JUDEO-ARABIC LITERATURE, written in Arabic by Jews for Jews. It is written in an idiom which is linguistically closer to the spoken form of Arabic than is the idiom used in Muslim literature. It may plausibly be assumed that, prior to the rise of Islam in the early seventh century, the Jews who lived in the Arabian peninsula spoke Arabic and belonged to the more or less cultivated class, which may have included some writers. If this is so, almost nothing of their works has survived. The one Jewish poet whose work is extant, *Samuel ibn Adiya, can be distinguished so little from his non-Jewish colleagues in theme, imagery, and style, that only history has preserved the knowledge of his Jewish identity. The writings of *Muhammad, which contain a considerable amount of biblical and midrashic material, suggest that the Torah and the Midrash were studied during the period, but concrete testimony is wanting.
The remarkable spread of Muslim domination over vast territories in Southwest Asia, North Africa, and *Spain, and the diffusion of Arabic in these areas, did not leave the Jews unaffected. It may be surmised that Arabic gradually displaced the Aramaic vernacular, initially in the larger centers, and that the Jewish population began to use it in its everyday intercourse from about the eighth century. The more inquiring Jews also began to acquire a knowledge of Arabic literature and science, which were undergoing a tremendous growth as a result of the large number of Greek, Syriac, Pahlavi, and Hindi works that had been translated into Arabic. The language became a storehouse for much of the world's knowledge and learning, and there was an upsurge of writing in Arabic on subjects which originated in other cultures. The participation of non-Arab Muslims and of other minorities in this activity was very great, and it likewise stimulated an intensive study of the imported learning among interested Jews. From the eighth century onward, there appeared in the Jewish communities under Muslim rule men who presumably received a traditional education, but who also turned their attention to the recently developed or rediscovered areas of secular studies. They took a particular interest in medicine, mathematics, astrology and astronomy, and philosophy and theology. Of equal importance with their pursuit of these studies was the influence this acquaintance with foreign lore had on their understanding of their Jewish heritage. Not only did they introduce into Jewish culture the investigation of theology, secular Hebrew prose and poetry, Hebrew grammar and lexicography, they also subjected traditional areas to the rationalism and orderliness which they acquired from their excursions into foreign fields. In the biblical commentaries of the time, in the compilations of talmudic law and the expositions on diverse topics particularly relevant to the Jewish world, a novel organization and presentation of the material can be discerned. With the exception of certain *Karaite circles around 1000 C.E., Jews wrote Arabic in Hebrew characters. In the first millennium two methods of transcription into Hebrew characters developed, one phonetic, the other mostly imitating the Arabic spelling. At the beginning of the second millennium, this second way of transcription prevailed (see J. Blau and S. Hopkins, Zeitschrift fuer arabische Linguistik, 1984, 9–27).
Just as the Muslims of Spain for a time looked to the East for learning, and for scholars and literary personalities, so in Judeo-Arabic letters it was *Babylonia, *Palestine, and *Egypt,
*Saadiah b. Joseph Gaon (882–942) left his native Egypt and traveled through Palestine to Babylonia, where he was appointed gaon of the Academy of Sura. Possessing encyclopedic knowledge and capable of enormous productivity, he wrote works which include a translation of the Bible into Arabic, a long and a short commentary on the Pentateuch, and comments on and introductions to other books of the Bible. He codified the laws relating to such topics as inheritance, trusts, and oaths. In addition, he compiled a list of *hapax legomena in the Bible, which he sought to explain with the aid of rabbinic Hebrew, a Hebrew grammar, and a rhyming dictionary. In expounding the Sefer Yeẓirah, a theosophical tract, Saadiah attempted to interpret it as a philosophical monograph. He also wrote a theological work, the Kitāb al-Amānāt wa-al-Iʿtiqādāt, made great contributions to liturgy and chronology, and composed polemics against the *Karaites and other heretics. His vigorous attack on the Karaites roused their anger, and he was designated their arch-enemy. He also encountered criticism from the Rabbanite R. Mevasser ha-Levi, who raised objections to explanations of rulings in his works, either because they did not agree with tradition or because they appeared to contradict a previous statement of the author. David ibn Marwān *Al-Mukammiṣ, a contemporary of Saadiah who converted to Christianity and subsequently returned to Judaism, wrote the theological treatise, ʿlshrūn Maqālā ("Twenty Tracts"; S. Stroumsa's edition, 1989). The work deals with the attributes of God, and, in accordance with the Mu'tazilite view, regards them as aspects of His essence.
R. Samuel b. Hophni (d. 1013), who was a gaon in the Academy of Sura, devoted all his writings to the exposition of traditional Jewish lore. However, the influence of Arabic literature and theology is very evident in his works. More verbose than Saadiah, Samuel supplied commentaries on those parts of the Torah which the former did not annotate, as well as on Ecclesiastes and on some of the Later Prophets. He did not hesitate to include an excursus on any subject related to his theme, for example, his digression on dreams in general after having dealt with the dreams of Pharaoh. He produced a refutation of the doctrine held by Muslim theologians that God would void His revelation to Moses in favor of one to be revealed later. His major work, however, was on the Talmud, to which he wrote an introduction, and he compiled monographs on various topics in Jewish law, such as ritual slaughter, benedictions, partnership, and gifts. As with Saadiah, what distinguishes Samuel's writings is his systematic organization and treatment: in each case, he provides an introduction and a table of contents, and he divides his material into chapters with headings summarizing what is to be dealt with. His son-in-law, *Hai b. Sherira Gaon (939–1038), wrote both in Hebrew and in Arabic. His well-known work Purchase and Sale is in Arabic, as is his monograph Oaths and a number of other writings. Although his responsa were generally in Hebrew, they were written in Arabic when the inquiry was written in that language. Of particular interest is his glossary of difficult words in the Bible and Talmud, al-Ḥāwī ("The Comprehender"), which works on the basis of triliteral roots. The glossary was used in Spain and was directly consulted until at least the end of the 11th century. Of the writings of Hai's father, *Sherira b. Ḥanina Gaon, only one responsum is a manifest translation from Arabic, and although it is said that he wrote halakhic works in that language, nothing has survived. But he did use Arabic in the course of his Hebrew and Aramaic writings.
*Ḥefeẓ b. Yaẓli'aḥ (late 10th or early 11th cent.) was the author of Sefer ha-Miẓvot, a work which enumerated and discussed in detail the 613 commandments of Jewish law (edited and translated by B. Halper, A Volume of the Book of Precepts by Ḥefeṣ b. Yaṣli'aḥ (Philadelphia 1915); appendices by S. Asaf, Tarbiz 15 (1954), and M. Zucker, Proceedings etc. 29 (1960–61), Ha-Do'ar, 23 (1963; reprinted by Zion, Tel Aviv, 1972). He began every elucidation with either "It is commanded" or "It is required," in the case of positive precepts, and "It is prohibited" in the case of negative commandments. First the biblical law is summarized, and then follows the rabbinic expansion and ramification. His work was used by scholars who read or wrote Arabic, among them *Maimonides; but since it was not translated into Hebrew, later citations are secondary. Moreover, only a relatively small part of what must have been a large work has so far come to light; from the table of contents of the extant section only an idea of the probable extent of the entire production can be formed.
