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T H E J E W I S H Q U A R T E R LY R E V I E W Vol 105 No 4 Fall 2015 417 439. The Legal and Social Bonds of Jewish,Apostates and Their Spouses according to. Gaonic Responsa,URIEL SIMONSOHN, C O N VE R S IO N TO I S L AM in the classical Islamic period ca 600 1258. was the outcome of both voluntary choice and sporadic phases of compul. sion Accordingly historians have developed a variety of ways to explain. why non Muslims chose to join the Islamic fold along with suggestions. as to when these movements took place and their scope 1 While these. longstanding debates reinforced periodically by new findings are not. likely to be settled in the near future focused readings into particular. phenomena may shed further light on the process of conversion to Islam. and the social realities entailed by it The present discussion seeks to do. just that by considering cases of enduring matrimonial arrangements in. the context of the Jewish conversion to Islam of one of the partners. The process of conversion to Islam was augmented by efforts to detach. I wish to express my profound gratitude to Jonathan Ben Dov Moshe Lavie. Micha Perry Shai Secunda and the anonymous readers for their comments The. research for this essay was supported by the I CORE Program of the Planning. and Budgeting Committee and the Israel Science Foundation grant No 1754. 1 See Michael Brett The Spread of Islam in Egypt and North Africa in. Northern Africa Islam and Modernization ed Brett London 1973 112 Richard. W Bulliet Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period An Essay in Quantitative History. Cambridge Mass 1979 Michael Morony The Age of Conversions in Con. version and Continuity Indigenous Christian Communities in Islamic Lands Eight to. Eighteenth Centuries ed M Gervers and R J Bikhazi Toronto 1990 135 50. Jean M Fiey Conversions a l Islam de Juifs et de Chre tiens sous les Abbassides. d apre s les sources arabes et syriaques in Rapports entre Juifs Chre tiens et Musul. mans Eine Sammlung von Forschungsbeitra gen ed J Irmscher Amsterdam 1995. 14 22 Robert Hoyland Seeing Islam as Others Saw It A Survey and Evaluation of. Christian Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam Princeton N J 1997. 336 42 David J Wasserstein Conversion and the Ahl al Dhimma in The New. Cambridge History of Islam vol 4 Islamic Cultures and Societies to the End of the. Eighteenth Century ed R Irwin Cambridge 2010 184 208. The Jewish Quarterly Review Fall 2015, Copyright 2015 Herbert D Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. All rights reserved,18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 35 56 PS PAGE 417. 418 JQR 105 4 2015, new converts from their former coreligionist family members Conversion.
entailed not only a new religious identity but also the severance of pre. conversion familial ties investing the spiritual act with dramatic social. implications 2 Accordingly at the beginning of the eighth century the. caliph Umar b Abd al Az z reigned 717 20 would issue a decree. granting equal standing with other Muslims to any Christian Jew or. Zoroastrian who embraced Islam and mingled among the Muslims in. their place of dwelling and separated from the dwelling in which he. lived 3 Supporting the scholarly claim that religious conversion entails. social divorce scenes of kinship detachment can be seen in the Cairo. Geniza in the few references to Jews who converted to Islam Thus S D. Goitein asserted that a person changing his religion would prefer to. move to another town or country and several such instances can be. traced in the Geniza 4 Goitein however conceded that in some cases. apostates did not fully sever ties with their former communities and fami. lies 5 Frustratingly Goitein found little evidence for Jewish conversion. to Islam leading him to conclude that cases of conversion were not very. common in that period 6, However there is a considerable Geniza documentation on conversion. that awaits thorough investigation Beyond the Geniza a substantial body. of evidence from highly diverse literary sources from the classical Islamic. period challenges Goitein s conclusions about the social trajectory of. coverts as do the relatively numerous gaonic responsa dealing with the. 2 See Hoyland Seeing Islam 338 Sarah Bowen Savant The New Muslims of. Post Conquest Iran Tradition Memory and Conversion Cambridge 2013 31 66. 