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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(513 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The maʿamad (Heb. assembly; rendered in Latin characters by western Sephardi communities as mahamad) was an executive council that managed the secular affairs of many Jewish congregations in the Ottoman Empire and other parts of the Sephardi Diaspora. Usually made up of seven members (the so-called seven best men of the city; Heb. shivʿat ṭove ha-ʿir), although some councils were smaller, it functioned alongside the community’s spiritual leadership. Tax-paying members of the congregation elected aldermen (Heb. parnasim, sing. parnas) at public gatherings in a fairly democ…

Maarek, Henri

(263 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Henri Maarek was born in Tunis in 1893. His father, Messod(1861–1941), was one of the best and most talented modern Hebrew scholars of the Tunisian Haskala (Hebrew Enlightenment) and the editor of the Judeo-Arabic newspapers al-Bustān (1888–1906) and al-Naḥla (1892–1895). Maarek was educated at a kuttāb (Jewish elementary school), the Alliance Israélite Universelle school, and a yeshiva. Upon completing his education, he became a teacher in the Alliance school.Between 1930 and 1934, Maarek was a member of a committee charged with improving education in the Jewis…

Macias, Enrico (Gaston Ghrenassia)

(639 words)

Author(s): Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
Enrico Macias (né Gaston Ghrenassia) is perhaps the best-known Jewish musician from North Africa. Born in Constantine, Algeria, on December 11, 1938 into a highly musical family, he began playing the guitar at a very young age. At fifteen, Macias played guitar in the famed orchestra of Raymond Leyris (known as Cheikh Raymond), in which his father, Sylvain Ghrenassia, was a violinist. He was not, however, encouraged to pursue music full-time, and instead became a teacher to young, primarily Muslim students in Aïn Frain. In 1961 Raymond Leyris was brutally murdered, and in the …

Macnin (Maqnīn), Meʾir

(581 words)

Author(s): Daniel Schroeter
Born in Marrakesh in the 1760s, Meʾir ben Abraham Cohen Macnin (Maqnīn; Mor. Ar. goldfinch) settled in Essaouira (Mogador) in the 1770s or early 1780s. He soon rose to prominence in the port as a merchant and key intermediary for the governor of Essaouira. In the winter of 1799 to 1800, he set sail for England during an outbreak of bubonic plague, leaving behind his wife whom he had recently married. This was the beginning of a long sojourn in London, during which Macnin joined the elite Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, also known as the Bevis Marks Synagogue, eve…


(4 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see SpainNorman A. Stillman

Maftirim Choir

(469 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
mThe term mafṭirim designates both a special repertoire of pizmonim (hymns), or paraliturgical sung poetry, from the Ottoman Turkish Jewish tradition, and the choir of male singers that performs them. The tradition of singing poems modeled on the court traditions of Ottoman music originated in Edirne (Adrianople) in the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it spread to Izmir, Istanbul, and other Ottoman cities.The genre of mafṭirim stems from medieval Spanish and Levantine Jewish sung poetry. Religious poems were collected and publishe…

Maggid Mesharim (Calcutta)

(207 words)

Author(s): Lital Levy
Maggid Mesharim (The Announcer of Truth), edited by Rabbi Shelomo Twena, was one of a number of newspapers in Judeo-Arabic and/or Hebrew published by Baghdadi Jews in India during the second half of the nineteenth century. It appeared weekly in Calcutta from 1890 to 1900. Like its predecessors, it carried local news of Jewish communities in India, announcements of births, deaths, and marriages, shipping news and schedules, and worldwide Jewish news. Twena’s reportage focused heavily, however, on the hardships of Jews in Baghdad, such as persecution by the Ottoman authoritie…

Maghāriyya, al- (The Cave Sect)

(690 words)

Author(s): Steven M. Wasserstrom
Al-Maghāriyya (The Cave Sect) is mentioned by the Karaite scholars Jacob al-Qirqisānī and Judah Hadassi, as well as by the Muslim writers al-Bīrūnī and al-Shahrastānī, deriving in part from works by Severus ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, David ibn Marwān al-Muqammiṣ, and Abū ʿĪsa al-Warrāq. Stroumsa observes that David ibn Marwān al-Muqammiṣ was interested in the sect in connection with Christian origins. However, the historical evidence for the al-Maghāriyya as an ancient sect is slim, consisting solely of al-Shahrastānī’s claim that they lived four hundred years before Arius (ca. …

Maghīli, Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm al-

(512 words)

Author(s): Mohamed Elmedlaoui
Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Maghīlī (ca. 1440–ca. 1503) was a Muslim preacher, activist, and jurist born and educated in Tlemcen. Moving to the fortified oasis town of Tamantit in the Touat region of west-central Algeria some 764 kilometers (475 miles) south of Tlemcen, he also journeyed throughout the Sahara and to West Africa as an adviser to local rulers. He wrote twenty-six works, most of them concerning Islamic theology and law. His Aḥkām Ahl al-Dhimma (Laws Relating to the People of the Dhimma) treats the subject of Jewish-Muslim relations; it may or may not have been ide…


(5 words)

Author(s): Daniel Schroeter
see Algeria;Morocco; Libya; TunisiaDaniel Schroeter

Magic and Divination

(2,262 words)

Author(s): Gideon Bohak
The magical practices of the Jews of Islam are a doubly neglected topic: On the one hand, the Jews of Islam (with the exception of a few enlightened luminaries like Maimonides) have generally been marginalized in the academic study of Jews and Judaism. On the other, the magical and divinatory beliefs and practices of the Jews of all times and places have not fared well in the modern study of Jewish history and culture, and even the few good surveys of Jewish magic (e.g., Trachtenberg 1939) completely ignore the magic of the Jews of Islam. This scholarly neglect stands in invers…


