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Funerary, Burial, and Mourning Practices

(2,822 words)

Author(s): Hadas Hirsch
In the Talmud and the Midrash, death and birth are viewed as parallel processes, and the way a person died and the day of the death were thought to be significant as good or bad omens for the deceased.  Many of the death, burial, and mourning customs of the Jews of the Islamic world were closer than their Ashkenazi counterparts to the practices of talmudic times.  Jewish custom everywhere insists on prompt burial as a matter of respect for the dead, and this is considered to be the duty of the heirs and the entire community. The departure of the soul (Heb. neshama) makes the body impure, which m…


(600 words)

Author(s): Hadas Hirsch
The Arabic word  ghiyār literally means “differentiation” and in Islamic usage refers to practices visibly differentiating non-Muslims from Muslims. The Muslim social vision, from its beginnings, enabled members of other revealed religions (essentially Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians) to live in  Muslim territories under the status of dhimma , a term denoting protection. This was granted in return for acknowledgment of the dominance of Islam and payment of the jizya tax as expressed in Qur’an 9:29. At the time of the conquests, the distinctive costume of the Arabs was sufficie…


(1,134 words)

Author(s): Hadas Hirsch
The concept of women’s wearing a veil has taken on one or another of three conceptually hierarchal forms in different cultures: covering the head, covering both the head and the face, and covering the entire body. Various styles of female veiling have been practiced since antiquity in patriarchal-patrilineal societies such as Assyria, Israel, Greece, and pre-Islamic Arabia, mainly as a means of exercising control, establishing a hierarchy, and imposing subordination by setting limitations and a div…

Clothing, Jewelry and Make-up

(14,958 words)

Author(s): Hadas Hirsch | Esther Shkalim | Esther Juhasz | Carmella Abdar | Ora Molad
1. Medieval Islamic World The Jews of the Muslim world, and especially the women, were meticulous about facial and bodily adornments. This thoroughness was regarded positively by sages such as Maimonides, who stated that a husband was required to provide his wife with the necessary means to cultivate her appearance and make herself attractive to him ( Code, bk. IV, Marriage 13:1–5). The Cairo Geniza is the primary source of historical documentation on Jewish attire in the Islamic Mediterranean during the Fatimid and Ayyubid periods (969–1250), and to a lesser extent for the  Mamluk peri…