Reading the Talmud in a Most Unlikely Place — Iran’s Holy City

he Shia holy city of Qom teems with mosques, mullahs and madrassas. So, it was a little surprising to hear Qom religious scholar Hossein Soleimani’s response when I asked him to name his favorite writers.

“Adin Steinsaltz, for his translation of the Talmud,” he responded promptly. “And also Martin Buber.”

Soleimani was one of several senior faculty members from Qom’s University of Religions and Denominations whom I met during my recent visit to Iran. Soleimani’s field is comparative religions, and he is affiliated with the school’s center devoted entirely to Judaic studies.


City  of Qom

City of Qom in Iran


Soleimani’s area of specialty is the study of sects in Jewish history — especially during the talmudic period, from about 70 B.C.E. to 500 C.E. Another area of interest, he said, is corporal punishment in the various religions.

“I’m a criminologist,” he said, “so I’m studying crime and punishment in Judaism. Right now, I’m translating a book on criminal justice in Judaism — “An Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law .” The book, with several authors and editors, is published by Boston University.

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Categories: Arab World, Asia, Iran, Quran