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Protector of the Jews

(312 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
The protector of the Jews was an administrative official in Qajar Iran (see Iran/Persia) at least from the early 1860s. Sometimes called amīn al-raʿāya (agent or trustee of non-Muslim subjects), a protector was assigned to other religious minorities as well, but it is not always clear whether one protector was assigned to all the minorities in a given place, or whether there were separate protectors for each of the local minorities. The purpose of providing protection to a minority in this way appears to have been not only for th…

Majlisῑ, Muḥammad Bāqir, al-

(579 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
Muḥammad Bāqir al-Majlisῑ (d. 1699/1700) was one of the most important scholars of Imāmῑ (Twelver) Shīʿīsm in premodern Iran in sociopolitical matters as well as religious sciences. He mastered various fields of Islamic studies but was best known as an expert on ḥad th (Islamic traditions). Under his auspices, numerous Shīʿī ḥad ths were collected and compiled in Persian and Arabic books; the most famous and voluminous of these is Biḥār al-Anwār (Ar. Oceans of Lights), which in its modern edition runs to 110 volumes. One scholar maintains that this book explains …

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…

Levy, Ḥabῑb

(576 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
An important community leader in twentieth-century Iran, Ḥabīb Levy attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school until the age of fourteen and then studied dentistry in Paris until 1913. In 1922 he became a dentist in an Iranian military hospital where Reza Shah (r. 1925–1941) was one of his patients. Later he had his own practice and also became an importer of pharmaceuticals to Iran. Levy was heavily engaged in public activities. He joined the Iranian Zionist movement in 1919, became the head of its Propaganda Commission, and in 1921 was elected to the pres…


(461 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
Qum is a city in central Iran 150 kilometers (242 miles) south of Tehran. It gradually became an important Shīʿī center following the arrival of Shīʿī tribes in the early eighth century and by the tenth century was the most significant seat of Shīʿī learning. Shīʿī ḥad ths praise Qum and endow it with honorific titles like Dār al-Muʾmin n (Ar. abode of the believers). A factor contributing to the city’s holiness and attracting pilgrims was the tomb of Fāṭima (d. 816/17), the sister of ʿAlī ibn Mūsā al-Riḍā (d. 818), the eighth Imām (in later years Jews claimed that the…

Mamālik al-Imām

(258 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
Mamālik al-imām (Ar. property/slaves of the imām) is a juridical concept in Shīʿī ḥad th, familiar to some eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Muslim legal scholars ( ulamāʾ), whereby the People of the Book are regarded as property or slaves of the Imām. This meant that if a member of a dhimm (see Dhimma) community killed or wounded someone, the dhimm community was not required to pay the blood money for the victim, and instead it would be taken from the perpetrator's property. If the perpetrator had no property, the indemnity for the felony would be claimed from the Imām, since dhimm s wer…


(231 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
In the mainstream Imāmῑ (Twelver) Shīʿī sense, a mujtahid (Ar. jurisprudent) is a jurist who exercises ijtihād; that is, reaches legal decisions based on the Qur'ān, ḥad th, ijmāʿ (Ar. consensus), and his own intellect. Believed to constitute the avenue connecting the community with the hidden Twelfth Imām, mujtahidūn gained prestige and influence and belonged to the higher echelons of the ʿ ulamāʾ, the body of religious scholars. They rendered legal verdicts and collected religious taxes and distributed them for different purposes.  The importance of Iranian mujtahidūn increase…


(447 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
Najāsat (Ar./Pers. impurity) is an Islamic legal concept that classifies certain items and classes of people as impure. In Imāmῑ (Twelver) Shīʿīsm, “infidels” (non-Muslims) are usually held to be agents of impurity, and the definition of infidel sometimes includes the kitāb , a person who belongs to a People of the Book. Shīʿī ʿ ulamāʾ (religious scholars) have sometimes explicitly held Jews to be impure. Qurʾān 9:30 ascribes to the Jews the belief that ʿUzayr (usually identified with the biblical prophet Ezra) was the son of God, a conviction that would tra…

Maḥḍar al Shuhūd fῑ Radd al-Yahūd

(428 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…

Nevu’at ha-Yeled

(369 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
Nevu’at ha-Yeled (Heb. The Prophecy of the Child) is a vague medieval Aramaic text whose historical background and original intent are unclear. Its storyline puts five prophecies in the mouth of a child named Naḥman. Jews usually interpreted Naḥman’s unintelligible words as referring to past, present, and future events. One such exegete was the Sephardi kabbalist Abraham ben Eliezer ha-Levῑ, known as ha-Zaken (ca. 1459/60–1529/30), who wandered the Levant following the expulsion from Spain and wrote a commentary to the Nevu’at ha-Yeled. He construed some of Naḥman’s sayings …

Great famine (Iran)

(240 words)

Author(s): Daniel Tsadik
The Great Famine erupted in the early 1870s in different parts of Iran. According to one estimate, 1.5 million people perished, amounting to between 20 and 25 percent of the total population of six or seven million. In June 1871, the British consul-general in Tabriz notified Sir Moses Montefiore (1784–1885), a leader of British Jewry, about the situation of the Jews in Shiraz and other localities. Montefiore and the London-based Board of Deputies of British Jews called on the public to donate money for the Jews of Iran. Contributions were forthcoming from Jews in Germ…