Abu Isḥāq Ibrahim Sahl ibn al-Nag'hdīlah ibn Ata al-yahūdī, haRoffe al-Galut 'Mar Sahl' (c.965 - 1053) MP

‹ Back to ibn al-Nag'hdīlah ibn Ata al-yahūdī surname

View Abu Isḥāq Ibrahim Sahl ibn al-Nag'hdīlah ibn Ata al-yahūdī, haRoffe al-Galut 'Mar Sahl''s complete profile:

  • See if you are related to Abu Isḥāq Ibrahim Sahl ibn al-Nag'hdīlah ibn Ata al-yahūdī, haRoffe al-Galut 'Mar Sahl'
  • Request to view Abu Isḥāq Ibrahim Sahl ibn al-Nag'hdīlah ibn Ata al-yahūdī, haRoffe al-Galut 'Mar Sahl''s family tree

Share

Nicknames: "Mar Saul", "Mar Sahl", "Avraham ben Nathan Nagid HaGolei"
Birthplace: al-Mahdiyya, Tunisia
Death: Died in القاهرة, Egypt
Occupation: Exilarch-Rosh Golah of Judah
Managed by: Jaim Harlow
Last Updated:

About Abu Isḥāq Ibrahim Sahl ibn al-Nag'hdīlah ibn Ata al-yahūdī, haRoffe al-Galut 'Mar Sahl'

Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm Ibn ʿAṭāʾ (Abraham ben Nathan) was leader of Qayrawan Jewry in the first third of the eleventh century. He was a member of a wealthy elite that included the Ben Berekhiah, Tahertī, and Ibn al-Majjānī families. His father, Nathan, may have been a communal official, although this is not clear. He was a major supporter of the academy (bet midrash) in Qayrawan and was also a generous contributor to the Babylonian yeshivot, particularly to the Sura yeshiva, the renewal of which he helped to finance. Ibn ʿAṭāʾ served as court physician to the Zirid amirs Bādis (r. 996–1016) and al-Muʿizz (r. 1016–1062) in al-Mahdiyya.

Due to his access to the ruler, he bore the honorific title rosh kol ha-qehillot (Heb. head of all the congregations). In late 1015, Ibn ʿAṭāʾ received the title of negid ha-gola (Heb. nagid of the exile) from Hay Gaon of the Pumbedita yeshiva. He was the first Diaspora leader to hold this exalted title. According to a letter in the Cairo Geniza (Bodl MS Heb. D 65, f.9), he was on a military campaign with Bādis when word of the title arrived.

Despite his distinguished position at court, Ibn ʿAṭāʾ was publicly insulted while bearing a message from al-Muʿizz to the great Maliki scholar Abū ʿImrān al-Fāsī. The latter became furious when he mistook the Jew for a Muslim because he was not wearing the ghiyār badge. The zealous jurist stained the nagid’s turban on the spot to mark him as a dhimmī and sent him packing. When Ibn ʿAṭāʾ sought redress from the ruler, he was rebuffed and told that this was a lesson “showing the power of Islam and the veneration inspired by Muslim scholars.”

Ibn ʿAṭāʾ was honored in a number of Hebrew poems by Isaac Ibn Khalfūn and in a panegyric by Hay Gaon himself. Israel ben Samuel ben Hophni dedicated a book on the laws of prayer to Ibn ʿAṭāʾ, and an unknown author dedicated a philosophical treatise on the divine attributes to him. Ibn ʿAṭāʾ died sometime during the 1030s and was succeeded in the office of nagid by Jacob ben Amram.

