Samuel ibn Naghrillah

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Samuel ibn Naghrillah
Born993 Edit this on Wikidata
Diedc. 1055 Edit this on Wikidata

Samuel ibn Naghrillah[1] (Hebrew: ר׳ שְׁמוּאֵל הַלֵּוִי בֶּן יוֹסֵף הַנָּגִּיד, Sh'muel HaLevi ben Yosef HaNagid; Arabic: أبو إسحاق إسماعيل بن النغريلة ʾAbū ʾIsḥāq ʾIsmāʿīl bin an-Naghrīlah), also known as Samuel HaNagid (Hebrew: שמואל הנגיד, Shmuel HaNagid, lit. Samuel the Prince) (born 993; died 1056), was a medieval Jewish Spanish Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, soldier, merchant, politician, and an influential poet who lived in Iberia at the time of the Moorish rule. His poetry was one area through which he was well known.[2] He was perhaps the most politically influential Jew in Muslim Spain.[3]


Samuel ibn Naghrillah was an Andalusian Jew born in Mérida in 993. He studied Jewish law and became a Talmudic scholar who was fluent in both Hebrew and Arabic.[2][4]

He started his life as a shopkeeper and merchant in Córdoba.[2] However, civil war broke out in 1009 against the Amirid Kingdom and Berbers took the city in 1013, forcing him to flee from Córdoba.[2] In Málaga, he started a spice shop. His relations with the Granada royal court, and his eventual promotion to the position of vizier, happened in a coincidental manner. Jacob Rader Marcus, pulled from the Sefer Seder ha-kabbalah this interesting account. The shop he set up was near the palace of the vizier of Granada, Abu al-Kasim ibn al-Arif.[2] The vizier met Samuel ibn Naghrillah when his maid servant began to ask Naghrillah to write letters for her.[2] Eventually Naghrillah was given the job of a tax collector, then a secretary, and finally an assistant vizier of state to the Berber king Habbus al-Muzaffar.[4]

When Habbus died in 1038, Samuel ibn Naghrillah made certain that King Habbus’ second son, Badis, succeeded him, not his first born, Bulukkin.[3] The reason behind this act was that Badis was more favored by the people, compared to Bulukkin, with the general Jewish population under Samuel ha-Nagid supporting Badis.[5] In return for his support, Badis made Samuel ibn Naghrillah his vizier and top general.[3] Some sources say that he held office as a viziership of state for over three decades until his death sometime around or after 1056. Because Jews were not permitted to hold public office in Islamic nations as an agreement made in the Pact of Umar, that Samuel Nagid, a Jew or dhimmi, should hold such a high public office was rare. His example was used to support the Golden Age theory, regarding Jewish life under Muslim rule, rather than the lachrymose view. His unique position as the viziership made him the highest ranking Jewish courtier in all of Spain. Recognizing this, in the year of 1027, he took on the title of nagid, or Prince.[3] The peculiar fact regarding his position as the top general in the Granada army was that he was a Jew. That a Jew would command the Muslim army, which he did for 17 years, having them under his authority, was an astonishing feat.[4] Other leading Jews, including Joseph ibn Migash, in the generation that succeeded Samuel ha-Nagid, lent their support to Bulukkin and were forced to flee for their safety.

As a Jew, Samuel ha-Nagid actively sought to assert an independence from the Babylonian geonim by writing independently on Jewish law for the Spanish community.[6][4] The Nagid became the leader of Spanish Jewry around the late 1020s.[4] He promoted the welfare of the Jewish people through various acts. For example, he promoted Jewish learning by purchasing many copies of the Talmud, the massive compendium of commentaries on the Jewish oral law. He also promoted the study of the Talmud by giving a form of scholarship to those who wanted to study the Torah for a living.[2] He died in 1056 of natural causes.[7]

It has often been speculated that Samuel was the father or otherwise an ancestor of Qasmūna, the only attested female Arabic-language medieval Jewish poet, but the foundations for these claims are shaky.[8]

Kfar HaNagid, a moshav in modern Israel, was named after him.

