Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

Get access Subject: Jewish Studies
Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

Help us improve our service

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. 

Subscriptions: see brill.com

Kaʽb al-Aḥbār

(430 words)

Author(s): Shari Lowin
Kaʽb al-Aḥbār (d. ca. 652), an early Yemenite Jewish convert to Islam, is widely credited in Islamic sources as a major source of Isrā’īliyyāt (Israelite tales). Scholars have posited that the name Kaʽb al-Aḥbār is the Arabic transcription of Jacob or ‘Aqiba he-ḥaver, either an honorific or a title indicating a scholar in a yeshiva. There is little concrete information about Kaʽb’s life or the circumstances of his conversion. According to Muslim traditions, he arrived in Medina during the caliphate of ʽUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (r. 634–644) and became one of his closest advisers. …

Kaʽb al-Ashraf

(362 words)

Author(s): Shari Lowin
Kaʽb al-Ashraf was an opponent of Muḥammad in Medina and the leader of the Banū ʾl-Naḍīr, a Jewish tribe, of which his mother was a member (his father was an Arab). Kaʽb’s claim to fame derives mainly from his assassination by Muslims, apparently acting on orders from Muhammad. The Islamic sources disagree as to the reason for the assassination. Some (e.g., al-Wāqidī, the early historian of the Prophet’s military campaigns) attribute it to Kaʽb’s poetic satires against Muḥammad and his Companions, which culminated in his going to Mecca to inci…


(692 words)

Author(s): Ben Zion Yehoshua-Raz
Kabul in eastern Afghanistan has been an important crossroads on the route to India and the Khyber Pass since antiquity and has been the capital of Afghanistan since 1773. End of 2009, its population of approximately 2.5 million included only one Jew.There were apparently Jews living in Kabul in their own quarter as far back as the twelfth century. The Arab geographer al-Idrīsī (d. 1166) wrote in his Nuzhat al-Mushtāq fi ʾ khtirāq al-Āfāq that the Muslim population of the city was so large that there was a special quarter for the Jewish “infidels.” Many Jews served i…


(828 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
In premodern Iran, the   kadkhudā (Pers. master of the household; later, mayor or alderman) was the administrative head of a Jewish community. He had the same  standing as the community’s religious leaders. While they handled internal religious matters, the kadkhudā managed internal communal affairs as well as relations with persons outside the community, and especially government officials. He was the Iranian equivalent of the public administrative figure that in other Jewish communities of the Islamic world was known variously as nasi, nagid, shaykh, muqaddam , or qāʿid .Before t…

Kadoorie Family

(1,268 words)

Author(s): Maisie Meyer
The Kadoorie (Khaḍḍūrī) family has long played a major role in the economy of the southeastern China coast and of Hong Kong, which partly thanks to their contributions grew in the course of a century from a small provincial colony to a world financial center. In Baghdad, where the family originated, the Kadoories were “merchant farmers” in an era when livestock was an important medium of exchange. Members of the family were among the Baghdadi commercial pioneers who founded Jewish enclaves in trading ports in the Far East in the mid-nineteenth century.Ellis (1865–1922), later Sir Ell…

Kahanoff, Jacqueline Shohet

(372 words)

Author(s): Stanley Nash
Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff was born in 1917 in Cairo to parents who hailed from Iraq and Tunisia. Educated in French schools, she moved to the United States in 1940–41, where she studied, wrote, and published in English, winning the Atlantic Monthly award for best short story and the Houghton Mifflin Fellowship for her novel Jacob’s Ladder. Returning to Egypt in 1951, she witnessed the decline in Jewish fortunes that began with the Nasser regime and the Sinai Campaign of 1956. After spending some time in Paris, she settled in Israel. She first gained prominence there through Aharon …