3 Abu Muh ammad al Mas r S rat Umar b Abd al Az z ed A Ab d Beirut. 4 Shelomo D Goitein A Mediterranean Society The Jewish Communities of the. Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza 6 vols Berkeley. Calif 1967 93 2 301 3 81 see also Claude Cahen Histoire e conomico sociale. et islamologie Le proble me prejudicial de l adaptation entre les autochtones et. l Islam in Actes Colloque sur la sociologie musulmane Brussels 1961 203 Gerald. J Blidstein Who Is Not a Jew The Medieval Discussion Israel Law Review. 11 1976 376 Menahem Ben Sasson Le zehutam ha Yehudit shel anusim. iyun be hishtamdut be tekufat ha al muwah idun Pe amim 42 1990 21 Maya. Shatzmiller Marriage Family and the Faith Women s Conversion to Islam. Journal of Family History 21 3 1996 257 Cf Eliyahu Ashtor Prolegomena to. the Medieval History of Oriental Jewry JQR 50 2 1959 65 who suggests. that the conversion of one family member would eventually lead to that of the. entire family,5 Goitein A Mediterranean Society 2 301. 6 Ibid 2 302,18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 35 57 PS PAGE 418. APOSTATES AND GAONIC RESPONSA SIMONSOHN 419, aftereffects of apostasy Gaonic writings should be read alongside early. Islamic sources and those from the Geniza Together these sources pro. vide ample evidence that many among the converts to Islam chose to. maintain some ties with if not to remain within the fabric of their original. families The present discussion is premised on the recognition of non. Islamic sources in general and gaonic responsa in particular as impor. tant evidence for understanding Islamization in the classical period. In what follows I wish to consider one particular type of family rela. tionship between Jewish apostates and their former coreligionists present. in Babylonian gaonic responsa that between married couples 7 I will. conduct my analysis on two levels a legal level reflected predominantly. in gaonic opinions and a social level chiefly inferred from questions pre. sented to the geonim At times the two levels intertwine casting light not. only on the legal rationale of the geonim but also on their social consider. ations Specifically I will look at gaonic responsa that treat the legal. dilemmas involved in the religious conversion of individual Jews in the. context of their social and legal commitments vis a vis their Jewish. spouses 8 My analysis is premised on the interplay between law and soci. ety Social realities constituted an important consideration in the shaping. of legal positions while legal arguments in turn were bound to affect the. lived social reality I will not treat these responsa in isolation but will. present them in conjunction with additional forms of literary testimonies. both Jewish and non Jewish so as to establish the responsa in a broader. 7 On the geonim and gaonic responsa see recently Gideon Libson Hala. khah and Reality in the Gaonic Period Taqqanah Minhag Tradition and. Consensus Some Observations in The Jews of Medieval Islam Community Soci. ety and Identity ed D Frank Leiden 1995 67 99 Robert Brody The Geonim. of Babylonia and the Shaping of Medieval Jewish Culture New Haven Conn 1998. Moshe Gil Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages Leiden 2004 nos 101 35. 8 For gaonic treatments of Jewish apostasy see Blidstein Who Is Not. a Jew 369 90 Blidstein Ma amadan ha ishi shel nashim shevuyot. u meshumadot ba halakha shel yeme ha benayim Hebrew Shenaton ha mishpat. ha ivri 3 4 1976 77 36 116 Oded Irshai Mumar ke yoresh bi teshuvot ha. ge onim Yesodoteya shel pesika ve makbilotyeya ba mishpat ha nokhri Shena. ton ha mishpat ha ivri 11 12 1984 86 435 61 I concur with the underlying. premise of these studies that in their legal deliberations and opinions the Babylo. nian geonim attempted to bridge between their halakhic frame of reference and. the social circumstances of their time Indeed as both Blidstein and Irshai dem. onstrate Jewish apostasy constituted a major concern for the geonim who con. sequently sought to establish clearer perceptions of what constituted religious. renunciation on both theoretical and practical levels However the question of. religiously mixed families suggests a hitherto overlooked social pattern that over. rode these boundaries,18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 35 57 PS PAGE 419.
