October 2021 – September 2024
It seems that the Arab-Israeli conflict causes a barrier to Islamic-Jewish dialogue outside of politics. It makes it difficult for many Muslims to imagine that in most Arab countries Jews, Christians, Muslims formed a common society. In the Islamic religious discourse, it is repeatedly emphasised that the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Jews was only possible in Andalusia. Andalusia is becoming a utopia or rather an illusion for many Muslims, especially younger generations, who did not experience the common life of Jews in their societies. Zionism and Israel are blamed for disrupting peaceful life in the Middle East. Anti-Zionism evolves into anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews. This disturbs the interreligious dialogue and comparative theology as a field of research, as long as one primarily researches differences when researching them in the Arab-Islamic world.
With the project "Abrahamitic Interdependence", I want to demonstrate that Jews and Judaism formed a significant part of the society, culture, and contemporary history of most Arab countries and societies until recently. The project emphasises the similarities between Judaism and Islam concerning societal, religious concepts such as "marriage and divorce". With this project, I hope to throw a stone into the still water and thus stimulate the interreligious and intercultural Islamic-Jewish dialogue. Therefore, it is essential to network the project with relevant research institutions in the Arab world.
The project Abrahamitic Interdependence also explores the influence of social issues in plural communities on the built and rebuilt religiose norms and knowledge. It examines exemplarily the relation of the Islamic to the Jewish in marriage law in various social and historical contexts. When studying Islamic law, it is noticeable that numerous Islamic legal norms correspond to the Jewish ones (Bialblocki 1928). Bialoblocki speaks about the influence of the Jewish on Islamic norms. Bialoblocki is in the tradition of Abraham Geiger (1810-1874). According to him, the older religion, Judaism, influences the younger religion, Islam. However, commonalities in social institutions like marriage in both religions can have transcultural origins.
The project "Abrahamitic Interdependence" consists of three sub-projects. The results of each are to appear in one of three planned publications. Two of them will be in German and one in Arabic. The project is even linked to the Projects of the Cairo Office entitled "Interdependence Relations: Humans, Religions and Environments."
The first sub-project is a historical-critical study of the book “Materialien zum islamischen und jüdischen Eherecht“ by Samuel Bialoblocki (1928). This book discusses that several norms in Islam and Judaism concerning marriage and divorce concur. Some verses of the Koran address Jewish debates in the Talmud on the issue of marriage. Bialoblocki does not recognise that The influences can be mutual and not just in one direction. Abrahamic interdependence results from social transcultural relationships and encounters in everyday life. We do not know if is that the case at the time of the prophet Mohammed. Even more, follow the traditions of Prophet Muhammad their ethical concept that is not necessarily based on the revelation (Quran). His concept is based closely on the life of his first wife, Khadija. That is why I call it the Khadija project or issue. The Khadija project/issue had the goal of liberalising tribal women and strengthening their role and status in society by securing women's financial independence through mahr and mirath.
The second sub-project aims to provide Arabic readers and researchers with reliable scientific information on marriage and divorce in Judaism in the present and the past. Such work can enrich the Arabic specialist library. The results of the first part of the project will also be included here.
The third sub-project is the central part of the study. I will research the Jewish marriage law in Egypt and Iraq in the first half of the 20th century. I will study normative changes in legislation and practice-reality. The legislative change characteristics in Egypt and Iraq will be compared in order to be able to determine possible unique cultural influences through the integration societies. Several marriage certificates of the Egyptian Jewish communities in Cairo and Alexandria at the time of the study will be analysed to examine the reality of practice.
Marriage certificate from Cairo around 1940
Author: Dr. Ahmed Abd-Elsalam