Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

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The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online (EJIW) is the first cohesive and discreet reference work which covers the Jews of Muslim lands particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods. The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online is updated with newly commissioned articles, illustrations, multimedia, and primary source material. 

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ʿAbbās II, Shah

(505 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shah ʿAbbās II (r. 1642–1666), the grandson of Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 1587-1620), was the most competent monarch of the Ṣafavid dynasty of Iran next to his illustrious ancestor. Only eight and a half years old when he ascended the throne, ʿAbbās II asserted himself early by curbing the Turcoman (Qizilbāsh) tribes, the early “power behind the throne” of the Ṣafavid dynasty. He continued the effort to increase and concentrate the power of the crown and to maintain the frontiers of his empire. Like his grandfather, but not on the same scale, ʿAbbās I, enhanced Isfahan with new palaces and repairs…

ʿAbbās I, Shāh

(741 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 1587–1629) is considered to have been the greatest monarch of the Ṣafavid dynasty. He ascended the throne of Iran at the age of sixteen during a turbulent political upheaval that included the murder of at least nine family members. Styled “the Great” for having consolidated the Iranian empire, ʿAbbās I enlarged and transformed his realm into one of the seventeenth century’s greatest powers, on a par with the Moghul empire under Akbar (r. 1556–1605), England under Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603), a…


(253 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
ʿ Abbās-nāma (The Book [Chronicle] of ʿAbbās) by Muḥammad Ṭāhir Waḥīd Qazwīnī is the most important Iranian source for the history of the reign of the Ṣafavid Shah ʿAbbās II (1642–1666), covering events up to 1663. It is the only Iranian source, however brief, on the persecution of Iranian Jewry between 1656 and 1661. According to the ʿ Abbās-nāma, two Jews from Isfahan aroused the ire of the Shīʽī Muslim community by their failure to wear the badges indicating that they were Jews (see ghiyār ), thereby posing a threat for unknowing Muslims of contact with impurity ( najāsat ). The Jewish com…


(86 words)

Author(s): Melanie Lewey
Ar. – ArabicAram. – AramaicBerb.  – BerberBul. – BulgarianChin. – ChineseCl. Ar.  – Classical ArabicColl. Ar.  – Colloquial ArabicEng. – EnglishFar. - FarsiFr. – FrenchGer. – GermanGk. – GreekHeb. – HebrewHun. – HungarianIce. – IcelandicIt. – ItalianJap. – JapaneseJud.-Ar. – Judeo-ArabicJud.-Berb.  – Judeo-BerberJud.-Gk. – Judeo-GreekJud.-It. – Judeo-ItalianJud.-Pers. – Judeo-PersianJud.-Sp. – Judeo-SpanishJud.-Taj. – Judeo-TajikKurd.  -  KurdishLat. – LatinMor. Ar. – Moroccan ArabicNor. – NorwegianOtt. Turk.  - Ottoman TurkishPers. - PersianPol. – PolishPort. – P…

ʿAbd Allāh ibn Saba’

(253 words)

Author(s): Steven M. Wasserstrom
ʿAbd Allāh ibn Saba’, also called Ibn Sawdā’ (Ar. son of the black woman), was a Jewish convert to Islam during the caliphate of Uthmā̄n (r. 644–656). Classical Sunni sources portray him as a progenitor of Shiʿism. Both Shīʿī and Sunni sources relate that a Yemenite Jew named ʿAbd Allāh ibn Saba’ was the first person to publicly proclaim that Muḥammad was the expected messiah.  After Muḥammad’s death, however, he transferred his allegiance to ʿAlī, announcing that ʿAlī was the messiah who would return (Ar. rajʿa) at the end of time, riding on the clouds. The earliest Shīʿī groups, largely…

ʿAbd Allāh ibn Salām

(424 words)

Author(s): Steven M. Wasserstrom
ʿAbd Allāh ibn Salām (d. 663/64), a member of the famous Jewish-Arab tribe of Banū Qaynuqā’ in Medina, was one of the  ṣaḥāba (Ar. companions), or original disciples, of Muḥammad. Given the primordial status of his conversion at the hand of Muḥ̣̣ammad, ʿAbd Allāh came to be portrayed as a Jewish convert mouthing sometimes identifiably Jewish material; for example, in the Qur’ān commentary of al-Ṭabarī (d. 923). ʿAbd  Allāh b. Salām eventually functioned as a symbol of the Islamization of the Jews, and as such the tales about him have been very long-lived…

ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Islāmī

(480 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Abū Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq al-Islāmī is known for having authored an anti-Jewish polemical pamphlet. The pamphlet, probably written between 1393 and 1396, is extant in four manuscripts, was reproduced twice in lithography as al-Sayf al-Mamdūd fī l-Radd ‘alā Aḥbār al-Yahūd (The Outstretched Sword for Refuting the Rabbis of the Jews), and was edited in 1998 under the same title. In the introduction the author informs us that he was from Ceuta in Morocco, and had converted from Judaism to Islam sixteen years earlier, along with other members of his household. Neither his o…

ʿAbdūʾl (or Abūʾl) Qāsim Kāshānī, Mīr (Mīrzā)

(407 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
The second known Judeo-Persian chronicle, Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar Bāb-i ʿIbrī va Goyimi-yi Sānī (The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning the Jews; Their Second Conversion) by Bābāī ben Farhād, relates events pertaining to some of the Jewish communities of Iran between 1721 and 1731, a decade that witnessed the disintegration of the Safavid dynasty and Afghan and Russian invasions. A native of Kāshān, Bābāī ibn Farhād provides a detailed account of events in his community. In 1729 Ṭahmāsp Khān, the future Nādir Shāh (r. 1736–1747), demanded a considerable sum of m…

Abécassis, Armand

(864 words)

Author(s): Dinah Assouline Stillman
Armand Abécassis is a Moroccan-born French Judaic scholar and Bible commentator, and professor emeritus of comparative philosophy at the University Michel de Montaigne in Bordeaux. He is the father of Eliette Abécassis, with whom he co-published Le Livre des passeurs. His novel Rue des Synagogues retraces his childhood and growing up in Morocco.Armand Abécassis, renowned French philosopher, Bible scholar and commentator, and interpreter of Judaism, was born April 4, 1933 in Casablanca, Morocco. He completed his education at the School of Young Je…

Abécassis, Eliette

(1,037 words)

Author(s): Dinah Assouline Stillman
Eliette Abécassis is a French writer of Moroccan heritage. Her works differ considerably in theme and content, from her Qumran trilogy, a widely translated “theological thriller,” to provocative stories set in an Orthodox Jewish milieu, like La répudiée. Her novels Un heureux événement, Une affaire conjugale, and Sepharad are in part autobiographical. The recipient of both the Prix des Ecrivains croyants and the Prix Alberto Benveniste, she has, in addition to her fiction, co-written film scenarios, one adapted from one of her novels, and directed two short movies.Eliette Abécassi…

Abecassis, Yael

(274 words)

Author(s): Amy Kronish
Israeli actress Yael Abecassis has starred in numerous Israeli and international feature films. Born in Israel in 1967 to a family of Moroccan background, she worked as a model and an on-screen presenter for children’s television, and began her movie career in 1991 with the French film Pour Sacha (dir. Alexander Arcady). Her role as Rivka in Amos Gitai’s Kadosh (1999) showed her capable of portraying a deep and tragic character and propelled her into stardom. Living in a stifling ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem, Rivka is unable to conceive. The un…

Aben Danan

(6 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Ibn DananNorman A. Stillman

Aben Ṣur Family

(862 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Aben Ṣur (Ibn Ṣūr, Ben Ṣur) family of kabbalists, religious scholars, and rabbinic jurists ( dayyanim) in the cities of Salé, Meknès, and Fez was one of the supporting pillars of the Jewish community of Morocco from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth. The family produced outstanding figures in many different areas of Jewish scholarship, including law, Kabbala, grammar, and Hebrew poetry. There is little clear-cut documentation about the family’s early history.  The rabbinic scholar and historian Jacob Moses Toledano (1880–1960) thought they were descended from…

Aben Ṣur, Jacob

(1,434 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Jacob ben Reuben Aben Ṣur, known by the Hebrew acronym Yaʿbeṣ (1673–1752), was a distinguished rabbi and jurist ( dayyan) descended from the noted Aben Ṣur (Ibn Ṣūr, Ben Ṣur) family of Spanish exiles (Heb. megorashim) in Meknes. Around the beginning of the eighteenth century he moved to Fez and served as its spiritual leader until the day of his death, save for one decade in which he was exiled to the city of his birth as a result of a row with the nagidSaʿadya Lahboz. Due to wars and famine in Fez, Aben Ṣur sojourned in Tetouan in the mid-1730s; it was only during the last dec…

