Norman A. Stillman

Norman A.Stillman-The Jews of arab land-1979-The pact of CUmar -seventh century

Norman A.Stillman

The Jews of arab land



(seventh century?)

°Abd al-Rahmân b. Ghanam – He died in 697-  related the following: When cUmar b. al-Khattâb—may Allah be pleased with him—made peace with the Christian inhabitants of Syria, we wrote him the following.

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent.

This letter is addressed to Allah’s servant cUmar, the Commander of the Faithful, by the Christians of such-and-such city. When you advanced against us, we asked you for a guarantee of protection for our persons, our offspring, our property, and the people of our sect, and we have taken upon ourselves the following obligations toward you, namely:

We shall not build in our cities or in their vicinity any new monasteries, churches, hermitages, or monks’ cells. We shall not restore, by night or by day, any of them that have fallen into ruin or which are located in the Muslims’ quarters.

We shall keep our gates wide open for passersby and travelers. We shall provide three days’ food and lodging to any Muslims who pass our way.

We shall not shelter any spy in our churches or in our homes, nor shall we hide him from the Muslims.

We shall not teach our children the Koran.

We shall not hold public religious ceremonies. We shall not seek to proselytize anyone. We shall not prevent any of our kin from em­bracing Islam if they so desire.

We shall show deference to the Muslims and shall rise from our seats when they wish to sit down.

We shall not attempt to resemble the Muslims in any way with regard to their dress, as for example, with the qalansuwa, the tur­ban, sandals, or parting the hair (in the Arab fashion). We shall not speak as they do, nor shall we adopt their kunyas.

We shall not ride on saddles.

The qalansuwa was a conical cap.

The turban (Ar., cimâma) came to be considered the “crown of the Arabs” (Ar., tàj al-carab~) and the “badge of Islam 

We shall not wear swords or hear weapons of any kind, or ever carry them with us.

We shall not engrave our signets in Arabic.

We shall not sell wines.

We shall clip the forelocks of our head.

We shall always adorn ourselves in our traditional fashion. We shall bind the zunnâr – A kind of belt- around our waists.

We shall not display our crosses or our books anywhere in the Muslims’ thoroughfares or in their marketplaces. We shall only beat our clappers in our churches very quietly. We shall not raise our voices when reciting the service in our churches, nor when in the presence of Muslims. Neither shall we raise our voices in our funeral processions.

We shall not display lights in any of the Muslim thoroughfares or in their marketplaces.

We shall not come near them with our funeral processions.

We shall not take any of the slaves that have been allotted to the Muslims.

We shall not build our homes higher than theirs.

(When I brought the letter to 0Umar—may Allah be pleased with him—he added the clause “We shall not strike any Muslim.”)

We accept these conditions for ourselves and for the members of our sect, in return for which we are to be given a guarantee of security. Should we violate in any way these conditions which we have ac­cepted and for which we stand security, then there shall be no covenant of protection for us, and we shall be liable to the penalties for rebelliousness and sedition.

Then cUmar—may Allah be pleased with him—wrote: “Sign what they have requested, but add two clauses that will also be binding upon them; namely, they shall not buy anyone who has been taken prisoner by the Muslims, and that anyone who deliberately strikes a Muslim will forfeit the protection of this pact.”

Translated from al-Turtüshï, Sirâj al-Muluk (Cairo, 1289/1872), pp. 229-30.

Norman A.Stillman-The Jews of arab land-1979-The pact of CUmar

(seventh century?)

Page 158



Norman A.Stillman-The Jews of arab land-1979- The Tetouan pogrom of 1790


The Tetouan pogrom of 1790

On the 17th of the past month (April 1790), as the new ruler (Mawlay Yazid) entered the city of Tetouan, he commanded that all the Jews should be gathered and imprisoned in a house, meanwhile permitting the Moors to rob all their homes and cellars, which they obeyed with their own particular ferocity. Thus, they stripped all the Jews and their wives of all the clothes which they had on their body with the greatest violence, so that these unfortunates not only had to watch all their belongings being stolen, but also had to bear the greatest injury to their honor. During all this, six or eight Jews lost their lives, not counting the large number of children who met a similar fate in such general disorder. For three full days most of the Jews remained naked in the prison. A few in order to escape from their personal misfortunes, fled to the graves of the Moorish saints where they were hardly certain of their lives.

At this point Mawlay Yazid ordered that the head of a Jew who had served his father, the late king, be cut off, and stuck it for display on the ramparts of the city. Another Jew, who for many years had overseen the Spanish ships in the Tetouan harbor at the order and petition of the consul—since at that time no Christian could remain there—was hung by his feet for thirty-six hours on account of sundry accusations of the Moroccans, until finally his head was cut off and his body burned.

He gave complete license to more than 2000 Blacks(2)  to plunder the houses of the Jews, which the above-mentioned hordes obeyed to the letter. But on top of this, their bestiality showed itself to such an extent that they stripped the Jewesses of their clothes, forthwith satisfied their desires with them, and then threw them naked into the streets. Some of these un­fortunates fled that very same night to the tomb of a Moorish saint, others to the mosque where they met the king. As he walked past them the fol­lowing day, they cried to him, “Long live Mawlay Yazid!” This appeared to touch the almost impervious heart of the tyrant a little, since he immeditely ordered it proclaimed by four heralds that those who in the future did any harm to a Jew or Jewess would be punished in the most severe fashion. But this order was all too late because all these families had already been ruined in reality.

