Jews in Spain and a Muslim Rescue!

I watched an episode of “America Unearthed” on television a few days ago and in that episode paleo-geologist Scott Wolter was looking for ancient biblical relics in America.  His hypothesis was that the lost tribes of Israel may have emigrated to America but he Bayezid IIfound no evidence of this in the end.  One thing he mentioned was the Jews in Spain and how after the demise of the Moors who ruled Spain the Jews were exiled from Spain.  Many went into Europe where they were “tolerated” by those Christian kingdoms and I kept waiting for Wolter to mention those Jews who went into the Ottoman Empire but he never mentioned it.  Once again Muslim history was ignored and that bothered me.

The historical fact is that in 1492 when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella came to power in Spain there were about a quarter of a million Jews living in Spain at the time.  About 25,000 of them ended up in Holland, England, German, and Scandinavia after the Christian reconquest of Spain as the infamous Spanish Inquisitions began.  About 3000 Spanish Jews ended up in France and about 5,000 in the Americas.  The majority of Spanish Jews ended up in Turkey, the seat of the Ottoman Empire.  Morocco took in about 20,000 of them while Algeria took in about 10,000.  Estimates are that about 50,000 Spanish Jews converted to Christianity yet practiced their Judaism in secret while pretending to be Christians in Spain.  About 20,000 died en route to various places of exile.

Regarding Muslim history and the Spanish Jews, known as Sephardic Jews, it was the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II who undertook a mass evacuation of Jews from Spain who had been ordered by Ferdinand and Isabella to convert to Christianity.  Bayezid II sent out the Ottoman Navy under the command of Admiral Kemal Reis to Spain in 1492 with orders to evacuate Spanish Jews and bring them into the lands of the Ottoman Empire.  He proclaimed throughout the empire that the Jewish refugees from Spain were to be welcomed in Ottoman lands and he granted them the right to become Ottoman citizens.  He ridiculed Ferdinand and Isabella telling Continue reading

The Muslim is Suppose to Live Islam not pay it lip service!

by Dr Anwar Abbas El-Hadiz,  Imam Masjid Rincon

art1This now past week Muslims around the world commemorated the birthday of the founder and prophet of Islam, Muhammad (pbuh).  Muslims from around the world began flocking to Meccas on holy pilgrimage as the Hajj began as well.  This week has been a time for Muslims to reflect and to strengthen their faith in God.  It’s also been a time for us to examine our own lives and evaluate honestly if we are taking on the life of the Prophet as our own personal pattern and example to be emulated in our lives.  For, in the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Allah has given us a beautiful pattern of conduct and example to follow and emulate as taught in Sura 33 of the Holy Qur’an.

“You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah
a beautiful pattern of conduct
for anyone whose hope is God and the final day.”
Sura Al-Ahzab  33:21

Muslims should not only examine themselves on the Prophet’s birthday but every day.  We should evaluate our conduct and see if we truly are living the high standards and values of the Qur’an and if we are not then we must begin to live them.

One thing about the Prophet Muhammad that I want to focus on in this post today is the way he treated the Christians, Jews, and other minority religions.  For one thing he did not impose Muslim law (Sharia) on them but Christians and Jews were judged by the standards set in their respective faiths.  Judgments were handed down to them in accordance with the punishments outlined in their own faiths.  Sharia law did not apply to them and Muhammad (pbuh) certainly did not impose it on them and this is historical fact. Continue reading

Muhammad’s Letters to the Christians

“You have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern of conduct
for anyone whose hope is God and the Final Day.”
Sura Al-Ahzab 33:21

Interfaith1As true Muslims we are suppose to be following the example set by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  So why aren’t we?  Sadly, many Muslims today like to simply pay lip service to this command but they don’t really do it.  Even more sadly most Muslims have at least one copy of the Holy Qur’an in their homes but the problem is it is never read so they don’t know what God’s Word teaches and what it does not.  The same can be said about Christians and their Bibles and the Jews and their Torah.  The Holy Books just lay around collecting dust as they are never opened and never read or studied.  This is ignorance!  As believers we certainly should study our holy writs and know what they say and what they do not say.  Depending on some religious leader (Imam, Priest, or Rabbi) to simply tell us what our holy book says is foolish.  We, ourselves, should know what they say and what they do not say!

That said, as Muslims we are suppose to be following in the footsteps of the Servant of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  We are suppose to use him as our ideal in our own lives and model our lives after him.  Unfortunately some Muslims don’t seem to know much about the example set by him although we should know.

