Samuel ibn Naghrillah

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Samuel ibn Naghrillah
Diedc. 1056
Occupation(s)Poet, military leader
ChildrenJoseph ibn Naghrela

Samuel ibn Naghrillah[1] (Hebrew: שְׁמוּאֵל הַלֵּוִי בֶּן יוֹסֵף, Šəmuʿēl HalLēvi ben Yosēf; Arabic: أبو إسحاق إسماعيل بن النغريلة ʾAbū ʾIsḥāq ʾIsmāʿīl bin an-Naġrīlah), mainly known as Samuel the Prince (Hebrew: שמואל הנגיד, romanizedŠəmūʿel HanNāgid) and Isma’il ibn Naghrilla[2] (born 993; died 1056), was a medieval Sephardic Jewish Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, soldier, merchant, politician, and an influential poet who lived in Iberia at the time of the Moorish rule.[3] Additionally, he held the position of Prime Minister of the Taifa of Granada and served as the battlefield commander of the Granadan army,[4] making him arguably the most politically influential Jew in Islamic Spain.[5]


Samuel ibn Naghrillah was a Jew of al-Andalus born in Mérida to a wealthy family in 993. He studied Jewish law and became a Talmudic scholar who was fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, and one of the Berber languages.[3][6][7]

Samuel was the student of Rabbi Chanoch, who was the head of the rabbinical community of the Caliphate of Córdoba; he was only twenty years old when the caliphate fell during the Fitna of al-Andalus, a disastrous civil war. He then moved to Málaga and became either a spice merchant or grocer. Around 1020, he moved to Granada, where he was hired as the secretary to Abu al-ʿKasim ibn al-ʿArif, who was the chief secretary to the king of the Taifa of Granada.[7] His relations with the Granadan royal court and his eventual promotion to the position of vizier happened coincidentally. 20th-century scholar Jacob Rader Marcus gives an interesting account pulled from a 12th-century book Sefer ha-Qabbalah. The shop Samuel set up was near the palace of the vizier of Granada, Abu al-Kasim ibn al-Arif.[3] The vizier met Samuel when his maidservant began to ask Samuel to write letters for her.[3] Eventually, Samuel was given the job of tax collector, then secretary, and finally assistant vizier of state to the Granadan king Habbus al-Muzaffar.[6]

When Habbus died in 1038, Samuel ibn Naghrillah made certain that King Habbus’ second son Badis ibn Habus succeeded him, not his firstborn son Bulukkin.[5] The reason behind this act was that Badis was more favored by the people, compared to Bulukkin, with the general Jewish population under Samuel ibn Naghrillah supporting Badis.[8] In return for his support, Badis made Samuel ibn Naghrillah his vizier and top general.[5] 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, Samuel ibn Naghrillah, a dhimmi, should hold such a high public office was rare. This is cited as an example of the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain His unique position as the viziership made him the highest-ranking Jewish courtier in all of Spain. Recognizing this, in the year 1027, he took on the title nagid "prince".[5] That a Jew would command the Muslim army, which he did for 17 years, having them under his authority, was an astonishing feat.[6]

Other leading Jews, including Joseph ibn Migash, in the generation that succeeded Samuel, lent their support to Bulukkin and were forced to flee for their safety.

One story that encapsulates Samuel ibn Naghrillah’s political prowess takes place soon after the succession of Badis. The faction of Yaddair ben Hubasa, Habbus' favorite nephew, told Samuel ibn Naghrillah that they wanted to overthrow the new king and wanted his support. Samuel faked support and allowed them to hold a meeting in his house. He told Badis and allowed him to spy on the meeting. Badis wanted to execute the plotters, but Samuel convinced him that it would be politically better not to. In the end, he was even further respected by the king but also in good standing with the rebels.[7]

As a Jew, Samuel ha-Nagid actively sought to assert independence from the geonim of the Talmudic academies in Babylonia by writing independently on halakha (Jewish law) for the Iberian Jewish community.[9][6] The Nagid became the leader of Spanish Jewry around the late 1020s.[6] 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.[3] He died in 1056 of natural causes.[10]

It has often been speculated that Samuel was the father or otherwise an ancestor of Qasmuna, the only attested medieval female Jewish poet writing in Arabic, but the foundations for these claims are shaky.[11]

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 (1035–1066), to the only daughter of the most respected Torah sage of the generation, Nissim ben Jacob, gaon of Kairouan Yeshiva.[12]: xix  Joseph succeeded his father as vizier of Granada before turning twenty-one.[6] 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, killing most of the Jewish population of the city.[13][14]