Although they adopted an antagonistic stance toward rabbinic traditions and initially asserted every individual's right, nay duty, to make his own intensive study of the Holy Scriptures, the Karaites gradually restricted this prerogative to the
David b. Abraham *Alfasi (second half of 10th cent.) compiled a dictionary of the Bible in 22 parts corresponding to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The various usages of a word are cited, and every entry is translated into Arabic. He refers to Onkelos and Jonathan b. Uzziel, the Aramaic versions of the Bible, and also to the Mishnah, the Talmud, the masorah, and even the Rabbanite prayerbook. He occasionally compares the vocable with Arabic, Aramaic, and mishnaic Hebrew. *Abu al-Faraj Hārūn ibn al-Faraj (c. 1000–1050), who lived in Jerusalem, wrote a grammar of Hebrew called al-Mushtamil ("The Encompasser"), which he completed in 1007. It consisted of seven parts and dealt with the manifold aspects of the language. He utilized his knowledge of Arabic and Aramaic for comparison and elucidation. Abu al-Faraj, when giving paradigms of the Hebrew verb, started from the infinitive and showed the difference in the use of this form in Hebrew and Arabic; he also discussed Hebrew particles and syntax. His work was known in Spain and is cited by Jonah *Ibn Janāḥ, and Moses and Abraham *Ibn Ezra. An epitome of the Mushtamil, which was probably intended as an appendix, also exists; this may explain why Abraham ibn Ezra speaks of the book as having eight parts. Joseph b. Abraham al-*Baṣīr (called the Seer, a euphemism for "the Blind") was a widely traveled theologian, a polyglot, and a student of Rabbanite lore. He was held in high esteem by the Karaites as a religious authority. His works include al-Muḥtawi ("The Compendium," or, in Hebrew, Sefer Ne'mot), a theological study which reveals deep Muʿtazilite influence. Consisting of 40 chapters, the book presents a Karaite adaptation of the kalām doctrines, as well as polemics against Christians and pagans. He also left an epitome of his major work, al-Tamyīz, and a book on inheritance and on ritual cleanliness, al-Istibṣār ("Investigation"). His pupil Joshua b. Judah Abu-l-Faraj Furqān ibn Asad (c. 1050–1080) is known as the teacher par excellence. He made an Arabic translation of the Torah together with a commentary on it, which were completed about 1050. His detailed commentary on the Decalogue is available only in the Hebrew translation, which covers only the first four commandments. He also produced Bereshit Rabbati, philosophic homilies on Genesis, partially translated into Hebrew. His most important work is on the precepts and is called Sefer ha-Yashar. Because of the comparative relaxation of the strict system of relationships (rikkūb) which prevailed among the Karaites, the best-known section of the book is on incestuous marriages. He defends his personal views, arguing with his Karaite predecessors and criticizing Halakhot Gedolot and the Hilkhot Re'u, compilations of Rabbanite law.
The Jewish communities of North Africa and *Spain were as influenced by the Islamic-Arabic environment in which they existed as were their brethren in the East. Although the Jews in those lands (as the Muslims) were for a considerable time pupils of their coreligionists in *Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt, some of them began to write books at about the same time as the Jews in the East. Abu Sahl *Dunash ibn Tamim (10th cent.) was a grammarian, theologian, astronomer, and physician. His work on grammar, of which a small fragment may have been found, is cited by several Spanish Jewish writers. He appears to have undertaken a comparative study of the cognate Semitic languages, lexical rather than morphological; he believed Hebrew to be the mother of Semitic languages, and therefore Arabic to be only a derivative of Hebrew. In his work on astronomy he included a critique of astrology for the
Talmudic studies flourished in North Africa in the 10th and 11th centuries. One scholar writing in Arabic was *Nissim b. Jacob ben Nissim of Kairouan (c. 990–1060), who headed a school in his native city. His works (a discussion and selections in S. Abramson, Rav Nissim Ga'on; Heb., 1965) in chronological order are: Ha-Mafte'aḥ she-le-Manulei ha-Talmud ("The Keys to the Locks of the Talmud"), in Arabic, which apparently covered the entire Babylonian Talmud, although only parts of it have so far come to light; comments on the Talmud in Arabic and Hebrew, of which some portions are known and more are being discovered; Piskei Halakhot ("Legal Decisions"), in Arabic, fragments of which have been discovered; Megillat Setarim ("Scroll of Secrets"), a collection of explanations on difficult passages in the Talmud and on sundry religious topics; and al-Faraj baʿd al-Shidda ("Relief After Distress"; in Hebrew, Ḥibbur Yafeh me-ha-Yeshu'ah), a book of consolation, a genre current in classical Arabic literature, made up of stories written to bring comfort, faith, and acceptance of God's judgment. This last work has appeared both in Hebrew and in its Arabic original, but it is not yet clear what the author's form and arrangement were.
Jewish works of importance written in Arabic were far more abundant in Muslim Spain than in the East. Among the men who were primarily grammarians and only incidentally biblical exegetes, two names are distinguished. The first, Judah b. David *Ḥayyuj (10th–11th cent.), a native of Fez who died in Spain, devoted two works to the geminated verbs and the verbs with weak letters in their roots. He established the principle that all Hebrew verb-roots, regardless of what happens to them in inflection, consist of three letters; and in this manner he worked out the rules which govern the classes of weak verbs. He also compiled a book of random comments on the books of the Bible, parts of which have been found and published. The second name of importance is Ḥayyuj's outstanding disciple, Jonah *Ibn Janāḥ (first half 11th cent.), who compiled a comprehensive work, al-Tanqīḥ ("Polishing"), consisting of a grammar and a lexicon. The former, called al-Lumaʿ ("Brightness"; in Hebrew, Ha-Rikmah), is a presentation of the rules of Hebrew grammar and their exceptions. The lexicon, which consists of the Hebrew roots, gives their definition, together with examples from the Bible, to illustrate their secondary and tertiary meanings as well as their most common usage. He also composed three smaller works which examine and explain the classes of weak verbs. As a result of culling illustrations from the Bible, his writings contain considerable exegetical material.
Moses b. Samuel ha-Kohen ibn *Gikatilla (11th cent.) occupies a prominent place among biblical commentators who used Arabic. A native of Cordoba who lived in Saragossa, he produced commentaries on most of the books of the Bible, which unfortunately have been lost, with the exception of part of his commentary on the Book of Psalms. However, many of his views are known from extracts quoted in the writings of others, notably of his critic Judah b. Samuel *Ibn Bal'am, who condemned him for his "radical" views on the messianic prophecies. Ibn Gikatilla interpreted these prophecies as predictions of events to take place soon after they were uttered, and he also made efforts to explain miracles rationally. Another work, his short grammatical treatise on gender in Hebrew, is extant. Ibn Bal'am, Ibn Gikatilla's younger contemporary, whose exegetical work has survived, was an eclectic commentator who frequently made use of the works of others. True to the practice of the time, he mentions authors only when he disagrees with them. He charges both Saadiah and Ibn Gikatilla with violating Arabic usage in their translations, and occasionally finds fault even with his master, Ibn Janāḥ. In the field of grammar, he compiled a list of Hebrew particles and their uses, a list of homonyms with their different meanings, and a list of verbs derived from nouns. He is known to have had a remarkably good memory and a very sour disposition.
While many halakhic responsa by Spanish Jews were penned in Arabic, legal compilations were composed in Hebrew or hebraized Aramaic. Even Maimonides, who wrote most of his works in Arabic, turned to Hebrew for his magnum opus, the compendium of Jewish law entitled Mishneh Torah or Ha-Ḥibbur. However, as an aid to making his great compilation well-arranged and complete, he prepared in Arabic a list of the 613 commandments before embarking upon his enterprise. He provided this propaedeutic because he had his own ideas, which differed from those of his predecessors, on the nature of the laws which ought to be included in the 613. He insisted, for example, on the need to distinguish between a biblical and a rabbinic prescription and to exclude general admonitions, such as "Be ye holy." By laying down these principles of selection he hoped to establish an unchallengeable list, a hope that was not fulfilled.
Both Maimonides and his father wrote epistles in Arabic. The latter addressed a letter of comfort to the Jews in North Africa who were victims of religious persecution by the Almohads, a fanatical Muslim movement preached by Ibn Tūmart
A unique volume in Arabic was composed by the celebrated poet Moses b. Jacob ibn Ezra. It is a study of the art of Hebrew, especially biblical poetry, called Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa al-Mudhākara, but it is in fact much more than that, for it also contains a brief history, and occasionally characterizations, of the literary figures who flourished in Spain, a disquisition on the composition of poetry in sleep, and an explanation of why the Arabs excel in poetic composition. The whole work is presented in the style of adab, a popular Arabic genre in which the author enjoyed the freedom to digress on any subject. The digression was accompanied by an occasional reminder that it was time to return to the major theme.
Religious Philosophy and Theology
These subjects were cultivated more actively in Muslim Spain than in the East; but like most other cultural activities, they flourished initially in the Levant. Ibn Mukammiṣ has been discussed above. Saadiah's Emunot ve-De'ot, though not blindly following Mu'tazilite thought, was nonetheless considerably influenced by it. In general he used reason to buttress the accepted articles of the Jewish faith. With the exception of *Baḥya b. Joseph ibn Paquda (11th cent.), who in the first chapter of his Ḥovot ha-Levavot gives a brief resume of a theological position deriving from Saadiah, the works of the other great Spanish Jewish thinkers show that they were under the influence of Plato and Aristotle, or a combination of the latter and neoplatonism. The most philosophic of the group, Solomon b. Judah ibn *Gabirol (1021–1058), was drawn to the views of the Muslim thinker Ibn Masarra (883–931), who was strongly influenced by pseudo-Empedocles and who taught the doctrine of universal matter and universal soul. Basing his philosophy on the Aristotelian principles of matter and form, Ibn Gabirol in his writings cited no passage from biblical or rabbinic sources and made no reference to the Jewish tradition. He did not treat matter and form as opposite ends of being, rather he defined matter as the substrate, common to all being, and form as the differentiating principle which gives individuality to every existent. He regarded matter and form as the universal constituent factors in every object, from the lowest species to the highest intellectual being, and he ascribed the appearance of corporeality to some quality in matter which gives it body. In Ibn Gabirol's view, since matter is the subject, it is logically prior to form, which specifies it; nevertheless, both universal matter and universal form are the sources of all being. The beginning of the world, the first cause, was God's Will, which is intermediate between Infinite God and the universe. Ibn Gabirol did not, however, define God's Will with sufficient clarity to make it plainly comprehensible, and his philosophy did not win favor among Jews. Although neglected by Jewish theologians, it was adopted by some Christian thinkers, and it subsequently exerted considerable influence on the Kabbalah.
