How Arabia Almost Became Jewish
In the 400s CE, before the time of Muhammed, the Arabian Peninsula was dominated by the powerful Kingdom of Himyar, based in Yemen. Their ambitious king was a man named Abu-Kariba, who gathered a massive army to war with the Byzantines (aka. the Eastern Roman Empire). However, Abu-Kariba got only as far as the city of Yathrib, which was then the heart of Jewish Arabia (and today is the second holiest site in Islam, called Medina). While fighting a rebel army in Yathrib, Abu-Kariba fell ill. Two Jewish sages from the city went across enemy lines and healed the king. Their kindness, courage and wisdom prompted Abu-Kariba to convert to Judaism, along with his entire army. Kariba changed his plans and returned home to Yemen to spread the new faith. However, his successor Dhu-Shenstir, was a mad pagan who brutally tortured his people. Thankfully, he was killed by Yusuf Dhu-Nuwas, who became the new king and restored Judaism to the throne. “Dhu-Nuwas” is Arabic for ‘Lord Sidelocks’, because of the long sidelocks he wore, like many Jews do today. Dhu-Nuwas tried his utmost to stop Jewish persecution by Christians in the Byzantine Empire. When his calls went on deaf ears, he kidnapped a handful of Byzantine officials and executed them, sparking a war which he won. Emboldened by his success, he worked mightily to re-establish a Jewish kingdom in Israel, collaborating with the famous Torah leader of the time, Mar Zutra (the Third). Unfortunately, in 525 CE, the Byzantines allied with Ethiopia, as well as the Arab Christians, and destroyed Dhu-Nawas’ growing domain. His dream of a pan-Jewish empire came to an end. This spectacular episode is the reason many historians suggest “only a hair’s-breadth prevented all Arabia from becoming Jewish.”
Words of the Week
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.
–King David, Psalms 120:7