When it comes to interfaith issues and dealing with non-Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) set some very clear examples in how we are suppose to deal with them.  Those examples are contrary to what we see in the world today when it comes to Muslim treatment of non-Muslims.  Let us now look at a few of those examples and at two letters issued by the Prophet concerning Christians.

When Islam first began some of the first Muslims found safety and refuge in the Christian Kingdom of what is now Ethiopia.  They were fleeing from the Meccans who were pursuing them and wanting to kill them.  The Christian king gave them asylum and he refused to hand them over to the Meccans when they demanded he do so.  The Christian king gave the Muslims protection and asylum and thus began a long relationships between Muslims and Christians.  A relationship of mutual tolerance, mutual respect, and mutual protection.  Where is that today? Continue reading

NOW is the time to return to Compassion and Tolerance!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Ottoman Empire

by Rashad Hasan el-Hadiz

Before I begin this post I want to say “Merry Christmas” to all of our Christian friends in the world.  This is a blessed time of year as the birth of Jesus (blessings be upon him) is remembered and celebrated by the faithful.  My prayer now is that the peace, compassion, tolerance, and mutual respect that once existed between Christians and Muslims be restored.  Sadly, in many parts of the Middle East this season is not a good one for many Christians who are being killed by Muslim fanatics who are burning down their churches and killing the Christian People of Scripture which is absolutely WRONG according to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an!

Let me begin with a bit of Islamic history and the beginnings of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.  The empire was founded by Turkish tribes under the leadership of Osman Bey in 1299 A.D.  For hundreds of years it was one of the most powerful and advanced Muslim states in world history.  It was multinational, multiethnic, and multilinqual.  But it was also MULTI-RELIGIOUS as the empire was composed of not only Muslims but also Christians and Jews, et al.  When the Ottomans conquered an area they did NOT force the conquered people to convert to Islam but, instead, they allowed the people to continue to practice their own faith.  This administrative tactic made Ottoman rule more acceptable to the conquered peoples and minimized the threat of rebellion as the conquered peoples were not only allowed to continue practicing their own religion but they were also allowed to continue with their traditions and customs.  The Muslim Ottoman Turks did not try to force conquered people into being like them but, rather, they tolerated and RESPECTED the religion, custom, and traditions of the conquered lands.  This approach by the Ottomans was very much in line with the teachings of the Qur’an which admonishes Muslims to RESPECT the places of worship of Christians and Jews (ie:  Churches and Synagogues) and to treat them as “People of the Book” or “People of Scripture.”  Further, Christians and Jews, not just Muslims, were allowed to serve in both the provincial and imperial government and some achieved high positions with some even becoming Grand Viziers, the Ottoman equivalent to a Prime Minister or President.

The Ottoman Empire existed for an astounding 623 YEARS!  Officially, it was founded on 27 July, 1299 AD and ended at the end of WW1 on 1 November 1922 when the end of the Sultanate was declared and Turkey became a Republic under Mustafa Kamal otherwise known as Attaturk.  At the height of its power the Ottoman Empire was a global center o culture, science, invention, and philosopical endeavors.  Astounding progress was made in medicine and construction techniques that were soon adopted in Europe and around the world.  Even to our very own days today the modern world continues to feel the influences of the Ottoman Empire!

Under the leadership of Osman I the first Ottoman Sultan the Turkish tribes were mostly CHRISTIAN until they converted to Islam and that is historical FACT.  Yes, the Ottomans began as Christians who later converted to Islam.  The majority of the Ottoman Turks practiced Sufism because it did not require one to memorize the Qur’an nor to pray in a mosque.  A Sufi Muslim could simply read from the Qur’an and pray anywhere and since the Ottomans were nomads at this time they had no cities and no mosques so Sufism fit their habits and customs well as nomads.  Sufism continued to be the most influential and powerful sect of Islam during the entire 623 year rule of the Ottoman Turks over most of the Middle East and Southeastern Europe (ie: Romania, Hungary, Bosnia, etc).  Sufism is considered by some to be the “mystical arm” of Islam and there is no question that Sufism is probably the most “liberal” sect of Islam.  Today most Muslims are Sunnis or Shias (Shi’ites) which are both conservative branches of Islam.  Sufism valued tolerance and intellect and it still does today.  Sufism today continues to be much more tolerant of other faiths and Sufis feel no need to impose their beliefs on others just as they felt the same in the times of the beginning of the Ottoman Empire.

The Qur’an teaches that Muslims must respect the places of worship of the Christians and Jews (churches and synagogues) because they are People of the Book.  Together all three religions form what is sometimes termed as the “Abrahamic Faiths” because each of these three faiths trace their origins back to the Patriarch Abraham (pbuh).  Ottoman Sufis Muslims put this teaching into practice and respected mosques, churches, and synagogues which were all considered to be places in which the one true God was remembered and worshipped by the faithful (Sura 22:40).