As stated above, Baḥya ibn Paquda (11th–12th century) employed the reasoning of kalām to prove the existence and oneness of God. But these issues were not his primary concern, they were merely the first requirement of the correct attitude to be taken toward God.
Baḥya's real interest was in emphasizing the duties of the heart (the title of his book), the state of mind and of emotion prerequisite to the true performance of the practical religious precepts. He feels doubly impelled to undertake this task, first because among the community in general performance of ritual acts is the backbone of Judaism, and, secondly because concern with the approved manner of practice occupies the time and mind of the learned. Essentially, Baḥya preached the inward experience of faith: trust, humility, asceticism, repentance, and self-examination. His book, therefore, may be regarded as a guide which, though written about Judaism for Jews and replete with quotations from the Bible and the Talmud, actually belongs to the sphere of religion in general; and for this reason Baḥya does not hesitate to adduce proofs from outside sources. Of all the religious literature produced in the Islamic world, his work was probably the best known and most widely studied among Jews. The monograph Maʿanī al-Nafs ("Matters of the Soul") falsely ascribed to him, although probably dating from the same period, deals primarily with the fate and duty of the human soul from the time it separates from its source to join the body until it is once again free to return to its original home. In the course of this exposition, the author also gives his views on the emanation and creation of the world, its constituent factors, and other religious and philosophical issues.
Joseph ibn *Ẓaddik (d. 1149) wrote his Olam Katan (Microcosm) as a guide to help man gain, through introspection and self-analysis, the necessary knowledge of the world, its Maker, the human soul, and the ethical life. This short tract is not endowed with originality, following neoplatonism in its psychology, Aristotelianism in its physics, and kalām in its proof of the existence of God. A far better known poet and literary figure, Moses ibn Ezra, mentioned above, is the author of Kitāb al-Ḥadīqa fi maʿnā al-majāz wa al-ḥaqīqa ("The Garden of the Subject of Metaphor and Reality"; in Hebrew, Arugat ha-Bosem), a semiphilosophical study in which there is the usual discussion of God and His attributes, and man and his psychology, but in addition there is much attention given to metaphor in the Bible.
The well-known poet *Judah Halevi (1080–1141) was also the author of a philosophical work which was unique in its time among the books in this field. Its title, Kitāb al-Ḥujja wa al-Dalīl fi Naṣr al-Dīn al-Dhalīl ("The Book of the Argument and the Proof in Defense of the Despised Faith" (crit. ed. D.H. Banett, prepared for publication by H. Ben-Shammai, Jerusalem 1977), popularly called Sefer ha-Kuzari, indicates that it was produced in defense of the Jewish religion, which, the author says, was held in low esteem by the Gentiles. Although critical of philosophy, Judah Halevi is not, like the extremely orthodox, against it; in fact, in his discussion of ethics and of God's uniqueness, he concedes the correctness of the philosophic approach. However, he criticizes metaphysics on the grounds that it simply cannot attain to the ultimate truths, but nevertheless pretends that its conclusions are totally valid. Because their revelation is historically attested, the Jewish Scriptures and tradition are the only unimpeachable sources for the essential truths. The revealed source teaches that man's highest attainment is the gift of prophecy, a gift reserved for the people of Israel in Ereẓ Israel. The Jew receives this gift when he lives in full accord with the Law revealed to Moses. Halevi makes the interesting point that the essence of Judaism is not found in the prescriptions which are rational and apprehensible by human reason, but in the irrational precepts known to us only because they were revealed. He thus demonstrates that the Jewish tradition contains not only the basic truths but also the highest good. The book is written in the form of a dialogue between the author and the king of the Khazars, who wanted to learn about the Jewish faith. It is interesting, although not surprising, that this spokesman for Judaism concludes his discussion by announcing his decision to settle in Ereẓ Israel, which he in fact did, as we know from his poetry. Abraham *Ibn Daud (d. c. 1180), the compiler of an original history of the Jewish tradition, was the first Jewish thinker in Spain to attempt a fusion of the doctrines of the Jewish faith with Aristotelian philosophy (the latter, it must be remembered, was suffused with the neoplatonic system of emanations). Ibn Daud did not examine all theological issues, but he provided summaries of topics such as proofs of the existence of God, the Creation, the Revelation, immortality, and providence. His work, Sefer ha-Emunah ha-Ramah, was apparently disregarded in favor of Maimonides' celebrated synthesis; its Arabic original is unknown, and the two translations into Hebrew, one of them published in 1852, were both prepared in the late 14th century.
As stated above, Maimonides (1135–1204) wrote most of his works in Arabic. Of these the most celebrated is his Guide of the Perplexed (Moreh Nevukhim), a philosophical analysis of Jewish law and theology. Believing like many others that revealed truth and philosophical conclusions reach one and the same end, he proposed to establish the principles of Jewish theology according to doctrines of Aristotelian philosophy, which he accepted as the valid interpretation of the sublunar cosmic process. On this basis he discusses the person of God, the Creation, prophecy, providence, the afterlife, and the content and purpose of the revealed law. In order to anchor his philosophy in Jewish doctrine, he used proof texts from the Bible and traditional Jewish sources. The Guide became the most important philosophic work in the Jewish world. Its Hebrew translation had been eagerly awaited by admirers of his earlier works. Two Hebrew renderings, almost simultaneously produced, became available, one by Samuel ibn Tibbon, and the other by Judah b. Solomon *Al-Ḥarizi. The former has always been treated as the authentic and reliable version, although it was severely criticized by Shem Tov b. Joseph *Falaquera, one of the early commentators on the work. In modern times the work has been translated again into Hebrew, by Rabbi J. Kafih, and more recently by Prof. M. Schwartz, who produced a brilliant critical edition (Maimonides: The Guide of the Perplexed, Tel Aviv, 2002).
The Guide's popularity resulted in two contrary developments. For many it became the basic text, the authoritative reconciliation between the two sources of the one truth, so that the philosophically-minded in subsequent centuries invariably took it as their point of departure for commentary, summary, or controversy. At the same time, there were scholars who were wary of the intrusion of philosophical reflection into the religious sphere, because they sensed that reconciliation meant setting up philosophy as the judge of what in religion could be maintained, and what had to be interpreted, no matter how far the interpretation carried it from its literal meaning. Even students who were not particularly interested in philosophical speculations were compelled to confront it since Maimonides introduced a number of philosophical concepts into the first of the 14 books of his legal compendium. This alignment of admirers and antagonists led to serious conflict in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Joseph b. Judah ibn *Aknin (c. 1150–1220), a contemporary and friend of Maimonides, settled in Fez after his departure from his native Spain. By his own admission he lived there as a crypto-Jew, although his energetic literary activity seems to show that his private life did not suffer any interference. Save for his commentary on Avot, which was originally in Hebrew, his other writings were probably all in Arabic, although there is naturally uncertainty in the case of those of his writings which are no longer extant. Of his surviving works,
From the 13th Century
In Judeo-Arabic literature, in both Spain and the Middle East, the 13th century marks a division between what preceded it and what followed. In Spain, Christendom's final victory over Islamic power in 1212 led to the gradual elimination of Arabic from Jewish life in favor of the Romance languages in daily intercourse, and of Hebrew in writing. During the 11th and 12th centuries, the continuous shift of the Jewish population from Andalusia to Christian territory, where Arabic had never been the dominant language, accelerated the abandonment of Arabic. However, knowledge of the language remained essential for the translation of texts on philosophy and logic, medicine, mathematics, and astronomy into Hebrew, Latin, and Spanish. It was at this time that the cultural heritage which originated in the East and was enriched during the period of Islamic ascendency was transmitted to the West. Among the authors who continued to write in Arabic, Judah b. Solomon ibn *Matkah (13th cent.), who corresponded with Emperor Frederick II of Sicily, compiled an encyclopedia of logic, physics, and metaphysics, which he translated into Hebrew under the title Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah. He also produced Mishpetei ha-Kokhavim, a digest of Ptolemy's astronomical Almagest. Joseph b. Isaac Israeli of Toledo (d. 1331) wrote a compendium on astronomy which was based on his father's well-known monograph, Yesod Olam. Samuel ibn Waqār, the personal physician of Alfonso XI of Castile, may have been the author of the medical work "Castilian Royal Medicine" (1376). Solomon b. Ya'īsh (d. 1345) composed a supercommentary on Abraham ibn Ezra's commentary to the Pentateuch, as well as a six-volume commentary on Avicenna's Canon, which remained the standard medical text for centuries. In the field of theology, Moses ibn Crispin Cohen, who in 1336 left his native Cordoba to settle in Toledo, composed a tract on providence and the afterlife. Joseph b. Abraham *Ibn Waqār (14th cent.), a philosopher and kabbalist, also wrote a book on theological matters, for which only a Hebrew title, Ma'amar ha-Kolel, is suggested by the name of one of the two extant translations. Judah b. Nissim *Malkah (14th cent.) of North Africa was a neoplatonist who wrote a tripartite work in the spirit of that philosophy; the first two sections were a commentary on the Sefer Yeẓirah, the former being an introduction to the theosophic booklet, Uns al-Gharīb ("Consolation of the Foreigner," i.e., man's soul on earth) and the latter was on the Midrash Pirkei De-Rabbi Eliezer.