420 JQR 105 4 2015, historical context Given the fragmentary nature of the source material. not all forms of historical evidence neatly overlap either chronologically. or geographically Thus for example gaonic responsa continue only until. the early eleventh century at which point Geniza documents begin to. appear in considerable numbers,THE J EWISH FAMILY AS A LOCUS OF S OCIAL LIFE. Conceptually speaking my discussion is based on the premise that the. family is a social institution As a social unit the family is embedded. within broader social cultural and economic structures which shape and. construct it but are also shaped by it Still the concept of family also. implies certain basic and unvarying features 9 Social scientists tend to. speak of two main forms or layers of family namely the nuclear family. consisting of parents and children and the extended family consisting of. grandparents aunts and uncles brothers and sisters in law and cousins. An acknowledgment of the cultural and social contingencies of family. structures highlights the diversity of these structures and of the family. bonds they yield Yet this observation should be complemented by an. equally significant view of the family as a community of shared values and. norms a community in which relations are characterized by emotional. reciprocity and moral expectation 10, The family may be regarded then as a microcommunal setting in. which broader group affiliations and values are negotiated Here within. the enclosure of domestic life Jewish continuity was to be ensured. through procreation and through paternal supervision of the circumcision. and proper Jewish education of the sons 11 Thus for later generations of. Jews lineage and familial affiliation played a crucial part in matters of. communal life 12 Indeed family and community arguably functioned. 9 John Scott and Gordon Marshall Family Sociology of in A Dictionary of. Sociology Oxford 2009 see also Miriam Peskowitz Family ies in Antiquity. Evidence from Tannaitic Literature and Roman Galilean Architecture in The. Jewish Family in Antiquity ed S J D Cohen Atlanta 1993 16 18 Peter Burke. History and Social Theory 2nd ed Ithaca N Y 2005 54 55 Jonathan Boyarin. Jewish Families New Brunswick N J 2013 20 22, 10 Cf Michael L Satlow Jewish Marriage in Antiquity Princeton N J. 2001 39 where Satlow speaks of the Jewish household as a social order in. accordance with the divine plan, 11 O Larry Yarbrough Parents and Children in the Jewish Family of.
Antiquity in The Jewish Family in Antiquity 42 43 Menahem Ben Sasson The. Emergence of the Local Jewish Community in the Muslim World Qayrawan 800 1057. Hebrew Jerusalem 1996 127 139 Satlow Jewish Marriage 159. 12 Note the legacy of talmudic Babylonia according to which the significance. of genealogical lineage is underscored in the context of the family household as a. 18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 35 57 PS PAGE 420,APOSTATES AND GAONIC RESPONSA SIMONSOHN 421. inseparably the former ensured membership in the latter which in turn. provided the means for sustaining the former through its schooling. supervision of ritual practices and legal apparatus 13 It is no surprise. therefore to discover that for the people of the Geniza the idea of father. hood extended far beyond an instrumental capacity to include the func. tion of upholding an unbreakable bond with forefathers and agnates 14. The Jewish individuals whose lives concerns activities and joys that. Goitein was able to extract so illustratively from the documents of the. Geniza owed their loyalties first and foremost to the family unit These. were paternal social entities of which endogamous marriages joint com. mercial enterprises and mutual liabilities were only some of the more. common features that come to light through correspondences which. always begin with the warmest expressions of affection These extended. families comprising three generations and inclusive of agnates and cog. nates 15 were able to compensate for circumstances of geographical dis. tance through extensive networks of communication throughout the ports. of the Mediterranean the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean as well as in. urban centers in Europe Mesopotamia and the Indian subcontinent As. we learn to appreciate the Jewish family and the Jewish community as. two inseparable realms of religious life it would seem only reasonable to. assume that those who chose to renounce their membership in the Jewish. fold would similarly sever their ties to their Jewish families Yet family. loyalties as Jonathan Boyarin has noted did not simply or merely help. to reinforce religious and communal ties but could also cross competing. and alternative bounds of identity 16 resulting as I will show in the. phenomenon of hybridism in the context of marriage. FAM I LY A N D A P O S TA S Y I N GA O N I C R E S P O N S A. Before turning to an analysis of family ties between Jewish and apostate. spouses it should be noted that the geonim dealt with many cases of. apostates and their relatives that go beyond the scope of this study A. conduit of Jewish values see Aharon Oppenheimer Babylonian Judaica in the. Talmudic Period Wiesbaden 1983 16 17 Richard Kalmin Genealogy and. Polemics in Rabbinic Literature of Late Antiquity Hebrew Union College Annual. 67 1996 90 Jeffrey L Rubenstein The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud Balti. more Md 2003 83 87 Arnold Franklin His Noble House Jewish Descendants of. King David in the Medieval Islamic East Philadelphia 2013. 13 See Ben Sasson Emergence of the Local Jewish Community 110 43. 14 Goitein Mediterranean Society 3 1,15 Ibid 3 33,16 Boyarin Jewish Families 22. 