THE JEWS IN THE MAMLUK ENVIRONMENT: CRISIS OF 1442 (A GENIZA STUDY)1 By MARKR. COHEN (PLATES I-II) Compared with the heyday under the Fatimids, the position of the nonMuslims, or dhimmts, in the late Mamluk period was bleak. Victims of the general demographic and economic decline, objects of considerable hostility on the part of Muslim theologians, and targets of frequent persecution, the Jews and Christians of Egypt found life more difficult and more oppressive in the fifteenth than in the eleventh or twelfth century. For the Jews, hard times were reflected both in tensions with the surroundingMuslim society and in the depressed condition of community life. Most of what we know about the Jews of Egypt in the fifteenth century derives from non-Jewish sources, especially Arabic chronicles and European travellers' descriptions.2 The Cairo Geniza, which has such a rich deposit of documents from the Fatimid-Ayyubid period, contains relatively little information about the condition of the Jews during the late Mamluikperiod. Hence, every new Geniza discovery relevant to Mamlfk Jewry assumes a heightened significance, especially when it illuminates aspects both of the external relations of the Jews and of their inner, communal life. The recently opened 'Additional Series' of the Cambridge University's Taylor-Schechter Geniza collection contains a large number of fragments of historical interest, mostly collected together in the volumes numbered 145 to 153.3 Most of the documents are small, and, from that point of view, somewhat less valuable than the many long and full letters and other documents contained in the Taylor-Schechter Old and New Series. Uncharacteristic of most of the other AS manuscripts, the one published and discussed below is of considerable historical importance. It sheds new light on a crisis in Mamluk-dhimm7 relations during the middle of the fifteenth century and, at the same time, provides fascinating new data about an obscure chapter in the history of Jewish leadership in Mamlik Egypt. In order to understand the Geniza document better, we begin with an account of the episode that forms its background, as described in Mamluk chronicles from the fifteenth century. These sources tell about a crisis in Mamluk-dhimmTrelations that erupted in 1442. During an investigation by the authorities of a Rabbanite synagogue in Fustat, an anti-Islamic blasphemy was discovered. As a result, part of the synagogue was orderedto be destroyed. 1 This paper was written while I was a Lady Davis Visiting Professor in the Department of the History of the Jewish People at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1982-3). It has benefited greatly from the comments and criticisms of the scholars who heard an earlier version of the paper, which I delivered at the Ben-Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East (Jerusalem) and again at the Shiloah Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies of Tel Aviv University. For their helpful suggestions regarding several problematic lines in the Geniza document published herein I wish to thank Professor S. D. Goitein (Princeton) and Dr. Haggai Ben Shammai (Jerusalem). The Geniza manuscript and facsimile are published with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library. 2 See the discussion of sources in E. Strauss (Ashtor) Toledotha-yehudimbe-misrayim we-suria talat shilton ha-mamlukim (The history of the Jews in Egypt and Syria under Mamlfk rule), I (Jerusalem, 1944), i-xvi; ii, (Jerusalem, 1951), i-xvii. 3 Some historical documents can be found in other volumes. See for instance TS AS 157.231 and 232, ed. Moshe Gil, Ha-tustarim: Ha-nmishpahaweha-kat (The Tustaris: family and sect) (Tel Aviv, 1981), appendix no. 6. 426 MARK R. COHEN This was followed by a general scrutiny of other dhimmTplaces of worship, in the course of which several Christianand Karaite religious institutions were put in jeopardy. E. Ashtor summarized the events as they relate to the Jews in his history of the Jews in Mamluk Egypt and Syria.4 At the time of his writing, however, neither he nor any other scholar had access to the portion of the TaylorSchechter Geniza collection in which the document that we shall discuss was found. Ashtor used the chronicles of Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani (d. 1449), of al-Sakhawi (d. 1497), and of one later historian. Al-Sakhawi's narrative, which draws heavily upon that of his teacher, Ibn Hajar, is fuller. However, since Ibn Hajar was the Shafi'ite chief qddilat the time of the incident and was directly involved both in the investigation of the synagogue and in the general crisis that ensued, following the discovery of the blasphemy, his testimony is extremely valuable. We present below a translation of the relevant sections from al-Sakhawi, with important variants from Ibn Hajar.5 The episode is related under the years 845 and 846 of the Hijra. On the fourth day (of Dhu 'l-Hijja 845; 15 April 1442) the Shafi'ite and Hanafite qcd/1sand the muhtasib went with a group of people to the synagogue of the Jews in Qasr al-Sham'. In it they found a minbar with thirteen steps that appeared to have been recently restored. While they were consulting together about it, there was discovered on the step upon which would stand their chief (kabtruhum; Ibn Hlajarhas al-khat7b,' the preacher', which is more to the point), an inscription whose traces were visible. The Shafi'ite said to them: ' Examine this inscription carefully '. So a number of those present conferred about it until it became clear that it was (the word) ' Muhammad ', which was distinct (zahira), and (the word) ' Ahmad', which was hidden (khafiya). Opinion required that this minbar should be removed. So a legal claim was drawn up, and the q.dd 'Ala al-Din ibn Aqbaris, one of the Shafi'ite deputies and overseer of the waqfs, ruled that it should be removed. The muhtasib remained behind for that purpose, while the others dispersed. The Hanafite wanted to cut off the feet of those who were involved in standing on that spot, as well as the hands of some others .... But, until there occurred what will be reported under the next year, our master (i.e. al-Sakhawi's teacher, Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, the Shafi'ite qddTwho was present) did not agree with him about this, especially since the Jews persisted in denying the matter and in claiming to have no knowledge of the act. Then the shaykh Amin al-Aqsara'i undertook an inspection (kashf) of the houses of worship of the Jews and the Christians . . ., and a number of houses of worship were closed by having their gates locked until their status 4 Ashtor, Toledot, ii, 100-4. Also mentioned briefly in the same author's ' L'inquisition dans l1'tat mamlouk', Rivista degli Studi Orientali, 25, 1950, 23. The incident is mentioned by Antoine Fattal, Le statut legal des non-Musulmans en pays d'Islam (Beirut, 1958), 123, citing Al-Sakhawi (see next note), 36. The author gave the date incorrectly as 335 A.H. = A.D. 946. 5 I consulted (at the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem), a photograph of the manuscript of Ibn Hajar's Inba' al-ghumr bi-inb' (or: abnS') al-'umr utilized by Ashtor (Istanbul MS Yeni Cami 814; narrative occurs on fols. 282a, 283b, and 284a), as well as the printed Hyderabad edition of the chronicle, edited by Muhammad 'Abd al-Mu'id Khan, 9 vols. (Hyderabad, 1967-76), ix, 169-70, 182-6. The fourth and final volume of the Cairo edition, edited by Hasan Habashi (3 vols., Cairo, 1969-72), containing the relevant years, was not published. Neither of the printed editions employs the Yeni Cami manuscript. JEWS IN THE MAMLCK ENVIRONMENT 427 could be clarified.6 Among them was one belonging to the Melkites, in which were found pillars made of hewn stone tiles, similar to the columns. They claimed that it used to have columns of marble, but that they had been burned in the fire that occurred in the year 730 (A.D. 1329-30). They asserted that they had in their possession a document (mahdar)concerning these, validated by the qddl Jalal al-Din al-Qazwini, author of Talkhis al-miftdh and qadd of Egypt during the reign of al-Nasir, and that this granted them permission to make the restoration. They had restored it with stones instead of marble .... (the story continues under the events of the year 846). In this month (Muharramr:May-June 1442) humiliation, shame, scorn, and fiscal penalties (taghrim) beyond description fell upon the Christians and Jews. As for the Christians, as reported above, it was on account of the columns and buttresses of recent construction that had been found inside the Melkite church .... When the document was produced, a big dispute broke out among the qdd1sand the others. And it was finally settled that whatever the Shafi'ite deputy ruled should be carried out in accordance with his school of law (madhhab),and beyond that, that the Malikite qadT should take personal charge of the matter. (In the next section there are several significant differencesbetween the reports of al-Sakhawi and Ibn Hajar. They are given below in parallel columns.) Ibn Hajar, MS Yeni Cami 814,fol. 283b al-SakhawT,p. 36 (ed. Hyderabad,IX, 182-3) As for the Jews, the Hanafite On the fifth (of Muharram, 16 May summoned a group of Jews from the 1442) the Hanafite q.ddtreprimanded three Jews from the synagogue in synagogue in which had been found the blasphemy against the two noble Fustat in which had been uncovered the slab inscribed ' Muhammad ' and names, Muhammad and Ahmad, as ' Ahmad ', because he had established reported above, and he asked them 6 Amikam Elad kindly called to my attention that Ibn Iyas (1448-1524) also has a version of the events of 1442 in his Badl1'i' al-zuhir fi waqd'l' al-duhur (Die Chronik des Ibn Ijas), ed. Mohammed Mostafa, vol. 2 (Wiesbaden, 1972), 22 (not cited by Ashtor). This is limited to two brief statements. The first consists of a slight modification of the passage about al-Aqsari'i found in al-Sakhawi and in Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani. ' In that year (845 A.H.) the shaykh Amin al-Din [Yahya] al-Aqsari'i the Hanafite undertook the destruction (hadm) of some of the houses of worship of the Jews and the Christians. He closed a number of those houses of worship and turned some of them into mosques. Because of that, certain things happened which it would take too long to explain.' The mention of ' destruction ' instead of ' inspection ' and the detail about converting some houses of worship into mosques are not present in