Saturday, February 14, 2009

One State Solution: A Jewish Dream

Recent events in Palestine have raised many concerns about the practicality of the so-called ‘Two States Solution’. Political analysts are now perplexed, thinking as to whether this ‘solution’ will ever really work. Political commentators are now seriously questioning whether this proposal is realistic and if Israel will ever treat its potential neighbour, the imaginary state of independent Palestine, with fairness and justice? The overwhelming majority of these commentators and analysts, having witnessed Israeli barbarity in Gaza, will reject the notion of trusting Israeli authorities altogether and will propose many different solutions. A different solution is already in existence, which, is deliberately ignored by the powers vested with the responsibility to diffuse this conflict. This solution is a ‘One State Solution’[1], which has worked perfectly well in the past and still has the potential to restore the same prosperous and peaceful co-existence – which lasted for centuries - between the Muslims, Jews and Christians: The Golden Age of Islam.

The Islamic system is the only system that carries the capacity of treating others with complete fairness. Under the Islamic system, Jews lived in harmony and peace for over one thousand years and some of the Jewish scholars/historians remember that era as the ‘Islamic Golden Age’. Whenever the non-Muslim powers took control of any land, they failed to demonstrate impartiality and justice towards the other, especially, in political as well as socio-economic affairs.

In recent years, the British government has exerted immense pressure on Muslim leaders to combat anti-Semitism in the Muslim community. Muslims are however, the least deserving people to be accused of fostering anti-Semitism, as the facts presented below will amply demonstrate that the Jews were not treated in Islamic lands as they were treated elsewhere. The following discussion will substantiate the value and necessity of reviving the ‘One State Solution’ for Palestine, a solution that will provide freedom and security to all.

Jews had reached the peak of their prosperity under Islamic rule. Hasdai Ibn Shaprut (915-990 CE) was the chief minister of the Islamic Caliphate of Cordova, governed by the most powerful monarch in Western Europe, Abdur-Rahman III. Hasdai’s position inevitably benefited his people, as he made inquiries into the affairs of his brethren scattered as far as Caucasus. In a letter to the Jewish Khazar King Joseph, he elaborated upon his fortunate position in the Islamic lands:

‘Praise be to the beneficent God for his mercy towards me! Kings of the earth, to whom his [the Caliph’s] magnificence and power are known, bring gifts to him, conciliating his favour by costly presents, such as the king of the Germans, the king of the Gebalim, the king of Constantinople, and others. All their gifts pass through my hands, and I am charged with making gifts in return. (Let my lips express praise to the God in heaven who so far extends his loving kindness towards me without any merit of my own, but in the fullness of his mercies.) I always ask the ambassadors of these monarchs about our brethren the Jews, the remnant of the captivity, whether they have heard anything concerning the deliverance of those who have pined in bondage and had found no rest.’ [2]

Due to an active implementation of the Zionist apartheid policy in Palestine, one can never imagine a Palestinian Muslim becoming the prime minister of Israel. Samuel Ibn Nagrella ha-Nagid (993-1056 CE) was another powerful Jewish chief minister of Granada in Islamic Spain who served his people well. Abraham Ibn Daud (ca. 1161), a Jewish chronicler, elaborated upon ha-Nagid’s significance for the spread of the Jewish tradition:

‘He achieved great good for Israel in Spain, the Maghreb, Ifriqiya, Egypt, Sicily, indeed as far as the academy in Babylonia and the Holy City. He provided material benefits out of his own pocket for students of Torah in all these countries. He also purchased many books – [copies] of the Holy Scriptures as well as of the Mishna and Talmud, which are also among the holy writings. Throughout Spain and the countries just mentioned, whoever wished to devote full time to the study of the Torah found in him a patron. Moreover, he retained scribes who would make copies of the Mishna and Talmud, which he would present to students who were unable to purchase copies themselves, both in the academies of Spain as well as of the other countries we mentioned. These gifts were coupled with annual contribution of olive oil for the synagogues of Jerusalem, which he would despatch from his own home. He spread Torah abroad and died at a ripe old age after having earned four crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of power, the crown of Levite, and towering over them all, by dint of good deeds in each of these domains, the crown of a good name.’ [3]