Kāhina, al-

(406 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
Al-Kāhina (Ar. the sorceress) was the name given by the Arabs to the leader of the Berber Jerāwa tribe in the Aurès Mountains region of the Central Maghreb (present-day Algeria). The name reflected the fact that she was an ecstatic who prophesied and performed divinations. Al-Kāhina led the resistance against the Muslim Arab invaders after the fall of Byzantine Carthage in 692/93 to Ḥassān ibn al-Nuʿmān. She inflicted a major defeat on him and drove his forces out of Ifrīqiya (modern Tunisia) almost to Tripoli. For several years, she held sway over a lar…

Kalai, Mordechai Ben Solomon

(476 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Mordechai Bekhor ben Solomon Kalai (Qalaʽi, ca. 1556–1647) was a rabbi and scholar in the Ottoman Empire. Born in Salonica, he received his education from such renowned rabbis as Aaron ben Joseph Sasson (1550 or 1555–1626), Aaron ibn Ḥason, and Isaac Franco. Although not of Sephardi extraction (he was perhaps Romaniot or Ashkenazi), Kalai was trained in the Sephardi tradition and eventually headed the yeshiva and synagogue of the Portugal Yaḥiyya congregation. A pious and humble scholar, he taught numerous students, many of whom went on to become noted figures in…

Kalai (Qalʿī), Samuel Ben Moses

(372 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Samuel ben Moses Kalai (Qalʿī; variant: le-vet Qalʿī) was a halakhic authority in the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century. His surname alludes to his family’s origin in Calatayud in Spain. Kalai was born and raised in Corfu, where he studied under David ha-Kohen, an important Romaniot halakhic authority. He later settled in the Greek town of Arta (southern Epirus), where he married the daughter of Rabbi Benjamin ben Mattityahu. From 1525 on, Kalai was deeply involved in defending his father-in-law in a bitter, prolonged, and widespread controversy in which …


(4,474 words)

Author(s): Gregor Schwarb
1.   Definition, TerminologyThe term Kalām (Ar. speculative reasoning) is a generic name for doctrinal, speculative theology— i.e., the theoretical science of the fundamental doctrines of religion (Ar. uṣūl al-dīn)—in Arabic Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It is theoretical reflection engaged in rationalizing and explaining the cognitive content of the symbolic language of religion and the nature of revelation, as well as its operation within the individual and its place and function within the community.The mutakallimūn (practitioners of Kalām) conceived this sci…

Kalef (Kalev), Yehoshua

(1,007 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Yehoshuʽa Yuda Kalef (Eshua Kalev, Joshua Kalef, Josué Caleb) (1875–1943), a lawyer and journalist, was an early member and leader of the Zionist movement in Ottoman and independent Bulgaria. Descended from the respected Kalef and Romano families, he received a traditional Jewish education before attending the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school in his native Plovdiv, where he studied French and developed an appreciation for French culture that remained with him throughout his life. His childhood also nurtured in him a strong sense …

Kalfon, Shalom

(461 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
Shalom Kalfon (né Shalom Kalfon-Poney) was born in Sefrou, Morocco in 1927. He attended the Em Habanim schools in Sefrou and Fez and thereafter the Hebrew Teachers Seminar in Casablanca. He became a Zionist youth counselor and was active in clandestine Aliya (ʿAliya Bet – see Zionism Among Sephardi/Mizraḥi Jewry). In 1947, he attempted clandestine immigration to Palestine on the ship Yehuda ha-Levi which was intercepted by the British navy and was interned in Cyprus for three months. In 1948, he…

Kalīm (Cairo), al-

(333 words)

Author(s): Ovadia Yeroushalmy
Al-Kalīm was a bimonthly Arabic journal of the Karaite Jews of Egypt published in Cairo between 1945 and 1957. The name al-Kalīm (Ar. The Speaker) alludes to an epithet of the prophet Moses, who was known for speaking with God. Al-Kalīm covered the news of Karaite communities both in Egypt and worldwide. Its first issue appeared on February 16, 1945, following a period of around eight years in which no Karaite newspaper had been published in Egypt.From its founding until the declaration of independence of the State of Israel in May 1948 and afterwards, Al-Kalīm covered political and worl…

Kamhi, Cefi Jozef

(195 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Cefi Jozef Kamhi was born on November 21, 1952 in Istanbul and graduated from Bosporus University of Istanbul. He is the founder and chairman of Bodrum Yalıkavak Tourism and Yacht Harbour Investments S.A. Between 1995 and 1999 he was a member of parliament, representing the center-right Doğru Yol Partisi (True Path Party). The party selected him as a candidate because of his mastery of public relations and lobbying, as well as the reputation of his father, Jak Kamhi, the president of the Quincentennial Foundation, who often represented Turkey in international economic forums.…

Kamhi, Jak V.