the contemporary chroniclers Ibn Hajar and al-SakhaJwi. We are probably justified in preferring the Ibn Hajar-alSakhawi version to that of the later writer, Ibn Iyas, but the variants still need explanation. The verb translated here as 'undertook' (q&mif l) can be taken to mean: ' he went with the intention of (destroying)'. Since destruction of Christian and Jewish houses of worship was a ' regular event in these instances, Ibn Iyas may simply have substituted the words ' destruction for ' inspection ' out of habit. The same may be said for the statement about the conversion of houses of worship into mosques. The second statement in Ibn Iyas concerning the crisis of 1442 cited above, but separated from the previous report by one short, (same page in the edition unrelated item), reads: ' In it (the year 845) the Sultan ordered the four qadls to go to Qasr al-Sham' to inspect (!) the houses of worship there. So they went there and inspected. Then something happened between al-Shihab ibn Hajar and al-Sa'd al-Dayri which would take too long to explain.' Al-Sa'd al-Dayri (Sa'd al-Din Sa'd ibn Mulhammad al-'Absi al-Dayri, 13671463) was the Hanafite chief q.ddlat the time of the investigations of the dhimminhouses of worship in 1442; see Ibn Hajar's biographical sketch of him in Raf' al-isr 'an qud(t mi,r, ed. Hamid 'Abd al-Majid et al. (Cairo, 1957), 245-6. Ibn lyas evidently alludes to the disagreement in 1442 between Ibn Hajar and his Hanafite colleague over the punishment due the Jews of the Rabbanite synagogue, which is reported in al-Sakhawi's chronicle (p. 20; see above). Al-Dayri is mentioned several times in the Arabic document preserved by the Karaites concerning the investigation of 1456 (see below, n. 11; the editor, Gottheil, incorrectly transcribes ' al-'Abbasi '). 428 MARK R. COHEN about this. They said: 'We did not do it, and we do not know who did do it.' They banded together in their lie and denial, and their persistence in this was in keeping with their lying nature. Then the qadl, God strengthen him, separated them and pressed his interrogation of them until one of thenl confessed that he had ascended the minbar. Immediately the qddTordered that he be beaten, and he was beaten severely, and publicly reviled in the streets. At that time the qjd. said to those present in his court: ' Others will now confess because the beaten one will become an informer against his own people, lest he be singled out for a beating and not them.' And so it happened. Two others acknowledged the truthfulness of the first, and that he had outdone the two of them. Thereupon he beat the two and publicly reviled them in the streets. Before long the first died, one of the other two converted to Islam, and the last became slightly ill, and then died. that a certain group of people were the ones who had ascended the minbar. One of them died, another converted to Islam, and the last one remained alive for a while in a state of illness and then died. Then they went after the rest of the churches and ruled that they were made out of new stone because they were of recent construction, and that they could only be restored with similar (material) or with something inferior. The same procedure was carried out everywhere in the two cities (i.e. Fustat and Cairo). Utmost scorn and reproach befell all the communities of the protected peoples (ahl al-dhimma). The Melkites produced a document containing a permit to repair theirs after the fire that occurred in the year 730, given by the qadTof Egypt Jalal al-Din al-Qazwini during the reign of al-Nasir, and dated in the year (7)34 (1333-4). A big dispute broke out over this, and it was finally settled that whatever the Shafi'ite deputy ruled should be carried out in accordance with his school of law, and beyond that, that the Malikite qddt should take personal charge of the matter. Similarly he (the Hanafite chief qddi) summoned a group of the Karaite Jews and entered a claim against them with the qddi Sadr al-Din Muhammad b. Muhammad ibn Rawq, one of the Shafi'ite deputies, to the effect that there was in Harat Zuwayla a house known as the house of Ibn Samih that had been earmarked for teaching Jewish children and as a hospice for them, and that they had turned it into a new synagogue.... There was also discovered in Harat Zuwayla a house belonging to one of the Jewish notables in which they used to gather to deal with affairs of their corrupt religion (the word ' corrupt' is absent in Ibn Hajar). He died after having established the house as a pious foundation (mahbasa)for that purpose. (In the next passage Ibn H.ajar'stext is fuller and makes more sense.) Ibn Hajar, MS Yeni Cami 814,fol. 283b al-SakhJiw, p. 38 (ed. Hyderabad,IX, 182) However it was turned into a However it was turned into a synagogue for rent or for anyone synagogue. So a legal action was who had the right to live there. brought against them, claiming that they had created a new synagogue, JEWS IN THE MAMLIK 429 ENVIRONMENT and they were made to give assurances that they would not assemble therein even if it were lived in on a rental basis or by anyone else who had the right to live there. The matter was entrusted to one of the deputies of the whole (al-jamV'; Ibn Hajar has, more correctly, al-hanafT, ' one of the Hanafite deputies '), who ruled that it should be taken away from the Jews.... After the affair concerning the Jews and Christians reported above, the sultan (i.e. Jaqmaq, reg. 1438-53) ordered the convening of an assembly in the presence of the four qadds and other Muslim shaykhs ... and summoned Yu'annis,7 the Patriarch of the Jacobite Christians, Philoteus, the Patriarch of the Melkite Christians, 'Abd al-Latif from the community of Rabbanite Jews, Faraj Allah, one of the shaykhs of the Karaite Jews, and Ibrahim, the chief (kabir) of the Samaritan Jews. They were asked about the pact written for their ancestors but they professed to have no knowledge of it. The appropriate action to be taken was thereupon discussed back and forth at the assembly until the felicitous decision was reached to renew the pact for them, in accordance with the tradition handed down from the Commander of the Faithful 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. .... So the sultan delegated our master (i.e. al-Sakhawi's teacher, Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani) to be the spokesman in this, and had them repair to his house, at his service, and dismissed the assembly. When they arrived at our master's house, he summoned them into his presence and, after they requested it 8 (i.e. the pact) he said to them: 'I hereby confirm this for you.' Then he sent them to the Malikite qdd1, where they testified regarding themselves that each of them accepted the legal obligation not to make repairs in any house of worship, monastery, convent, monk's cell, or church located in the sultan's realm, whether by himself with the help of someone else, and that he would not restore any wall, beam, or ancient implements (?), or anything else that might fall into ruin or become damaged. Nor would he give wine to a Muslim, whether by sale or in any other way, or by serving it to him. If he should violate this (pact) or any part thereof, his punishment would be that the sultan would destroy each house of worship, monastery, convent, monk's cell, or church, 7 The text reads J instead of .'.. For the correct name see Ashtor, Toledot, II, 102. Regrettably the chronicle of the patriarchs of the Coptic church, Ta'rikh batdrikat al-kanisa al-misriyya (History of the Patriarchs of the Egyptian Church), begun by Sawirus ibn al-Muqaffa', has only two sentences about the reign of Patriarch Yu'annis, and nothing at all about the persecution of 1442. See vol. 3, part 3, ed. and tr. by Antoine Khater and O.H.E. KHS-Burmester (Cairo, 1970), 158 (Arabic), 272 (English). ' we 8 Scholars have been puzzled by the fact that the text of the Pact of 'Umar begins: asked you for safe-conduct for ourselves ... and we undertook the following obligations toward you '. This strange phenomenon of a defeated people dictating its own disabilities to the Muslim conquerors is one of the peculiarities that led Tritton and those who followed him to cast doubts on the authenticity of the pact. See A. S. Tritton, The caliphs and their non-Muslim subjects: a critical study of the Covenant of 'Umar (1930; repr. London, 1970), 8, and Antoine Fattal, Le statut l1eal des non-Musulmnans en pays d'Islarm, 66. Actually, the language introducing the Pact of 'Umar is not peculiar at all. It merely reflects what I believe to be the Sitz im Leben of the document. It was conceived of as a petition from the dhimmis to their Muslim overlords. In a petition the terms of the desired decree were spelled out by the petitioners themselves, and the authority to whom the petition was presented then issued a decree, incorporating in it the language of the request. In our instance, the qddi Ibn Hajar made the dhimmTsgo through the ceremonial formality of ' requesting ' their safe-conduct decree. I hope to discuss some aspects of the Pact of 'Umar in another paper currently in preparation. 