History of The Jews in Iraq - Mongol Period

Mongol Period

The Caliphate hastened to its end before the rising power of the Mongol Empire. As Bar Hebræus remarks, these Mongol tribes knew no distinction between heathens, Jews, and Christians; and their Great Khan Kublai Khan showed himself just toward the Jews who served in his army, as reported by Marco Polo. Hulagu, the destroyer of the Caliphate (1258) and the conqueror of Palestine (1260), was tolerant toward Muslims, Jews and Christians; but there can be no doubt that in those days of terrible warfare the Jews must have suffered much with others. Under the Mongolian rulers, the priests of all religions were exempt from the poll-tax. Hulagu's second son, Aḥmed, embraced Islam, but his successor, Arghun (1284–91), hated the Muslims and was friendly to Jews and Christians; his chief counselor was a Jew, Sa'ad al-Daulah, a physician of Baghdad. After the death of the great khan and the murder of his Jewish favorite, the Muslims fell upon the Jews, and Baghdad witnessed a regular battle between them. Gaykhatu also had a Jewish minister of finance, Reshid al-Daulah. The khan Ghazan also became a Muslim, and made the Jews second class citizens. The Egyptian sultan Naṣr, who also ruled over Iraq, reestablished the same law in 1330, and saddled it with new limitations. Mongolian fury once again devastated the localities inhabited by Jews, when, in 1393, Timur captured Baghdad, Wasit, Hilla, Basra, and Tikrit, after obstinate resistance. Many Jews fled to other areas during this time.

The cumulative effect of the Mongol incursions is that most of the pre-existing Jewish community either died or fled, and the later Jewish community consisted largely of immigrants from other places, principally Aleppo. For this reason the traditions of Iraqi Jewry cannot be regarded as continuous with the Babylonian tradition of Talmudic or Geonic times, but are a variant of those of Middle Eastern Jewry generally.

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