Steinschneider’s first section is a dictionary of Jewish Arabic authors. This includes a careful study of Jewish names. The Second section is a study of the lives and literatures of Jews, and Christians, within Muslim society.
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Jewish Arabic Literature, one of Steinschneider’s few publications in English, offers a study of Jewish Arabic Literature. The first part of this work addresses itself to an encyclopedic approach to bibliography. Steinschneider provides an entry for each proper name. The introductory portion of this part of the work is a masterful study of Jewish names as they may be found in Arabic Literature. The second part of this study concerns itself with the history and context of the Jewish experience in the Arabic-speaking world. This part contains informed discussions of such topics as the use of Arabic amongst the Jews; the status of Jews and Christians under Islamic Law; and Jewish awareness of different genres of Arabic Literature. Noteworthy is the discussion here of the sciences: medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and so on. Throughout, Steinschneider’s thorough understanding of the Arabic literary tradition, informs his discussion of its Jewish element. Even the social interactions of the Jews with their Muslim and Christian neighbors are rehearsed here. Not only Jews but also Arabic-speaking Christians figure significantly into Steinschneider’s study. The reader will find insight into not only Jewish Arabic literature, but also into the experience of the Jew in the Islamic Arabic world. This work is exhaustive yet accessible, a monumental resource and valuable addition to any library.
Moritz Steinschneider (1816-1907) was a prolific scholar of Jewish literature and history. Born in Moravia, Steinschneider was educated there as well as in Prague, Vienna, Leipzig and Berlin. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig in 1850. He was a student of Arabic and Syriac as well as Hebrew. He was also proficient in French and Italian, at times earning a living as a tutor in these languages. His life’s work focused heavily on the furthering of the understanding of the Jewish contributions to the arts and sciences. His use of the word “antisemitic” (in 1860) to refer to Ernest Renan’s discussion of the Semitic and Aryan races may be the first appearance of that word in print.