Book launch video for Maimonides: Life and Thought

Moshe Halbertal, Gruss Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, and Noah Feldman, Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School, discuss Halbertal’s new book, Maimonides: Life and Thought.

What happens at AAR/SBL doesn’t stay at AAR/SBL…

Prompted by this great meeting overview in Publishers Weekly, I asked our religion editor Fred Appel what his experience was like at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature conference. Here’s how he describes the meeting:

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Princeton University Press religion editor Fred Appel with Sharmila Sen and Jennifer Banks, religion editors of Harvard University Press and Yale University Press, respectively.

The joint meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature is one of North America’s biggest academic conferences. Almost 11,000 scholars attended last month’s meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center. The meetings are noted for their diversity. All manner of religion scholars attend, from specialists of the Hebrew Bible and Qur’an, to experts in Zen Buddhism, Christian monasticism and Hinduism, to historians of American religion. The exhibit hall is filled with all sorts of publishers, including many with avowedly religious/confessional commitments. Publishers from the world of scholarly book publishing were also there in force.

Among PUP’s strong sellers at this meeting were recent volumes in the “Lives of Great Religious Books” series, especially Mark Larrimore’s book on Job and John Collins on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also quite popular was The Bible in Arabic, a scholarly book tracing this history of early translations of the Bible in the Arab world by Sidney Griffith of Catholic University. Our two big religion reference books (The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism and A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations) this season also attracted considerable attention, and we had one social science title that performed very well too: Mark Chaves’ American Religion.

Happy Hanukkah!

Since Hanukkah is officially underway as of Wednesday night, we at the Press would like to say Happy Hanukkah by showing off some of our most interesting books about Jewish culture and history. So take a break from your Black Friday shopping and check out some of these Jewish gems!

Happy Hanukkah!

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Maimonides: Life and Thought

By: Moshe Halbertal

Maimonides was the greatest Jewish philosopher and legal scholar of the medieval period, a towering figure who has had a profound and lasting influence on Jewish law, philosophy, and religious consciousness. This book provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to his life and work, revealing how his philosophical sensibility and outlook informed his interpretation of Jewish tradition. A stunning achievement, Maimonides offers an unparalleled look at the life and thought of this important Jewish philosopher, scholar, and theologian.

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No Joke: Making Jewish Humor

By: Ruth R. Wisse

Humor is the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity. In this book, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking–as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that have called Jewish humor into being–and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.

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How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought

By: Leora Batnitzky

Is Judaism a religion, a culture, a nationality–or a mixture of all of these? In How Judaism Became a Religion, Leora Batnitzky boldly argues that this question more than any other has driven modern Jewish thought since the eighteenth century. This wide-ranging and lucid book tells the story of how Judaism came to be defined as a religion in the modern period–and why Jewish thinkers have fought as well as championed this idea. More than an introduction, How Judaism Became a Religion presents a compelling new perspective on the history of modern Jewish thought.

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History Lessons: The Creation of American Jewish Heritage

By: Beth S. Wenger

Most American Jews today will probably tell you that Judaism is inherently democratic and that Jewish and American cultures share the same core beliefs and values. But in fact, Jewish tradition and American culture did not converge seamlessly. Rather, it was American Jews themselves who consciously created this idea of an American Jewish heritage and cemented it in the popular imagination during the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. This is the first book to examine how Jews in the United States collectively wove themselves into the narratives of the nation, and came to view the American Jewish experience as a unique chapter in Jewish history.

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A Short History of the Jews

By: Michael Brenner
Translated by: Jeremiah Riemer

This is a sweeping and powerful narrative history of the Jewish people from biblical times to today. Based on the latest scholarship and richly illustrated, it is the most authoritative and accessible chronicle of the Jewish experience available. Describing the events and people that have shaped Jewish history, and highlighting the important contributions Jews have made to the arts, politics, religion, and science, A Short History of the Jews is a compelling blend of storytelling and scholarship that brings the Jewish past marvelously to life.

More Upcoming Ruth Wisse Events You Don’t Want to Miss

NoJokeAuthor Ruth R. Wisse will be making several appearances in the next couple of months to discuss her new book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor. In this book, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking–as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that have called Jewish humor into being–and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.

The next two events will be held in November, the first being November 20th at 7:00 PM at the APJCC Auditorium in Silicon Valley. To learn more about the event, click here.

The second event will be held at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on November 21st at 7:00 PM. To learn more about the event, click here.

For both events, Wisse will discuss “No Joke: Making Jewish Humor,” her book about the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity. Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. She is the author of The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Language and Culture, which won a National Jewish Book Award. Her other books include Jews and Power (Schocken) and The Schlemiel as Modern Hero.

