In 610 CE, Muhammad had revelatory visions in a cave in Medina, revelations that would later make up the Quran and the commandments of Islam. Meanwhile, the Jews of the Arabian Peninsula were finally living in relative safety after years of tortuous oppression by the Byzantine Christians.
Muhammad was forced to flee from Mecca to Medina, where Jewish tribes who had lived there for generations were more accepting of his monotheistic beliefs. In fact, Muhammad and his followers even adopted many Jewish customs. However, the Jews did not accept Muhammad’s claims to prophecy and things took a negative turn between the early Muslims and the Jews.
As Muhammad’s followers continued to conquer much of the Middle East and North Africa, the Jews in these lands were given “dhimmi” status. This meant that if they paid the annual tax and kept their heads down, they could generally live without fear. And while the system occasionally broke down, this relative freedom enabled a flourishing of Jewish thought and set the stage for some of Judaism’s most influential scholars and philosophers.