Report of Franz von Dombay to the Hapsburg Chancellery (May 17, 1790), Marokko Karton 3, No. 17 in Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, Vienna, ed. and trans. N. A. Stillman, “Two Accounts of the Persecution of the Jews of Tetouan in 1790,” Michael, vol. 5 (Tel Aviv, 1978), pp. 133-41.

1-In 1770, Sidi Muhammad, Mawlay Yazld’s father, banned all further European residence in Tetouan after a Muslim woman was accidently wounded by a European while hunting. See William Lempriere, A Tour from Gibraltar to Tangier, Sallee, Mogodore, Santa Cruz, Tarudant . . . (London, 1791), p. 7; and Louis de Chenier, The Present State of the Empire of Morocco, vol. 1 (London, 1788), p. 19.

2-These were the Negro slave-soldiers known as the cabid al-Bukari. Concerning them, see Allan Richard Meyers, “The °Abid l-Buhari: Slave Soldiers and Statecraft in Morocco, 1762—1790” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell Uni­versity, 1974).


Norman A.Stillman-The Jews of arab land-1979- The Tetouan pogrom of 1790

The jews of arab land in modern times-Norman A. Stillman


A Letter from the Alliance Israelite universelle to Rabbi Raphael Abensur of Fez requesting his help in combating child marriage


Alliance Israélite Universelle  Paris, 27 September 1903

Dear Rabbi,

We were visited a few days ago by several notables from Fez. We discussed with them the situation of the community, and we are happy to note the progress realized these last years in Fez. These improvements are due to a variety of causes, among which, we believe our schools are the principal factor. We would be completely delighted to congratulate the Fez community, if it would renounce the sorry custom of child marriages prac­ticed by Jewish families.

Questioned by us on the means to putting an end to this deplorable practice, Messrs. Mimoun, David Cohen, and Raphael Azuelos were of the opinion that the cure for this evil depended upon you and your colleagues, Rabbis Vidal and Solomon Danan. They urged us to beg you to act on behalf of this among your coreligionists in Fez. You know as well as we, Rabbi, that our foremost talmudic authorities are hostile to child marriage. Does not the Pirka abot V,21 fix the age of marriage at eighteen?

There is no purpose for us to go on citing texts with which you are entirely familiar. Unfortunately, instead of following the advice of our sages, numerous communities have imitated the Arabs, who for a purpose that is hardly praiseworthy, marry off their children at an age when they should still be sitting on school benches. Morality and hygiene are no less opposed to this custom than is religion. Is it possible for two children who do not know all about life and its difficulties to set up a household already during their tender years, at age ten and even younger?

From the point of view of health, the dangers are of the greatest gravity: death during childbirth for many young wives, high infant mortality, and neglected hygienic care. What can one expect of a twelve-year-old mother and a fourteen-year-old father?

It is urgent that this custom disappear from our Moroccan coreligion­ists’ way of life. In Tangier and Tetouan, marriages of girls under fifteen have become rare. The community of Fez under the enlightened prompting of its rabbis must follow suit. We beg you, Rabbi, to join our efforts to check this evil. Make the parents understand the dangers that they are courting for their children by not conforming to our counsels. We are convinced that thanks to your high religious authority, you are better placed than anyone in Fez to undertake such a task.

André Chouraqui, Cent ans d’histoire (Paris, 1965), Annexe 5, no. 1, p. 458.

Jacques Bigart was the secretary of the Alliance at this time.

Rabbi Vidal is probably Rabbi Vidal Sarfaty (1862-1921). Rabbi Solomon Danan is Solomon Aben Danan (1848-1929), who at this time was Av Bet Din, or head of the rabbinical court of Fez. Aben Danan had been approached in 1897 by Joseph Bensimhon, the director of the Alliance School for Boys, with regard to this same matter. Aben Danan, however, had not been very helpful. See Michael M. Laskier, The Alliance Israélite Universelle and the Jewish Communities of Morocco: 1862-1962 (Albany, N.Y., 1983), p. 119. This may explain why the Alliance was turning in this letter to Rabbi Abensur, who was the scion of an equally distinguished dynasty of Fasi rabbis.


A European jew tries to rescue a girl from a child marriage in Morocco


A few weeks after we had moved in, we heard the cries and weeping of a child. These cries were coming from the undeveloped property facing our building, on which there were some shanties in which poor Moroccan Jewish families were living, six or eight to a room.

I went down in a bathrobe. A little girl of about eight years of age ran toward me in tears, begging me to protect her from a group of people who were gathered not far from there. I asked the others why the little waif was so frightened. They explained that the girl had been married the same day to a young man of twenty or thirty, whom they presented to me, and that the girl was afraid to go and pass the wedding night with her husband.

I was very upset. I called them savages and led the little girl away to pass the night in my house. The next day, I received a summons from the rabbinical court of Casablanca. I went there immediately.

At the court, I was told that I had been wrong to carry off this girl from her husband, who had married her in proper religious fashion. More­over, this sort of marriage took place frequently in Morocco and was com­pletely normal. I was then asked persistently to restore the little girl to her husband and his family, which I did with a heavy heart.

Afterward, the director of the Alliance Israélite confided in me that it often happened that parents remove their daughters from school at age eight in order to marry them off.

Ten or fifteen years after this incident with the little girl, a beautiful young woman came upon me in the old city of Casablanca, kissed my clothing, and told me that I had protected her from her husband and his family on her wedding night. She added that since then she was happy and had had two or three children.

Zede Schulman, Autobiographie: l’histoire de ma collection (Chatillon-sous-Bagneux, 1980), pp. 62-63.

Social Transformations

The jews of arab land in modern times

Norman A. Stillman

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