The Jewish Kingdoms of Arabia 390-626 CE

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  The Jewish Kingdoms of Arabia 390-626 CEDecimated by the rise of Islam   Jews of Hadramaut celebrating the Seder  The Arabian Peninsula is in South West Asia. The settlement of Jews in this region back to biblical times and even to the era of the First Temple. Immigration on a larger scale (from Palestine and also from Mesoptamia-modern day Iraq, etc.) does not appear to have preceded the 2nd cent. CE. Inscriptions discovered in the Bet Shearim catacombs evidence the existence of Jewish communities in Yemen in the early 3rd cent., and Byzantine sources testify to them from the 4th cent. At first, the number of Jews was small (the figure for the Yemen in the first centuries CE is estimated at 3,000, scattered all over the country), but it rapidly increased through conversion of Arabs to Judaism, especially in the south where even some rulers, e.g. Dhu Nuwas, embraced Judaism. In the 6th and early 7th cents, there was a considerable Jewish population in Hejaz, and particularly in Medina and its vicinity. Judaism spread from Medina to the South. Smaller Jewish communities also existed in Bahrein, at Makna on the Gulf of Akaba, at Adhruh between Maan and Petra, and further North at Jarba.    According to Moslem tradition, conversion to Judaism started under Abu Karib Asad (ruled 390-420), who became a Jew himself and propagated his new faith among his subjects.  Arabic sources expressly state that Judaism became widely spread among Bedoun tribes of Southern Arabia and that Jewish converts also found with the Hamdan, a North Yemenite tribe. This time, many of the upper strata of society embraced the Jewish faith. The position of Judism in Yemen reached its zenith under DHu NuwAs.   DHu NuwAs (d. 525) was Arabian king; the last ruler of the independent Himyarite kingdom. He embraced Judaism under the name Yusuf (Joseph) after ascending the throne (c. 518). An Arabic tradition holds that his subjects also became converts. According to legend, in retaliation for the persecution of Jews in the Christian Byzantine empire, he put to death someByzantine merchants who came to his kingdom. On the surrender to his forces of the Christian city of Najran (probably in 523), he invited the inhabitants to embrace Judaism and  when they refused, executed many of them. He was killed and his kingdom destroyed in a combined attack by Abyssinia and Byzantium. After his death and the downfall of his kingdom, Christianity rapidly gained ground in Southern Arabia, especially among the former converts to Judaism; but even then, some Yemenite rulers were of the Jewish faith.   Even as late as 1665, when the Shabbetai Zvi had returned to Turkey, rumors were current of a Jewish Army which would advance from the Arabian desert to conquer Palestine.   HEJAZ : Coastal province in North West Arabia. now part of Saudia Arabia. The srcin of permanent Jewish settlement is obscure, but there is evidence of the presence of Jews between the 1st and 4th cents. CE. In ancient poetry of the region, the Jews are depicted chiefly as traders and wine-merchants. The most important Jewish community was that of Medina.   MEDINA (formerly Yathrib): Town in ARABIA. At the time that the Prophet Mohammed settled there in 622, Medina. and its immediate neighborhood harbored the largest Jewish community of North Arabia. The srcin and previous history of these Jews is unclear, but they may have arrived shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple. They formed three main communities, Banu-Lnadir, Banu Kainuka, and Banu Kuraiza, who occupied themselves mainly with the cultivation of palm-groves but also exercised other callings. Numerous quarrels and feuds forced them to erect forts for protection. A few years after the arrival of Mohammed, who at first was friendly to them, all the Jews were either expelled or massacred.No Jews have since been allowed there.   BANU-L-NADIR: One of the three Jewish tribes in Medina, in the vicinity of which they owned landed estates and strongholds. Through cultivation of the soil, moneylending, and trading in weapons and jewels they accumulated considerable wealth. They were besieged in their fortsby Mohammed and surrendered after about two weeks (c. 626); their immovable property wasconfiscated, but they themselves were permitted to depart. They left for the North and founded new settlements, partly in Khaibar and partly in Syria.   BANU KAINUKA: One of the three Jewish tribes in MEDINA. Possessing no land, they lived from commerce and as goldsmiths. They were the first to suffer from the hostile attitude adopted by MOHAMMED after his failure to win the Jews over to Islam. They were attacked and besieged in their strongholds, probably in 624, and were forced to surrender after 15 days. Mohammed first wished to have all the men executed but spared them on condition thatthey quit the town, leaving all their property in the hands of the Moslems. They first migrated to the Jewish centers in Wadi-l-Kura and later further N to Adhriat.   BANU KURAIZA: One of the three Jewish tribes in MEDINA. They inhabited several villages to the S of the town, and their main occupation was agriculture. At the rise of Islam, they numbered 750 fighting-men and held some fortified positions in the neighborhood. The B.K. were the last Jews to be attacked by Mohammed who charged them with treason. When  forced to surrender, they were treated more cruelly than their two fellow-tribes, the men being executed and the women and children sold into slavery. Raihana, a woman of the tribe, was married to Mohammed. Among the B.K. were several poets, some of whose Arabic verses areextant.   Several Jewish colonies were also found North of Medina including a) Khaibar, b) Fadak, c) Wadi 'I-Qura, and d) Taima. The Jewish population increased through the conversion of Arabsto Judaism. Some Jews lived in Mecca, at least temporarily, before the rise of Islam. Mohammed subdued the Jewish colonies North of the city but permitted the inhabitants to stay. Under the reign of Omar, the Jews were expelled from Khaibar and Fadak and possibly from Wadi 'I-Qura. In Wadi 'I-Qura they were able to reestablish themselves in the 10th cent, but after that there are no subsequent traces of Jews in Hejaz (Saudia Arabia).   