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The Legacy of Muslim-Jewish Relations: A History of Protection, Coexistence, and Religious Freedom

Throughout history, the relationship between Muslims and Jews has been characterised by a remarkable tapestry of cooperation, coexistence, and protection. It’s a story that reflects the foundational principles of Islam — religious freedom, tolerance, and the fight against oppression. From the earliest days of Islamic civilisation to some of the darkest periods in history, Muslims have stood as protectors and allies of the Jewish community, creating sanctuaries and offering support when needed most.

Opening of Jerusalem

One of the pivotal moments showcasing this bond was the opening of Jerusalem by Caliph Omar. In 637 CE, upon the city’s conquest, Omar, known for his humility and tolerance, granted religious freedom to all inhabitants, including Jews, securing their rights to worship and live in the city peacefully. This act laid the groundwork for a tradition of religious tolerance under Islamic rule.

The Reconquista

During the Reconquista and subsequent expulsion of Muslims & Jews from Spain, Muslims across various regions, especially under Ottoman rule, provided refuge to the fleeing Jewish communities. The Ottomans, known for their policy of religious pluralism, welcomed Jews seeking sanctuary, allowing them to thrive and contribute to society. Cities like Isfahan became centers of Jewish life and culture, where Jews enjoyed safety and opportunities.
The cultural exchange and intellectual collaboration between Jews and Muslims were exemplified in Bayt al-Hikma, where Jewish translators were instrumental in translating and preserving ancient texts. They were valued and paid handsomely for their contributions, reflecting the recognition of knowledge and expertise regardless of religious affiliation.

Influential Jewish Figures

In Cordoba, during the era of Muslim Spain, a Jewish prime minister, Hasdai ibn Shaprut, held a position of power and influence, demonstrating the inclusive nature of the society where meritocracy prevailed over religious differences.
Musa bin Maymun, or Maimonides, remains a towering figure in both Jewish and Islamic scholarship. His philosophical and medical works were influential in shaping the intellectual landscape of both communities, showcasing the shared heritage and mutual respect for learning.


Amidst the turmoil of World War II, when the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, Muslim leaders like Sultan Muhammed V of Morocco defied the oppressors by refusing to hand over Jewish citizens. This courageous stance saved thousands of lives, illustrating the commitment to protect the oppressed, irrespective of faith.
In a poignant display of solidarity, imams of mosques in France sheltered and saved Jews during the Nazi occupation. These acts of heroism emphasised the shared values of compassion, humanity, and the rejection of injustice, transcending religious boundaries.

The history of Muslims protecting and supporting Jews is a testament to the intrinsic principles of Islam — justice, compassion, and religious freedom. It serves as a reminder of the deep-rooted connections between these communities and the importance of standing together against oppression, fostering a world where all can live and flourish in peace and harmony.

Howtomuslim, islam, israel, palestine, peace, jews, judaism


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