April 22, 2014
David J. Wasserstein, a professor of Jewish History at Vanderbilt University, will lecture on “How Islam Saved the Jews” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
The free, public lecture will take place at UAB’s Volker Hall, Lecture Room A, 1670 University Blvd. The event is co-sponsored by the UAB Department of History and the Birmingham Islamic Society.
“It’s a chance for Jews and Muslims who are now often at odds politically to reflect on our glorious historical past and for a moment forget about our political differences, and work on future peace,” said Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society.
Wasserstein will discuss how the spread of Islam after Muslims conquered Mecca in 630 A.D. led to a thriving Muslim culture that also allowed a thriving Jewish subculture, until about 1300 A.D.
“Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond,” Wasserstein wrote in The Jewish Chronicle. “Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms – all for the better.”
If not for the Muslim conquests, Jewish culture might have died out, Wasserstein believes.