18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 35 58 PS PAGE 421,422 JQR 105 4 2015. notable example of the legal problems that stemmed from Jewish apos. tasy arose with regard to the levirate yibum duty of apostates The. immediate concern in such instances was whether apostate brothers of. childless deceased husbands were required either to wed their brother s. widow through levirate marriage or else to issue her a release h alitsa. freeing her to remarry Thus for example a responsum in Hebrew attrib. uted to Rav Paltui Gaon of Pumbedita fl 841 58 mentions an apostate. brother in law who is in the land of the Barbarians presumably North. Africa the place is far and there are no caravans 17 The petitioner. seeks to know whether under these circumstances the widow may be. released without h alitsa perhaps assuming that the levir being an apostate. might further bolster her case But the gaon shows no willingness to com. This betrothed woman who has fallen before an apostate levir is. chained and remains so forever There is no solution for her and she. cannot marry until the apostate performs a h alitsa Since he was. conceived and born in sanctity namely as a Jew she requires a levi. rate marriage not being released until he performs a h alitsa for her. The social picture is clear the apostate had removed himself from his. former coreligionist family but his legal role as levir was not thereby. undone This was of course a difficult verdict for Jewish widows of. childless husbands but it could also have provided a motive for sustain. ing family ties with apostates or indeed for discouraging conversion. given the problematic consequences of such an act, Other gaonic responsa dealing with apostates discuss the inheritance. of their property after death and apostate rights over property left by. their deceased Jewish parents Thus for example a question referred to. either Rav Sherira fl 968 1006 or his son Rav Hayya Hai fl 1006. 1038 both of Pumpedita concerns the fate of the dowry of an apostate. woman who gave her husband fields houses and vineyards 18 Follow. ing her apostasy both her husband and her heirs evidently claimed these. assets the former arguing that since the woman had apostatized she was. considered dead and therefore he was to inherit her Indeed halakhi. cally the husband is the sole heir of the property left behind by his. 17 Benjamin M Lewin ed Otsar ha ge onim Jerusalem 1941 Yevamot 34. 18 Lewin Otsar Ketubot 356 no 789,18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 35 59 PS PAGE 422.
APOSTATES AND GAONIC RESPONSA SIMONSOHN 423, deceased wife 19 Yet the gaon disagreed arguing that the apostate woman. was not considered dead but rather akin to an adulterer ke zona 20. Therefore her heirs take her used personal possessions bela ot if there. are witnesses who testify that she gave him i e the husband these. objects through her dowry and they have worn out and these used. articles are left over from them of those she entered with into mar. riage The fields houses and vineyards she had given him at the time. of their marriage shall all be taken by her heirs If at the time of her. apostasy she seized something from her husband s property if he has. witnesses about this the husband claims first from the lands and then. the heirs take what has remained, It is noteworthy that the gaon rejects the husband s opinion that she is. like a dead wife and instead considers apostasy the cause for divorce. thereby upholding the woman s rights to her dowry 21 At the same time. however he notes that whatever the woman seized from her husband s. property after her apostasy will be withheld from her dowry 22. Questions of inheritance from apostates to Jews and vice versa are. common in gaonic responsa dealing with apostate Jewish family rela. tions Whereas some of the geonim opposed the right of husbands to. inherit their apostate wives allowing the fathers to seize their daughters. property others deemed the property abandoned It seems that two main. considerations underlie gaonic opinions on this matter the first is an. attempt to discourage apostasy and the second is the retention of prop. erty in Jewish hands Whereas the former could have been achieved by. placing the female apostate s Jewish husband in a disadvantaged position. 19 bKet 84a bBB 109b 111b 113a On the different approaches of medieval. Jewish rabbis to this question see Simh a Assaf Ha takanot ve ha minhagim. ha shonim bi yerushat ha ba al et ishto Mada e ha Yahadut 3 1926 79 94 See. also Shmuel Shilo and Menachem Elon Succession Encyclopaedia Judaica 2nd. ed Detroit 2007 19 285,20 bKet 101b,21 Blidstein nashim shevuyot 57 n 72. 22 Cf Lewin Otsar Kidushin 35 no 89 an attribution of the position desig. nating the apostate wife s property to the ownership of her heirs and not to. her husband to non Babylonian Rabbanite authorities either Palestinian North. African or even Iberian As to the people of the West who say regarding. the wife of an Israelite who apostatized her father inherits her marriage. contract they are wrong and erring and what they say is false and deceiving. Cf Blidstein nashim shevuyot 56 Blidstein attributed the responsum to Rav. Amram Gaon See also Blidstein Who Is Not a Jew 384. 18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 35 59 PS PAGE 423,424 JQR 105 4 2015. disinheriting him the latter was addressed by permitting Jews to. inherit apostates While these legal maneuvers appear alternately to link. and detach apostates and their Jewish family members they also suggest. the insistence of certain geonim on the legal affinity between fathers apos. tates and their Jewish children The topic of inheritance passing from. Jews to apostates has been rather thoroughly examined in modern schol. arship most notably by Oded Irshai who has argued that ninth century. gaonic responsa betray a radical shift in opinion toward the disinheriting. of apostate sons 23 Irshai notes the lacuna in classical rabbinic literature. regarding the right of apostates to inherit their father s possessions 24. Consequently we find a gaonic perception of bKid 17b 18a where a. non Jew s succession of his father is discussed as indication that since. patrilineal ties were severed following conversion to Judaism the same. would be the case following apostasy conversion from Judaism This. latter point coupled with God s words to Abram in Gen 17 8 And I. will give to you and to your offspring after you the land where you are. now an alien served as the basis for the gaonic disinheriting of apos. tates 25 From a social historical perspective the intensity of these discus. sions is striking suggesting that apostate children often sought to claim. their father s legacy Indeed while we can only speculate about the. nature of these relations once again the legal mechanism at play in disin. heriting apostates reminds us of dual gaonic considerations the discour. agement of apostasy and the retention of property in Jewish hands. A N A PO S TAT E SP O US E, Gaonic responsa dealing with levirate apostates and the inheritances of.