Avraham ben Nathan Nagid HaGolei was the first Nagid of Kairouan half-brother of Samuel HaNagid. He was a close personal friend of Nehorai ben Nissim (Gaon of Kairouan). He befriended the son of Hasdai ibn Yitzhak Ibn Shaprut (a/k/a Abu Yūsuf Hasdai ibn Isḥāq ibn Ezra ibn Shaprūt[1]); the son's name was Yehuda ben Yosef Hasdai ibn Yitzhak Ibn Shaprut (a/k/a Abu Yehuda Yūsuf ben Hasdia Hasdai ibn Isḥāq ibn Ezra ibn Shaprūt[1]) – a/k/a “Judah ben Joseph”. In the Maghreb, the term nagid first came into use in Ifrīqiya (medieval Tunisia). Goitein believed it was originally an honorific bestowed by the Babylonian geonim upon their supporters in Qayrawan rather than an official title. The first person so styled was Ibrāhīm ibn ʿAṭāʾ, court physician to the Zīrīd amirs. Ibrāhīm’s successor, Jacob ben Amram(fl. 1030s–1050s), was also a courtier of the Zīrīds. Neither of these men officially had the status of raʾīs al-yahūd( head of the Jews), as did later Egyptian nagids; the title was not connected to the institution of the negidate that developed in Egypt.

Judah ben Joseph had a business relationship with the “Regent” of the Zirid-Fatimid Empire based in Kairouan; she was sister of Ma‘ādh Abū Tamīm ibn Badis al-Mu‘izz li Dīn Allāh (932 – 975) (her name was Umm al-'Aziz) – she had a fleet of ships she rented to Judah ben Joseph. This gave Judah ben Joseph a competitive advantage over all other shippers in the Mediterranean Basin – he could get his products transported on ships protected by the Fatmid Army and Navy.

Al-Muʿizz, was the most powerful of the Fāṭimid caliphs, whose armies conquered Egypt and who made the newly founded Al-Qāhirah, or Cairo, his capital in 972–973. He was about 22 years of age when he succeeded his father, al-Mansur, in 953 with the title of al-Muʿizz. His authority was acknowledged over the greater part of the region now comprising Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and he soon took the island of Sicily.

Al-Muʻizz was renowned for his tolerance of other religions, and was popular among his Jewish and Christian subjects. He is also credited for having commissioned the invention of the first fountain pen. In 953, al-Muizz demanded a pen which would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen which held ink in a reservoir. As recorded by Qadi al-Nu'man al-Tamimi (d. 974) in his Kitdb al-Majalis wa 'l-musayardt, al-Mu’izz commissioned the construction of the pen instructing:[2]

‘We wish to construct a pen which can be used for writing without having recourse to an ink-holder and whose ink will be contained inside it. A person can fill it with ink and write whatever he likes. The writer can put it in his sleeve or anywhere he wishes and it will not stain nor will any drop of ink leak out of it. The ink will flow only when there is an intention to write. We are unaware of anyone previously ever constructing (a pen such as this) and an indication of ‘penetrating wisdom’ to whoever contemplates it and realises its exact significance and purpose’. I exclaimed, ‘Is this possible?’ He replied, ‘It is possible if God so wills’.

Nehorai ben Nissim, the son of Nissim ben Jacob in Fostat, was a close business partner with Abu l'Qasim Abd al-Rahman – son of the Caliph of Cordoba. Avraham ben Nathan was not as flamboyant as his older half-brother nor as brilliant. Due to his mis-steps, his history is sparse and fragmentary.

Samuel ben Hofni was the Gaon of Sura, his son after him wrote a book concerning the laws of prayer for “ourt lord and master Nathan, head of the communities and referes to Abraham as “the Banner of the faith and the crown of the nation”.

Avraham played a central role in in organizing the flow of money from Kairouan to the Yeshivot of the East. In order to transfer monies he maintained close contact with the Maghribis who had settled in Fostat (Yakob ibn 'Awkal, his son Yosef ibn 'Awkal, and Abu l'Chayr Musa ben Barhun a/k/a Moshe ben Abraham).

Hai ben Sherira Gaon wrote a poem in honor of Avraham referring to him as “the Nagid of the Nation and head of its sedarim and Master and Minister of all the Jews”.

According to Geniza fragments Avraham was not a modest or humble man but he did manage to calm the anger of his father towards Shmuel HaNagid. Avraham ben Nathan was the first nagid of the Jewish community of Kairouan appointed by Hayya Gaon in 1015 CE. Avraham ben Nathan was also known by his Arabic name Abu Isḥāq Ibrahim ibn Ata, was wealthy, concerned with the welfare of others, a scholar, and a general in the army of the Zirids (successors of the Fatimids).

