Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

Get access Subject: Jewish Studies
Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online (EJIW) is the first cohesive and discreet reference work which covers the Jews of Muslim lands particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods. The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online is updated with newly commissioned articles, illustrations, multimedia, and primary source material. 

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Khaḍḍūrī, Sassoon

(607 words)

Author(s): Reuven Snir
Sassoon Khaḍḍūrī was born in either 1880 or 1886 and educated at the Bet Zilkha yeshiva in Baghdad. He headed the Baghdadi Jewish community for three terms (1928–1930, 1933–1949, 1953–1971) and also served as ḥakham bāshī (chief rabbi) during his first term as head of the community. Khaḍḍūrī was a strong supporter of the Jewish “Iraqi orientation” and refused to do anything that could adversely affect the status of the Jews in Iraq. In line with other Iraqi Jewish leaders, he rejected  Zionism and would not collaborate with Zionist organizations. When a call was issued in J…

Khalfon, Abraham

(351 words)

Author(s): Rachel Simon
Rabbi Abraham Khalfon (1735–1819) was an author, poet, historian, and communal leader in Tripoli, Libya, who served twice as the head of the community (1778–1781 and 1792–1795). He had close relations with Rabbi Ḥayyim David Azulay (Rav Ḥida; 1724–1806), whom he visited in Livorno (Leghorn) in 1804–1805. In 1806, Khalfon moved to Safed, where he died. Khalfon’s many poems and eulogies include information about him and his contemporaries. Most of his writings are still in manuscript. The Hebrew poem Mi Kamokha (Who Is Like unto Thee?) describes the suffering in Tripoli durin…

Khalfon, Moshe ha-Kohen

(514 words)

Author(s): Jacques Taïeb
Moshe ha-Kohen Khalfon, the most famous rabbi of the island of Jerba in Tunisia, was born in Ḥara Kebira on January 1, 1874, and died there on January 7, 1950. He was chief rabbi of Ḥara Kebira specifically, but was de facto chief rabbi of the entire island, since he took precedence over his colleague in Ḥara Ṣeghira. His rabbinic activity coincided with the French colonial period in Tunisia (1881–1956). Khalfon left a considerable body of works, including at least seventy haskamot (see Ḥaskama; ordinances; lit. agreements) and legal decisions (Heb. pisqe din), as well as many books i…


(810 words)

Author(s): Shalom Sabar
In several cultures the power attributed to the human hand made it an accepted means of driving away harmful elements and gaining protection against the evil eye. As far back as the Stone Age, paintings of open hands appear on walls in caves in the context of protection. The motif of the protective hand developed especially in Islamic lands, where it is referred to by the popular Arabic term khamsa, meaning five, or by the name “Hand of Fatima,” after Fāṭima Zahra (ca. 606–632), Prophet Muḥammad’s favorite daughter, who is regarded as a holy and exemplary figure in Islam. It is unknown when J…


(804 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
The Arabic word kharja (exit), also referred to as markaz (central point), designates the concluding couplet (envoi) of the muwashshaḥ (Heb. shir ezor, girdle poem), an Arabic strophic genre of poetry that, along with the more vernacular zajal, originated in al-Andalus around the tenth century. The scansion of both muwashshaḥ and zajal departs in significant ways from classical Arabic prosody. Examples of Hebrew muwashshaḥāt, following Arabic models, are known from the eleventh century, and were probably in existence earlier. By the mid-twelfth century, Arabic and Hebrew muwashsh…


(1,227 words)

Author(s): Shari Lowin
Located approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of Medina, the oasis of Khaybar was one of the largest Jewish settlements in Arabia and played an important role in the consolidation of Muḥammad’s political power. Like the Jewish tribes in Medina, the Khaybari Jews derived much of their wealth from commerce and agriculture. They also manufactured textiles and metal implements, and stockpiled these in their fortresses. When the Banū ’l-Naḍīr were expelled from Medina in 624, many found a refuge in Khaybar. Three years after the expulsion, the Muslims turned their sights on Khayb…


(1,635 words)