The composition of works in Arabic by Jews was much more prevalent in the East, where Arabic continued to be used as the spoken language. However, the general reaction against foreign influences, which gradually eliminated from Muslim intellectual life the variety of interests that had attracted earlier generations, also affected Jewish literary productivity. There was a marked decline in the pursuit of secular subjects, with the exception of medicine; and studies in humanistic areas became confined to theological and ritual topics. Salāma b. Mevorakh (12th cent.), a physician and philosopher, and a student of Ephraim b. āl Zafāh (who was physician to the court), wrote Niẓām al-Mawjūdāt ("Arrangement of the Existents"), which was probably philosophic in character, al-Sabab al-Mūjib li-Qillat al-Maṭar fi-Miṣr ("The Reasons for the Paucity of Rain in Egypt"), and fi-al-ʿIlm al-Ilāhī ("On Theology"). Ḥibat Allah ibn al-Ḥasan b. Ephraim was possibly the head of the academy and community of Fostat, whom the traveler Benjamin of Tudela mentioned by the name of Nethanel and who wrote, among other works: Irshād li-Maṣālih Anfus al-Ajsād ("Guide to the Well-Being of Souls and Bodies"), which treats of illnesses, cures, and hygiene; and al-Taṣrīḥ fi Tanqīḥ al-Qānūn ("Revelation of the Hidden in Correcting the Canon of Avicenna"). The Karaite *David b. Solomon (1161–1240), physician to Sultan al-Malik al-ʿAdil, and possibly the teacher of Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, wrote a celebrated history of medicine and physicians. He compiled the 12-chapter antidotary Akrabadhin or Dustūr al-Adwiya al-Murakkaba ("Register of Compound Remedies") and Risālat al-Mujarrabāt ("Epistle on Experiences"). Jacob b. Isaac (al-Asad al-Maḥallī; c. 1200) was the author of Maqāla fi Qawānīn al-Ṭibbiyya ("Treatise on the Fundamentals of Medicine") and Masāʾil Ṭibbiyya wa-Ajwibatiha ("Questions and Answers on Medicine"), addressed to the Samaritan author Ṣadaqa ibn Munajja in Damascus. Abual-Munā ibn abi Naṣr al-Kohen al-ʿAṭṭār (13th cent.) compiled a popular pharmacopoeia, Minhāj al-Dukkān wa-Dustūr al-Aʿyān ("Practice of the Shop and List of the Important"), which is a painstaking collection, arranged in alphabetical order, of pertinent material gleaned from diverse sources, both oral and written. It includes a moralizing first chapter addressed to his son, which in fact may be an addition written by someone else. Nuʿmān ibn abi al-Riḍāʾ (14th cent.) wrote a medical treatise which he considered to be a collection of glosses on the work of al-Masīḥī. There were a large number of other physicians in the Arabic-speaking Jewish communities who tended to write on religion rather than on their profession. *Abraham b. Moses b. Maimon
An ardent admirer of Maimonides, *Tanḥum b. Joseph Yerushalmi (d. 1291), wrote the commentary al-Ijaz wa al-Bayān ("Short and Clear"), which was probably on the entire Bible and is still largely extant, although only very few of his remarks on Ezra and Nehemiah have so far been discovered. His Commentary on the Minor Prophets has been published by H. Shay (1991). A rationalist, entirely rejecting any mystical approach to the text, he strove to explain every facet of it with the aid of medicine, realia, chronology, geography, and philosophy. Of philosophy he made use on numerous occasions, particularly where the literal meaning of the text was difficult to accept. He employed allegory and included digressions on subjects such as prophecy and the allegorical method. He occasionally disagreed with the Seder Olam, the chronological monograph which was almost undisputed during the Middle Ages, although he sometimes assumed approximate dates in the Bible in order to explain away discrepancies. He showed an appreciation for the aesthetic quality of the Bible and also a recognition that copyists' errors may have found their way into the masoretic text. In a comprehensive introduction to his vast enterprise, Tanḥum discussed grammatical and philosophical principles at length and also dwelt on the relation between exegesis and aggadah. In addition, he compiled a lexicon of the Hebrew in Maimonides' Code, al-Murshid al-Kāfi ("The Adequate Guide"). In the introduction to this work he elaborated upon the tremendous importance of the Code, especially at a time when there was a decline in the study of the Talmud. He criticized the Arukh, the lexicon of *Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome (11th cent.), because it did not include all the words in the language and operated on the basis of biliteral roots. Despite his criticisms, he was in fact extremely indebted to the lexicon. Moreover, in his own lexicon he strayed from his objective. Not all the words in the Code are listed, nor are all the vocables given there taken from the Code, since he also provided explanations of a number of mishnaic terms. His tendency to go into philosophical and theological matters emerges even in this work. His son, *Joseph b. Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi, a gifted writer of Hebrew poetry, may also have been the author of a book in Arabic on theology and philosophy, a fragment of which is extant.
*Ibn Kammuna (Saʿd b. Manṣūr; d. 1184) lived in Baghdad; toward the end of his life he was the target of attack by orthodox Muslims, who took offense at his statements about Islam in Tanqīḥ al-Abḥāth lil-Milal al-Thalāth ("Examination of the Inquiries into the Three Faiths"), a study of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The book, interesting and enlightened, opens with a general discussion of religion and prophecy and continues with sections on each of the three religions. Ibn Kammuna's method is to present the principles of each faith in a general essay, and then to list questions and objections, followed by replies of the adherents of the particular faith. The work is outstanding for its fairmindedness and objectivity, which may be the reason for the belief, now discredited, that the author was a convert to Islam. His other writings include al-Ḥikma al-Jadīda ("The New Science"), on logic; Risāla ("Epistle"), on the immortality of the soul; and Sharḥ Talwīḥāt, a commentary on the Notes of the Muslim mystic Suhrawardi (d. 1191). He also wrote on chemistry and ophthalmology.
*Israel ha-Dayyan ha-Ma'aravi (14th cent.) lived in Cairo and was judge of the Karaite community there. His works include a legal compendium known only by its Hebrew name, Sefer Mitzvot, a compilation of the personal and ritual laws of the Karaites. His Shurūṭ al-Dhabāḥa ("Requirements of Ritual Slaughter") may have been part of his original Arabic Code. He also wrote Tartīb al-ʿAqāʾid al-Sitta ("Classification of the Six Articles of Faith: God, Moses, the Other Prophets, the Torah, Jerusalem, and the Final Judgment"), as well as a book on the calendar. *Samuel b. Moses al-Maghribi (15th cent.), a physician living in Cairo, compiled al-Murshid ("The Guide"), which was a book of laws in 12 sections; he also wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch and a history of Mount Moriah and the Temple. David b. Sa'del al-Hīti (15th cent.) composed a bibliography of Karaite scholars, which, although uncritical and sometimes unreliable, has been of service to modern scholars.
