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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Abuḥaṣera, Ya‘aqov (Jacob)

(555 words)

Author(s): Yoram Bilu
Jacob Abuḥaṣera (1808–1880), known as “the Divine Kabbalist,” was a rabbinical scholar and charismatic mystic from the Tafilalet region in southeastern Morocco. He was regarded as a major spiritual authority by Jews of Moroccan and North African origin, and his memory lives in the folk tradition of Maghrebi Jews as a venerated ṣaddiq (Heb./Jud.-Ar. holy man), the precursor of the distinguished Abuḥaṣera family and the source of its miraculous power. The rich hagiographic literature on his life accorded him a noble ancestor, Rabbi Samuel Elbaz of sixteenth-century Damascus, who…

Abū ʿImrān al-Tiflīsī

(367 words)

Author(s): Yoram Erder
Abū ‘Imrān Mūsā al-Za‘afrānī al-Tiflīsī founded a Jewish sect in Babylonia and Persia in the early ninth century during the gaonic period. The little that is known about him comes primarily from Karaite sources. According to the followers of Isma‘īl al-‘Ukbarī, their master had been Abū ‘Imrān’s teacher and the inspiration for his doctrines. Jacob al-Qirqisānī confirms that Abū ‘Imrān and al-‘Ukbarī held similar views on fixing the beginning of the month (Heb. rosh ḥodesh), but notes that Abū ‘Imrān did not follow his teacher’s example to the letter. According to the Karaite Japheth ben…

Abū ʿIsā of Isfahan

(739 words)

Author(s): Yoram Erder
Abū ‘Īsā al-Iṣfahānī, in the mid-eighth century, was the founder of one of the first Jewish sects to arise in Babylonia and Persia. As was the case for many other Jewish sects in the early gaonic period, it disappeared soon after its appearance, and even remnants of its writings have not survived. Thus our information about ‘Abū ‘Īsā and his doctrine comes from sometimes contradictory Karaite and Muslim sources.According to the Muslim heresiographer al-Shahrastānī (d. 1153), Abū ‘Īsā was called Isaac ben Jacob, but others state that his name was Obed Elohim (Heb. wor…

Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm al-Muṣannif

(673 words)

Author(s): Frank Weigelt
Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm al-Muṣannif was a Samaritan scholar who was probably active in the second half of the twelfth century. The name al-Muṣannif means “writer,” and in his case can be either a laqab (cognomen) or simply his profession. The kunya Abū Isḥāq (“father of Isaac”) refers to the given name Ibrāhīm in accordance with the genealogy of the biblical patriarchs. According to a citation by Ibn Kaththār (ca. 1270–1355; Kitāb al-Farāʾiḍ, Ms Sassoon 719), his full name was Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. Faraj b. Mārūth (al-ṭabīb). In the ʿUyūn al-Anbāʾ fī Ṭabaqāt al-Aṭibbāʾ (“History of Physician…

Abū ʾl-Khayr (Aboulker), Isaac b. Samuel II

(382 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Isaac ben Samuel Abū ʾl-Khayr, one of the prominent ancestors of the well-known Aboulker family, was the chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Algiers at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He was named after the first Isaac ben Samuel Abū ʾl-Khayr, a famous sixteenth-century scholar. During his tenure in Algiers there were several waves of emigration to Palestine, including some major Algerian rabbinical figures.The leadership of Algerian Jewry was deeply divided at the end of the eighteenth century and early in the nineteenth. One of the major causes w…

Abū ʾl-Khayr Dāʾūd ibn Mūsaj

(444 words)

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
The Jewish philosopher and mutakallim (Ar. theologian, lit. discussant [of religious questions]) Abū ʾl-Khayr Dāʾūd ibn Mūsaj (also known as Abū ʾl-Khayr Dāwūd ibn Mushaj, David ben Mūsaj, Abū ʾl-Khayr al-Yahūdī, Abū ʾl-Khayr ben Yaʿīsh, and possibly Abū ʾl-Ḥusayn David ben Mashiaḥ), lived in Baghdad during the second half of the tenth century and thus was a contemporary of the Arab historian and geographer al-Masʿūdī (d. 957). It is not clear whether he was of Rabbanite or Karaite background. Abū ʾl-Khayr was once wrongly identified with the philosopher of Jewish origin Ibn al-Muqamm…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Abraham ben Samuel

