Jewish Studies Jews Under Classical Islam
by
Ross Brann
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0097

Introduction

This bibliographic essay surveys research on the historical and cultural experience of the Jews of Islamic lands during the classical age of Islam, that is, from the 7th century to the turn of the 13th. The field of study is categorically modern, less than two hundred years old. In its earliest phase 19th-century German Jewish scholars pioneered the writing of modern Jewish historiography and utilized the tools of philology to set about recovering the literary-religious and literary-intellectual heritage of the Jews of Islam. They were drawn to this area of research in part on account of their romantic attraction to the idea of a Jewish community intellectually and culturally integrated within the majority society, a situation they believed was at complete variance with the Jews’ condition under medieval Christendom. So too, these scholars were curious to probe the observed similarity and historical relationship between Judaism and Islam. While their textual work retained its importance for subsequent research, many if not most of their historical conclusions now appear quaint and naive. The authority of philology and careful attention to text dominated the field of study through the 20th century. Eventually this field of inquiry began to mirror developments in the wider humanities, witnessing greater disciplinary variety with linguists, social historians, legal historians, religionists, and literary historians contributing their expertise to the production of more sophisticated scholarship. The discovery of the Cairo Geniza and the expert study of its assorted texts of diverse provenance was the single most important development within the field and it fundamentally reshaped every aspect of historical and literary research. Previously unknown details of the professional and personal lives of important historical figures and unknown personalities emerged from the Geniza’s documentary sources, including autograph letters; otherwise un-transmitted texts and additional versions of extant texts of every literary and religious genre were discovered, deciphered and published; documents emerged pertaining to every feature of Jewish communal and socioeconomic life in southern and eastern Mediterranean lands reflecting the movement of people, goods, and ideas from the Atlantic to India. The Geniza’s treasures thus yielded immense detail to the study of the Jews under classical Islam and enabled scholars to draw increasingly nuanced pictures of the Jews’ communal, social, religious, intellectual, and cultural life with careful attention to period, place, and social class. At the same time the turbulent history of the 20th century and the early 21st left their indelible ideological mark on scholarship. Many scholars have endeavored mightily to keep to their medievalist enterprise or to medievalism; whether conditioned by the nationalist struggle between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs or by the events of 11 September 2001, other scholars wittingly or unwittingly have been lured into utilizing the present in interpreting the past.

General Overviews

Two reference works, Gallego, et al. 2010 and Stillman, et al. 2010, establish the Jews of Islamic as a discrete, rich and multi-disciplinary field of study by offering a comprehensive bibliography and excellent introductory articles respectively devoted to the subject from the classical period of Islam to the present.

  • Cohen, Mark R. “The Jews under Islam from the Rise of Islam to Sabbatai Zevi.” In Sephardic Studies in the University. Edited by Jane Gerber, 43–119. Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 1995.

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    Now largely superseded by more recent work but nevertheless still useful for its concentration on the premodern period. Cohen’s essay offers the first thorough bibliographical essay on the subject.

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  • Cohen, Mark R. “Medieval Jewry in the World of Islam.” In The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies. Edited by Martin Goodman, 193–218. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    One of Goitein’s followers, Cohen contributes a keenly astute synthetic essay of the field of study with an excellent bibliography of suggested readings for nonspecialists. Focused primarily on social history Cohen also stresses the Jews’ “cultural embeddedness” under classical Islam as a reframing of Goitein’s notion of “cultural symbiosis.”

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  • Cohen, Mark R. “The Origins of Sephardic Jewry in the Medieval Arab World.” In Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry: From the Golden Age of Spain to Modern Times. Edited by Zion Zohar, 23–39. New York: New York University Press, 2005.

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    In this brief contribution Cohen situates the origins of Sephardic Jewry squarely within the orbit of Mediterranean Islam. The essay reproduces aspects of Cohen’s approach to the Jews of Islam as opposed to the Jews of Christendom in Cohen 2008 (cited under Historiography).

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  • Gallego, Marîa Angeles, Heather Bleaney, and Pablo Garcîa Suárez. Bibliography of Jews in the Islamic World. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

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    Extremely well indexed according to themes and subjects including religion, science, law, and geography as well as history, literature, language, and manuscripts, this supplement to the Index Islamicus references articles and books from the entire gamut of the Jews’ experiences in the Islamic world from late antiquity to the modern period.

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  • Goitein, S. D. Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts Through the Ages. 3d rev. ed. New York: Schocken, 1974.

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    Now somewhat dated but still a worthwhile undergraduate-accessible introduction to the subject, Jews and Arabs famously was written entirely from memory without benefit of his professional library. Goitein’s course book manages to convey his deep learning and historically sensitive approach to Islam and Jewish life and culture under its orbit. Republished: Mineola, NY: Dover, 2005, with the subtitle A Concise History of Their Social and Cultural Relations.

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  • Lewis, Bernard. The Jews of Islam. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

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    Offers a more sophisticated, historically minded yet accessible introduction for the undergraduate/reading public audience. Besides defining the social, political, and religious relationship of Islam to the Jews, Lewis assays the significance of the “Judeo-Islamic tradition.”

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  • Stillman, Norman A., Philip I. Ackerman-Lieberman, Yaron Ayalon, et al., ed. Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. 5 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

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    Serves as an indispensible reference complement to Gallego, et al. 2010, which likewise covers the entire historical sweep of the Jews in the Islamic world. Includes up-to-date contributions by an international team of specialists on ideas, major figures, thematic topics, and regions, lands, and countries. The articles conclude with brief bibliographies on their respective subjects.

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Historiography

The modern study of the Jews and Islam dates to the 19th century and the work of German Jewish scholars devoted to Wissenschaft des Judentums. The textually oriented scholarship of works such as Steinschneider 2008 was predicated above all on meticulous philology while Graetz 1956 was the first comprehensive narrative of Jewish history.

  • Baron, Salo W. A Social and Religious History of the Jews. New York and Philadelphia: Columbia University Press and Jewish Publication Society, 1957–1958.

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    The third through eighth volumes of Baron’s magisterial work discuss in great detail Jewish society and culture under classical Islam, and its publication represented a critical turning point in modern Jewish historiography. With this monumental work Baron was responsible for challenging what he termed the “lachrymose historiography” of the Jews.

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  • Bat Ye’or The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam. Rev. ed. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985.

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    Bat Ye’or, one of Mark Cohen’s principal interlocutors in the above-mentioned interpretive dispute, is a popularizing author who polemicizes against historically informed views of Islam, Muslims, and their attitudes toward Jews and Christians,

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  • Ben-Shammai, Haggai. “Jew-Hatred in the Islamic Tradition and the Koranic Exegesis.” In Antisemitism through the Ages. Edited by Shmuel Almog and translated by Nathan H. Reisner, 161–169. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    Ben-Shammai’s essay is also relevant to this historical question and representative of contemporary Israeli scholarship that is largely antagonistic toward Cohen’s approach and findings.

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  • Cohen, Mark R. “The Neo-Lachrymose Conception of Jewish-Arab History.” Tikkun (May-June 1991a): 55–60.

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    Cohen here observes the divergence between the historical summary presented and the documents translated in Stillman’s otherwise essential undergraduate textbook, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1979).

