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Ibn Mar Saul, Isaac bar Levi

(815 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
In his Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa-ʾl-Mudhākara (31), Moses ibn Ezra mentions Isaac ibn Mar Saul (late 10th-11th century) as a prominent member of the second generation of Andalusian Jewish poets along with Isaac ibn Chiquitilla. Ibn Mar Saul and Ibn Chiquitilla both lived in Lucena and were rivals. In Ibn Ezra's view, Ibn Chiquitilla was the more capable and expressed himself better because of his stronger background in Arabic. Jonah ibn Janāḥ was Ibn Mar Saul's student in Lucena and often quotes him in his Kitāb al-Uṣūl (Heb. Sefer ha-Shorashim; Book of Roots). From Ibn Janāḥ we know th…

Hijā' (Heb. neʿaṣa)

(871 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
The Arabic word hijā' describes one of the major modes in Arabic literature, covering a wide range of topics from the most edifying to the highly indecent and insulting. In its broadest sense, the term has been understood as the opposite of madīḥ (praise), and literary scholars often render it as "satire"; in its narrowest sense, it specifically designates invective poetry. The genre is widely attested in Arabic poetry as early as the pre-Islamic era. Its origins have been related to curses and incantations, on the one hand, and to the …

Ibn Ḥasday, Joseph (Abū ʿAmr)

(440 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Abū ʿAmr Joseph ibn Ḥasday was a member of a prominent family of scholars and doctors. His father served the Umayyad Caliph al-Ḥakam II al-Mustanṣir (d. 976) as a physician. Following the violent upheavals in Cordova in 1031, Joseph and his family fled to Saragossa. His son, Abū ʿl-Faḍl (Ḥasday) ibn Ḥasday, was an Arabic poet of renown. In his ars poetica,   Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa- l-Mudhākara (36), Moses ibn Ezra praises Ibn Ḥasday, asserting that his poetic output, though not prolific, was nevertheless significant. Judah al-Ḥarīzī also praises Ibn Ḥasday in his Taḥkemoni (43) . As a Hebrew…

Ibn Naghrella, Jehoseph ha-Nagid

(834 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Jehoseph ha-Nagid ibn Naghrella, the son of Samuel ben Joseph ha-Nagid ibn Naghrella, was probably born in Granada. Samuel’s poetry reveals that he took a special interest in Jehoseph’s education, and instructed him personally in both Hebrew and Arabic. Jehoseph married the daughter of the great scholar R. Nissim of Qayrawan, and, upon his father’s death, succeeded him as vizier at the court of the Zirid king Bādīs in Granada and nagid of the Jewish communities in al-Andalus. He was killed during the Muslim attack on the Jewish populace of Granada on December 30, 1066, along w…

Isaac (Abū Ibrāhīm) ben Mashkarān

(280 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
The Andalusian Jewish poet Abū Ibrāhīm (Isaac) ben Mashkarān is mentioned as a contemporary (fl. late eleventh century--first half of the twelfth) and praised for his "[good] taste and polished style" in the Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa-ʾl-Mudhākara of Moses ibn Ezra (43). The only poem by Ben Mashkarān that has come down to us, A sura be-galut ("Imprisoned in Exile" in Brody and Albrecht 1906, pp. 86-87), is a mustajāb (response) on the topic of galut (exile) and geʾulla (redemption). It has been translated into Spanish (Millás 1948, pp. 288-90). Moses ibn Ezra dedicated two po…

Qasmūna bat Ismā‛īl

(673 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
The scant information available on Qasmūna bat Ismāʿīl comes from two Arabic sources: Nuzhāt al-julasā' fī ash‛ār al-nisā' (86-87), an anthology of women's poetry compiled by the fifteenth-century Egyptian scholar al-Suyūṭī (d. 1505), and Nafḥ al-Ṭī b (2: 356), a literary-historical compilation by the North African historian al-Maqqarī (d. 1626). The two accounts, while slightly different, probably both draw from Kitāb al-Mughrib fī Ḥulā l-Maghrib, by the thirteenth-century Andalusian littérateur Ibn Sa‛īd al-Maghribī (al-Suyūṭī explicitly acknowledges it as…

