In 610 CE, Muhammad first founded the religion known as Islam. It soon spread out through the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Spain. Once Muhammad died, new Muslim leaders took over the Islamic Empire. Known as caliphs, they ruled the Muslim community instead of Muhammad. When Islam reached Spain, the Jews living there were affected in a positive way. The Jews of the Muslim world led a fair and comfortable life under the Caliphate, however, once the Caliphates were gone, the Jewish golden age was terminated.
Society in Spain under the Umayyads, who were an Islamic caliphate hailing from Mecca, allowed communities to feel more comfortable than they had before, when they were being ruled by the Visigoths. The Visigoths were a Germanic tribe, ruling the Iberian Peninsula. Many people were miserable under the Visigothic rule, especially Jews. Jews were most likely given the choice of converting to Christianity, death, or exile. The Visigoths wanted the Jews to be crushed and humiliated.
When the Muslims invaded Spain in 712, people were happier because they were being treated better than they had been by the Visigoths. The Muslims even allowed the Serfs, who were agricultural laborers bound under a feudal system, to get promoted in their social standing in society and become freemen. This could happen if they simply converted to Islam. Once the Muslims took over, it gave Jews a chance to recover from persecutions from the Christians who ruled before. The Muslims would not harass people whose religion was not Islam, because they understood that some communities had their own religion which was important to them. Jews were also treated better, and were not as low class in the community as they had been under the Visigoths. The Muslims recognized the Jews as “People of the Book”, which meant that the Jews had religious beliefs that were written down in a scripture, which is why they were not badly looked upon. The Muslims respected the decisions of other religions who were also monotheistic, and although they would not pester those who were not following the Islamic faith, they would still encourage them to convert.
Those who converted to Islam were not always being forced to, rather, on occasion it was through desire. When the Muslims conquered their territories, their first plan was not to make everyone become Muslim. Those that did convert, would convert because Muslim culture was something that surrounded them. Arabic was the language of the public life around them, and the language that government officials used. However, if citizens did not take the choice in converting to Islam, Muslims respected their decisions, and they recognized Judaism and Christianity. Muslims considered Judaism and Christianity like their sister religions. They knew that both Judaism and Christianity were monotheistic, and therefore, they were respected and left alone. The Jews and Christians living under Muslim rule were called “dhimmis”, otherwise...