SNEAK PEAK (October release date!): A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations

A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day -- Edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb & Benjamin StoraSet to be released in October 2013, A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations is the first encyclopedic guide to the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today. Richly illustrated (more than 250 images) and beautifully produced, the book features more than 150 authoritative and accessible articles by an international team of leading experts in history, politics, literature, anthropology, and philosophy. Organized thematically and chronologically, this indispensable reference provides critical facts and balanced context for greater historical understanding and a more informed dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

The main articles address major topics such as the Jews of Arabia at the origin of Islam; special profiles cover important individuals and places; and excerpts from primary sources provide contemporary views on historical events.

Contributors include Mark R. Cohen, Alain Dieckhoff, Michael Laskier, Vera Moreen, Gordon D. Newby, Marina Rustow, Daniel Schroeter, Kirsten Schulze, Mark Tessler, John Tolan, Gilles Veinstein, and many more.

  • Covers the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today
  • Written by an international team of leading scholars
  • Features in-depth articles on social, political, and cultural history
  • Includes profiles of important people (Eliyahu Capsali, Joseph Nasi, Mohammed V, Martin Buber, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, Edward Said, Messali Hadj, Mahmoud Darwish) and places (Jerusalem, Alexandria, Baghdad)
  • Presents passages from essential documents of each historical period, such as the Cairo Geniza, Al-Sira, and Judeo-Persian illuminated manuscripts
  • Richly illustrated with more than 250 images, including maps and color photographs
  • Includes extensive cross-references, bibliographies, and an index

Each week, Princeton University Press wants to share a new excerpt from this groundbreaking account of a challenging yet remarkable meeting of two religions. This week’s selection is written by Gordon D. Newby, a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University. His research specialties include early Islam, Muslim relations with Jews and Christians, and comparative sacred texts:

Early Judeo-Arabic

Linguistic evidence for the presence of Jews in Arabia is impossible to date, but by the time of the rise of Islam, we have evidence of a specialized Judeo-Arabic and the presence of Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic terms assimilated into the Northwest Arabic of the Hijâz. Common words like çalât (from the Aramaic tzeluta, “prayer”), çadaqa (from the Hebrew tzedaqa, “charity, alms-giving”), zakât (from the Hebrew zekhut, “purification” or “merit”), and nabî (from the Hebrew navi’, “prophet”) are all treated in the Qur’an as “clear” Arabic. Jews in Arabia spoke a variety of Judeo-Arabic, termed al-yahûdîyah, “the Jewish [tongue]” and read scriptures in both Hebrew and in Arabic translations, preparing Targumim, or translations interspersed with commentaries, in the manner of other Diaspora Jews. See article by Geneviève Gobillot, p. xxx It is the opinion of this author that most of this linguistic development took place in the centuries after the unsuccessful Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 C.E.) which marked the end of Jewish resistance against Roman occupation, and it is in the Roman period and after that we begin to get more evidence of Jewish life in Arabia.[1]

One of the results of the Jewish conflict with Rome was the movement of Jews from the center of the Roman oikoumene to the periphery, Gaul, Iberia, and Arabia. We know that the Pharisaic Jew turned Christian, Paul, who had been Saul of Tarsus, had spent three years in Arabia after his conversion to Christianity, presumably among possible Jewish converts,[2] and prior to the start of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the revolt’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Akiba, journeyed to Arabia, as he did elsewhere, to garner Jewish support for the conflict with Rome. When the Christian missionary Theophilus traveled to Arabia two centuries later, he found a great number of Jews.[3] By the middle of the next century, the rulers of Yemen were using monotheistic formulas in inscriptions that appear to be Jewish or based on Jewish ideals.


[1] See Gordon D. Newby, “Observations about an Early Judaeo-Arabic,” Jewish Quaterly Review., New Series 61 (1971): 214-221; Moshe Gil, “The Origins of the Jews of Yathrib,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. 4 (1984): 206.

[2] Galatians 1:17.

[3] Philostorgius, Ecclesiasticae Historiae. Geneva: Chouët, 1642, 3.5.

Fun Fact:
“Judeo-Arabic is an ethnolect (a linguistic entity with its own history and used by a distinct language community) which has been spoken and written in various forms by Jews throughout the Arabic-speaking world.”–Benjamin Hary, Emory University

Check out some examples of Judeo-Arabic script below.

Judeo-Arabic Examples