Under Turkish Rule, Part I
Part II, Part III
By Andrew G. Bostom
Danish translation: Under tyrkisk styre, del 1
Source: FrontPageMagazine.com, July 27, 2007
Published on myIslam.dk : May 28, 2013

Originally this essay was published on FrontPageMagazine.com in two parts. Here it is presented in three parts in order to provide better access to the notes. The text is the same. (ed.)


Ignorance about the plight of Jews under Turkish rule—past, including Ottoman Palestine, and present—is profound. In lieu of serious, critical examination one finds whitewashed apologetics concocted to promote dubious geo-political strategies—even the morally bankrupt denial of the Armenian genocide—as promoted, shamefully, by public intellectuals and major US Jewish organizations who abet the exploitation of their co-religionist Turkish Jews as dhmmi “lobbyists” for the government of Turkey. These strategies have “succeeded”, perversely, in further isolating Jews, while failing, abysmally, to alter a virulently Antisemitic Turkish religious (i.e., Islamic), and secular culture—the latter perhaps best exemplified by the wildly popular, and most expensive film ever made in Turkey, “Valley of the Wolves” (released February, 2006) which features an American Jewish doctor dismembering Iraqis brutally murdered by American soldiers in order to harvest their organs for Jewish markets. Prime Minister Erdogan not only failed to condemn the film, he justified its production and popularity.

The ruling AK (Adalet ve Kalkınma) Party’s resounding popular electoral victory July 22, 2007 over its closest “secularist” rival parties is further evidence of Turkey’s steady re-Islamization. Indeed this trend dates literally to the first election during which Turkish voters were offered any option other than one party rule under Ataturk’s CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Party)—in 1950, when Menderes’ Demokrat Party (DP) pursued a successful electoral strategy by pandering to an Islamic “re-awakening.” Upon election, the DP supported religious schools, and a mosque construction initiative; it also allowed Sufi orders to reappear, and many of their followers then actively supported DP candidates in elections. Already by 1952, Bernard Lewis warned, presciently, about the open re-emergence of Islam in Turkey with the 1950 ascent of Menderes’ DP just twelve years after Atatürk’s death.

Ataturk’s regime and the CHP-lead Republican governments of his successors manifested their own discriminatory attitudes towards non-Muslims, generally, including specific outbursts of antisemitic persecution—most notably the Thracian pogroms of July, 1934. But since 1950, both the Turkish press and Islamic literature have steadily increased their output of theological Islamic anti-Semitism—founded upon core anti-Jewish motifs in the Koran, hadith, and sira. This theologically-based anti-Jewish animus grew steadily in stridency, and during the 1970s through 1990s, was melded into anti-Zionist and anti-Israel invective by the burgeoning fundamentalist Islamic movement under Necmettin Erbakan—the former Turkish Prime Minister, and mentor of the current AK Party Prime Minister, Tayyip Recep Erdogan, whose own Islamic fundamentalist (see here, and here), and virulently Antisemitic leanings are well-documented. For example, in 1974, Erdogan, then serving as president of the Istanbul Youth Group of the Islamist National Salvation Party (founded by Erbakan), wrote, directed, and played the leading role in a theatrical play entitled Maskomya, staged throughout Turkey during the 1970s. Mas-Kom-Ya was a compound acronym for “Masons-Communists-Yahudi [Jews]”, and the play focused on the evil, conspiratorial nature of these three entities whose common denominator was Judaism.

The steady recrudescence of fundamentalist Islam in Turkey since 1950—epitomized by the overwhelming re-election of the AKP—does not bode well for either the dhimmified vestigial Jewish community of Turkey, or long term relations between Turkey and the Jewish State of Israel. But the plight of Turkey’s Jews and the other vestigial non-Muslim Turkish minorities reveals a more profound challenge which modern Turkey has failed to overcome since its origins under Ataturk in 1923—steering a truly progressive course between the Scylla of autocratic secular Kemalist nationalism (whose often racist theories are still being taught), and the Charybdis of a totalitarian, politicized Islam.

Full Article - Part I

The ruling AK (Adalet ve Kalkınma) Party’s resounding popular electoral victory July 27, 2007 over its closest “secularist” rival parties—the CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk) and MHP (Milliyetçi Hareket) receiving 20% and 15% of the vote, respectively, to the AKP’s 47%—is further evidence of Turkey’s steady re-Islamization. Indeed this trend dates literally to the first election during which Turkish voters were offered any option other than one party rule under Ataturk’s CHP—in 1950, when Menderes’ Demokrat Party (DP) pursued a successful electoral strategy by pandering to an Islamic “re-awakening.” Upon election, the DP supported religious schools, and a mosque construction initiative; it also allowed Sufi orders to reappear, and many of their followers then actively supported DP candidates in elections. Already by 1952, Bernard Lewis warned, [1] presciently, about the open re-emergence of Islam in Turkey with the 1950 ascent of Menderes’ DP just twelve years after Atatürk’s death.

…the deepest Islamic roots of Turkish life and culture are still alive, and the ultimate identity of Turk and Muslim in Turkey is still unchallenged. The resurgence of Islam after a long interval responds to a profound national need. The occasional outburst of the tarikas [Sufi “dervish” orders], far more than the limited restoration of official Islam, show how powerful are the forces stirring beneath the surface. The path that the revival will take is still not clear. If simple reaction has its way, much of the work of the last century will be undone, and Turkey will slip back into the darkness from which she painfully emerged.

Ataturk’s regime and the CHP-lead Republican governments of his successors manifested their own discriminatory attitudes towards non-Muslims, generally, including specific outbursts of antisemitic persecution—most notably the Thracian pogroms of July, 1934. But since 1950, both the Turkish press and Islamic literature have steadily increased their output of theological Islamic antisemitism—founded upon core anti-Jewish motifs in the Koran, hadith, and sira. This theologically-based anti-Jewish animus grew steadily in stridency, and during the 1970s through 1990s, was melded into anti-Zionist and anti-Israel invective by the burgeoning fundamentalist Islamic movement under Necmettin Erbakan—the former Turkish Prime Minister, and mentor of the current AK Party Prime Minister, Tayyip Recep Erdogan, whose own Islamic fundamentalist (see here, and here), and virulently Antisemitic leanings are well-documented. Even after the murderous November 15, 2003 jihadist bombings of two Istanbul synagogues (Neve Shalom and Beth Israel), Erdogan and the AKP government never denounced the ongoing (see here, here, and here) fundamentalist Islamic antisemitic discourse—from which he and his party emerged—but claimed to have abandoned.

This two-part essay [on myIslam in three parts, ed.] examines at length the tragic living legacy of Turkish antisemitism: from the archetypal Islamic Jew hatred and general anti-dhimmi attitudes of the Ottoman Empire, to their persistence and transmogrification into racially-based antisemitism by the bizarre and bigoted Turco-centric racial theories promoted under Ataturk and his successors.

From Andalusia to the Ottoman Empire

The brutal jihad conquests of the Berber Muslim Almohads—followed by their discriminatory practices as rulers—resulted in a massive emigration of Jews and forced Jewish converts to Islam from both Almohad-controlled Spain, and the North African Maghreb, to the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula. [2] During the first half of the 13th century, Jaime the I of Aragon, in particular, as Garcia-Arenal notes, [3]

…created a general policy of sheltering Jews in his territories, granting “guidage”, safe conduct, and letters of naturalization to all Jews who, by land or sea were able to come and establish themselves in the states of Majorca, Catalonia, and Valencia. Among these documents are preserved the safe-conduct passes granted to two Jewish families from Sijilmasa, dated 1247, Valencia. For some time prior to this, Jewish converts to Islam had been permitted to return to their former religion if they so wished.

Between 1367 and 1417, however, Spanish Jewry, including the descendants of those Jews who had escaped the Muslim Almohad depredations, experienced an era of “furious persecutions”, [4] including anti-Jewish pogroms, which caused the majority of Spanish Jews to abjure their faith under coercion and convert to Christianity (becoming “Marranos”). [5] Subsequently those Marranos whose conversion was deemed “insincere”, would be subjected to the fanaticism of the Spanish Inquisition, officially decreed by the Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella on September, 27, 1480. [6] Following the issuance of an “expulsion” decree in 1492—a dozen years after the founding of the Inquisition—until 1499, as Henry Kamen has established, only a minority of Jews left Spain—most decided to convert. [7] Indeed, as Kamen observes, [8]

The “expulsion” decree of 1492 was a decree aimed not at expulsion but at conversion.