Author(s): Peter Golden
The Khazar qaghanate (ca. 650–ca. 965–969; qaghan [khagan] is an Inner Asian term for “emperor”), one of the largest polities of the medieval Eurasian world, extended from the Dnepr zone in Ukraine to lands east of the Volga and from the Middle Volga to the North Caucasus and Crimea. Khazaria played a major role in the trade between the northern forest zone and the Byzantine and Islamic empires. The Khazar qaghans ruled over Turkic, Iranian, Finno-Ugrian, Slavic, and Palaeo-Caucasian peoples as well a…


(283 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Khenchela (Ar. Khanshala) is a town in northeastern Algeria in the Aurès Mountains,  situated 1,200 meters (394 feet) above sea level. The majority of the population are Chaoui Berbers. When the French occupied the town and established a military administration in 1850, Jews began arriving in Khenchela, including baḥuṣim (Heb. outsiders), semi-nomadic Jews from the region, who settled in the town in 1874, creating a stable community that fell under the jurisdiction of the Constantine Consistory. Most of the town’s jewelers were Jewish, most notably the Touitou family. T…

Khomeini (Khomaynī), Ayatollah Ruhollah

(814 words)

Author(s): David Menashri
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (Khomaynī) (1902–1989) was the Shīʽī spiritual and temporal leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution from 1979 until his death. His philosophy shaped the ideology of the revolution and the politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Khomeini’s worldview, based on a radical interpretation of Islam, underwent significant changes. Initially, he followed the politically quietist marjaʿ-i taqlīd (Pers. source of emulation) Ayatollah Ḥusayn Burūjirdī (d. 1961). During his years in exile in Iraq and France from 1964 to 1979, however, his views radicalized. He cl…


(378 words)

Author(s): Rachel Simon
Khoms (Ar. al-Khums), built by the Ottomans in 1871, is a port town on the Mediterranean coast of Libya 120 kilometers  (75 miles) east of Tripoli. Jews lived in nearby Leptis Magna (medieval Islamic Lebda) from the Roman period until the late twelfth century. Documents from the Cairo Geniza mention a number of people with the family name Lebdī. Jews returned to the area in the nineteenth century when Khoms became a center for processing esparto grass, used in the production of quality paper. Mainly under the management of Jews who moved there from Tripoli because of t…


(447 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Khudāidād, also known as Bā yād-i Khuydodcha ['To the Memory of Little Khuydod'], is the only text of historical import to have come to light out so far from the trove of Judeo-Persian texts produced in Bukhara. Named after its hero, Khudāidād (Persian for the Hebrew "Netanʾel" ['God gave']), this short masnavī (narrative poem in rhymed couplets), is only 279 verses long and it is written in the hazaj meter in the Bukharan dialect. Khudāidād is essentially an account of the martyrdom of a simple cloth merchant whose strong faith enabled him to withstand the persecution of…


(562 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Khunsar (Pers. Khwānsār) is an Iranian town northwest of Isfahan. The oldest historical references to Khunsar mention Jews moving there during the Achaemenid period (550–330 B.C.E.). During the Safavid period the Jews of Khunsar, like the Jews in other Iranian cities, were subject to persecutions mostly instigated by Muḥammad Beg, the vizier of Shāh ‘Abbās II (r. 1642–1666), including a series of forced conversions to Islam and returns to Judaism. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the town’s Jews lived in an area known as Kūy-i Juhūdā or Kūy-i Jūdā/Jīdā (Pers. street of th…


(2,497 words)

Author(s): Ben Zion Yehoshua-Raz
The province of Khurasan (Pers. land of the sun/east) has always been one of the most important regions of the eastern Islamic world. It is often mentioned in medieval Arabic and Hebrew sources. Occupying a strategic location between the Middle East and the rest of Asia, its boundaries were never fixed and changed considerably over time. Today Khurasan is the northeastern province of Iran, but in medieval Islamic geography it extended through the eastern part of the Islamic Empire and included the great desert, Dasht-i Kabīr, as well as parts of what are now Central Asia and Afghanistan. The…

Khwāja Bukhārāʾī

(202 words)