(921 words)

Author(s): Moshe Idel
Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (1240–after 1291) was the founder of prophetic Kabbala. Born in Saragossa, he moved to Tudela and then in 1260 left Spain for the land of Israel in search of the legendary river Sambation. The war between the Mongols and Mameluks, however, forced him to return to Europe. In the early 1260s he was in Capua, studying Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed, after which he returned to Spain. In 1270, in Barcelona, he began studying an unusual version of Kabbala whose most important exponent was Baruch Togarmi and received a revelation th…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya) Family

(946 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
The Abulafia family (also Abulafia, Abulefia; from Ar. Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya, father [possessor] of good health) was an influential Sephardic family of rabbis, intellectuals, poets, dayyanim, communal leaders and Court Jews in Spain in the Middle Ages. After the expulsion from Spain in 1492, many of its descendants settled in the Ottoman Empire, where they continued to serve as rabbinic and communal leaders and halakhic decisors (Heb. posqim).The most important branch of the family lived in Toledo from the twelfth century onward, and its members were generally called Levi (…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Hayyim ben David

(133 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Ḥayyim ben David Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya) was born around 1700. Known as “the Baḥur” (Heb. Young Man), he was a rabbi and kabbalist. After serving as rabbi in Larisa, he became head of a Jewish court ( bet din) in Salonica in 1761, and while there taught the Sabbatean Abraham Miranda. Abulafia later settled in Izmir (Smyrna) and was appointed one of the community’s two chief rabbis; he died there on February 25, 1775. Abulafia wrote the Nishmat Ḥayyim (Salonica, 1806) on the Sefer Miṣvot Gadol. The book also includes some of his sermons.Leah Bornstein-MakovetskyBibliographyBenayahu, Meir…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Ḥayyim ben Jacob

(489 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Ḥayyim ben Jacob Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), known as “the Second,” was the grandson of Ḥayyim ben Jacob Abulafia “the First.” He was born in Hebron around 1660 and studied Torah in Jerusalem after his family moved there in 1666. His teachers were the rabbis Moses Galante, Abraham Amigo, and Solomon Algazi. In 1699 he was sent to Salonica as an emissary. He served as a rabbi in Izmir (Smyrna) in 1712 and from 1721 to 1740; from 1718 to 1721 he served as a rabbi in Safed.In 1740, Abulafia was invited by Shaykh Ḍāhir al-ʿUmar, the ruler of the Galilee, to settle there and renew the communi…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Ḥayyim Nissim ben Isaac

(218 words)

Author(s): Maurits H. van den Boogert
Born around the beginning of the nineteenth century, probably in Tiberias, Ḥayyim Nissim ben Isaac Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya) died in Jerusalem on February 21, 1861. He was a descendant of Ḥayyim ben David Abulafia, who moved to Tiberias from Izmir at the invitation of al-Ḍāhir al-ʿUmar at the end of the 1730s. Ḥayyim Nissim followed in his ancestor’s footsteps by becoming the chief rabbi of Tiberias. On January 1, 1837, during his incumbency, the city was devastated by an earthquake. Ḥayyim Nissim, his wife, and his daughter, Sarah, aged three, survived the…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Isaac ben Moses

(376 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
Rabbi Isaac Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya) was born in Damascus in 1825, the son of Moses and Oro Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya and the grandson of Rabbi Ḥayyim Nissim Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya, chief rabbi of Jerusalem from 1854 to 1861. During the Damascus Affair (1840), Moses Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya converted to Islam under torture and testified against the chief rabbi, Jacob ʿAntebi. Afterward he returned to Judaism, but he had lost his prestige in the community. He sent Isaac to his grandfather in Tiberias. Isaac was tutored by his grandfather, and after they moved to Jerusalem, he was r…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Jedidiah Raphael

(248 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
Jedidiah Raphael Ḥay Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), known as Rav Yira (acronym for Yedidya Refaʾel Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), was the seventh head of the Bet El Yeshiva, presiding over the institution from 1850 to 1871. He was the primary editor of Shalom Sharabi’s writings and produced the most widely accepted version of Sharʿabi’s prayer intentions (Heb. kavvanot). Like Jacob Shealtiel Nino, he was affiliated with the Bet El community from childhood.Abulafia enlarged the Bet El prayerbook to include devotions for the entire year and edited its introductory sections, commonly called Reḥovot ha-Na…