Samuel ibn Nagrella’s fortune and his influence benefited the Jews worldwide. This was only made possible because of his position as a chief minister of an Islamic power, and the relaxed attitude of the Muslim government towards the Jewish faith. For the Jews, this was certainly a practical manifestation of the promise made by Allah in the Quran:

‘And We have sent you (O Muhammad [SA]) not but as a mercy to mankind’ [4]

The mercy that Prophet Muhammad was sent with was not restricted to the Muslims alone, rather Islamic domination was to bring prosperity for others too. Note, that all the Jewish activities, under the patronage of Samuel Ibn Nagrella, mentioned above by Ibn Daud were taking place in the lands controlled by the Muslims. In other words, the freedom and autonomy allowed by the Shariah Law enabled the Jews to carry out their religious pursuits without any hindrance. Can one imagine an independent Islamic university or Madrasa functioning freely in the present day Tel Aviv? One needs not to be a genius to find an answer to this question. Bahya ibn Paqudah, a medieval Andalusian Jewish writer, describes the prosperous existence of the Jews in the Islamic lands in a treatise titled Kitab al-Hidaya (ca. 1080):

‘If one of our contemporaries looks for similar miracles now, let him examine objectively our situation among the Gentiles [Muslims in this case] since the beginning of the Diaspora and the way our affairs are managed in spite of the differences between us and them both secret and open, which are well known to them. Let him see that our situation, as far as living and subsistence are concerned, is the same as theirs, or even better, in times of war and civil disturbances. You see how both their leaders and their vulgar peasants toil much more than the middle and lower classes among us, according to our Lord’s promise contained in the Scriptures.’ [5]

Ibn Paqudah’s satisfaction concerning Jewish prosperity in Islamic Spain was not due to any other reason than the effective adherence by the authorities to the Islamic regulations with regards to the treatment of the non-Muslim subjects. He even acknowledges that ‘in spite of the differences between us and them both secret and open, which are well known to them’ the Jewish living conditions were some times better than those of the Muslims. This can not be attributed to anything other than the commandments in the Quran whereby Muslims are asked by God to uphold justice at all times, even towards those they may dislike:

‘O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety; and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is well-acquainted with what you do.’ [6]

Can a Palestinian citizen assert with confidence, like ibn Paqudah, today that his living standard is at least similar to that of an Israeli? The question of an ‘even better’ living standard for a Palestinian is as laughable as an American promise to deliver a just solution in the region. Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish Jew who travelled to Baghdad in the year 1168 CE, described the situation of the Iraqi Jewry in these words:

‘In Baghdad there are about forty thousand Jews, and they dwell in security, prosperity, and honour under the great Caliph [al-Mustanjid, 1160-70 CE], and amongst them are great sages, the Heads of the Academies engaged in the study of the Law…’ [7]

The security, prosperity, and honour conferred upon the Jews of Baghdad is not surprising if one considers the teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his immediate followers in regards to protecting non-Muslim minorities living under Islamic governance. In the book of Sahih al-Bukhari, Prophet Muhammad (SA) is reported to have said:

‘Any one who kills a non-Muslim (Mu’ahid [protected one]) protected by the Islamic state will not smell the fragrance of paradise even though one can identify it from the distance of 40 years journey.’ [8]

Al-Bukhari narrated that even the immediate followers of the Prophet (SA) exercised maximum care in regards to fulfilling the promises of protection made with the non-Muslim citizens:

‘Omar bin Khattab [the 2nd Caliph] said on his death bed that whoever shall succeed me must fulfill the promises of Allah and his Messenger. Whatever treaty has been made with non-Muslims must be respected by my successor. He shall fight (if he has to) to protect them and he shall not put a burden upon them which they can not bear.’[9]

Will the Muslims in Palestine ever live in ‘security’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘honour’ the likes of which were enjoyed by the 12th century Iraqi Jews? In 1420 CE Rabbi Yitzhak Tsarfati wrote a letter to his persecuted German brothers from the Ottoman Turkish territory (Edirne [Adrianople]) inviting them to join him in prosperous and tolerant Islamic lands:

