WASIT, city in S. Iraq, founded about 703 by al-Ḥajjāj, governor of Babylonia on behalf of ʿAbd al-Malik, the *Umayyad caliph. Situated in a fertile region on the banks of the Tigris, Wasit was a populous center under the Umayyads and *Abbasids; it retained its importance during the Late Middle Ages up until the 16th century when the city fell into ruins as a result of the Tigris changing its course to a more eastward one. Under the Abbasid caliphs, Wasit had one of the leading Jewish communities in Babylonia, and, as reported by *Nathan ha-Bavli, paid an annual tax of 150 dinars to the *Sura academy. It was still a flourishing community in the 13th century; in 1201 R. Daniel b. Eleazar b. Ḥibat Allah, the head of the Baghdad academy, addressed himself to the communities of Basra and Wasit (in connection with Beit Keneset shel Ezra), from which it appears that these were the two outstanding communities in southern Babylonia. Some of the members of the *Ibn al-Barqūlī family, a prominent Jewish family of Wasit in this period, served in government posts. Judah *Al-Harizi visited Wasit and in his report praised the dignitary Samuel, who may be identical with Samuel ibn al-Barqūlī. The poet *Eleazar b. Jacob composed many poems in honor of Joseph ibn al-Barqūlī, a resident of Wasit. Matteh Oz, a work dating from this period, is a collection of sermons given by Isaac Sar-Shalom in Wasit and other southern Babylonian towns from 1210 to 1232 (Neubauer, Cat, no. 1001).
G. Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate (1930), 39ff.; S. Assaf, in: Tarbiz, 1 no. 1 (1930), 122; no. 3, 54, 64; J. Leveen, in: JQR, 16 (1925/26), 395–7.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.