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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Saadoun, Yaakov

(238 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Yaakov Saadoun, the son of a shoemaker, was born in 1928 in the Tunisian city of Sfax, where his family lived in Picvill, a new quarter built by the French. Saadoun attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school until World War II, then went on to a French commercial school and became a clerk in a shipping company. Deeply affected by the German occupation of Sfax (November 1942 to April 1943), he joined  Tséiré Ohavé Tsion (Heb. Ṣeʿire Ohave Ṣiyyon), a local Zionist organization, when he was eighteen. He soon became one of its leaders and the editor of its newsp…

Saʿadya ben Judah

(155 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Saʿadya ben Judah, the scion of a family of physicians and heads of the Jewish community of Egypt, was a son of the nagidJudah ben Saʿadya. Since Judah died when Saʿadya was a child, the leadership of Egyptian Jewry passed to his uncle, Mevorakh ben Saʿadya, and thus Judah never became nagid or raʾīs al-yahūd (head of the Jews).  He was still active in the Jewish community when his uncle received the title nagid in 1094. The title rayyis granted to Saʿadya ben Judah in a poetic dirge did not indicate an official position in the community but rather a high rank at the Fati…

Saʿadya Gaon

(4,179 words)

Author(s): Haggai Ben-Shammai
Saʿadya ben Joseph, the greatest scholar and communal leader of the late gaonic period, was born in 882 in Dilāṣ, in the Fayyūm province of Egypt (after which he is often called al-Fayyūmī). He began to study Jewish sources and general science and philosophy while still in Egypt, around 900, and by then had already corresponded with the philosopher and physician Isaac Israeli of Qayrawan. Toward the end of the first decade of the tenth century he left Egypt for Palestine, apparently to Tiberias, the seat of the Palestinian yeshiva, where his wife and children joined him later.…

Ṣabāḥ (Tunis), al-

(289 words)

Author(s): Mohsen Hamli
Al-Ṣabāḥ (The Morning) was a four- to sixteen-page daily in Judeo-Arabic published in Tunis from November 1, 1904 to May 14, 1940. (The French part of its masthead read: Es-Sabah, seul quotidien israélite du Nord-Africain, le plus fort tirage des journaux israélites de Tunisie). As the organ of philanthropic Zionism, al-Ṣabāḥ was the most popular Jewish daily in Tunisia. It was founded and managed by Jacob Cohen, an accountant and teacher at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school, and Simon Cohen, and was edited successively by Jacob Cohen, Daniel Hagège, …

Saban, Rafael David

(271 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Rafael David Saban, born in Istanbul in 1873 into the family of a wealthy merchant, began his religious studies at a very early age and was taught by influential rabbis such as Yosef Kohen, Yomtov Kohen, and Konorte Delson. At the age of eighteen, Saban was ordained a rabbi and became the private secretary of the prominent religious leader Moşe Levi. Saban had years of experience in the affairs of the Turkish-Jewish community prior to his appointment to the chief rabbinate in 1953, for over the years he had been a member of several administrative committees, such as the Religious Council, the Is…

Saban, Rifat

(163 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Rifat Saban, a grandson of Raphael Saban, a former chief rabbi of Turkey, was born in 1939 in Istanbul. He graduated from the Law Faculty of Istanbul University in 1964 and since then has practiced commercial law. From 1978 to1980 he was general manager of the BEREC Dry Battery Factory in Istanbul.Saban has been active in the Turkish Jewish community since his youth, and since 1983 has been a member of the Advisory Council of the Turkish Chief Rabbinate. From 1984 to 1986 he was president of Fakirleri Koruma Derneği (Society to Protect the Poor), the successor to theB'nai B'rith Lodgeof Con…

Sābāwī Yūnis al-

(6 words)

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

Sabi, Musa

(468 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Musa Sabi (1914–1987) was a renowned Iranian lawyer, author, and translator.Musa Sabi (Pers. Mūsā Ṣabī), the distinguished Iranian Jewish lawyer, author, and translator, was born in Kerman on March 21, 1914, one of his father’s ten children. Not much is known about his early education, but since secondary education was limited in Kirman, he was sent to Isfahan to attend the Stuart Memorial College, which was run by the British Church Missionary Society, and later became the school’s prefect. In 1938, Sabi…

Sacred Grottoes, Pools, and Trees

(22 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
See Pilgrimages and Pilgrimage Rituals, Saints' Tombs (Modern Period), Saints' Tombs Venerated by Jews and MuslimsNorman A. Stillman


(1,189 words)

Author(s): Yosef Tobi
The walled city of Saʿda (Ar. Ṣaʿda), the capital of North Yemen, was once an iron-mining and tanning center and an important station on the Himyarite Sanʿa–Mecca trade route. It is built on a plateau 2,300 meters (7,546 feet) high about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Sanʿa. When the Zaydi imām al-Hādī ilā al-Ḥaqq from northern Persia established the Zaydi state in northern Yemen in the tenth century, he chose Saʿda as its capital, and it became a center of Zaydi Shiʿite learning. Al-Hādī Mosque in Saʿda is still an important Zaydi Shiʿite educational institution.Around the same time…

Ṣadaqa ibn Munajjā (Ṣadaqa al-Ḥakīm)

(925 words)

Author(s): Frank Weigelt
Ṣadaqa ibn Munajjā (also known as Ṣadaqa al-Ḥakīm) was an Arabic-writing Samaritan scholar and a renowned physician. Born probably in Damascus, he served at the court of the Ayyubid ruler al-Malik al-Ashraf Mūsā (d. 1237) in the Upper Mesopotamian city of Ḥarrān, where he died after 1223. Much of our information about his biography and bibliography comes from an entry in the Kitāb ʿUyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭibbāʾ (ed. Rida, pp. 717–721), the famous encyclopedia of physicians by Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa (1203–1270). On the basis of manuscripts discovered so far, Sam…

