The Popular Arabic Literature of the Jews
Arabic has been spoken by Jews since pre-Islamic times. They
usually wrote it in Hebrew characters, with diacritic marks to
represent the Arabic sounds which are missing in the Hebrew
alphabet. Some works in the language have become classics, for
example the Moreh Nebhukhim (Guide for the Perplexed) of Moses
Maimonides. The medieval works were written in Middle Arabic, which
is quite close to standard Arabic, and has been well documented by
the works of Joshua Blau of the Hebrew University. The modern
Judeo-Arabic literature has been less studied. It is mostly popular
in nature and represents the welter of dialects which the Jews
spoke. Since the Jews felt no compulsion to adhere to Koranic
grammatical norms, the written Jewish texts are a closer reflection
of the dialect actually spoken by the writers.
The following is a list of translations of various materials
from Judeo-Arabic. All the translations are by Alan Corré except
where noted. I have also included a passage from the work of
Maimonides referred to above, although this is hardly a "popular"
work. The reasons for doing so I give in the introduction to that
text. Most of the books referred to may be found in the Jewish
National Library in Jerusalem. New items will be added to this list
from time to time.
Alan D. Corré