John Hunwick's concise but poignant study of a single Jewish community in the North-Western Sahara provides an African-based refutation to the myth of a pre-Zionist "Golden Era" between Muslims and Jews. Thoroughly exploiting the extant (if scant) Arabic writings on the subject, Hunwick examines the rise and purge of a Jewish communal outpost of Tlemcen (now Algeria), which lay in the Touat oasis more than a third of the way to Timbuktu (where Jews also participated in the trans-Saharan trade).Muhammad al-Maghili was a Tlemcen-born cleric who, sometime in the mid-1400s, took violent exception not only to the prosperity of the Jews, but also to their very presence in the midst of Touat. Hunwick implies that al-Maghili's enmity stemmed from economic envy or rage...Al-Maghili then went on to counsel, successfully, banishment of Jews from the Songhay Empire.
John Hunwick, Northwestern University, is the author of West Africa, Islam, and the Arab World (see p16), and other books.
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