430 MARK R. COHEN in which that was done. He accepted this as a condition incumbent upon himself and appended it to the former conditions that had been contracted earlier at the house of our master, and each of them accepted it, knowing that it was to the pleasure and benefit of himself, Islam, and the Muslims. The crisis of 1442, in which the minbar in a Rabbanite synagogue was destroyed as punishment for a blasphemous inscription found on its stairs, in which two Jews who confessed guilt in the matter were tortured to death and a third converted to Islam, and in which Christian churches and Karaite synagogues were subject to governmental oppression, thus ended with a renewal of the Pact of 'Umar. This was commanded by Sultan Jaqmaq and executed by the Shafi'ite and Malikite chief qddts,who imposed the old canonical restrictions upon the leaders of the dhimmt communities. The crisis of 1442 produced in its wake an atmosphere of suspicion in which several untoward incidents occurred. Toward the end of the year 849 A.H. (beginning of 1446), the question of Christian religious houses (in al-Tfr) was again brought before Sultan Jaqmaq, and steps were taken to curb excesses in regard to the height and construction of churches.9 That same summer (850/1446) the Melkite church in Qasr al-Sham' came under investigation and was threatened with destruction when it was reported that the Christians had raised a wall higher than the neighbouring mosque.10 In 1456 the sensitive issue of non-Muslim houses of worship flared up once again. According to a document preserved in the archives of the Karaite community of Cairo, and published by Richard Gottheil at the beginning of this century,11a new wave of investigations of dhimm;houses of worship broke out in that year. This time the matter was brought before Jaqmaq's successor, Sultan Inal. During the inspection of the places of prayer in 1456 the Karaite synagogue was found not to be in violation of the pact, but the Christians were discovered to have exceeded the limitations placed on repairs to existing structures. As had happened fourteen years earlier to the Jews, several Christians were punished by being beaten, and one of them was publicly reviled in the streets of Cairo and Fustat. Some Muslims, not satisfied with this level of chastisement, demanded wider action against the dhimmi houses of worship. They argued that the heads of the non-Muslim communities had violated the pact which they had only recently renewed. The Karaite document refers specifically to the reconfirmation of the dhimmTdisabilities which the Shafi'ite chief qddTIbn Hajar al-'Asqalani had imposed upon Yu'annis, Philoteus, and ''Abd al-Latif ibn Ibrahim ibn Shams, Head of the Rabbanite Jews (ra'is td'ifat al-yahud al-rabdniyy7n),Faraj Allah ibn Mfisa, one of the shaykhs of the Karaite Jews, and Ibrahim ibn Salama ibn Ibrahim, Chief (kabir) of the Samaritans '.12 9 Al-Sakhawi, 124-6. 10ibid., 145. 11Richard J. H. Gottheil, ' Dhimmis and Moslems in Egypt', in Old Testament and Semitic Studies in Memory of William Rainey Harper (Chicago, 1908), II, 353-414. Gottheil (pp. 368-9) mentions the two earlier incidents, but incorrectly dates the second in 851/1447. D. S. Richards saw this document in Cairo in 1969 among a cache of documents in the possession of the Karaite community, and described it briefly in his article, ' Arabic documents from the Karaite community in Cairo', JESHO, 15, 1972, 120-1. Of Gottheil's edition he writes: 'The published version has a number of errors, and Gottheil's understanding of the document was rather faulty. My intention is to republish the whole in due course.' 12 Gottheil, art. cit., 409 (Arabic), 384 (English). Several different 'Abd al-Latifs from the 15th century, including an 'Abd al-Latif ibn Ibrahim (a Karaite), appear in the documents surveyed by D. S. Richards (see n. 11). Evidently this was a popular Jewish name at the time. JEWS IN THE MAMLCK 431 ENVIRONMENT The Geniza document The Geniza document to which we now turn relates directly to the narrative of the crisis of 1442 preserved in the Mamlik chronicles. The manuscript is a single leaf, measuring 10 2 x 29 3 cm. The language is Judeo-Arabic. The text occurs on both sides of the paper. Several tears on one side and some dark blotches make a number of words at the ends of lines almost unreadable. Several words are crossed out, and there are words and phrases inserted above the line. These signs prove that the document is a draft. Many of the statements in the text are deliberately vague, since the background was well known to contemporaries. However, it is precisely the contemporary Muslim chroniclesthat make it possible to renderthe text intelligible and to interpret its obscure allusions. The edited text and translation follow. A facsimile of the original is shown on Plates I-II. TS AS 150.3 13 Recto n^,'~:]bst =srDtvs l q,'~bs tp^Kb []^lN 1QHK N]' 7 np',t: [[-nrs]] zn p'KN 158p" 3 Mbln m', 1= a'm"s74 Tnwsip 3nDnx trw x vi? ti7nl 2 =r,npx~ tOri T"n? inl X1n wxn[alnnl annna nlnn t 5 6 3 :nn Ke1n7 Kxr 1r7^ T1' bxbn 8 K5x nn:n 1p ]] n nwin? cs [[iI senpi 91 Y 10 /1/"7l3/ /n/pb [[wrttn]] anhKpinw bKv "ot nderI lett Ii nni nT'e11a s 0'w::1X l"[ 1n 'D rt3;1TKIs12 xa nn nl"IRN113 3^xD QnnnxpK K[nn ]ln nSybolsi i:n5X* nn11 ^ -T /aTs nri-s In 7[[x]? bp? -1=nEx X^//* t888t1 I]D ni[X?] I :7Y1 ;jt)nW U D :9pl 15 17 nsi18 n5n: u ipito nnn 7D1tdif winvTsS sn 14 xanitnl 19 n^'XK QnTYX nvp1?^ ft n<p i 20 21 n3 tn=p7 X n]dKs[] Xi1 122 nena'r 5nx ;ns7K^Ks? Q^^nn ^3KIs7 7;nn' //aIe~S<// n+KiZ n oNpxi23 n"bs7r:"w Qn;l"| ^np 24 13Symbols: ] = lacuna in the text. .. = writing visible but difficult to decipher. [[ ]] = writing crossed out. // // = written above the line. a dot under a letter indicates that its reading is not clear. [ 432 MARK R. COHEN 25 *nn nbKr '"n^eK"RI,+e :,:,K1 p'"~]~ ypi' 71""N Qnsn//:8P"l~ 1'n'1// nI^ anb)K:p "')[:]b1 26 npa"l [a^[h27 43 [na].[ nnMKARl I"1Kn"r 28 KI1n M?129 ' 30 bn l n]Mlt nn-KnW " r'V7"" r11KX i'nL) 1 snrv prnu aniN KxrSw =nxzb n3D3 n8Kr m'KD8 K X55 s>nW nzn 1iX7 rnn btK m1nm31 5Yn t'a PK85:K ;nnrn1? n>o X:zR -nw D Ur917 33 5mn nss:vYp1?^ 11i" Ix m"r=0De:bn5 nnb 1l71'11 1DXn //brD// T 1 32 34 (margin) 5.3 nl -72 wor Notes 4. 'Abd Latif: in place of the expected 'Abd al-Latif. The word 'alayhim preceding this name is crossed out. 5. physician: mutatabbib,not meant pejoratively in the Geniza. head: the spelling, rayyis, reflecting popular pronunciation, is quite regular in the Geniza. 7. that which is: md huwd, with a (X) at the end, as commonly in JudeoArabic; cf. Y. Blau, Diqduq ha-'aravit ha-yehudit shel yemei ha-beinayim (Jerusalem, 1961), 57. 9. At the end of the line the writer began to write the word awqafihim,' their pious foundation properties', and then crossed it out and wrote it at the beginning of the next line. 10. below their value: the word bi-dun, 'below', is written above the word bi-nisf, ' at half', which is crossed out. 13. houses: duyur; cf. R. Dozy, Supplementaux dictionnairesarabes (Leiden, 1881), I, 472. 15. for which ... office: this phrase is inserted above the line. Following the word minbar are three letters, the first of which seems to have been crossed out. So does the al of al-minbar. These are signs of editing by the writer of the document. 23. The word sibydn,' young (men)', is written above the line. auxiliaries: 'awtniyya. See below, n. 48. 24. follows: yaqtadi, with d in place of d; cf. Blau, Diqduq, 38. 27. The word yaqdar, 'is able', is written above the line. I take the word before yaqdarto be [wa-]la[m], 'not'. 34. defiance: tajahrum; cf. Dozy, Supplement,I, 227-8. TS AS 150.3: Translation (1) Your slaves, the Jewish community, the su[bjects] of your noble highness and of [gracious] Islam (3-5) kiss the earth and report that they are [in] terrible dis[tress]. Ever since 'Abd Latif the physician took office as head over them, he has undermined the principles (6) of their religion and matters having to do with their faith. He has declared permissible that (7) which is forbidden in their religion and [declared forbidden] that which is (8) permitted, and (done) JEWS IN THE MAMLOK 433 ENVIRONMENT other things that cannot be mentioned except (9) at the appropriate time. He sold a large portion (10) of their pious foundation properties and leased (others) below their value, (11) in order to obtain a sum as advanced payment for several years. He introduced a chan[ge] (12) in their customs by farming out the income from synagogues (13) and houses, with the result that they have been left in a forlorn state. (14-15) In addition, there occurred what occurred on account of what was found inscribed on the minbar-for which, at the very least, he should have been reproved and removed from office. Your sl(aves) have been subjected to fiscal penalties (16) of thousands of dinars during his regime (17) through his wrongdoing, lack of knowledge and judgement, (18) and his great ignorance and inel[oque]nce regard[ing] (19-21) everything. The lords, the chief qddls, may God the exalted honour them, and the (other) qaddsare well aware of his lack of ability and of the fact that he is un[fit] (22) to speak on behalf of a community of the protected people. (23) He has surrounded himself with young Jewish auxiliaries, (24) whose counsel he follows and who give him (25) destructive and improper advice. That is why (26) he has got the name of extortionist and [highway] robber. (27) He is [n]o[t] able to restrain them, because he fears them (28) on account of what they know about his bad deeds and transgress[ions]. (29) And he is not competent. His gang has evill[y] (30) confiscated property of Jews, plundered them, (31) and illegally squandered their belongings. (32) Because of him, ruination has befallen us. (33) Moreover, a discussion took place among the lords, the qddls, because of him, namely, because of his defiance in (margin)proceeding with the matter of the synagogues without having legal authority to justify himself with. In addition, for every litigation he takes from us an arbitrary lump sum of money. Verso A301 KlIO^K ^h mm1-11 bvn pl? 1 10:S KI1'3n1x KnnO;x:S1 2 a:~ *wn 8vn' ;[]b rrn]:'b; 7[K1K 66 pISPl ^^ 3ipn3 R'I3; 'i" g~=SK ~D:I 9 1N 2a K1D 13nx sx 35 W77"hK K311R'1 KIRItR1'I N1 Xn"1 12 no^']^[ ~Kn"D:"m o1h 3 ,? 1~3 noXn]1b[X] p n^Kn1 S^KX xn 14 ?" 1 X8 18 1'W' "9Kp[5X] m89p 19 H^^K ntS7!K X]?3 rr^ DU5 434 MARK R. COHEN MARK COHEN DK.) 434* ; np ;l78 ;1p20 d:525K K7n; tnazY ^ih]'11 sn 21 (margin) 1l=aa? V2v 17 rlBw 1i nax n;1"5 rnw nvxYwm nna Notes 13. [improvement of the]: this, or some similar expression, is to be provided in the lacuna in the text. 14. [the headship]: this, or some similar word, is to be provided in the lacuna in the text. (1) Harm has befallen all the communities because of (2) his wrongdoing. Even the Christianshave had wrongdoing perpetrated against them (3) because of him, and [considerable] harm has come to them. (4-5) Since the day when the minbars were destroyed, the three communities have been forced to pay in fiscal penalties more than f[our] (6) thou[s]and dinars, and they do not kno[w] (7) to whom it is given nor how much. And there is no (8-9) gain from the penalties collected by him, other than that we are exposed to public view. We are unable to count up (10) all his harmful acts but rather to give only a brief summary of (11-13) the matter. We have already perished and died, and our souls and money have [van]ish[ed]. Our concern and aim, for the sake of God, is the [improvement of the] (14) situation of your sl(aves) and his dismissal from [the headship] (15) and the restoration of their venerable head to them. (16) We subjects are m[iserab]le, broke[n] (17-18) hearted, and poor. Your slaves have informed you about this, intending that [the] qddz, (19) may God honour him, would indicate to them wha[t] (20) he will do, out of his bounty and for the sake of God the exalted, (21) so that this wrongdoing may be re[m]oved from them. (margin) Furthermore, a