Jews and Islamic Law in Early 20th-Century Yemen

Jews and Islamic Law in Early 20th-Century Yemen

Mark S. Wagner
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/11/2014
Format: Paperback 6 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01487-0
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Finalist, 2015 Jewish Book Awards

In early 20th-century Yemen, a sizable Jewish population was subject to sumptuary laws and social restrictions. Jews regularly came into contact with Islamic courts and Muslim jurists, by choice and by necessity, became embroiled in the most intimate details of their Jewish neighbors’ lives. Mark S. Wagner draws on autobiographical writings to study the careers of three Jewish intermediaries who used their knowledge of Islamic law to manipulate the shari‘a for their own benefit and for the good of their community. The result is a fresh perspective on the place of religious minorities in Muslim societies.

Author Bio

Mark S. Wagner is Associate Professor of Arabic at Louisiana State University and author of Like Joseph in Beauty: Yemeni Vernacular Poetry and Arab-Jewish Symbiosis.


“A highly readable and intriguing work. . . . Wagner brings to life individuals whose personal records give us an entrée into a world that is no more.”
 — Lawrence Rosen, Princeton University

“[A]rticulate[s] brilliantly the complexity of Jewish-Muslim interaction through a series of fascinating and hitherto unexplored court cases and scholars. Wagner convincingly illustrates that these two religious communities were far from being mutually exclusive, but rather were enmeshed in each other’s lives in the most remarkable and unexpected ways, and in a real sense mutually constitutive.”
 — Bernard Haykel, Princeton University

“In beautiful prose, Mark Wagner explores the complex contours of Yemen's shari’a-based juridical system, considering how individual Yemeni Jewish women and men navigated this legal order and the larger social orbit of Yemeni society. Moving ably between Arabic and Hebrew sources, and between rich case studies and weighty conceptual questions, Jews and Islamic Law in Early 20th-Century Yemen will be prized by scholars of Jewish Studies and Middle East Studies alike for its erudition, clarity, and originality.”
 — Sarah Abrevaya Stein, UCLA

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Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration
1. The Islamic Judicial System and the Jews
2. Changing God’s Law
3. Muslim Jews and Jewish Muslims
4. Concord and Conflict in Economic Life
5. Intercommunal Violence and the Shari<ayn>a

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