‘Your cries and laments have reached us. We have been told of all the sorrows and persecutions which you suffer in German lands. Listen, my brothers…if you…knew even the tenth of what God has blessed us with in this land, you would give heed to no further difficulties. You would embark at once to us…Here the Jew is not compelled to wear a yellow hat as a badge of shame…You will be free of your enemies. Here you will find peace.’ [10]

‘Here you will find peace’, is the concluding statement Rabbi Yitzhak used in his letter. This peace was an outcome of the justice delivered by the Ottoman authorities. If the Ottomans were just, this was due to the ideal they followed. The Prophet of Islam told his followers that on the Day of Judgment, when there will be no other shade, seven will be under the shade of Allah’s throne and a just ruler is at the top of the list [11]. Does a Muslim from Palestine have similar peace or can he invite other persecuted Muslim brothers and sisters to his homeland using the words of Rabbi Yitzhak? Are the Muslim men, women and children enjoying even the tenth of the prosperity the Israelis are enjoying today? Again the answer is easy to deliver, even by a Palestinian toddler. Even the Jewish pilgrims were protected from any injuries unlike today’s situation in Jerusalem. The Muslims are asked to produce all kinds of draconian paper work and endure humiliating security checks before they can even think of gazing upon the third most important land mark in Islam: Masjidul-Aqsa. In a stark contrast, an Italian Rabbi, Obadiah Yareh Da Bertinoro, travelled to Jerusalem in 1486 CE and he wrote a letter to his father telling him about the country and its people:

‘The Jews are not persecuted by the Arabs in these parts. I have travelled through the country in its length and breadth, and none of them has put an obstacle in my way. They are very kind to strangers, particularly to anyone who does not know the language; and if they see many Jews together they are not annoyed by it. In my opinion, an intelligent man versed in political science might easily raise himself to be chief of the Jews as well as of the Arabs…’ [12]

The Muslim scientists and academics are unable to achieve anything in the laboratories in Tel Aviv or any of the Israeli controlled institutions for that matter. One may argue that this may be due to the security threat posed by the Palestinian resistance. But the question ultimately boils down to what has caused this security threat to occur? Lack of justice and violation of rights naturally produces anxiety and fervour for resistance. Historically speaking, the Jews had no desire to resist Muslims in any way due to the prosperity they enjoyed under Islamic rule. They did, however, resist the Christian powers, as they were very often persecuted and provoked. A Jewish historian Elijah Capsali describes the Jewish prosperity in the Ottoman Empire in this way:

‘The Jews gathered together from all the cities of Turkey, both far and near, each person coming from his own place, and the community gathered in Constantinople in its thousands and its tens of thousands. The heavens helped them, too, and the king provided them perfect estates and houses filled with all kinds of goodness. The Jews resided there with their families and their clans; they were fruitful and swarmed and multiplied, and the land was full of them. From that day on, whenever the king conquered a place where there were Jews, he would immediately shake them up and drive them from there – and despatch them to Constantinople, the seat of his kingdom, and he would pick them up and cuddle them for ever. Now, since the Jews feared the Lord, he provided them with houses filled with all kinds of goodness in a place where formerly, at the time of the King of Byzantium, there were only two or three congregations, the Jews increased in numbers, becoming a people with more than communities, for the land could not support them altogether – for their property was overwhelming.’ [13]

‘For their prosperity was overwhelming’, having read this, can one still assert with reasonability that the Muslims were ever anti-Jewish or ant-Semitic? Islamic behaviour towards the Jews has been consistently filled with kindness and sympathy. This is due to the law Muslims follow, which is derived from the Quran and Sunnah. The Holy Quran instructs the Muslims to be kind to those who do not fight them for their religion:

‘Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity’.[14]

The Jewish chroniclers themselves testify to the Islamic kindness towards the weak and vulnerable. The Portuguese Jewish chronicler Samuel Usque elaborates upon the Jewish migrants’ situation in the city of Salonika, which was under the Ottoman rule:

