Encyclopedia will restore Jews to Islamic history

This new encyclopedia is a welcome corrective to the limited literature that exists about Jews in the Islamic world and those projects that downplay the importance of Jews and seek to idealise Jewish-Muslim relations. Daniel Pipes reviews it in Middle East Quarterly (Winter 2017). With thanks: Michelle, Flor)

Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World by Norman A Stillman


(Leiden: Brill, 2010. 5 vols. Vol. 1, A-C: 698 pp.; Vol. 2, D-I: 655 pp.;
Vol. 3, J-O: 637 pp.; Vol. 4, P-Z: 695 pp.; Vol. 5, Index and
Resources: 499 pp. $1,099.)

If Jews in Muslim-majority countries have now shrunk to a miniscule
50, 000 *souls, nearly all of them in Morocco, Turkey, and Iran, things
were once different.

Indeed, until the seventeenth century, Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews
outnumbered the Jews of Europe. More than that, as Stillman writes in
his introduction, it was in the medieval Muslim world that “many aspects
of Judaism as a religious civilization were formulated, codified, and
disseminated, and this includes the domains of liturgy, law, and
theology.”

Indeed,
until the seventeenth century Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews outnumbered the
Jews of Europe. More than that, as Stillman writes in his introduction,
it was in the medieval Muslim world that “many aspects of Judaism as a
religious civilization were formulated, codified, and disseminated, and
this includes the domains of liturgy, law, and theology.”

But
if the Mizrahi/Sephardi population has great importance for Judaism and
for the Middle East, scholars have slighted it. Again, quoting
Stillman:

Until
the 1970s, there was very little academic work on the Jews of the
Islamic world, and most of that was dedicated to the medieval period,
and within that period to intellectual history and literature.

The 1.5 million-word Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World
came into existence in part to rectify this weakness, in part to make a
wealth of obscure knowledge available. It succeeds with great
distinction.

In contrast to some other recent encyclopedias concerning
the Middle East and Islam (notably John L. Esposito’s dismal Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World),[1] EJIW‘s
350 contributors avoid post-modernism and other hazards to provide a
well-written, reliable guide to 2200 topics from the seventh century to
the present.

Read article in full 

*50,000 would seem to be an exaggeration. There may be no more than 30, 000 in these countries.

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