Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online (EJIW) is the first cohesive and discreet reference work which covers the Jews of Muslim lands particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods. The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online is updated with newly commissioned articles, illustrations, multimedia, and primary source material. 

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Ibn Naghrella, Samuel (Abū Ibrāhim Ismāʿīl) ben Joseph ha-Nagid

(2,196 words)

Author(s): Judit Targarona
Samuel ibn Naghrella (Abū Ibrāhim Ismāʿīl ibn Yūsuf ibn Naghrīla), best known in Jewish history as Samuel ha-Nagid, was born in Cordova in 993, the second son of a wealthy family from Merida. The quintessential representative of the Andalusi Sephardi courtier class, he was an outstanding Hebrew poet, an accomplished talmudic scholar, a patron of the arts, and a powerful vizier. He took great pride in his Levite ancestry, and addressed his son, Jehoseph Ibn Naghrella, as “descendant of Moses” ( Poemas, vol. 1 , ed. Sáenz-Badillos and Targarona, 32, 1). He considered Merari, Assi…

Ibn Nūḥ, Joseph (Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf)

(603 words)

Author(s): Geoffrey Khan
Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf ibn Nūḥ (known in Hebrew as Joseph ben Noah) was a Karaite scholar who was active in the second half of the tenth century and the early eleventh century (see Karaism). For most of his adult life Ibn Nūḥ resided in Palestine. According to the chronicle of Karaite scholars by David ibn al-Hītī (15th century), he founded a college (Ar. dār lil‑ʿilm) in Jerusalem around the end of the tenth century. He is likely to be identical with the Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf ibn Bakhtawayh (or Bakhtawī) mentioned in some sources (see Pinsker, p. 62; Mann, vol. 2, p. 30). The surviving works that are expl…

Ibn Paqūda, Baḥya (Abū Isḥāq) ben Joseph

(1,857 words)

Author(s): Joaquín Lomba
Baḥya (Abū Isḥāq) ben Joseph ibn Paqūda was born around 1040, probably in Saragossa, and was a dayyan of its Jewish community, but nothing is known about his life. He was called “the pietist” (Heb. he-ḥasid) and “the master” (Heb. ha-zaqen) and was obviously a man of broad culture. He was a liturgical poet ( payṭan), and a number of his piyyuṭim have been preserved in the Sephardi and Italian rites and in the Cairo Geniza. A Neoplatonic work in Judeo-Arabic entitled On the Essence of the Soul (Ar. Kitāb Maʿānī al-Nafs), attributed to an author named Baḥya, was once thought to be by Ib…

Ibn Qamniʾel, Joseph (Abū ʿAmr)

(365 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
Almost nothing is known about Joseph ibn Qamniʾel  (Abū ʿAmr), who lived in the latter part of the eleventh century and the earlier part of the twelfth. He was a member of a distinguished family from Seville and very likely related to one of its most distinguished members, Me’ir ibn Qamniʾel. He seems to have practiced medicine. Three poems dedicated to Ibn  Qamniʾel by Moses ibn Ezra are the only source of information about him. One of these is a qaṣῑda ( Shire ha-Ḥol, vol. 1, no. 72) in which, after a prelude on wine and a fragment of complaint about the separation of friend…

Ibn Qamni’el, Me’ir (Abū ’l Ḥasan)

(365 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
Me’ir (Abū ’l Ḥasan) ibn Qamni’el, born in Saragossa, belonged to one of the foremost Jewish families of Seville. What little information there is about his life comes largely from poems dedicated to him by Judah ha-Levi. These make it evident that the two were lifelong close friends. They seem to have first met when Ibn Qamni’el was quite young, as can be deduced from an allusion in Ha-Levi’s panegyric Lo’ He’emin Amun ( Dîwân, vol. 1, pp. 127 ff.). The poem begins with a harsh satire of the leading families of Seville Jewry that juxtaposes their ignorance with Ibn …

Ibn Qapron, Isaac

(684 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
There is little biographical information about Isaac ibn Qapron, a grammarian and poet of the second half of the tenth century in al-Andalus during the Umayyad caliphate. According to the Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa 'l-Mudhākara (p. 58) of Moses Ibn Ezra, he was a member of an important family and a native of Cordova, the center of Jewish life and Hebrew cultural activity during the reign of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III. The meaning of his surname in Latin and Romance (goat) was used in wordplays by his adversaries, especially Yehudi Ibn Sheshet, to ridicule and insult him. Ibn Qapron was actively involve…