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  • Cohen, Gerson D. “The Reconstruction of Geonic History: Introduction to Mann’s Texts and Studies.” In Studies in the Variety of Rabbinic Cultures. By Gerson D. Cohen, 99–155. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991b.

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    Cohen offers an excellent contribution to the modern historiography of the geonic period with focus on the three of the main centers of Jewish life in Baghdad, Egypt, and Palestine from the 8th through 11th centuries.

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  • Cohen, Mark R. “What Was the Pact of cUmar? A Literary-Historical Study.” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 23 (1999): 100–157.

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    Cohen’s study of the so-called “Pact of cUmar” that lays out the aforementioned conditions is an extremely valuable historicizing reading of that critical document that goes beyond the classic studies, A. S. Tritton, The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects: A Critical Study of the Covenant of cUmar (Reprint, London: F. Cass, 1970), and Antoine Fattal, Le Statut légal des non-musulmans en pays d’Islam (Beirut: Imprimerie catholique, 1958).

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  • Cohen, Mark R. Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages. 2d ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

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    Cohen lays out the modern historiographical question of the nature of the Jewish experience under classical Islam, a subject whose narrative is unfortunately occasioned and informed by the competing modern nationalisms of Jews and Arabs over the land west of the River Jordan. A central issue concerns the legal position of the Jews in Islam, the subject of chapter 4 in Cohen’s book, namely the terms by which non-Muslim monotheists were bound and yet also protected under classical Islam.

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  • Graetz, Heinrich. History of the Jews. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1956.

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    The third volume of Graetz’s work casts the Jews of classical Islam in a decidedly romantic light and regards their experience under Islamic rule as largely beneficial.

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

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    In the first part of his study Lassner reviews the historiography of the modern study of the Jews of Islam going back to Steinschneider and Graetz. He also examines German-speaking Jewish intellectuals’ avid interest in Islam and Ignacz Goldziher’s establishment of the modern discipline of Islamic studies. Lassner further mounts a spirited defense of the orientalist venture against its recent critics such as Edward Said.

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  • Steinschneider, Moritz. Jewish Arabic Literature: An Introduction. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2008.

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    Steinschneider can be said to have developed the field of modern Jewish bibliography and manuscript studies for the Jews under classical Islam.

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  • Stillman, Norman A. “Myth, Countermyth, Distortion.” Tikkun (May–June 1991): 60–64.

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    Cohen’s main scholarly interlocutor is Norman Stillman, one of Goitein’s last group of students. In this essay Stillman asserts that Cohen overstates the case for viewing Jewish life under classical Islam as relatively favorable.

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Socio-political and Economic History

Very few historically reliable sources are available for scholars and students interested in the socioeconomic history of the Jews of Islam before the 9th century.

Early Islam

While there is epigraphic and other evidence for the presence of Jewish communities in the Arabian Peninsula prior to Islam summarized by Newby 1988 the source problem becomes apparent for their history during the time of Muhammad since all of the Islamic traditions were compiled centuries later. Philologically sophisticated works such as Kister 1986 and Lecker 1998, among others, offers the student of the subject a way forward.

  • Gil, Moshe. “The Origins of the Jews of Yathrib.” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 4 (1984): 204–224.

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    Unpacking literary sources and epigraphic evidence Gil interrogates the origins of Jewish tribes in the Arabian Peninsula in general and of Yathrib (Medina) in particular.

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  • Kister, M. J. “The Massacre of the Banū Qurayẓa: A Reexamination of a Tradition.” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 8 (1986): 61–96.

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    Kister dissects all of the various sources of an event in early Islamic history involving an important political showdown with a Medinian Jewish tribe as it was remembered and constructed by various Muslim tradents.

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  • Lecker, Michael. Jews and Arabs in Pre- and Early Islamic Arabia. Aldershot, UK, and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1998.

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    Lecker’s collected essays represent some of the best critical studies of what can be said about the earliest encounters between Jews and Arabs. The research is meticulous, philologically based historical inquiry that interrogates diverse textual evidence regarding the interaction of Jews and Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula.

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  • Newby, Gordon D. A History of the Jews of Arabia: From Ancient Times to Their Eclipse under Islam. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

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    Despite the paucity of contemporary sources, Newby’s work represents a valuable attempt to sift through and weigh the significance of later sources relating the events of the 7th century in particular.

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  • Wensinck, Arent. Muhammad and the Jews of Medina. 2d ed. Berlin: W. H. Behn, 1982.

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    Wensick’s classical work examines the earliest encounters between Jews and Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad and for the first few generations following his death.

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The Cairo Geniza and the Classical Age of Islam

The discovery of the contents of the Cairo Geniza beginning at the turn of the 20th century profoundly transformed understanding of the socioeconomic history of the Jews in Islamic lands. For reasons of religious piety regarding any text written in the Hebrew script over 200,000 Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic items touching upon every facet of Jewish economic, social, religious and literary life from the 10th through the 12th centuries were stored in the Ben Ezra Synagogue of Old Cairo.

  • Cole, Peter, and Adina Hoffman. Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza. New York: Nextbook Schocken, 2011.

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    Cole and Hoffman narrate the compelling story of the discovery of the Geniza itself and the colorful history of the scholars such as Solomon Schechter and Goitein who poured over its folios and scraps. The second part of the book offers an introduction to the personal life histories of the early scholars of the Geniza, what those scholars found, and the significance of their findings.

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  • Fischel, Walter J. Jews in the Economic and Political Life of Medieval Islam. Reprint. New York: Ktav, 1969,

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    Works such as Fischel’s necessarily relied upon published medieval literary materials for its now limited narrative perspective.

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  • Gil, Moshe. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages. Translated David Strassler. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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    Along with the author’s four-volume In the Kingdom of Ishmael (Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem: Tel Aviv University, The Bialik Institute and the Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1997; in Hebrew), Gil’s studies supplement Goitein’s contributions with his own a comprehensive sociopolitical historical study accompanied by edited Geniza documents. His work adds a wealth of rich new detail to our understanding of the network of connected Jewish centers, communities, and scholars from Iraq to North Africa.

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  • Goitein, S. D. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. 6 vols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967–1993.

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    Goitein’s exhaustive five-volume study provides previously unknown details of the daily social and economic life of the individual and community during the “classical Geniza period,” from 900–1200. Volume 1, Economic Foundations, is devoted entirely to socioeconomic history while the rest of the work engages socioeconomic history as necessary according to its subject. Most of the data concerns the economic practices and social relationships of the Jews of Egypt, but merchants, scholars, and communal authorities from other lands that either passed through Egypt or had business or personal ties there and communicated with Egyptian Jews are also represented.

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  • Goitein, S. D.. Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.

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    Goitein’s Letters includes an annotated selection of translated documents and is a valuable volume to read alongside A Mediterranean Society (Goitein 1967–1993). One of the highlights of the book is a Geniza letter to Moses Maimonides from his brother David while the latter was involved in supporting the family through his perilous, and ultimately deadly, trading enterprise.

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  • Goitein, S. D., and Mordecai A. Friedman. India Traders of the Middle Ages: Documents from the Cairo Geniza: India Book. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2008.

