The Allahdad Event and History of Anusim

The Allahdad Event and History of Anusim... 26/03/1839 History, #Abbas_Mirza, #Afghanistan, #Afshar, #Allahdad, #Anusim, #Assyrian, #British, #Bukhara, #Christ, #Christianity, #Christians, #Czarist, #European, #French, #Germany, #Haji, #Hajj, #Hamburg, #Hebrew, #Herat, #History, #Iberia, #Imam, #India, #Iran, #Iranian, #Iranian_Jews, #Iranian_Revolution, #Islam, #Islamic, #Israel, #Italy, #Jerusalem, #Jew, #Jewish, #Judaism, #Kalat, #Khorasan, #London, #Marv, #Mashad, #Mashhad, #Mashhadi_Jews, #Mecca, #Milan, #Mirza, #Muharram, #Mullah, #Muslim, #Nadir_Shah, #Narrative, #New_York, #New_York_City, #Nissan, #Pahlavi, #Pakistan, #Palestine, #Persia, #Persian, #Portugal, #Portuguese, #Qajar, #Qazvin, #Revolution, #Reza_Shah, #Russia, #Russian, #Safavid, #Sayyid, #Shah, #Shia, #Shiite, #Silk_Road, #Spain, #Stalin, #Sunni, #Tehran, #Timeline, #Turkmen, #Turkmenistan, #United_States, #World_War_II

The Allahdad was an 1839 violent riot and forced conversion against the Jews of Mashhad, Khorasan, Qajar Iran. After forced conversion of the Mashhadi Jews to Islam, many practiced Crypto-Judaism. The incident was important in the aspect that an entire community was forced to convert, and it was one of the first times European Jewry intervened on behalf of Iranian Jews.
The event was first described in Joseph Wolff's 1845 travelogue "Narrative of a mission to Bokhara", in which he wrote:
On Monday, the 11th of March, I arrived at Askerea, two miles distant from Meshed. I had sent on before the King's mehmoondar, and the gholam of the British embassy. The first who came to meet me was Mullah Mehdee (Meshiakh), the Jew with whom I had lodged twelve years ago, and who treated me most hospitably when in distress and misery and poverty, previous to the arrival of Abbas Mirza at Meshed, from Nishapoor. All the Jews of Meshed, a hundred and fifty families, were compelled seven years ago, to turn Mussulmans. The occasion was as follows: A poor woman had a sore hand; a Mussulman physician advised her to kill a dog and put her hand in the blood of it; she did so; when suddenly the whole population rose, and said that they had done it in derision of their Prophet. Thirty-five Jews were killed in a few minutes; the rest, struck with terror, became Muhammedans ; and fanatic and covetous Muhammedans shouted, "Light of Muhammed has fallen upon them!" They are now more zealous Jews in secret than ever; but call themselves, like the Jews in Spain, Anusim, "the compelled ones!" Their children cannot suppress their feelings when their parents call them by their Muhammedan names! But Mullah Mehdee and Mullah Moshe believe in Christ, and Mullah Mehdee asked me to baptize him. He has been of the greatest use to the English in Heraut and Candahar, as his testimonials from Rawlinson and others amply testify.
In another narrative of the same event this incident happened during the Shia holy month on Muharram. The Shias were marching in the streets in memory of Hussein ibn Ali when the Jewish woman was throwing away the dog she killed for medical reasons. She was accused of deliberately offending the shi'is.
Still another narrative reports that the dog was only a pretext and the conflict was because of earlier confrontations between a Sayyid (descendant of Muhammad) and the Jews who did not want to pay him for the Husainia he built near the Jewish commercial shops.
In any case the recommendation by a Muslim physician seems unlikely as both Islamic and Jewish laws would consider dog's blood to be impure.
Mashhad's ruler had ordered his men to enter Jewish homes and mobs attacked the Jewish community, burning down the synagogue, looting homes, abducting girls, and killing between 30 and 40 people. With knives held to their throats, the Jewish patriarchs were forced to vocally proclaim their "allegiance" to Islam as it was agreed upon by the leaders of the community that in order to save the remaining 2,400 Jews, everyone must convert. Most converted and stayed in Mashhad, taking on Muslim names, while some left for other Iranian Jewish communities and to Afghanistan. That day became known as the Allahdad ("God’s Justice").
This event might also be understood in larger Jewish-Persian relations. Many Jews of Mashhad, including the chief of the local Jewish community, Mullah Mahdi Aqajan, served as British agents. This fact in addition to recent withdrawal of Iran from Herat in 1838 under British pressure, created an increasingly hostile atmosphere towards the Jews in Mashhad. Few years after the incident with the intervention of Moses Montefiore the head of British Jewry at the time, Jews were allowed by Muhammad Shah's decree to return to Judaism. However most Jews fearing the anger of the local population decided to live outwardly as Muslims and living as crypto-Jews. On the outside, they acted as Muslims: their clothes, names, and lifestyles resembled those of their Iranian neighbors. At home, however, they secretly taught their children to read Hebrew, lit candles, and observed Shabbat. Some Mashhadi Jews did not feel safe in Mashhad anymore and decided to move to other cities in the area such as Bukhara and Samarqand. A large group moved to Herat in present-day Afghanistan, where the majority of the Muslims were Sunni and more tolerant of the Jews than the Shiites.
Nearly a century passed before Mashad's Jews started practicing their faith openly with the coming of the more liberal Pahlavi dynasty (1925–1979). After World War II, most of them settled in Tehran, Israel, or New York City, with 4,000 moving to the United States, where many ran successful jewelry and carpet businesses. The commercial district in Great Neck, New York, has been reshaped to serve the needs of Mashhadis and other Iranian Jews. Many businesses there cater to Iranian customs and taste.
Worldwide there are 20,000 Mashhadis, of which about 10,000 live in Israel. Of the Mashhadis in the United States, many of them live in Great Neck, New York.
The term anusim became more frequently used after the forced conversion to Christianity of Ashkenazi Jews in Germany at the end of the 11th century. In his religious legal opinions, Rashi, a French rabbi who lived during this period, commented about the issue of anusim.
Several centuries later, following the mass forced conversion of Sephardi Jews (those Jews with extended histories in Spain and Portugal, known jointly as Iberia, or "Sepharad" in Hebrew) of the 15th and 16th centuries, the term "anusim" became widely used by Spanish rabbis and their successors for the following 600 years, henceforth becoming associated with Sephardic history.
The term may be properly applied to any Jew of any ethnic division. Since that time, it has also been applied to other forced or coerced converted Jews, such as the Mashadi Jews of Persia (modern Iran), who converted to Islam in the public eye, but secretly practised Judaism at home. They lived dual-religious lives, being fully practising Muslims in public life, and fully practising Jews at home.
In non-rabbinic literature, the more widely known Sephardic anusim are also referred to as:
"Conversos", meaning "converts " in Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish).
"New Christians", or cristianos nuevos in Spanish, and cristãos novos in Portuguese (Catalan: cristians nous), which also encompasses converts from Islam.
"Crypto-Jews", and
"Marranos", a term which refers to those conversos which practiced Judaism in secret and, as a result, were targeted by the Spanish inquisition.
Mashhadi Jews
The Jewish community of Mashhad, Iran formed in the 1740s, when Nadir Shah Afshar called for the relocation of forty Jewish families from Qazvin and Dilaman to Kalat. Circumstances ultimately led these families to settle in Mashhad. Known for their integrity and loyalty, these trusted Jewish families were selected to protect Nadir Shah’s treasures and jewels, spoils which he had taken from his Indian invasion. He did not live long enough to witness the implementation of his proclamation.

