FAMOUS LETTERS OF THE RAMBAM
Iggeres HaShmad (Maamar Kidush Hashem)
In the 1060’s, the community of Morocco was reeling from the radical persecutions of the Almohadin Moslems, who demanded that Jews either leave, convert, or die. This led many people to practice Judaism secretly, the predecessors of the famous Marranos. They rationalized their public adherence to Islam by saying that Islam is not idol worship. However, a certain sage wrote to them and said that they are all idol worshippers who are constantly transgressing the Torah, and they will therefore not receive reward for their Mitzvos done in secret. Additionally, he declared that anyone who even says that Mohammed is a true prophet is considered a denier of God’s existence. This made many people in the Moroccan community decide either to give themselves up or die Al Kiddush Hashem (In Sanctification of God’s name), or convert to Islam.
The Rambam was furious about this sage’s remarks, which he found totally incorrect, and wrote a letter of reassurance to the Jews of Morocco refuting these remarks. In the letter, he rebuked the sage’s ignorance, and told the Jews of Morocco that they had not transgressed these serious prohibitions and were, in fact, allowed to live this double life under the circumstances. However, he advised them to leave and find a place where they could freely practice the Mitzvos. The Rambam wrote this letter at the age of twenty-seven.
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Iggeres Teiman (Petach Tikva)
When the Rambam was thirty-six, he was asked by the community in Yemen to assess their religious situation, which was extremely desperate. Firstly, they were under pressure by radical Moslems to convert or die, and were therefore mainly keeping Mitzvos in secret. Secondly, a Jew amongst them had started to lecture that Islam was the new Jewish religion. Though only a few were taken by his heretical and false words, this influenced the rest of the community, instigating a state of mind that the Moshiach must be coming.