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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…

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…

Cordova

(1,568 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
The city of Cordova (Ar. Qurṭurba; Sp. Córdoba) is situated on the Guadalquivir River in southern Spain. From the origins of the settlement in Punic times through its establishment as a patriarchate and in the Visigothic period, there is no clear information, whether archaeological or textual, regarding a Jewish presence or activity in the city until the defeat of Roderick, the last Visigothic king. It was then, according to some Islamic chronicles (e.g., Akhbār Majmūʿa, p. 14), that the Jews were entrusted with the defense of the city after the Muslim conquest (711). Beyond their pr…

Ibn Yashūsh, Isaac (Abū Ibrāhīm) Ibn Qasṭār

(463 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Born in Toledo around 982, Abū Ibrāhīm Isaac ibn Yashūsh died in the same city in 1056. He was a court physician in the service of ʿAlī ibn Mujāhid and his son Iqbāl al-Dawla, governors of the Denia taifa on the eastern coast of al-Andalus.  Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, in his biographical compendium on physicians, Ṭabaqāt al-Aṭibbāʾ, praised Ibn Yashūsh as a person of acute intelligence and genteel manners, well versed in grammar, philosophy, the Hebrew Bible, and Jewish law, and in addition a confirmed bachelor. Moses ibn Ezra thought it appropriate to name him alongside Ibn Janāḥ as a m…

Ibn Yaqwā, Abū ʿAmr (Abraham)

(409 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Abū ʿAmr (Abraham) ibn Yaqwā was a poet and grammarian in Cordova in the late tenth century. Nothing of his written work survives, but we know of his existence thanks to two later sources, Moses ibn Ezra’s Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara (ed. Abumalham, p. 31r) and Abū ʾl-Walīd Marwān ibn Janāḥ’s Kitāb al-Uṣūl (ed. Neubauer, p. 70). Ibn Ezra places him in the first generation of Cordovan authors along with Judah (Abū Zakariyyā) ben Ḥanigā, and says that he was influenced by Isaac Ibn Qapron and ha-Kohen ibn al-Muḍarram. Ibn Janāḥ’s Kitāb al-Uṣūl includes a commentary on Ibn Yaqwā (Ar. ahl al…

Ibn Chiquitilla, Moses ben Samuel ha-Kohen

(1,311 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Moses ibn Chiquitilla was a pioneer in many disciplines that developed during the Golden Age of Andalusian Jewry, but there are very few and only fragmentary details about his life. He was born of good lineage in Cordova in the first half of the eleventh century and lived and worked most of his life in Saragossa. Moses ibn Ezra says that he “was of the first rank among scholars and linguists as well as among experts in the turns and refinements of the language and one of the most famous authors, outstanding among orators and poets in the two language…

Qimḥī, Joseph ben Isaac

(791 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Joseph ben Isaac Qimḥī was born in al-Andalus around 1105. After the Almohad invasion, he fled with his family to Provence, settling in the area of Narbonne, specifically in Languedoc. There he dedicated himself to teaching and was known as Maistre Petit. He had many important disciples, among them his sons Moses (known as Remaq) and David (Radaq) and Joseph ibn Zabarra. In his writings, Qimḥī often and with appreciation cites Abraham ibn Ezra, who is known to have visited Provence while Qimḥī was there, as well as other European communities, but little is known fo…

Ibn Balaam, Judah (Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā) ben Samuel

(533 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Judah (Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā) ben Samuel ibn Balaam was a prolific author of philological and exegetical works in Judeo-Arabic. He also composed Hebrew liturgical poetry and was a student of halakha. Born in Toledo, he always felt like an Andalusi, and for that reason established himself in Seville after Toledo fell to Alfonso VI in 1085. Judah’s surname has been the subject of lengthy debate; the most appropriate reading seems to be Bilʿam (from ben-al-ʿam, son of his paternal uncle). Meticulously educated in Arabic and Hebrew, Judah began writing in earnest during the secon…

Ibn Janāḥ, Jonah  (Abū ʾl-Walīd Marwān)

