Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

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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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Aboud (Abut), Avram (Misirli Ibrahim)

(325 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Misirli Ibrahim Efendi (1872–1933) was a famous Turkish oud player ( udi) born into the family of a merchant in Aleppo, Syria. His real name was Avram Levi, but he was called Misirli Ibrahim (Egyptian Abraham) because he lived and performed in Cairo for many years and first became famous there.Gradually building his career in Aleppo, Damascus, and Cairo, Ibrahim finally went to Istanbul. Upon establishing himself there, he studied classical Turkish music, the music of the Ottoman court and urban elite, with Haci Kirami Effendi, Hoca Ziya Bey, and the famous…

Aboulker (Abū  ʾl-Khayr) Family

(507 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Aboulker family of Algiers originated in Spain. The name appears for the first time in the twelfth century as Ibn Pulguer in Toledo. In Arabic, Abū  ʾl-Khayr is a kunya (nickname) meaning a good or fortunate man. In Portuguese, it could have morphed into Abulquerque. In French, it became Aboulker.      Over the centuries the family included numerous scholars, rabbis, merchants, and physicians.  In the first half of the fourteenth century, Isaac ibn Pulguer (also Pollegar, Pulgar, Policar) translated into Hebrew Book Three of the great Muslim theologian al-Ghaz…

Aboulker, Henri

(495 words)

Author(s): David Cohen
Henri Aboulker (1876–1957), a scion of the Aboulker (Abū  ʾl-Khayr) family, was a surgeon and professor in the faculty of medicine, a wounded veteran of World War I, and a political activist devoted to defending the rights of Algerian Jewry. In January 1915 he helped to found the Comité Algérien d'Études Sociales (CAES). The committee, which continued until 1921 , focused on the fight against antisemitism. Among other things, it persuaded the Association Générale des Etudiants d’Alger (l’AGÈA) to accept Jewish students, who until then had been barred from membership.Over the years, …

Aboulker, José

(483 words)

Author(s): Ethan Katz
Born March 5, 1920 in Algiers into the distinguished Aboulker family, José Aboulker was a leader of the French resistance in Algeria during the Second World War. In autumn of 1940, while studying medicine at the University of Algiers, Aboulker began to organize his fellow students. Supported by the “Group of Five,” a circle of patriotic French businessmen and officers in contact with the Allies, Aboulker recruited friends, family, and fellow students, including his cousin Bernard Karsenty and the young Jean Danie…

Aboulker-Muscat (Mouscat), Colette

(524 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Colette Béatrice Aboulker-Muscat (1909–2005), a member of Algeria’s famous Aboulker family, was a physician, thinker, and natural healer. Born in Algiers on January 28, 1909, she was the daughter of Henri Samuel Aboulker (1876–1957), a noted neurosurgeon and Jewish communal leader. In 1927, she and her parents visited Jerusalem for the first time and met with Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook (1865–1935), who had been a close friend of Samuel Abū ʾl-Khayr (Aboulker), her great-grandfather.In 1954 Colette Aboulker settled permanently in Israel with her second husband, Aryeh Mu…

Abraham bar Ḥiyya

(1,933 words)

Author(s): Josefina Rodríguez Arribas
Abraham bar Ḥiyya (d. ca. 1136) was a philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and translator who worked at the Christian court of Barcelona and perhaps for Alfonso I of Aragon. Very little is known about his life other than an altercation he had with Judah ben Barzillay al-Bargeloni in connection with a wedding that Bar Ḥiyya felt ought to have been postponed for astrological reasons. It is also known that he visited France. He was still active in 1136, when he was last mentioned as a collaborat…
Date: 2015-09-03

Abraham ben Hillel

(283 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Abraham ben Hillel (d. 1223), known as he-Ḥasid (Heb. the pious), was a scholar, physician, and poet from a distinguished family in Fustat. His grandfather was the Av Beit Din (chief judge) of the Jewish court in Egypt. He is known to us mainly as the author of the satirical polemic  Megillat Zuṭṭa, a composition in verse and rhymed prose (written in 1196) that describes the activities of the anonymous Zuṭṭa (Aram. little man),  most likely Sar Shalom ben Moses ha-Levi, an intriguer and pretender to the office of nagid and a bitter opponent of Moses Maimonides in the power struggle that t…