Abulafia, Joseph ben Ṭodros ha-Levi

(403 words)

Author(s): Yolanda Moreno Koch
Joseph ben Ṭodros ha-Levi Abulafia, the brother of Me’ir ben Todros ha-Levi Abulafia, was born in Burgos. Active in the first half of the twelfth century, he spent most of his life in Burgos but apparently settled in Toledo at some time where he remained until his death. Joseph ben Ṭodros was an anti-rationalist thinker, and as such he took an active part, together with other Jews from the Spanish kingdoms and France, such as Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier, in the dispute pertaining to the works of Maimonides, Moses, which were condemned as rationalist because in them he used r…

Abulafia, Me'ir ben Ṭodros ha-Levi

(695 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Me’ir ben Ṭodros ha-Levi Abulafia, known as Ramah, was born in  in the second half of the twelfth century. The Abulafias, of Andalusian origin, were one of the most distinguished families in the local Jewish community. Me’ir’s father, Ṭodros, was well versed in talmudic scholarship. Me’ir received a very thorough education; besides halakha, he learned Arabic and became familiar with the best poetic and philosophic traditions of al-Andalus. He married the daughter of one of Toledo’s foremost Jewish courtiers (see Court Jews), Joseph ibn Shoshan, the treasurer of Alfonso VIII.…

Abū 'l-Kathīr Yaḥyā ibn Zakariyyāʾ

(493 words)

Author(s): Camilla Adang
Abū ʾl-Kathīr Yaḥyā ibn Zakariyyāʾ (d. ca. 932) was a Jewish theologian and Bible translator from Tiberias whose main claim to fame is the fact that Saʿadya Gaon studied with him at some point. He is not mentioned in any Jewish source, and apart from the Andalusian heresiographer and polemicist Ibn Ḥazm (d. 1064), who mentions him as a Jewish mutakallim (rational theologian), our main source of information is Kitāb al-Tanbīh (ed. De Goeje, 1894) by the well-known Muslim historian al-Masʿūdī (d. 956). In his brief survey of Arabic translations of the Bible, al-Masʿ…

Abū ʾl-Munajjā Solomon ibn Shaʿya

(353 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Abū ʾl-Munajjā Solomon ibn Shaʿya was the official in charge of agriculture under al-Afḍal, the viceroy of Fatimid Egypt. Over a period of six years beginning in 1113, he planned and built a canal in the eastern sector of the Nile Delta that significantly improved the irrigation system. Although al-Afḍal had named the canal after himself, the grateful peasant farmers of the Delta dubbed it the Abū ʾl-Munajjā canal. According to the fourteenth-century chronicler Ibn Duqmāq, it was either for this reason or because of the huge cost of the project that al-Afḍal had al-Mu…

Abū Naẓẓāra Zarqā' (Abu Naddara) (Cairo)

(10 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
See Ṣanūc, YacqūbNorman A. Stillman

Abun ben Sherara

(418 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
Abun ben Sherara is known only from Moses Ibn Ezra’s Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara (fol. 36). According to the information it provides, he was a poet who was active in the second half of the eleventh century, a native or resident of Lucena who later settled in Seville. Why he left Lucena, a flourishing center of Jewish culture that brought together the most renowned poets and teachers of the time, is unknown. It has been suggested that, like other Jewish contemporaries, he moved to Seville because this large urban center offered greater poss…

Abun (of Granada)

(371 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
Lack of information and the existence of several writers of the same name make it difficult to identify Abun of Granada. None of his works has been preserved. He does not seem to be the tenth-century Abun cited by al-Ḥarīzī in the Taḥkemoni (chap. 3) or the Abun ben Sherara, a resident of Granada in the second half of the eleventh century, mentioned in the Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara (ed. Halkin, p. 66).Based on the poems that Moses Ibn Ezra dedicated to him in his dīwān, Abun of Granada was probably a judge, connected by birth or residence to the city of Granada, and a me…
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