Moreover a total of perhaps 40,000—50,000 Jews were expelled between 1492-99, and no more than half of those sought refuge under the suzerainty of Ottoman Muslim rule (debunking the ahistorical notion of an en masse Jewish emigration to the Ottoman Empire). Kamen describes these events as follows: [9]

…emigration to the Ottoman Empire certainly took place, but slowly and in stages. Many exiles fled from the Mediterranean coast of Spain, but virtually all went only to the neighboring countries; the difficulty of arranging sea transport is sufficient explanation for the limited radius of movement, though the important fact must also be borne in mind that Judaism was tolerated in all the territories concerned, and there was little need to go as far as the Levant.
Thanks to the public toleration of Judaism in neighboring territory (Navarre, Portugal, Provence), little migration from the peninsula took place except among communities which faced the Mediterranean coast, and which therefore were forced to take ship. Possibly over 10,000 Jews left the Mediterranean coast in 1492 and 1493, but many of these were Castilian and not exclusively Aragonese; the figure of 10,000, in any case, is our ceiling for the likely total of all Jews in the crown of Aragon. If we accept the Jewish total for Castile as being around 70,000 persons in 1492, we may allow that over half of these emigrated; but it was an emigration that was in great measure reversed by the high number of returnees, so that the possible final emigration from Castile may not have been much above 30,000 persons. Even allowing for a possible overlap between this figure and that given above for Aragon, the total Spanish emigration looks like being closer to 40,000 or 50,000...

To complete this morose cycle of persecution, the vacuum filled by those Jews expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century, and relocated by the Ottomans, for example, in the regions of Salonika, and Constantinople (Istanbul), itself, was created when their co-religionist counterparts—the Jews living under Byzantine rule—were subjected to massacre, pillage, enslavement, and deportation by these same Ottoman conquerors, during their jihad campaigns of the early to mid-15th century. [10]

Ottoman “Tolerance”: Jews Under Ottoman Rule—From Jihad, to Sürgün, to Dhimmitude

Wittek, citing the oldest known Ottoman source, the versified chronicle of Ahmedi, maintains that the 14th century Ottomans believed they (too), “ were a community of Ghazis, of champions of the Mohammedan religion; a community of the Moslem march- warriors, devoted to the struggle with the infidels in their neighborhood” [11]

Sir Paul Rycaut (1629-1700) served as a Dragoman (Turkish interpreter) and assistant to the British ambassador (starting in 1665), before being appointed British Consul to Smyrna for eleven years (1667-1678). [12] Rycaut also wrote major historical works on the Ottoman Empire, one of which described the importance attached to the “Office of the Mufti” [12a] :

The Mufti (or Shaykh al Islam) [12b] is the principal head of the Mahometan Religion or Oracle of all doubtful questions in the Law, and is a person of great esteem amongst the Turks; his election is solely in the Grand Signor [Sultan], who chooses a man to that Office always famous for his Learning in the Law and eminent for his virtues and strictness of Life; his Authority is so great amongst them, that when he passes judgment or Determination in any point, the Grand Signor himself will in no wise [ways] contradict or oppose it…In matters of State the Sultan demands his opinion, whether it be in Condemnation of any great man to Death, or in making War or Peace, or other important Affairs of the Empire; either to appear the more just and religious, or to incline the People more willingly to Obedience. And this practice is used in business of greatest moment; scarce a Visier [Vizier] is proscribed, or a Pashaw [Pasha] for pretence of crime displaced, or any matter of great alteration or change designed, but the Grand Signor arms himself with the Muft’s Sentence…

Molla Khosrew (d. 1480) was a celebrated writer and Hanafi jurist, who was appointed the Ottoman Shaykh-al-Islam by Sultan Mehmed II in 1469. [12c] One of Molla Khosrew’s authoritative, widely cited legal works, reiterated these classical views on jihad: [12d]

…jihad is a fard al-kifaya, that is, that one must begin the fight against the enemy, even when he [the enemy] may not have taken the initiative to fight, because the Prophet...early on…allowed believers to defend themselves, later, however, he ordered them to take the initiative at certain times of the year, that is, at the end of the haram months, saying, “Kill the idolaters wherever you find them...” (Q 9:5). He finally ordered fighting without limitations, at all times and in all places, saying, “Fight those who do not believe in God, and in the Last Day...”(Q9:29); there are also other [similar] verses on the subject. This shows that it is a fard al-kifaya.

The contemporary Turkish scholar of Ottoman history, Halil Inalcik, has emphasized how this conception of jihad—as formulated by Molla Khosrew, and both his predecessors and followers—was a primary motivation for the conquests of the Ottoman Turks. [13]

The ideal of gaza, Holy War, was an important factor in the foundation and development of the Ottoman state. Society in the frontier principalities conformed to a particular cultural pattern imbued with the ideal of continuous Holy War and continuous expansion of the Dar ul Islam-the realms of Islam- until they covered the whole world.

Incited by pious Muslim theologians, these ghazis were at the vanguard of (both the earlier Seljuk Turk) and Ottoman jihad conquests. A.E. Vacalopoulos highlights the role of the dervishes during the Ottoman campaigns: [14]

…fanatical dervishes and other devout Muslim leaders…constantly toiled for the dissemination of Islam. They had done so from the very beginning of the Ottoman state and had played an important part in the consolidation and extension of Islam. These dervishes were particularly active in the uninhabited frontier regions of the east. Here they settled down with their families, attracted other settlers, and thus became the virtual founders of whole new villages, whose inhabitants invariably exhibited the same qualities of deep religious fervor. From places such as these, the dervishes or their agents would emerge to take part in new military enterprises for the extension of the Islamic state.

Vryonis has provided this schematic, clinical assessment of the jihad conquest and colonization of Asia Minor by the Seljuks and Ottoman Turks: [15]

The conquest, or should I say the conquests of Asia Minor were in operation over a period of four centuries. Thus the Christian societies of Asia Minor were submitted to extensive periods of intense warfare, incursions, and destructions which undermined the existence of the Christian church. In the first century of Turkish conquests and invasions from the mid-eleventh to the late twelfth century, the sources reveal that some 63 towns and villages were destroyed. The inhabitants of other towns and villages were enslaved and taken off to the Muslim slave markets.

The Islamization of Asia Minor was complemented by parallel and subsequent Ottoman jihad campaigns in the Balkans. [16] As of 1326 C.E., yearly razzias by the emirs of Asia Minor targeted southern Thrace, southern Macedonia, and the coastal areas of southern Greece. Around 1360 C.E., the Ottomans, under Suleiman (son of Sultan Orchan), and later Sultan Murad I (1359-1389), launched bona fide campaigns of jihad conquest, capturing and occupying a series of cities and towns in Byzantine and Bulgarian Thrace. Following the battle of Cernomen (September 26, 1371), the Ottomans penetrated westward, occupying within 15 years, a large number of towns in western Bulgaria, and in Macedonia. Ottoman invasions during this period also occurred in the Peloponnesus [or “Morea”, the southern Greek peninsula], central Greece, Epirus, Thessaly, Albania, and Montenegro. By 1388 most of northeast Bulgaria was conquered, and following the battle of Kosovo (1389), Serbia came under Ottoman suzerainty. Bayezid I (1389-1402) undertook devastating campaigns in Bosnia, Hungary, and Wallachia, in addition to turning south and again attacking central Greece and the Peloponnesus. After a hiatus during their struggle against the Mongol invaders, the Ottomans renewed their Balkan offensive in 1421. Successful Ottoman campaigns were waged in the Peloponnesus, Serbia, and Hungary, culminating with the victory at the second Battle of Kosovo (1448). With the accession to power of Mehmed II, the Ottomans commenced their definitive conquest of the Balkan peninsula. Constantinople was captured on May 29, 1453, marking the end of the Byzantine Empire. By 1460, the Ottomans had completely vanquished both Serbia and the Peloponnesus. Bosnia and Trebizond fell in 1463, followed by Albania in 1468. With the conquest of Herzegovina in 1483, the Ottomans became rulers of the entire Balkan peninsula. Angelov, highlighting the later campaigns of Murad II (1421-1451) and Mehmed II (1451-1481), described the impact of the Ottoman jihad on the vanquished Balkan populations. [17]

…the conquest of the Balkan Peninsula accomplished by the Turks over the course of about two centuries caused the incalculable ruin of material goods, countless massacres, the enslavement and exile of a great part of the population — in a word, a general and protracted decline of productivity, as was the case with Asia Minor after it was occupied by the same invaders. This decline in productivity is all the more striking when one recalls that in the mid-fourteenth century, as the Ottomans were gaining a foothold on the peninsula, the States that existed there – Byzantium, Bulgaria and Serbia – had already reached a rather high level of economic and cultural development....The campaigns of Murad II (1421-1451) and especially those of his successor, Mehmed II (1451-1481) in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania and in the Byzantine princedom of the Peloponnesus, were of a particularly devastating character…It [the Peloponnesus] was invaded in 1446 by the armies of Murad II, which destroyed a great number of places and took thousands of prisoners. Twelve years later, during the summer of 1458, the Balkan Peninsula was invaded by an enormous Turkish army under the command of Mehmed II and his first lieutenant Mahmoud Pasha. After a siege that lasted four months, Corinth fell into enemy hands. Its walls were razed, and many places that the sultan considered useless were destroyed. The work by Kritobulos contains an account of the Ottoman campaigns, which clearly shows us the vast destruction caused by the invaders in these regions. Two years later another Turkish army burst into the Peloponnesus. This time Gardiki and several other places were ruined. Finally, in 1464, for the third time, the destructive rage of the invaders was aimed at the Peloponnesus. That was when the Ottomans battled the Venetians and leveled the city of Argos to its foundations.

