REVIEW: A Common Justice: The Legal Allegiances of Christians and Jews Under Early Islam

14935[1]A Common Justice: The Legal Allegiances of Christians and Jews Under Early Islam

Uriel I. Simonsohn

Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. 306 pp. Cloth $79.95

Reviewed by Luke B. Yarbrough, Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, The University of Pennsylvania

A Common Justice is hardly the first study to concern itself with Christians and Jews in Muslim courts, a fact that its author documents with considerable care (p. 218, n. 1 and passim). It seems, however, likely soon to become—and long to remain—a standard work on legal pluralism and its consequences in first four centuries after the rise of Islam. At once theoretically sophisticated and philologically meticulous, A Common Justice offers compelling answers to familiar questions, brings new problems to the fore, and builds a stable platform for comparative work by historians in adjacent and cognate fields.

The book owes its motivating tension to a sociohistorical phenomenon that, though far from unique to the Near East in the four centuries following the rise of Islam, has hitherto been insufficiently Read the rest of this entry »

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REVIEW: History as Prelude: Muslims and Jews in the Medieval Mediterranean

History as Prelude: Muslims and Jews in the Medieval Mediterranean

Joseph V. Montville

Lanham and Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2011, hardcover, xv+192 pp.

Reviewed by Maya Soifer Irish, Rice University, maya.s.irish@rice.edu

The Middle Ages is a magnet for advocates of interreligious tolerance, which has proved to be surprisingly elusive in the age of rapid globalization and the Internet. With confessional divisions still arousing strong passions, and the expectations for a more religiously cohesive world largely disappointed, our attention is drawn to a few enclaves within a similarly divided geo-religious world where the ideal of coexistence was ostensibly realized. These examples of toleration are so incongruent with the popular perception of the Middle Ages as a period of violence and backwardness, that we tend to focus on them almost to an obsessive degree, fetishizing the positive aspects of interfaith relations, and filtering out its inconveniently negative aspects. We ask ourselves: if even in the Middle Ages coexistence was possible, why can’t we match and even surpass our medieval ancestors in toleration? In the new volume of collected works, History as Prelude: Muslims and Jews in the Medieval Mediterranean, the editor, Joseph Montville, argues that Read the rest of this entry »

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Two new articles: from Daniella Talmon-Heller and Amir Ashur

We’re pleased to announce the latest publications in Intertwined Worlds, as follows:

Reciting the Qur’ān and Reading the Torah: Muslim and Jewish Attitudes and Practices in a Comparative Historical Perspective (pages 369–380)
Daniella Talmon-Heller

Protecting the Wife’s Rights in Marriage as Reflected in Pre-Nuptials and Marriage Contracts from the Cairo Genizah and Parallel Arabic Sources (pages 381–389)
Amir Ashur

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REVIEW: Seride Teshuvot: A Descriptive Catalogue of Responsa Fragments from the Jacques Mosseri Collection in Cambridge University Library

Seride Teshuvot: A Descriptive Catalogue of Responsa Fragments from the Jacques Mosseri Collection in Cambridge University Library

Shmuel Glick et al.

Cambridge Genizah Studies 3; Leiden: Brill, 2012

Reviewed by Amir Ashur

The Cairo Genizah – the hoard of manuscripts found in the Ben Ezra synagogue in Fustat (Old Cairo) contains more than three hundred thousands documents covering more than thousand years of history – is by all means the most important source for the study of the history of Jews under Islam, and for the study of the relations between Jews and Muslim throughout the period, as was emphasized by S.D. Goitein repeatedly.  This vast amount of documents is kept in many collections all around the world. The largest collection is kept in Cambridge University Library – around two hundred thousands documents. Read the rest of this entry »

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REVIEW: When Religion Become Lethal: The Explosive Mix of Politics and Religion in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

When Religion Become Lethal: The Explosive Mix of Politics and Religion in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

By Charles Kimball

John Wiley & Sons: San Francisco, 2011

Reviewed by Aubrey L. Glazer, Ph.D. (JCC of Harrison, New York)

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

—Norman MacLean, A River Runs Through It (1976)

Abraham went up from Beer-Sheva to Mount Moriah

three days

in his mind binding and unbinding his son

three days slaughtering and weeping

still bound and unbound are we

those weeping and butchering?

—Haviva Pedaya, “A Man Goes”, Blood’s Ink (2009) Read the rest of this entry »

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REVIEW: Jewish Identities in Iran. Resistance and Conversion to Islam and the Baha’i Faith

Jewish Identities in Iran. Resistance and Conversion to Islam and the Baha’i Faith

By Mehrdad Amanat

London: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

279 pp.

ISBN 978-1-84511-891-4

Reviewed by Alessandra Cecolin, Goldsmiths University a.cecolin@gold.ac.uk

As the title suggests, the book Jewish Identities in Iran. Resistance and Conversion to Islam and the Baha’i faith attempts to examine the roots of conversion to the Baha’i faith among Iranian Jews in the late 19th and beginning of the 20th Century. This task has been successfully achieved by the author who has presented the topic extensively. Further, he has provided an original analysis of the interaction between Shia Islam, the Baha’i faith and Judaism in Iran. This book fills a vacuum in the scholarship related to the history of the Jews in Iran because it specifically explains the socio-cultural reasons behind the Jewish conversion to the Baha’i faith at the turn of the 19th Century in Iran. Moreover, it assesses the motifs that drove a group of Jews to convert to a sect of Islam, almost as much persecuted as Judaism in Iran, rather than to the mainstream Shia denomination. The majority Read the rest of this entry »

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REVIEW: Religious Perspectives in Modern Muslim and Jewish Literatures

Religious Perspectives in Modern Muslim and Jewish Literatures

 Edited by Glenda Abramson and Hilary Kilpatrick

(Routledge, 2006), 325 pp.

 Reviewed by Muhammad Siddiq, UC Berkeley (siddiq@berkeley.edu)

Although published in 2006, the relevance of this anthology has become only more evident and acute in the ensuing years. This is so, in part, thanks to the recent, historic developments in the Arab world through what came to be known as the Arab Spring, especially perhaps the unprecedented rise to power of Islamic parties and movements in open, free elections in such countries as Tunisia and Egypt.

While they may not be directly implicated in this cataclysmic regional upheaval, neither Israel nor world Jewry is quite immune to its far-reaching consequences. The periodic flare up of sectarian clashes between ultra orthodox Jews and settlers on the one hand, and less orthodox or more secular Jews, on the other, in Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, and other Israeli towns in recent years confirm what the essays on Jewish literature in this Read the rest of this entry »

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