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    This study, of which four volumes have now appeared—the other three, in Hebrew, are Joseph Lebdi, Prominent India Trader: Cairo Geniza Documents, India Book 1 (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute 2009), Maḍmūn Nagid of Yemen and the India Trade: Cairo Geniza Documents, India Book 2 (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2010), and Abraham Ben Yijū, India Trader and Manufacturer: Cairo Geniza Documents, India Book 3 (in two parts, Jerusalem: Ben- Zvi 2010)—represents Goitein’s long awaited India Book that documents the extensive trade involving Jewish merchants between India and the Mediterranean via Egypt and Aden. Thanks to Friedman’s ongoing project to complete Goitein’s work, the study now documents the near complete socioeconomic transformation of the Jews of Mediterranean lands to an urban, mercantile people.

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  • Goitein, S. D., and Jacob Lassner. A Mediterranean Society. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999.

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    Lassner prepared an abridged one-volume version of Goitein’s multivolume study focusing mostly on the social and communal aspects of Goitein’s Mediterranean Society. Highly suitable for use in undergraduate education, it includes a keen synthetic introductory essay by Lassner explaining the significance of Goitein’s work and updating it.

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  • Mann, Jacob. Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature. New York: Ktav, 1931–1935.

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    Mann is representative of the early stages of Geniza research, the latter including research on geonic responsa as a source of Jewish history.

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  • Reif, Stefan C. A Jewish Archive from Old Cairo: The History of Cambridge University’s Genizah Collection. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2000.

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    Reif synthesizes the history, content, and significance of Cambridge University’s collection of Geniza manuscripts. Chapters are devoted to the specific areas of research touched by the Geniza’s treasures: biblical studies, Talmudic studies, socioeconomic history and community politics, daily life, and significant personalities.

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Regional Studies

Apart from Goitein and his students and followers’ pan-Mediterranean research, specifically local studies touching upon Jewish socioeconomic history, among other topics, examine Jewish history in Palestine, North Africa, Iberia, and Yemen.

  • Ashtor, Eliyahu. The Jews of Moslem Spain. Translated by Aaron Klein and Jenny Machlowitz Klein. 3 vols. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1973–1984.

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    Ashtor delivers a highly detailed, occasionally fanciful narrative history from the Muslims’ conquest in 711 down to the end of the 11th century. Unfortunately the limited time frame cuts the narrative off at the height of so-called “Golden Age” of Jewish culture in al-Andalus. The paperback edition republished in 1993 includes a reflective historical introduction to Ashtor’s work by David J. Wasserstein.

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  • Ben Sasson, Menahem. The Emergence of the Local Jewish Community in the Muslim World, Qayrawān, 800–1057. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1997.

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    Readers of Ben Sasson’s work benefit from its presentation and consideration of documentary material that was not available to Hirschberg. In Hebrew.

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  • Gil, Moshe. A History of Palestine, 634–1099. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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    Gil provides a detailed, richly footnoted study of what Geniza and literary sources report about the Jewish community in Palestine from the Muslim conquest to the Crusader period. Translation of the Hebrew (Tel Aviv; Tel Aviv University and Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1983).

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  • Goitein, S. D. The Yemenites: History, Communal Life, Spiritual Life. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute and the Hebrew University, 1983.

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    A valuable source book of discrete, thematic document-based papers on the most isolated community of Jews in Islamic lands whom Goitein famously referred to as “the most Jewish and most Arab of all the Jews from Arab countries.” In Hebrew.

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  • Hirschberg, H. Z. (J.W.). A History of the Jews in North Africa. Vol. 1, From Antiquity to the Sixteenth Century. Translated by M. Eichelberg. 2d rev. ed. Leiden: Brill, 1974.

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    Hirschberg concentrates primarily on sociopolitical and socioeconomic history based almost entirely on literary source material. Although now somewhat outdated it is nevertheless a good starting point for the English language reader interested in the Jews in North Africa.

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  • Mann, Jacob. The Jews in Egypt and Palestine under the Fatimid Caliphs: A Contribution to Their Political and Communal History, Based Chiefly on Genizah Material Hitherto Unpublished. 2 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1920–1922.

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    As noted above Mann was representative of the earliest stage of Geniza studies. In these volumes he narrates the history of these Jewish communities based on literary sources and modified by Geniza research.

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Community

Jews were responsible for the wellbeing of their own community and completely free to establish and maintain their own legal, educational, and charitable institutions toward that end so long as these efforts did not interfere with the conditions of the dhimma or challenge the sensibility of Muslims. At the head of the community were two ecumenical authorities: the Gaon (pl. geonim) or eminent leader of the rabbinical academy who served as the religious head, and the exilarch, a scion of the House of David, who served as the titular political head of the community and represented it to the Muslim state.

  • Brody, Robert. The Geonim of Babylonia and the Shaping of Medieval Jewish Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

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    Using sources unavailable to his predecessors Brody examine the history of the geonim, their various literary and communal activities, their relationship with exilarch, the rivalry between the geonim of Babylonia and Palestine and the extension of their authority to the Jewish communities of North Africa.

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  • Cohen, Mark R. Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt: The Origins of the Office of the Head of the Jews, ca. 1065–1126. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

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    By the 11th century the institution of the exilarch had waned and as Cohen explains “territorial heads” emerged, most significantly in the form of the Egyptian office of the nagid.

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  • Cohen, Mark R. Poverty and Charity in the Jewish Community of Medieval Egypt. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005a.

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    Building upon Goitein’s picture of the political economy of the Jewish community Mark Cohen has studied Jewish charitable institutions and poverty based on the Geniza’s documentary record.

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  • Cohen, Mark. R. The Voice of the Poor in the Middle Ages: An Anthology of Documents from the Cairo Geniza. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005b.

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    Voice of the Poor provides a rich selection of Geniza documents in annotated translation and represents a companion volume to the author’s study Poverty and Charity (Cohen 2005a).

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  • Franklin, Arnold E. This Noble House: Jewish Descendants of King David in the Medieval Islamic East. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

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    Franklin investigates the history of the office of the exilarchate, the nature of its authority, the rivalry of its various officeholders with the geonim, and its status within the Jewish community and with Muslim authorities. An appendix supplies an annotated list of Davidic dynasts through the late classical period of Islam.

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  • Frenkel, Miriam. ‘The Compassionate and Benevolent’: The Leading Elite in the Jewish Community of Alexandria in the Middle Ages. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute and the Hebrew University, 2006.

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    Frenkel investigates Jewish elites and their sense of responsibility for and socio-religious practices on behalf of the wellbeing of their community. In Hebrew.

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  • Friedman, Mordechai A. Jewish Marriage in Palestine: A Cairo Genizah Study. 2 vols. Tel Aviv and New York: Tel Aviv University and The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1980.

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    Friedman’s study of women in Jewish society picks up where Goitein left off in the third volume of A Mediterranean Society. He extends Goitein’s portrait of Jewish women and family life to present an excellent selection of Geniza documents. In Hebrew.

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  • Gil, Moshe. Documents of the Pious Foundations from the Cairo Geniza. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1976.