Ibn al-Qazzāz, Manasseh ben Abraham

(623 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Ibn al-Qazzāz rose to prominence under the Iraqi vizier Yaʿqūb ibn Killis (977–991), a Jew who converted before 967 to Ismāʿīlī Shiism and became the architect of the Fatimid military campaign in Egypt. Ibn Killis appointed Ibn al-Qazzāz to oversee his properties in Syria; after Ibn Killis’s death, al-ʿAzīz (975-96) appointed the Christian ʿĪsā ibn Nasṭūrus as vizier and Ibn al-Qazzāz as military administrator (Ar. kātib al-jaysh) in Palestine. Ibn al-Qazzāz’s tenure in Damascus was marked by conflict with local tribes that resisted rule from Cairo and played…

Ibn Quraysh, Judah

(1,103 words)

Author(s): Aharon Maman
Judah ibn Quraysh, a younger contemporary of Saʿadya Gaon, lived and worked in the first half of the tenth century, first in Tahert (northwestern Algeria), until its destruction in 908, then in Fez, Morocco. He is mostly known for his Risāla (Ar. Epistle), the first systematic comparative Semitic dictionary ever written. The Risāla has three sections comparing, respectively, Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew, Hebrew and Aramaic, and Hebrew and Arabic, followed by a Hebrew-Latin/Berber short list which hardly constitutes a full section. Ibn Quraysh cannot be called the first comparative …

Ibn al-Rabῑb, Abraham (Abū Isḥāq)

(359 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
The poet  Abraham (Abū Isḥāq) Ibn al-Rabῑb, a contemporary and friend of Judah ha-Levi, lived in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in al-Andalus, although, according to some scholars, it may not have been his birthplace. Only one incomplete poem remains of his opus (Schirmann 1966, p. 218): the first ten verses of an elegy written in honor of members of the Ibn Muhājir clan, an important family in Seville to which he was related by his marriage to the daughter of Isaac ibn Muhājir, leader of the Jewish community there. This union served as the motive for the three  poems that Judah ha-Levi d…

Ibn Ṣaddīq, Joseph (Abū ʿAmr) ben Jacob

(748 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
The poet, philosopher, and distinguished talmudist  Joseph (Abū ʿAmr)  Ibn Ṣaddīq was born around 1075, probably in Cordova. According to the Sefer ha-Qabbala by Abraham Ibn Daʾud, he was a dayyan in the rabbinical court there from 1138 until 1149, the year of his death. According to the same source, his father, Jacob, was also a learned scholar. Moses Ibn Ezra includes Ibn Ṣaddīq in his ars poetica, Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara (p. 79), as one of the most outstanding members of his generation and expressly praises his affable nature, poetic gifts, and wisdom.…

Ibn Sadrāy, Abū Bakr

(183 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Abū Bakr ibn Sadrāy, a politician and writer during the period of the taifas (party kingdoms) in the eleventh century, was secretary and vizier of Abū Marwān ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Razīn, king of the small taifa of Albarracin or al-Sahla (r. 1045–1103) in Aragon, who became a tributary of El Cid. Ibn Sadrāy was considered one of the best viziers of al-Andalus. Henri Pérès suggested that he was Jewish, based on his name, but this is not fully confirmed in the sources (Wasserstein). Although none of his writings has been preserved, the Nafḥ al-Ṭīb by the North African anthologist al-Maqqarī (1…

Ibn Ṣaghīr/Ibn Kūjik Family

(702 words)

Author(s): Amir Mazor
Ibn Ṣaghīr/Kūjik was an eminent Karaite family in the period from the eleventh through the fifteenth century, known both from Cairo Geniza documents and from Muslim Arabic sources. Its members included several important merchants, high government officials, and prominent physicians. According to information provided by fourteenth-century Muslim historians, the ancestor of the family was Abū ʼl-Munajjā Solomon ibn Shaʿya, a high official in twelfth-century Fatimid Egypt. The family had originated in Iran; after settling in Egypt, some …

Ibn Sahl, Abraham (Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm ibn Sahl al-Isrā’īlī al-Ishbīlī)

(750 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Abraham ibn Sahl (Abū Isḥaq Ibrāhīm ibn Sahl al-Isrā'īlī al-Ishbīlī) was born in Seville in 1211 or 1212 to a noble Jewish family, some of whose members, such as the poet Joseph (Abū ʿAmr) ibn Sahl, are well known. All our information about his life comes from Arabic sources, in particular the Nafḥ al-Ṭīb by al-Maqqarī, because he converted to Islam, and in consequence, as was customary, Jewish sources do not mention him. Ibn Sahl's medieval Muslim biographers and modern scholars of Arabic poetry have given considerable attention to his conversion…