Abraham ben Isaac of Granada

(314 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
Abraham ben Isaac of Granada probably lived in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, but there is no conclusive support for this dating, and nothing is known about his life. His name is cited in the introduction to the long commentary on the Sefer Yeṣira by Moses ben Isaac Botarel, a kabbalist with messianic pretensions who lived in Spain and France at the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth century. Botarel mentions a Hebrew work entitled Sefer ha-Berit (Book of the Covenant) and attributes it to an author named Abraham ben Isaac of Granada. The work has …

Abraham ben Mullāh Āghā Bābā

(476 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Mullāh Abraham ben Mullāh Āghā Bābā Shīrāzī (d. 1910), also known as Mullāh Abram, was one of the last important rabbis in Iran. It is not known exactly when he became a rabbi or moved to Tehran, reportedly with a group of Jews from Shiraz. However, as early as 1870, he was living in the Jewish quarter of Tehran and was addressed as mullāh, a title borrowed from the Shīʿī Muslim milieu that indicates knowledge, particularly of religious matters.In 1875, after the death of Mullāh Bākhāj, whose precise dates are unknown, Mullāh Abram became the chief rabbi of Iran. He also…

Abraham ben Nathan son of Nathan ben Abraham

(456 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Abraham ben Nathan, born around 1037, was the only the son of Nathan ben Abraham, the rival of Gaon Solomon ben Judah in the famous conflict that took place between 1038 and 1042. The dispute ended when Nathan ben Abraham was appointed Av Beit Din of the yeshiva, with hopes of obtaining the position of gaon. He apparently died before achieving this goal.Abraham ben Nathan inherited his father’s ongoing feeling of frustration and bitterness toward the Palestinian yeshiva and its leaders. His maternal grandfather, Mevorakh ben Eli, was one of the leaders of the Babylonian communi…

Abraham of Toledo

(475 words)

Author(s): Josefina Rodríguez Arribas
Don Abraham of Toledo (Abraham el Alfaquin = al-Ḥakīm) was physician to King Alfonso X (el Sabio - the Learned) of Castile, and to his son Sancho IV. He was active between 1260 and 1277 and translated books from Arabic into Castilian under the patronage of the king in Toledo and Burgos. Together with five other prominent Jews of the royal court, he was kidnapped in 1270 by rebellious nobles demanding the elimination of taxes. He was restored to his position in 1275. He died in 1294.Abraham’s translations include La escala de Mahoma (The Ladder of Muḥammad), an account of the Miʿrāj, or heavenly…

Abravanel Family

(444 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
The Sephardi family name Abravanel, first mentioned around 1300, became famous among Jews in Spain in the fifteenth century. After the expulsion in 1492, members of the family were scattered in Italy, North Africa, and the Ottoman Empire. Others were baptized in Portugal at the time of the forced conversion of 1497 but as marranos preserved the name clandestinely and revived it in the seventeenth century in the Sephardi communities of Amsterdam, London, and the New World.One of the largest branches of the Abravanel family settled in Naples, where throughout the fifteenth and early…

Abravanel, Moses ben Raphael

(736 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Moses ben Raphael Abravanel (d. 1692) was born in Istanbul at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Not much is known about his family background, but various sources suggest that he was a member of the prestigious marrano branch of the Abravanel family and was aware of the marrano experience. His talent in medicine earned him a position at court (see Court Jews). In 1669 he converted to Islam, taking the name Hayatizâde Mustafa Efendi, and became the chief physician of the Ottoman palace. After a long and successful service, as will be explained below, he…

Abravaya, Samuel

(190 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Samuel Abravaya was born in 1880 in Izmir. He graduated in 1903 from the Imperial Medical School of Istanbul and continued his studies in Paris. From 1919 to 1935 he was a docent at the Medical School of Istanbul University. Abravaya specialized in gastroenterology. He was a member of the French Gastroenterological Society, vice president of the Ottoman Medical Society, and physician to President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In 1935 Abravaya was elected to the Turkish National Assembly as an independent deputy from Niğde. He retained his seat until March 8, 1943, but his pr…