(384 words)

Author(s): Aviad Moreno
La Revista Maguén-Escudo, often abbreviated as Maguén, is a Jewish periodical founded in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1970. Although its name combines the Hebrew word magen (shield) and its Spanish equivalent, escudo, Maguén appears only in the Spanish language. It is the official publication of the Asociación Israelíta de Venezuela (AIV), the principal Sephardic organization in Venezuela, founded and led primarily by Jewish immigrants from the  former Spanish protectorate in Morocco, and the city of Tangier. Since June 1982, the AIV has published Maguén in association with the Cen…

Mahalla al-Kubra

(576 words)

Author(s): Brendan Goldman
A town in the Nile Delta prominently featured in documents from the Cairo Geniza, Mahalla al-Kubra (Ar. al-Maḥalla al-Kubrā) hosted a significant Jewish community until the late nineteenth century. The Jewish businesses and residents of al-Maḥalla were located in the Khōkhat al-Yahūd quarter (see Jewish Quarters). Its many silk weavers and dyers gave Mahalla al-Kubra a role in the silk industry at least as strong as that of the predominant Egyptian Jewish community in neighboring Fustat (Ar. Al-Fusṭāṭ). A query submitted to Maimonides mentions a partnership between owners of …

Maḥḍar al Shuhūd fῑ Radd al-Yahūd

(418 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
Maḥḍar al-Shuhūd f Radd al-Yahūd (Ar. The Court forRefuting the Jews) is a polemic against Judaism written by Ḥājj Bābā Qazvīnī Yazdī in the city of Yazd during the month of Ramaḍān 1797. The author's father, Muḥammad Ismāʿīl, was a Jewish convert to Islam. The author, apparently not a Muslim from birth, organized meetings (Ar. majālis) with Jews in addition to writing Maḥḍar al-Shuhūd.The book is a major source of anti-Jewish contentions rooted in early Sunnī and Shīʿī writings. It criticizes the concept of the Oral Law, but its main target is the Hebrew Bible. It uses the Hebrew Bibl…

Mahdiyya, al-

(513 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
Al-Mahdiyya is a coastal city in present-day Tunisia, 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Tunis, founded by the first Fatimid caliph, ʿUbayd Allāh al-Mahdī (r. 909–934), to be his capital in place of Qayrawan. The establishment of a capital on the coast represented a singular break with Islamic tradition, which since the time of the conquests in the seventh century was to build new urban administrative centers inland away from the Byzantine Sea (as the Mediterranean was called). Al-Mahdiyya did not replace Qayrawan …

Maḥmūd, Shah

(289 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Maḥmūd Shah was a Ghilzāy Afghan chieftain who invaded Iran in 1722, and besieged Isfahan, the capital, for seven months (March–October 1722).  The city was subjected to terrible famine and suffering that caused the death of approximately eighty thousand people,  many of starvation. The effect of the siege on the city’s Jewish community is described briefly but movingly in 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), the Judeo-Persian chronicle of Bābāī ibn Far…

Maimon ben Joseph ha-Dayyan

(1,125 words)

Author(s): Judit Targarona
Maimon (Ar. Maymūn) ben Joseph ha-Dayyan (ca. 1110–ca. 1166), the father of Moses Maimonides, was a disciple of  Joseph ha-Levi ben Meʾir ibn Migash, with whom he studied in Lucena. Maimon served as a rabbi and jurist in Cordova until the Almohad conquest. He was a scion of an important Sephardi family of al-Andalus documented as far back as the beginning of the tenth century. Almost all of his forebears were judges (Heb. dayyanim) and communal leaders: The sources trace the family line back for seven generations from Maimon’s father, Joseph the sage. Joseph’s father was Isaac ha-dayyan, Is…

Maimonides, Abraham ben Moses

(1,308 words)

Author(s): Joaquín Lomba
Abraham (Abū ʾl-Munā Ibrāhīm) ben Moses ben Maymon (1186–1237), the only son of Moses Maimonides, was born in Fustat, Egypt. As a child he was meek and humble, with excellent virtues—sharp intelligence and a kind nature. His father devoted loving care to his education, and he was clearly a person of enormous erudition in both Jewish and secular, scientific literature. In 1204, at the age of only seventeen or eighteen, he was appointed leader (Ar. raʾīs al-yahūd; Heb. nagid ) of the Jewish community in Egypt upon the death of his father. In part, perhaps, because of his you…

Maimonides, David ben Abraham

(275 words)

Author(s): Paul Fenton
David ben Abraham Maimonides (1222–1300) was the leader of Egyptian Jewry and a grandson of Moses Maimonides. Following the demise of his father in 1237, David was appointed head of Egyptian Jewry (Heb. nagid; Ar. raʾīs al-Yahūd) at a tender age. Deposed, possibly because of his youth, and restored in 1225, he remained in office for several decades. An able communal leader and scholar, possibly also a physician, he was reputedly the author of a collection of Judeo-Arabic sermons on the weekly portions of the Torah, as well as a Ju…

Maimonides, Joshua ben Abraham

(257 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Joshua ben Abraham Maimonides (Maymūnī) was the third son of Abraham ben David Maimonides. He inherited the office of nagid in Egypt either directly from his father or from his older brother Moses. According to the sixteenth-century Jewish chronicler Joseph Sambari, he was born in 1310 and died in 1355. Very little is known about his personal life other than the fact that he was a renowned and respected scholar. A letter to him from Hebron in the Cairo Geniza offers condolences on the death of his older brother Obadiah and laments the unfortunate state of the Hebron commu…
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