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In a fragment of his account of this journey he described with sadness the serious deviations from religious observances that he found in Bukhara (Yūsofov, pp. 174-75, for the Rabbi’s account of the disastrous religious situation of the local Jewish community prior to his arrival). In the 1830s about 13 percent (300 families of about 1,500 persons, see Arandarenko, p. 1) of the Jewish population of Bukhara were (Wolff, 1835, p. In the mid-19th century the Jewish community of Bukhara was obliged to evaluate its members’ properties for the was collected four times each year, and the Muslim collector was required to slap the taxpayer twice on the cheek (at least for respected Jews, this gesture was merely symbolic; Charnyĭ, p. At the beginning of the 19th century the second largest concentrations of Central Asian Jews were at Šahr-e Sabz and Balḵ (Meyendorff, p. Some Jews were also living under the protection of Turkmen in Marv (Wolff, 1835, pp. In ṣafar 1259/March 1843 a piece of ground was sold to the Jewish community in Samarkand (Amitin-Shapiro, 1931, pp.
The first was the status of (“conditions” of ʿOmar II, r. 1688) is to be interpreted as proof that no later than ca. 59) reported that a certain ʿOḇadyā “is appointed upon” the Jews there and called him (lay head of the community). Nevertheless, according to Nāṯān “the Babylonian” a bitter controversy took place in 296-305/909-16 between the exilarch ʿUÚqěḇā and the head of the Pūmbědīṯā academy over revenues from Khorasan (Friedlaender, loc. The Jewish population there at the beginning of the 4th/10th century must have been sizable for such a controversy to have arisen. 323), there were “many Jews and few Christians” in the region in the 370s/980s. cit.) gave the number of Jews in Ḡazna as 80,000 and in Samarkand as 50,000. 540/1145-46: The earliest burial date read so far is 1424 Seleucid era/1012-13 (Rapp, 1973, p. It is not certain whether the settlement of Jews in Varšād/Fīrūzkūh resulted from mass migration from Mandēš to Varšād or whether a Jewish community also continued in the former area. 228), surrounded “the environs of Balḵ.” Probably it was located near Bāb al-Yahūd (the Jews’ gate), mentioned by Eṣṭaḵrī (2nd ed., p. In addition to Bayhaqī’s story of a special tax on the Jews of Balḵ (see above), Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow also mentioned the Jews of the city in the 5th/11th century (p. Bīrūnī provided an exceptionally detailed systematic description of the Jewish calendar in his , pp. The poet must have been referring to some kind of destruction of the Jand Jewish community around the middle of the 6th/12th century.
99-101/717-20), which defined the rights of and restrictions on them. ʿOmar had forbidden both destruction of synagogues existing in Khorasan since pre-Islamic times and construction of new ones (Fischel, p. 130/747 the Jews (as well as the Zoroastrians and Christians) of Marv had been recognized as , an autonomous fiscal entity with an administrative head responsible to the Muslim administration for payment of relevant taxes by the community. This title also appears in the inscription on a tombstone in the 11th-13th-century Jewish cemetery near the village of Jām, close to the site of Fīrūzkūh in Ḡūr (Rapp, 1971, p. In the early 6th/12th century Mōšē Ebn ʿEḏrā quoted a conveyance that “[there are] in … These figures, fantastic as they are, attest to a contemporary belief that the Jewish population was quite numerous. As far as is known the majority of Jewish population centers in the region were situated south of the Oxus, extending as far as Ḡazna. The Jewish presence in Varšād probably ended soon after the destruction of the city by the Mongols in 619/1222: The last known burial inscription is dated in the year 1557 of the Seleucid era (A. 276f.), but there were others whose names Bīrūnī did not give. In the 4th/10th century a settlement named Yahūḏleq (Yahulïq), on the frontier between Farḡāna and Īlāq, is mentioned without further details (.
A number of Babylonian Jewish religious authorities were engaged in the silk trade, and Marv stood on the Silk Road. The chief occupation of the Jews of Central Asia on the eve of the Russian conquest was dyeing yarn and cloth (Meyendorff, p.
Bar Bīsěnā’s journey may also have been undertaken in connection with the silk trade.