“Aftermath”, a Polish Film Based on Jan T. Gross’ “Neighbors” Is Released

aftermath_us_poster_1_lgAftermath, a Polish film based on the historical book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross, was recently released in limited showing in the United States, including New York City and Los Angeles (with Boston, Chicago and more to come shortly).

The official website for the film can be found here on Menemsha Films’ website, which includes a short synopsis, a trailer, photos from the film, and reviews. It also has links to locations and showtimes for the film in the United States.

The film was reviewed by The New York Times, which can be found here.


k7018One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town’s Jews. Neighbors tells their story.

This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.

Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne’s Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed cordial relations. After the war, the nearby family who saved Jedwabne’s surviving Jews was derided and driven from the area. The single Jew offered mercy by the town declined it.

Most arresting is the sinking realization that Jedwabne’s Jews were clubbed, drowned, gutted, and burned not by faceless Nazis, but by people whose features and names they knew well: their former schoolmates and those who sold them food, bought their milk, and chatted with them in the street. As much as such a question can ever be answered, Neighbors tells us why.

Daniel B. Schwartz Named Co-Winner of 2012 Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize

Daniel B. Schwartz – The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image
Co-Winner of the 2012 Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize, American Academy for Jewish Research

The American Academy for Jewish Research is pleased to announce the winners of its annual Salo Baron Prize for the best first book in Jewish studies published in 2012…The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image [is a] commanding piece of intellectual history that traces the image of Spinoza in a number of different geo-cultural contexts. The prize committee found Schwartz’s authoritative grasp of each of them, from Spinoza’s own time, to eighteenth-century Germany, nineteenth-century East Central Europe, and twentieth-century Palestine, truly remarkable for a scholar for whom this is a first book. The book rests on careful and precise terminological apparatus, as well as on a graceful and compelling writing style.

The Baron Prize honors the memory of the distinguished historian Salo W. Baron, a long-time president of the AAJR, who taught at Columbia University for many decades. It is…one of the signal honors that can be bestowed on a young scholar in Jewish studies and a sign of the excellence, vitality, and creativity in the field.

The First Modern JewPioneering biblical critic, theorist of democracy, and legendary conflater of God and nature, Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was excommunicated by the Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam in 1656 for his “horrible heresies” and “monstrous deeds.” Yet, over the past three centuries, Spinoza’s rupture with traditional Jewish beliefs and practices has elevated him to a prominent place in genealogies of Jewish modernity. The First Modern Jew provides a riveting look at how Spinoza went from being one of Judaism’s most notorious outcasts to one of its most celebrated, if still highly controversial, cultural icons, and a powerful and protean symbol of the first modern secular Jew.

Ranging from Amsterdam to Palestine and back again to Europe, the book chronicles Spinoza’s posthumous odyssey from marginalized heretic to hero, the exemplar of a whole host of Jewish identities, including cosmopolitan, nationalist, reformist, and rejectionist. Daniel Schwartz shows that in fashioning Spinoza into “the first modern Jew,” generations of Jewish intellectuals–German liberals, East European maskilim, secular Zionists, and Yiddishists–have projected their own dilemmas of identity onto him, reshaping the Amsterdam thinker in their own image. The many afterlives of Spinoza are a kind of looking glass into the struggles of Jewish writers over where to draw the boundaries of Jewishness and whether a secular Jewish identity is indeed possible. Cumulatively, these afterlives offer a kaleidoscopic view of modern Jewish cultureand a vivid history of an obsession with Spinoza that continues to this day.

Daniel B. Schwartz is assistant professor of history at George Washington University.

Upcoming Ruth Wisse Events You Don’t Want To Miss

NoJokeAuthor Ruth R. Wisse will be making several appearances in the next couple of months to discuss her new book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor. In this book, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking–as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that have called Jewish humor into being–and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.

The first two events will be held in October, the first being October 16th from 6:30-8:30 PM at the Mid-Manhattan Public Library. To learn more about the event, click here.

The second event will be held at the Princeton Public Library in the Community Room on October 17th from 7:00-9:00 PM. To learn more about the event, click here.

For both events, Wisse will discuss “No Joke: Making Jewish Humor,” her book about the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity.

Two for Tuesday – The Book of Common Prayer and The Book of Job

The Lives of Great Religious Books is a series offering fascinating histories of important religious texts from around the world.  These short volumes are written for general readers and examine the historical origins of texts from the great religious traditions, and trace how their reception, interpretation, and influence have changed–often radically–over time. For “Two for Tuesday” we highlight two new books published in the series and invite you to read their introductions online.

commonThe Book of Common Prayer: A Biography
by Alan Jacobs

While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . .” or “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs tells its story. Jacobs shows how The Book of Common Prayer–from its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today–became a venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life for many.

Alan Jacobs is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University.

Read the introduction online: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10076.pdf

 

jobThe Book of Job: A Biography
by Mark Larrimore

The book of Job raises stark questions about the nature and meaning of innocent suffering and the relationship of the human to the divine, yet it is also one of the Bible’s most obscure and paradoxical books, one that defies interpretation even today. Mark Larrimore provides a panoramic history of this remarkable book, traversing centuries and traditions to examine how Job’s trials and his challenge to God have been used and understood in diverse contexts, from commentary and liturgy to philosophy and art. Offering rare insights into this iconic and enduring book, Larrimore reveals how Job has come to be viewed as the Bible’s answer to the problem of evil and the perennial question of why a God who supposedly loves justice permits bad things to happen to good people.

Mark Larrimore directs the Religious Studies Program at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts.

Read the introduction online: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10075.pdf

For more books in the Lives of Great Religious Books series, visit:
http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/series/lgrb.html

Q&A with Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora, Editors of “A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations”

A History of Jewish-Muslim RelationsIn an exclusive interview, Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora, editors of A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day, spoke about their experiences with Jewish-Muslim relations, their inspiration for the book, and what they believe will happen in the future.

At its release in November of this year, the book will be the first encyclopedic guide to the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today. It 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.

Abdelwahab Meddeb is professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris-X (Nanterre). His books include Islam and Its Discontents.

Benjamin Stora is University Professor at the University of Paris-XIII (Villetaneuse), where he teaches the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century North Africa and the history of North African immigrants in Europe. His many books include Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History.

1. Both of you grew up in places where Jewish and Muslim communities lived side by side but, for the most part, kept to themselves. How did your early experiences affect the way you developed this book?

Benjamin Stora: I grew up in Constantine, in the Jewish Quarter. At that time the Jews in Algeria mostly felt French, but their ties to the Muslim communities were real; we shared the same language of everyday life, the Arabic language. Then came the departure of the Jews from Algeria: another exile after the fracture introduced by the Cremieux Decree. I have worked extensively on the history of the Maghreb and on Algeria in particular, and more recently I have become interested in the question of memory among the Jews of Algeria: it is an essential part of my memory and of Algeria’s history. And to inform these memories, the work of the historian is necessary because it puts events in context, it connects them to one another. This project made sense to me because it would bring together European and American historians, but also Muslims and Jews. And it is only in this collective dimension that the history of Jewish-Muslim relations can be written.

Abdelwahab Meddeb: During my childhood in Tunis, in the 1950s, the presence of Jews was part of my story. During my schooling I had many Jewish teachers in nearly all subjects—history, geography, French literature, English, mathematics, physics, the natural sciences. They were our fellow citizens, our elders. They helped us into the modern world as Tunisians. So, with this background, I decided to join this project. Because Jews have virtually disappeared from Arab reality, from the Maghreb, from Tunisia, it was important to revisit the past, to recall the peaceful coexistence with Jews, sharing the same city. It is necessary to remember, to replace imagination with memory, and from that point, history can be written.

2. This project took more than five years to complete–years that coincided with major changes and conflicts in the Middle East. Did current events affect your decisions about the essays and topics the book would include?

Benjamin Stora and Abdelwahab Meddeb: The history of relations between Jews and Muslims is complex. But the editorial committee tried to focus on the long term, not on issues tied solely to current events.
At a time when the relationship is in bad shape, very bad, we cannot ignore these religious conflicts nor their manifestations in political and social history.
Even in medieval times, when the two civilizations coexisted more peacefully, the “protected” legal status (dhimmi) of Jews did not prevent anti-Judaism among Muslims that led to forced conversions or destruction by the sword. This enmity mutated with the rise of Western hegemony that eventually subjugated the Islamic territories. Other forms of ambivalence developed under colonialism and imperialism.
We have situated A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations at the heart of this tragic scene. We wanted to make this an objective, balanced history, which at first seemed impossible. The history contains not only conflicts, but also times of fertile intellectual, cultural, and artistic exchange.

3. The book traces the history of a long and complicated relationship from a global perspective. Why is this shared history important for contemporary readers to understand?

Benjamin Stora:  Making a book today on the history of relations between Jews and Muslims is a true challenge. Despite all the differences, all the apprehension, all the fears that exist between these two communities, one must maintain the link between them.  They have experienced common histories, and despite the clashes, they belong to the same shared universe.
It is a fundamental undertaking, not simply to remember but to engage readers at the civic level, at the political level. Because if you have this deep knowledge of the recent past, then you can envision working together. But if you do not have this conception of a shared past, how can you find common ground on which to build?

4. What are some of the cultural assumptions this book hopes to challenge?

Benjamin Stora: The first articles in the book challenge the idea that Muslims were hostile toward Jews from the outset. Specialists such as Mark Cohen have shown that the attitude of the Prophet of Islam toward the Jews was shaped by pragmatism, not ideology.
In contrast, the idea of an Andalusian golden age in which the two communities lived in perfect harmony has prevailed for a long time: but again, the historian must have the courage to reflect critically on its sources. This book, which ignores neither the bad nor the good, has the humble ambition to provide the results of contemporary research and to offer a common memory, a tool that will facilitate dialogue.

5. What do you think the future holds for Jewish-Muslim relations?

Abdelwahab Meddeb: I agreed to edit this project because I believe in the possibility of future reconciliation, but always also in the irreconcilable. For there is no reconciliation that does not preserve an irreconcilable part. It is a long history that contains the irreconcilable, on both sides, and for compromise to happen we must recognize that the two entities will maintain irreconcilable elements.
I believe in a future reconciliation and I agreed to do this work because I believe its effect remains to be seen:  to work toward a better time in which everyone will regain reason. Without ignoring the negativities and the abominations, this book tells a complex story. The relationship between Jews and Muslims is complex: it has seen the best, it has seen the worst. But I think it is important at least to remember this ambiguity and to show that it does not move in only one direction.  And to hope that, despite the hatred that currently exists between the two communities, a different vision is possible.

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:

The Prophet Muhammad and the Jews

The question of where Muhammad learned about Judaism can be answered through a combination of conjecture and evidence.  According to the Islamic tradition, Arabia at that time was pagan, though seeds of monotheistic belief seem to have been planted there even before Muhammad entered the scene.  Mecca, where Muhammad was born, was home of a great pagan shrine, the Ka‘ba, later to become the focal point of the Islamic pilgrimage.  Those isolated Jews residing in Mecca during his youth—Jewish wives of members of his tribe, the Quraysh, and their offspring—would not have served as a significant source of knowledge about Judaism.[1]  Muhammad was more likely to have come in contact with Jewish merchants trading in the town or during his own commercial travels to the north.  From these people he would have been exposed to some Jewish beliefs and practices.  He doubtless met Christians, too, whether merchants trading in Mecca, hermits living in the desert, or Christian members of other Arabian tribes.  From them he would have absorbed ideas of Christianity as well as of Judaism filtered through Christian eyes. 

            In Medina, by contrast, he encountered no Christians, only a large settlement of Jewish tribes, most of them affiliated with local Arabs, including three large, wealthy, and powerful Jewish tribes with typical Arab tribal names: the Banû Naḍîr, the Banû Qaynuqâ‘, and the Banû Qurayẓa.  From them he would have learned much more about Judaism, though it is uncertain how much their Judaism was informed by rabbinic law, since the Babylonian Talmud was still in the process of reaching its final form, which was not concluded until after his death.  While attitudes toward the Jews expressed in the Qur’an were doubtless formed already in Muhammad’s Meccan period, his Jewish policies were a product of his experience in Medina.


[1] On the Jewish wives of Qurashī pagans see Michael Lecker, “A Note on Early Marriage Links between Qurashīs and Jewish Women,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 10 (1987): 17-39.


MOROCCO WORLD NEWS:
15 Facts about the prophet Muhammad

1. He was a descendant of the Prophet Ismail the son of Prophet Ibrahim. -PBUT-

2. Prophet Muhammad PBUH was born in Mecca.

3. The year was 570 A.D.

4. Shortly after his birth his mother died.

5. His father was already dead before his birth. So he became orphan.

6. During this time his uncle Aboo Talib and his grand father Abdul-mutlib took care of him.

7. At the age of nine he started going on trade trips along with his uncle.

8. He met with people of different nations and religions during those trips.

9. His character was respected by all. People throughout Medina including the Jews gave him the name of “The Trustworthy.”

10. In one of his trip he met a Christian scholar, the scholar said to his uncle that he will one day do something great and I can see it because all the trees, mountains and sea are in the bow in front of him.

11. When he got 25, he got a proposal from Khadija for marriage which he accepted and thus they got married. Khadija was 40 years of age at the time of marriage.

12. For the first 54 years of his life he had only one wife. His only wife till 50th year of his life was Sayyida Khadija.

13. They had sons but they died in their childhood.

14. Prophet Muhammed married Sayyida Aicha when she was 9 years old. 1400 years ago it was something very common to marry young girls, in fact they were not considered young girls, and rather they were considered young women back then. It is a historic fact that girls from the ages of 9 to 14 were being married in Europe, Asia, and Africa, in fact even in the United States girls at the age of 10 were also being married just more than a century ago. Yet with these facts no historian claims that all these people were sick perverts, historians would call anyone who made such a claim to be arrogant and very stupid who has no grasp or understanding of history.

15. He never ate alone. He invited others and then ate with them.

For a complete list of 30 facts about the prophet Muhammad, please refer to the link below:
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2013/01/75149/30-facts-about-prophet-muhammad-pbuh/

 

Fast Facts: A few things you didn’t know about Jewish-Muslim relations

A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations -- Edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb & Benjamin StoraThis 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 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.

Part I covers the medieval period; Part II, the early modern period through the nineteenth century, in the Ottoman Empire, Africa, Asia, and Europe; Part III, the twentieth century, including the exile of Jews from the Muslim world, Jews and Muslims in Israel, and Jewish-Muslim politics; and Part IV, intersections between Jewish and Muslim origins, philosophy, scholarship, art, ritual, and beliefs. 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.


DID YOU KNOW?

This work, comprised of articles, portraits and spotlights on particular subjects (“Nota Bene”), and excerpts from primary sources (“Counterpoint”), emphasizes a global approach to Jewish-Muslim relations throughout history. It also reveals some facts that might surprise readers. Here are a few examples.

  • In some religious texts written in Arabic from the Jews of Andalusia, God is called “Allah,” and the terms “imam” and “minbar” are used to designate the leader and the pulpit, respectively; one even finds “Qur’an” for “Torah,” even though the latter exists in classical Arabic in the form “tawrat.”

 

  • Located in Hamadan in the north of Iran, the tomb of Esther (a biblical Jewish heroine who saved her people from a genocide in Persia) is a place of Jewish pilgrimage, but also a holy site for Christians and Muslims. In 2009, it was added to the list of national treasures of the Islamic Republic.

 

  • In the early centuries of Islam, the development of Arabic was, paradoxically, a major factor in the renaissance of written Hebrew. In order to conform to the purest possible version of classical Quranic Arabic, Muslim scribes had to develop grammar, syntax, and a lexicon. The Jews adopted these disciplines to apply to their study of Hebrew and of biblical texts, and thus invented true Hebrew linguistics.

 

  •  The idea of “Semitism,” which first appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the field of comparative grammar, was mistakenly brought into the religious and cultural spheres, and then revived in an anti-scientific manner by racial theories in the name of nationalism and colonialism. Today the idea is contested, even within the linguistic context in which it has always resided.

 

  • The legendary motifs of the origins of Judaism—notably, the power of Solomon over the rebel genies—inspired the Thousand and One Nights, along with other Persian, Indian, and Arab stories.

 

  • It was under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent that the Jews were allowed to develop the space in front of the Western Wall (the remains of the Second Temple that the West calls the Wailing Wall), which gradually became a major site of devotion.

 

  • In 1942, the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef (the future King Mohammed V), received delegations of Jews who came to tell him of their grievances in the face of anti-Semitic laws imposed by the Vichy authorities. The Sultan reaffirmed the right of all of his subjects to sovereign protection, and thereafter invited notable Jews to all of the official ceremonies and to the Feast of the Throne. A “Square of Mohammed V” exists in the city of Ashkelon in southern Israel.

 

  • In scientific institutions and journals in the Islamic Republic of Iran, works of contemporary Jewish intellectuals are regularly recognized in Iranian studies, Islamic studies, and even in the history of the Qur’an and hadith. These works are translated and studied, and some win official awards.

 

  • In Israel, where civil marriage and divorce do not exist, Muslim religious tribunals, under some circumstances, are authorized to address questions of family law, and to apply sharia within certain constraints. This situation represents a legacy of the Ottoman millet system, which was formerly applied in Palestine. For their part, Israeli civil tribunals are sometimes called upon, for certain specific matrimonial questions, to apply the laws of sharia.

 

  • While the Holocaust took place mainly in Christian territories, more than seventy Muslims have been counted as “Righteous Among the Nations.” The Yad Vashem Institute awarded this title, notably, to a Turkish diplomat, to Tatars in the former Soviet Union, and especially to Bosnians and Albanians. For the latter, saving the Jews was based on a traditional code of honor, Besa, which literally signifies “to keep the promise.”

 

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