Showing posts with label golden age. Show all posts
Showing posts with label golden age. Show all posts

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Every Oligarchy Gets the Castellan it Deserves

The fountain given pride of place in this courtyard of the Sultan's palace in the Alhambra of Granada was a gift from the Jewish community of the town, given in token of their gratitude for the protection granted them by the Caliph.

The central fountain bowl is supported on the backs of Twelve Lions of Juddah representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Oh, Doctor! President.

Castellan, is the Chancellor still in his office?

Yes, your Excellency.

Castellan, as Castellan you are responsible for security on Gallifrey in general and for my safety in particular, are you not, Castellan?

That is so, Excellency.

Castellan, I don't think you're very good at it. That's just my opinion, I'm only the President. 
Still, every oligarchy gets the Castellan it deserves, eh, Castellan?


Yes, well, never mind. 
Just clear up the mess when you've got a moment.

The Jews in Islamic Spain: Al Andalus
by S. Alfassa Marks
"Two years later in 711 C.E., Moorish soldiers (a mixed Arab and Berber army) crossed over from Africa to the Iberian Peninsula. They were led by General Tariq ibn Ziyad, Governor of Tangiers (Sachar 3).   He advanced his army of near ten thousand men across the strait, and landed at a location, which from that day since has sustained his name--Jabal Tarik (Mount Tarik), or Gibraltar.  The Moors engaged in battle with Visigothic soldiers, eventually killing their monarch, King Roderick.  

The Muslim invasion, and subsequent administration of Iberia, freed the major Spanish population of Jews from Visigothic oppression.  It was said that immediately after the invasion, the Jewish population of Toledo "opened the gates" of the city, welcoming the North African Muslims (Wexler 218).  Though ruthless fighters, the Moors were very just. They gave the Goth Spaniards an opportunity to surrender each of their provinces, to which most capitulated.  
"It is a common misapprehension that the holy war meant that the Muslims gave their opponents a choice 'between Islam and the sword'. This was sometimes the case, but only when the opponents were polytheist and idol-worshippers. For Jews, Christians, and other 'People of the Book'.there was a third possibility, they might become a 'protected group', paying a tax or tribute to the Muslims but enjoying internal autonomy" (Watt 144).
Even in those early days, the Moors knew and practiced the principles of chivalry.  They had already won the title to Knightliness which many centuries later compelled the victorious Spaniards to addressed them as "Knights of Granada, Gentleman, albeit Moors"  (Lane-Poole 26). 

The occupation of Iberia by the Moors was a welcome occurrence for a well pummeled and remaining Jewish population.  Of course the Muslims were not completely tolerant, but they were more tolerant than the rulers of the previous administration. Under the ruling Caliph (the descendant of Mohammed--the prophet of G-d on earth), the Jews were able to preserve their rites and traditions.  Peaceful coexistence led to their economic and social expansion.  Their status was that of Dhimmis, non-Muslims living in a land governed by Muslims.  The Jews had limited autonomy, but full rights to practice their religion, as well as full protection by their Muslim rulers; but this did not occur for free.  There was a specific tax called the jizya that Dhimmis had to pay to receive these benefits.  Having its origin in the Qur'an, it states Dhimmis who did not pay this tax, should either convert to Islam, or face the death penalty (Qur'an 9, 29).  This tax, higher than the tax Muslims had to pay, was in several occasions one of the most important sources of income for the kingdom.  The jizya was not only a tax, but also a symbolic expression of subordination (Lewis 14).

From the second half of the eighth century to the end of the eleventh century Jewish life flourished while contributing greatly to scholarship.  A translating program was established in Toledo, using Jews as interpreters.  There they translated the Arabic books into romance languages, as well as Greek and Hebrew texts into Arabic.  This included many major works of Greek science and philosophy.  Jews studied and contributed to mathematics, medicine, botany, geography, poetry, and philosophy.   It was at this time that the study of Medicine expanded to produce a large number of exceptional Jewish physicians.  Islam had its sway over Jewish cultural life too.  

