Within the context of patriarchal societies, women are dependent upon their male relatives to look out for their best interests. In both Jewish and Muslim marriages, contracts have traditionally been drawn up, illustrating that a marriage is as much a familial contract as a union between two people. In Fatimid Cairo, Jewish families took great pains to draw up ketubbot, or marriage contracts, that looked out for the financial and emotional interests of women. Many examples of such contracts were found in the Cairo Geniza, a treasure trove of documents that allowed historians, such as Shmuel Goitein, to reconstruct the world of Cairene Jewry living under Shi’a Islamic rule.

Source: Gotein, S.D.. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967-1993.


I, Hezekiah, the bridegroom, will provide her with clothing, cover and food, supply all her needs, and wishes according to any ability and to the extent I can afford. I will conduct myself toward her with truthfulness and sincerity, with love and affection. I will not grieve nor oppress her and will let her have food, clothing and marital relations to the extent habitual among Jewish men. . . . Sarwa [“Cypress,” the bride] heard the words of Hezekiah and agreed to marry him and to be his wife and companion in purity, holiness, and fear of God, to listen to his words, to honor and hold him dear, to be his helper and to do in his house what a virtuous Jewish woman is expected to do, to conduct herself toward him with love and consideration, to be under his rule, and her desire will be toward him.