Islamic Studies Jewish-Muslim Relations
Yousef Meri
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0075


This bibliographic survey addresses various aspects of the historical relationship between Islam and Judaism and encompasses the study of the history, language, literature, culture, society, and thought of the Jews of the Islamic world and the modern Middle East and North Africa as well as the encounters between Muslims and Jews throughout history. It seeks to situate the interactions between the faiths within a historical/civilizational framework that does not merely emphasize the interactions of textual traditions. Islam is regarded as an inheritor of both the Hebrew Bible (Torah) as well as the Gospels. The Qur’an itself contains numerous references to the Jews (Arab. al-yahūd, Banū Isrāʾīl [Children of Israel]) and Judaism, which arose in specific contexts, sometimes reflecting the threats the nascent Muslim community faced from the Meccans and their allies from among the Jewish tribes of Medina on the one hand while at the same time reflecting a reverence for the Torah. The classical scholarly view of the relationship of Judaism to Islam maintains variously that Islam’s rituals and doctrines derive from Judaism and Christianity, that the Prophet Muḥammad sought to consciously model himself on prophetic figures like Abraham and Moses, that the Qur’an or parts of it were authored after Muḥammad’s lifetime, and that the scriptural events and stories recounted in the Qur’an are ultimately borrowed from earlier scriptures. Views posited by scholars in the 19th century like the reform Rabbi Abraham Geiger (d. 1874) in his Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judentume aufgenommen (1833; English: Judaism and Islam [1898]) and in the 1950s by Abraham Katsh in his Judaism in Islam? have essentially been discounted. Such studies have traditionally focused on the interrelationship of the Jewish and Islamic scriptural and exegetical traditions and the origins of Islam based on a reading of primary sources and employing philological methods. The “Isrāʾīliyyāt” or so-called Israelite traditions, which were of questionable origins and are found in the Stories of the Prophets (qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ) genre in Islam, in various exegetical works and the biography (sīra) of the Prophet Muḥammad, continue to contribute to scholarly discussions about the textual interrelationship of Judaism and Islam. However, the interrelationship between Islam and Judaism and Muslims and Jews is more profound in terms of the dynamic exchange and interchange of ideas that took place not merely in a scriptural or exegetical context but rather in a historical context throughout the nearly 1,400-year history between the adherents of the two faiths. This encounter from the Middle Ages down to the modern era resulted in the development of new and exciting cultural, linguistic, intellectual, and literary forms as well as the development of popular customs and traditions such as pilgrimage and the veneration of saints and shrines. During the 1950s and 1960s, a major shift in scholarly research occurred. The Cairo Geniza, a cache of documents that had been discovered during the 19th century in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fusṭāṭ (Old Cairo), emerged as one of the most important sources for the study of medieval Jewish society and Muslim–Jewish relations. The Geniza affords a glimpse not only into the exegetical traditions of the Jews of the medieval Islamic world but also sheds light on the activities of the heads of the Jewish communities as well as merchants, scholars, and poets. Scholarly inquiry has resulted in innovative studies on such themes as poverty and charity and Jewish and Islamic thought and pilgrimage. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the study of Islam and Judaism was the purview of mainly American Jewish and Israeli scholars, though today non-Jewish scholars are increasingly becoming involved in the study of the intersection of both faiths. Although in a Middle Eastern context, the study of Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic have become important for strategic and political reasons, in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere, scholars have become increasingly interested in the interrelationship of Judaism and Islam in an academic context. The work of the Egyptian scholar Mohamed Hawary is but one example that incorporates the study of classical Hebrew and Arabic sources into historical research on the Fāṭimid and Ayyūbid periods. Over the past two decades, the focus has shifted from studies that merely look at points of contact, similarities and differences between Judaism and Islam, to a more holistic and integrated vision of the diverse and complex interactions between faiths, ideas, and peoples. Such scholarship focuses on historical, anthropological, philosophical, legal, and sociological phenomena. From 2010 through 2012, no fewer than five major edited collections and monographs dedicated to the study of some aspect of Muslim–Jewish relations have been published. Moreover, two major reference works have appeared: The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World (Brill) and Bibliography of Jews in the Islamic World (Brill). This is testament to the exponential growth of this field to encompass diverse humanities and social scientific research, rather than studies that merely focus on philological and/or theological issues. The development of academic resources on the Internet is no less important. In 2011 two websites were launched: Mathal/Mashal, which is dedicated to the study of the “scholarly discussion of topics present in the Islamic and Jewish traditions, cultures, and practices especially in the area where thematic and doctrinal aspects are common,” and the e-platform Intertwined Worlds, which seeks “to make accessible authoritative articles on a wide variety of topics within the study of Muslim–Jewish relations to a broad audience, including advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students, faculty, and members of the general public.”