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    Gil’s book is devoted to the documentary study of the Jewish incarnation of a Muslim legal institution and its social practice in support of the needy in the Jewish community.

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  • Goitein, S. D. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. Vol. 2, The Community. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971.

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    His volume details the structure of the Jewish community under classical Islam, its institutions, officials, their respective functions, and the communities’ relationships with their Muslim and Christian neighbors and the Muslim government. It is this context that Goitein elaborated on his earlier notion of “interfaith symbiosis” in the form of cooperative ventures between the Jewish and Muslim communities and their respective members.

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Communal Divisions

The most significant and enduring schism among the Jews under classical Islam concerned the struggle between Rabbanites and Karaites. Although well known to scholars from medieval sources that have come down to us, our appreciation of the depth, extent, and importance of the struggle between Rabbanites and Karaites has benefited immensely from Geniza discoveries, especially the Karaite material found in the Firkovitch Collection in St. Petersburg. The other significant cleavage within the community involved competition between the two traditional centers of Jewish scholarship, the rabbinic academies in Iraq and Palestine and friction between their respective geonim and occasionally involving the exilarch. Jewish communities of the Mediterranean generally developed personal, financial, scholarly, and legal relationships with either one of the two Iraqi or the Palestinian academies. The nature and limits of these allegiances are discussed in Volume 2 of Goitein’s A Mediterranean Society (Goitein 1971, cited under Community).

  • Brody, Robert. Sa’adyah Gaon. Oxford and Portland, OR: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2013.

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    Brody discuss what was arguably the most serious dispute between the Iraqi (Saʿadia Gaon) and Palestinian (Ben Meir Gaon) centers that broke out in 921 over setting the Jewish liturgical calendar. See pp. 154–156.

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  • Cook, Michael. “Anan and Islam: The Origins of Karaite Scripturalism.” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 9 (1987): 161–182.

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    The question of Karaite origins has long occupied the attention of scholars. Few earlier scholars attributed the appearance of Karaism to pre-existent anti-rabbinic attitudes internal to Judaism going back to Second Temple times. More recent research by Cook locates early proto-Karaite attitudes decidedly within the orbit of Islam and Muslim society

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  • Frank, Daniel. “The Study of Medieval Karaism, 1959–1989: A Bibliographical Essay,” Bulletin of Judeo-Greek Studies 6 (1990): 15–23.

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    In this extensive bibliography published in two parts Daniel Frank supplies useful and the most extensive bibliographies of fifty years of Karaite research. Continued in Frank’s “The Study of Medieval Karaism, 1989–1999,” in Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World, edited Nicholas De Lange, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 3–22.

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  • Gil, Moshe. “The Origins of the Karaites.” In Karaite Judaism: A Guide to Its History and Literary Sources. Edited by Meira Polliak, 73–118. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2003.

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    Gil revisits the matter of Karatie origins based on new Geniza research.

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  • Lasker, Daniel J. “Rabbanism and Karaism: The Contest for Supremacy.” In Great Schisms in Jewish History. Edited by Raphael Jospe and Stanley M. Wagner, 47–72. Denver: University of Denver and New York: Ktav, 1981.

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    Lasker provides a narrative introduction to the frequently intense competition between medieval Karaite and rabbanite Jews in the lands of Islam for control over defining Judaism and leading the Jewish community.

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  • Nemoy, Leon. Karaite Anthology: Excerpts from the Early Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1952.

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    Although published long before recent Geniza based studies Nemoy’s book is still essential reading of a good selection of classical Karaite sources in English translation.

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  • Polliak, Meira. “Medieval Karaism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies. Edited by Martin Goodman, 295–326. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    Polliak affords readers a comprehensive introduction to the subject of Karaism and the scholarly issues in its research along with an extensive bibliography of suggested reading.

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  • Polliak, Meira. Karaite Judaism: A Guide to Its History and Literary Sources. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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    Polliak’s edited volume offers the most comprehensive collection of up-to-date studies on all matters Karaite, from Karaite historiography, different perspectives on Karaite origins, and medieval Karaite scholarship and literature.

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  • Rustow, Marina. Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012.

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    Rustow’s is a richly detailed sociohistorical study as it pertains to Egypt. She offers a carefully considered reinterpretation of the extent of intra-communal division between Rabbanites and Karaites.

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Law

The Jewish communities of classical Islam were subject to Muslim rule yet responsible for running their own internal affairs autonomously such as administering Jewish courts overseeing the application of Jewish law. It will be recalled that the second volume of Goitein, A Mediterranean Society (Goitein 1971, cited under Community), deals with community and so treats the judiciary, the application of law in Jewish courts, and even instances in which individuals posed a challenge to Jewish legal autonomy by turning to the jurisdiction of Muslim courts. Aside from these institutional developments the geonim and their successors in Egypt, North Africa, and al-Andalus responded to the socioeconomic and political circumstances of living under Islam through legal creativity and various literary-legal activities in the form of responsa, halakhic monographs and digests, and eventually the production of law codes.

  • Libson, Gideon. Jewish and Islamic Law: A Comparative Study of Custom during the Geonic Period. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

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    Libson’s introductory essay and more detailed studies of customary law and practice provide a thorough overview of these aforementioned socio-legal processes involving the interplay of Jewish and Islamic law.

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  • Olszowy-Schlanger, Judith. Karaite Marriage Documents from the Cairo Geniza: Legal Tradition and Community Life in Mediaeval Egypt and Palestine. Leiden, The Netherlands, and New York: Brill, 1998.

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    Olszowy-Schlanger’s study of marriage documents from the Geniza represents a more extensive study of an important social branch of Karaite legal tradition and practice.

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  • Olszowy-Schlanger, Judith. “Karaite Legal Documents.” In Karaite Judaism: A Guide to its History and Literary Sources. By Meira Polliak, 255–273. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2003.

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    Olszowy-Schlanger supplies excellent introductions to the theoretical and practical aspects of Karaite law. See also the author’s “Early Karaite Family Law” (pp. 275–290).

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  • Twerksy, Isadore. Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah). New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1980.

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    Twersky examines Moses Maimonides’ famous Code of all of Jewish law in relation to the work of the geonim as well as his Andalusi and Maghribi teachers and sources.

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Language

During the 9th century if not before the Jewish communities of Mediterranean lands exchanged Arabic for Aramaic as the language of daily life and commerce. They spoke and wrote Judeo-Arabic (in Hebrew script), a form of Middle Arabic resembling the language spoken by their Muslim and Christian neighbors. Apart from its role as the spoken and written word used in daily life the emergence of Judeo-Arabic as the Jews’ principle language profoundly impacted their literary production. Jewish religious intellectuals’ familiarity with and interest in Arabic also suggested they investigate comparative Semitic philology and grammar.

  • Blau, Joshua. A Grammar of Mediaeval Judaeo-Arabic. 2d ed. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1980.

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    This classic book offers a detailed description of the structure and grammatical behavior of Judeo-Arabic. Its valuable index enables the user to locate the specific grammatical feature of interest. In Hebrew.

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  • Blau, Joshua. The Emergence and Linguistic Background of Judaeo-Arabic. 3d rev. ed. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 1999.