The Jews of *Yemen, who were subjected to many trials and persecutions, probably constituted the most cultivated among the Jewish communities living under Islam in the second millenium. In any case, they can boast of a larger number of literary figures than can other centers. One of the earliest, *Nethanel ibn al-Fayyūmī (d. c. 1170), was probably the head of the community and was the father of *Jacob b. Nethanel whose inquiry to Maimonides brought about the latter's Iggeret Teiman. Nethanel wrote Bustān al-ʿUqūl ("The Garden of the Intellects"), a theological study with chapters on the unity of God, man the microcosm, the worship of God, repentance, reliance on God, messianic times and the afterlife,
In conclusion, it is to be noted that composition of Jewish works in Arabic continued to appear until there ceased to be Jewish communities in the Arabic-speaking lands. However, it must be admitted that there is little value in these works, most of which are liturgical, exegetic, or translations of Hebrew pietistic works. The European influence, which from the end of the 19th century began to affect Arabic literature as it had affected Jewish literature in Europe a century earlier, does not seem to have played a part in the intellectual life of the Jews in the East. Nevertheless, their output of Hebrew or predominantly Hebrew poetry, rhymed prose, and religious works is of higher quality.
[Abraham Solomon Halkin]
We are dealing here with that particular body of Jewish religious writings of all types, written in the shadow of *Islam, usually in Arabic, but in Hebrew characters, during the period from before Saadiah Gaon until after the days of Maimonides and his son Abraham, i.e., from approximately the 8th century to the end of the 13th century. This culture is not merely a Jewish culture in Arabic language, but rather a Judeo-Islamic culture. Consequently, it is needless to point out that the Jewish writers who wrote in Arabic during this period were influenced by ideas then current in Islam, but their work should be viewed as the fruit of a period of centuries of creativity and cultural fertility shared by both religions. Similarly, the Arabic language used by the Jews in this period should not be regarded as a mere instrument employed by them, but as an integral part of the religious culture they had absorbed.
The extent to which a culture has absorbed and assimilated influences from another culture, as well as the preconditions which enabled their absorption and assimilation, is well known. The renowned Orientalist H.A.R. Gibb, who studied the influence of Islam on the European Renaissance,1 laid down, among others, three basic theses which may constitute also a suitable starting point for a discussion of the influence of Islam on medieval Judeo-Arabic culture. These are the following:
(1) No culture absorbs influences from another culture unless the two possess certain similar and related qualities and the ground has been further prepared by similar activities.
(2) The absorption of foreign influences is a sign of the vitality of the absorbing culture or religion, but "the borrowed elements conduce to the expanding vitality of the borrowing culture only insofar as they draw their nourishment from the activities which led to their borrowing in the first place."
(3) Additional evidence of the vitality of the absorbing culture is provided if it confines this foreign influence to certain limits, thus preventing it from becoming too strong and undermining the foundations of the absorbing culture. "A living culture disregards or rejects all elements in other cultures which conflict with its own fundamental values, emotional attitudes or esthetic criteria."
There is no doubt that all this applies to the interrelationship of Judaism and Islam. The essential similarity of these two monotheistic religions which, unlike other religions, are based on law, created from the very beginning a sense of special relationship and led to extensive reciprocal borrowing. The fact that the new religion of Islam assimilated many Jewish elements at the time of its origin and during the years of its consolidation was the reason that many Jewish Sages adopted a much more lenient attitude toward it than toward other religions, and even declared explicitly that it was not to be regarded as idolatry, and differed from Christianity in essential aspects.2 On the other hand, there is no doubt that Judaism had at least some reservations with regard to borrowing and assimilating Islamic influences. As we will see later on, these reservations were especially strong in the field of mysticism, though many Jews were strongly attracted by Sufi (Islamic mystical) teachings. It is also an established fact that much Islamic material absorbed by Jewish culture has been adapted and developed in a clearly Jewish spirit.
To be properly appreciated, at least three interesting and important viewpoints should be added, however, to these three theses:
(1) Two periods can be clearly distinguished in the interrelationship of Judaism and Islam. During the first period – the 7th and maybe also the 8th centuries – Judaism, more than any other religion and culture, left a decisive impact on Islam, a new religion in the process of consolidation. In the second period – probably from the 8th century, and in particular from the 9th century onward – Islam, which had become a rich and variegated culture, profoundly influenced Jewish culture. Consequently, the interrelationship of these two cultures may be regarded as a closed circle, a rare phenomenon in cultural relationships. Thus it is sometimes possible to trace an idea,
(2) The interrelationship of these two cultures – Judaism and Islam – always took place in the presence of a third religious culture, Christianity, which has strong links with both Judaism and Islam. This permanent Christian presence left its imprint on the interrelationship of these religions. Islam, for instance, regards Judaism and Christianity as belonging to the same category in many respects. They are recognized by Islam as the two earlier monotheistic religions, even though Islam claimed to have superseded and abrogated them. The "People of the Book" (Ahl al-Kitāb) or the "Protected People" (Ahl al-Dhimma), as both Jews and Christians were called, were granted freedom of worship, though many humiliating restrictions were imposed upon them.5 The Jews, on their part, generally regarded Islam either as a counterpart of Christianity (as did Judah Halevi, for instance, in his Kuzari, Book IV, par. 11), or as its opposite (Maimonides, for instance, in his above-mentioned Responsa). Only seldom did they deal with Islam in a specific way unlinked to Christianity.
(3) This leads us to the central and principal feature of the relationship of Islam and Judaism (and we may now add: and Christianity) in the medieval Arab East: there was a profound religious-cultural alliance among these three positive religions in their common confrontation with the pagan cultural legacy which, in its philosophical Arabic disguise, threatened equally the existence of the three revelational religions.6 The extent and depth of their spiritual collaboration is highly astonishing and probably has no parallel in any other period of human history. It seems that only against the special cultural background of medieval Islam could such a spiritual alliance have sprung up. The rich Arabic language, with its advanced religious and philosophical terminology, in which the scholars and thinkers of all three religions wrote, was an additional factor. One striking example may be given: it had long been noticed that the "Duties of the Heart" of Baḥya ibn Paquda contains a chapter ("The Ways of Discernment of the Creatures," Bāb Al-I'tibār Fi-al-Makhlūkīn) which is surprisingly similar to the book "The Wisdom of God in His Creatures" (Al-Ḥikma fi makhlūkāt Allah), probably written by al-Ghazālī (d. 1111), one of the greatest Muslim thinkers of all times. Some passages of these works, which praise God's creation, especially man, are literally identical, and their general contents are the same. It was long believed that Baḥya had copied al-Ghazālī. D.Z. Baneth, however, discovered a manuscript upon which both based their work, and he maintains that it was written by a Christian Arab author. Both Baḥya ibn Paquda and al-Ghazālī adapted this book, each in the spirit of his own religion, mainly by adding verses from the Torah of the Jewish Sages in the case of the former, or verses from the Qur'ān or sayings of the Prophet and his companions, by al-Ghazālī.
STUDYING JEWISH CULTURE IN THE SHADOW OF ISLAM
The relationship of Judaism and Islam has so far been considered, as it were, from the outside – a step which is necessary if one wishes to study the Arabic period of Jewish history or the form of Jewish culture that was created in the shadow of Islam. Only thus is it possible to obtain an overall picture of the relationship between two cultures, without which one is bound to get entangled in details, without being able to discern the general framework clearly. However, these cultures must now be considered "from within" in order to determine their characteristic and striking features.
But first an important methodological problem has to be faced. There is a widespread tendency to ascribe a phenomenon occurring in two cultures to the influence of the earlier culture on the later. A. Geiger, in the introduction to his "Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthum aufgenommem?"(Leipzig, 1830), and I. Goldziher already warned against this tendency with regard to the relationship of Judaism and Islam. Similar developments and phenomena in different cultures are not necessarily the result of the influence of one on the other, but may also be the fruit of equal external conditions or of the religious needs and developments of the individual believer or the community, etc.
A few examples may illustrate this point.
Both Judaism and Islam are unique in that they have a sacred oral law in addition to the Divinely given written law.7 It is, nevertheless, questionable whether this phenomenon in Islam is necessarily the fruit of the influence of the older religion. It is true that when the Muslim oral law (al-Sunna) was committed to writing, the opponents of this act used arguments very similar to those of the Jewish Sages, who opposed the redaction of the oral law into a book. Nevertheless, Goldziher strongly rejects the assumption that this is a case of direct Jewish influence. An oral law is bound to appear sooner or later in a religion that possesses a written law, in order to answer new questions and needs which arise and are not solved by the written law. It is also natural that initially such a suggestion will meet with fierce opposition, but gradually the oral law will take its place alongside the written law and even overshadow it, in matters of both doctrine and practice. In Islam this is even explicitly expressed by the saying that the oral law, the Sunna of the Prophet, may change or even abrogate explicit statements of the Qur'ān. Both in Judaism and Islam it is explicitly stated that the later sayings of the oral law are
Another example is the commandment of Islam to make, at least once in a lifetime, the pilgrimage to the holy places in Mecca. Abraham I. Katsh maintains that this practice was adopted from Judaism (see Ex. 23:14ff; Deut. 16:16–17).9 Yet the assumption is unfounded. The Ḥajj was a common practice in the Arabian peninsula already in pre-Islamic times, and it was adopted by Islam, which gave it an ethiological and monotheistic interpretation, just as Judaism did with the many pagan relics it preserved.