group is prepared to testify against him that he was one of those who ascended the minbar. Form of the document The document is a draft, in Judeo-Arabic, of a petition to the Mamluk government. The final version for submission would have been transcribed into Arabic characters. S. M. Stern has carefully traced the history of the form of the Egyptian petition from the Fatimid through the Mamlfukperiods, using Jewish and Christian examples.14 While submission of petitions in hopes of obtaining redress of grievances in the form of a favourable decree was common Islamic practice, only those of non-Muslims have been preserved. There are good reasons for this. Petitions retained by Islamic chanceries perished, because medieval Islamic archives, in general, were not maintained for posterity. Jews, however, regularly deposited drafts of outgoing correspondence in the Fustat Geniza, and, in this way, many drafts of Jewish petitions to Egyptian rulers have survived. Sometimes the original petition was returned to the submitter, as when the reverse side was used to write out the decree, which amounted to an endorsement of the petitioner's request. Where such decrees with their petitions ended up in safe storage, such as in the desert library of St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai, they, too, escaped destruction. The petition 14 S. M. Stern,' Three petitions of the Fatimid period ', Oriens, 15, 1962, 172-209; ' A petition to the Fatimid Caliph al-Mustansir concerning a conflict within the Jewish community', Revue des Jltudes Juives, 128, 1969, 203-22; 'Petitions from the Ayyubid period', BSOAS, xxvii, 1, 1964, 1-32; ' Petitions from the Mamluk period (notes on the Mamluikdocuments from Sinai) ', BSOAS, xxIx, 2, 1966, 233-76. PLATE I TS AS 150.3 Recto IBSOAS. X LVII] PLATE II BSOAS. XLVII] Verso JEWS IN THE MAMLtK 435 ENVIRONMENT published by Stern of the Italian merchants to an Ayyubid sultan that lacks endorsement on its verso was preserved because it was stored in the archives of Pisa. Either it was a draft, or the original petition that for some reason was returned to its authors together with a separately written decree.15 The other Jewish petitions that have been published come from the time of the Fatimids. Ours dates from late in the Mamluk period. This fact accents the importance of the new find for the sparsely documented history of the Jews in ManmlukEgypt. The document opens with the conventional exordium used in petitions to Muslimrulers: ' Your slaves (al-mamdilk),the Jewish community, the su[bjects] of your noble highness and of [gracious] Islam kiss the earth and report. .'. S. M. Stern has demonstrated that from the Fatimid to the Mamlutkera a subtle but significant change took place in the form of the exordium of the petition. Under the Fatimids, the tarjama,containing the name of the petitioner written below the word al-mamlfk, 'the slave' (sometimes: al-'abd), was physically separated from the body of the petition. It was placed in the upper left-hand corner, where it functioned as a superscribed heading. Below this, and near the right-hand margin, came, first, the obligatory pious prayer, 'In the name of God, etc.' (the basmala), and then the opening lines of the petition, proper. This began with an elaborate formula of blessings for the reigning ' Caliph, followed by the phrase the slave kisses the earth and reports '. Typically this exordium was expanded by the insertion of mention of 'the pure and prophetic presence ', namely, the Fatimid Caliph. After the overthrow of the Shi'ite Fatimid dynasty, the Sunni Ayyubids eliminated the politically-charged references to the ' prophetic dynasty ', as well as the flowery blessing following the basmala. The tarjama then became the subject of the predicate ' kisses the earth ', and the second mention of' the slave' in the Fatimid version was accordingly eliminated. The tarjama was even physically lowered to bring it nearer to the rest of the text, of which it was now a syntactical component. Since, however, the basmala still stood between the tarjama and its predicate, 'kisses the earth ', in the next stage of development during the Mamluk period the order of the tarjama and basmala was reversed in order to locate the name of the petitioner (preceded by the word 'the slave') next to its predicate. The words 'the slave' and the petitioner's name were still written one above the other, as in the Fatimid petition, but now the whole tarjama was placed to the right of the body of the text, indicating its new function as lead-in to the exordium. In our Geniza petition the form of the exordium corresponds to that found in petitions dating from the Mamluk period, as distinct from the earlier forms from which they evolved. The tarjama, containing the phrase 'the slaves' followed by the name of the petitioner, namely, 'the Jewish community ', falls within the body of the text. Missing is the basmala. However, since this was a draft in Hebrew letters the basmala could be, and was, omitted. In the official copy for submission (in Arabic script, of course) this would have been added.16 Dating the petition The date of the petition can be approximated from the name of the individual 15 Stern, ' Petitions from the Ayyubid period 1-10. ', 16 As in the Geniza petition analysed by Stern, ' A petition to the Fatimid Caliph al-Mustanir ', 220. VOL. XLVII. PART 3. 31 436 MARK R. COHEN whom it concerns, 'Abd (al)-Latif the physician . . . head (rayyis) over them ', and from the allusions to the persecution of 1442. 'Abd al-Latif is identical with 'Abd al-Latif ibn Ibrahim ibn Shams, mentioned in the Mamluk chronicle of al-Sakhawi and in the Arabic legal document preserved by the Karaites of Cairo as one of the chiefs of the non-Muslim communities summoned before the Mamluk Sultan Jaqmaq in 1442 in connexion with the violations of the prohibitions against building new houses of worship and repairing old ones. Nothing further is known about this 'Abd al-Latif. It has been plausibly assumed that he was ra'is al-yahud, ' head of the Jews ', and that it was in this capacity that he, like his counterparts, the Christian Patriarchs, appeared to speak on behalf of his dhimmi community.17 The Geniza document, which adds the information that 'Abd al-Latif was a physician, makes it even more certain that he was ra'zs al-yahud. This position was commonly filled by Jewish physicians, who, by virtue of their medical service to Muslim rulers and to other officials of the court, made ideal candidates to represent the Jewish minority. Examples from the FatimidAyyubid period include: Mevorakh b. Saadya; his son Moses; Samuel b. Hananya; Moses Maimonides; and his son Abraham.18 Two of the Jews who reigned after 'Abd al-Latif, the Nagid Joseph (mentioned in the year 1458) and his son and successor, the Nagid Solomon (mentioned in 1481), were physicians, and of the second it is explicitly reported that he was ' physician to the sultan '.19 In the document of the Karaites 'Abd al-Latif is called 'head of the Rabbanite Jews' (ra'7s t&'ifat al-yahud al-rabJniyyin). The same text also mentions a separate ' ra'is of the Karaite Jews ' (ra'is al-yahud al-qar&'iyyTn).20 Ibn Hajar's chronicle refers to such an official, as well.21 This is problematic. The descriptions of the rights and duties of the ra'ls al-yahuidpreserved in the Mamluk bureaucratic handbooks clearly state that he had jurisdiction over 'the three communities ', namely, the Rabbanites, Karaites, and Samaritans, and that he was customarily chosen from among the Rabbanites, rather than from one of the other two groups. Moreover,the Rabbanite ra'is al-yahud was empowered to appoint a delegate for Karaite affairs and was enjoined to exercise care in choosing a candidate who would be at peace with his subordinate status.22 Our Geniza petition seems to reflect the situation described in the official Mamluk documents. There is no hint that 'Abd al-Latif's authority was restricted to the Rabbanites. Significantly, too, the representatives of the Karaites and the Samaritans who attended the sultan's assembly in 1442 are 17 Ashtor, Toledot, II, 86-7. 18See S. D. Goitein, A Mediterranean society, ii (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1971), these in the index, and Mark R. Cohen, Jewish self-governmentin medieval to names according Egypt: the origins of the officeof Head of the Jews, ca. 1065-1126 (Princeton, 1980), which deals specifically with the period of the House of Mevorakh b. Saadya. 19Massa' Meshullam mi-volterra (The itinerary of Meshullam of Volterra), ed. A. Yaari (Jerusalem, 1948), 57; Ashtor, Toledot, II, 87; S. Assaf, 'New documents regarding the last in Egypt' (in Hebrew), Zion, 6, 1940-1, 114, 116. Negidim 20 Gottheil, ' Dhimmis and Moslems 389 ', (Arabic), 373 (English). 21 Ibn Hajar, Inbd', ed. Hyderabad, ix, p. 185, 1. 1. MS Yeni Cami 814, fol. 284a, 1. 7, has an unintelligible word in place of .14; MS Bibliotheque Nationale Arabe 1602 of the chronicle (fol. 263a, 1. 11), has , unpointed. ' 22 Al-Qalqashandi, Subh al-a'shd (Cairo, 1913-18), Xi, 385, 387; cf. C. E. Bosworth, Christian and Jewish religious dignitaries in MamlufikEgypt and Syria: Qalqashandi's information on their hierarchy, titulature, and appointment', IJMES, 3, 1972, 211-13. Gottheil recognized this difficulty; ' Dhimmis and Moslems ', p. 373, n. 100. JEWS IN THE MAMLtJK ENVIRONMENT 437 called in the other sources (al-Sakhawi and the Karaite document, alike) shaykh (of the Karaites) and kabir (of the Samaritans).23 The addresseeand purpose of the petition The petition is addressed to the sultan. He is called al-maqmn al-sharif, literally, 'the noble place ', but translated somewhat freely here as 'your noble highness'. This title was held by several Mamluk sultans, including Sultan Jaqmaq (1438-53) and Sultan Inal (1453-61). The petition was addressed to one of these.24 The purpose of the petition was to convince the sultan to remove 'Abd al-Latif from office as head of the Jews and to replace him with a former and respected holder of that title, their 'venerable head' (rayyisu[h]umal-qadim). Since the Mamluk government confirmed the appointment of non-Muslim community heads, the ra'7s al-yahud could only be deposed if the sultan rescinded his letter of appointment. In the body of the petition the chief qadds(qulddtal-qudah) are mentioned several times, and the Jews appeal to them to take action against their head (recto, 11.19-22; verso, 11.18-21). This does not contradict the conclusion about the addressee of the petition offered above. I. Lapidus has shown that the chief qjdTsplayed an important administrative role in the Mamluk state.25 The nexus between the chief qaddsand the sultan reflected in our Geniza petition provides some corroborative evidence for this theory from a non-Muslimsource. In order to convince the sultan and the chief qddltsto depose 'Abd al-Latif the Jews compiled a list of grievances regarding his conduct of office. A close analysis of these complaints, interpreted against the background of what is known about Mamlfuk-dhimmT relations c. 1442, on the one hand, and about Jewish communal organization, on the other, will reveal much about the context of the petition and the reasons for its composition. The complaints 1. Responsibilityfor the recentcrisis in Mamluk-dhimmi relations In addition, there occurred what occurred on account of what was found inscribed on the minbar-for which, at the very least, he should have been reproved and removed from office. This obscure allusion to some serious offence on the part of 'Abd al-Latif refers to the repressive action against dhimmThouses of worship that began in April 1442 with the discovery of the blasphemous inscription on the minbar of the Rabbanite synagogue in Fustat.26 To the information reported in the Islamic sources on this episode the Jewish source adds the following nuances: (i) The general investigation of the dhimmi houses of worship came about as a result of the misrule of the head of the Jews, 'Abd al-Latif. (ii) 'Abd al-Latif bore responsibility for the heavy fiscal penalties levied against the three dhimmTcommunities. By the 'three communities' are 23Possibly the Karaite community of Cairo, during the administration of the controversial ra'is 'Abd al-Latif, was temporarily granted self-jurisdiction under its own ra'is al-yahud and this is reflected in the sources cited above, nn. 20-1. al-qard'iyyin, 24See Hasan al-Basha, Al-alqib al-isl&miyya fi 'l-ta'rikh wa 'l-wathd'iq wa 'l-dthar (Cairo, 1957), 484-6. Cf. also Gottheil, ' Dhimmis and Moslems ', p. 399, 1. 1 (referring to Mamluik Sultan Inal). Compare with the variant, al-mawqif al-sharif, referring to a Fatimid Caliph; Mark R. Cohen, 'New light on the conflict over the Palestinian Gaonate, 1038-42, and on Daniel b. 'Azarya: a pair of letters to the Nagid of Qayrawan ', AJS Review, 1, 1976, p. 2, n. 1. 25Ira M. Lapidus, Muslim cities in the later middle ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), 136-7. 26 On the term ' minbar' and the identity of the synagogue see the appendix. 438 AARIK R. COHEN probably meant the Rabbanite Jews, the Karaite Jews, and the Christians, the three groups mentioned in the Malliluk chronicles. (iii) The chief q(.17s, who had had the opportunity to observe 'Abd al-Latif's conduct of office during the deliberations concerning the fate of the houses of worship, knew that he was an incompetent leader-one 'unfit to speak on behalf of a community of the protected people '. The charge that 'Abd al-Latif was the cause of the crisis in Manmlukdhimmi relations in 1442 is not found in the Muslim chronicles. The Jews brought it up in their petition because they believed it would help bring their leader down. The tactic showed sophisticated awareness of the constitutional relationship between the Mamluk state and the leadership of the non-Muslim communities. Any violation of the regulations regarding synagogues, including unlawful restoration, constituted a grave transgression of the head of the Jews' letter of appointment from the government. (We recall that the mninbarin the Rabbanite synagogue came under scrutiny precisely because it ' appeared to have been recently restored '.) The wasiyya for the head of the Jews stipulates that he ' has the final say in matters pertaining to all of their synagogues which have stood since the establishment of the dhimnmacovenant until now and which has been confirmedby the passage of time. There is to be no building of any new synagogues, nor any new additions made to the existing ones'.27 The Jews who drafted the petition knew well their leader's legal obligations to the Mamlflk state. They hoped to achieve their aim of removing him from office by exposing to the authorities violations of the ra'Ts's own charge of office. The Jews were so desperate to depose their leader that they were even ready to implicate him directly in the blasphemy for which three Jews who had ascended the minbar had paid dearly. At the end of the draft of the petition, the writer added in the margin-evidently as an afterthought-the following remarkable allegation: ' Furthermore, a group is prepared to testify against him that he was one of those who ascended the minbar.' The desperation underlying these words becomes clear when we speculate about what was probably the reality behind the blasphemous inscription. It is highly unlikely that the community at large had taken part in carving the names of the Prophet on the stairs of the minbar. Blasphemy was a very serious crime in Islam, punishable by death according to most opinions. The theologian Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) wrote an entire book on the subject and devoted many pages to the dire consequences for non-Muslims who reviled the Prophet.28 We must, therefore, take seriously, as did the qddl Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, the Jews' denial of all knowledge of the act. I surmise that the act itself was perpetrated by individuals unknown to the community. The inscription was somehow concealed so that the congregation was unable to discern it. I infer this fromnthe fact that the qd(lis themselves had great difficulty making out what was written.29 27 Al-Qalqashandi, Subh al-a'shd, xi, 391, quoting from Ibn Fadlallah al-'Umari, Al-ta'rif bi'l-mustalah al-sharif (Cairo, 1895), 134. Cf. translation in Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab lands (Philadelphia, 1979), 270. 28 Al-sdrim al-maslul 'alF shdtim al-rastl, ed. Muhammad Muhyl '1-Din al-Hamid (Cairo 1960); also Fattal, Le statut legal, 122. 29 The possibility exists that there was no blasphemous inscription at all, but only some scratchings that appeared to the qddis to be the names of the Prophet. I rather doubt this hypothesis since, were it the case, the petitioners would have had no grounds for alleging that 'Abd al-Latif had done something wrong by ascending the minbar. JEWS IN THE MAMLOK ENVIRONMENT 439 When, therefore, the petitioners charged 'Abd al-Latif with complicity in the act of blasphemy, as one who had 'ascended the minbar', presumably with knowledge of that upon which he was treading, they were taking a radicaland desperate-step. 2. Violation of the norms of Judaism He has undermined the principles of their religion and matters having to do with their faith (akhrabaqawd'id millatihim wa-umur dinihim). He has declared permissible that which is forbidden in their religion and [declared forbidden] that which is permitted. This very general complaint that 'Abd al-Latif went against the established norms of the Jewish religion echoes a very specific stipulation in the Mamluk regulations regarding the leadership of the Jewish community. The wasiyya for the ra'is al-yahud preserved in the Mamluk bureaucratic handbooks states clearly in its introduction that the official head of the Jewish community must judge his subjects ' according to the principles of his religion ('ala qawvd'id millatihi) and the customs of its religious leaders ('awzd'ida'immatihi) .30 Recognition of the validity of ancestral laws was the cornerstone of Islamic policy toward the non-Muslimreligious minorities in all periods. Consequently, the charge of tampering with hoary custom was frequently used by elements in the Jewish community against leaders whom they opposed. For instance, opponents of the chief of the Babylonian congregation in Fustat during the second quarter of the eleventh century, Sahlan b. Abraham, accused him of ' altering the custom of the land that had been established by their forefathers ' (yughayyir sunnat al-balad allat7 sannahatal-awvd'il).31 The Islamic government responded to such accusations and often took action against the implicated party, as the example of Head of the Jews Abraham Maimonides (d. 1237) proves. When Abraham proposed sweeping reforms in the synagogue practice in conformity with his personal pietistic leanings, some members of the community informed against him to the Ayyubid sultan, claiming that their leader was engaging in bid'a, or unlawful innovation. The government intervened, and Abraham's plans were nipped in the bud.32 The phrase ' he has declared permissible that which is forbidden in their religion and declared forbidden that which is permitted' is in the same vein as the sentence that precedes it. Jewish leaders were expected by the Muslim authorities to guide their community along legally prescribed paths regarding the permitted and the forbidden. In appointing heads of the Yeshiva in Baghdad, for instance, the 'Abbasid government in the thirteenth century charged the candidates: ' You are to command them (i.e. the Jews) to do that which they are commanded by their religion and to forbid them whatever they are forbidden' (ta'muruhumbimd umiri bihi fT dmnihimwa-tanhahum 'ammd nahu 'anhu ft d;nihim).33 Though this specific clause does not appear in the letter of appointment for the Mamluk head of the Jews, it none the less reflects general Islamic sentiment and policy regarding the obligations of Jewish 30 Al-Qalqashandi, Subh al-a'shd, xi, 390, quoting Ibn Fadlallah al-'Umari, Ta'rif, 142. 31Bernard Chapira, ' Lettre du Gaon Hai a Sahlan b. Abraham de Fostat ', Revue des PEtudes Juives, 82, 1926, 328 (Mosseri Ia, 5). 32 S. D. Goitein, ' New documents from the Cairo Geniza in ', Homenjae a Millds- Vallicrosa, I (Barcelona, 1954), 707-12, 717-18 (TS Arabic Box 51, fol. 111). 33 Ibn al-Fuwati, Al-hawadith al-jami'a, ed. Mustaf-a Jawad (Baghdad, 1932), 248 and cf. 218; English translation in Stillman, Jews of Arab lands, 181-2. 440 MARK R. COHEN communal leaders. It is echoed in the complaint that 'Abd al-Latif had violated the norms of Judaism. The petitioners hoped that the Mamluk authorities would depose him from office on the grounds that, in so doing, he had also violated the terms of his letter of appointment. 3. Administrativefraud He sold a large portion of their pious foundation properties (awqaf) and leased (others) below their value, in order to obtain a sum as advanced payment (mu'ajjal) for several years. Rent from houses and other buildings donated to the community in the form of pious foundations (Hebrew: heqdesh; Arabic: waqf or hubs) constituted the chief source of revenue for the Jewish community. Any alienation of such propertiescaused damage to the communal budget and, hence, amounted to a serious offence. Moreover, since the government recognized the waqfs of the non-Muslim groups, tampering with them meant, in effect, violating gentile law, as well. 'Abd al-Latif is not the first Jewish leader about whom we hear in the Geniza that he interfered improperly with the operation of the pious foundations. During the acrimonious conflict over the Palestinian gaonate, 1038-42, the accusation was hurled about by both sides. A partisan of the gaon Solomon b. Judah, writing to the nagid of Qayrawanto solicit his help against Solomon's rival, the ' usurping' gaon Nathan b. Abraham, charged the latter's followers in the Egyptian capital with having asked the chief qddT' to [assume jurisdiction over] the pious foundations of the synagogues (a.hbs al-kand'is) and over the community chest (al-aqdds)'.34 In a letter emanating from the camp of Nathan b. Abraham, Solomon b. Judah was condemned for having ' sold the pious foundation properties (bay' al-heqdeshot).35 Possibly there was some exaggeration or even prevarication in these denunciations, conceived as they were in the heat of polemic and designed to do damage to the enemy. Thus, when we find the complaint being registered again in the fifteenth century by Jews dissatisfied with the performance of their leader, we should exercise caution about attaching to it full veracity. On the other hand, these examples from the eleventh and fifteenth centuries prove, at least, that it was a common tactic to accuse the opposition of misconduct regarding the communal revenues and that it was considered a particularly effective way of gaining the ear of the Muslim authorities on behalf of one's cause. The second half of the indictment is best understood in the light of the normal practice associated with the collection of revenues from pious foundation properties. As Moshe Gil points out in his thorough study of this institution, advanced payment (ta'jil) of rent at a discount was encouraged in order to avoid its undesirable opposite, arrears. It appears, however, that such discounting was done for limited periods of time only, in order to allow for subsequent upward adjustment of rents.36 Only where a property was in severe disrepair, and hence unrentable at going rates, might a long-term lease (even 34Cohen, ' New Light ', 30 (Arabic), 34 (English) (TS 18 J 4, fol. 16). 35ULC or 1080 J 45, 1. 16; cf. Goitein, Mediterraneansociety, ii, 318; cf. also p. 16. 36 Moshe Gil, Documents of the Jewish pious foundations from the Cairo Geniza (Leiden, 1976), 73-4; cf. also p. 476, I, 1. 5. On advanced payment (ta'jil) at cash discount in business transactions, generally, see Goitein, Mediterraneansociety, I (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1967), pp. 199 and 449, n. 35, and on ta'jil in the case of rents (for 1 or 2 years, only) see ibid., ii, pp. 115 and 545, n. 8; 432, no. 161. JEWS IN THE MAMLTUK ENVIRONMENT 441 for twenty years) at a fixed low annual rate-amounting, in effect, to a double discount for the entire period-be allowed.37 The payment record of a lessee of an apartment established as a pious foundation, extant for three years, illustrates the normal procedure. In 1182, Abu Ishaq al-'Adani was paying his rent on a bi-monthly basis at a rate of 15 dirhams per month.38 In 1183 he prepaid for a full year the sum of 96 dirhams, a considerable discount.39 In 1186, the same al-'Adanl's advanced rent payment amounted to 100 dirhams,40representing an increment imposed by the administrators of the property. 'Abd al-Latif's action went contrary to established procedure because he leased properties, not on a year by year renewable basis, but rather ' for several years' in advance. By precluding the possibility of imposing increments, he seriously compromised the flow of revenue to the community and did damage to the communal budget. He introduced a chan[ge] in their customs by farming out the income (ta1dmn) from synagogues and houses, with the result that they have been left in a forlorn state. The synagogue compound comprised, in addition to space for prayer and study, rooms and houses which served as lodgings for permanent or transient residents.41 As communal property (whether originating as pious foundations or not), the rents from these accommodations flowed into the communal treasury. As landlord, the community took responsibility for repairs and maintenance. When the collection of rents was farmed out to a tax-farmer (dnSmin)a common procedure in all sorts of situations 42-the community lost direct control over the physical maintenance of the property. The tax-farmer's main interest was in realizing from his rents a maximum surplus over and above the sum of money he had advanced. He had little motivation, moreover, to keep up property which he did not own. Apparently this is what lies behind the complaint against 'Abd al-Latif. By farming out the income from lodgings in the synagogue compound he contributed indirectly to their falling into disrepair (' they have been left in a forlorn state '). This meant, of course, that in the future, the rooms would fetch a lower rent, and that, as a consequence, the communal budget would be adversely affected. There is a connexion, therefore, between this complaint and the one preceding it. Moreover, a discussion took place among the lords, the chief qddts, because of him, namely, because of his defiance (tajahrum)in proceeding with the matter of the synagogues without having legal authority to justify himself with. 37Gil, Documents, 147-9 (ULC Add. 3358). The lease stipulated that after the twenty-year period, during which the lessee was to repair the ruined house and to receive reimbursement from the community for materials purchased, he would ' rent this ruin from the people of the synagogue for a full price, like anybody who rents compounds or houses, according to the value of its rent every year '. 38 ibid., p. 335, 1. 9 (TS Box J 2, fol. 63c-d). 39 ibid., p. 348, 11.13-14 (TS 8 J 11, fol. 7a-b). 40 ibid., 361-2 (Bodl. MS Heb. f 56, fol. 43d, section 2) and cf. also Goitein, Mediterranean society, ii, 419, no. 37. 41ibid., 152-4. 42 ibid., 358-63. 442 MARK R. COHEN In this passage the complainants report that the matter of 'Abd al-Latif's illegal innovation regarding the administration of lodgings in the synagogue compound had already been brought before the chief qddis. 'Abd al-Latif's 'defiance' of accepted communal practice-like this violation of the norms of Judaism (see section 2)-is cited in hopes of influencing the government, which normally objected to unlawful innovation even among its non-Muslim subjects, to remove the wrongdoer from office. 4. Extortion He has surrounded himself with young Jewish auxiliaries (sibydn yahud 'awdniyya)whose counsel he follows and who give destructive and improper advice. That is why he has gotten the name extortionist and [highway] robber . . . He is [n]o[t] able to restrain them, because he fears them on account of what they know about his bad deeds and transgressions. And he is not competent. His gang (jama'a) has evilly confiscated property of Jews (musadaratal-yahid), plundered them, and illegally squandered their belongings. Because of him ruination had befallen us. In this complaint 'Abd al-Latif is condemned for engaging in the same sort of extortionist tactics for which the Mamluk state was infamous. The word for 'confiscation', musadara, is the same one commonly used in medieval Arabic sources to describe the rapacious ' taxes' imposed by Egyptian rulers upon the property of wealthy officials and upon helpless subjects.43 Harsh language from the Muslim milieu is similarly expressed in the word ' plunder', nahb, often appearing in medieval Arabic sources describing the violent acts perpetrated by desert raiders upon settled populations.44 Another echo of the Muslim environment comes in the statement placing direct responsibility for the fiscal mistreatment of the Jews upon 'Abd al-Latif's advisers, called ' young Jewish auxiliaries '. The category of ' young men' is well known from both Muslim and Geniza sources. They represent that class of individuals in society who surfaced, especially during times of strife, as troublemakers and as rebels against authority.45 Not necessarily 'young' in the chronological sense, they were apparently called 'young men' (sibydn, shabdb, shubbdn,bahurim,in the Geniza) because, like their counterparts the ahddthof the Muslim towns of pre-MainmlkSyria and the zu'ar of fifteenth-century Mamluk Cairo and Damascus,46they opposed the ' establishment ', represented by the ' elders '. In the Geniza we find other examples of Jews who gathered ' young men' about themselves as helpers in their cause. Nathan b. Abraham, the rival of Palestinian Gaon Solomon b. Judah in the dispute over the gaonate, 1038-42, was accused by a partisan of the incumbent gaon-hence, a representative of the ' establishment '-of having ' gathered about him a group of young men (shabdb)like himself and assumed the title " head of the Yeshiva ". Then he began to foster disunity and clannish partisanship .47 The example from our Geniza document proves that the social phenomenon of the 'young men ' 43Hassanein Rabie, The financial system of Egypt A.H. 564-741/A,D. 1169-1341 (London, 1972), 121-7; Lapidus, Muslim cities, index, s.v. ' confiscations '. 44 Bodl. MS Heb. d 66, fol. lOv, 1. 10; cf. Cohen, Jewish self-government,59. 45 For some discussion of the men' in Jewish political affairs, see Goitein, Medi'young ' terranean society, ii, 61-3, and Cohen, New light', 15-16. 46 Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. ' ahddth' (Claude Cahen); Lapidus, Muslim cities, 153-63, 173-7. 47Cohen, ' New light', 29 (Arabic), 30 (English). JEWS IN THE MAMLIK ENVIRONMENT 443 continued to exist as late as the middle of the fifteenth century-and not surprisingly, since this was a time of considerable decline for the Jews and of accompanying communal discord. Specifically, in the atmosphere of crisis and communal mismanagement that surrounded the institution of the headship of the Jews in the 1440s, the ' young men' were able to interfere in public life in a most unsavoury way, and to run riot with Jewish property.48 For every litigation (qadiyya) he takes from us an arbitrary lump sum of money (amwaljuzdf). This complaint is that 'Abd al-Latif used his judicial authority to exploit the Jewish community financially. As is well known from the research done on the Geniza documents from the Fatimid-Ayyubid period, judges derived their income from a wide variety of sources-for example, salaries, gifts of food and clothing, and gratuities for performing functions at weddings and funeralsbut not from fees for judging cases or for executing legal documents (a practice of the Babylonian exilarchs).49 During the Mamluk period, as part of a general tightening of central control in the Jewish community, the head of the Jews began to draw some of his income from legal services. This practice went against the mishnaic ideal that judges and witnesses should not be paid and that any remuneration received should be considered recompense for lost study time. None the less, the custom won the approval of rabbinic authorities.50 'Abd al-Latif's transgression lay, therefore, not in the fact that he received fees for performing specific judicial services, but rather in his method and in the amounts he charged. Rather than levying a fixed amount for each service, he exacted 'an arbitrary lump sum '. In short, like his entourage of ' young men ', the head of the Jews practised his own kind of extortion against his Jewish subjects. Since the day when the minbarswere destroyed, the three communities have more than f[our] thou[sland been forced to pay in fiscal penalties (ghurrimru) dinars, and they do not kno[w] to whom it is given nor how much. And there is no gain from the penalties collected by him, other than that we are exposed to public view. 48 The picture of the ' sibydn auxiliaries ' in the service of the head of the Jews, 'Abd al-Latif, bears a remarkable similarity to Lapidus's description of the zu'ar, or youth gangs, of fifteenthcentury Damascus and Cairo: 'The zu'ar were enrolled and paid as Mamluk auxiliaries and clienteles. If the government could neither crush them nor buy their acquiescence, it chose a middle ground to permit the zu'ar to prey on the rest of the city, which they were equally ready to exploit ' (Lapidus, Muslim cities, 162). ' The main activity of these gangs was to hire themselves out as auxiliaries of the Mamluk factions in time of civil war for the sake of gifts and above all for a free hand to plunder the quarters and markets of Cairo ' (ibid., 173-4). The word in our Geniza document rendered ' auxiliaries ' is 'awSniyya. Lane (Arabic-English Lexicon, London, 1874, 15, 2203) brings a meaning of ' armed attendant ' for the world 'awauniyy. I have hesitated to employ the attribute ' armed ' in my translation, though there may actually be some justification for its use. A passage in Elijah Capsali's Hebrew chronicle of Ottoman and Venetian history, (lescribing the tense atmosphere in Egypt at the time when the Ottomans were arrayed for their assault on Raydaniyya (near Cairo), mentions that the ' young Jewish men ' (bahurei yisrael) took up arms to fend off local Muslim attackers who suspected the Jewish community of aiding and abetting the invading Turks. Seder Eliyahu Zuta, i, ed. Aryeh Shmuelevitz (Jerusalem, 1975), 341. The bahurim/bahurei yisrael appear elsewhere in this chronicle, e.g., in connexion with Constantinople, where they are depicted as young mischief-makers in league with the Janissaries, who are suppressed by the Jewish ' establishment', namely, Rabbi Moses Capsali; ibid., 83, 129. A comparative study of the phenomenon of 'young men ' in Mediterranean Jewish communities during the late middle ages (Egypt, Turkey, Italy) might turn up some interesting findings. 49 Goitein, Mediterranean society,II, 121-6; E. Ashtor, ' Some Features of the Jewish Communities in Medieval Egypt' (in Hebrew), Zion, 30, 1965, 133. 50 David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, She'elot u-teshuvotha-RaDBaZ, no. 622. 444 MARK R. COHEN The petitioners inform the government of 'Abd al-Latif's failure to pass on the fines levied against the dhimmncommunities for the various violations of the Pact of 'Umar. Apparently he had simply pocketed all or part of the sum (the petitioners emphasize that 'more than four thousand dinars ' had been collected). In the eyes of the Jews this constituted yet another act of extortion. In the eyes of the Mamlfk authorities it constituted a twofold malfeasance. On the one hand, as a dhimmTleader possessing a letter of appointment from the Mamluk authorities, 'Abd al-Latif had failed to carry out an order from the government regarding his flock. At the same time he had violated an obligation implicit in the terms of his appointment to act as protector of the Jews when he neglected to deliver monies meant as absolution for the affront to Islam perpetrated by some of their number. As a result, the Jews had gained nothing from the payment of the fines ' other than that we are exposed to public view '. I take this last statement to be an allusion to the lingering suspicions regarding dhimmi houses of worship that led to several new investigations of churches and synagogues in the years following the events of 1442. Conclusion The petition which we have analysed in its historical context has considerable significance both for the study of the Egyptian Jewish community in its relations. On one Mamluikenvironment and for the study of Mamluak-dhimmT level, it supplements our meagre knowledge about the vicissitudes of the institution of the headship of the Jews during a period for which we have vague hints of some sort of turmoil over the office. According to the account of the Mamlufkchronicler al-'Ayni (d. 1451), as summarizedby Ashtor from the author's still unpublished 'Iqd al-jumnn ft ta'rikh ahl al-zamin, the office of ra'ts al-yahud became an issue in Mamluk politics during the succession struggle following the death of Sultan Barsbay in June 1438. In the midst of the siege of the citadel launched by the emir Jaqmaq against the deceased sultan's son, the fighting was brought to a halt on account of a dispute between two emirs. The bone of contention was the appointment of a new ra'Tsal-yahrud.Upon the recommendation of one of the emirs, the young sultan reappointed an Alexandrian Jew, a prior incumbent who had been out of office (batSl)for some time. When the Jews heard of his reinstatement, they complained to another emir, who promptly defrocked the candidate. This precipitated the conflict between the two emirs that interrupted the struggle for control of the Sultanate in the summer of 1438.51 Nothing further is reported by al-'Ayni about the affair of the head of the Jews in 1438 or its aftermath. Our Geniza document proves that strife over the headship of the Jews resurfaced a few years later in the wake of the crisis of Mamluk-dhimmTrelations in 1442. Again the community found itself constrained to complain to the government about the conduct of its ra'Ts. This was the physician 'Abd al-Latif ibn Ibrahim ibn Shams, whose misconduct is recited in detail in the Geniza petition.52 If we are to accept all the complaints about him at face value, he was an incompetent and tyrannical ruler. So 51Ashtor, Toledot, ii, 86. I have checked the manuscript used by Ashtor, Istanbul MS Carullah 1591, fol. 817b. 52 It is, of course, tempting to speculate that he is identical with the unpopular ra'is who had been deposed on demand of the community in the summer of 1438. If this speculation could be proved true it would provide, incidentally, a reasonable explanation for 'Abd al-Latif's mistreatment of his Jewish subjects. JEWS IN THE MAMLtK ENVIRONMENT 445 detested was he that the Jews took the radical step for a minority of denouncing him to the gentile authorities for violating his charge of office and-most astonishingly-for engaging in blasphemy against the name of the Prophet and bringing persecution upon all the dhimmTcommunities.53 The details related in the Geniza document thus fit neatly into the picture of decline portrayed in other sources about the Jews in late MamluikEgypt. By the fifteenth century the period of florescence had long passed. A general regression in economic and cultural life was accompanied by degeneration in the politics of communal self-government. The new source discussed here suggests that, to a large extent, the behaviour of the head of the Jews in the 1440s simulated the harsh rule of the Mamliiks: the fiscal extortion, the tyrannical treatment of subjects, the utilization of roughneck young men' to serve the oppressive designs of the ruler. If, as I have suggested elsewhere, the pattern of administration in the office of head of the Jews during the Fatimid period mirrored in some respects contemporary political mores,54it would seem that the same can be said about the fifteenth-century Mamlfik environment. Our Geniza petition regarding 'Abd al-Latif does more than illuminate a poorly documented period of Jewish history. It has considerable value for the history of the Mamluk-dhimmnrelations. Rarely, for instance, do we find an example of a non-Muslim source that so neatly confirms what is reported in an Islamic source regarding the treatment of the religious minorities. Manuscript Taylor-Schechter Additional Series 150.3 is one of those precious exceptions. To be sure, the methodological convergence works in both directions. Without the chroniclers, a satisfactory interpretation of the Geniza text would have been almost impossible. On the other hand, without the Geniza document one might have doubted the accuracy of the information in the chronicles regarding the inscription on the minbar. But this fact is confirmed by our Geniza document. The Jews would hardly have mentioned it-let alone raised the accusation that their own communal leader had participated in the blasphemyhad the very existence of the inscription been a fabrication of the In general terms, the Geniza petition, along with its parallels in the Arabic chronicles, describes events which fit a certain typology of anti-dhimmi persecution during the late middle ages. Instances of rigid enforcement of the Pact of 'Umar's prohibition against building or repairing houses of worship befell the non-Muslims periodically. The usual outcome of these flare-ups of piety was that churches and synagogues judged to be in violation of the Pact were either closed, converted into mosques, or destroyed. Our document, and especially its incriminating allusions to the blasphemous inscription on the minbar,adds some nuances to the general picture of Mamlfikdhimm7relations. It is conventional to characterize the Mamlfik reign as one of persecution for the Jews and Christians. This is undoubtedly justified, as the many examples of 'ulamd' hostility, anti-dhimmTdecrees, and popular 53We have no way of knowing whether the petition was ever presented to the Mamluk authorities, and hence, we are in the dark about 'Abd al-Latif's fate. In fact, our sourcesJewish and non-Jewish-are virtually silent regarding the immediately subsequent historv of the office of head of the Jews. The next ra'is al-yahud of whom we hear is the physician Joseph Nagid, but the fragmentary Geniza legal document dated 1458 which mentions him by name supplies no information about his regime; TS 8.195, mentioned by Assaf, 'New documents', 114, and by Ashtor, Toledot, II, 87. Cf. also above, at n. 19. Another legal document mentioning Joseph Nagid has its date unfortunately partly effaced; cf. Ashtor, Toledot, in (Jerusalem, 1970), 109-10. 