Mashhadi Jews living in the current Iranian diaspora remain steadfast in their community ties. Religion, community, and nationality are key components forming the identity of the Mashhadi Jewish community. Similar to many of their Jewish brethren, the Jews of Mashhad gravitated towards professions that allowed their trade skills to flourish. They were avid merchants, navigating the ancient Silk Road. Mashhadi Jews were held with the highest regard by Sunni Turkmen and Shiite Mashhadi tradesmen, because of their reputation for honorable and ethical business practices. The perils of travel subjected Mashhadi traders to freezing temperatures, murderous bandits, and limited means of transportation.

Due to their occupations and the arduous conditions involved in their travels, Mashhadi men adopted a lifestyle which required spending several months to years on the road without their families. Modern Mashhadi men continue their forefathers’ unique tradition of working as traveling merchants to support their families. Mashhadi women have likewise upheld their matriarchal tradition of creating family and community cohesiveness by nurturing home, family, and community relationships. Unlike their female predecessors, modern Mashhadi women are exemplary businesswomen, who are heirs to the savvy trade skills of their ancestors.

The pivotal historic event that transformed an undefined group of Iranian Jews into an unfaltering community was the Allahdad (means “God’s Justice”) of 1839. Building social tensions and resentment and suspicion by Shiite Muslims of the Jewish inhabitants of Mashhad's Eydgah ghetto, culminated in an explosive event. A blood libel on the commemoration day of a holy Muslim Imam led to a devastating pogrom. On the eve of Mashhad's Allahdad (March 27, 1839), an estimated thirty-six Jews were killed and approximately seven Jewish girls were abducted to become Muslim child brides. Within the next twenty-four hours, under the risk of death, approximately three hundred Jewish families made the pretense of converting to Islam, under the advisement of their community leaders. The term Allahdad was coined by the forced converts to relate their past sins with the calamity they were enduring.

