According to classic Islamic law and historical memory, Jews and Christians living under Muslim rule are governed according to a set of rules authorized by the great `Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, the second caliph and the noble conqueror who carved out the imposing empire of Islam. These rules established legal status for monotheistic religious minorities, but only as second-class citizens subject to debilitating and often humiliating restrictions. According to ancient Jewish sources, however, Muhammad had already ensured full and extraordinary rights for Jews based on the vital aid that they gave to Muhammad, aid that saved him and his community from destruction at a time of terrible stress. This presentation will examine the ancient Jewish document, including the endorsement of Prophet Muhammad and his closest companions, and will retell the story of Jewish heroism that served as the reason for its creation. But did it ever happen?
Rabbi Dr. Reuven Firestone is the Regenstein Professor in medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, Senior Fellow of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California, and founder of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement in Los Angeles. Author of eight books and over one hundred scholarly articles translated into a dozen languages on Judaism, Islam, their relationship with one another and with Christianity, and phenomenology of religion, Rabbi Firestone has lived in Israel, Egypt and Germany and lectures at universities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East as well as throughout North America. He is a regular speaker in synagogues, mosques and churches. His books include Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims; An Introduction to Islam for Jews; Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam; and Who are the Real Chosen People: The Meaning of “Chosenness” in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and Holy War in Judaism: the Fall and Rise of a Controversial Idea. He received rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College and his Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from New York University. He has served as Vice President of the Association for Jewish Studies and President of the International Qur’anic Studies Association.