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Jewish Mysticism on Trial in a Muslim Court: A Fatwā on the "Zohar": Yemen 1914

Mark S. Wagner
Die Welt des Islams
New Series, Vol. 47, Issue 2 (2007), pp. 207-231
Published by: Brill
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20140765
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Jewish Mysticism on Trial in a Muslim Court: A Fatwā on the "Zohar": Yemen 1914
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Abstract

In the early decades of the twentieth century, a heated debate over the legitimacy of Jewish mystical texts, foremost among them the "Zohar," divided the Jews of Ṣanʿāʾ, the Yemeni capital, into two camps. In 1914, one Jewish faction took the other to a Muslim court. There, a Muslim jurist heard arguments for and against Jews' study of the Zohar. The resulting fatwā sheds light on this fascinating moment of inter-religious dialogue. At issue here is the extent to which the Jewish litigants framed their arguments in Islamic terms and the ways in which the Muslim jurist and his employer, Imām Yaḥyā Ḥamīd al-Dīn, the theocratic ruler of Yemen, understood Judaism in terms borrowed from contemporary debates on Islamic sectarianism. The centrality of this fatwā in later permutations of the schism within Yemeni Judaism will be addressed as well.

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