Did you know that the Saudi holy city of Medina was actually a Jewish city before Islam was ever founded?
Today, we hear a lot of talk about how Jerusalem should be split, – one half surrendered to Muslims, while the other half remains a mixed Muslim/Jewish city in Israel. If this is the appropriate diplomatic way of turning back the clock, and ensuring peace between Muslims and Jews, then why not try out this solution with Medina first–a city that was originally Jewish?
Although the fact is little publicized, the Arab world’s second holiest city, Medina, was one of the allegedly “purely Arab” cities that actually was first settled by Jewish tribes. 1 History shows that Judaism was already well established in Medina two centuries before Muhammad’s birth.
On page 40, of his book “Arabs In History”, Bernard Lewis writes:
“The city of Medina, some 280 miles north of Mecca, had originally been settled by Jewish tribes from the north, … The comparative richness of the town attracted an infiltration of pagan Arabs who came at first as clients of the Jews and ultimately succeeded in dominating them. Medina, or, as it was known before Islam, Yathrib, had no form of stable government at all. The town was tom by the feuds of the rival Arab tribes of Aus and Khazraj, with the Jews maintaining an uneasy balance of power. The latter, engaged mainly in agriculture and handicrafts, were economically and culturally superior to the Arabs, and were consequently disliked…. as soon as the Arabs had attained unity through the agency of Muhammad they attacked and ultimately eliminated the Jews.”
The number of Jews in Medina swelled following the Roman invasion of Israel – the subsequent expulsion of its Jewish population, and from Jews fleeing persecution in Persia2. These refugees were assimilated into the three major Jewish tribes in Medina: the Banu Nadir, the Banu Quynuqua, and the Banu Quraiza. When these Jews resettled in Medina, they took with them a superior knowledge of agriculture, irrigation, and industry. Homeless Jewish refugees in the course of a few generations became large landowners in the country. In addition, the refugees who had come from Israel quickly became the controllers of its finance and trade. This new Jewish prosperity also quickly became a direct challenge to the Arabs of the region, particularly the Quraysh at Mecca (of which Mohammad was a member) and other Arab tribes in Medina.
According to Alfred Guillaume,
At the dawn of Islam the Jews dominated the economic life of the Hijaz [Arabia]. They held all the best land … ; at Medina they must have formed at least half of the population. There was also a Jewish settlement to the north of the Gulf of Aqaba…. What is important is to note that the Jews of the Hijaz made many proselytes [or converts] among the Arab tribesmen.5
To add fuel to this fire, the Jews, strong in their faith in G-d, refused to accept Mohammad’s claims to be the final prophet. In
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