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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries

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Old March 3rd, 2011, 12:12 PM   #1

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Were Muslims and Jews allies during the Crusades, in both the Middle East and Spain?

I guess most history books point to the fact that the Crusaders were killing both Jews and Muslims, actually some of the crusader's campaigns started with the slaughtering of the Jews in Europe before getting to the middle east.

so did the Jews and Muslims fight together against the
common enemy?
i know that the Jews did not have any organized force at that time, but did they participate in the fight against the crusaders in any way or form?

also i am curious to know of what the Jews of today think of their relationship with the Muslims in Spain and the middle east at that period of time?
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 01:51 PM   #2

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About the relationship between muslims and jews in Spain, yes i've heard that jews helped the muslims in there conquest of the Visigoths.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 01:57 PM   #3

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Yeah, Jews and Muslims were pretty much always allies with some arguments in between. The violence started when the Christians turned them against each other around the 19th Century.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 02:00 PM   #4

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The Jewish community seems to have strived to be neutral during the Crusades, all in all. Some did take up arms to fight for the Muslim armies of the day; Salah ad-Din had Jews in his army, and Jews apparently composed a significant part of some Moorish armies.

I have never read about even a single Jew, or even Christian convert from Judaism, fighting alongside the Crusaders.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 03:00 PM   #5

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Jewish and Muslim forces held off the crusaders for a couple of months at Haifa.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 03:45 PM   #6

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Crusaders were a common enemy for them, so it would make sense for them to work together. I don't know much about that era, but I'd bet a lot of jewish soldiers helped the Muslim leaders.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 05:01 PM   #7

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If you mean did they work together to fight the Christians, then yes, I suppose. But the jews were never a state, surrounded by natural borders and with its own armies. So it is a bit misleading to think of them in terms of being 'allies', because that suggests some sort of formal relationship existed, when it didn't.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 05:55 PM   #8

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Originally Posted by Bismarck View Post
If you mean did they work together to fight the Christians, then yes, I suppose. But the jews were never a state, surrounded by natural borders and with its own armies. So it is a bit misleading to think of them in terms of being 'allies', because that suggests some sort of formal relationship existed, when it didn't.
Quite right Bismarck.

In Spain jews were a large part of both societies, tolerated by the early arabic invaders and, as usual, forming a decent part of the merchant and intellectual classes, including some very trusted positions. They also formed part of christian society until the extreme intolerance appeared many centuries later (although Visigothic rule could be a bit unpredictable, depending who was in charge!). But to say Jews helped one party or the other is very simplistic - to actively plot and fight against the society you and your family live in you would have to be a mindless idiot.

Non-muslims were never treated the same as muslims, whether jewish or Christian, and the invasions of the rabidly fundamental Almoravids, then later Almohads, led to great persection of non-muslims, or even muslims not judged to be devout enough.

The final expulsion of the jews by paranoid, Christian fundamentalist Spain, did such huge damage to the economy it never recovered. The Sultan in Constantinople was only too glad to get their expertise, money and economic abilities. Muslim rulers in Spain had obviously appreciated these factors.
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Old March 4th, 2011, 02:51 AM   #9

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Hard to say, though Joshua Prawer has written a fair bit on the subject.

Jewish communities, not having an over all easily identifiable political structure that can be dealt with, unlike their muslim counterparts, makes it difficult to register just how and who may have done what for or against the crusaders. In the Latin East, change from Muslim rule of Frankish rule really doesnt change too much, Jews were expelled from Jerusalem, but the every day occurrences of day to day life remained the same. Just had new overlords.

Ofcourse one must also remember that if a hostile army turns up on your doorstep, then the residents of a besieged city may very well have as much cause to fight and defend their property/lives/families as the next man, regardless of religion or race etc. As with so many sieges, when the frenzied army breaks in and begins its slaughter, people arent going to stop and ask ones religious affinities.

That said, sometimes one might have something to gain by selling out. Certain communites might be bviewd with suspicion and persecuted as a result of the fear of them selling out. Yaghi Siyan distrusted his christina community in Antioch in 1098, Copts in Egypt during the 13th Century, at Safed in 1261 Baibars convinced the local christians to surrender and abandon the Templars. Unfortunatelty source material, often being largely christina only tends to deal with christians, once again adding to this black hole of knowledge.

There's no concrete evidence as far as I recall, that suggests (in Outremer anyway, my Spanish knowledge is a bit hazier) there was any ever large scale organisation or alliances. Opportunism and such like, with Saladin courting Jewish and Orthodox Churhces at Jerusalem in 1187/88, and individuals rising through the ranks as it were, not uncommoin to find Jewish, Christian people occupuying an important place in Muslim and to a lesser extent christian administration/politics etc by the 12/13th Centuries. But whole sale alliances etc, nothing comes to mind.
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Old March 7th, 2011, 08:58 PM   #10
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The main issue is that the jews were living in Islamic lands and thus they saw the Crusade as outside invaders, in medieval sieges pretty much all residences were called upon to defend their town / city anyway, so in the case of say... the massacer of Jerusalem, obviously the jews did fight against the Crusaders, it was the norm of the day. And at least on a relative level the Muslims tend to be less hostile to them.

In Spain, it depends on periods, by the Almohad / Almoravid period the regime turned more hostile towards the Jews and some began to leave for other places (like Tunisia). Though on a overall level it was more of the isolated event nature, espeically considering that in realtiy neither dynasty had full civil control over Andalusia, they were more or less just military overlords of independent city states.)
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