Ottoman Sufis also practiced the Quranic teaching FORBIDDING compulsion in religion!  We find this teaching in the Qur’an in Sura 2:256 which says:

“There is no compulsion in religion,
truly the Right Way has become clearly distinct from error;
therefore, whoever disbelieves in Shaitan (Satan) and believes in Allah (God),
he indeed has laid hold of the firmest handle which shall not break off,
and Allah (God) is Hearing and All-Knowing.”
[Sura al-Baqara 2:256]

Another translation of this same verse says:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion.
Truth stands out clear from Error,
Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah
Has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold,
that never breaks.
And Allah hears and knows All-Things.”
(Sura al-Baqara 2:256)

Thus, Islamic Ottoman rule lasted for 623 years and encompassed most of the Middle East and Ottoman rule was characterized by RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE which is very MUCH in line with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.  And the sect or form of Islam practiced by the Ottomans was SUFISM which today is the third branch (sect) of Islam. Continue reading

Muslim Spain

By the 10th Century the city of Cordoba, Spain boasted a population of over 500,000 people making it the largest city on earth.  Other cities like Paris only had 38,000 people and the world had never seen a city so big as Cordoba which had 700 mosques, 60,000 palaces, and 70 libraries.  It was reported at the time that one of Alhambrathose libraries contained over 500,000 manuscripts and employed a staff of book binders, researchers, librarians, and teachers (illuminators).  At its peak Cordoba had 900 public baths and boasted Europe’s first street lights.  The palace of the Islamic Caliph was located 5 miles outside the city and was known as the Madinat al-Zahra.  It was an ornate complex of marble, stucco, ivory, and onyx that took some 40 years to build costing about 1/3 of the city’s revenue.  It was destroyed in the 11th Century but prior to its destruction the Caliph’s Palace at Cordoba was one of the wonders of the world.  The ruins of the palace are being restored today, slowly.

The first notable Muslim to reach Spain was named Abd al-Rahman.   North African Arabs were already entreched in Spain by the time of his arrival.  Their forays into France were halted by Charles Martel so the Muslims in Spain began to focus on what would be known as al-Andalus, southern Spain (Andalusia).  They began to build a civilization there that was superior to anything seen in Spain before.  The Spanish Muslims treated Christians and Jews with tolerance and many of them began to embrace Islam as their faith.  The Muslims improved trade and agriculture, patronized the arts, and made numerous and valuable contributions to science.  Cordoba quickly became the largest and most sophisticated city in all of Europe under Muslim rule. Continue reading

Did God Turn Jews Into Apes and Swine?

ape man2Did God turn some Jews into apes and swine?  If you listen to some of the idiots in the media that’s what you’d think according to the Holy Qur’an but, then again, there are a lot of myths floating around today in the media about Islam most of which come from people ignorant in true Islam.  So did Allah transform certain Jews into apes and pigs?

Some fanatic Muslims claim that Allah did transform certain Jews into swine and apes and they get it from the Qur’an itself, or at least they THINK they do.  Specifically their claims are based on three verses in the Qur’an which are Sura 7:166; 2:65; and 5:60.

Fanatics tend to ignore the historical and literary content heavily contained in the Qur’an.  Ignoring this content fails to make the meaning clear.  The historical and literary content must be known and considered if one truly wishes a clear understanding of the Qur’an.

Sura (chapter) 7:166 in the historical context concerns Muhammad’s persecution by his fellow Meccans before his Hijrah, immigration from Mecca to Medina in 62 AD.  Even though he and his followers were being persecuted by the Meccans, Muhammad was attempting to demonstrate that the revelations he received from God were superior to those of the Torah.  Various stories of various prophets are recounted and Muhammad finally comes to the Prophet Moses in verse 103 of the Sura 7.  He outlines Moses mission given him by Allah.  That mission was to liberate the children of Israel from the Egyptian Pharaoh.  Moses leads Israel out of Egypt and into the Sinai where Moses receives the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai on two tablets.  When he returns to the Israelites he finds that they’ve made a golden calf and are worshiping it!  Moses condemns them for this act of gross idolatry.  Muhammad speaks of himself and says he is now the one anointed to lead God’s people and that he is the one who now commands the truly faithful just as Moses did long before him.  Muhammad claims he is rightly guided and is the one chosen by God to fulfill and complete the mission of Moses and Jesus as well. Continue reading