In 628 Khaibar, an oasis north of Medina was subdued by the Prophet Mohammed. The srcins of its Jewish community, as of others in HEJAZ, are obscure. The Jews were allowed to stay and retain their lands, giving half their produce to the Moslem conquerors. Mohammed adopted this policy because there were then no other trained agriculturalists in the region. When skilled slave labor from conquered countries be came available, the Jews of Khaibar. were expelled by Omar (641).   HADRAMAUT: Country of Southern Arabian peninsula, East of Aden. Its very ancient Jewish settlement, with distinctive traditions and strongly marked physical type became known to the outside world only in the 1940's. The community emmigrated to Israel after the foundation of the state.   MOHAMMED (c. 570-632): The prophet of ISLAM. In his early days, be accompanied the Meccan trade caravans, and often met Jews and Christians who probably first turned his interest to religious questions. At the age of about 40, his mind became strongly occupied by meditations on God, the hereafter, and the Day of judgment which be believed to be close at hand. Knowing that God had revealed Himself to other peoples through His prophets, he became convinced that he had been chosen as the Arab prophet, and publicly proclaimed therevelations which he claimed to experience through the intermediation of the angel GABRIEL;these eventually constituted the KORAN. He therefore repeatedly emphasized that his mission was only to confirm what had been revealed to former prophets and to correct the distortions. Consequently, he referred with respect to the Hebrew Scriptures and 'the Jewish prophets, quoting extensively from the Bible and other Jewish sources as far as his scanty and sometimes erroneous knowledge reached. His early conviction that there existed no essential difference between Judaism and Islam led him to the hope that the Jews would welcome his mission and accept the new faith. In his attempt to win over the Jews he adapted, in MEDINA, the ritual of his community to theirs in some points, adding, e.g., a third daily prayer, introducing a day of fast corresponding to the Day of Atonement, fixing a day of public prayer after the model of the Jewish Sabbath, and directing his followers to turn to Jerusalem during prayer. When he realized that his hopes would not be fulfilled, he changed  some of the new rites and adopted a hostile attitude toward the Jews of Medina who, gradually, were either annihilated or expelled. The other Jews of ARABIA, however, were treated more leniently, possibly from political and economic considerations. One of his wives (Safia) was of Jewish srcin.   Omar, the second caliph after the Prophet Mohammed ruled from 634 to 644. During his reign, several regions with ancient Jewish communities were conquered, including Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia (Iraq). On his orders, most of the Jews were expelled from North  Arabia. To Omar is attributed a covenant with Jews and Christians which assured them protection in return for the payment of a special tax. He also stipulated certain restrictions and disabilities, e.g. exclusion from public office, the wearing of distinctive clothes, prohibition against erecting any new houses of worship, etc.    After the rise of Islam, these Jews and those of Yemen were allowed to survive on the payment of special taxes, but most of the Hejazi Jews were either expelled or annihilated. Henceforth, the Jewish settlement in Arabia was almost wholly concentrated in the Yemen, Hadramaut, and Aden. The former Jews of North Arabia in particular, though living in isolated communities, had become strongly assimilated to their Arab neighbors not only in language and culture but also in manners and customs, social organization, and mentality. The Arabic verses composed by their poets hardly differed in any respect from other Arabic poetry, and they expressed the contemporary notions, views, and feelings of Arabic society. The overwhelming majority of the Jews of Arabia. have now emigrated to Israel.  ---  ARABS: Semitic people~ From earliest historical times they inhabited the Arabian peninsula and certain adjacent regions but shortly after the advent Of ISLAM, burst forth from their homeland to conquer the greater part of the then civilized world. Their language (ARABIC) is cognate to Hebrew and forms a branch of the SEMITIC LANGUAGES. Commercial relations between Palestine and Southern Arabia existed from very ancient times. The Arabs and their homeland are mentioned repeatedly both in biblical and talmudic literature, though it is doubtful whether in all cases the term Arabs refers to the inhabitants of ARABIA or to members of Arabic stock. It is possible that some Arabs were already settled in Palestine in the time of the Second Temple. The affinity between Hebrews and Arabs found its expression in the genealogical traditions of both peoples. According to Gen. 10, Eber was the forefather of Abraham as well as of Joktan, the ancestor of the southern Arabs., and several Arab tribes are enumerated'among the descendants of Abraham. The Arabs, themselves trace their srcinto Ishmael. Jews were found in Arabia by the 1st cent. CE. Expelled from Northern Arabia shortly after the rise of Islam, they continued to live in the South in considerable numbers untilrecent times. Jewish-Arab symbiosis, thus initiated at the earliest period of Arab history and Jewish diaspora, continued for many centuries in several countries and under various and changing conditions. The Islamic conquests extended to a number of countries with ancient Jewish communities, where the Arabs were generally welcomed by the Jews who even

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Sep 22, 2019


Sep 22, 2019
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