There can be little doubt, then, that for Jews the Arab conquest meant a marked improvement in their legal condition. From a previously degraded class of aliens, almost always resented by the Christian majority and frequently the object of open persecution, they were now elevated to a new position and granted a positive legal status with clearly defined rights guaranteed by law. And what is equally important, they were no longer regarded as a separate entity, legally or otherwise, but were thought of as part of a larger class of protected persons in relation to whom they enjoyed full equality.
At this, Muqauqis said to the delegation, “How could you agree to make him your leader and superior, whereas he ought to have been your subordinate?” To this the delegation replied, “No, despite the fact that you see him as black, he is the best among us in knowledge, in nobility, in intellect and opinion, and we do not look down upon the black man.” Muqauqis said to ‘Ubada, “Come forward, O black [man] and speak to me gently, for I fear your colour, and if you were to talk to me in a harsh tone, my distress shall be all the greater.” ‘Ubada, noticing Muqauqis’ fear of black people, said, “We have in our army a thousand people darker than me.”
Then ‘Umar got hold of his hand, took him to his house and gave him something from his home, then sent him to the treasurer of the Bayt al-Mal [State Treasury] and said: “Take care of this man and other similar men. By Allah, we have not done justice to him that we ate (jizya) from him when he was young but we forsook him when he was old. Verily, the alms are for the poor and destitute. The poor are the Muslims and this one is a destitute from the People of the Book.” So he removed the jizya from him. Abu Bakr said, “I have witnessed this (incident) of ‘Umar and I also have seen that old man.”
“If Mr. Herzl is your friend, as you are my friend, tell him not to take a further step in this matter. I do not wish to sell even a tiny portion of land, because this country does not belong to me. It belongs to my people. My nation has watered this fatherland with its blood … The men of my Syrian and Palestinian contingents have all become martyrs at Plevna. All of them, without exception, have remained on the battlefield and did not return. I do not wish to give up any part of the Ottoman state. Let the Jews keep their millions … I cannot allow surgery on a living body.”
When [the fourth Caliph] Ali was setting out to Siffin, he found that he was missing a coat of armour of his. When the war was over and he returned to Kufa, he came across the armour in the hands of a Jewish man. He said to the Jew, ‘The armour is mine; I have not sold it or given it away.’ The Jew said, ‘It is my armour and it is in my hand.’ He replied, ‘Let us go to the qadi [judge]!’
More than a century later Samuel Usque, a Portuguese Jew who wrote a famous book called The Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, expresses a similar view. Usque sets forth these consolations in two categories, the one human, the other divine. Among the human consolations the “most signal is great Turkey, a broad and spacious sea which God opened with the rod of His mercy as He opened the Red Sea at the time of the exodus … here the gates of liberty are always open for the observance of Judaism.” This must have come as a considerable surprise to a traveller from sixteenth-century Portugal.