Letter: ENA NS 31.21

Letter ENA NS 31.21



Letter draft from the wife of a drunkard to "sayyidnā." In Judaeo-Arabic, beautifully written. She reports that her husband took her belongings, demanded from her more; hit her with something unmentionable (his shoe); she had already once sent to the Nagid when he threatened to kill her in the evening. When her mother came on Sabbath, he demanded that she pay his capitation tax (jāliya); threatened to beat the mother so that she would be ill. His parents encourage him to beat her. Finally she left the house Saturday night. He had already taken from her 4 dinars and bought wine. Information from Goitein's note card.

ENA NS 31.21 1




Oded Zinger, "Women, Gender and Law: Marital Disputes According to Documents of the Cairo Geniza" (PhD diss., n.p., 2014).


  1. Our [lord], may God prolong your life and the life of your children. Your slave is 

  2. in great distress due to the false accusations about me and my father. Hitherto I have been 

  3. silent, but it has become necessary to justify myself and my trustee (i.e. her father). I do not want to 

  4. answer them. I have today. I have been arguing with them from the day I married into (their family) 

  5. until now so that they will not take anything from me. On Wednesday, he secretly took 

  6. he bench (martaba), the pillows and the supporting pillow. He was not content with them, 

  7. and no sooner did he sell them, than he came demanding from me something else. When I refused 

  8. to give, he beat me with something that should not be mentioned. Next day in the morning, 

  9. he told me: “Get up and leave to your father’s house. Because if I come back in the evening (and find you here), 

  10. I will kill you.” By the truth of the sharīʿa, it is he who told me “leave!” I sent (a letter) 

  11. telling my lord about my going out of the house. My lord prevented him from doing it. I obeyed 

  12. you and stayed (at my husbandʼs house). When they saw me staying, the quarrel between us intensified.

  13. On Saturday, my mother came to ask about me. He and his father said, “If I satisfy (your wish), 

  14. you shall pay my poll tax every year, otherwise, save yourself (and go away) lest I kick you out (also possible: destroy you). 

  15. All your life you come up with justifications for yourself. He has no (financial) need of me. 

  16. He has four dinars worth of wine (nabīdh) at his possession and he has no need of me. His mother 

  17. and father tell him, “Beat her until she breaks.” Whenever 

  18.  I mentioned to them the divine law (al-sharʿ), they cursed the divine law. When 

  19. I saw them the evil increased from them. They tell me: “Leave!” 


ENA NS 31.21 2



 I left on Sunday eve as they told me “leave and save yourself.” The more we speak (to you, the more) he speaks of denouncing to the government in regards to my lord. Your slave will not give him anything because he has no need of me. Your slave has nothing but the aid of God and our lord. May your peace increase and never decrease.

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