either Jewish descendants of apostate fathers or of apostate sons of Jew. ish fathers cannot confirm a social reality of sustained family relations. between Jews and apostates There is nothing in these responsa to indi. cate that the apostates to whom they refer remained in close vicinity to. their Jewish families even though their presence was often deemed. halakhically necessary Yet those responsa dealing with legal problems. that arose consequent to a Jewish spouse s apostasy point to the endur. 23 Irshai Mumar ke yoresh 459 60 see also Blidstein Who Is Not a. Jew 382 84,24 bKid 18a, 25 Cf Maimonides remark in Joshua Blau ed Teshuvot ha Rambam Jeru. salem 1958 961 2 658 the geonim of both east and west instructed and so. it is our practice always that whoever apostatized if he has an inheritance it. should be given to his legitimate ksherim sons,18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 36 00 PS PAGE 424. APOSTATES AND GAONIC RESPONSA SIMONSOHN 425, ance of not only legal bonds but also social ties between apostates and. their Jewish families, Marriages between Jews and former Jews should be seen in compari. son to Islamic legal concerns surrounding Muslim non Muslim mar. riages especially concerning gender a feature that appears from earliest. Islamic times 26 Both qur a nic references Q 2 221 5 5 60 10 and early. Islamic traditions dealing with such unions were to underpin later juris. prudential opinions that conditioned mixed unions on the male being. Muslim 27 At the same time both narratives and regulations highlight the. social sensitivities and dramas surrounding these unions whereby non. Muslim women were switching from a social allegiance with their original. household to the one entailed by their wedlock with a Muslim husband. While the historicity of reports about mixed marriages in the first and. second Islamic centuries may seem uncertain their treatment in Islamic. legal discourses indicates real social anxieties In fact traces of early. unequivocal objections to marriage between male Muslims and women of. the scriptural religions ahl al kita b i e people of the book reflect a. perception of these unions as threatening the still young community 28 It. is in this context that we should perhaps see the qur a nic call to Muslims. to sever ties with non Muslim relatives Thou shalt not find any people. who believe in God and the Last Day who are loving to anyone who. opposes not though they were their fathers or their sons or their. brothers or their clan Q 58 22 29, Similar to the rabbinic notions discussed above Islamic traditions and.
legal principles betray a conception of the family as an embodiment of. communal sentiments in which female roles were assigned central impor. tance Once established that the sole tolerated form of religiously mixed. unions is between Muslim men and scriptural women Muslim lawyers. set out to delimit the religious freedoms of non Muslim female spouses. within the household a step that can be viewed as further indication of. 26 See for example the well known case of Na ila bt al Fura fis a a Christian. woman from Khurasa n who was married to the third caliph Uthma n b Affa n. r 644 56 in Abu Bakr Muh ammad b H ibba n a Tam m al Bust Kita b al. thiqa t Hyderabad 1973 2 248, 27 All four schools of Sunni law condoned mixed marriages only between a. Muslim male and a non Muslim female and not vice versa For a recent discus. sion see Yohanan Friedmann Tolerance and Coercion in Islam Interfaith Relations in. the Muslim Tradition Cambridge 2003 chap 5,28 Ibid 192. 29 The Koran Interpreted A Translation by A J Arberry London 1955. 18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 36 01 PS PAGE 425,426 JQR 105 4 2015. the complexity of mixed matrimonial arrangements 30 Here concealed. from the control of religious gatekeepers the presence of the non Muslim. mother within the private domain of the household could have had a. negative impact particularly over the religious integrity of its young. members 31 Although the size of this impact is beyond measure we should. not rule out the potential apostasy of Muslim children once grown up 32. Drastic as they seem the fear of such terrible consequences was likely to. motivate an effort to detach converts from their former coreligionist fam. ily members 33, As already noted indications of marriages between Muslims and non. Muslims can be detected as early as the days of the Prophet A well. known case in point involves one of Muhammad s wives Umm H ab ba. b Ab S ufya n Prior to her marriage with the Prophet she was married. to Ubaydalla h b Jah sh who like her embraced Islam yet following. their immigration to Abyssinia he converted to Christianity Nonetheless. Umm H ab ba is reported to have remarried only after the death of her. apostate husband 34 Matrimony between a convert to Islam and a non. Muslim is also suggested in a tradition found in Ibn Ma ja s d 887 col. lection The short account tells of a married a couple one of whom was a. Muslim and the other an infidel who litigated before the Prophet 35. 30 For a similar assessment see Janina M Safran Identity and Differentia. tion in Ninth Century al Andalus Speculum 76 3 2001 575 76 See also Fried. mann Tolerance and Coercion 188 90, 31 Safran Identity and Differentiation 583 84 yet note that the reference.
