Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, lived in Saudia Arabia, mainly in Mecca and (later) Medina. He lived from 570-632CE.

According to this wikipedia article there were Jews in Saudia Arabia at that time:

The first mention of Jews in the areas of modern-day Saudi Arabia dates back, by some accounts, to the time of the First Temple. Immigration to the Arabian Peninsula began in earnest in the 2nd century CE, and by the 6th and 7th centuries there was a considerable Jewish population in Hejaz, mostly in and around Medina...

This would be placed around the times of the Savoraim or early Geonim.

Is there mention in the writings of the Savoraim, Geonim, or early Rishonim of any encounters between Jewish leaders/scholars of the time and Mohammed?


1 Answer 1


No, there are no extant texts from Jewish scholars on meeting Mohammed. There has been much academic scholarship on the Jewish presence of Saudia Arabia during the formation of Islam. A good place to begin is The Jews of Arab Lands by the brilliant scholar Norman Stillman. But the history is complicated and this is a serious question, so the long answer that follows is a summary of Mohammed's encounters with Jewish communities and, at the end, the available textual evidence on rabbis meeting Mohammed (feel free to stop reading).

As Stillman points out, the only documentation available on Mohammed's encounters with non-Muslims were written by Muslims, and years after Mohammad's death. We do know that the Jews who came into closest contact with Mohammed "were merchants, either in Mecca itself, or at one of the annual fairs" (Stillman, 5). Some historians speculate that some of his mentors in Mecca were sectarian Jews, but this is uncertain. If these merchants were at all missionary, as was common at that time, they were amateurs with little Jewish education.

It was only when Mohammed went to Medina that he actively confronted Jewish communities, which were organized into tribes. As opposed to other communities, they did not invite Mohammed to Medina, be present at the Aqaba negotiations, or accept him as a prophet; they also, apparently, publicly upbraided him for mangling the narratives of biblical stories. There are no documents from the Jewish tribe of craftsmen, the Banu Qaynuqa, who surrendered to Mohammed's army and were then banished to Syria. Nor, obviously, are there documents from the Banu Qurayza, the Jewish tribe in Medina that stayed neutral during the Muslim siege and were totally executed (with women and children enslaved). After this, the few remaining Jews in Medina were forced to leave and we have no record of them. There were other Jewish communities, like the Jews of Khaybar, that Mohammad's army fought with, but they were not of scholarly stock and did not leave a historical record (although the Jews of Khaybar were later mythologized in Arabic folklore).

Considering the often hostile (to put it lightly) depictions of the Jewish communities, the impressions of Mohammed from Jewish scholars are merely conjectural. Documents that specify individual Jews during Mohammed's life typically detail their conversion to Islam. To give an example, from Stillman's anthology of sources, here is an account of Mohammed's first Jewish convert from the one of the earliest biographies on Mohammed (compiled orally around 100 years after Mohammed's death):

Ibn Ishaq stated: The following is part of the story of Abd Allah b. Salam concerning him and his conversion as told to me by one of his relatives. He was a rabbi and a scholar.

Abd's testimony is then recounted on how he heard about Mohammed and then converted after meeting him. He then decries the Jews and asks Mohammed for safety before they hear of his conversion. He reportedly said:

So the Apostle of Allah...took me into one of his apartments, and they [the Jewish community] came before him. They spoke with him and asked him questions. He in turn asked them, "What kind of a man is al-Husayn b. Salam [Abd's name prior to conversion] among you?"

"He is our chief and the son of our chief, our rabbi and our leading scholar," they replied.

As they finished speaking, I came out in front of them and said, "O Jews, fear Allah and accept what he has sent you! For by Allah, you surely know that he is the Apostle of Allah. You will find him foretold in the Torah both by his name and his description. I bear witness that he is the Apostle of Allah. I believe in him. I declare him to be true. And I acknowledge him."

"You lie!" they cried, and went on to slander me.

---from Ibn Hisham, al-Sira al-Nabawiyya, (Cairo, 1955) vol. 1, pp. 516-17

It is very difficult to gauge the veracity of this encounter with Mohammad considering the vantage point of the speaker and the lacuna of time between its occurrence and when it was finally written down. But this is as close as you will get. The early Muslim encounters with Jewish leadership after Mohammed's death, such as those with the resh galuta Bustanay, deserves its own question.

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    the teimoni community has a letter from mu7ammadh stating their protection is secured. however, the letter which exists now is only a rewritten hebrew version which has been altered to fit the problems of the time it was written in(probably 1500s+). the original arabic paper is not in anyone's hands as far as i know and most likely will not be as its lost/destroyed. Feb 18, 2015 at 22:22
  • @MoriDoweedhYaa3qob: That is the famous jizya letter which is recorded in the early biography that I already quoted from. There are documents directed toward the Jews (and others) during that time, it just doesn't go the other way around.
    – Aryeh
    Feb 18, 2015 at 22:43
  • right. the letter was sealed by mu7ammadh but it was brought by muadh ibn jabal as mu7ammadh never came to yaman. he sent ibn jabal to yaman Feb 18, 2015 at 22:45
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    @MoriDowidhYa3aqov What/who is “mu7ammadh”?
    – Oliver
    Dec 2, 2018 at 23:49
  • @Oliver He likely is referring to Muhammad, the last Prophet of the Islam.
    – Ahmed
    Dec 22, 2018 at 12:23

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