The Initial Incorporation of the Jews into the Ottoman Empire: From Jihad to Sürgün

Joseph Hacker’s pioneering scholarship [18] has revealed the origins of another myth—that of a remarkable Ottoman Muslim benevolence toward Jews. Hacker notes that historians since Heinrich Graetz (who, as discussed earlier, [19] also promoted the ahistorical notion of a “Golden Age” Muslim-Jewish symbiosis in an ecumenical Muslim Spain), [20]

…described in idyllic colors the evolution of relations and links between the Jews and Ottomans, and even the happenings of the conquest of Constantinople and the fate of the Jews of the city were not depicted authentically. These approaches affected the understanding of the scholars of the Ottoman Empire who relied on students of Jewish history and upon “their sources”. Thus they tended to continue to minimize and swallow up all tensions in those relations and links, and to describe them as idyllic only.

Hacker’s research singles out the 1523 book of the Talmudist Eliyah Kapsali (Seder Eliyah Zuta) composed in Crete in 1523, and its embellishment by the 17th century Egyptian chronicler Rabbi Yosef Sambari (probably from Alexandria) in his Divrei Yosef, [21]

…that became the version accepted by modern historiography of the history of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire, and the sürgün [forced population transfer] phenomenon and all its attendant [discriminatory] features features was not considered at all. If the sürgün was mentioned at all in the writings of the [Jewish] scholars of the Empire, it was held to be an insignificant, indecisive episode in the history of the Jews. The relations between Jews and Ottomans were thus felt to be both idyllic and monotonous from their very inception, no distinction being made either between kinds of Jewish populations or between one period and another throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Kapsali conceals all criticism and tries to cover up and obliterate inconvenient facts…This is also apparently the reason for his utterly ignoring the Romaniot [Byzantine] Jews and their fate at the time of the conquest of Constantinople, and of the suffering of the others exiled there after the conquest.

The Jews, like other inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire, suffered heavily from the Ottoman jihad conquests, [22] and policies of colonization and forced population transfer (i.e., the sürgün system). [22a] This also explains the disappearance of several Jewish communities, including Salonika, and their founding anew by Jewish immigrants from Spain. [22b] Moreover, even these Spanish Jewish immigrants could subsequently be subjected to sürgün deportations (as were elite families of Spanish Jews settled in Salonika [~1508], and then exiled to Rhodes in 1523), [23] with relegation, thereafter, to permanent sürgün status.

Hacker emphasizes how the sürgün (the meanings of the root “sür” and the suffix “gün” include exile, persecution, and expulsion [24] ) decrees of obligatory transfer were experienced as a punishment which its victims sought to avoid. [25] Those who refused to emigrate once ordered, could be put to death, [26] and Hacker describes the lasting impact of being designated “sürgün”—a form of vassalage that restricted movement and social interactions, and resulted in economic penalties, including double taxation: [27]

…it is completely evident that departing and settling in the ruined city [i.e., Constantinople] were considered a severe decree. A study of the status and obligations of a person exiled by decree of the authorities shows that from the time the person exiled to a certain region he was forbidden to leave it without permission of the shubashi (the chief of police) or some other representative of the authorities. Not only he himself was forbidden to leave the area, his children were likewise forbidden to leave, and he was sometimes forbidden to marry a person who was not, like himself, an exile. Furthermore he was obliged to engage in certain occupations if it was for this occupation that he had been exiled and was not permitted to change his occupation. Though he enjoyed a partial tax exemption for a given period of time and in most cases a dwelling place, as well, the property (real estate) he had owned in his previous domicile was on occasion taken from him by the authorities—without compensation, and sometimes divided up amongst the military. These limitations on his freedom would continue indefinitely. In fact a person becoming a sürgün would assume a special appropriate legal status which differentiated clearly between him and the other residents of the regions in his personal status, in his freedom of movement, and sometimes in his occupation as well. In Istanbul, for example, all new arrivals were first organized in special neighborhoods and in predetermined areas according to their origin, and were not permitted to move to other parts of the city to reside.
When a person was registered by the authorities as a sürgün, and when he had been sent to his new place of residence, this sürgün status adhered to him and his offspring until “the end of time.” No one was able to free himself of this status, which obligated him—first and foremost—to be a vassal of his place of residence, without the ability to leave it before first having obtained the permission of the authorities. This limitation had decisive effects on the lives both of the individual and the general public. This topic comes up quite a few times in the sources available, both with respect to the individual and regarding the public. Concerning the individual, the subject is mentioned with regard to brides and bridegrooms who were sürgün: one of the parties involved considered this to be justification for cancellation of the wedding. People were also unable to leave their place for either the purpose of bearing witness or for a legal session elsewhere. However, the more complex subject which surely left its impression on the lives of these Jews is that of double taxation. The sürgün’s status as a vassal to his place of residence was expressed on occasion not so much by virtue of his physical presence in his place of exile as by his registration in the authorties’ taxation books. The individual was sometimes permited to leave the city for a limited or lengthy period of time, on condition that he pay his taxes at the place where he was registered. This arrangement would lead to the community where he actually resided (lived and worked there) demanding that he pay taxes to the authorities and to the community in his place of active residence. And though at first glance, he was exempt from this by Ottoman law (at least insofar as paying taxes to the authorities), the communities refused to concede, for in their opinion the taxes were determined by the tax collectors according to the quantity of the economic activity and the number of people in the community. They claimed that the authorities imposed their taxes on the community without taking into consideration the fact that a person was sürgün and paid his taxes elsewhere.
As a result those Romaniot [Byzantine] Jews exiled to Istanbul in the fifteenth century, who asked permission to leave the town for economic activities, had to receive permits for that from the authorities (either the shubashi or his assistant, or by agreement of the directors of the wakf [Muslim religious endowment, typically plots of land and/or buildings; like a “trust”] to which they paid their taxes, for the money was earmarked for this wakf from the very earliest of times, when they were exiled to Istanbul). When they received their permit to leave or when they left without a permit, and operated in another town, the community in which they lived would not agree to give up its portion of the taxes in their new place. Thus, every such person was obliged to pay double taxes. From the available Hebrew sources it would seem that this demand remained valid as late as the seventeenth century; it may even have grown stronger as the Romaniots left town in larger and larger numbers. It was a serious economic obstacle for the descendants of the Romaniots, most of whom were sürgün, and for the descendants of those Spanish and Portuguese emigrés who became sürgün as a result of one of the sixteenth-century conquests.
From a letter by the scholars of Istanbul written between 1601 and 1605 to assist a Romaniot Jew of Istanbul, we learn that about one hundred and fifty years after they became sürgün, this status was still an obstacle for their descendants. And though “individuals became nay and [the authorities] no longer distinguished between Romaniot and Spaniard,” the Romaniot congregations responsible for the payment of their members’ taxes in Instanbul did not facilitate a person’s leaving “unless he guaranteed his congregation by means of a certain guarantor who would pay for him any tax requirement and levy imposed by the crown.” This encumbrance of being vassal to a place, or at least this heavy financial obligation to one’s previous place of residence, was a burden endured by the vast majority of Romaniots, and it seems that only a few Spanish Jews were encumbered by it. The problem was well known, and suffices to explain somewhat the Romaniot inferiority, whose legal and economic status was inferior to those of the migrants from Europe (even though they were the more ancient population group). This is a surprising situation whereby it was preferable to be a migrant Jew from a foreign land than to be a long-time Jewish resident of the Empire as early as the fifteenth century.
As an external sign of the degree of influence the sürgün phenomenon had on the Jews of Istanbul, as late as the eighteenth century, one might consider the fact that the term came to be accepted as a familial name for the Jewish community, though it bore negative connotations.

Hacker records the observations of prominent contemporary Jews forcibly deported from their places of origin to Constantinople (renamed Istanbul) after its brutal [28] jihad conquest in 1453. Twenty to thirty Jewish communities were removed en bloc from Anatolia and the Rumelia [Albania, Macedonia, and Thrace] to Istanbul, including, by 1456 all the Karaite dignitaries previously living in Edirne. [29] He notes, [11]

The Karaites (too) experienced bitterness and sorrow arising from the new circumstances.