Abū ʾl-Barakāt al-Baghdādī

(2,198 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman | Shlomo Pines
1. LifeAbū ʾl-Barakāt Hibat Allāh ibn Malkā al-Baghdādī al-Baladī was a physician and philosopher in twelfth-century Iraq. His contemporaries dubbed him “the Singular One of the Age” (Ar. awḥad al-zamān), and some claimed that as a philosopher he had attained the level of Aristotle himself. Born in Balad, near Mosul, around 1077, Abūʾl-Barakāt was one of the foremost Jewish intellectuals of his time. Under his Hebrew name, Baruch ben Melekh, he wrote Bible and Talmud commentaries in Judeo-Arabic, including commentaries on the Book of Ecclesiastes and on tractate Soṭ…

ʾAbū al-Faraj Hārūn ibn Faraj (Aaron b. Jeshua)

(819 words)

Author(s): Geoffrey Khan
ʾAbū al-Faraj Hārūn ibn Faraj was a Karaite grammarian of Hebrew who lived in Jerusalem in the first half of the eleventh century. He was attached to the Karaite college (Ar. dār lil-ʿilm) founded by his teacher,  Joseph Ibn Nūḥ (Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf), and succeeded to its leadership after his death.The largest of Abū ʿl-Faraj Hārūn’s numerous works in Arabic on the Hebrew language of the Bible is a comprehensive study in eight parts on Hebrew morphology and syntax entitled al-Kitāb al-Mushtamil ʿalā al-Uṣūl wa ‘l-Fuṣūl fī ‘l-Lugha al-ʿIbrāniyya (The Comprehensive Book of General Princ…

Abū ʾl-Ḥasan al-Ṣūrī

(966 words)

Author(s): Frank Weigelt
Abū ʾl-Ḥasan al-Ṣūrī was a Samaritan scholar who was active in in the first half of the eleventh century (cf. Schwarb 2013, pp. 128–132). The kunya Abū ʾl-Ḥasan , with its Aramaic form av hisda (Samaritan pronunciation: ab isda), is an epithet meaning “the handsome one” or “the good one”; the Hebrew form Yefet is not documented before the nineteenth century. It is not clear where Abū ʾl-Ḥasan lived. According to his nisba, he could have originated in the city of Tyre ( Ṣūr) in Lebanon or in the now-deserted village of Ṣūratān near Nablus (cf. Wedel 1989, pp. 6–11). Shehade (19…

Abuḥaṣera (Abiḥaṣera) Family

(475 words)

Author(s): Oren Kosansky
The Abuḥaṣera (Abiḥaṣera) family, a major saintly lineage of Moroccan rabbis in the modern era, embodies four facets of hagiographic identity in Jewish North Africa and its diaspora.First, it represents the significance of patrilineal descent in the Moroccan hagiographic tradition (see also Barukh Azugh and Ḥayyim Pinto). The family traces itself back to Samuel Elbaz, sometimes said to have been a sixteenth-century rabbinic emissary (Heb. meshullaḥ or shadar) to Morocco from Jerusalem. According to well-circulated hagiographic narratives, Samuel took on the nam…

Abuḥaṣera, Barukh (Baba Barukh)

(374 words)

Author(s): Yoram Bilu
Barukh Abuḥaṣera, born in 1941, was the second son of the Moroccan holy man and kabbalist Rabbi Israel Abuḥaṣera (Baba Sali). Eclipsed by his older brother, Meʾir, who was destined to take his father’s mantle, Barukh embarked on a political career in the National Religious Party (Mafdal). In 1973 he was elected deputy mayor of the town of Ashkelon. In this capacity he was accused of corruption and sentenced to a seven-year term in prison. Following the premature death of his brother, he was paroled, just a few months before the death of Baba Sali in 1984.Basking in his father’s glory, Baru…

Abuḥaṣera, Israel (Baba Sali)

(497 words)

Author(s): Yoram Bilu
Israel Abuḥaṣera, also known as Baba Sali (1890–1984), a grandson of Jacob Abuḥaṣera, was born in Tafilalet, a region in southeastern Morocco on the fringes of the Sahara Desert. Emulating his revered grandfather, he studied Kabbala and served as a communal leader and Torah teacher. Unlike Rabbi Jacob, he did not engage in scholarly writing and was not widely known outside Tafilalet. In 1963, after several visits, he settled permanently in Israel, first in Yavneh, then in Ashkelon, and finally in Netivot, with which he became str…
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