Abstract

This paper seeks to contribute to one of the more unresolved questions in early Islamic history, namely the social ties of converts to Islam with their former coreligionists. Not only did these ties pose a challenge to confessional leaders in their struggle to curve the tide of apostasy, but also to their lay subordinates who were forced to balance between communal discipline and personal sentiments. Through an analysis of gaonic responsa dealing with cases of Jews and their convert spouses the present discussion surveys both gaonic positions towards apostates and a variety of instances in which matrimonial arrangements remained intact despite religious dissent. Accordingly, the discussion revolves around two levels of analysis – legal and social, the former reflected in gaonic opinions and the latter deduced from the social cases which demanded gaonic attention. Thus, the primary premise adopted throughout is of interplay between law and society, with law impacting the social outlooks of its adherents and social realities playing a role in the constriction of legal approaches. However, given the limited reliability of gaonic responsa as historical informants, the historical context of individual cases is further sought in contemporary literary evidence of both Jewish and non-Jewish provenance, most notably Geniza letters, Islamic law, and Eastern Christian historiography.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0604
Print ISSN
0021-6682
Pages
pp. 417-439
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-14
Open Access
No
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