Monday, September 8, 2008

Islamic Anti-semitism - A sourcebook

Arutz Sheva reports:[...]

In his book, " The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History", author Dr. Andrew G. Bostom describes what it was like living as a Jew under Moslem rule. Quoting from Islamic sources and historical records, this 700+ page book provides a plethora of unaltered and complete historical accounts on how Islamic governments treated Christians, Jews, and other 'infidels'.

Bostom was inspired to focus on the Jewish aspect of history living under the thumb of Islam during research for another book on the Islamic treatment of non-Muslims. When he came across a quote by Sufi jurist Sirhindi (d. 1621): "Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam," he began researching and recording Jewish experiences under Muslim rule on a scholarly level.

In his August 31 interview on Israel National Radio's Tamar Yonah Show, he shared the dramatic account of a young Moroccan Jewess in her teens who lived in the 1800's, named Sol Hachuel. Falsely accused on charges of "apostasy" from Islam, she was offered riches and special rights if she embraced Islam - or prison, torture and death if she did not. Sol Hachuel chose to be imprisoned, starved, tortured and then decapitated in the town square rather than give up her Judaism. "I was born a Jew, and I shall die a Jew," she boldly stated to the Islamic court, according to Bostom's accounts.

On the show, Bostom read her historic speech that inspired the Fez Jewish community to remain committed to their Judaism despite the hardships of constant false charges, unfair heavy taxes, violence and murder.
Hear Hachuel's riveting last words to her executioner and her people
Listen Now or Download the interview.


  1. My father's family is from Tangier and I have cousins named after Sol Hatchuel. This is how our family tells this story.

    I am translating this from my cousin's French, so please bear with my English grammatical errors:

    In Tangier at the 19th century lived a family very well known among both Jews and Moslems named Hatchouel. They had a daughter named Sol who was of a beauty so great that it took away the breath of all men. Sol was born in Tangier in 1817.

    One day the 14 year old Sol disputed with her mother and ran off to a Moslem neighbor, who had a brother who fell in insanely in love with her. (In Morocco it has always been considered a great honor for a Moslem men to marry a Jewish woman. The current King, MIV has a Jewish mother).

    The young man proposed all the gifts of the world if only Sol would become Moslem and marry him. Her persistent refusal hurt him deeply in his heart, and he sought to be avenged for her by saying that Sol had become Moslem by love for him.

    According to the laws at that time, anyone who converted to Islam and later renounced the Moslem faith was subject to the death penalty.

    The wealth and capacity of the young man's family (he was a prince) enabled him to buy false witnesses, who testified that Sol had become Moslem of her own free will and without coercion.

    The governor of Tangier did not know how to treat this, and the matter was further complicated by the involvement of King Moulay Abdelrahman who was known to be a righteous man with a tender heart who had never in the past brought evil upon any Jew.

    King Moulay Abedelrahman also tried to convince Sol and her family to accept conversion.

    But neither the gifts of the prince nor his promises could convince the 14 year old Sol, nor could anyone else give her counsel (The Rambam himself had converted to Islam in Fez and unlike Christianity which is idolatry, Islam is merely a heretical belief which our Sephardic Sages have ruled that it is permitted to practice in order to spare one's life).

    Finally, in front of the governor, the King and all the rich and powerful people of Fez in the year 1831 Sol Hatchuel testified in a voice high and strong “there no G-d as my G-d. I was born Jewish and I will die Jewish. I will change neither my faith nor my religion for all the gold of the world”.

    The chief Rabbi of Fez was Rabbi Serfaty. Rabbi Serfaty and all of the other Rabbis could do nothing to convince the poor girl to save herself.

    Rabbi Serfaty went secretly to the prison with food, because part of Sol's punishment was to fast until she agreed to become Moslem.

    Sol Hatchuel survived 3 years in prison and in 1834 after she celebrated her 17th birthday in the prison of Fez, her head was cut off in the souk in front of the whole city.

    The officials of the city wanted to burn her body, but a Rabbi named Rafael gave a large bribe in order to recover Sol's body and bury it.

    Sol Hatchuel is buried in the cemetery in Fez close to the tomb of Rabbi Yudah Ben Attar.

    I have wondered since I am a child if the story of Sol Hatchuel as we heard it was really true or if it were not the Moroccan version of Dina and Shechem.

    Nevertheless, the effect, generations later was that my sister and I (and all of our friends) were terrified to make acquaintance with any of the Gentile girls in the neighborhood or to enter into a Gentile house.

  2. Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS is an American scholar and Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School.

    Bostom did not grow up in Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria or Syria as did much of my family.

    I have cousins currently living in Casablanca, a city that boasts more than 60 Jewish schools. My American cousins travel back and forth from Morocco frequently as do my parents and inlaws (who go to Turkey as well). My family members report more Anti Semitism in Europe and the US than in Morocco and Turkey.

    Dr. Bostom's conclusions are quite different from people I know who actually were born and raised in Muslim countries.