in the Mudawwana is to children born to Muslim men who married non Muslim. women in the abode of war da r al h arb see Sah nu n b Sa d al Mudawwana al. kubra Beirut 1994 2 218 cf in an Andalusi context Ragnhild J Zorgati. Pluralism in the Middle Ages Hybrid Identities Conversion and Mixed Marriages in. Medieval Iberia New York 2012 94 167, 32 The legendary ninth century story of Bakchos the Younger an eighth. century Palestinian youth whose father was a Christian convert to Islam and. whose mother was Christian indicates that it was thanks to Bakchos s mother. who remained a devout Christian that her son grew up to be a monk See Pho tios. Ar Demetrakopoulos Agios Bakchos o Neos Episte monike epete ris te s Philosoph. ike s Schole s tou Panepiste miou Athe no n 26 1977 78 334 50. 33 See Hoyland Seeing Islam 338 Sarah Bowen Savant The New Muslims of. Post Conquest Iran Tradition Memory and Conversion Cambridge 2013 31 66 67. 34 Ibn Sa d Muh ammad Al T abaqa t al kubra Al t abaqa al ra bi a min al. s ah a ba min man aslama inda fath Makka wa ma ba da dhalika ed A b A al. Sallu m al T a if 1995 1 67, 35 Abu Abdalla h Muh ammad b Yaz d b Ma ja Sunan Ibn Ma ja ed M F. Abd al Ba q Cairo 1972 2 788 no 2352,18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 36 01 PS PAGE 426. APOSTATES AND GAONIC RESPONSA SIMONSOHN 427, According to a later extended version of the account it was the woman. who had not embraced Islam 36 The trend is attested throughout the clas. sical Islamic period and even beyond it Among the better known exam. ples is that of the Syrian Christian tribe of the Banu Tanu kh While most. medieval Muslim historians report that the tribe had converted to Islam. shortly after the conquest 37 one mentions the Tanu khid clan of the S a lih. b H ulwa n b Imra n al H a f b Qud a a as having remained Christian. until its forced conversion under Abbasid caliph al Mahd 775 85 38. According to the account found in the history of the West Syrian patri. arch and historian Michael the Syrian d 1199 the conversion took. place in 779 when al Mahd was on his way to Aleppo The caliph. ordered that all Tanu khids be converted whereupon roughly 5 000 men. converted while their women managed to escape 39 By the Mamluk. period and most likely much earlier disapproval over the proximity of a. recent convert to Islam to his former coreligionists particularly his non. Muslim family was a common theme in negative assessments of con. verts 40 Thus for example among the numerous cases recorded by Tamer. el Leithy we read of Abdulla h Ghubriya l b S an a al Qibt d. 1334 who caught Ibn H ajar s eye i e Ibn H ajar al Asqala n d. 1448 author of biographic dictionary al Durar al ka mina for his slyness. and good relations with Christians but most of all for the rumor that his. daughters had not converted 41, As may be expected the geonim were not the only Near Eastern legal.