Writings of Byzantine Jews also address the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Laments on the fall of Constantinople and the fate of its community and other communities subjected to the ravages of the 15th century Ottoman jihad campaigns were written during this period by Jews such as Rabbi Ephraim b. Gershon, a doctor and homilist from Veroia [Macedonia, 40 miles WSW of Salonika], and Rabbi Michael Balbo of Crete. [30]

Ephraim b. Gershon’s “relatively moderate words”, describe his own fate, and that of the Jewish community of Veroia. He initially fled to Negroponte (under Venetian control) when his community was forcibly exiled to Istanbul. Later he joined his co-religionists in Istanbul expressing his anti-Ottoman feelings during a homily delivered in 1469. Ephraim b. Gershon writes that these sürgün Jews suffered not only property and financial losses, but the abandonment of places to which they were emotionally attached, and great damage to their physical health. [31] His 1469 sermon includes these words: [32]

All this stems from our enslavement and the sorrow we cause ourselves in our pursuit of a livelihood: we call upon God and He will hear our voices. He will take pity and have mercy on us and redeem us.

According to Hacker, Ephraim saw Islamic (i.e., Ottoman) and Christian (i.e., Venetian, Byzantine) rule over Jews—living “among the Gentiles”—as equivalent: [33]

Rabbi Ephraim views the Ottoman Empire as the prophet Daniel’s fourth kingdom from which Israel will be redeemed when it collapses, and the Jews retrun to their homeland.
…it is clear that after his arrival in Istanbul no change took place in Ephraim ben Gershon’s basic approach to the Ottomans. As a Jew living (and who apparently was also born) under Ottoman rule, he perceived no difference between this regime and a Christian one, with regard to the function and status of these kingdoms in universal history and with regard to their place in the redemption of the Jews from among the Gentiles. At first he preferred to move to a Venetian area; later he returned to the Ottoman sphere of influence and rejoined his brethren in Istanbul, where he spoke in public, hinting at his reservations regarding the regime and the kingdom. Under this Ishmaelite government, just as under other authorities, there prevailed circumstances where the individual would be well advised when “in exile amongst the seven tribes and asked to pay taxes or to convert [Hacker’s emphasis reproduced], hand over a portion of your capital in order to be saved. This is the meaning of ‘Give a portion to seven,’ i.e., to the seven tribes.”

Rabbi Michael Balbo of Candia, Crete (born spring, 1411, and still alive December, 1480), was a well-known community figure who compiled his own letters in addition to those of others, most of which were written during the second and third quarters of the 15th century. [34] His observations, as Hacker notes, provide “more severe descriptions” of the fate of these Byzantine Jewish communities. [35] One letter apparently originating from Corfu includes this characterization of the political upheavals which accompanied the Ottoman jihad: [36]

At this time the King maker [the Ottoman Sultan] enthroned a king of the Archers [Genesis 21:20, Ishmael] over each town and district; he decreed upon the poor, wandering nation go into exile, and went to gather them up to the daughter of Edom, Constantinople [Lamentations 4:21, as applied to Constantinople], and the Almighty enabled him to succeed [according to Exodus 21:13: “And one who did lie in wait, but God caused to come about.”]. Everyone lamented. The robbery [Isaiah 51:19-20: “These two have befallen you; who shall lament you? Desolation and ruin, famine and war; how shall I console you? Your sons have been wasted, they lie at the head of all the streets…”] and the disaster, the famine and the sword and the forced conversion of children at this time defy comforting. All are affected and desolated by the oppressor [Isaiah 51:13], and there is no tranquility [Deuteronomy 32:36].

The fate of the Jews was not different from that of Christians in either Constantinople itself or other areas conquered by the Ottoman jihad campaigns. [37] Large numbers of Jews were killed; others were taken captive, and Jewish children were enslaved, some being forcibly converted to Islam, and brought to devshirme (the coercive levies of adolescent non-Muslim male children, almost exclusively Christians, for the Ottoman slave-soldier Janissary system). [38] Extant letters describe the forced exiling of the captive Jews to Istanbul and are filled with anti-Ottoman sentiments. Hacker elucidates the contents of the Corfu letter in the overall context of other contemporary observations from prominent Byzantine Jews, before drawing his own summary conclusions. [39]

This letter paints a picture of Jews severely harmed by the Ottoman wars and conquests in the days of Mehmet II. The description indicates that the Jews of Corfu were well aware of the processes of the Ottoman conquest. The conquest was accompanied by the appointment of governors over the occupied territories by the “Kingmaker,” i.e., the Sultan. These Muslim governors were responsible for the stabilization and the development of the conquered region. At the same time, this letter describes the colonizing activities and the transfer of the Jewish population to Istanbul. Whether the letter is describing the conquest of an area previously under Byzantine or Latin control, subsequent to the conquest of Constantinople, or an event during the conquest of Constantinople itself and its consequences, the process is similar. The people view their exile as a catastrophe, and the conquest as manslaughter and loss of property. The picture is one of crisis and distress. This letter also hints at the phenomenon of converting Jewish children to Islam. In fact, this would seem to be the first evidence of the fact that in the heat of the conquest, the fate of Jewish children was the same as that of Christian children: conversion, in order to absorb them into the Janissary army. The induction of Christian children into the Janissary army, known as devshirme, was one of the harsher decrees imposed upon the conquered populace, and various towns that surrendered to the Ottomans without resistance requested, and sometimes received by virtue of this, an exemption from the sürgün and from the devshirme. The evidence before us is somewhat vague. Were the conquerors incapable, in the heat of battle, of distinguishing between Christian inhabitants and non-Christians? Or perhaps they had not yet formulated the policy familiar to us from the later periods, in accordance with which they exempted the Jews from devshirme and even forbade them from being drafted into the Janissary army.
From the letter, furthermore, it becomes clear that the person for whom it was compiled had gone into exile to Istanbul, and lost whatever he had owned. When he tried to return and engage in trade, he was taken captive, and now people succeeded in redeeming him from captivity and in rehabilitating him and his family. Another source also discusses the fate of Jews in the unstable period and their captivity at the hands of the Ottomans. In this source, the Ottomans are termed “men of wickedness and deceit, Riphath and Togarmah” (referring to Genesis 10:3), and fear is expressed, lest the captives “be assimilated” into their captors. The personal histories of two of the intellectuals of the period show, too, that they were captives, and it would seem that they were referring to their captivity at the hands of the Ottomans. R[abbi] Mordekhai Comtino tells of his imprisonment in the town of Edirne, whereas R[abbi] Shalom Anabi of Istanbul—who was in contact with R[abbi] Michael Balbo who copied many of his writings—wrote of himself: “Ensnared in the net of captivity,” or “who surrounded us so that we were ensnared in the net of captivity.”
…in Michael Balbo’s aforementioned notebook there is a dirge to the fall of Constantinople into Ottoman hands, which was probably written shortly after news of the event had been received. This dirge calls the conquerors “a violent people.” “The embroidered great eagle, Riphath and Togarmah” is here depicted as one who destroys, who ruins, who robs and kills Jews. This is a dirge in which R[abbi] Michael Balbo mourns the fate of the Jewish community of Constantinople, and according to his description, this event was a terrible disaster for the Jews, who were robbed and killed by the conquering force, as were the other inhabitants of the city.
The picture painted by the writings of these Romaniots in the Ottoman Empire and in the Latin colonies on its outskirts during the third quarter of the fifteenth century, is one of people who underwent heavy suffering as a result of the processes of conquest and population transfers to Istanbul.

The sürgün policy was applied rigorously throughout the reign of Mehmet II—often affecting the lives of Jews—and at least intermittently by his successor Bayezid II. While it is unknown whether the Jews, specifically, were involved in the population transfers of Bayezid II, the subsequent regimes of Selim I and Süleyman the Magnificent did exile and transfer Jews between regions of the expanding Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of their jihad conquests: from Egypt to Istanbul after Selim I conquered Mamluk Syria and Egypt in 1516-1517; from Salonika to Rhodes following the conquest of Rhodes in 1522 by Süleyman the Magnificent; and after the conquest of Buda(pest) following the battle of Mohacs in 1526 (and the final subjugation of Buda and its environs in 1541), Jews were exiled from this ancient capital of Hungary to locations throughout the Ottoman Empire, including Istanbul, Sofia [Bulgaria], Kavalla [NE Macedonia], Edirne, and perhaps even Safed. [40]

Upon reviewing the available contemporary evidence regarding the 1517 sürgün of Egypts Jews, especially a letter from the Cairo Geniza (by Meir Saragos of Egypt) written during the first half of the 16th century, Hacker concludes, [41]

The description tells of the limitations and the supervision to which they were subjected and which prevented them from moving their location and accepting appointments to the positions they desired. The limitations of the sürgün are very prominent here. Similarly, it is clear that the phenomenon of sürgün was common and many were ensnared in its coils. People were responsible for dealing with the affairs of those who became sürgün, while the latter attempted to free themselves by attaching themselves to some position—either to avoid going into exile or to leave one place of exile for another, steps which were forbidden to any sürgün.