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 al-Taqāna, Moses ben Isaac

(424 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Moses ben Isaac ibn al-Taqāna (Abū ʾl-Ḥasan Mūsā ibn al-Taqāna), surnamed al-Tayyāh (Ar. the one who lost his way; the perplexed), was a contemporary of Solomon ibn Gabirol, and like Ibn Gabirol lived in Saragossa. He seems to have been close to Jonah ibn Janāḥ, who also settled in Saragossa, and to have taken the latter’s side in his grammatical dispute with the celebrated poet and courtier Samuel ibn Naghrella ha-Nagid. In his Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara, Moses ibn Ezra (d. ca. 1135) indicates that Ibn al-Taqāna was a well-educated member of a noble family known…


(804 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
The Arabic word kharja (exit), also referred to as markaz (central point), designates the concluding couplet (envoi) of the muwashshaḥ (Heb. shir ezor, girdle poem), an Arabic strophic genre of poetry that, along with the more vernacular zajal, originated in al-Andalus around the tenth century. The scansion of both muwashshaḥ and zajal departs in significant ways from classical Arabic prosody. Examples of Hebrew muwashshaḥāt, following Arabic models, are known from the eleventh century, and were probably in existence earlier. By the mid-twelfth century, Arabic and Hebrew muwashsh…

Joseph al-Qarawī

(449 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Very little is known about the thirteenth-century Jewish poet Joseph al-Qarawī. What information there is derives from sixteen poems that were part of a poetic exchange between him and the celebrated poet Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia (d. 1306) and are preserved in the latter's dīwān. The superscription to al-Qarawī's poem Ṣ eviyyat Ḥen Ḥavaṣelet Sheronim ("Charming Gazelle, Rose of Sharon") states that he wrote the poems at the age of twelve, a claim that some scholars have questioned. According to the superscription to his poem S efat ha-Meshorerim Avla ve-Navla ("The language …

ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Islāmī

(490 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Abū Muḥammad ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq al-Islāmī is known for having authored an anti-Jewish polemical pamphlet. The pamphlet, probably written between 1393 and 1396, is extant in four manuscripts, was reproduced twice in lithography as al-Sayf al-Mamdūd fī l-Radd ‘alā Aḥbār al-Yahūd (The Outstretched Sword for Refuting the Rabbis of the Jews), and was edited in 1998 under the same title. In the introduction the author informs us that he was from Ceuta in Morocco, and had converted from Judaism to Islam sixteen years earlier, along with other members of his household. Neither his o…

Ibn al-Muʿallim, Solomon (Abū Ayyūb)

(539 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
In his Treatise on Asthma (102–105), Moses Maimonides mentions that Abū Ayyūb ibn al-Muʿallim from Seville, known as the Israelite (al-Yahūdī), was one of the four physicians at the court of the Almoravid emir ʿAlī ibn Yūsuf b. Tāshufīn in Marrakesh, along with another Sevillian Jewish physician named Abū ʾl-Ḥasan Meʾir Ibn Qamni’el, the Saragossan Abū ʿAlī ʿAlāʾ ibn Zuhr, and one Sufyān. He relates a story in which these four physicians administer the wrong dosage of theriac to the emir. In his Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara, Moses ibn Ezra describes Ibn al-Muʿallim as a schol…

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 Ghiyyāth (Ibn Ghayyāth), Isaac ben Judah

(1,680 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Despite some discrepancies regarding his date of birth, it appears that Isaac ben Judah ibn Ghiyyāth was born in 1038 to a Jewish family that had long been settled in Lucena. During his lifetime, this city, with its almost entirely Jewish population, was part of the kingdom of Granada, under the rule of the Zirid monarch Bādīs b. Ḥabbūs (1038–74) and his grandson and successor ʿAbd Allāh (1073–90). Described in Jewish sources as “the city of poetry,” Lucena was home to the most renowned talmudic academy in al-Andalus. Ibn Ghiyyāth had personal relationships with most of the Jewish …