Saʿd al-Dawla

(826 words)

Author(s): Reuven Amitai
Saʿd al-Dawla ibn Ṣafī b. Hibat Allāh b. Muhadhdhib al-Dawla al-Abharī was an Iranian Jewish physician who served Arghūn (r. 1284-91), the fourth Mongol īlkhān, as chief minister ( ṣāḥib-dīwān, or wazīr). He was executed just before the death of his master. The Ilkhanids (ca. 1260-1335) were a Mongol dynasty that ruled Iran, the southern Caucasus, most of Anatolia, Iraq, and the territory covered by modern Turkmenistan and northern Afghanistan.Saʿd al-Dawla, originally from the town of Abhar in western Iran, first appears in the sources as an agent or broker of some kind (Ar.-Pers. dall…

Ṣafavid Dynasty

(166 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
see Iran/PersiaVera B. MoreenBibliographyFischel, Walter J., Jews in the Economic and Political Life of Mediaeval Islam ( London: Royal Asiatic Society Monographs, no. 22, 1937).Gil, Moshe, Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004), pp. 241-248, 520-532.Goitein, S. D,  A Mediterranean Society:  The Jewish Communities of the World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza.  6 vols.  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978) [Reprint 1999].Al-Iṣfahānī, Abū Nuʿaym,  Ḏikr aḵbari- Iṣfahān (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1931), 1: 22-23.Al-Iṣṭakhrī, I…


(2,332 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ayalon
Safed (Heb. Ṣefat, Ar. Ṣafad) is a town in the Upper Galilee area in Israel, situated about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Tiberias. Jews have lived in Safed at least since the eleventh or twelfth century, and the town was a major center of Jewish commercial and scholarly activity during most of the sixteenth century, when it boasted a large Sephardic community. The Jewish presence declined thereafter, and until the second half of the eighteenth century only a few hundred Jews resided the…

Safi (Asfi)

(1,036 words)

Author(s): Thomas Park
The town of Safi (Ar. Asfī) on the west coast of Morocco is said to have been settled originally by Canaanites, named by Carthaginians, and settled by Romans, Goths, and Jews from Palestine before the Muslim conquest. It is also said that in 1174 its patron saint, Shaykh Abū Muḥammed Ṣāliḥ, built a ribāṭ (fortress retreat) for members of the Sufi military orders who guarded the borders of the Dār al-Islām and engaged in religious exercises there. Safi attracted Portuguese attention at the beginning of the sixteenth century. A Portuguese fort was built in 1508 after a commercial conc…

Safra Family

(374 words)

Author(s): Tomer Levi
The Safras are a Sephardi banking family that built a worldwide banking network. Their first known bank, Safra Frères, was founded in Aleppo in the mid-nineteenth century. It traded in gold and currency, and financed the camel caravan trade in the Ottoman Empire. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Jacob Safra (1891–1963) settled inBeirut, where he founded a new bank. Taking advantage of the booming commerce in the French-ruled port-city, Safra consolidated his bank on a firm basis. In light of the growing anti-Jewish propaganda in the l…

Ṣafra Synagogue (Aleppo), al-

(344 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
According to local Jewish tradition, the Great Synagogue of Aleppo,known as Al-Ṣafra (the Yellow), was built by Joab ben Zeruiah, the commander of King David’s army, right after he conquered Aram Ṣoba (Aleppo). However, the west wing, the oldest part of the synagogue, was probably built in the fifth century C.E. The oldest surviving inscription is from the year 834. The building was partly damaged after the Mongol conquest in the thirteenth century and then was turned into a mosque. The central part of the synag…

Saguès, Albert

(363 words)

Author(s): Joy Land
Albert (Abraham) Saguès (1883–1956) was born in Constantinople-Hasköy (Istanbul) to Moïse Nissim and Sarah Sarfati. He was educated at the École Normale Israélite Orientale in Paris, where he earned the brevet supérieur (teaching certification granted upon graduation from four years of normal school) and brevet d'hébreu (diploma for Hebrew, entailing a salary increase). His teaching career with the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) began in Cairo in February 1903 and continued in Hamadan, Iran, in October 1903, and Seneh, Iran in 1904.Saguès became head of the school in …

Sahl (Abū ʾl-Sarrī) ben Maṣliaḥ

(458 words)

Author(s): Miriam Goldstein
Sahl (Abū ʾl-Sarrī) ben Maṣliaḥ was a Karaite exegete, legal scholar and propagandist who lived in the second half of the tenth century. The overwhelming majority of his works, composed both in Hebrew and in Arabic—sometimes with the two languages combined in the same composition—remain in manuscript and await publication. Sahl, the Arabic rendering of the Hebrew name Jashar , was a resident of Jerusalem, but according to his own testimony traveled abroad as a missionary seeking to convert Rabbanites to Karaism. He is best known for his anti-Rabbanite polemic in Hebrew known as Sefer Tokh…

Sahlān ben Abraham

(523 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Abū ʿAmr Sahlān ben Abraham was a payṭan (liturgical poet) and head of the Iraqi congregation in Fustat from 1034 until 1049 or 1050. He succeeded to this post after the death of his father, Abraham ben Sahlān (1016–ca. 1032), and like his father he carried the rabbinic titles alluf from the geonim of Baghdad (probably from Hay Gaon of Pumbedita) and ḥaver from the Jerusalem yeshiva, reflecting the dual allegiance maintained by ambitious leaders adept at negotiating complex networks of patronage. Sahlān bore other lofty titles presumably granted him by the Iraqi exilarchHezekiah. His f…
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