Author(s): Dan D.Y. Shapira
Khwāja Bukhārāʾī, a Jewish author from Bukhara, wrote Dāniyal-nāma (Pers. The Book of Daniel) , a Judeo-Persian narrative based on the biblical Book of Daniel, in 1606. It was reedited/rewritten by Benjamin ben Mishael (Aminā; 1672/73–after 1732/33) in 1704 as a masnavī (Pers. narrative poem in rhymed couplets). Dāniyal-nāma has affinities with both the additions to Daniel of the Christian Bible and the Qiṣṣa-yi Dāniʾel . Nothing is known about the life of Khwāja Bukhārāʾī. Dan D.Y. Shapira Bibliography Levy, R. “Dānial-Nāma: A Judeo-Persian Apocalypse,” in Jewish Studies in Memo…

Kira (Kiera, Kyra)

(1,619 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The term kira ( kyra, kiera, chiera, chierara, chirazza) was applied to certain female functionaries who served the women of the imperial harem in the Ottoman Empire in various capacities. Scholars have disputed the origin of the term . The likeliest explanation is that it derived from the Greek κυρία/ kyria (lady), despite an imaginative Spanish origin proposed by Rosanes. During the second half of the sixteenth century, a period known as the Kadınlar Saltanatı (sultanate of the women), the combination of weak sultans and rampant intrigue at court provided an opening for the women of th…

Kırklareli (Kırk Kilise)

(608 words)

Author(s): Omer Turan
Kirklareli is a town in the northwestern corner of the European part of Turkey. It was conquered in 1362 by the Ottomans, who called it Kirk Kilise (Forty Churches, or perhaps Forty Saints, from Gk. sarante eklesiai), but the name was changed officially in 1924. Kirklareli was the most important sancak of Edirne (Adrianople) because of its location on the route from Istanbul to Shumen and Pravadi. The date when Jews first arrived in the town is unknown. The Polish traveler Simon, who passed through Kirklareli in 1603, mentions an Ashkenazi community whose main income came from the pr…


(1,143 words)

Author(s): Nahid Pirnazar
Kirmanshah (Pers. Kirmānshāh; Ar. Qirmīsīn) is a town and province in western Iran, named after the Sasanian king Bahram IV (r. 388–399), near the rock-cut relief of Tāq-i Bustān. It is situated on a principal route from Baghdad to Teheran. In the Middle Ages it was relatively close to the yeshivot of Babylonia. The town probably had a fairly ancient Jewish community. It was mentioned by the tenth-century historian Nathan ha-Bavli, who reported that the exilarch Mar ʿUqba was banished to a locality called Kirmanshah between 909 and 916 because of a communal conflict in Baghdad. Kirmanshah…

Kirmanshahchi, Heshmatallah

(339 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Dr. Heshmatallah Kirmanshahchi (Pers. Ḥishmat-Allāh Kermānshāhchī) was born in 1926 in Kirmanshah. In 1936, his family moved to Tehran, where he earned his high school diploma from the American College. At nineteen, he graduated magna cum laude from the pharmacy school of Tehran University. Later on in life, he took correspondence courses in political science, economy, management, and international economy from New York University, the University of Chicago, University of Michigan,  and the University of California, Los Angeles. Kirmanshahchi’s social activism began in 19…

Kitāb-i Anusī

(1,209 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Kitāb-i A nusī (The Book of a Forced Convert) by Bābāī ben Luṭf, the first known Judeo-Persian chronicle, recounts the periodic persecutions of Iranian Jews between 1617 and 1662, together with a few other events from the Ṣafavid era (1501–1736), specifically from the reigns of Shahs ʿAbbās I (1581–1629), Ṣafī I (1629–1642), and ʿAbbās II (1642–1666). The historicity of Kitāb-i Anusī is confirmed by its references to external events that can be corroborated by royal Iranian chronicles and other sources, but its emphasis is on the travails of Iranian Jewr…

Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar bāb-i ʿibrī va goyimi-yi sānī

(1,220 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar bāb-i ʿibrī va goyimi-yi sānī (The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning the Jews; Their Second Conversion) by Bābāī b. Farhād is the second known Judeo-Persian chronicle in verse. The first, Kitāb-i Anusī (The Book of a Forced Convert), was written by Bābāī b. Luṭf, the grandfather of Bābāī b. Farhād. The events covered by the earlier chronicle end around 1662, whereas Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān begins with an incident in 1694, and then covers selected events over the decade from 1721 to 1731 during the reigns of the Safavid shahs Sulṭān Ḥusayn (r. 169…
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