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    Blau describes the process of the language’s emergence and outlines its usage and central orthographic and grammatical features.

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  • Blau, Joshua. A Dictionary of Mediaeval Judaeo-Arabic Texts. Jerusalem: Academy of the Hebrew Language and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 2006.

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    Blau’s long awaited dictionary serves as a quintessential research tool for scholars and students of Judeo-Arabic. The entries utilize examples and references to classical Judeo-Arabic literary texts across all their genres. In Hebrew and Arabic.

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  • Drory, Rina. Models and Contacts: Arabic Literature and its Impact on Medieval Jewish Culture. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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    Drory proposed a new taxonomy of the Jews’ two linguistic-literary systems under Islam (i.e., Arabic and Hebrew) and drew renewed attention to the critical role Karaites played in catalyzing the new Jewish cultural production. Competition between Karaite and Rabbanite intellectuals along with the Jewish subcultural adaptation of the Muslims’ attitude toward the divine language of their scripture repositioned the study of the language of the Hebrew Bible and the text itself at the center of Jewish intellectual life under classical Islam.

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Linguistics and Grammar

Simply put, the scholarly study of Hebrew linguistics and grammar is a product of the Jews’ intellectual experience under classical Islam. That is, before their Arabization Jewish scholars never engaged in systematic investigation of biblical Hebrew philology or grammar. Rather, their very encounter with Arabic and Islam and awareness of Muslim scholars’ study of the language of the Qurʾan renewed Jewish intellectuals interest in the language of the Hebrew Bible. Systematic study of biblical Hebrew and comparative Semitics began in the Muslim East during the 9th century and spread across the Jewish communities of the Mediterranean, from North Africa to al-Andalus where it flourished. The work of Hebrew grammarians and philologists was closely related to the development and course of biblical exegesis.

  • Becker, Dan. The Risālah of Ibn Quraysh. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1984.

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    Becker’s edition and study of Judah ibn Quraysh’s Risālah, the very first work of comparative Semitic philology. In Hebrew.

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  • Dotan, Aron. Sefer Ṣaḥot, The Dawn of Hebrew Linguistics: The Book of Elegance of the Language of the Hebrews. 2 vols. Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1997.

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    On the rabbanite side of things, texts discovered in the Cairo Geniza have strengthened appreciation of the central role played by Saʿadia Gaon in developing the foundations of the discipline of Hebrew grammar in the Muslim East. In Hebrew.

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  • Goshen-Gottstein, M. H. Syntax and Vocabulary of Mediaeval Hebrew as Influenced by Arabic. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute and the Hebrew University, 2006.

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    Revised by Shraga Assif and Uri Melammed. Goshen-Gottstein’s pioneering work, originally available only in the form of his doctoral dissertation, was finally published. It demonstrates ways in which the Arabic linguistic environment also impacted medieval literary Hebrew. In Hebrew.

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  • Khan, Geoffrey. The Early Karaite Tradition of Hebrew Grammatical Thought: Including a Critical Edition, Translation and Analysis of Diqduq of ‘Abū Yacqūb Yūsuf ibn Nūḥ on the Hagiographa. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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    Khan’s book-length study documents and analyzes the central role Karaite religious intellectuals played in setting the linguistic agenda for Jewish religious and literary intellectuals.

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  • Khan, Geoffrey. “The Early Eastern Tradition of Hebrew Grammar.” In Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World. Edited by Nicholas De Lange, 77–79. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511627996Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Khan’s study of the history of Hebrew grammar in the Muslim East is an excellent introduction to the respective subject.

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  • Maman, Aharon. Comparative Semitic Philology in the Middle Ages: From Saʿadiah Gaon to Ibn Barūn (10th–12th C.). Translated by David Lyons. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2004.

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    Maman’s is an important comprehensive study of the history of Hebrew philology in the eastern and western centers of Jewish scholarship during the classical period of Islam. North Africa and especially Qayrawān was a pivotal station in the transfer of Eastern scholarship to the Muslim West as well as the site of new, inventive developments in linguistic research.

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  • Sáenz-Badillos, Angel. “Hebrew Philology in Sefarad: The State of the Question.” In Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World. Edited by Nicholas De Lange, 38–59. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511627996Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sáenz-Badillos was the dean of Hebrew studies in Spain. In this synthetic article he surveys the state of the field and its significance.

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  • Sáenz-Badillos, Angel, and Judit Targarona Borrás. Gramaticos Hebreous de Al-Andalus (Siglos X-XII) Filologia y Biblia. Cordoba, Spain: Ediciones El Almendro, n.d.

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    Sáenz-Badillos and Targarona Borrás introduce all of the major (rabbanite) figures from al-Andalus, their works and respective approaches, from Menaḥem ibn Sarūq and Dūnash ben Labrāṭ to Abraham ibn Ezra.

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  • Zwiep, Irene. Mother of Reason and Revelation: A Short History of Medieval Hebrew Grammatical Thought. Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1997.

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    Zwiep examines the close link between Hebrew grammatical studies and biblical exegetical work. The two projects absorbed Jewish literary-religious intellectuals because of the importance Jews in the lands of classical Islam attached to the language of the Hebrew Bible.

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Scripture: Text, Translation, and Exegesis

It is now widely understood that the efforts of the Masoretes (9th and early 10th-century Palestine), who codified the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible and systematized its vocalization and cantillation notation, was closely related to the rise of scripturalism in Islam. At the same time, the Arabization of the Jewish communities of the Mediterranean created the need for Hebrew Bible translations. As with biblical Hebrew philology and grammar, exegesis was a closely associated venture with Bible translation. As in virtually every literary religious endeavor Karaite interpretive activity was critical as interrogated.

  • Dotan, Aron. Diqduqei Ha-tecamim shel aharon ben moshe. Jerusalem: Academy for the Hebrew Language, 1967.

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    The Masoretes’ project ended with Aaron Ben Asher (d. 989) whose work Dotan edits and studies.

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  • Frank, Daniel. Search Scripture Well: Karaite Exegetes and the Origins of Jewish Bible Commentary in the Islamic East. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004,

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    Frank provides a detailed study of the entire Karaite exegetical enterprise in the Muslim East.

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  • Goldstein, Miriam. Karaite Exegesis in Medieval Jerusalem: The Judeo-Arabic Pentateuch Commentary of Yūsuf ibn Nūḥ and Abū al-Faraj Hārūn. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.

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    Goldstein focuses on the biblical commentary of two important Karaite exegetes working in the Jerusalem community and scholarly center.

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  • Hebrew Bible, Old Testament: The History of its Interpretation. Vol. 1, Part 2, The Middle Ages. Edited Magne Sæbø. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2000.

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    This work includes articles organized historically and thematically representing extremely useful points of entry to their respective subjects: Robert Brody, “The Geonim of Babylonia as Biblical Exegetes,” pp. 74–88; Angel Sáenz-Badillos, “Early Hebraists in Spain: Menahem ibn Saruq and Dunash ben Labraṭ,” pp. 96–109; Aharon Maman, “The Flourishing Era of Jewish Exegesis in Spain: The Linguistic School: Judah Ḥayyūj, Jonah ibn Janāḥ, Moses ibn Chiquitilla and Judah Balʿam,” pp. 261–280, surveys the so-called “linguistic school” prominent among Andalusi grammarian-philologist-exegetes; Mordechai Cohen, “The Aesthetic Exegesis of Moses ibn Ezra,” pp. 282–301; and Paul Fenton, “The Post Maimonidean Schools in the East: Abraham Maimonides, the Pietists, Tanḥūm ha-Yerushalmi and the Yemenite School,” pp. 433–455.