authorities of their time preoccupied with legal questions stemming from. the endurance of marriages between a convert and his or her former core. ligionist 42 In general terms Islamic law stipulates the breakup of mar. 36 Abu Nu aym al Isbaha n Ma rifat al s ah a ba ed A b Y al Azza z Riy. adh 1998 3 1350 no 3406 My thanks to Michael Lecker for both references. 37 E g Ah mad b Yah ya al Bala dhur Futu h al bulda n Beirut 1988 147. 38 Isma l b Al Al Yawa q t wa l d arab f ta r kh H alab ed M Kama l and F. al Bakku r Aleppo 1989 4, 39 Michael the Syrian Chronique de Michel le Syrien Patriarche jacobite d Antioche. 1166 1199 ed and trans J B Chabot Paris 1899 1910 3 1 the same report. is also given in Bar Hebraeus The Chronography of Gregory Abu l Faraj the Son of. Aaron the Hebrew Physician Commonly Known as Bar Hebraeus trans E A Wallis. Budge London 1932 1 117, 40 Tamer el Leithy Coptic Culture and Conversion in Medieval Cairo. 1293 1524 A D Ph D diss Princeton University 2005 1 193 94. 42 For a summary of related positions in the different Sunni legal schools. see Friedmann Tolerance and Coercion 163 65 for the treatment of similar ques. tions in the context of Islamic Iberia see Zorgati Pluralism chap 4 in Zoroas. trian and Eastern Christian sources see Uriel Simonsohn Conversion to Islam. 18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 36 02 PS PAGE 427,428 JQR 105 4 2015. riages between non Muslim couples in which the wife embraces Islam A. helpful illustration of the multifaceted nature of this question from an. Islamic point of view can be found in a collection of opinions by Ah mad. b H anbal d 855 assembled in the Kita b al ja mi al kab r of the Bagh. dadi scholar Abu Bakr al Khalla l d 923 43 The utility of this collection. for the present discussion stems from the fact that like gaonic responsa. Ibn H anbal s opinions appear to address concrete concerns and situa. tions as opposed to other forms of Islamic legal literature that tend to be. more abstract in nature 44 Ibn H anbal s positions include references to. the fate of children with one parent who converted to Islam 45 and cases. of marriages in which the husband converts but his wife chooses not. to 46 or the wife converts before the husband 47 Unlike Islamic sources. however gaonic responsa tend to address cases that involve Jewish and. apostate spouses in an indirect fashion Fortunately an exception is found. in a query put to Rav Hayya Gaon in which he is asked about the validity. of a matrimonial bond between a Jewish apostate who joined the reli. gion of the Gentiles whereas his wife was still adhering to the Israelite. religion and whether a Jewish apostate could marry a woman from. A Case Study for the Use of Legal Sources History Compass 11 8 2013 647. 62 and Simonsohn Are Geonic Responsa a Reliable Source for the Study of. Jewish Conversion to Islam A Comparative Analysis of Legal Sources in Jews. Christians and Muslims in Medieval and Early Modern Times A Festschrift in Honor of. Mark R Cohen ed A E Franklin et al Leiden 2014 122 38. 43 On Abu Bakr al Khalla l see Henri Laoust Al Khalla l Ah mad b. Muh ammad b Ha ru n Better Known as Abu Bakr al Khalla l Encyclopedia of. Islam 2nd ed Leiden 2011 see also Ibn Ab Ya la T abaqa t al H ana bila ed M. H al Fiq Cairo 1952 2 12 15 Zia uddin Ah mad Abu Bakr al Khalla l The. Compiler of the Teachings of Ima m Ah mad b H anbal Islamic Studies 9 1970. 245 54 Christopher Melchert The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law 9th 10th. Centuries C E Leiden 1997 137 141 143 Michael Cook Commanding Right and. Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought Cambridge 2000 78 90 Nimrod Hurvitz. The Formation of Hanbalism Piety into Power London 2002 4 5 On the Kita b al. ja mi see Carl Brockelmann Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur Weimar 1937. 42 sup 1 311 Fuat Sezgin Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums Leiden 1967. 44 The point I wish to make is not about the affinity of Islamic and Jewish. legal traditions but about the common social reality that underlies them. 45 Abu Bakr al Khalla l Ah ka m ahl al milal min al ja mi li masa il al ima m. Ah mad b H anbal ed S Kisraw H,asan Beirut 1994 33 37 nos 75 83 40 nos. 46 Ibid 176 78 nos 504 9,47 Ibid 186 95 nos 526 49.
