The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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242 · Rachel Maissy-Noy

by paying a poll tax. The last part of the research contains examples from
Arab and Jewish sources, proving that the Jews enjoyed equal rights and
opportunities by mentioning names of Jewish personalities who reached
senior positions in the rulers’ courts.
It was also pointed out in these studies that the Jewish situation in
the Middle Ages cannot be described as monolithic. The caliphs of the
̔Umayyad dynasty are generally described as religiously moderate and
tolerant toward the Jews, as were the caliphs of the Abbasid dynasty. The
latter are generally presented as enlightened rulers who enabled the Jews
to live in relative peace compared to that which had prevailed earlier
in the Christian world. The Fatimid period, too, except for the years of
al-Ḥakem Bi ̓amr Alla’s reign, is described as a positive period for the
Jews, which the researchers call “the golden age of Egyptian Jewry.” This
definition is based on many testimonies both in Jewish and Arab sources
that point out the employment of many Jews in senior government posts
at a relatively higher rate than their numbers in the general population.^33
On the other hand, the Egyptian historiographers are not unanimous
about the situation of the Jews under the reign of the Mamluks and the
Ottomans. The reason for that is probably the different approach of the
researchers from the various streams of thought about the legitimacy of
the rule of these dynasties. Islamist historians, for instance, like Saber
Ṭu ̔ayma or ̔Abd al- ̔Aziz al-Murshidi, who consider the Ottoman Em-
pire to be one link in the glorious line of Islamic caliphates, find no fault
with the attitude of the Ottoman rulers toward the Jews. They describe
the rulers’ attitude generally as fair, stemming from the tolerance of Is-
lam. Historians from the nationalist streams, on the other hand, who con-
sider the Ottomans foreign invaders of the Arab world, indicate that the
main motive for the behavior of the Mamluks and Ottomans toward their
subjects was the levied taxes. Qasem ̔Abdu, for example, explains the
tyranny toward the Jews, whenever it existed, by the intention to please
the religious sages and the people who were not pleased with the high
rank of the Jews.^34
However, apart from the differences of opinions among the historians
about the attitude of the Mamluks and Ottomans toward the Jews, the re-
searchers were unanimous about the tolerance of the Muslims toward the
conquered nations. It was usually mentioned that, since the beginning
of Islam, basic principles were set down according to which Islam was
to be propagated by peaceful and tolerant ways. These principles had

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