General Overviews

Brenner 2010 contextualizes the history of the Jews of the Islamic lands in the context of Jewish history while Stillman 1979 and Stillman 1991 provide an annotated anthology of texts in translation concerning the history of the Jews of the Islamic world from early Islamic times down to the present. Stillman 1990 provides a bibliographic overview of works through 1990. Hary, et al. 2000 (cited under Collections of Essays) includes essays on a range of linguistic and historical themes in Jewish–Muslim relations. Neusner, et al. 2000 is an important source book for the study of ritual, custom, and law in Judaism and Islam. Goitein 2005 provides a brief introduction to various aspects of the historical relationship between Muslims and Jews. Menocal 2003 argues for a culture of tolerance between Muslims, Jews, and Christians in medieval Andalusia. Cohen 2005 is a useful anthology of documents pertaining to poverty from the Cairo Geniza. Lassner 2012 focuses mainly on modern Western scholarship on Jews and Christians in the medieval Islamic world. Pratt 2010 offers a brief assessment of Islamic views relating to Jews, Zionism, and Israel and their impact on Muslim–Jewish relations. Gender in Judaism and Islam Conference (2010) explores various issues pertaining to gender in Judaism and Islam, while Roded 2012 provides an overview of religious feminism in Islam and Judaism. Lazarus-Yafeh 1984 is a comparative study of the legal aspects of Judaism and Islam.

  • Brenner, Michael. A Short History of the Jews. Translated by Jeremiah Riemer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

    Succinct overview of the history of the Jewish experience for general readers and undergraduates. Chapters 6 and 7 deal with the Jews of the Islamic world. (Originally published as Kleine jüdische Geschichte, Munich: C.H. Beck, 2008).

  • Cohen, Mark R. The Voice of the Poor in the Middle Ages: An Anthology of Documents from the Cairo Geniza Pertaining to Poverty and Charity among Medieval Jews. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

    Meticulous translation of a wide-range of documents from the Cairo Geniza pertaining to poverty and charity among medieval Jews. Excellent resource for postgraduate teaching

  • Goitein, S. D. Jews and Arabs: A Concise History of Their Social and Cultural Relations. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2005.

    The 2005 edition includes a brief foreword by Mark Cohen. Recommended for undergraduate teaching. Particularly insightful is chapter 7 on the “Cultural Development of the Jewish People Inside Arab Islam.” Goitein was the first to refer to “Jewish–Arab symbiosis.” Some of the views presented in this work are outdated and reflect the thinking present in orientalist scholarship in the 1950s. (Third revised edition originally published 1974, New York: Schocken).

  • Jewish Studies Program. Gender in Judaism and Islam conference. University of Pennsylvania, 22 March 2010.

    Proceedings of a cross-disciplinary conference organized by the Jewish Studies Program, University of Pennsylvania, which includes discussions of law, human rights, the body, and the arts. Audio available online.

  • Lassner, Jacob. Jews, Christians, and the Abode of Islam: Modern Scholarship, Medieval Realities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226471099.001.0001

    Useful synthesis and commentary on previous Western scholarship on the medieval Islamic world and occidental responses. Includes chapters on such themes as Orientalists, Occidentalists, and medieval philosophy and science.

  • Lazarus-Yafeh, Hava. “Some Differences Between Judaism and Islam as Two Religions of Law.” Religion: Journal of Religion and Religions 14 (1984): 175–191.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0048-721X(84)80008-1

    Comparative study of the legal aspects of Judaism and Islam such as fasting, prayer, and ritual purity.

  • Menocal, María Rosa. Ornament of the World. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.

    Accessible study written in the modern historiographical tradition of romanticizing the Middle Ages, invaluable for undergraduate teaching based on literary sources. Menocal argues for a culture of tolerance in medieval Andalusian society.

  • Neusner, Jacob, Tamara Sonn, and Jonathan Brockopp, eds. Judaism and Islam and Practice: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2000.

    An excellent overview of ritual and law in Judaism and Islam. Suitable for undergraduates and nonspecialists.

  • Pratt, Douglas. “Muslim–Jewish Relations: Some Islamic Paradigms.” Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations 21 (2010): 11–21.

    DOI: 10.1080/09596410903481820

    Brief assessment of Islamic views relating to Jews, Zionism, and Israel and their impact on Muslim–Jewish relations.

  • Roded, Ruth. “Islamic and Jewish Religious Feminism: Similarities, Parallels and Interactions.” Religion Compass 6 (2012): 213–224.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8171.2012.00346.x

    Overview of religious feminism in Islam and Judaism. Suitable for undergraduates and nonspecialists.

  • Rodrigue, Aron. Jews and Muslims: Images of Sephardi and Eastern Jewries in Modern Times. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003.

    Translation of two works first published in French as De l’instruction à l’émancipation: Les enseignants de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle et les Juifs de l’Orient, 1860–1939 (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1989), and in English as Images of Sephardi and Eastern Jewries in Transition: The Teachers of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, 1860–1939 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993). Excellent study for the modern history of Middle Eastern Jewish communities based largely on the archives of the Alliance Israélite Universelle.

  • Stillman, Norman A. The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979.

    Survey of Jewish history in the Arab lands from the 7th through the 19th centuries followed by an extensive selection of primary sources from Arabic, Hebrew, Judaeo-Arabic, and other languages illustrating various aspects of the history of Muslim–Jewish relations.

  • Stillman, Norman A. “Jews of the Islamic World.” Modern Judaism 10.3 (1990): 367–378.

    DOI: 10.1093/mj/10.3.367

    An excellent bibliographic overview of works published through 1990 pertaining to Muslim–Jewish relations and the Jews of the Islamic world.

  • Stillman, Norman A. The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1991.

    Thorough survey and follow-up volume to the Jews of Arab Lands focusing on the late 19th century to the 1960s. Invaluable resource for undergraduate teaching.

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