There are, of course, many cases in which direct influence of one religion on another can be established with certainty, especially direct influence of Judaism on Islam; not only in basic concepts and ideas, biblical narratives10 (such as the stories of the Patriarchs) and laws, but also with regard to minor details, of which two examples are given here, though the main subject of this article is the second stage of Muslim-Jewish interaction, in which Judaism was influenced by Islam.
Originally, the Islamic fast, which is now Ramadan, was held on the tenth day of the first month, from sunset to sunset, like the Jewish Day of Atonement. The change to a whole month's fast was probably the result of Muhammad's disillusion with the Jews and his wish to sever relations with Judaism. Nevertheless, an interesting example of Jewish influence is seen in the verse of the Qur'ān: "… and eat and drink until you distinguish between the white thread that becomes distinct to you from the black thread at dawn (or: of the dawn)" (Sura II, 187). The source of this verse is almost certainly the Mishnah Ber. 1, 1: "When is the morning prayer said? When blue can be distinguished from white." For the Jew, wrapped in his usually white prayer shawl with blue stripes, these words had a real meaning, but transferred to an entirely foreign sphere they reveal the direct influence of Judaism.11
To the same category belongs a passage of the story in the Qur'ān of Joseph (Sura XII) and its commentaries. When Potiphar's wife heard that the women were gossiping about her passion for Joseph, she invited them to a meal and gave each a knife. When Joseph entered, they were so overwhelmed by his handsomeness that they cut themselves. The knife was presumably to cut fruit which was placed before them, but the name of the fruit is not given in the Qur'ān. The story is also found in later Midrashim, e.g., the Midrash ha-Gadol, which was composed under Muslim influence of the Qur'ān. But the commentators state that it was the etrog, the citron, a fruit which was completely unknown in the northern Arabian peninsula. The Israelites, on the other hand, already knew this fruit, perhaps even as early as the Babylonian captivity, and they perhaps transmitted this story to Islam together with the story of Joseph.12
ISLAMIC INFLUENCE ON JUDAISM
We now return to the second period in the history of Jewish-Muslim relations, the long period in which Islam exerted its influence on Judaism. This investigation is still in its initial stage, even though many scholars – mainly Jewish – have dealt with it since the 19th century, and the results of their research are published in scores of books and hundreds of articles scattered through periodicals and books.
The philosophical and theological influence of Islam on Jewish thought in the Middle Ages, or on the history and way of life of the Jews in Muslim culture, is now generally recognized. The many studies of Goldziher (published mainly in REJ and MGWJ, and most of them now collected in several volumes by D. Desomogyi) have perhaps also brought about a general recognition of the fact that Muslim sources contain much material for the study of Jewish history and the religious way of life. But only few scholars, especially S.D. Goitein, G. Vajda, N. Wieder and M. Zucker, have hitherto discussed the influence of Islamic religious terminology and practice on Jewish literature and practice. S.D. Goitein's monumental A Mediterranean Society has become a major breakthrough in this respect as well, although its more important contributions lie, of course, in the completely new description and analysis of Jewish social and economic history under Islam in the Middle Ages.
Judeo-Arabic also has been studied so far mainly from its linguistic angle – as the counterpart of Christian-Arabic – or as an additional aspect of middle Arabic. Arabic was the main language of the Jews in speech and religious literature in all its varieties; a close examination may help to appreciate the tremendous religious influence of Islam on Jewish medieval scholars, which is more than a mere linguistic phenomenon. Scores of religious Islamic terms permeated Jewish literature, including denominations of the Torah by Qur'ānic terms such as al-Kitāb, al-Shari'a, al-Maṣḥaf, al-Nūzūl, Um al-Kitāb and even al-Qur'ān. Chapters of the Torah were called "Suras" (verses retained their Hebrew name, Pasuq, although for the plural an Arabic form was used, Pawāsīq). The oral law was called Sunna or Fiqh, the cantor Imām, Jerusalem became Dār-a-Salām, Abraham Khalīl Allah, Moses Rasūl-Allah like Muhammad; the Messiah was called al-Qā'im al-Muntaẓar like the awaited Messiah of the Shi'ites; the direction of prayer to the east was named al-Qibla, which is the name the Muslims gave their direction of prayer to the south towards Mecca. There are, in addition, hundreds of religious words that may be classified as mere linguistic phenomena, such as al-Mu'minūn (the believers); Nawāfil (optional prayer); Jamā'a (congregation, community; also minyan, the quorum of ten men required for Jewish prayer); Bid'a (undesirable religious innovation), etc.13 In contrast to the west, where Jews never used their non-Hebrew names for religious purposes, Jews used their Arabic names in the synagogue, in marriage contracts, etc.
Combined Hebrew-Arabic phrases, such as Ṣalāt al-Shaḥarit, or Laylat al-Pesaḥ, and such terms as Qādī and
A few examples, some better known than others, are given here. The first is taken from the field of linguistics, but its significance exceeds this field by far. The linguistic skill of the Arabs and their veneration of the Arabic language, from the dawn of their civilization (cf. pre-Islamic poetry), may be one of the reasons that the Qur'ān, the Word of Allah, may have been one of the best miraculous proofs of the truth of Muhammad's message (just as, according to the Ḥadīth, the previous prophets had performed their own miracles, each in conformity with the characteristics of either his people or times).17 Hence the interesting Muslim theological doctrine, according to which the Qur'ān is superior to other holy writs not only from the religious, but also (and mainly) from the linguistic-stylistic viewpoint and, therefore, cannot be imitated by men.18 This veneration of language as such was adopted by the medieval Jews (Moses ibn Ezra was one of the intermediaries) and even led to a revival of Hebrew among them to attempt to demonstrate that Hebrew was in no way inferior to the rich language of their Muslim neighbors. Even the Muslim belief that the Quraish, the tribe to which the prophet belonged, spoke a purer language than the other Arabs, had its Jewish parallel in the belief that the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin, or the Jerusalemites, spoke the purest form of Hebrew.18
The second example is from the field of history. It was a strange phenomenon, alien to the spirit of the People of the Book, that some of our false messiahs, who appeared in the shadow of Islam, boasted of their illiteracy and were proud to claim that they could neither read nor write. This motif is found in Judaism only in the appearance of some later false messiahs. Again, we may have here an obvious case of Muslim influence, namely of the concept of al-Nabī al-Ummi, a title conferred on Muhammad on the basis of an obscure expression in the Qur'an, the original meaning of which was that Muhammad considered himself the prophet who was sent to all nations, but very soon it was interpreted as "the prophet who cannot read and write."19
This motif was transmitted to Judaism, but it is so alien to the spirit of Judaism that it justifies the assumption that it was a Muslim motif which the false messiahs needed to rally the ignorant masses of Israel behind them.
The next example belongs to an entirely different sphere. Judaism and Islam both possess a special class of literature which, to a large extent, fulfills the part that is taken in other cultures by the written law, the responsa literature. This literature consists of legal decisions given in answer to questions by individuals. These responsa (Fatwā, pl. Fatāwā, in Arabic) have the force of decisions of law, and have been collected in tens of books which, both in Judaism and Islam, serve as textbooks of legal precedents and as the basis of subsequent decisions. It is true that Roman law also knew this genre of legal literature (Jus Respondendi), and the assumption that the Jewish and Muslim responsa literature was derived from the Roman practice cannot be rejected out of hand.