Yitzhak Ibn Farash was originally exiled from Spain to Portugal, and later departed for Salonika, where he settled in 1508. Yitzhak apparently wrote about the 1523 transfer of Jews from Salonika to Rhodes because his son-in-law was one of those designated as sürgün. He states, [42]

From Salonika, Monday the 13th of Av 5283 (1523) there went to Rhodes against their will a hundred and fifty of the richest and the most respected landlors in the country, men, women, and children, at the command of the king [Süleyman the Magnificent]…an official coming and taking them off by boat.

While such transfers “…of the richest and most respected…in the land” accrued obvious advantages to the Ottomans who sought to facilitate the socioeconomic development of new areas of jihad conquest, in this case Rhodes, as Hacker observes, [43]

The hasty and rapid process of exiling the sürgün led to various familial, social, economic and legal complications…These exiles would seem to have been forced to remain in Rhodes, and were unable to leave, but the sources adduced make it evident that people did succeed in escaping from the island even though they were forbidden to do so.

Concerted efforts by the Jews of Safed did succeed ultimately in canceling the decreed sürgün deportation of two-thirds of their community to Cyprus, following the island’s conquest (under Selim II) by the Ottomans in 1571 (the reprieve being confirmed, January 1579). [44] Yosef Mataron provided a contemporary account of a sürgün decree imposed upon his family in conjunction with these events. Yosef’s description of his extensive efforts to have this transfer abrogated, reflect how oppressive the sürgün decrees were considered by Jews. However, despite the success of the Safed community appeals, Hacker notes, [45]

…at the same time, …the governor [of Cyprus] succeeded in delaying a boat with 100 Jews on board who had been on their way from Salonika to Safed, and in getting permission to resettle them in Cyprus, despite their desire to go on to Palestine.
During this period various members of the Jewish communities in Salonika, Safed and elsewhere, whose status was questioned, who lost favor with the authorities, or were caught engaging in economic and criminal offenses, were exiled to Cyprus.

Regarding the later sürgün deportations (primarily under Selim I and Süleyman the Magnificent), Hacker writes, [46]

From the various facts exhibited here, it may be deduced that the sürgün system remained in force throughout the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century, and affected to a very considerable degree the lives of the Jews of the [Ottoman] Empire. These facts, which certainly do not reflect every event which actually took place, show that whenever a significant conquest occurred—under Selim I, Süleyman the Magnificent or Selim II—Jews were moved from their homes and, as they were considered a productive element of the population, it was considered good to exploit them for purposes of regional development. Whenever the Jews were living in territory recently conquered, they would be exiled to Istanbul or some other urban area, while on other occasions they were moved from their homes in the Empire in order to resettle and develop new territories.

Three overall conclusions are drawn by Hacker: [47]
(i) Strong anti-Ottoman feelings prevailed among important Byzantine Jewish circles in the first decades after the fall of Constantinople. These feelings were openly expressed by people living under Latin rule and to some extent even in Istanbul.
(ii) Mehmed II's policies toward non-Muslims made possible the substantial economic and social development of the Jewish communities in the empire, and especially in the capital—Istanbul. These communities were protected by him against popular hatred, including blood libels. However, this policy was not continued by Bayezid II and there is evidence that under his rule the Jews suffered both forced conversions to Islam, and severe restrictions in their religious life.
(iii) The friendly policies of Mehmed on the one hand, and the good reception by Bayezid II of Spanish Jewry on the other, cause the Jewish writers of the sixteenth century to overlook both the destruction which Byzantine Jewry suffered during the Ottoman jihad conquests, and the later outbursts of oppression under both Bayezid II and Selim I.

Hacker illustrates this latter process (iii) in his animated discussion of the rather crudely redacted narrative of the 16th century Ottoman hagiographer, Eliyah Kapsali: [48]

…though he [Kapsali] was well aware of the fact that Bayezid II’s policies towards the Jews were very different from those of Mehmet II, and that in his day attempts were made to pressure the Jews to adopt Islam and strict decrees were promulgated against the existence of synagogues erected after the Ottoman conquest, he was still careful to describe Bayezid II as the perfect Jew lover and protector. The truth is revealed with his description of Selim [I], Bayezid’s heir. Here he saw fit to praise Selim as follows: “Now on the third day of the reign of Sultan Selim, the Sultan gave an order and permitted the Jews to reopen the synagogues his father Sultan Bayezid [II], had closed…for he was pious…and he even restored to Judaism many Jews whom the Turks had forced to convert contrary to their own wishes.”
And so not only did he conceal the fate of sürgün Jews and disguise them as voluntary migrants who came to settle in the royal capital at the invitation of the King; not only did he obscure the bitter fate of the Jews of conquered Constantinople; he also attempted to cover up as much as possible the zealous policies of Bayezid II against religious minorities—including the Jews—after the expulsion. And all to avoid harming the image of the Sultan and his major work: throwing open the gates of the kingdom before the expelled Jews of Spain and Portugal, guaranteeing their physical security and preparing the conditions for their free economic activity. There is thus in his book not a single hint or even trace of criticism of the Sultans of his generation: Mehmet [Mehmed] II, Bayezid II, and Selim I.

Ottoman Dhimmitude: The Jewish Experience

The institutional regulations of dhimmitude were applied to all Jews (and the much larger Christian minority populations) under Ottoman suzerainty, regardless of whether or not they were designated, in addition, as sürgün. Once again, the influential writings of Mehmed II’s leading cleric (Shaykh-al-Islam), Molla Khosrew, [49] elucidate the guiding principles and concrete directives of these theological-juridical regulations—which are entirely consistent with the vast corpus of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. [50]

Molla Khosrew reiterates these classical views on the jizya—a blood ransom poll-tax demanded in lieu of being slain and completely dispossessed. The jizya was collected regularly (most often annually), in person, and in a manner that confers the subjects humiliation, due to their willingly imperfect belief, consistent with Qur’an 9:29. Of note also, is the specific admonition to Jews: [51]

Jizya is a term that refers to that which is collected of the dhimmi, in exchange for their life and belongings...[belongings] referring here exclusively to land and non-moveable property [as] nothing else, except the land and the home, remain in the hands of the conquered.
There are two kinds of tribute, or jizya: one is agreed upon following surrender; the other is set by the Imam if the enemy has been vanquished by Muslims following a battle. The agreed-upon jizya is not subject to later negotiations. The only situations that allow the cessation of payment are the following: death, conversion to Islam, the onset of a physical handicap, such as blindness, mutilation, or old age, to such a degree as to no longer allow work..[and] the debt contracted due to the non-payment of the previous year’s jizya should not expire... The obligation to pay the jizya ends with death or with conversion to Islam, because the divine law, [Shari’a] considers such an obligation to be an earthly punishment: it serves the punitive purpose of chasing away evil from the world.
The jizya should not be accepted when payment is made through an intermediary, rather, the payer should come in person to pay, and remain standing: he who is collecting should, on the other hand, be sitting. In the al-hidaya text, the tax collector is also expected to shake the clothing of the payer, saying “Pay the jizya, oh dhimmi”, further, ... the tax collector can also say, “Oh Jew, enemy of God, pay!”. [emphasis added]...In other texts...we read that the dhimmi should be hit on the neck [52] at the time of collection.

Also in accord with classical Islamic jurisprudence, Molla Khosrew outlines the typical regulations—regarding religious structures and practice, the prohibition on bearing arms, and distinguishing forms of dress, modes of travel, neighborhoods, and abodes—which complemented the jizya collection, and formed the basis for the system of dhimmitude (in this specific case, the Ottoman version): [53]

Building a synagogue or a church or a [Zoroastrian] Temple of Fire is not allowed. The term synagogue [kanisa] indicates a place of worship of the Jews, while church [bay’a] indicates a place of worship of the Christians. A place for spiritual retreat is also considered like a church. The prohibition concerns places constructed specifically for the purpose of religious rites, not areas for prayer set up within private homes, and this is applicable within the dar-al-islam. In any case, the right to rebuild that which was destroyed is granted, as buildings devoted to worship can be built in a place where such a building had been erected previously. It is not possible, however, to move from the original location, and to build elsewhere, as this would require erecting another building.
It is possible for dhimmis to coexist with Muslims, but in specified locations such as a particular neighborhood. In no case should that be on Arab land, because the collaborators may not take those lands as a place of residence, according to the Prophet’s hadith, which states, “there may not coexist two religions on Arab land”. The houses of the dhimmi must be marked, in order not to violate the terms of the contract [ahd] so as to deserve to be put to death.
...the dhimmi must be distinguishable by his clothing and by his means of transportation, by the way he loads his beast of burden, by his equipment, etc. For these reasons he may not appear riding a horse, or bearing arms, and he must always show his kusfig. This is a small cord, as thick as a finger, made of wool or animal hair, tied around the belly of the dhimmi, but different from a belt [zunnar], as the latter is made of silk.
The dhimmi must ride a saddle of the kakaf type. The ideal situation would be for them not to ride any animal, but if they should do so out of necessity in a place crowded with Muslims, they should dismount and proceed on foot. Their passageways should be made narrow. Dhimmi women, too, must be distinguishable by keeping to pre-established roads and hammams.
In any case, they must be kept from exhibiting their sinful practices, such as usury, and their customs, their songs, their dances, all that which is forbidden in any case...Should there be a festival, they should not celebrate by carrying crosses.

The Ottoman system of dhimmitude—consistent with all other variants of this Shari’a-based institution—conferred upon Jews (and all dhimmis) two basic legal disabilities which denied them both protection, and redress, when victimized: prohibition of the right to bear arms; and the inadmissibility of dhimmi legal evidence when a Muslim was a party. [54] And (as noted earlier) even the series of reforms imposed by European powers (as so-called “capitulations”) upon the weakening Ottoman Empire during its final eight decades, almost continuously (through 1914), failed to rectify these institutionalized legal discriminations in a substantive manner. [55] For example, Dadrian notes that during a December, 1876 Ottoman Turkish conference in Constantinople—twenty years after the second iteration (in 1856) of the Tanzimat reforms—the right of non-Muslims to bear arms was rejected as a violation of the Shari’a: [56]

After summoning and consulting the Ulema, the Islamic doctors of law, the Shaykh-al-Islam, their head, issued a Fetva [fatwa], the peremptory final opinion declaring such possession of arms by non-Muslim subjects a violation of the Islamic Sacred Law.

A series of extensive European consular investigations conducted throughout the Ottoman Empire during the latter half of the 19th century confirmed the trivial impact of these reforms on the fundamental right of Jews and Christians to present legal evidence in Muslim administered courts. Their testimony continued to be, [57]

…utterly rejected in the lower criminal courts, and only received in the higher courts when corroborated by a Mussulman…A Mussulman’s simple allegation, unbacked by evidence, will upset the best founded and most incontrovertible claim.

As a result of this ongoing dual disenfranchisement, the modern Ottomanist Roderick Davison concluded: [58]

Ottoman equality was not attained in the Tanzimat period [i.e., mid to late 19th century, 1839-1876], nor yet after the Young Turk revolution of 1908…


[1] Bernard Lewis. “Islamic Revival in Turkey”, International Affairs, Vol. 28, p. 48.

[2] Mercedes Garcia-Arenal. “Jewish Converts to Islam in the Muslim West”, Israel Oriental Studies, 1997, Vol. 17, p. 239.

[3] Ibid., p. 239.

[4] Benzion Netanyahu. The Origins of the Inquisition, New York, 1995, p. 3; For discussions of the persecutions of this 50-year period, i.e., 1367-1417, see pp. 116, 142-164, and 191-196.

[5] For the numbers of Marranos of Spain, see Benzion Netanyahu. The Marranos of Spain, Ithaca, New York, 1999 edition, pp. 238-248, and 255-270; See also, Netanyahu. The Origins of the Inquisition, pp. 1095 ff. Netanyahu concludes (p. 248, Marranos of Spain) that the 1480 census of Marranos was 600,000-650,000.

[6] Netanyahu. The Origins of the Inquisition, pp. 3; 1048-1092.

[7] Henry Kamen, “The Mediterranean and the Expulsion of Spanish Jews in 1492”, Past and Present, 1988 (May), Vol. 119, pp. 30-55.

[8] Ibid., p. 44.

[9] Ibid., pp 39,44.

[10] For Ottoman attitudes toward the Jews of the conquered Byzantine Empire, including Salonika, see Joseph R. Hacker. “Ottoman policy toward the Jews and Jewish attitudes toward the Ottomans during the fifteenth century” in Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: the functioning of a plural society. Edited by Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis, New York, 1982, Vol. I, pp. 117-126; For the devastating nature of the Ottoman jihad campaigns of the fifteenth century, see Dimitar Angelov, “Certain aspects de la conquete des peuples balkanique par les Turcs” in Les Balkans au moyen age. La Bulgarie des Bogomils aux Turcs, London: Variorum Reprints, 1978, pp. 220-275; full English translation as, “Certain phases of the conquest of the Balkan peoples by the Turks” in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, pp. 462-517.

[11] Paul Wittek. The Rise of the Ottoman Empire. London, p. 14. Wittek (also p. 14) includes this discussion, with a block quote from Ahmedi’s text,

The chapter Ahmedi devotes in his Iskender-name to the history of the Ottoman sultans, the ancestors of his protector Sulayman Tshelebi, son of Bayazid I, begins with an introduction in which the poet solemnly declares his intention of writing a Ghazawat-name, a book about the holy war of the Ghazis. He poses the question” “Why have the Ghazis appeared at last?” And he answers: “Because the best always comes at the end. Just as the definitive prophet Mohammed came after the others, just as the Koran came down from heaven after the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospels, so also the Ghazis appeared in the world at the last, “ those Ghazis the reign of whom is that of the Ottomans. The poet continues with this question: “Who is a Ghazi?”. And he explains: “A Ghazi is the instrument of the religion of Allah, a servant of God who purifies the earth from the filth of polytheism (remember that Islam regards the Trinity of the Christians as a polytheism); the Ghazi is the sword of God, he is the protector and refuge of the believers. If he becomes a martyr in the ways of God, do not believe that he has died- he lives in beatitude with Allah, he has eternal life”.

[12] Sonia Anderson. An English Consul in Turkey: Paul Rycaut at Smyrna, 1667-1678. Oxford, 1989, 323 pp.

[12a] Sir Paul Rycaut. The Present State of the Ottoman Empire, London, 1686, [electronic version], pp. 200, 201.

[12b] The Ottoman Office of the Mufti and Shaykh al-Islam were synonymous. J.H. Karmers, R.C. Repp. “Shaykh al-Islam”. Encyclopedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2006/2007.

[12c] Babinger, Fr “Khosrew, Molla” Encyclopedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2006/2007.

[12d] Molla Khosrew. Il Kitab Al-Gihad. Italian translation (Trattato Sulla Guerra) by Nicola Melis, Cagliari, Italy, 2002, pp. 95-96. English translation by Ughetta Lubin

[13] Halil Inalcik. The Ottoman Empire-The Classical Age, 1300-1600, London, 1973, p. 6.

[14] A. E. Vacalopoulos. Origins of the Greek Nation- The Byzantine Period, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1970, p. 66.

[15] Speros Vryonis. “The Experience of Christians under Seljuk and Ottoman Domination, Eleventh to Sixteenth Century”, in Conversion and Continuity: Indigenous Christian Communities in Islamic lands, Eighth to Eighteenth Centuries, edited by Michael Gervers and Ramzi Jibran Bikhazi, Toronto, 1990, p. 201.

[16] Angelov, “Certains Aspects de la Conquete Des Peuples Balkaniques par les Turcs”, pp. 220-275; Vacalopoulos. Origins of the Greek Nation- The Byzantine Period, pp. 69-85.

[17] Angelov, “Certains Aspects de la Conquete Des Peuples Balkaniques par les Turcs”, pp. 236, 238-239.

[18] Joseph Hacker, “Ottoman Policy Toward the Jews and Jewish Attitudes toward the Ottomans during the Fifteenth Century”, in Christians and Jews in the Ottoman empire: the functioning of a plural society, edited by Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis, New York, 1982, pp. 117-126; Joseph Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire during the 15th—17th Centuries” [Hebrew], Zion 1990, Vol. 55, pp. 27-82 and re-published in English translation in Ottoman and Turkish Jewry—Community and Leadership, edited by Aron Rodrigue, Bloomington, Indiana, 1992, pp. 1-65.

[19] Jane Gerber. “Towards an Understanding of the Term: ‘The Golden Age’ as an Historical Reality”, in The Heritage of the Jews in Spain, Tel-Aviv, Israel, Aviva Doron, Editor, p. 15, 20-21.

[20] Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire”, pp. 7-8. Hacker elaborates (note 21, p. 44) on this point maintaining that, “…the approach adopted by nineteenth and twentieth century historians to the question of the Jewish-Ottoman encounter in the fifteenth century”, including “H. Graetz, S. Dubnow, S. Rozanes, M. Franco, A. Galanté, S. Baron, and H.Z. Hirschberg” was unduly influenced by “…the romantic picture sketched by the sixteenth-and seventeenth-century writers”.

[21] Ibid, pp. 23, 22; See also The Jewish Encyclopedia.com “Capsali” by Louis Ginsberg, and “Joseph Ben Isaac Sambari” by Joseph Jacobs, M. Franco.

