Abraham ben Shmuel ibn Hasday

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Abraham ben Shmuel ibn Hasday (haLevi)

Birthplace: Toledo, Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain
Immediate Family:

Son of Shmuel ben Hasday ibn Shaprut
Husband of Bonosa
Father of Astruc Bonsenyor

Managed by: Private User
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About Abraham ben Shmuel ibn Hasday

Abraham ben Samuel ha-Levi ibn Ḥasday lived in Barcelona during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries and was a translator from Arabic to Hebrew, a poet, and an active partisan of Maimonides. Ibn Ḥasday corresponded with Judah ibn Alfakhar and Me’ir ha-Levi Abulafia, the principal anti-Maimonideans in Toledo, in a unsuccessful effort to persuade them to reverse their negative attitude toward the Rambam. He also came out in defense of David Qimḥi, who had been harshly criticized when he went to Castile seeking allies in favor of the Guide of the Perplexed. Ibn Ḥasday’s pro-Maimonidean campaign, directed not only to the Jews of Castile but also to those of Aragon, Navarre, and Léon, led him to take on the staunch anti-rationalist Nahmanides and the School of Girona. Ibn Ḥasday was accompanied by his brother Judah in his travels on behalf of Maimonides and rationalist philosophy.

Ibn Ḥasday’s literary legacy lies in his translations from Arabic to Hebrew. The works he translated were very heterogeneous and were by both Muslim and Jewish authors. His philosophical translations include al-Ghazālī’s Mīzān al-ʿAmal (Scales of Deed), a Sufi-inspired ethical work. Ibn Ḥasday’s translation, Mozne Ṣedeq (Scales of Justice; ed. Goldenthal, 1834–39), contributed to the diffusion of elements of Sufi mysticism among Christians and Jews in Europe. He also translated two Neoplatonic works: Isaac Israeli’s Book of the Elements (Heb. Sefer ha-Yesodot, ed. S. Fried, 1990) and the very popular Book of the Apple (Sefer ha-Tappuaḥ in Liqquṭe ha-Pardes, Venice, 1519), attributed to Aristotle. (Maimonides, in his letter to Samuel ibn Tibbon, rejected this attribution.) Judging by the numerous manuscripts of Ibn Ḥasday’s translation, the Book of the Apple was also very popular among European Jews. Ibn Ḥasday translated Maimonides’s Epistle to Yemen, which had previously been translated by Samuel ibn Tibbon, because he could not find a copy of the earlier rendering. He also translated Maimonides’s Book of Commandments (Sefer ha-Miṣvot), but his Hebrew version has not been preserved and is only known through citations. Ibn Ḥasday translated into Hebrew the collection of didactic and romantic tales based on the life of Buddha, originally written in Sanskrit and known in Arabic as Bilawhar wa-Yūdāsaf (and in Greek and Latin as Barlaam and Josaphat). His Hebrew version, entitled Ben ha-Melekh veha-Nazir (The Prince and the Nazarite), is rendered in thirty-five chapters of rhymed prose (maqāma) and highlights Ibn Ḥasday’s literary skill. His versified version enjoyed considerable popularity in the Middle Ages and early modern times. Several editions followed the first printed edition in Constantinople in 1518, the most recent one by Haberman in 1950.

In the opinion of Schirmann and Fleischer (1997), Ibn Ḥasday was also the author of a book of maqāmāt entitled Maḥberet Temima, fragments of which were found in the Cairo Geniza.

Lola Ferre


Calders i Artís, Tessa (trans.). El príncep y el Monjo D’Abraham ben Šemuel ibn Ḥasday (Sabadell: AUSA, 1987).

Schirmann, Ḥayyim. Ha-Shira ha-‘Ivrit bi-Sfarad uve-Provans, vol. 2 (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1954–56).

———. The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France, ed., suppl., and annot. Ezra Fleischer (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1997) [Hebrew].

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

Septimus, Bernard. Hispano-Jewish Culture in Transition (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982).

Steinschneider, Moritz. Die hebräischen Übersetzungen des Mittelalters und die Juden als Dolmetscher (Berlin: Kommissionsverlag des Bibliographischen Bureaus, 1893; repr. Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956).

Cite this page

Lola Ferre. "Ibn Ḥasday, Abraham ben Samuel ha-Levi." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online, 2013. <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-...>

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