However, with regard to Judaism and Islam, it is difficult to establish with certainty what preceded what. In general, one can state, however, that a great part of Muslim religious law developed in Iraq was influenced to a certain extent by the Jewish halakhic activity, which reached its zenith there under the Geonim. It seems, therefore, reasonable to assume, with Goitein, that the well-developed halakhic literature left its imprint on the early law of Islam, but, on the other hand, the possibility should be considered that the development of Jewish halakhah received momentum as a result of the rise and influence of Islam.20 Moreover, it should be kept in mind that Islam had the same needs as Judaism, which led to the growth of a similar halakhic literature, and vice versa. The tremendous socioeconomic revolution the Jews faced under Muslim rule (their transition from a people of farmers to a people of merchants) led to the rise of laws similar to those of Islam, which is, to a considerable extent, the product of a middle-class, mercantile civilization.21
However this may be, the fact remains that the two religions, Judaism and Islam, seem to be the only halakhic religions in the world (the Muslim name for halakhah is Sharī'a, meaning the main road; and the various halakhic schools are
One more example of responsa literature illustrates Islamic influence on Judaism, even though this whole literary religious genre may have first started in Islam under Jewish influence. Jewish religious literature proscribes the playing of any musical instrument as a token of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. However, during the period between Saadiah Gaon and Maimonides, another strange argument for this prohibition was added: here it is linked to the immoral ways of musicians and singers (especially female singers). It seems that this reflects the general religious Muslim negative attitude to music (with the exception of the pietist Sufis, who cultivated religious music). Some Muslim scholars even forbade singers and musicians to appear as witnesses in court, since their profession made them unfit to give evidence. Jewish Sages in the same period followed this example and forbade singers to give evidence in court since they were considered transgressors.24
RABBI ABRAHAM, THE SON OF MAIMONIDES
This final chapter deals with the interesting topic of Rabbi Abraham, the son of Maimonides, who succeeded his father as the head of the Jewish community in Egypt (1204–37), and more generally with the influence of Muslim Sufi pietism and mysticism on Judaism. This Muslim movement and its marvelous religious literature had a tremendous impact on the Jews, who were attracted by it even more than by Arab philosophy.25 That some Jews actually joined Sufi groups is attested by Muslim sources, as well as by Jewish letters from the genizah. S.D. Goitein published a heartrending letter from a poor Jewish woman to the Nagid David (probably the David II Maimonides who, in the middle of the 14th century, became one of the leaders of Egyptian Jewry), in which she implores him to help her bring her husband Basir back to her from the company of "al-Fuqarā" (the Muslim mystics; literally: the poor). Basir had forsaken his wife and children and taken up residence in a Sufi convent on a mountain near Cairo. His wife expressed her fear that he would abandon Judaism and that their three children would follow his example.26
Fragments of poetical and prose works of the Muslim mystics, in their original language but in Hebrew transcription, were found in the Cairo Genizah, and R. Abraham Gavison of Tlemcen in Algeria (d. 1605) says in his commentary on the Proverbs that "every educated man must be impressed by the great philosopher Abu Ḥamid al-Ghazālī," whose books are studied by many Jewish scholars.27 Al-Ghazālī was, of course, not only one of the great Muslim thinkers, but also an outstanding Sufi pietist. Jewish writers, however, never reached the same degree of extreme ecstasy which the Muslim mystics sought, and which induced them to tear down the partitions between religions, between good and evil, and even between God and man.
The story of R. Abraham the son of Maimonides is one of the most striking episodes in the history of this influence.28 R. Abraham (d. 1237), who had inherited the function of Ra'īs al-Yahūd (leader of the Jews) from his father, was not only a leader and a halakhic scholar (see the volume of his responsa published by C. Freiman and S.D. Goitein), but also an outstanding Sufi. He wrote a great pietist Sufi compendium named Kifāyat al-'ābidīn ("The Sufficient Book for the Servants of God"), and tried to win his generation over to the Sufi way of life and to prove to them, with the help of a great many quotations from Jewish sources, that this was the true way for God-fearing men. Although opinions differ as to his sources, there is no doubt that he was deeply influenced by the world of Sufism, with which he had become closely acquainted in Egypt.29 Rabbi Abraham argued that Islam, especially in its Sufi version, preserved many elements of the practices and teachings of the ancient Jewish Sages, which the latter had intentionally neglected with the appearance of pietist heretic circles. Among these elements were kneeling and prostration during prayer, ritual immersions, nightly prayers, etc. Early Islam adopted these ceremonies, as well as the attendant feelings of awe for the Day of Judgment and disgust at this world.
R. Abraham did not, however, content himself with theoretical study alone. His conviction induced him to demand the return to the ancestral customs by imitating the Muslim surroundings, for instance in the matter of prayer. In one section of his work he suggests the removal of pillows from the synagogues and, instead, the spreading of prayer mats and carpets on the floor as in the mosques, and to the practice of prostration in prayer, like the Muslims,30 and he praises the respectful silence in the mosques, which was in flagrant contrast to the noise and lack of devotion in the synagogues of his day. R. Abraham's suggestion, however, was not adopted, as we learn from the genizah documents. The members of his congregation filed a complaint against him with al-Malik al-'Ādil, the ruler, the brother and heir of Saladin, that he tried to force upon them innovations (bid'a) forbidden by their religion. This was in contravention of the laws of Islam, which in this respect were also applied to the non-Muslim communities under its jurisdiction. R. Abraham was compelled to apologize to the Muslim ruler and to announce that he did not intend to abuse his authority as leader of the Jewish community by introducing such religious innovations.31
Judeo-Arabic culture should not, therefore, be treated as a Jewish culture which merely expressed itself in Arabic, but as a common Jewish-Muslim culture cultivated by Jews who lived under the rule of Islam, spoke Arabic, and were deeply influenced not only by some spheres of Islamic civilization, such as Muslim philosophy, but by Islam as a religion in its widest sense.
1. H.A.R. Gibb, "The Influence of Islamic Culture on Medieval Europe," in: John Rylands Library Bulletin 38 (1955–56), 82–98, esp. 85–87.
2. See, e.g., R. Moses b. Maimon, Responsa, ed. and transl. from the Arabic into Hebrew by J. Blau, Jerusalem, 1957, II, 726ff (in Hebrew). This does not mean that Jewish Sages, Maimonides included, refrained from stressing the basic differences and points of dispute between Judaism and Islam.
3. Cf. Mishnah, Ber. 5:1, 5: "None may stand up to say the Tefillah save in sober mood. The pious men of old used to wait an hour before they said the Tefillah, that they might direct their heart towards God."
4. S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts through the Ages, Schocken, N.Y. 1955, 178–79.
5. Many of those regulations were taken over by Islam from Byzantine legislation. Cf. A.S. Tritton, The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects (London, 1930) and Encyclopaedia of Islam, v. dhimma.
6. This aspect was especially stressed by J. Guttmann in his studies. See, e.g., his Philosophies of Judaism (transl. by D.W. Silverman), The Jewish Publication Society of America, Phila., Pa., 1964, Ch. II, and see his article, "Religion u. Wissenschaft im mittelalterlichen u. modernen Denken," in: Festschrift zum 50. Bestehen der Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, Berlin, 1922, 146–240. In spite of the feeling of alliance, as it were, there also flourished, of course, a whole genre of polemic literature, especially Islamic polemics against Judaism and Christianity, often composed by Jewish or Christian converts to Islam. Cf. M. Perlmann, "The Medieval Polemics between Judaism and Islam," in: S.D. Goitein (ed.), Religion in a Religious Age, Association for Jewish Studies, Ktav Publishing House, New York, 1974, 103ff., and especially the general bibliography mentioned there on 135–38. Cf. now also his ed. and transl. of Shaykh Damanhuri on the Churches of Cairo, University of California Press, 1975, and see Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Studies in Al-Ghazzali, Jerusalem, Magnes Press, Appendix A.
7. See G. Weil, Oral Tradition in Judaism and Islam (Hebrew), Magnes Anniversary Book, Jerusalem, 1938, 132–42. (English summary, ibid., xxxi–xxxviii)
8. Cf. I. Goldziher, Vorlesungen über den Islam, Heidelberg, 1925, Ch. II, 44.
9. See A.I. Katsh, Judaism in Islam, Biblical and Talmudic Backgrounds of the Koran and its Commentators, New York, 1954, Sura II, 193, 137–39, and cf. my review of the Hebrew translation of this book (in Hebrew) in: Ha-Mizrah he-Ḥadash (The New East), Quarterly of the Israel Oriental Society, 9 (1958–59), 111–12.
10. A. Geiger's above-mentioned study was translated into English by M. Young as Judaism and Islam, Madras, 1848 (and reprinted by Ktav, New York, 1970, with a prolegomenon by M. Perlmann), and was followed by many studies. It should be noted here again that many of these Jewish (and Christian) stories (Isrā'īliyyāt) were "islamicized," as it were, and elaborated upon in special Muslim collections called Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyā. Afterwards these Islamic versions of ancient biblical stories exercised clear influence on late Hebrew Midrashim, thus proving once more the "closed circle" relationship mentioned above between the two cultures. Cf. e.g., J. Heinemann, Aggadah and Its Development (Hebrew), Jerusalem, 1973, Ch. 12 (on the late Midrash "Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer"). The study and translation of the various "Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyā" as a literary genre of Arabic religious literature has only recently been begun.