  3. There is also a Muslim version of the story of Sol Hatchoul in which she is called Lalla Solica.

    But all versions agree that despite pressure from her parents and family, the king, his son and the Rabbis, Sol Hatchoul refused to convert to the Moslem faith, preferring to die rather than repudiate Judaism. (From Saint Worship Among the Jews in Morocco by Issachar Ben-Ami. The jacket of this book states: "Among Moroccan Jews, saint worship is an important cultural characteristic, practiced throughout the population. Saint Veneration among the Jews in Morocco, the only book in English on this topic".)

    Paul Bowles, an American author…has written a version of the sad love match in 18th century Fez – sad above all because the Jewish bride could not get used to the Moslem dictate that a woman only goes out three times in her life: once from the womb, once from her father’s house when she marries, and once from this world. Sol Hachuel suffered fatal claustrophobia in her husband’s home.

    The story of Sol Hatchoul has been the subject of many songs and several versions of the story have been told throughout the generations.

    “The Jewish Heroine of the 19th Century” is a very flowery and imaginative story of the life and execution of Solica. Her story has also been told at length by Don Eugenio Mario Romero in Spanish and published as “El Martyrio de la Joven Hachuel”.

    In his book “Folktales of the Canadian Sephardim”, André E. Elbaz states in his notes to the story of Solica that Romero whose book was published in 1837 knew the Hatchuel family.

    Yet another version starts that two cousins vied with each other for her hand in marriage. The story told by Romero tells that she had an argument with her mother and she went next door to an Arab friend who suggested she would convert to being Moslem.

    In another version, the Sultan becomes the judge and from the moment he sees her, he is so taken with her beauty that he decides she should renounce her Judaism to marry him. She adamantly refused to convert, despite pleas, even by a Chief Rabbi who told her to convert to save herself.

    Solica’s burial place was ultimately changed and her tomb is said to be a pilgrimage place for women, both Jewish and Arab when in trouble.

  4. Jersey Girl said...

    "(The Rambam himself had converted to Islam in Fez and unlike Christianity which is idolatry, Islam is merely a heretical belief which our Sephardic Sages have ruled that it is permitted to practice in order to spare one's life)."

    Although this is a fairly accurate (if overly simplistic) description of the halachic position of the Rambam and his father (as expressed in their Igeres HaShmad and Igeres HaNechama), the myth that the Rambam's family converted to Islam has been rejected by most scholars. The myth appears to have originated from Islamic sources.

  5. Dear Lazera,

    This is how it was told in my 4th grade history textbook (and how it still reads in my kids' textbooks):

    "When the Ramba'm was thirteen years old, the Almohades, a fanatical tribe from North and West Africa invaded Spain and captured Córdoba. Unlike other Islamic clergy, the Almohades engaged in religious persecution. Maimonides and his family were forced to convert to Islam but secretly practiced their own religion. The family wandered for 10 years and was able to settle for a time in Fez, Morocco.

    The family later traveled to Palestine, but the Crusaders did not permit them to settle in Jerusalem. They then found their way to Alexandria in Egypt, where they could live without persecution, and finally settled in Fostat, Egypt (about one and a half miles from old Cairo). Under the benign ruler Sultan Saladin, they were able to revert to their own religion. "

    A quick Google search of "Rambam converted to Islam" brought up several other Jewish sources detailing the Rambam's forced conversion to Islam.

    Maimonides' son Abraham also instituted a number of Sufi mystical practices in the Cairo synagogue.

    His principal work is originally composed in Judeo-Arabic and entitled "כתאב כפיא אלעאבדין" Kitāb Kifāyah al-`Ābidīn ("A Comprehensive Guide for the Servants of God"). From the extant surviving portion it is conjectured that Maimuni's treatise was three times as long as his father's Guide for the Perplexed. In the book, Maimuni evidences a great appreciation and affinity to Sufism (Islamic mysticism). Followers of his path continued to foster a Jewish-Sufi form of pietism for at least a century, and he is rightly considered the founder of this pietistic school.

    Another manuscript (coll.II, Firk. Heb-Ar. I, Ms 3094) was discovered in the Cairo genizah.

    The title, quoted in the text itself, “Futuhat az-zaman” (The Spiritual Conquests of Time) immediately sets the mystical tone of the content and appears as a debt or a tribute paid to the master of Sufism, Ibn Arabi, whose “Futuhat al-Makkiyya” (The Mecca Illuminations) are known world-wide for their influence and richness. Written in Judeo-Arabic, this treatise of mysticism is the work of a Jew following the “Jewish pietist movement of the Sufi type” so named by scholars who have studied this trend. The term, “hassid”, as these “pious” used to call themselves..."
    (Cf. E.J. vol. 10 “Judeo-Arabic” and “Judeo-Arabic)

    (Shlomo Dov Goiten (1900-1985) : A Mediterranean Society)

    "What can be said about the beginnings of this religious phenomenon which lasted for two centuries in Egypt (13th-15th), under the influence of Moses Maimonides’ (1138-1204) descendants, and notably his only son Abraham (1186-1237)4 who encouraged it, until David II (1335-1415), the last of the Maimonides line to have taken part in it and left behind works in Judeo-Arabic? A brief presentation of the religious Egyptian context at the time when the Rambam’s family settled in Fostat, ancient Cairo (around 1165), and the development of Sufism in Islamic surroundings will help clarify these issues.(Jewish pietism of the Sufi type).