Following the forced conversions, a number of Jewish families, unable to sustain the facade of Muslim faith, escaped to Herat, Afghanistan. Later on, from Afghanistan to Sub-Continent (Pakistan). Very few Mashhadi converts permanently assimilated to Islam. It is estimated that the remaining community members proceeded to live dual lives as crypto-Jews through the 1920s. During this time, the Jadid-al-Islam (a term meaning “New Muslims”) boasted of two known Sheikhs, fifty-seven known Hajjis, and twenty-one known Karbalais while preserving their secret Jewish identities. Their ties to the Islamic religion were complex at times.

Mashhadi families gradually migrated to Marv and surrounding areas of Czarist Turkmenistan, in an effort to escape persecution in Mashhad and look for better business opportunities in pre-communist Russia. The seemingly stable social and trade environment of Russia did not benefit them for long. In the fall of 1917, the Russian revolution caused the first return of Mashhadi Jews, from Marv to Mashhad. Mashhadis who remained in Russia fell prey to Stalin's “purge of petit bourgeoisie” and some members of the community were imprisoned. In 1925, Reza Shah made an agreement with Stalin to exchange Iranian and Russian nationals. The imprisoned Mashhadis were released to return home, once again. A second blood libel in 1946 led the disenchanted community's gradual relocation to the tolerant cities of Tehran and Jerusalem, joining the few Mashhadi families who already resided there.

Within an eighty-year span, the Mashhadi community migrated at least five times to avoid persecution. Throughout this short period they migrated from Mashhad to Herat, Mashhad to Russia and back, Mashhad to Jerusalem and Tehran, ultimately fleeing during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Mashhadi communities now exist in Israel, New York, Milan, Hamburg, London and Pakistan. In Pakistan, Mashhadi families are Muslims; some of them are Shia and some of them are Sunnis.

Mashhadi youth have assumed their predecessors' ethos of primarily socializing and marrying within their community. This once necessary survival mechanism has transitioned to a comfortable modus operandi for today's Mashhadis. Many praise the modern Mashhadi community for their sense of unity, while some question their insular lifestyle. All perspectives undeniably credit the Mashhadi community for their fervor in upholding their Jewish heritage and traditions.

The resounding conclusion of the Mashhadi story is one that reflects their ability to protect their inherent Jewish religion. The unusual survival method of the Mashhadi crypto-Jews laid the foundation for a modern Mashhadi community who now safely and proudly practice Judaism.
Timeline of Jews of Mashhad

Iranian Jews are considered to be the descendants of the Assyrian 722 B.C. and Babylonian Exiles 586 B.C. Within this diaspora, a smaller tribe of Jews evolved, due to their geographic setting in the city of Mashhad, and their robust community ties.

1650 – Safavid dynasty ruling in Iran calls to convert or kill all Iranian Jews
1739 – Nadir Shah of the Afsharid dynasty invades India.
1740 – Nadir Shah brings spoils back from his Indian invasion, in the form of treasures and jewels.
1746 – Nadir Shah orders the relocation of forty Jewish families from Qazvin to Khorasan province, for the purpose of guarding his acquired treasures and jewels. Nadir Shah holds a favorable disposition towards Jews.
1747 – Nadir Shah is assassinated. Persecution of Iranian Jews resumes. Seventeen of the forty original families move to Eydgah ghetto, Mashhad.
1750 – Seven of the original forty families proceed from Sabzavar and settle in Mashhad.
1755 – Sixteen of the original forty families proceed from Kalat and settle in Mashhad.
1839 – The Allahdad - the forced conversion of Mashhadi Jews to Islam - March 27, 1839 (12 Nissan 5599/11 Muharram 1255). Mashhadi (Anusim) live dual lives as crypto-Jews, through 1925
1840 – A number of Jewish families, unable to sustain the facade of Muslim faith, escaped to Herat, Afghanistan
1886 – Some Mashhadi Jewish families immigrate to Turkmenistan, Russia, through 1917.
1890 – Muslim Mashhadi attempts to expose secret Jewish burial proceedings of crypto-Jews. A potential pogrom is averted.
1890s – After completing the Hajj, some Mashhadi families make Aliya to Jerusalem, instead of returning from Mecca to Mashhad.
1901 – Haji Adonya HaCohen builds the first Mashhadi Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem, followed by Haji Yehezkel‘s synagogue, built in 1905.
1910s – Some Mashhadi Jews move to London
1918 – Russian Revolution and start of communism prompts the first wave of Mashhadi Jews to return from Marv to Mashhad.
1925 – Reza Shah permits freedom of religious practice in Iran. Mashhadis begin to practice their Jewish faith openly
1946 – Second notable Blood Libel in Mashhad forces the now openly Jewish Mashhadi community to begin a decade-long migration to Tehran and Mandatory Palestine.
1940s – Some Mashhadi Jews move to United States, well through 1980s
1948 - The Jewish population of Mashhad is 2,500.
1950s – Some Mashhadi Jews move to Germany and Italy.
1979 – Iranian revolution impels Iranian Jews to flee Iran
2010 – Over twenty-thousand Mashhadi Jews now reside in Israel, New York, Milan, Germany, and London.

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