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  • Polliak, Meira. The Karaite Tradition of Arabic Bible Translation: A Linguistic and Exegetical Study of Karaite Translations of the Pentateuch from the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

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    Polliak examines the rival Karaite Bible translations roughly contemporary with Sacadia.

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  • Simon, Uriel. Four Approaches to the Book of Psalms: From Saadiah Gaon to Abraham ibn Ezra. Translated from the Hebrew by Lenn J. Schramm. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

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    Simon’s Four Approaches is among the few comparative and diachronic studies of the diverse exegetical approaches to a specific biblical book. One chapter treats the singularly Karaite view of Psalms as the basis of their prayerbook.

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  • Steiner, Richard C. A Biblical Translation in the Making: The Evolution and Impact of Saadia Gaon’s Tafsīr. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 2010.

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    Steiner studies the circumstances and methods behind the most influential of the Hebrew Bible translations into Arabic owing to Saʿadia’s status and prestige in the rabbanite community.

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Culture

The aforementioned transitions in language usage and the transformation in attitudes toward language and scripture had profound consequences for virtually every form of Jewish cultural production and expression under classical Islam.

  • Alfonso, Esperanza. Islamic Culture Through Jewish Eyes: Al-Andalus from the Tenth to Twelfth Century. AbingdonUK, and New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Alfonso’s unique study examines the identity of Jewish elites under Islam in al-Andalus through the anthropologically minded lens of cultural history. The “otherness” of Islam, for all its closeness to Judaism of the period, is a defining element of Jewish identity.

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  • Brody, Robert. Rav Se’adyah Gaon. Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 2006.

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    The most important recent studies of key Jewish religious intellectuals employ historically minded methods similar to the aforementioned works. Brody for example presents a complete portrait of a genuine polymath whose extensive communal activities and literary efforts in linguistics, poetics, rabbinics, and theology transformed rabbinate Judaism. Translated as Sa’adyah Gaon. Oxford and Portland, OR: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2013. In Hebrew.

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  • Firestone, Reuven. “Jewish Culture in the Formative Period of Islam.” In Cultures of the Jews: A New History. Edited by David Biale, 267–302. New York: Schocken, 2002.

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    Firestone examines at length the development of Jewish culture under early and Islam. The essay integrates the study of cultural products with socio-religious history and is attuned to the use of Islamic sources for the study of Jewish cultural history.

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  • Gil, Moshe, and Ezra Fleischer. Yehuda Ha-Levi and His Circle: 55 Geniza Documents. Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 2001.

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    Gil and Fleischer edit, translate, and interpret Geniza documents pertinent to Halevi’s biography, building upon the portrayal of this seminal figure in Volume 5 of Goitein, A Mediterranean Society (Goitein 1967–1993, cited under The Cairo Geniza and the Classical Age of Islam, pp. 448–468), where Goitein also drew a portrait of the 13th-century pietist Abraham Maimonides, “A perfect man with a tragic fate” (pp. 474–496). In Hebrew.

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  • Kraemer, Joel L. Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization’s Greatest Minds. New York: Doubleday, 2008.

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    Kraemer devoted much of his scholarly career to Maimonides and this work presents to the reading public a narrative and intellectual biography of the great Jewish master. Footnotes at the end of the volume direct the more advanced reader to additional secondary sources of interest.

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  • Scheindlin, Raymond P. “Merchants and Intellectuals, Rabbi and Poets: Judeo-Arabic Culture in the Golden Age of Islam.” In Cultures of the Jews: A New History. Edited by David Biale, 313–386. New York: Schocken, 2002.

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    Scheindlin’s rich essay includes some of his excellent translations and follows a “great figures” and “great ideas” model for presenting Jewish cultural expression under classical Islam.

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  • Scheindlin, Raymond P. The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi’s Pilgrimage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Scheindlin weaves a compelling narrative of Judah Halevi’s last years through close readings of his poetry, letters, theological-apologetic treatise, and Geniza documents regarding his activities and friendships and his sojourn in Egypt on the last leg of his pilgrimage to Palestine. The focus offers a novel interpretation of Halevi’s religious development and the meaning of his quest. Scheindlin provides literary translations of many of the texts relevant to his study.

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  • Shiloah, Amnon. Jewish Musical Traditions. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992.

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    Amnon Shiloah has long dominated the field of music theory and musicology of the Jews in the lands of classical Islam. The relevant section in his socio-cultural study Jewish-Musical Traditions provides an introduction to the subject while his collected papers include many of his most important scholarly contributions to the field. Also see Shiloah’s The Dimension of Music in Islamic and Jewish Culture (Aldershot, UK, and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1993).

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  • Sklare, David E. Samuel ben Hofni Gaon and his Cultural World: Texts and Studies. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996.

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    Like Brody, Sklare historicizes the work, views, and methods of his subject such that we learn as much about his cultural universe as we do Samuel himself. The book includes an abundance of texts in English translation.

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  • Stroumsa, Sarah. Maimonides in His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

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    Among the recent monographs devoted to Maimonides, Stroumsa’s represents the boldest reinterpretation of Maimonides as profoundly engaged with the Almohad legal and theological thought he encountered as a young man in al-Andalus and Morocco.

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Literature

The Jews’ Arabization ironically spurred them to great innovation in the making of Arabic-style Hebrew poetry and rhymed prose, the study of which has benefitted from multiple methodological approaches. Rosen and Yassif 2002 provide an excellent introduction to the study of the field while Cole 2007 offers the most comprehensive and representative sample of Hebrew poetry rendered into poetic English. Schirmann 1995 and Pagis 1976 are detailed literary historical studies. Levin 1994 examines the various genres of medieval Hebrew social poetry with reference to their Arabic models.

  • Brann, Ross. The Compunctious Poet: Cultural Ambiguity and Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

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    Brann rereads the history of Hebrew poetry in Muslim and Christian Spain through the lens of the poets’ real and feigned ambivalence toward their craft and its relationship to Arabic literature.

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  • Cole, Peter. The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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    Cole brings to the English reader and student an extensive selection of literary translations from Schirmann along with valuable and copious notes and references to enable the student to study the poems in poetic translation.

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  • Decter, Jonathan. Iberian Jewish Literature: Between al-Andalus and Christian Europe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.

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    Decter interrogates medieval Hebrew literary hybridity in the context of Arabic literature in al-Andalus and Romance literature in the Christian Iberian kingdoms. He creates a critical informed model for interrogating medieval Hebrew as a matter of comparative literature.

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  • Levin, Israel. The Embroidered Coast: The Genres of Secular Hebrew Poetry in Spain. 3 vols. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1994.

