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Correspondence and Social Control in the Jewish Communities of the Islamic World: A Letter of the Nagid Joshua Maimonides

Mark R. Cohen
Jewish History
Vol. 1, No. 2 (Fall, 1986), pp. 39-48
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20101021
Page Count: 10
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Correspondence and Social Control in the Jewish Communities of the Islamic World: A Letter of the Nagid Joshua Maimonides
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Abstract

The sulṭaniyyat letter prescribing lawful and unlawful actions was a prime means of control exploited by medieval Islamic rulers. Jews, too, used this and other official letter forms, as may be seen from the presence in the Cairo Geniza of works on Arabic epistolography that provide detailed instructions for the preparation and drafting of letters, especially those issued by governmental authorities. In particular, the use of official epistolary forms, like that of the sulṭaniyyat, may be seen from a letter issued by the fourteenth century Egyptian nagid, Joshua, that has been published here for the first time. (Its source is the Elkan Adler Collection of Geniza documents.) The subject of the letter, the prohibition of resort by Jews to Gentile courts, was one of great concern to the nagid, who had to be constantly on guard in order to maintain the integrity of his powers. This letter, and others like it, provide an unimpeded view of medieval Jewish self-government under Islam: its means, its formal relationship to new Jewish governmental modes, and, to some extent, its underlying theories and presuppositions. /// [Abstract in Hebrew].

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