54Cohen, Jewish self-government,passim. 446 MARK R. COHEN violence against Christians and Jews, attest.55 Moreover, our document and the Manmlfkchronicles that flesh out its cryptic allusions show that the brunt of anti-dhimmi persecution was not always borne by the Christians. In 1442, the repressive action began with the Jews, and only later were the Christians drawn into the suffering. At the same time, the sources analysed in this paper suggest that our assumptions about the quality of Mamluk hostility need to be modified. Compared with Christian Europe-and the comparison is frequently madethe atmosphere surroundingthe crisis of 1442 was not one of widespread terror and suffering. In a German town of the fifteenth century, the discovery of an anti-Christian blasphemy in a synagogue, such as a desecrated Host, would doubtless have had violent repercussionsfor the entire community. By way of contrast, in the Cairo of 1442, there was no wholesale violence against the community. In spite of the flagrant violation of the Islamic law of blasphemy, only those Jews found responsible for the act were made to pay the penalty. Punishment was meted out selectively rather than collectively, and following judicial process, albeit accompanied by torture, a nasty, but normal procedure in those times. Noteworthy, too, is the reasonable atmosphere in which the investigation of the houses of worship was carried out. At every step along the way, the 'ulama' exercised due process of law. The Jewish community's denial of all knowledge of the blasphemous inscription was believed by the Shafi'ite q.dI, Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, who protected the Jews against the more severe judgement of his Hanafite counterpart. This paved the way for the selective interrogation of the Jewish suspects that led to their confessions and punishment. The old document produced by the Christiansauthorizing them to make repairs in a church was taken seriously by the qSdds,who ruled, after much debate, that the refurbishingshad to be made out of material similar or inferior to the old construction. Moreover, no attempt was made to demolish whole houses of worship, as often was the case in anti-dhimmtpersecutions. Quite the contrary, in 1442, only the offensive minbar was ordered destroyed.56 Finally, the Geniza document reflects an expectation and a feeling of confidence that the qddls, true to their own principles of law and fairness, would help the Jews out of a difficult situation. All these nuances, it seems to me, indicate that we need to exercise a certain amount of caution when making generalizations about the status of the Jews (and Christians)in the late Mamluk empire.57 55The state of scholarship on the position of the Jews in Mamluik Egypt is accurately summarized by Stillman, Jews of Arab lands, 67-75. 56I do not wish to gloss over the passage in the Geniza document that states: ' Since the day when the minbars (mandbir) were destroyed . . .' (verso, 1. 4). The Arabic chronicles mention only one minbar. If my hypothesis about the two raised platforms in the synagogue has validity (see above, n. 26), then perhaps we should understand the passage to mean that the q.ddlsordered both of these structures to be torn down. 57 Ashtor noted a certain moderation in Mamluik treatment of the Jews during the latter part of the fifteenth century, especially during the reign of Sultan Qa'itb5y (1468-96); cf. Ashtor, Toledot, IT, 398-416 and 421-2, and see also Y. Ben-Zeev, ' Documents pertaining to the ancient Jewish cemetery of Cairo ' (in Hebrew), Sefunot, 1, 1956, 12-24. Ashtor attributes this in large measure to the diminished size of the Jewish community in the fifteenth century which led, he argues, to a corresponding diminution in ' social hostility ' (as distinguished from theological hostility). Ashtor emphasizes, however, that this remission from oppression during Qa'itbay's reign did not reverse the long-term trend of decline in Jewish life during the Mamluikperiod. It has not been our intention here to revise the accepted picture of depressed Jewish existence in fifteenth-century Egypt, but rather to suggest some new ways of looking at a specific crisis in Mamluik-Jewishrelations. A thorough restudy of the many sources describing other Mamlilk persecutions of the Jews (and Christians), in the light of the findings occasioned by our analysis of the new Geniza document, might uncover some nuances previously undetected. JEWS IN THE MAMLtK ENVIRONMENT 447 APPENDIX On the identity of the synagoguewith the minbar Two related problems connected with the identity of the synagogue with the minbaremerge from the sources: (1) What is meant by the term' minbar ?'; and (2) Which synagogue was the synagogue with the minbar ? The term minbar, used both in the Arabic chronicles and in the Geniza petition, is problematic. This word was not generally used by the Jews of Egypt. Rather, they employed the word anbol, a derivative of the LatinGreek-Coptic term ambon(e),to describe the raised platform in the middle of the synagogue upon which the Torah portion and certain parts of the liturgy were recited; see Goitein, Mediterraneansociety, i, 146-7. Two not necessarily mutually exclusive explanations for the appearance of the word minbar in the Geniza petition come to mind. The first is that, in applying to the Muslim authorities, the Jews called upon the Arabic term minbar because they knew that the Muslims viewed their reader's platform as the functional equivalent of the structure in the mosque from which the Friday sermon was delivered. As we have seen, al-Sakhawi and Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani describe the thirteen-staired platform in the Rabbanite synagogue as a minbar. Moreover, Ibn Hajar's text designates the person who ascends this minbar as the khatzb,the name for the preacher in the mosque. This recalls al-Qalqashandi's description of the Jewish hazzan: 'He holds the same position among them as the khatib; he ascends the minbar to preach to them'; Subh al-a'shd, v, 474. As Goitein observes, since cantors often served as preachers and since, in the late centuries under the Mamluks, preachers often took over the tasks of a judge, it is not surprisingthat a Muslim could get the impression that the cantor was the congregational leader; Goitein, Mediterraneansociety, n, 219, and Jacob Mann, The Jews in Egypt and in Palestine underthe Fdtimid Caliphs (1920-22; reprint New York, 1970), I, 268, who, however, relied on Gottheil's imprecise translation of the passage in al-Qalqashandi; cf. Richard J. H. Gottheil, ' An eleventh-century document concerning a Cairosynagogue ', Jewish QuarterlyReview, o.s., 19, 1906-7, 500. The second possible explanation for the occurrence of the word minbar, not necessarily mutually exclusive with the first, perhaps holds the key to the identity of the synagogue in question. There is a priori a 50 per cent probability that the synagogue with the minbar is identical with the Ezra (or Ben Ezra) synagogue in Fustat-the one which contained the Geniza. In Qasr al-Sham' there were just two Rabbanite congregations, that of the Palestinians (the one called ' Ezra' today) and that of the Iraqis (the synagogue of the Babylonian Jews). The Ezra synagogue visited by tourists today (the only one of the two still in existence) has two structures in the centre of its sanctuary, rather than the usual one. One of these has the typical form of the raised reader's platform, and is ascended by five steps. The other is a low, stairless structure adjacent to the raised platform. Its top is not flat, but rather is composed of two sloped lecterns sharing a common edge (at the peak). In his description of the old synagogue of Fustat, Raphael Aaron b. Simeon, chief Rabbi of Cairo at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries (it was he who conducted Elkan Nathan Adler into the Geniza chamber in January 1896), identifies this structure. It was a monument that, according to legend, marked the spot where Moses prayed to God to release Pharaoh and the children of Israel from the grip of the plagues. Rabbi Raphael explains that when the 448 JEWS IN THE MAMLCK ENVIRONMENT synagogue underwent restoration (in the early 1890s), previous architectural features were retained, including the stone memorial to Moses, which was replaced, however, by a structure made of marble. See Raphael Aaron b. Simeon, Sefer tuv misrayim (Jerusalem, 1907-8), fols. 35b-36a. If indeed-as seems likely-the synagogue of 1442 was the ancestor of the current Ezra synagogue, we may safely conclude that it, too, contained two structures in the centre of its sanctuary (since the legend about Moses was certainly ancient). We need not conclude that these structures were used for mutually exclusive functions-one for the Torah reading and the other for the sermon-as one recent observer of the Ezra synagogue has suggested; Meir Ben-Dov, 'The Ezra Synagogue in Cairo' (in Hebrew), Qadmoniot15, no. 1, 1982, 39 (Ben-Dov's sketch (p. 34) of the monument is inaccurate in that it shows stairs). On the other hand, a Muslim observer in the fifteenth century would certainly have interpreted the raised platform with stairs next to the lower structure as a minbar, on the analogy of the mosque, wherein the minbar sits nearby, and usually behind, the dikka, or platform for broadcasting invocations to the imam. To be sure, the raised platform in the Ezra synagogue has only five stairs. However, since the building underwent reconstruction at the end of the last century, and since, moreover, the thirteen-staired ' minbar' was destroyed in 1442, this discrepancy is meaningless.