In literature, and the arts, the Muslim influence on the Jews is enormous.  Though written in non-Islamic language and script, medieval Hebrew poetry, and much of the prose literature, belong to the same cultural world as Arabic and other literatures of Islam (Lewis 81).  

In the Caliphate of Cordoba [the geographical zenith of Islamic life in Al-Andalus], the Jewish element became increasingly important, reaching its peak in the tenth century  (Diaz-Mas 3).   

Jews lived among themselves in a walled area known as the aljama (Jewish quarter). There they lived among their own administration, and managed their own communal affairs (Epstein 1).   There the Jewish community had their own legal court known as the Beit Din.  This court, with Rabbis as Judges, would render both religious and civil legal opinions pertaining to Jewish affairs inside the aljama.  In the Beit Din the Jews were allowed to settle their own disputes.  This of course was positive for the them;  but it was also positive for the Muslims to, as it decreased the work load of the Islamic courts.

The influence Islamic culture injected into Jewish life was significant.  Jews accepted many customs and traditions of the Moors and interweaved them into their daily life.  The Arabic language, instead of Spanish and Hebrew, was used for prayers.  Ceremoniously washing of the hands and feet, which is an Islamic custom, became adopted by Jews before entering Synagogues.  Moreover, Jewish music was sung to the tune of old Arabic melodies.  Jews adopted the clothing style of their Moorish neighbors; however, they were restricted from wearing fine clothing such as furs and silk.  Most wore the universal long robe and belt, however they were prohibited from wearing a green or white one, which were the traditional colors of Islam.  

For almost four hundred years the Jews lived in Al-Andalus amid the moderate Islamic rule based in Cordoba.   Later came the insurgence of the Muslim fundamentalist Almoravides in 1055, and not long after their enemies, the Almohades in 1147.  Both groups brought with them radically stricter controls over the infidels (non-Muslims).   During this time Jews continued to work as moneylenders, jewelers, cobblers, tailors, and tanners.  Soon however, they would be mandated to wear distinctive clothing, including of the wearing of a yellow turban to distinguish them from Muslims.  These changes were a foreshadowing of the stricter controls that would soon be put in place.

Thus Islamic rule continued, but quickly the peninsular realm was cleaved up into numerous small Muslim kingdoms, each with its own ruler.  In a way not different then that of a civil war, they started fighting among each other.  Once the Muslims divided, the armies of Christendom gained a foothold on the peninsula.  It was this subsequent warring of Islamic administrations that led to collapse of Moorish supremacy on the peninsula, allowing the Christians to rise to power during the subsequent reconquista.  When the Caliphate disintegrated in the eleventh century as the result of civil war, many influential Jews remained in the Moorish kingdoms (Diaz-Mas 3).  

The Jews perpetuated their way of life under the subsequent Christian monarchs of Spain, until anti-Semitism caught up with them, and they were expelled three hundred years later.  The golden age of Spain was golden, but for the Jews, it was always a bit tarnished.

Sources Cited 
Charafi, Abdellatif.  Once Upon a Time in Andalusia. University of Portsmouth: 18 Nov. 1998.          

Hume, Martin A. S. The Spanish People: Their Origin, Growth and Influence. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1901.

Diaz-Mas, Paloma. Sephardim: The Jews from Spain. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Epstein, Isidore. Studies in the Communal Life of the Jews of Spain. New York,  NY: Hermon Press, 1968.

Holy Qur'an. Trans. M. H. Shakir. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, n.d. 1990
Lane-Poole, Stanley. The Story of the Moors in Spain. Baltimore, MD: Black Classic Press, 1990. 

Lewis, Bernard. The Jews of Islam. PrincetMeyrick, Fredrick.  The Doctrine of the Church of England on the Holy Communion.on, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984. 

London, 1891. Sachar, Howard M. Farewell Espana: The World of the Sephardim Remembered. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1994.

Watt, Montgomery. A History of Islamic Spain. Edinburgh: University Press,  1967.