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

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Society for the Medieval Mediterranean.


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


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