An 8th-century Jewish merchant’s private letter in Judeo-Persian from Dandan Uiliq (Margoliouth; Utas) can be interpreted as proof that Persian-speaking Jews were engaged in barter of clothing or cloth for sheep, apparently with local Turks, in eastern Turkestan. Apparently some other taxes, not covered by regulations on s, could also be imposed upon a Jewish community: According to Abuʾl-Fażl Bayhaqī, sometime after 396/1006 a tax destined for the maintenance of a garden in Balḵ was shifted from the Muslim population of the city to the Jews (Barthold, I, pp. There is evidence that the Jews of Central Asia wore yellow garments in compliance with a requirement in the s 204, 206) and in the late 5th/11th-early 6th/12th centuries (de Fouche‚couf, p. As for conversion to Islam, it undoubtedly took place, though the relevant data are scarce. An episode mentioned in the biography of the Sufi Fożayl b. 187/803) involves conversion of a Jew from Bāvard (Abīvard; ʿAṭṭār, I, p. “little Jewish place”), in all probability a Jewish suburb of Balḵ (see below), for Balḵ itself—a change of residence probably reflecting a convert’s choice to live among those whose religion he had embraced. Nahārān Šansabānī obtained from Hārūn al-Rašīd (170-93/786-809) the governorship of Ḡūr after having learned from a Jewish merchant; as a condition for this instruction, Banjī promised that he and his heirs and vassals would allow Jews to dwell in Ḡūr and would protect them. Sometimes between 378/988 (the year of the 2nd version of Moqaddasī’s work, in which the form Yahūḏīya is found) the name of the town was changed to Maymana, which is already found in Bīrūnī’s .
It is unlikely that this trade was new in that turbulent period; it must have continued a tradition. The example of Zūṭā, Abū Ḥanīfa’s grandfather, has been mentioned (see above). The head of the Karrāmīya in late 4th/10th century Khorasan, Abū Yaʿqūb Esḥāq b. 383/993), is said to have converted to Islam more than 5,000 Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians (Barthold, II/1, p. It may be assumed that the proselytizing activities of the Karramites were carried on throughout the eastern part of greater Iran. The Jewish element in this legend was undoubtedly aimed at explaining the presence of Jews in the Mandēš area of Ḡūr, where the Šansabānīs were chieftains. There is no information on Marv aside from Ṭabarī’s report (see above) of a Jewish presence there at the beginning of the Islamic period.
About 400 years later an apparently identical structure was attested in Samarkand: The late 12th-century Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela (Hebrew text, p. Ḡazna about 40,000 Jews and in other inhabited places of Khorasan approximately the same number” (ed. The poet ʿOnṣorī reported that Jews were one of four religious communities addressing praises to Sultan Maḥmūd Ḡaznavī (p. 4), which suggests that they formed a noticeable segment of the population in the early 5th/11th-century Ghaznavid state. It is likely, however, that he relied on one or more Jews from Kāṯ in one of the suburbs of which he was born. Finally, in the 4th/10th century Abū Dolaf mentioned a settlement named Bahī in what is today Xinjiang (Sinkiang): It was inhabited by Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and idolaters (listed in that order; Yāqūt, V, p. This Jewish settlement in a territory inhabited mainly by Turks appears to have been unique.
The Ghaznavid court poet Manūčehrī likened the singing of birds to utterances in Syriac and Hebrew (p. Furthermore, his report about the writings of his teacher Abuʾl-ʿAbbās Īrānšahrī, who must have been a resident of Kāṯ, suggests that the latter had there good informants on Christianity, Manicheism, and Judaism, but bad ones on Indian beliefs ( the legend of a Jewish sage who showed its residents how to work wood, to build big buildings, to tile their walls, and to build a leaden aqueduct (Vyatkin, p. Central Asian Jews undoubtedly participated in the activities of the Jewish Rādhānīya (Rāhdānīya) traders: One of their routes crossed Central Asia (Gil, p.
No other explicit data on the occupations of Central Asian Jews in the early Islamic period are available.
Already as early as in the 10th century a specific Central Asian Judaic rite (Minhag Khorasan), was mentioned in Jewish sources (Fischel, p. In the Khazar correspondence (mid-4th/10th century) Khorasanians are named among those who had propagated Judaism among the Khazars (Golb and Pritsak, p. Ḥiwwī Balḵī who wrote in the late 3rd/9th century, formulated at least 200 critical comments on the text of the Jewish Bible; they are known only through quotation by his opponents.
No matter where the author of this document and other traders came from, they may have made sabbath stops in Jewish communities along the way. The absorption of part of Central Asia into the caliphate (completed ca. However, Jews are the only pre-Islamic religious group in Central Asia to have survived in that region to the present. Attribution of the role of to a Jewish merchant may reflect the functioning of Jews as transmitters of the “larger” culture that they knew from trade contacts to the remote, still pagan population of mountainous Mandēš. Abīvard, too, must have had Jewish inhabitants, but the only reference to them is the story of Fożayl’s conversion of a Jew from the town (see above). This legend predates the Mongol conquest of Samarkand in 614/1220, after which the section of the city where the aqueduct was situated was abandoned.