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    Levin developed a broad and detailed albeit synchronic typology for each of the Andalusi Hebrew social poetic genres and themes in relation to their Arabic models. Each chapter is devoted to a single genre and outlines the style and conventions by examining various Hebrew manifestations against their Arabic background. In Hebrew.

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  • Menocal, Maria Rosa, Raymond P. Scheindlin, and Michael Sells, ed. The Literature of al-Andalus. Cambridge History of Arabic Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1017/CHOL9780521471596Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work adopts an expansive perspective on the idea of Arabic literaure by including five contributions from students of medieval Andalusi Hebrew poetry. Ross Brann (“Arabized Jews”; “Judah Halevi”), Rina Drory (“The Maqāma”), Tova Rosen (“The Muwashshaḥ”), and Raymond P. Scheindlin (“Moses Ibn Ezra”) offer critical reflections on the cultural consequences of Jews’ Arabization and on major figures and poetic and narrative forms of Andalusi Hebrew literature.

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  • Pagis, Dan. Change and Tradition in the Secular Poetry of Spain and Italy. Jerusalem: Keter, 1976.

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    Pagis’s early work adopted an approach to the study of medieval Hebrew verse predicated entirely on historical poetics. In Change and Tradition he came to articulate a much more nuanced view of the interplay between poetic tradition and the individual poet’s voice and literary identity. In Hebrew.

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  • Rosen, Tova. Unveiling Eve: Reading Gender in Medieval Hebrew Literature. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.9783/9780812203592Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An astute literary critical study, this book stands out for its bold and critically informed feministic readings of medieval literary and religious texts. It challenged the entire field of research to reconsider gendered themes and images produced by Jewish and literary intellectuals.

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  • Rosen, Tova, and Eli Yassif. “Hebrew Literature in the Middle Ages.” In The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies. Edited Martin Goodman, Jeremy Cohen, and David Sorkin, 241–294. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    This essay is a theoretically astute and penetrating survey-style study of the history of scholarship on medieval Hebrew literature and its diverse currents from Zunz and Steinschneider to the turn of the 21st century.

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  • Schirmann, Jefim. The History of Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain. Edited by Era Fleischer. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1995.

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    Schirmann pioneered the biographical-historical form of inquiry set out in Schirmann’s still indispensible and recently reissued anthology of texts, Ha-shirah ha-civrit bi-sfarad u-vi-provans (4 vols., reprinted Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2006). The chapters follow the history of Hebrew poetry in al-Andalus, figure by major figure. Fleischer’s extensive notes and additions to Schirmann’s text bring the scholarship up to date. In Hebrew.

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  • Yahalom, Joseph, and Naoya Katsumata, ed. Judah al-Harizi, Taḥkemoni or the Tales of Heman the Ezrahite. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 2010.

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    A native of still Arabophone Toledo in late 12th-century Christian Castile, Judah al-Ḥarizi was the author of important collections of Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic rhetorical anecdotes (maqāmāt) who traveled to and remained in the Muslim East. Joseph Yahalom and Naoya Katsumata have provided scholars with the first critical edition of the most important Hebrew maqāma collection based on Geniza manuscripts and literary-historical studies of al-Harizi’s rhymed prose work. In Hebrew.

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Liturgical and Devotional Poetry

Scholars conventionally treat Hebrew poetry as either “secular” or religious in nature following a division observed by the medieval poets and their copyists and those who transmitted their work. Some authors have come to prefer the term “social” to categorize the first variety because of the obvious anachronistic use of the notion “secular.” In any case poetry treating religious themes can be said to come in two varieties: liturgical compositions intended for use in the synagogue service and occasional lyrics of various sorts some of which were intended for private devotional use. The history of liturgical poetry or piyyuṭ as it is referred to in Hebrew predates the Jews’ experience under classical Islam with its sustained burst of literary-religious activity, west and east.

  • Fleischer, Ezra. Hebrew Poetry in Spain and Communities under Its Influence. 3 vols. Edited by Shulamit Elizur and Tova Beeri. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 2010.

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    Fleischer’s own literary-historical studies, notably those indispensible papers concerning religious poetry and its poetics in the Muslim East, complement Schirmann’s work with its emphasis on social poetry in Spain. In Hebrew.

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  • Hazan, Ephraim. Hebrew Poetry in North Africa. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1995.

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    Hazan is among the scholars who attend to Jewish literary production beyond the Andalusi canon. His is an important study of devotional poetry produced in North Africa, especially Morocco. In Hebrew.

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  • Tanenbaum, Adena. The Contemplative Soul: Hebrew Poetry and Philosophical Theory in Medieval Spain. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

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    Tanenbaum investigates the deep thematic connections between medieval Hebrew liturgical poetry and contemporary religious, particularly Neoplatonic thought manifested in the verse of Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Moses Ibn ʿEzraʾ, Judah Halevi, and Abraham Ibn ʿEzra. She includes prose translations of many of the poems she discusses.

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Beyond the Iberian Center

The sheer number of Hebrew poets active in al-Andalus whose work has come down to us as well as the historiographers’ treatment of the Jews of Sefarad has long obscured the significant work of poets flourishing in North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, nearly all of whom adopted the Arabic style Hebrew prosody prevalent in al-Andalus. In general, the Jewish communities of these lands were more socially conservative than their Andalusi colleagues and most but not all of their poetry is religious in orientation. Social poetry and rhymed prose is attested in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

  • van Bekkum, Wout. The Secular Poetry of El’azar ben Ya’aqov ha-Bavli: Baghdad, Thirteenth Century. On the Basis of Manuscript Firkovicz Heb. IIA, 210.I St. Petersburg. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.

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    Van Bekkum studies a late yet very significant Eastern poet who also authored an important treatise on Hebrew poetics. As noted in the work’s subtitle, Geniza discoveries contributed mightily to the edition of Eleazar ha-Bavli’s extensive oeuvre of social verse that is cognizant of Andalusi tradition but endeavors to stand on its own as van Bekkum explains it.

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  • Fleischer, Ezra. The Proverbs of Saʿīd ben Bābshād. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 1990.

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    Fleischer presents a study and complete critical edition based on Geniza manuscripts of an important text by Saʿīd ben Bābshād (late 10th and early 11th century Muslim East). A long compilation of wisdom proverbs in rhymed couplets, the work includes an allegory on human perfection through the acquisition of knowledge and an ode to Wisdom. In Hebrew.

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  • Tobi, Joseph. The Jews of Yemen: Studies in their History and Culture. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 1999.

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    Tobi’s book offers the reader multiple points of entry into the culture of the Jews of Yemen during the period of classical Islam.

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  • Yeshaya, Joachim J. M. S. Medieval Poetry in Muslim Egypt: The Secular Poetry of the Karaite Poet Moses ben Abraham Darcī. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004191303.i-346Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Yeshaya provides a comprehensive literary historical and literary critical study of a Karaite poet and his language, style, and preferred themes. His work supersedes an earlier edition-study (of this poet) that did not utilize Geniza materials. Darʿī was one of the first Hebrew poets of the Muslim East to compose in the Andalusi style.

