics and society) was to a great extent due to the fact that the infidels were not integrated into the tribal and family relationships threatening the rulers.
A ruler led a hazardous life, not only in medieval Islam [ . . . ] No matter how high a Jew or a Christian might climb and how much power he might have amassed, he could never hope to become a ruler himself. On the contrary, he had to fear the ruler's end, for it might mean that nothing and nobody would protect him from the anger and resentment of his former subordinates, the ulema, and the people. No matter what the thoughts of the rulers of Andalusia might have been concerning non-Muslims and how they should be tolerated and what rights should be granted to them, as rulers they could have been interested in their political careers only to the extent that they benefited the government by their excellent competence while helping to secure the rulers' reign on account of their precarious, illegal position.
It's important to remember that the Andalusia ("al-Andalus") of Maimonides' time was not congruent with the Iberian Peninsula.
Throughout the centuries of Islamic conquest and Christian Reconquista, the Jews were alternately expelled and welcomed by different Muslim and Christian rulers. (For example, in 1115 when Alphonso I reconquered Toledo, he invited back the Jews). That explains why there were Jews in Spain in 1492.
It is deeply ironic that Maimonides -- instead of the other Sephardic geniuses such as Solomon ibn Gabirol or Judah Halevi -- should have become the symbol of the Golden Age of Jewry in al-Andalus and of the tolerance practiced there. However, it shows how little this
imaginativefanciful portrayal is concerned for the historical facts. At the time of Maimonides' birth in Córdoba in the year 1135, there were almost no Christian communities left in al-Andalus, and there soon would be no Jewish ones, either. In the first century of the Islamic conquest, Christians numbered some 9 percent90 percent of the population; now, it was fast approaching zero. What accounts for this tremendous disappearance of believers, which stands in marked contrast to the survival of Christian communities in the countries east of the Maghreb? [tictoc: the Maghreb is North Africa approximately from Morocco to Libya.]
One other point: during the middle ages, as now, disunity among Christians encourages Muslim attacks. Perhaps the Byzantine Empire would have survived into the modern era had it not been for the Fourth Crusade.
Seems like the only ones left wer those that converted. And that is the problem. If a jew converts to Islam, is that person a jew or a muslim? The goal of ridding Spain of all muslims would and should include ridding Spain of those jews who converted to Islam.
This thread has placed blame on both Muslims and Christians, but like other similar threads has not and will not place any blame on jews (who converted to Islam). They were, in fact, part of the problem. The remaining jews were high officials in the Islamic government of Spain, which oppressed the Christians.
The inquisition attempted to rid Spain of her enemies, some of whom were jews who had converted to Islam and worked for the previous Moorish powers. These jews(?) had questionable loyality. If they couldn't be loyal to their own religion, how could they possibly be loyal to my religion or my country.
I do not discount the acts of Christians but those acts were a response to acts of others. I also do not blame the jews who converted to Islam, but we need to specify that these people, who may have been previously jewish, were for all practical purposes muslim, and therefore the enemy of Spain!
and there's where you fall into wishful thinking. those dimwits believe the CIA took down the WTC, while simultaneously believing that Israeli Zionists did it, while simultaneously believing that Osama did it. They are natural born gulls. Our stance on the very real religious aspect of this war will have no effect on their potential for and expression of rampant stupidity and malice.
Right, at the auto-da-fe everybody just sat around the fire toasting marshmellows for smores and singing Kumbaya, and a good time was had by all.
The Spanish Inquisition resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, many if not most of them by being burned alive.
There has been an attempt at revisionism by some with the apparent aim to minimize the role of the Catholic Church and/or to portray Inquisition history as a Jewish exaggeration to smear Spain and the Church.
The Inquisition existed and it did really bad things.
Get over it!
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