He was court physician to Badis (Zirid Sultan), the viceroy of Tunisia, and to al-Mu'izz his son and successor. Al-Muizz eventually moves his caliphate headquarters from Kairouan to Mahdia on the Tunisian coast after he loses Kairouan to the Banu Hilal (am Arab Bedouin tribe of Fatimids sent to punish the Zirids for abandoning Shi'ite Islam; while in Tunisia, the Banu Hilal attaked the adjacent Hammadids for abandoning Shi'ism and returning to Maliki Sunni Islam thereby acknowledging the Abassids as rightful Caliphs.

Al-Mu'izz declares independence from the Fatimid Caliphate and later moves to Cairo where Avraham becomes Nagid. His half-brother, Samuel HaNagid, travelled with Habus and Badis to Granada where he ruled the Zirid possessions...leaving Tunisia to the Administration of his younger brother. Abraham did much for the Jewish communities of North Africa and Tyre.

Two poems praising him are known to exist. Isḥāq ibn Khalfon, the court poet, dedicated several of his poems to his benefactor. He was honored in a song of praise by Rav Hai Gaon of Pumbeditha.

Thus begins a family of warrior-scholars – Ibn Yahya

. Abraham Ben Nathan brokers the support of Solomon Ibn Gavirol by Josef Ibn Ferruziel. Please note the Mu'tazilite School of Islam was founded by Abū Ḥudhayfah Wāṣil ibn ‘Aṭā’ was a protégé of the Banū Ḍabbah, or it is also said of the Banū Makhsūm. His birth was at al-Madīnah and he was called al-Ghazzāli because of his frequenting Sūq al-Ghazl in order to become acquainted with the chaste women, to whom he distributed his alms.

The position of “Nagid of Cairo” is filled many years later by Maimonides. Avraham ben Nathan had at least three (3) sons –

1) Yitzhak Abraham [Yitzchak 'Amram ben Avraham (a/k/a “Zakai ben Abraham”)]

2) Yakob ben 'Amram (the 2nd Nagid of Kairouan),

3) Nathan - Nathan traveled to [Sijilmasa] to act as Rabbi and extend the reach of his brothers.

Ben-Sasson, Menahem. The Emergence of the Local Jewish Community in the Muslim World: Qayrawan, 800–1057 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1996) [Hebrew].

Davidson, Israel. “Poetic Fragments from the Genizah: II. From a Divan of a North African Poet,” Jewish Quarterly Review, n.s. 1, no. 2 (October 1910): 231–247.

Gil, Moshe, “The Babylonian Yeshivot and the Maghrib in the Early Middle Ages,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 57 (1990–1991): 108–115.

Stillman, Norman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1979), pp. 46, 63, 183–185.

———. “Un témoignage contemporain de l’histoire de la Tunisie Ziride,” Hespéris-Tamuda 13 (1972): 37–59.

Norman A. Stillman. " Ibn ʿAṭāʾ, Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm (Abraham ben Nathan)." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 03 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/ibn-ata-abu-ishaq-ibrahim-abraham-ben-nathan-SIM_0010160>

“A history of Palestine, 634-1099, Volume 1” by Moshe Gil, CUP Archive, 1992 ISBN0521404371, 9780521404372

“Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages” by Moshe Gil & David Strassler Translated byDavid Strassler, BRILL, ISBN900413882X, 9789004138827

view all

Abu Isḥāq Ibrahim Sahl ibn al-Nag'hdīlah ibn Ata al-yahūdī, haRoffe al-Galut 'Mar Sahl''s Timeline

965
965
Tunisia
989
989
Age 24
990
990
Age 25
Al-Qayrawan, Kairouan North, Kairouan, Tunisia
993
993
Age 28
Al-Qayrawan, Kairouan North, Kairouan, Tunisia
995
995
Age 30
Ramla, Israel
997
997
Age 32
Al-Qayrawan, Kairouan North, Kairouan, Tunisia
1053
1053
Age 88
القاهرة, Egypt
????