18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 36 02 PS PAGE 428,APOSTATES AND GAONIC RESPONSA SIMONSOHN 429. the daughters of Israel who adhere to the Torah of Israel 48 The Geniza. fragment containing the responsum provides only the very beginning of. the gaon s answer Yet from a social historical perspective the question. should be read alongside several other Geniza letters that appear to cor. roborate the likelihood of such matrimonial circumstances Thus an. undated question to a Muslim jurist mentions the case of a Jewish woman. whose husband converted to Islam and after a year of cohabitation with. his wife set off to India where he would proceed to spend ten years. following which the woman asked for a divorce 49 It is noteworthy that. the request for divorce came up not after the conversion but after the. apostate had distanced himself from his wife suggesting that the woman s. primary concern was over her livelihood 50 Indeed in his study of charity. lists from the Geniza Mark Cohen remarks on a rare instance in which. an apostate s wife imra at al poshe a was listed among alms recipients. indicating that her husband s conversion to Islam would have left her. abandoned hence needy 51, While the above mentioned question to Rav Hayya Gaon stands out in. the directness of its reference to the fate of marriages between Jews and. apostates the complex implications of such bonds rear their heads in. three particular categories of legal dilemmas the fate of children of. Jewish apostate couples the release from levirate binds h alitsa of wid. ows of childless apostate men and the dowries left behind by deceased. apostate women To the best of my knowledge the earliest gaonic refer. ence to the question of marriage between a Jew and an apostate is found. in the ninth century gaonic legal compilation Halakhot gedolot a work that. is understood to have incorporated Palestinian sources some of which. are clearly later than the Talmud 52 Following a ruling he attributes to. 48 Mordechai A Friedman Mi shut Rav Hai Ga on keta im h adashim. min ha geniza Hebrew Te uda 3 1983 79 the answer part of the responsum. is missing, 49 TS Ar 40 96 discussed in Goitein Mediterranean Society 3 301 I wish to. thank Oded Zinger for bringing this document to my attention. 50 Note that the woman asked for a divorce for the first time when her hus. band was about to set off that is a year after the man had converted. 51 TS box K 15 2V left hand page line 7 Mark R Cohen Poverty and Charity. in the Jewish Community of Medieval Egypt Princeton N J 2005 152 see also. Goitein Mediterranean Society 2 302 451 592 n 12 Moshe Gil ed and trans. Documents of the Jewish Pious Foundations from the Cairo Genizah Leiden 1976 36. Shatzmiller Marriage Family and the Faith 236, 52 Brody The Geonim of Babylonia 169 accordingly Brody questions the. Babylonian provenance of the Halakhot gedolot,18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 36 03 PS PAGE 429.
430 JQR 105 4 2015, Rav Yehudai Gaon fl 757 61 and the head of Pumbedita Rav She. mu el Gaon fl 748 55 53 according to which a writ of divorce is. required for dissolving a marriage between a Samaritan man and a Jew. ish woman the author of Halakhot gedolot brings forth the halakhic princi. ple that whereas a betrothal kidushin between the son of an apostate. man and a non Jewish woman is invalid a betrothal between an apostate. man and a Jewish woman is valid The underlying reasoning here is that. the son of an apostate man and a non Jewish woman is considered a non. Jew not because of his apostate father but because of his non Jewish. mother 54 It is this principle namely that the betrothal between a Jew. ish apostate and a Jew is valid that appears to underpin later gaonic. responsa 55 In addition to the question of an apostate s betrothal to which. I return below the matter brought to the discretion of the two eighth. century geonim also brings to the fore the question of newborns of apos. tate Jewish couples A rather explicit gaonic treatment of this problem. can be found in a responsum attributed to the head of the Sura academy. Rav Sa adya Gaon fl 928 42 56, A man s wife whose husband went overseas whereupon an apostate. Israelite came and married her according to the custom of the gentiles. She gave birth to a boy and later her husband came and gave her a. divorce That apostate violates the Sabbath in public 57 Now is that boy. a legitimate Jew kasher for his father is considered a gentile accord. ing to the principle that a gentile and a slave who have sex with an. Israelite girl their son is kasher or rather since if that apostate. repented he is a complete Israelite and the boy is halakhically consid. ered a bastard mamzer, The problem at stake was whether the child born to an apostate father. and a Jewish mother the latter still legally bound to her former Jewish. husband was to be considered a legitimate Jew Assuming that the. father having apostatized was now generally considered a gentile the. 53 Apparently prior to Rav Yehudai s appointment in Sura perhaps when. Rav Yehudai was still in Pumbedita, 54 Ezriel Hildesheimer ed Sefer halakhot gedolot Jerusalem 1971 87 Kid. dushin 40 2 215 16 note Blidstein Who Is Not a Jew 375 n 22 H G. apparently rejects here the position based on Samuel s view of the Ten Tribes. that apostates are forthwith gentiles,55 Cf bBekh 30b bYev 47b.
56 Lewin Otsar Yevamot 196 no 474,57 tHor 1 5,18795 CH1 10 26 15 13 36 03 PS PAGE 430.

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