(1,745 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Despite his great influence, we have little information about the life of Jonah (Abū ʾl-Walīd Marwān) ibn Janāḥ beyond what can be extracted from his writings. He was apparently born in Cordova between 985 and 990. The names that appear in later works have given rise to considerable discussion. His Hebrew name is thought to have been Jonah (Heb. dove), based on his Arabic surname, Ibn Janāḥ (winged). His designation in Latin sources, Rabbi Marinus, is apparently derived from his Arabic personal name, Marwān. Ibn Janāḥ was educated in Lucena, under the tutelage of such masters …

Ibn Chiquitilla, Isaac

(609 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Isaac ibn Chiquitilla was an important tenth-century Hebrew poet in al-Andalus. Together with Isaac ibn Qapron and Judah ben David, he was one of the three disciples of Menahem ibn Sarūq who wrote the Teshuvot (Rejoinders) in defense of their teacher against Dunash ben Labraṭ (ca. 960). According to Yehudi ibn Sheshet, who took part in the controversy on the side of Dunash, Ibn Chiquitilla was the greatest of Menahem’s three defenders, although the highly charged ironic nature of the passage makes it unclear whether he is referring to his age or his standing. In his ars poetica, Kitāb al-Muḥ…

Dunash ben Labraṭ ha-Levi

(1,664 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
1. Life Dunash ben Labraṭ was a central figure in the flowering of Hebrew culture in al-Andalus. Very little is known about his life. According to Moses ibn Ezra’s ars poetica, Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa 'l-Mudhākara, he was born in Baghdad and raised in Fez (Abumalhan ed., 31r). The names Dunash and Labraṭ seem to be Berber in origin, for which reason it is thought that his family was living in Fez when he was born, sometime between 920 and 925. His Hebrew name, Adonim, meaning “Lords,” translates Dunash as if it were a Romance word (cf. Sp. dueños). He received a thorough Arabic and Jewish educ…

Ibn Barūn, Isaac (Abū Ibrāhīm) ben Joseph

(775 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Isaac (Abū Ibrāhīm) ben Joseph ibn Barūn was a philologist and linguist from Saragossa. The dates of his birth and death are not known, nor are any details of his life, except that he was a disciple of the poet and grammarian Levi ibn al-Tabbān. Ibn Barūn’s magnum opus was his   Kitāb al-Muwāzana bayn al-Lugha al -ʿIbrāniyya wa ʾl-ʿArabiyya (Book of Comparison between the Hebrew and Arabic Languages). Written after 1128 and not preserved in its entirety, it is an outstanding work of comparative Semitics, building upon the contributions of Ibn Quraysh, Ibn Janāḥ, and other earli…

Ḥayyūj, Judah (Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā) ben David al-Fāsi

(2,022 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
1. Life Judah Ḥayyūj (Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā) ben David al-Fāsi established the triliteralism of the Hebrew verb and was one of the few scholars who appears to have approached the Bible with the sole intention of making a morphological analysis of verbal forms in the search for a valid methodology. He was also the first Jewish author from al-Andalus to write in Arabic. The nisba al-Fāsi indicates that Judah Ḥayyūj was from Fez in Morocco, a city he left for Cordova, possibly because as a writer he was attracted by the cultural movement fostered by Ḥasday ibn Shaprūṭ and the splendor of the m…

Ibn Ḥasday, Jonah (Abū ʾl-Walīd) ha-Levi

(433 words)

Author(s): José Martínez Delgado
Jonah (Abū ʾl-Walīd) ibn Ḥasday ha-Levi was a grammarian and poet in Lucena from the end of the tenth century through the early part of the eleventh. We know of him from later quotations. According to Moses ibn Ezra ( Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara, p. 31v), Ibn Ḥasday, to whom he gives the title rāʾīs ( nasi), lived and worked as a teacher in Lucena between the second and third generations, alongside Abū Zakariyya ben Ḥanīga and Abū ʿAmr (Abraham) ibn Yaqwā—that is, immediately after, or at the same time as, the disciples of Menahem ibn Sarūq and Dunash ben La…