‘The majority of my children who have been persecuted and exiled from Europe and many other parts of the world have taken refuge in this city, and she embraces them and receives them with as much love and good will as if she were Jerusalem, that old and ever pious mother of ours.’ [15]

Having read so many Jewish testimonies, one can easily see that the Jews found a safe haven in the Islamic lands and this fact alone is enough to convince one to place one’s confidence in the Islamic ‘One State Solution’. Those persecuted Jews who took refuge with the Muslims were also treated as friends and furthermore, their vulnerable situation was not exploited by the Muslim authorities. An Italian Jewish traveller, David dei Rossi, travelled through the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century. He documented his observations about Jewish people living in Safed in these words:

‘The Exile here is not like in our homeland. The Turks hold respectable Jews in esteem. Here and in Alexandria, Egypt, Jews are the chief officers and administrators of the customs, and the king’s revenues. No injuries are perpetuated against them in all the empire. Only this year, in consequence of the extraordinary expenditure caused by the war against Shah Tahmsap al-Sufi, were the Jews required to make advances of loans to the princes.’ [16]

The aforementioned primary testimonies provide a vivid perspective on the Jewish experience in Muslim lands, however, it is equally prudent to ponder upon the views of the contemporary Jewish and non-Jewish historians. The following paragraphs will shed light upon some of the modern works on the Islamic behaviour towards the Jews.

Some contemporary views:

Karen Armstrong notes in her History of Jerusalem that the Jews hailed the early Islamic conquest of the Byzantine lands as a mercy from God:

‘Toward the end of the seventh century, a Hebrew poem hailed the Arabs as the precursors of the Messiah and looked forward to the ingathering of the Jewish exiles and the restoration of the Temple. Even when the Messiah failed to arrive, Jews continued to look favourably on Islamic rule in Jerusalem. In a letter written in the eleventh century, the Jerusalem rabbis recalled the “mercy” God had shown his people when he allowed the “Kingdom of Ishmael” to conquer Palestine. They were glad to remember that when the Muslims arrived in Jerusalem, “there were people from the children of Israel with them; they showed them the spot of the Temple and they settled with them until this very day.”…In about 750 the Jewish author of “The Mysteries of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai” saw the building [the Dome of the Rock] as a prelude to the messianic age. He praises the Muslim Caliph as “a lover of Israel” who had “restored the breaches of Zion and the breaches of the Temple” [17]

After having studied some early Jewish sentiments about the Muslim compassion, Karen Armstrong further concludes that:

‘The Muslims had established a system that enabled Jews, Christians, and Muslims to live in Jerusalem together for the first time.’ [18]

What Karen Armstrong failed to acknowledge was the fact that, under Islamic governance, it was not only the first time in Palestine but also the last time when the Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in peace. And if this is proven to be accurate historically, then all sincere peace-brokers in the region and elsewhere should propagate the return of the Islamic system. History has proven beyond any element of doubt that this is the only long-term and durable solution for Palestine: ‘The One State Solution’.

Professor Dean Phillip Bell, who is dean and professor of Jewish history at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago, had similar views in regard to the Jewish treatment at the hands of Muslims:

‘Jews under medieval Islam never suffered from the same general negative perception as in the Christian West. Despite regional variations and high medieval political instability, in medieval Islam multicultural environments, combined with active engagement in sciences and literature, led to something of an Islamic golden age for the Jews, at least according to most historical accounts. It has been primarily in the context of recent political developments that the once assumed positive views of Jewish life under medieval Islam have been seriously questioned.’ [19]

Professor Bell’s comments are self explanatory and decisive, not requiring any further elaboration. Zion Zohar, an American Jewish historian, confirms the Jewish appreciation of the Muslim arrival in Spain (711 CE) in this way:

‘Thus, when Muslims crossed the straits of Gibraltar from North Africa in 711 CE and invaded the Iberian Peninsula, Jews welcomed them as liberators from Christian Persecution…Born during this era of Islamic rule, the famous Golden Age of Spanish Jewry (circa 900-1200) produced such luminaries as: statesman and diplomat Hasdai ibn Shaprut, vizier and army commander Shmuel ha-Nagid, poet-philosophers Solomon Ibn Gabriol and Judah Halevi, and at the apex of them all, Moses Ben Maimon, also known among the Spaniards as Maimonides.’ [20]