Joseph ibn Naghrela[edit]

In 1049, Samuel ibn Naghrillah arranged a marriage for his son Joseph ibn Naghrela (Yusef ibn Naghrillah) (1035–1066) to the only daughter of the most respected Torah sage of the generation, Rav Nissim Gaon of Kairouan.[9]: xix  Joseph succeeded his father as vizier of Granada before turning twenty-one.[4] Many Muslims, envious of his position and unhappy with Joseph's excesses, accused him of using his office to benefit Jewish friends. Joseph was assassinated in a mob uprising against him on December 30, 1066. The people then proceeded to crucify his body upon the city's main gate. The following morning, the massacre of Granada's Jews began and a mob went on a rampage in Granada, killing a large number of Jewish inhabitants. The Jewish community was later re-established but was destroyed again in 1090 by the Almoravids.[3]



Samuel Nagid was a famous Hebrew poet of the Middle Ages, as well a patron of many other poets, and was well known for his homoerotic poetry.[10][2] Eban says that the Nagid's influence was in that he established a new style of Hebrew poetry by applying aspects of Arabic poetry to biblical Hebrew.[4] This unique application made Hebrew poetry access the major genres of Arabic poetry.[11] He also wrote poetry in the battlefield.[2] When he defeated the allied armies of Seville, Malaga and the Berbers on Sept. 8, 1047 at Ronda, he wrote in his Hebrew poem of gratitude for his deliverance: "A redemption which was like the mother of my other redemptions and they became to it as daughters."His main poetic works include "Ben Tehillim" (Son of Psalms), "Ben Qoheleth" (Son of Ecclesiastes), and "Ben Mishlei" (Son of Proverbs), each of which imitates the "father work". He founded the yeshiva that produced such brilliant scholars as Yitzhaq ibn Ghiath and Maimon ben Joseph, the father of Maimonides.

Other works[edit]

  • Samuel is generally credited as the author of Mevo ha-Talmud (Introduction to the Talmud), a manual for Talmud study that was reprinted in many later editions of the Talmud.[12]
  • An Arabic treatise on biblical Hebrew grammar.
  • "Ben Tehillim" (Son of Psalms),
  • "Ben Qoheleth" (Son of Ecclesiastes), and
  • "Ben Mishlei" (Son of Proverbs).

Editions and translations[edit]

  • Diwan of Shemuel Hannaghid, ed. by David Solomon Sassoon (London: Oxford University Press, 1934)
  • Diwan Shemu'el ha-Nagid, ed. by D. Yarden, 2 vols (Jerusalem, 1966–82)
  • Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid, trans. by Peter Cole (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996)


  1. ^ Roth, Norman (1994). Jews, Visigoths, and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict. BRILL. p. 89. ISBN 978-90-04-09971-5. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Marcus, Jacob Rader. "59: Samuel Ha-Nagid, Vizier of Granada." The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book, 315-1791. Cincinnati: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1938. 335-38.
  3. ^ a b c d e Stillman, Norman A. The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book, The Jewish Publication Society of America,1979. 56
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Eban, Abba Solomon (July 1, 1984). Heritage: civilization and the Jews. Simon and Schuster. pp. 144–145. ISBN 9780671441036.
  5. ^ Sefer ha-Kabbalah of RAVAD, pub. in: Seder Olam Rabba / Seder Olam Zuta, Jerusalem 1971, p. 40 (Hebrew)
  6. ^ Abba Solomon Eban,Heritage: Civilization and the Jews, Simon & Schuster 1984
  7. ^ Constable, Olivia R., ed. (1997). Medieval Iberia. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812215694.
  8. ^ María Ángeles Gallego, 'Approaches to the Study of Muslim and Jewish Women in Medieval Iberian Peninsula: The Poetess Qasmuna Bat Isma`il', MEAH, sección Hebreo, 48 (1999), 63-75 (pp. 70-72).
  9. ^ Davidson, Israel (1924). Selected Religious Poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol. Schiff Library of Jewish Classics. Translated by Zangwill, Israel. Philadelphia: JPS. p. 247. ISBN 978-0-8276-0060-7. LCCN 73-2210.
  10. ^ Solomon Eban, Abba (1984). Heritage: Civilization and the Jews. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671441035.
  11. ^ Medieval Islamic civilization. Psychology Press. 2004. ISBN 9780415966900.
  12. ^ "Samuel ha-Nagid | Spanish-Jewish scholar and statesman | Britannica".

External links[edit]