[22] For the overall impact of the jihad conquests see references 542-545, above, and 556 below. For a discussion of jihad enslavement by the Ottomans in the Balkans, especially Romania, see M.M. Alexandrescu-Dersca Bulgaru. “The Roles of Slaves in Fifteenth Century Turkish Romania”. Byzantinische Forschungen 1987, Vol. 11, pp. 15-22. English translation in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, pp. 566-572.

[22a] For the impact of Ottoman policies of sürgün on Christian populations see Doukas, Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks. Annotated translation of Historia Turco-Byzantia, by Harry J. Magoulias, Detroit, Michaigan, 1975, pp. 241, 243, 257-258. Doukas mentions deportations of Christian populations from Anatolia and Rumelia, the Balkans, and the Peloponnesus.

After 5000 families were registered from both the eastern and western provinces [Anatolia and Rumelia], Mehmed [II] instructed them and their households to take up residence in the City [Constantinople] by September on penalty of death.
Mehmed [II] returned to Adrianople with the booty [from Serbia, outside Smederovo] by way of Sofia. There he awarded one half to his officials and the troops who labored with him. After claiming half of the captives for himself, he sent them to populate the villages outside Constantinople. His allotted portion was four thousand men and women.
After taking all of the Peloponnesus, the tyrant [Mehmed II] installed his own administrators and governors. Returning to Adrianople, he took with him Demetrios [Paleologus?] and his entire household, the palace officials and wealthy notables form Achaia [northern Peloponnesus] and Lakedaimonia [southern Peloponnesus] and the remaining provinces. He slaughtered all the nobles of Albania and then allowed no fortress to remain standing with the exception of Monemvasia [southeast Peloponnesus], and this grudgingly and against his will…He transferred about two thousand families from the Peloponnesus and resettled them in the City [Constantinople]. He also registered the same number of youths among the Janissaries.

[22b] Hacker, “Ottoman Policy Toward the Jews and Jewish Attitudes toward the Ottomans”, p. 123.

[23] Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire”, pp. 27-30.

[24] Ibid., p. 2

[25] Ibid., p. 5

[26] Ibid., p. 8

[27] Ibid., pp. 8-9, 36-37.

[28] See these accounts in English translation from, Vryonis, S. Jr., “A Critical Analysis of Stanford J. Shaw’s, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Volume 1. Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808”, off print from Balkan Studies, Vol. 24, 1983, pp. 57-62, 68; all reproduced in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, pp. 616-618.

[Both Turkish and Christian chroniclers provide graphic evidence of the wanton pillage and slaughter of non-combatants following the Ottoman jihad conquest of Constantinople in 1453. First from the Turkish sources]: Sultan Mehmed (in order to) arouse greater zeal for the way of God issued an order (that the city was to be) plundered. And from all directions they (gazis) came forcefully and violently (to join) the army. They entered the city, they passed the infidels over the sword (i.e. slew them) and…they pillage and looted, they took captive the youths and maidens, and they took their goods and valuables whatever there was of them…” [Urudj] The gazis entered the city, cut off the head of the emperor, captured Kyr Loukas and his family…and they slew the miserable common people...They placed people and families in chains and placed metal rings on their necks.” [Neshri]

[Speros Vryonis, Jr. has summarized the key contents of letters sent by Sultan Mehmed himself to various Muslim potentates of the Near East]: In his letter to the sultan of Egypt, Mehmed writes that his army killed many of the inhabitants, enslaved many others (those that remained), plundered the treasures of the city, ‘cleaned out’ the priests and took over the churches…To the Sherif of Mecca he writes that they killed the ruler of Constantinople, they killed the ‘pagan’ inhabitants and destroyed their houses. The soldiers smashed the crosses, looted the wealth and properties and enslaved their children and youths. ‘They cleared these places of their monkish filth and Christian impurity’…In yet another letter he informs Cihan Shah Mirza of Iran that the inhabitants of the city have become food for the swords and arrows of the gazis; that they plundered their children, possessions and houses; that those men and women who survived the massacre were thrown into chains.

[The Christian sources, include this narrative by Ducas who gathered eyewitness accounts, and visited Constantinople shortly after its conquest]: (Then) the Turks arrived at the church [the great church of St. Sophia], pillaging, slaughtering, and enslaving. They enslaved all those that survived. They smashed the icons in the church, took their adornments as well as all that was moveable in the church…Those of (the Greeks) who went off to their houses were captured before arriving there. Others upon reaching their houses found them empty of children, wives, and possessions and before (they began) wailing and weeping were themselves bound with their hands behind them. Others coming to their houses and having found their wife and children being led off, were tied and bound with their most beloved…They (the Turks) slew mercilessly all the elderly, both men and women, in (their) homes, who were not able to leave their homes because of illness or old age. The newborn infants were thrown into the streets…And as many of the (Greek) aristocrats and nobles of the officials of the palace that he (Mehmed) ransomed, sending them all to the ‘speculatora’ he executed them. He selected their wives and children, the beautiful daughters and shapely youths and turned them over to the head eunuch to guard them, and the remaining captives he turned over to others to guard over them…And the entire city was to be seen in the tents of the army, and the city lay deserted, naked, mute, having neither form nor beauty.

[From the contemporary 15th century historian Critobulus of Imbros:] Then a great slaughter occurred of those who happened to be there: some of them were on the streets, for they had already left the houses and were running toward the tumult when they fell unexpectedly on the swords of the soldiers; others were in their own homes and fell victims to the violence of the Janissaries and other soldiers, without any rhyme or reason; others were resisting relying on their own courage; still others were fleeing to the churches and making supplication - men, women, and children, everyone, for there was no quarter given…The soldiers fell on them with anger and great wrath…Now in general they killed so as to frighten all the City, and terrorize and enslave all by the slaughter.

[29] Hacker, “Ottoman Policy Toward the Jews and Jewish Attitudes toward the Ottomans”, p. 120; Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire”, p. 12.

[29a] Hacker, “Ottoman Policy Toward the Jews and Jewish Attitudes toward the Ottomans”, p. 121; See also the reference to a letter of the Karaite polymath Caleb Afendopolo (d. 1499) by Jacob Mann in Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature, Vol. 2, Karaitica, Philadelphia, 1935, p. 292, note 15. Mann writes,

Caleb speaks of an “expulsion” which would indicate an act of persecution on the part of the government, as if wanting to keep the Jews under stringent supervision by congregating them in the capital.

[30] Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire”, pp. 12-18; See also The Jewish Encyclopedia.com “Ephraim B. Gershon” by Richard Gottheil, and Michael Ben Shabbethai Cohen Balbo” by Joseph Jacobs, M. Seligsohn.

[31] Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire”, pp. 12-15.

[32] Ibid., p. 15

[33] Ibid., pp. 15, 18

[34] Ibid., p. 15

[35] Ibid., p. 15

[36] Ibid., p. 16.

[37] See references 542-545, 550a, and 556, above.

[38] Speros Vryonis, Jr. (in Speros Vryonis, Jr. “Seljuk Gulams and Ottoman Devshirmes”, Der Islam Vol. 41, 1965, pp. 245-247) for example, makes these deliberately understated, but cogent observations:

…in discussing the devshirme we are dealing with the large numbers of Christians who, in spite of the material advantages offered by conversion to Islam, chose to remain members of a religious society which was denied first class citizenship. Therefore the proposition advanced by some historians, that the Christians welcomed the devshirme as it opened up wonderful opportunities for their children, is inconsistent with the fact that these Christians had not chosen to become Muslims in the first instance but had remained Christians…there is abundant testimony to the very active dislike with which they viewed the taking of their children. One would expect such sentiments given the strong nature of the family bond and given also the strong attachment to Christianity of those who had not apostacized to Islam…First of all the Ottomans capitalized on the general Christian fear of losing their children and used offers of devshirme exemption in negotiations for surrender of Christian lands. Such exemptions were included in the surrender terms granted to Jannina, Galata, the Morea, Chios, etc…Christians who engaged in specialized activities which were important to the Ottoman state were likewise exempt from the tax on their children by way of recognition of the importance of their labors for the empire…Exemption from this tribute was considered a privilege and not a penalty…
…there are other documents wherein their [i.e., the Christians] dislike is much more explicitly apparent. These include a series of Ottoman documents dealing with the specific situations wherein the devshirmes themselves have escaped from the officials responsible for collecting them…A firman…in 1601 [regarding the devshirme] provided the [Ottoman] officials with stern measures of enforcement, a fact which would seem to suggest that parents were not always disposed to part with their sons. “..to enforce the command of the known and holy fetva [fatwa] of Seyhul [Shaikh]- Islam. In accordance with this whenever some one of the infidel parents or some other should oppose the giving up of his son for the Janissaries, he is immediately hanged from his door-sill, his blood being deemed unworthy.”