    A particular trend of mysticisme in Medieval Egypt*
    Mireille Loubet
    p. 87-91)."

  6. See also: (this was a topic I researched for a paper that was never published)

    Nissim Dana, Judeo Arabic and Annotated translation of the work of Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam. From the work K'tab Kifayat Al-Abidin

    Sirat, Collette. "A history of Jewish philosophy in the Middle Ages"
    (Chapters 2 & 6 especially which detail the influence of Muslim theological movements on Medieval Jewish thought) Cambridge University Press 1985

    For additional examples of the Muslim philosopher and scholar Al Ghazali's influence on Medieval Jewish thought (In some of the works he is described in Hebrew letters "Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, the memory of the righteous be blessed" )see:

    Zerahyah ha-Levi (1411), Title: happalat ha-Filosofim

    Nathan of Cordova (14th Century) Title: Ma'amar bi-Teshuvot She'elot Nish'al Mehem (published 1897)

    Jacob ben Makhir (d. 1308) Title: Moznei ha-Iyyunim.

    Simon Duran (d. 1444) quotes the Moznei in his Keshet u-Magen.

    Zerahyah ha-Levi (1411), Title: Maskit ha-Orot be-Pardes ha-Niẓẓanim.

    Moses ibn Ḥabib quotes the Mashkat in his commentary on Beḥinat olam.

    see also:
    “Issac Albalag,” in: Sefer Tiqqun ha-Deʿot, ed. Georges Vajda (1973)

    S. Harvey, “Why Did Fourteenth-Century Jews Turn to Al-Ghazali’s Account of Natural Science?” in: JQR, 91:3–4 (January–April 2001), 359–76.

    and also:
    A. Eran, “Al-Ghazali and Maimonides on the World to Come
    and Spiritual Pleasures,” in: Jewish Studies Quarterly, 8 (2001), 137–66;

    H.A. Davidson, Proofs for Eternity, Creation and the Existence of God in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy (1987), 196–203;

    S. Harvey, “Alghazali and Maimonides and their Books of Knowledge,” in: J.M. Harris (ed.),

    Be’erot Yitzhak – Studies in Memory of Isadore Twersky (2005), 99–117;

    S. Pines, “The Philosophic Sources of the Guide of Perplexed,” in his translation of Maimonides’
    Guide of Perplexed, (1963), cxxvi–cxxxi.

  7. The Rambam himself had converted to Islam in Fez and unlike Christianity which is idolatry, Islam is merely a heretical belief which our Sephardic Sages have ruled that it is permitted to practice in order to spare one's life
    Now this would Make an amazing Post Please get into this I have heard from Proffessers many times Is it true is there documentation please use this as a Topic?

  8. Jersey Girl,

    Your fourth-grade education not-withstanding, the claim of the Rambam's conversion is strongly repudiated by most scholars. The myth appears to have originated in the writings of the Muslim writer ibn al-Qifti. His account (and his writings in general) are not considered reliable.

    Jacob Minkin, in his book "The World of Moses Maimonides" writes (p. 24):

    Conjectures were made by scholars to account for the strange and unexplained motive of the Maimons in choosing Fez for their place of refuge, the most unlikely being that, not regarding Mohammedanism as an idolatrous religion, they made some slight concession to the Islamic faith on entering the bigotry-infested Morroccan capital. The charge "is refuted," says Israel Friedlander (1877-1922), a profound student of Maimonides, "by the mere consideration that in the extremely vehement polemics which broke out after his death and centered around his person, none of his opponents ever made mention of his alleged conversion, which would surely have proved an effective weapon in the hands of his enemies to discredit his lifework."

    In one of the introductions to Fred Rosner's translation of the Igeres HaNechama ("Letter of Consolation of Maimon" p. 4-5) it states:

    ...some writers such as Graetz and Carmoli suggest that the Maimon family lived in Fez incognito and practiced their Judaism quietly and privately so as not to call attention to themselves. These scholars go as far as to suggest that they became anusim or pseudoconverts to Islam, a suggestion rejected by most scholars. Yehuda Leib Maimon (Fishman) states that such writers who suggest that Maimon ben Joseph and his son Moses Maimonides were anusim have no brains in their head and that they settled in Fez to be together with the renowned Torah scholar Rabbi Judah Hacohen and to learn from his sagacity and wisdom.

    Footnote: Maimon, YL. Rebbi Moshe ben Maimon. Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem, 1960, pp 22-49.

    Being that the myth is widespread, as evidenced by your fourth grade education, it is not surprising that a Google search would turn up some sites repeating this. Nevertheless, I did the search you mentioned, and I did not find "Jewish sources detailing the Rambam's forced conversion to Islam".

    In short, outside of Islamic sources there is no evidence that the Rambam ever converted. These Islamic sources are of inherently dubious reliability, asides from the fact that they are Islamic. The overwhelming majority of scholars do not consider the claim of the Rambam's conversion to have any shred of truth.


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