Mamelukes (1250 to 1517)

Under the Baḥri Mamelukes (1250–1390) the Jews led a comparatively quiet existence; though they had at times to contribute heavily toward the maintenance of the vast military equipment, and were harassed by the cadis and ulemas of these strict Moslems. Al-Maqrizi relates that the first great Mameluke, Sultan Baibars (Al-Malik al-Thahir, 1260–77), doubled the tribute paid by the "ahl al-dhimmah." At one time he had resolved to burn all the Jews, a ditch having been dug for that purpose; but at the last moment he repented, and instead exacted a heavy tribute, during the collection of which many perished.

An account is given in Sambari (135, 22) of the strictness with which the provisions of the Pact of Omar were carried out. The sultan had just returned from a victorious campaign against the Mongols in Syria (1305). A fanatical convert from Judaism, Sa'id ibn Ḥasan of Alexandria, was incensed at the arrogance of the non-Moslem population, particularly at the open manner in which services were conducted in churches and synagogues. He tried to form a synod of ten rabbis, ten priests, and the ulemas. Failing in this, he endeavored to have the churches and synagogues closed. Some of the churches were demolished by Alexandrian mobs; but most of the synagogues were allowed to stand, as it was shown that they had existed at the time of Omar, and were by the pact exempted from interference. Sambari (137, 20) says that a new pact was made at the instance of letters from a Moorish king of Barcelona (1309), and the synagogues were reopened; but this probably refers only to the reissuing of the Pact of Omar. There are extant several notable fatwās (responsa) of Moslem doctors touching this subject; e.g., those of Aḥmad ibn 'Abd al-Ḥaḳḳ, who speaks especially of the synagogues at Cairo, which on the outside appeared like ordinary dwelling-houses—a fact which had occasioned other legal writers to permit their presence. According to Taki al-Din ibn Taimiyyah (b. 1263), the synagogues and churches in Cairo had once before been closed. This fanatical Moslem fills his fatwās with invectives against the Jews, holding that all their religious edifices ought to be destroyed, since they had been constructed during a period when Cairo was in the hands of heterodox Moslems, Ismailians, Karmatians, and Nusairis (R. E. J. xxx. 1, xxxi. 212; Z. D. M. G. liii. 51). The synagogues were, however, allowed to stand (Weil, l.c. iv. 270). Under the same sultan (1324) the Jews were accused of incendiarism at Fostat and Cairo; they had to exculpate themselves by a payment of 50,000 gold pieces.

Under the Burji Mamelukes the Franks again attacked Alexandria (1416), and the laws against the Jews were once more strictly enforced by Sheik al-Mu'ayyid (1412–21); by Ashraf Bars Bey (1422–38), because of a plague which decimated the population in 1438; by Al-Ẓahir Jaḳmaḳ (1438–53); and by Ḳa'iṭ-Bey (1468–95). The lastnamed is referred to by Obadiah of Bertinoro (O. p. 53). The Jews of Cairo were compelled to pay 75,000 gold pieces


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