Caliphate, Featured, Non-Muslims

Jewish Immigration to the Islamic State

After the liberation of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, Jewish refugees from all over Europe were encouraged to settle in the country and to take advantage of the liberal treatment accorded them by the Sultan. When the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid heard about the expulsion of the Jews from Spain by King Ferdinand, he said: “Can you call such a king wise and intelligent? He is impoverishing his country and enriching my kingdom.”

Its well established in history that Jews flourished in the Islamic State after their expulsion from Spain with some reaching senior positions within the society. Moses Hamon, for example, who after fleeing Spain with his father, became the physician for Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Caliph.

Hans Dernschwam, a travelling agent of the Fugger banking house, describes the Jews in Turkey in his travel diary:

In Turkey you will find in every town innumerable Jews of all countries and languages. And every Jewish group sticks together in accordance with its language. Wherever Jews have been expelled in any land they all come together in Turkey, as thick as vermin; speak German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Czechish, Polish, Greek, Turkish, Syriac, Chaldean and other languages besides these. As is their custom, everyone wears clothes in accordance with the language he speaks.

In Constantinople, the Jews are thick as ants. The Jews themselves say that they are very numerous. They live in the lower part of the city near the sea. Those Jews that are old, who have a little money, travel to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem, and still hope that they will one day all come together, from all countries, into their own native land and there secure hold of the government. The well-to-do Jews send money to Jerusalem to support them, for one cannot make any money there …

Many Marranos that is Jews who turned Christian, as in Spain or voluntarily became Christians in other places all come to Turkey and become Jews again. The Jews of Constantinople also have a printing press and print many rare books. They have goldsmiths, lapidaries, painters, tailors, butchers, druggists, physicians, surgeons, cloth-weavers, wound-surgeons, barbers, mirror-makers, dyers, silk-workers, gold-washers, refiners of ores, assayers, engravers …

The Jews do not allow any of their own to go about begging. They have collectors who go from house to house and collect into a common chest for the poor. This is used to support the poor and the hospital.

These actions of the Ottomans were part of the well-established Islamic values of treating non-Muslim citizens known as Dhimmi (people of covenant) with good treatment.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “He who harms a person under covenant, or charged him more than he can, I will argue against him on the Day of Judgement.” (Narrated by Yahya b. Adam in Al-Kharaaj)