The Jewish community of Granada was later reestablished; however, it was destroyed again in 1090 by the arriving Almoravid dynasty, who were puritans intolerant of non-Muslims.[5]



Shmuel Nagid was a famous Hebrew poet of the Middle Ages, as well as a patron of many other poets, and was well known for his homoerotic poetry.[15][3][16] 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.[6] This unique application made Hebrew poetry access the major genres of Arabic poetry.[17] He also wrote poetry in the battlefield.[3] 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. Many of Naghrillah’s poems were also written as warnings or as an interpretation of religious rules. His poem The Reward shows his belief that one should set time for God and time for himself. His poem The Prison talks about how the world is a cage for all of man. He claims that one should live their life unrestrained. His poem The Two Cries talks about the beginning and end of life. He talks about how people are born crying, and when people die, others cry for them. His poem Leave The Hidden Things talks about leaving the mysteries of the world for God to know.[18]

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.[19]
  • 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]

  • ha-Nagid, Shemuʼel (1934). Sassoon, David Solomon (ed.). Diṿan Shemuʼel ha-Nagid / yotsʼe la-or be-faʻam rishonah be-shelemuto ʻal pi ketav yad yaḥid ba-ʻolam (k.y. S. Śaśon 589) ʻim haḳadamah u-mafteaḥ shirim ʻa.y. David ben l.a.a. Solimon ben David Śaśon דיואן שמואל הנגיד / יוצא לאור בפעם ראשונה בשלמותו על פי כתב יד יחיד בעולם (כי ששון ס' תקפט) עם הקדמה ומפתח שירים עי דוד בן לאא דלימאן דוד ששון. [Diwan of Shemuel Hannaghid] (in Hebrew). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • ha-Nagid, Shemuʼel (1966–82). Jarden, Dov (ed.). Diṿan Shemuʼel ha-Nagid ; Ben Tehilim, mutḳan ʻal pi kitve yad u-defusim rishonim ʻim mavo, perush, meḳorot, shinuye nosaḥ, reshimot, mafteḥot / milon u-bibliyografyah ʻal yede Dov Yarden דיואן שמואל הנגיד : בן תהלים מתקן על פי כתבי יד ודפוסים ראשונים עם מבוא, פרוש, מקורות, שנויי נסח, רשימות, מפתחות, מלון ובבליוגרפיה / על ידי דב ירדן [Divan Shmuel Hanagid] (in Hebrew). Vol. 3. Jerusalem: הברו יוניון קולג' פרס.
  • HaNagid, Shmuel (2016). Cole, Peter (ed.). Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-8409-4.


  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. ^ Catlos, Brian (2018). Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain. Basic Books. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-465-05587-6. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g 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.
  4. ^ Samuel; Hanagid, Shmuel (24 March 1996). Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691011202.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b c Catlos, Brian A. (2014). Infidel kings and unholy warriors: faith, power, and violence in the age of crusade and jihad (First ed.). New York. ISBN 978-0-8090-5837-2. OCLC 868509999.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ Sefer ha-Kabbalah of RAVAD, pub. in: Seder Olam Rabba / Seder Olam Zuta, Jerusalem 1971, p. 40 (Hebrew)
  9. ^ Eban, Abba Solomon (1984). Heritage: Civilization and the Jews. Simon and Schuster. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-671-44103-6.
  10. ^ Constable, Olivia R., ed. (1997). Medieval Iberia. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812215694.
  11. ^ Gallego, María Ángeles (1999). "Approaches to the Study of Muslim and Jewish Women in Medieval lberian Peninsula: The Poetess Qasmuna bat Isma 'il". Miscelánea de Estudios Árabes y Hebraicos. Sección de Hebreo. 48: 63–75. hdl:10481/73206.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Gubbay, Lucien (2001). Sunlight and Shadow: The Jewish Experience of Islam. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-86064-738-3.
  14. ^ Roth, Norman (1994). Jews, Visigoths, and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict. BRILL. p. 110. ISBN 978-90-04-09971-5.
  15. ^ Solomon Eban, Abba (1984). Heritage: Civilization and the Jews. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671441035.
  16. ^ Gilad, Elon (2 June 2016). "Judaism and Homosexuality: A Brief History". Haaretz. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  17. ^ Medieval Islamic civilization. Psychology Press. 2004. ISBN 9780415966900.
  18. ^ Zemach, