Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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

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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(9 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Yanina (Yanya, Ioannina) Norman A. Stillman

Iqāmat al-Shuhūd fῑ Radd al-Yahūd

(371 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
In 1823 a Jew named Āqābābā ibn Raḥamῑm in Tehran became a Muslim, assuming the name Muḥammad Riḍā('ῑ) "Jadῑd al-Islam" (Ar. new convert to Islam). Using Hebrew characters and writing in "the language of his people," which may mean either Hebrew, a Judeo-Persian dialect, or Persian, he authored an anti-Jewish text entitled Manqūl-i Riḍā' (Ar./Pers. [The Sayings] Transmitted by Riḍā'ῑ). Fifty-four years later, it was translated into Persian and supplemented with proofs and explanatory material by several ʿ ulamāʾ (Ar. religious scholars). The expanded work, renamed   Iqāmat al-Shuh…

Iranian Jewish Vernaculars

(704 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
The vernaculars of the Jews of Iran can be divided into two major groups: Aramaic (Semitic) dialects and Iranian dialects. The Aramaic dialects, also known as lishna yahudiya (Jewish Language), were spoken in the western parts of Iran, Kurdistan, and western Azerbaijan. They are eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects related to the old Aramaic dialects of the Jews referred to as Babylonian Talmudic. The dialect of the Jews of Urmia is probably the best known and most studied of these dialects. Proximity to Semitic-speaking areas is probably the reas…


(11,432 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen | David Yeroushalmi | David Menashri
1. 634-1500 The social and cultural history of the Jews in medieval Iran (Persia) mis over a millennium long (ca. 636–1736) and accounts only for about a third of this community’s ancient sojourn in Iran, commonly believed to have begun in 586 B.C.E., when Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem brought about the exile of most of the Jews of Judea to Babylonia. The scarcity of sound historical information does not permit a full account of the medieval period, which is considered …


(10,793 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow | Reeva Spector Simon
1. Medieval Period As a geographic and administrative designation, Iraq (Ar. al-ʿIrāq) dates to the Arab conquests of the 630s. Strictly speaking, the name referred to the district around Baghdad, but in common usage, it came to include both Iraq proper and the area north of it, the Jazīra—more or less the modern country of the same name. In Judeo-Arabic documents from the Cairo Geniza, the congregations loyal to the geonim of Baghdad called themselves kanīsat al-ʿirāqiyyīn (the synagogue of the Iraqis). In Hebrew, Jews called Iraq by its biblical name, Bavel, conventio…

Iraqi Constitution (1924)

(253 words)

Author(s): Reeva Spector Simon
Iraq, a country created by the British and the League of Nations after World War I, incorporated the three former Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul.  Acceding both to the League of Nations mandate and promises made to the Hashemite Arabs during World War I, the British supervised the institution of a constitutional monarchy under Sunni Arab authority that accommodated the ethnic and religious mosaic of Sunni and Shi’i Muslims, Muslim Kurds, Christians, and Jews that became Iraq.  Passed by Iraq’s parliament in 1924, the constitution mandated freedom of religion, pr…

Isaac (Abū Ibrāhīm) ben Mashkarān

(280 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
The Andalusian Jewish poet Abū Ibrāhīm (Isaac) ben Mashkarān is mentioned as a contemporary (fl. late eleventh century--first half of the twelfth) and praised for his "[good] taste and polished style" in the Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa-ʾl-Mudhākara of Moses ibn Ezra (43). The only poem by Ben Mashkarān that has come down to us, A sura be-galut ("Imprisoned in Exile" in Brody and Albrecht 1906, pp. 86-87), is a mustajāb (response) on the topic of galut (exile) and geʾulla (redemption). It has been translated into Spanish (Millás 1948, pp. 288-90). Moses ibn Ezra dedicated two po…

Isaac Ben Na'im

(11 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Ben Nāʾīm Family Norman A. Stillman

Isaac ben Samuel ha-Sefaradi

(532 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Isaac ben Samuel ha-Sefaradi ibn al-Kanzī was a biblical exegete, halakhist, judge, and payṭan (liturgical poet) who was born either in al-Andalus or in Egypt to an Andalusī father. He is known from the Cairo Geniza to have been a judge of the Palestinian-rite court in Fustat from around 1090 to 1127. A member of the entourage of the nagid Mevorakh ben Saʿadya, he bore the titles “head of the house of study, aide of the exilarchate” (Aram./Heb. resh be rabbana ʿezer ha-nesiʾut) and “the great rabbi.” In his responsa, Isaac ben Samuel provided answers to queries from as far away as …


(2,697 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
1. General Description and History The Jewish community of Isfahan is one of the oldest in Iran. Although its long history cannot be reconstructed in full, there are enough data to sketch some of it, at least after the Arab conquest, which is more than can be done with most Jewish settlements in Iran. Isfahan (Old Pers. Aspadana), located on the Iranian Plateau, is surrounded by the Zagros Mountains and its extensions. About 340 kilometers (211 miles) south of Tehran, Isfahan is the capital of the province of Isfahan and Iran's third-largest city a…

Ishak Efendi, Hoca

(324 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Hoca İshak Efendi, the renowned Turkish mathematician, scientist, and translator, was born in Arta, Greece, around 1774 and died, either in Suez or Mecca, in 1834. A learned Jew who converted to Islam, Hoca İshak Efendi maintained close relations with the Jewish community of Istanbul throughout his life and supported it. The Jews of Istanbul called him the Rabbi of the Admiralty ( tersane hahamı), the district where the school at which he taught was located. After completing his education in Istanbul,  İshak Efendi became a teacher of mathematics at the Army Engineering Schoo…

Isḥayyiq (Sehayeq), Malīḥa

(369 words)

Author(s): Reuven Snir
Iraqi writer Malīḥa Isḥayyiq (Sehayek) was born in Baghdad 1925 and educated in state schools. She worked as a nurse in the Mīr Ilyās Jewish hospital and joined the Iraqi Communist Party. Between 1951 and 1954 she published various items on literary themes in the journal al-Dunyā (The World) in Damascus; among her publications were open letters to prominent writers at the time, such as the Egyptian poet and scholar Zakī Mubārak (1892–1952) and the Iraqi poet ʿAbd al-Qādir Rashīd al-Nāṣirī (1920–1965). She also wrote one letter to the great …

Ismāʽīl I, Shāh

(405 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shāh Ismāʽīl I (r. 1501–1524), the founder of the Ṣafavid dynasty in Iran, was a precocious warrior and Ṣūfī murshīd (Ar./Pers. spiritual guide) crowned king at the age of fourteen. Descended from a well-established Turcoman Ṣūfī brotherhood from Ardabīl (Azerbaijan), he managed to defeat powerful Turcoman and Uzbek tribes because of his personal bravery and, principally, the fanatical devotion of his Turcoman followers, derisively termed qizilbāsh (Turk. red head[s]) by the Ottomans because of the twelve-fold turban wrapped around a red baton that symbolized…

Ismāʿīl Qazvīnī

(766 words)

Author(s): Dennis Halft
Ismāʿīl Qazvīnī was a Muslim polemicist against Judaism and the Hebrew Scriptures who lived in Iran/Persia during the eighteenth century.  The son of Jewish parents, he claims that he discovered “the truth of the religion of Islam” (Pers. ḥaqqiyyat-i dīn-i Islām) as a youth while studying the books of the biblical prophets. Following his conversion to Imāmī (Twelver Shīʿī) Islam at an unspecified age, Ismāʿīl compiled, in Yazd, at the request of some Shīʿī co-religionists, what appears to be his only known work in Persian, the anti-Jewish tract Anbāʾ al-anbiyāʾ (Tidings of the Proph…

Ismāʿīl al-ʿUkbarī

(399 words)

Author(s): Yoram Erder
Ismāʿīl al-ʿUkbarī, who was active during the reign of the Abbasid caliph al-Muʿtaṣim (r. 833–842),  founded one of the many Jewish sects that came into being in Babylonia at the beginning of the gaonic period. The sect was no longer in existence by the first half of the tenth century. What little is known about it is derived from Karaite and, to a lesser extent, Muslim sources.   Al-ʿUkbarī’s movement was apparently messianic in nature, as can be inferred from the instructions he gave his followers to inscribe the phrase “the chariots of Israel and the horsemen th…

Israel Andalusian Orchestra

(9 words)

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

Israel ben Samuel Gaon ha-Kohen

(306 words)

Author(s): Roni Shweka
Abū ʾl-ʿAlā Israel ben Samuel Gaon ha-Kohen was the son of Samuel ben Hophni. During his father’s tenure as gaon of the Sura academy, he was the academy’s secretary and scribe (Heb. sofer). Several of Samuel’s letters with Israel’s signature have survived in the Cairo Geniza. When Samuel ben Hophni died in 1013, he left a will asking his successor as gaon, Dosa ben Saʿadya, to take care of “the boy,” meaning to give Israel a share in the contributions received by the academy. This request met with some opposition, as exemplified by a letter from 1015 which mentions an order by Hay Gaon not to se…

Israel (ben Samuel?) ha-Dayyan ha-Maʿaravi

(551 words)

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
Israel (ben Samuel?) ha-Dayyan ha-Maʿaravi (Israel ha-Dayyan al-Magrebi) was a Karaite scholar and poet who lived in Cairo and composed works in Arabic toward the end of the thirteenth century and the first half of the fourteenth. He is known to have served as a judge ( dayyan) of the Karaite community in Egypt, and the Karaite chronicler Ibn al-Hītī calls him “the learned Israel, the judge” (ed. Nemoy, 1963). Apart from some liturgical poems (Heb. piyyuṭim ), several legal treatises and other works are also attributed to ha-Maʿaravi. The legal treatises were probably on…

Israël (Cairo)

(377 words)

Author(s): Jacob M. Landau
Israël, an “independent weekly,” was published in Cairo by Albert D. Mosseri (1891–1932), a physician and scion of a well-known family of bankers and communal activists. The first issue appeared on April 2, 1920, and the last on June 1, 1939, edited by Mazal Mathilda, Mosseri’s widow (1893–1981). Israël was published in Hebrew, Arabic, and French in three separate four- or six-page fascicles. Each language had its own subeditor and contributors, with different contents depending on what suited the readers. The Hebrew edition was discontinued in 1932 and the Arabic in 1933. As the longe…

Israel family

(580 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Israel family, noted for producing many prominent rabbis, flourished in Alexandria, Rhodes, and Palestine in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The earliest distinguished member of the family, Moses Israel, was born in Jerusalem around 1670 and died in Alexandria in 1740. Perhaps descended from earlier rabbis whose names are unknown, he was a pupil of Abraham ben David Yiṣhaqi (1661–1729) and married Hannah, the daughter of Moses ben Solomon ibn Ḥabib (ca. 1654–1696), one of the foremost rabbis of Jerusalem during that period. From 1710 to 1713, Moses…
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