This prosperity and the Golden Age did not just end in the Middle Ages, rather this pattern continued for many centuries to come. In some places Jews were so comfortable with the Islamic system that they deliberately applied to Shari’ah courts for the purpose of attaining justice and arbitration, even when they had complete autonomy in their religious affairs [i.e. they had their own courts to refer to]. For instance, Amnon Cohen, another American Jewish historian, studied the 16th century documents stored in the archives of the Shari’ah religious court of Jerusalem (commonly known as sijill), whereby he found 1000 Jewish cases filed form the year 1530 to 1601 CE. Cohen published his research in 1994 and during his research he made some astonishing discoveries, as he himself states:

‘Cases concerning Jews cover a very wide spectrum of topics. If we bear in mind that the Jews of Jerusalem had their own separate courts, the number of cases brought to Muslim court (which actually meant putting themselves at the mercy of a judge outside the pale of their communal and religious identity) is quite impressive[21]…The Jews went to the Muslim court for a variety of reasons, but the overwhelming fact was their ongoing and almost permanent presence there. This indicates that they went there not only in search of justice, but did so hoping, or rather knowing, that more often than not they would attain redress when wronged…The Jews went to court to resolve much more than their conflicts with Muslim or Christian neighbours. They turned to Shari’a authorities to seek redress with respect to internal differences, and even in matters within their immediate family (intimate relations between husband and wife, nafaqa maintenance payments to divorcees, support of infants etc.).’[22]

Cohen further elaborates upon the Jewish condition in the 16th century Ottoman Jerusalem:

‘Their possessions were protected, although they might have had to pay for extra protection at night for their houses and commercial properties. Their title deeds and other official documents indicating their rights were honoured when presented to the court, being treated like those of their Muslim neighbours[23]…The picture emerging from the sijill documents is baffling. On the one hand we encounter recurring Sultanic decrees sent to Jerusalem – in response to pleas of the Jews – to the effect that “nothing should be done to stop them from applying their own law” regarding a variety of matters. There are also many explicit references to the overriding importance of applying Shari’a law to them only if they so choose. On the other hand, if we look closely at some of the inheritance lists, we see that the local court allocated to female members of Jewish families half the share given to male members, exactly as in Islamic law. This meant, ipso facto, a significant improvement in the status of Jewish women with respect to legacies over that accorded them by Jewish tradition, although it actually meant the application of Islamic law in an internal Jewish context [24]…he [the Muslim Judge] defended Jewish causes jeopardized by high-handed behaviour of local governors; he enabled Jewish business people and craftsmen to lease properties from Muslim endowments on an equal footing with Muslim bidders; more generally, he respected their rituals and places of worship and guarded them against encroachment even when the perpetrators were other Muslim dignitaries.[25]’

And finally Amnon Cohen describes the effective practicality of the Islamic One State Solution for the Jewish interests:

‘No one interfered with their internal organisation or their external cultural and economic activities…In a world where civil and political equality, or positive social change affecting the group or even the individual were not the norms, the Sultan’s Jewish subjects had no reason to mourn their status or begrudge their conditions of life. The Jews of Ottoman Jerusalem enjoyed religious and administrative autonomy within an Islamic state, and as a constructive, dynamic element of the local economy and society they could – and actually did – contribute to its functioning.’[26]

Therefore, the modern scholarly opinions too seem to suggest that the Muslims were never anti-Semitic nor did they ever persecute Jews because of their religion. If the Muslims have this historical record then they should be allowed to run the affairs of Palestine and other Islamic lands ensuring that the Islamic law is implemented comprehensively, as it was the effective implementation of this law in the first place which produced the ‘Golden Age’ discussed above. The ‘One State Solution’ based upon the Islamic model supported by Shari’ah is a cohesive model that allows a diverse multitude of ethnicities to co-exist and enjoy the same freedoms and rights that are thwarted by the Zionist state today. The ‘Two State Solution’ based upon Secular Democracy does not qualify to be a solution for the conflict, but rather will only intensify the divisions between the Muslim Palestinians. Furthermore, the proposal of the ‘Two State Solution’ is divisive and advocates the segregation of a ‘Jewish’ Sate from a Secular ‘Muslim’ state, proving that it is not a long term solution for the Middle East.