(943 words)

Author(s): Stanford Shaw
Jak V. Kamhi has for many years been one of Turkey’s leading industrialists. He is a major figure in the effort to promote friendship for Turkey around the world, as well as reconciliation between Turkey and world Jewry.Born in Istanbul in 1925, Kamhi is a member of the prominent Qimḥī/Qamhi family of Sephardim, which traces its origins back to the expulsion from Spain. Over the years the family has produced a number of rabbis and other influential figures in the Ottoman Jewish community. Kamhi is a graduate of the Saint Michel French Lycée and the Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul…


(381 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ayalon
Kamishli (Ar. al-Qāmishlī) is a city in northeastern Syria on the Turkish border, founded in 1926 as a station on the Taurus railway. It has a mixed population of Kurds, Armenians, and Assyrian Christians. Little is known about its Jewish population. Jews arrived in the city in the late 1920s, mostly from neighboring Nusaybin (now in Turkey), where a community had existed for centuries. During the French mandate over Syria, there were about two hundred Jewish families in Kamishli. The number dropped sharply after the establishment of Israel in 1948, as the town’s Jews moved to the la…

Kaneti, Selim

(343 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Selim Kaneti (1934–1992) was a renowned Turkish professor of civil law. Born in Istanbul in 1934, he graduated from the Lycée Saint Benoît d’Istanbul and subsequently attended the Istanbul University Faculty of Law. In 1972, he obtained his doctorate from Istanbul University and became a professor of civil law at the Istanbul University Faculty of Law. In 1984, he was appointed head of the Finance and Economics Department and the Tax Law Subdivision at Istanbul University Faculty of Law. He served in these positions until …

Kanouï, Simon

(556 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Simon Kanouï, an influential banker and leader in the Jewish community of Algeria, was born into a wealthy and prominent family in Oran in 1842. Many of his relatives occupied positions of communal leadership. In 1863, he married Esther Lasry, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Oran. On March 31, 1865, Kanouï became a lay leader of the Jewish Consistory of Oran, and on December 12, 1872, a member of the Oran Consistorial Committee. After serving as acting president of the consistory between 1870 and 1873, he became its president on July 20, 1876—a post he held …


(7,177 words)

Author(s): Daniel J. Lasker | Joel Beinin
Karaism (Heb. qaraʾut), the form of Judaism which claims to adhere to a more literal interpretation of the Bible ( miqraʾ) than that of the Rabbanites, the exponents of Rabbinic Judaism, and which rejects the institution of Jewish Oral Law as codified in the Mishna and Talmud, had its origins and greatest intellectual accomplishments in the Islamic world. It emerged in Iran, Iraq, and the Land of Israel in the late eighth and ninth centuries, and it had a Golden Age in tenth- and eleventh-century Jerusalem. During …
Date: 2015-09-03

Karaite Synagogues of Jerusalem and Cairo

(2,740 words)

Author(s): David Cassuto
The oldest known Karaite synagogue is the one in Jerusalem. Because all Karaite religious trusts, including the one in Jerusalem, were managed by the Karaite community in Egypt, in a sense this Israeli synagogue is an extension of the Karaite property in Egypt (al-Gamil 1988, p. 316.). The Karaites in Egypt were responsible for its maintenance and state of repair.In 1938, the British authorities named Elie Barukh Masʿudah of Cairo manager of the religious trusts in Jerusalem and put him in charge of the associated properties, including the old synagogue. It w…
▲   Back to top   ▲