Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages

Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages

Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages

Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages

Synopsis

This book deals with the history of the Jews in Muslim countries, and consists of four parts; the central part is the second one which is a comprehensive history of the Jews of Iraq and Iran, from the seventh to the thirteenth centuries; the first part discusses the origin of the Jews in Yathrib (al-Madina) and the references to Jews in the founding document of the Muslim umma; the third part is a history of Sicily and its Jews during the period of Muslim rule; the fourth part deals with the role played by Jews in the economic life of the Muslim countries in the early Middle Ages. The studies are based mainly on Arab writings and on documents from the Cairo Geniza. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages has been selected by Choice as Outstanding Academic Title (2005). This book is also available in paperback.

Excerpt

As in my previous books (The Book on the heqdēsh [Jewish pious foundations], Leiden 1976; The Tustaris, Tel Aviv 1981; Palestine during the First Muslim Period [Tel Aviv 1983] and its vol. I: A History of Palestine (634–1099) [Cambridge 1992]), this book is also primarily based on documents from the Geniza. 846 such documents are included in extenso in three volumes of this book’s Hebrew version. These documents are mentioned here by their numbers, in bold type.

In my Preface to A History of Palestine, the reader will find information about the Geniza and its importance, as well as references to more detailed descriptions of this vast and endless historical treasure. There I also raise the contribution made by earlier scholars to the deciphering of these documents and their value in the clarification of the various issues with regard to the history of the Jewish people in the Islamic countries in the early Middle Ages. The extensive notes which accompany the discussions appearing below include mentions (alas, perennially insufficient) of studies written in recent generations; they set forth variae lectiones, reservations, and disputes on matters of content-which, however, are not in the least intended to detract from the work of the earlier scholars, without whom we would be hopelessly groping in the dark today. Indeed, I must assume that, at times, the versions cited by others are preferable to my own. Further, I sincerely hope that scholars in subsequent generations will make a more profound investigation of the documents published by me and will continue to improve and facilitate their reading. After all, the writing in most of these documents is extremely cursive, with many faded places, and even the translations may be justly subjected to criticism. “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults” (Ps. 19:12). To a great degree, clarification of the issues set forth in this book has resulted from the constant debate and confrontation which I have maintained with rather large groups of students. Their questions, their comments, the papers they have written and submitted-all of these have helped me to refine my understanding and my outlook, and have confirmed the saying of the Sages: “And from my students [I have learned] more than from anyone”.

Appearing at the beginning of this book are two discussions with regard to the Jews of the Arabian Peninsula; my readers, of course, will be able to obtain a clear and continuous general overview of the history of the Jews of that area (most of whom settled in the North-that is, in Ḥijāz) from various books dealing with the history of early Islam . . .

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