“Be Brothers”—Case Studies of Muslim Receptions of Refugees in History
Published: September 13, 2018 • Updated: October 20, 2020
Author: Abdul Rahman Latif
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
In Theory and Earliest Practice
And [also for] those who were settled in Medina and [adopted] the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul - it is those who will be the successful. (Qur’an 59:9)
When the Crusaders Took Jerusalem
They departed at night for Ascalon where they remained… In Ramadan men came to Baghdad from Syria seeking assistance, accompanied by the Qadi Abu Sa’d al-Harawi. They recounted in the court a narrative which brought tears to the eye and pained the heart. They demonstrated in the mosque on Friday and cried out for help, weeping and reducing others to tears. A tale was told of the killing of men, the enslavement of women and children and the plundering of property that had fallen upon the Muslims in that revered august place...The rulers were divided… and so the Franks conquered the land.
By Allah, if one half of the people were on my side, I would risk hurling them against the other half; even if a third were on my side, I would risk hurling them against the other two-thirds rather than risk parting with thee! But as it is, all the people have coalesced against me, and I have become powerless. But wherever thou mayest be, the friendship between us shall ever remain at its best.
In the Face of the Reconquista
(the Lord) let us find mercy with Sultan Bayezid, the king of Turkey—so that he received the Jews with friendship and issued ‘a proclamation throughout his realm by word of mouth and in writing as follows’ (Ezra 1:1): ‘Whosoever wishes to dwell in My kingdom and My realm may gladly come and shall not delay.’
World War II Albania
In 1943, at the time of Ramadan, seventeen people came to our village of Shengjergji from Tirana. They were all escaping from the Germans… My family took in three brothers by the name of Lazar. We were poor—we didn’t even have a dining table—but we never allowed them to pay for the food and shelter. I went in to the forest to chop wood and haul water. We grew vegetables in our garden so we all had plenty to eat. The Jews were sheltered in our village for fifteen months. We dressed them all as farmers, like us. Even the local police knew that the villagers were sheltering Jews. I remember they spoke many different languages… All of our villagers were Muslims. We were sheltering God’s children under our Besa.
1 Qur’an 7:200, 23:97; Sahih al-Bukhari 6371; Jami` at-Tirmidhi 3604; Sunan Abi Dawud 1552.
2 Sunan Abi Dawud 4941.
3 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah, Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr. Iʻlām al-Muwaqqiʻīn ’an Rabb al-’ Ālamīn. Edited by Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Salām Ibrāhīm. (Bayrut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʻIlmiyah, 1991), 1:150.
4 UNHCR, Global Trends-Forced Displacement in 2016, (UNHCR: Geneva, Switzerland, 2016), 2.
5 "3 Real Stories from Refugees." World Economic Forum. Accessed July 30, 2018.https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/12/3-real-stories-from-refugees/.
6 Arnold, Katie. "Tales of Horror from Myanmar: "They Burned My Daughter Alive." CNN. Accessed July 30, 2018. http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2017/09/world/myanmar-rohingya-refugee-stories/.
7 "What Is a Refugee? Definition and Meaning | USA for UNHCR." Refugee Crisis in Yemen: Aid, Statistics and News | USA for UNHCR. Accessed June 26, 2018. https://www.unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/what-is-a-refugee/.
8 UNHCR, Global Trends, 14-15.
9 Shoukri, Arafat Madi, Refugee Status in Islam: Concepts of Protection in Islamic Tradition and International Law, (London: I.B. Tauris, 2011), 3-6, 31, 43.
10 Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4358.
11 Sunan an-Nasa'i 4735; Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1579.
12 See Shoukri, Refugee Status, 45-66.
14 Translated by Abd al-Salam M. Harun. Ibn Hishām, ʻAbd al-Malik, 'Abd al-Salam Muhammad Harun, and Inas Amin Farid. Sirat Ibn Hisham: Biography of the Prophet, (Cairo: al-Falah Foundation, 2000), 112.
15 Translated by Ibn al-Athīr, ʻIzz al-Dīn, and D. S. Richards. The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athīr for the Crusading Period from al-Kāmil fīʼl-taʼrīkh. 2010, year 492.
16 Maalouf, Amin., and Rothschild, Jon, The Crusades through Arab Eyes. 1st American ed.,(New York: Schocken Books, 1985), 11-13.
17 Ibid., year 492.
“William of Tyre indicates that the Egyptian government used to pay a stipend to every individual in the city (Ascalon).” Dajani‐Shakeel, Hadia. "Displacement of the Palestinians During the Crusades *." Muslim World 68, no. 3 (1978):158-161, 167-168, 172-174.
18 Miura, Tōru, Dynamism in the Urban Society of Damascus: The Ṣāliḥiyya Quarter from the Twelfth to the Twentieth Centuries. Islamic Area Studies (Brill); v. 2. (Boston: Leiden: Brill, 2015), 55-58.
19 Translated by Philip K. Hitti in Usāmah ibn Munqidh, and Philip Khuri Hitti. An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades: Memoirs of Usāmah Ibn-Munqidh; Translated from the Original Manuscript by Philip K. Hitti,(New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 26-28.
20 Ibid., 28.
21 Translated by Martin Jacobs. Jacobs, Martin, "Exposed to All the Currents of the Mediterranean--A Sixteenth-Century Venetian Rabbi on Muslim History." Association for Jewish Studies. AJS Review 29, no. 1 (2005): 45.
22 Ibid, 45; Meddeb, Meddeb, Abdelwahab, Todd, Jane Marie, Smith, Michael B., and Stora, Benjamin, A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 178-185.
23 Shaw, Stanford J., The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic, (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), 52.
24 Meddeb et. al., A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations, 187.
25 Finkel, Caroline, Osman's Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923, (New York: Basic Books, 2006), 216-217.
26 Kiel, W., "Notes on the History of Some Turkish Monuments in Thessaloniki and Their Founders (with 8 Plates)," Balkan Studies 11, no. 1 (1970): 142.
27 Quoted in Harvey, L. P., Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 358.
28 Ibid., 357-361.
29 Bailey, Louis, Bethan Harries, Saima Latif, and Humaira Saeed. "Besa: Muslims Saved Jews in World War II." Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World 2, no. 2 (2011): 86.
30 Gershman, Norman H., Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II. 1st ed.,(Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2008), 2.
31 Ibid., 4-10.
32 Straub, David. “Jews in Albania,” in Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences, and Culture, Edited by Ehrlich, and Ehrlich, (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2009), 943-944.
33 Sarner, Harvey. Rescue in Albania: One Hundred Percent of Jews in Albania Rescued from the Holocaust. 1st ed. Cathedral City, Calif.: Brunswick Press, 1997.
34 Muslims protected Jews against the Nazis elsewhere as well. In Paris, Imam Benghabrit “provided refuge and certificates of Muslim identity to a small number of Jews to allow them to evade arrest and deportation.”Sciolino, Elaine. "How a Paris Mosque Sheltered Jews in the Holocaust." The New York Times. October 03, 2011. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/movies/how-a-paris-mosque-sheltered-jews-in-the-holocaust.html.