The Israeli authorities are not to be trusted, as their policies are adverse to peace and stability, and these policies are harmful for both the Muslim and the Jewish people. Orthodox Jews are also severely persecuted in Israel due to their opposition to the apartheid state of Israel. Neturei Karta Internationa[27] and International Jewish Anti Zionist Network[28] are two Jewish organisations working hard to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people. This in itself proves that not all the Jews sympathise with the Zionist cause. The 60 years Israeli criminal record alone should suffice to convince one to disqualify this terrorist state from taking charge of the holy land. Re-implementation of Islam and Islamic values alone can bring back the ‘Golden Age of the House of Jacob’, as the Muslims are bound to follow the teachings of their prophet concerning Jews, which are to be found in the treaty of Madina:

‘It is incumbent on all the Muslims to help and extend sympathetic treatment to the Jews who have entered into an agreement with us. Neither an oppression of any type should be perpetrated on them nor their enemy be helped against them.’[29]

Adnan Rashid
The Hittin Institute

Endnotes

[1] http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=M9OIqy6md9w
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=vqBJTBIUtM8
[2] Hasdai Ibn Shaprut quoted in The Jewish Caravan edited by Leo W. Schwarz, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1946, p. 199.
[3] Abraham Ibn Daud quoted by Olivia Remie Constable.Medieval Iberia,
Pennsylvania, 1997, p. 101-2.
[4] The Quran, Surah 21 AL-Anbiya, verse 107.
[5] The Book of Direction to the Duties of the Heart, translation of Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paqudah’s Arabic work al-Hidaya ila Faraid al-Qulub by Menahem Mansoor. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973, p. 171.
[6] The Quran, Surah 5 al-Maidah, verse 8.
[7] Benjamin of Tudela, The Jew in the Medieval World, a source book edited by Jacob R. Marcus, New York, 1972, p. 185.
[8] Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Jihad.
[9] Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Jihad.
[10] Rabbi Yitzhak Tsarfati quoted by Howard M. Sachar. Farewell Espana, New York, 1994, p. 75.
[11] Al-Bukhari 660, Muslim 1031.
[12] Rabbi Obadiah Yareh Da Bertinoro, quoted in The Jewish Caravan edited by Leo W. Schwarz, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1946, p. 249.
[13] Elijah Capsali quoted by Joseph R. Hacker “The ‘Surgun’ System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire during the Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries.” In Ottoman and Turkish Jewry: Community and Leadership, ed. Aron Roderigue, Bloomington, IN, 1992, p. 6-7.
[14] The Holy Quran. Surah 60 Mumtahanah, verse 8.
[15] Samuel Usque, Consolation for the Tribulation of the Jews, trans. Martin A. Cohen. Philadelphia, 1965, p. 211-12.
[16] David dei Rossi, quoted by Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book. Philadelphia, 1979, p, 291-92.
[17] Karen Armstrong, A History of Jerusalem: One City Three Faiths. London, 1997, p. 233-40.
[18] Ibid, p. 245
[19] Dean Phillip Bell, Jews in the Early Modern World. New York, 2008, p. 25.
[20] Zion Zohar, Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry, New York, 2005, P. 8-9.
[21] Amnon Cohen, A World Within: Jewish Life as Reflected in Muslim Court Documents from the Sijill of Jerusalem (XVIth Century). Part One, 1994, Pennsylvania, p. 8.
[22] Ibid, p. 17.
[23] Ibid, p. 18.
[24] Ibid, p. 20-21.
[25] Ibid, p. 22.
[26] Ibid, p. 22-23.
[27] www.nkusa.org.
[28] www.ijsn.net
[29] Ibn Hisham, as-Sira an-Nabawiyya, Cairo, 1955, vol 1, P. 501-4.


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