Abū ʿAmr Yosef ben Ya'akub ibn Sahl (c.1030 - c.1113) MP

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Birthplace: Córdoba, Córdoba, Andalusia, Spain
Death: Died in Ramla, Israel
Managed by: Jaim Harlow
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About Abū ʿAmr Yosef ben Ya'akub ibn Sahl

Ibn Sahl, Joseph (Abū ʿAmr) ben Jacob

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 in Nisan, 4884, after having judged Israel eleven years" (p. 82 Eng.; p. 61 Heb.). Judah al-Ḥarīzī also praises his poetry in his Taḥkemoni (45).

Only a few poems by Ibn Sahl have survived. Three, written in response to a request from Ibn Ezra for an opinion on one of his poems, are included in Ibn Ezra's dīwān: Ekha yu'am zahav (Alas, gold has become dull; Schirmann 1954-56, vol.1, p. 359), Oy ki fenine shir (Woe for the pearls of poetry; Abramson 1965, p. 74), and Shirekha gevir nafshi (Your poem, nobleman of my soul; Abramson 1965, p. 76; Schirmann 1995, p. 487). Ibn Ezra, in turn, responded with a poem of his own (Shire ha-Ḥol, 1, no. 104). He also quotes verses by Ibn Sahl in four passages of his Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa-l-Mudhākara. Geniza evidence shows that Ibn Sahl and Judah ha-Levi knew each other (Schirmann 1936, p. 151) (see also Cairo Geniza). Also extant are fragments of a tehilla he sent to Ibn Ghiyyāth (Abramson 1965, p. 72) and of an elegy he wrote upon the latter's death in 1089 (Schirmann 1936, p. 149). He may also have written an elegy upon Isaac al-Fāsī’s death in 1113 (Abramson 1965, p. 66), and Schirmann (1936, p. 150) published a muwashshaḥ (strophic poem) with kharja (envoi) in Arabic by Ibn Sahl, following a similar one by Samuel ha-Nagid. Schirmann also edited his satirical poem on fleas, a tefilla (prayer) preserved in Judah Halevi's dīwān, and a poem of separation (1965, pp. 212-214). Ibn Sahl appears to have translated some of Isaac al-Fāsī‚«’s responsa from Arabic into Hebrew, but they have not survived.

Of all his extant poems, the one on flees has attracted the most scholarly attention. Schirmann (1995, pp. 487 ff.) argues that it represents the beginning of a new trend in Hebrew poetry that departs from classical poetic themes.

Esperanza Alfonso


Abramson, Shraga. Quotations: A Study in Medieval Hebrew Poetry (Jerusalem: Schocken Institute for Jewish Research, 1965) [Hebrew].

Al-Ḥarīzī, Judah. Taḥkemoni, ed. Israel Toporowsky (Tel Aviv: Maḥvarot le-sifrut and Mosad Harav Kook, 1952).

Ibn Daʾud, Abraham. Sefer ha-Qabbalah: The Book of Tradition, ed. and trans. Gerson D. Cohen. (Oxford; Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2005).

Ibn Ezra, Moses. Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa-l-Mudhākara, ed. and trans. into Spanish Montserrat Abumalham, 2 vols. (Madrid: CSIC, 1986).

---. Shire ha-Ḥol, ed. Ḥayyim Brody, add. Dan Pagis, 3 vols. (Berlin and Jerusalem: Schocken, 1934/35-1977).

Schirmann, Ḥayyim. "Ha-Meshorerim Bene Doram shel Moshe ibn Ezraʿ vi-Yehuda ha-Levi," Yedi'ot ha-Makhon le-Ḥeqer ha-Shira ha-ʿIvrit 2 (1936): 148-51.

---. Ha-shira ha-ʿIvrit bi-Sfarad u-ve-Provans (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1954-56).

---. The History of Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain, ed., suppl., and annot. Ezra Fleischer (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1995) [Hebrew].

---. New Hebrew Poems from the Geniza (Jerusalem: Israeli Academy of Sciences, 1965) [Hebrew].

Citation Esperanza Alfonso. " Ibn Sahl, Joseph (Abū ʿAmr) ben Jacob." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 24 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/ibn-sahl-joseph-abu-amr-ben-jacob-SIM_0011060>

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Abū ʿAmr Yosef ben Ya'akub ibn Sahl's Timeline

Córdoba, Córdoba, Andalusia, Spain
Age 83
Ramla, Israel