Vasiliki Papoulia (in Vasiliki Papoulia, “The Impact of Devshirme on Greek Society”, in War and Society in East Central Europe, Editor-in-Chief, Bela K. Kiraly, 1982, Vol. II, pp. 554-555) highlights the continuous desperate, often violent struggle of the Christian populations against this forcefully imposed Ottoman levy:

It is obvious that the population strongly resented…this measure [and the levy] could be carried out only by force. Those who refused to surrender their sons- the healthiest, the handsomest and the most intelligent- were on the spot put to death by hanging. Nevertheless we have examples of armed resistance. In 1565 a revolt took place in Epirus and Albania. The inhabitants killed the recruiting officers and the revolt was put down only after the sultan sent five hundred janissaries in support of the local sanjak-bey. We are better informed, thanks to the historic archives of Yerroia, about the uprising in Naousa in 1705 where the inhabitants killed the Silahdar Ahmed Celebi and his assistants and fled to the mountains as rebels. Some of them were later arrested and put to death..
Since there was no possibility of escaping [the levy] the population resorted to several subterfuges. Some left their villages and fled to certain cities which enjoyed exemption from the child levy or migrated to Venetian-held territories. The result was a depopulation of the countryside. Others had their children marry at an early age…Nicephorus Angelus…states that at times the children ran away on their own initiative, but when they heard that the authorities had arrested their parents and were torturing them to death, returned and gave themselves up. La Giulletiere cites the case of a young Athenian who returned from hiding in order to save his father’s life and then chose to die himself rather than abjure his faith. According to the evidence in Turkish sources, some parents even succeeded in abducting their children after they had been recruited. The most successful way of escaping recruitment was through bribery. That the latter was very widespread is evident from the large amounts of money confiscated by the sultan from corrupt…officials. Finally, in their desperation the parents even appealed to the Pope and the Western powers for help.

Papoulia (Vasiliki Papoulia, “The Impact of Devshirme on Greek Society”, p. 557) concludes

…there is no doubt that this heavy burden was one of the hardest tribulations of the Christian population.

[39] Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire”, pp. 16,17,19,20.

[40] Ibid., pp. 24-33.

[41] Ibid., p. 27.

[42] Ibid., p. 27.

[43] Ibid., p. 28.

[44] Ibid., p. 31.

[45] Ibid., pp. 31, 32.

[46] Ibid., pp. 32-33.

[47] Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire”, pp. 1-65; Hacker, “Ottoman Policy Toward the Jews and Jewish Attitudes toward the Ottomans during the Fifteenth Century”, pp. 117-126.

[48] Hacker, “The Sürgün System and Jewish Society in the Ottoman Empire”, p. 23.

[49] Molla Khosrew. Il Kitab Al-Gihad., pp. 177-189.

[50] Suyuti wrote a famous, and ubiquitous commentary, "Tafsiir al-Jalalayn" he composed with his teacher, Jalaal al-Diin al-MaHallii; the latter composed the second part, and then Suyuti wrote the first part to complete it, including this translation/quote for Q 9.29. Tafsīr al-Jalālayn. Beirut 1404/1984. p. 244, from Suyuti's Durr al-Manthūr... Beirut, no date, Vol. III, p. 228, where Suyuti quotes various traditions. These quotes, in English translation, are reproduced from, Andrew Bostom, editor, The Legacy of Jihad, Amherst, New York, 2005, p. 127;
Georges Vajda. “Un Traite Maghrebin ‘Adversos Judaeos: Ahkam Ahl Al-Dimma Du Sayh Muhammad B. ‘Abd Al-Karim Al-Magili’ ”, in Etudes D’Orientalisme Dediees a La Memoire de Levi-Provencal, Vol. 2, Paris, 1962, p. 811. English translation by Michael J. Miller;
Bat Ye’or, Islam and Dhimmitude, pp. 70-71;
David Littman, “Jews under Muslim Rule in the late Nineteenth CenturyThe Wiener Library Bulletin, 1975, Vol. 28, p. 75;
Norman Stillman. The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, Philadelphia, 1991, p. 51;
Jacques Chalom. Les Israelites de la Tunisie: Leur condition civile et politique, Paris, 1908, p. 193;
For Yemen: Parfitt, The Road to Redemption, p. 163, and Aviva Klein-Franke. “Collecting the Djizya (Poll-Tax) in the Yemen”, in Tudor Parfitt editor, Israel and Ishmael: studies in Muslim-Jewish relations, New York, 2000, pp. 175-206; For Afghanistan: S. Landshut. Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries of the Middle East, Westport, Connecticut, 1950, pp. 67-70;
Klein-Franke. “Collecting the Djizya (Poll-Tax) in the Yemen”, pp. 182-83, 186;
S. Landshut. Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries of the Middle East, p. 67;
Al-Mawardi, The Laws of Islamic Governance [al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah], London, United Kingdom, 1996, p. 211;
Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam, 1985, Cranbury, New Jersey, p. 169;
K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, New Delhi, 1992, p. 237;
See also Marghinani Ali ibn Abi Bakr, d. 1197, al-Hidayah, The Hedaya, or Guide- A Commentary on the Mussulman Laws, translated by Charles Hamilton, 1791, reprinted New Delhi, 1982, Vol. 2, pp. 362-363;
Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford, United Kingdom, 1982, p. 132.;
Al-Ghazali (d. 1111). Kitab al-Wagiz fi fiqh madhab al-imam al-Safi’i, Beirut, 1979, pp. 186, 190-91; 199-200; 202-203. [English translation by Dr. Michael Schub.] Reproduced from Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, p. 199.
Parfitt, The Road to Redemption, p. 187;
Yehuda Nini. The Jews of the Yemen, 1800—1914. Translated from the Hebrew by H. Galai. Chur, Switzerland, 1990; pp. 24-25;
Eliezer Bashan. “New Documents Regarding Attacks Upon Jewish Religious Observance in Morocco during the Late Nineteenth Century” Pe’amim 1995, p. 71. English translation by Rivkah Fishman.

[51] Molla Khosrew. Il Kitab Al-Gihad., pp. 177ff.

[52] The Hanafi school of jurisprudence, which predominated in the Ottoman heartland, did not sanction the administration of blows during jizya collection. See for example the writings of the seminal Hanafi jurist (d. 798) Abu Yusuf (in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, pp. 174-176; 179)

[53] Molla Khosrew. Il Kitab Al-Gihad., pp. 177ff.

[54] On the prohibition against bearing arms, in addition to Molla Khosrew’s (confirmatory) opinion see for example, Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, p. 131. See note 112 above regarding inadmissibility of dhimmi testimony when a Muslim is a party. These legal disenfranchisements are also discussed extensively in the pioneering works of Antoine Fattal Le Statut Legal de Musulmans en Pays' d'Islam, Beirut, 1958; and Bat Ye’or The Dhimmi, 1985.

[55] For the continued inadequacy of the reforms through 1912-1914, see for example, Roderick Davison, “The Armenian Crisis, 1912-1914”, The American Historical Review, 1948, Vol. 53, pp. 482, 483:

Wild rejoicing among Armenians, and great hopes for the future, arose with the Young Turk revolution of 1908. Armenians co-operated with the Turkish Committee of Union and Progress [the political party of the Young Turks]. A few steps were, in fact, made toward realizing the Armenian hopes…But these embryonic measures of improvement from 1908-1912 were far outweighed by old and new grievances. When measured against the hopes of 1908, furthermore, the situation seemed to the Armenians as black as ever…Armenian disillusionment sprang from the [Adana] massacres of 1909. The Young Turks, furthermore, soon turned from equality and Ottomanization to Turkification, stifling previous Armenian hopes. This policy extended even to limiting privileges of the Armenian Patriarch Arsharouni, installed at Constantinople in 1912. In short, the constitutional regime had done little for the Armenians.

[56] Dadrian. “The Clash Between Democratic Norms and Theocratic Dogmas”, p. 15.

[57] Reports from Her Majesty’s Consuls Relating to the Condition of the Christians in Turkey, 1867 volume, pp. 5,29, cited in, Dadrian. “The Clash Between Democratic Norms and Theocratic Dogmas”, p. 17.

[58] Davison, “Turkish Attitudes Concerning Christian-Muslim Equality in the Nineteenth Century”, p. 864.

Part II, Part III

Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School.
He is the author of:
The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books (2005),
The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Prometheus Books (2008),
Sharia Versus Freedom. The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, Prometheus Books (2012),
The Mufti's Islamic Jew Hatred. What the Nazis Learned From the 'Muslim Pope', Bravura Books (2013), and
Iran's Final Solution for Israel. The Legacy of Jihad and Shi'ite Islamic Jew-Hatred in Iran, Bravura Books (2014).