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Edited by Josef Meri

This volume assembles multidisciplinary research on the Judaeo-Islamic tradition in medieval and modern contexts. The introduction discusses the nature of this tradition and proposes the more fluid and inclusive designation of “Jewish-Muslim Relations.” Contributions highlight diverse aspects of Jewish-Muslim relations in medieval and modern contexts, including the academic study of Jewish history, the Qur’anic notion of the “upright community” referring to the “People of the Book,” Jews in medieval fatwas, use of Arabic and Hebrew script, Jewish prayer in Christian Europe and the Islamic world, the permissibility of Arabic music in modern Jewish thought, Jewish and Muslim feminist exegesis, modern Sephardic and Morisco identity, popular Tunisian song, Jewish-Muslim relations in cinema and A.S. Yehuda’s study of an 11th-century Jewish mystic.

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Norman A. Stillman

Abstract

The scholarly study of Islamicate Jewry had its beginnings in the nineteenth century as a tangential part of Orientalist research on Islam. Until that time, European travel literature had taken notice of the Jewish communities living in Muslim countries. Medieval Judeo-Arabic civilization became one of the major foci of the Wissenschaft des Judentums scholars of Central and Western Europe. They took little interest in later periods and set the academic agenda that was to continue well into the twentieth century. The only exception being a few researchers in Mandatory Palestine and in the French colonial Maghreb. However, the mass exodus of most Jews from the Islamic world during the twenty-five years that following the establishment of the State of Israel and the end of European colonialism sparked an intense interest in the modern history, ethnography, and culture of Islamicate Jewry which was thought to be in need of “salvage” research before it disappeared with assimilation into Israeli and French societies. The 1970s marked a definite turning point worldwide in the development of the overall field of Islamicate Jewish Studies due to a concomitance of factors: the entry into the field of new young scholars in Israel, France, and North America, significant new trends in the wider world of academe, and a new recognition and institutional response within Israel which was partially a result of social pressures from within the society by the so-called ʿedot ha-mizraḥ (literally, “the communities of the East”).

This essay surveys the evolution of this field of academic endeavor from its beginnings in the nineteenth century to the present highlighting the major scholars and their publications.

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Camilla Adang

Abstract

This contribution presents and analyses a fatwā (legal opinion) issued by Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Māzarī (d. 536/1141), a well-known Tunisian scholar of Sicilian descent, concerning a Jewish silk trader who was accused of having obtained his merchandise by unlawful means. In the fatwā, apparently issued at the request of the qāḍī of Gafsa, al-Māzarī argues that since the accusers have been unable to produce incontrovertible proof, the Jewish defendant should be given the opportunity to clear himself of all suspicion by swearing an oath in the synagogue. By objectively applying the rules of evidence prevailing in Islamic law, al-Māzarī quashes the claim of the accuser, although he was in all likelihood a Muslim.

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Stefan C. Reif

Abstract

What is here being attempted is an overall comparison of the various elements of Jewish worship that were forged in the contexts of the two powerful monotheisms of Islam and Christianity in the middle ages. Some preliminary impressions are given of what in Jewish prayer originated where, and when, and some conclusions reached about how the influences may have differed, depending on the religious empires in which they evolved. It becomes clear that in each of the two milieus there were dynamic developments that may partly have been inspired by the general cultural environment. The topics briefly discussed include centralization, literacy, sects, poetry, gender and martyrdom. Special attention is also paid to the Spain where the situation was different in that the Jewish communities there lived for centuries under Islam and then found themselves under Christian rule.

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Ruth Roded

Abstract

The Arabic phrase “al-rijāl qawwāmūna ʿalā al-nisāʾ’” which defines gender relations in the Qurʾān (Qurʾān 4:34) has been interpreted by Muslim men functioning in patriarchal societies, and reinterpreted by Islamic feminists. The parallel phrase from the Hebrew bible “vehu yimshol bach” (Genesis 3:15) also defines gender relations, although its original context differs. This article aims to explore similarities, differences and parallels between the Islamic and Jewish understanding of gender as reflected in the sacred books.

A comparative exposition of the differing contextual meaning of the Biblical and Qurʾānic phrases will be followed by an explication of their patriarchal exegesis in medieval and in modern times. Finally, the efforts by religious feminists to redefine the terms yimshol and qawwāmūn—their methods and strategies—will be compared and contrasted.

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Esther-Miriam Wagner

Abstract

This article explores the usage of Arabic and Hebrew scripts to write Arabic in the Jewish community of medieval Egypt. Factors leading to the employment of particular alphabets include schooling, class, and professional and religious identity. Certain professions, such as doctors, preferred the Arabic alphabet as a sign of their trade and integral part of their prestige, whereas merchants needed knowledge of Arabic script for conducting business and arranging transport. Highly educated community leaders may choose to write in both alphabets as a personal quirk. Other authors prefer to compose Hebrew in Hebrew script, and Arabic only in Arabic letters. The motivation of writers to favour Arabic or Hebrew script and the complexity of their choices is discussed along the lines of examples in legal documents, letters, medical books, and grammatical and geographical works from the Cairo Genizah, the great treasure trove of medieval manuscripts.

Series:

Dinah Assouline Stillman

Abstract

Until the early 1990s, the close cohabitation in France of Jews and Muslims from formerly colonized North Africa was generally peaceful. During the first half of the twentieth century, most of the newcomers fulfilled the Republican vision of assimilation. However, events in the Middle East in the latter part of the twentieth century and early years of the twenty-first, and in particular the First and Second Intifada, together with the introduction of Arab satellite television, caused a sea-change in inter-ethnic relations. Angry Muslim youths, frustrated also by widespread discrimination in the broader French society and workplace, directed violence both toward the authorities and the establishment and particularly against Jews whom they accuse as being Zionists. For their part, the Jews of the banlieues (suburbs) and inner cities have felt increasingly insecure and have been progressively moving to “safer” bourgeois or gentile neighborhoods or to Israel. These new realities have been the subject of a considerable number of French movies by Jewish and Muslim directors (and in one instance the son of a pied noir family) and film writers. Some of these films merely attempt to record the situation, whereas others aim at fostering improved relationships. This article chronicles these cinematic efforts and analyzes their varying approaches to Jewish-Muslim relations in France.