"One hour he is a Christian and the next he is a Muslim!": a family dispute from the Cairo Geniza

Oded Zinger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study publishes a newly identified letter to Moses Maimonides reconstructed from three Geniza fragments. The letter describes an inheritance dispute over real estate in the Egyptian delta town of al-Maḥalla. Having a letter written by a litigant provides information on what took place outside of court, information that is often missing from legal records. This allows us to explore the dynamics of a dispute in which one side makes a legal move, and the other counters with a move outside of court, and vice versa. These manoeuvrings included action in Jewish and Muslim courts, appeal to a jurisconsult, social pressure and performative disregard to the boundaries of the religious communities. As a result, we can conceive of the legal arena not only as encompassing different legal institutions but also as a social space constituted by the ways litigants experienced and interacted with legal institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-34
Number of pages15
JournalAl-Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study has been supported by the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, an Urbach fellowship from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at The Hebrew University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Society for the Medieval Mediterranean.


  • Conversion
  • Fatwā
  • Geniza
  • Inheritance
  • Maimonides
  • Zunnār

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Cairo Genizah
  • Manuscripts, Judeo-Arabic
  • Domestic relations (Jewish law)
  • Rabbinical courts -- Egypt


Dive into the research topics of '"One hour he is a Christian and the next he is a Muslim!": a family dispute from the Cairo Geniza'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this