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Poetics

The linguistic turn in the Jews’ literary and religious intellectual interests and practices under classical Islam led them to consider the Hebrew Bible as an aesthetic model whose literary qualities required systematic investigation. As with their linguistic research Jewish scholars considered questions and adopted methods their Muslim counterparts developed in their study of the Arabic Qurʾan and the neo-classical Arabic poetry they produced. Jewish literary intellectuals were absorbed by what was beautiful, and the beautiful language of Hebrew poetry they composed based on biblical Hebrew also drew systematic inquiry. In the process some of the religious problems associated with language of Scripture linked aesthetic and poetic interests with theological concerns.

  • Cohen, Mordechai Z. Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor: from Abraham ibn Ezra and Maimonides to David Kimhi. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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    Cohen’s monograph, along with his Opening the Gates of Interpretation: Maimonides’ Biblical Hermeneutics in Light of his Geonic-Andalusian Heritage and Muslim Milieu (Leiden, The Netherlands: 2011), are essential reading for appreciating the Jews’ complex attitudes toward important aesthetic questions concerning language and representation in the Jew’s linguistic, exegetical, and theological-philosophical writings.

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  • Fenton, Paul. Philosophie et exégèse dans Le jardin de la métaphore de Moise ibn ʿEzra, philosophe et poète andalou du XIIe siècle. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

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    Fenton engages in critical study of Maqālat all-ḥadīqa, the other of Moses ibn ʿEzra’s two extant Judeo-Arabic prose works, which is devoted to philosophically minded study of the metaphorical language found in the Hebrew Bible.

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  • Pagis, Dan. Secular Poetry and Poetic Theory: Moses ibn ʿEzraʾ and his Contemporaries. Jerusalem: Bialik, 1970.

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    An important literary historical and literary critical study of the verse and poetics by the Hebrew poet who is described as most closely following the pattern set by Arabic poets and their poetry. Pagis adopted what he termed the “perspectivist” approach to the study of medieval Hebrew verse. In Hebrew.

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  • Scheindlin, Raymond P. “Moses ibn Ezra on the Legitimacy of Poetry.” Medievalia et Humanistica 7 (1976): 101–115.

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    Andalusi Jewish poetics and aesthetics were closely linked to the production of poetry and attitudes toward language and Hebrew Bible respectively. Scheindlin provides a critical study of Kitāb al-muḥāḍara wa-l-mudhākara, a book of poetics by Moses ibn ʿEzra, the major theoretician of the Andalusi school of Hebrew poetry.

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Religious Thought and Philosophy

Beginning in the 9th-century Muslim East Karaite and subsequently rabbanite religious intellectuals began to employ philosophical methods primarily in an effort to reconcile the testimony of revelation, that is, the Hebrew Bible, with many of the dictates of rational thought. In this regard as in every other religious or cultural endeavor Jewish thinkers were keenly attuned to intellectual developments among their Muslim counterparts. Works devoted to individual thinkers rank among the most important contributions to this subfield of study. In general the field has moved beyond previous efforts at rigidly classifying Jewish thinkers strictly according to schools of thought prevalent among Muslim thinkers and instead looked for the innovative dialectical relationship between the work of Jewish thinkers and their counterparts.

  • Davidson, Herbert A. Moses Maimonides: The Man and His Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195173215.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As for monographs on Maimonides, Davidson and the aforementioned studies Kraemer 2008 and Stroumsa 2009 (both cited under Culture) engage the longstanding scholarly debate over defining Maimonides as a Jewish thinker or as a philosopher.

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  • Frank, Daniel H., and Oliver Leaman, ed. History of Jewish Philosophy. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

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    This work likewise supplies the reader with introductory essays by experts on kalām, Neoplatonism, Aristotelianism, Judaism, and Sufism, and on individual thinkers with careful attention to the differences of approach and intellectual regimen in works of Jewish philosophers, theologians, and mystics respectively.

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  • Kraemer, Joel L. “The Islamic Context of Medieval Jewish Philosophy.” In The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy. Edited Daniel H. Frank and Oliver Leaman, 38–69. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521652073Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A historian of thought as well as a Hebraist and Arabist, Kraemer ranks among the scholars uniquely equipped to survey the dialectical relationship between Jewish and Islamic theology and philosophy.

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  • Lobel, Diana. Between Mysticism and Philosophy: Sufi Language of Mystical Experience in Judah Halevi’s Kuzari. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.

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    Lobel’s study of Halevi stands in contrast to Silman in that she unpacks the ways in which Halevi’s thought is predicated on Arabic terms and concepts drawn from the Sufi tradition of Islam.

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  • Lobel, Diana. A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue: Philosophy and Mysticism in Baḥya Ibn Paqdūa’s Duties of the Heart. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.9783/9780812202656Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ibn Paqūda, another 11th-century religious intellectual and author of The Book of Direction to the Duties of the Heart, stands out as a unique figure among Jewish thinkers. Lobel establishes his intimate and dialogic relationship with Sufi thinkers.

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  • Schlanger, Jacques. La philosophie de Salomon ibn Gabirol: Étudie d’un néopatonism. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1968.

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    The Neoplatonic strain in religious thought dominated Islamic and consequently Jewish religious thinking during the 11th century. This still important study investigates the depth and extent of Solomon ibn Gabriol’s Neoplatonic system of religious thought.

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  • Silman, Yohanan. Philosopher and Prophet: Judah Halevi, the Kuzari, and the Evolution of his Thought. Translated by Lenn J. Schramm. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

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    Characteristic of most Israeli scholarship Silman’s original study of the Kuzari interprets Halevi’s religious development as internal to Judaism and Jewish tradition.

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  • Strauss, Leo. “How to Begin to Study the Guide of the Perplexed.” In Moses Maimonides The Guide of the Perplexed. 2 vols. Translated by Shlomo Pines, xi–lvi. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1963.

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    For various reasons, some obvious, Moses Maimonides still attracts the interest of many historians of Jewish thought. Strauss serves as an essential advanced introduction, as does Shlomo Pines in his “Translator’s Introduction: The Philosophic Sources of The Guide of the Perplexed” (pp. lvii–cxxxxiv).

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  • Stroumsa, Sarah. Sa’adyah Gaon—A Jewish Thinker in a Mediterranean Society. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 2001.

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    Stroumsa develops the approach she employs more extensively in her recent monograph on Maimonides (Stroumsa 2009, cited under Culture), namely, to situate the 10th-century Jewish polymath Saʿadia within the wider intellectual orbit of his time and place. In Hebrew.

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  • Tamer, Georges, ed. The Trials of Maimonides: Jewish, Arabic, and Ancient Culture of Knowledge. Berlin and New York: Walter De Gruyter, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110922653Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Among several collections of essays in recognition of the eight hundredth anniversary of Maimonides’ death this volume stands out for the range of scholarly perspectives it presents on Maimonides legal, theological, and scientific thought. It includes several contributions regarding the frequently controversial reception of Maimonides’ writings.

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  • Wasserstrom, Steven M. Between Muslim and Jew: The Problem of Symbiosis under Early Islam. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

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    Wasserstrom’s book represents a unique study of the problem of religious boundaries and socio-religious movements and ideas in the early Muslim East. He offers new insights into some of the ways in which Jews engaged social and intellectual trends in Islam from the very outset of their encounter.

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