Ibn Sahl, Joseph (Abū ʿAmr) ben Jacob

(564 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
In his Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa-l-Mudhākara, Moses ibn Ezra mentions Abū ʿAmr ibn Sahl as one of Solomon ibn Ghiyyāth's most prominent students in Lucena and indicates that he came from a noble family, was intelligent, eloquent in poetry, knowledgeable in jurisprudence, and true to his word. He particularly praises Ibn Sahl's panegyrics and satires (41). In Sefer ha-Qabbala, Abraham ibn Da'ud says that Ibn Sahl was "a great scholar, a great poet, and a pious man, who was appointed as judge in the city of Cordova in Shevat, 4873 [1113], and who passed away…

Ibn Sāqawayh

(579 words)

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
Ibn Sāqawayh (Ibn Sāqeweihi or Saqūieh, Ibn Sakaweih or Sakoje) was a Karaite scholar and contemporary of Saʿadya Gaon, who probably lived in Iraq during the early tenth century. Very little is known about his life. Some scholars have conjecturally identified him with Salmon ben Jeroham (Davidson, 1934, following Geiger), but others consider this highly improbable (Mann, 1972, Nemoy 1963). The fifteenth-century chronicler Ibn al-Hītī ascribes to Ibn Sāqawayh a polemical work against the Rabbanites and Saʿadya in which he sought to undermine the authority of the Ra…

Ibn Ṣaqbel, Solomon (Abū Ayyūb) ben Sahl

(491 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Solomon ben Sahl Ibn Ṣaqbel was the twelfth-century Andalusian author of a collection of Hebrew maqāmāt (Heb. maḥberot), picaresque tales in rhymed prose. Only one maqāma from this work is extant: Neʾum Asher ben Yehuda (The Words of Asher ben Judah). The work and its author are mentioned in the Taḥkemoni by al-Ḥarīzī, who describes Ibn Ṣaqbel as a learned and well-known scholar in the art of poetry and the author of the pleasant maqāma that begins Neʾum Asher ben Yehuda. As Raymond Scheindlin states, it is the first known Hebrew fiction from medieval Spain, probably written …

Ibn Sarjado, Aaron (Khalaf) ben Joseph ha-Kohen

(399 words)

Author(s): Arnold Franklin
Aaron (Ar. Khalaf) ben Joseph ha-Kohen ibn Sarjado was gaon of Pumbedita from around 942 to 960. Ibn Sarjado was not from a family of scholars, but married into a wealthy Jewish banking clan in Baghdad that had come to play an increasingly important role in the selection of geonim and exilarchs. His father-in-law, Bishr ben Aaron, is credited with brokering the settlement that ended the protracted dispute between Saʿadya Gaon and the exilarch David ben Zakkay. Ibn Sarjado’s first official post within the hierarchy of the yeshiva came when Mubashshir, gaon of Pumbedita, appointed him

Ibn Sarūq, Menahem ben Jacob

(1,986 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Menahem ibn Sarūq was born in Tortosa (in the Upper March, the northeast of al-Andalus) at the beginning of the tenth century (ca. 910–920). His father seems to have been a teacher and gave him an adequate education. Nonetheless, Ibn Sarūq was essentially self-taught and became the prototype of the Jewish intellectual in al-Andalus, perhaps the first one known to history. In fact, he played a decisive role in the birth and development of Andalusian Hebrew philology and poetry. Ibn Sarūq became family poet and secretary of the Ibn Shaprūṭ family in Cordova, first in the service of Isaac and t…

Ibn Shāhīn, Nissim ben Jacob

(1,124 words)

Author(s): Naḥem Ilan
  Nissim ben Jacob ben Nissim ibn Shāhīn was one of the foremost Jewish scholars of the eleventh century and the leader of the North African Jewish community. He was born in 990 in Qayrawan, where he spent most of his life. His family name (Shāhīn) indicates Persian origins. His father, Jacob, was head of the local academy (Heb. bet midrash) and in 987 wrote to  Sherira Gaon in Babylonia in the name of “the holy congregation of Qayrawan,” asking him how the Mishna was written. The famous response is known as the Epistle (Heb. Iggeret) of Sherira Gaon. In it Sherira refers to Jacob as mari (my teache…

Ibn Sheshet, Yehudi

(466 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Yehudi ibn Sheshet (or Sheshat) was a tenth-century Andalusian Hebrew grammarian and poet who was active between the years 1060 and 1090. He studied under Dunash ben Labraṭ and wrote a defense of Dunashagainst the attack on him by Menahem ibn Sarūq’s students in response to Dunash’s criticism of their teacher. He is known only because he was cited by Moses ibn Ezra in his Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-mudhākara as a disciple of Dunash ben Labraṭ (31a) and because of the piece he wrote against the disciples of Ibn Sarūq. According to Ibn Sheshet’s own account, he was very young when he came out in defense…
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