11. G. Vajda, "Jeune Musulmane et Jeune Juif," in: HUCA, 12–13 (1938), 369. Encyclopaedia of Islam, v. Ramaḍān (S.D. Goitein).
12. Cf. Encyclopedia Judaica, *Etrog." See also S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs, 193. According to Goitein, this specific Arabic version of the Joseph story may have its origins in early Persian literature, ibid., 194–95.
13. Cf. J. Blau, The Emergence and Linguistic Background of Judeo-Arabic, Oxford, 1965 (third revised edition, Jerusalem, 1999), 158ff (Appendix II, c). Idem, in: Tarbiẓ, Quarterly for Jewish Studies, 15 (1970–71), 512–14; see also the innumerable Judeo-Arabic texts, such as Saadiah Gaon's Siddur (Book of Prayers), his translations of the Bible into Arabic or his famous
14. The Hebrew translation of the book was published with a Hebrew introduction by J. Goldenthal, Paris, 1839, with the title Compendium Doctrinae Ethicae, auctore al-Ghazzali Tusensi, philosophe Arabum clarissimo, de arabico hebraice conversum ab Abrahamo bar Chasdai Barcinonensi (liber argumento luculentissimus et oratione dulcissimus…). Cf. also M. Gottstein, "Translations and Translators in the Middle Ages," in: Gotthold E. Weil Jubilee Volume, Jerusalem 1953, 74–80.
15. A.S. Halkin (ed. and transl. into Hebrew), Moshe b. Ya'akov ibn Ezra, Kitāb al-Muḥadāra wal-l-Mudhākara, Liber Discussions et Commemorationis (Poetica Hebraica), passim, and see A.S. Yahuda (ed.), Al-Hidāya Ilā Farā'id Al-Qulūb des Bahja ibn Jōsēf Ibn Paqudā aus Andalusien, Leiden 1912. Introduction (German), Ch. 3.
16. See S.D. Goitein's monumental A Mediterranean Society, especially Vol. 2, The Community, University of California Press, 1971, and Vol. 3, Daily Life and the Individual, 1976. As for specific influences cf. also N. Wieder, Islamic Influences on Jewish Worship (Hebrew), Oxford, 1957, or M. Zucker, "The Problem of "Isma – Prophetic Immunity to Sin and Error in Islamic and Jewish Literatures" (Hebrew), in: Tarbiẓ, 35 (1966), 149–73 (English summary p. VII). Yet one has to be very careful, especially when dealing with details. Cf. e.g., S.D. Goitein's review of J. Blau's edition of Maimonides' Responsa, "Maimonides as Chief Justice," in: JQR, 49 (1958–9), 191–204, especially 198, n. 25. Nevertheless, the fact of Islamic influence on medieval Oriental Judaism is today acknowledged almost unanimously among students of Jewish history. Cf. also A.S. Halkin, "Judeo-Arabic Literature," in: L. Finkelstein (ed.) The Jews, Their History, Culture and Religion, Vol. 2, New York, 1960, 1116–48; G. Vajda, Introduction à la Pensée Juive au Moyen Age, Paris, 1947. It is interesting to discern the same acknowledgement of general influence and the same reservation with regard to specific religious influences in the study of Islamic influences on the Christian West. As against this, see, e.g., G. Makdisi's studies, for example his article "The Scholastic Method in Medieval Education…," in: Speculum, 49 (1974), 640–61, esp. 641, 661.
17. Cf. EIS2 v. i'djāz.
18. Cf. A.S. Halkin, "The Medieval Attitude Toward Hebrew," in: A. Altmann (ed.) Biblical and Other Studies, Brandeis University, P.W. Lown Institute of Advanced Studies, Studies and Texts I, Harvard University Press, 1963, and Moshe Ibn Ezra, ibid., p. 42ff, 54ff.
19. See EIS v. Ummī. I. Goldziher, Vorlesungen, ibid., Ch. I, 27ff. Cf. also W.M. Watt, Bell's Introduction into the Qur'ān, Edinburgh, 1970 (Islamic Surveys 8), 33ff.
20. See J. Schacht, An Introduction into Islamic Law, Oxford 1964, 20–21; S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs, 59–61; idem, Introduction into Muslim Law, in: Goitein and Ben-Shemesh, Muslim Law in Israel (Hebrew), Jerusalem, 1957. For a different view with regard to the responsa, see A.J. Rosenthal, Judaism and Islam, Popular Jewish Library, 1961, 55. See also M.A. Friedman, "The Ransom Divorce, Proceedings in Medieval Jewish Practice," in: Israel Oriental Studies, 6 (1976), 288–307, esp. 298–99.
21. See S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs, Ch. VI, 89ff. and cf. idem, A Mediterranean Society, Vol. 1: Economic Foundations, University of California Press, 1967, esp. Chs. 2, 3.
22. Cf. also EIS2, v. Fatwā.
23. I. Goldziher, "Über eine Formel in der jüdischen Responsa Literatur und in den Muh. Fatwas," in: ZDMG, 53 (1899), 645–52 (Jewish medieval sources trace this formula back to Isaiah 57:14).
24. Cf. B.M. Lewin (ed.), Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, Gittīn, Jerusalem, 1941, 10, Responsum 20. On music in Islam, see now A. Shiloh, "The Dimension of Sound," in: B. Lewis (ed.), The World of Islam, London, 1976, esp. 168. Cf. also EIS2, v. "Adl; EIS, v. Shāhid; and Th. W. Juynboll, Handbuch des Islamischen Gesetzes, Leiden, 1910, 316.
25. Cf. e.g., G. Vajda, "La Théologie Ascetique de Bahya ibn Paquda," in: Cahiers de la Société Asiatique, 7 (1947); F. Rosenthal, "A Judeo-Arabic Work under Sufi influence," in: HUCA, 15 (1940), 443–84; R.J.Z. Werblowsky, "Faith, Hope and Trust: A Study in the Concept of Bitaḥon," in: Annual of Jewish Studies, London, 1964, 118ff.
26. S.D. Goitein, "A Jewish Addict to Sufism," in: JQR, 44 (1953), 37–49.
27. Omer ha-Shikhḥah (Hebrew), Livorno, 1748, 138a.
28. For a full account, see S.D. Goitein, "Abraham Maimonides and his Pietist Circle" (English), in: A. Altmann (ed.), Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies, P.W. Lown Institute of Advanced Jewish Studies, Brandeis University, Studies and Texts 4, Harvard University Press, 1967, 145–64; and the bibliography mentioned there in note 1. Cf. also idem, i.e., "A Treatise in Defense of the Pietists by Abraham Maimonides," in: JJS, 16 (1966), 105–14; Jews and Arabs, 182ff.; A Mediterranean Society, Vol. 2, 1971, 156–57, 406–7; G. Cohen, "The Soteriology of R. Abraham Maimoni," in: PAAJR, 35 (1967), 75–98; 36 (1968), 33–48. An analysis, edition, and English translation of parts of R. Abraham's Kifāyat al- "Abīdīn is to be found in S. Rosenblatt (ed.), The Highways to Perfection of Abraham Maimonides, 1, New York, 1927; 2, Baltimore, 1938.
29. Scholars are divided upon the question, and some, like G. Cohen, try to minimize Islamic influences on R. Abraham.
30. It may be important to note here that in many aspects there is a much greater affinity between a synagogue and a mosque than between the former and a church, especially a Catholic church. Cf. for example, the common prohibition of paintings and sculptures of men and animals, based on Exodus 20:4–5 and Sūra V, 91 and the commentaries thereon. (This prohibition did not hinder the rise of the fine arts, especially in Islam. Cf. K.A.C. Creswell, "The Lawfulness of Painting in Early Islam," in: Ars Islamica, 11 (1946), 159–66, and cf. EI-Sūra; cf. now
31. The most interesting documents concerning this affair were preserved in the Cairo Genizah (see S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, Vol. I, Introduction, and idem (ed.) Religion in a Religious Age, 139ff.).
Steinschneider, Arab Lit; S. Poznanski, Karaite Literary Opponents of Saadiah Gaon (1908); idem, in: OLZ, 7 (1904), 257–76, 304–15, 345–59; A.S. Halkin, in: L.W. Schwarz (ed.), Great Ages and Ideas of the Jewish People (1956), 215–63; idem, in: L. Finkelstein (ed.), The Jews (19603), 1116–45.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.