Abiathar ben Elijah ha-Kohen

(547 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Abiathar ben Elijah ha-Kohen, who was born around 1041, probably in Jerusalem, was the last important gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva. He was the eldest of the four sons of Elijah ha-Kohen Gaon, and in keeping with standard practice, his father put him on an advancement track in the yeshiva. By 1067 he was already signing documents as “fourth in line,” thus making him a member of the ḥavurat ha-qodesh (sacred collegium; i.e., the yeshiva); by 1071 he was co-signing responsa with his father and, apparently as his right hand, went on missions to Egypt on his behalf.In addition to Geniza docum…

Abisrur, Mordechai

(650 words)

Author(s): Aomar Boum
Best known as the guide of Charles de Foucault during his exploration of southern Morocco between 1883 and 1884, Mordechai Abisrur was born around 1830 to one of the oldest Jewish families in Akka (Ar. Aqqā), where he learned how to read and write in the primary religious school (Jud.-Ar. ṣ ) of the Jewish Quarter (Ar. mallāḥ). A gifted and talented child, Abisrur earned the admiration of the community's elders, who sent him to study in Marrakesh in the hope that he would become a rabbi and return to the village to teach the young, preach in the loc…

Abitan, Maklouf

(585 words)

Author(s): David Guedj
Maklouf Abitan was born in 1908 in Casablanca. His parents had moved to this growing coastal city from the Dra’a Valley. As a child he attended traditional Jewish schools, first a ṣlā (the Moroccan version of a ḥeder - see Kuttāb) and then a yeshiva. He was a self-educated individual who taught himself French and was an avid reader of the press and literature in general. He and his wife Suliqa had three sons and five daughters. For a living, he ran a haberdashery.Abitan was active in the Hebrew and Jewish national revival that took place in Casablanca in the 1930s. In his home…

Abitbol, Amor ben Solomon

(405 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
ʿAmor Joseph ben Solomon Abiṭbol (1780–1853) was a rabbinical judge ( dayyan) and liturgical poet in the Jewish community of Sefrou, Morocco, in the first half of the nineteenth century. He was the son of Solomon Abiṭbol (d. 1818) and a contemporary of Isaac Bengualid Ben Walīd (1797–1870) of Tetouan and Joseph ben Judah Berdugo (1802–1854) of Meknes. He earned high praise from Rabbi Abner Israel ben Vidal (IV) Ṣarfati of Fez (known as Ish, 1827–1884), and also from the kabbalist Jacob Abuḥaṣera (Sīdnā al-Ḥakham, 1808–1880) of the Tafilalet. Like many other rabbis of the time, Abi…

Abitbol, Saul Jeshua ben Isaac (Rav Shisha)

(667 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Saul Jeshua ben Isaac Abiṭbol (1739–1809), known as Rav Shisha, was a rabbi, rabbinical judge ( dayyan), and leader of the Jewish community of Sefrou, Morocco, in the second half of the eighteenth century. One of the greatest scholars in the history of Sefrou and the first member of his family to serve as a religious leader in that city, Abiṭbol was resolute and forceful, time and again rebuking the notables of the community as “insubordinate and bothersome.” He was also tough with his colleagues; he would decry pious scholars, even attacking Rabbi Petahiah Mordechai ben Jekuthiel Berd…

Abi Zimra, Isaac Mandil ben Abraham

(396 words)

Author(s): Ephraim Hazan
Isaac Mandil ben Abraham Abi Zimra (ca. 1540–1610), who lived and worked in Morocco and Algeria during the second half of the sixteenth century, was a rabbi in Fez and a scion of a family exiled from Spain. Mandil’s poetry is praised in various old and new sources and research projects. M. Zulay spoke of Mandil with great admiration and described him as “a poet the son of a poet.” It was Zulay who determined that Mandil lived between the years 1540 and 1610. H. Schirmann lectured on Mandil at the Eighth International Congress of Judaic Studies, but his text was not published an…
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