Beliefs and, Customs
The study of the daily life of the Jewish communities scattered throughout the Muslim world requires a thorough examination of the intricate web of customs and beliefs embedded in the lives of the Jews of those countries for hundreds and even thousands of years. Such a study is difficult, though, as it depends on global as well as regional factors. The period of existence for a Jewish community in a certain region, its exposure to the various local cultures, the competition with its gentile neighbors, as well as its relations with other centers of Judaism—including the Land of Israel— all play a dominant role in shaping the image of a Jewish community in a particular region.
After considering such obvious superficial contrasts as clothing, culinary habits, language, and physical appearance, the question remains of how to judge the uniformity or diversity of the popular customs and ways of life of the Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities.
A society's ideological and religious system establishes and sets the pattern for most of its customs and beliefs, which then are influenced by changes in the ideological and social basis of the society. These rules apply to society in general, but the prolonged existence of the various Jewish communities in the Diaspora—in essence, as a threatened minority group—has led to the development of characteristics specific to the Jewish people. Environmental and other factors have had a direct influence on the life, customs, and beliefs of each community, causing an apparent blurring of the general criteria that characterize the Jews in the Diaspora, whose yearly and life cycles are based on rules, ideals, principles, and concepts that began as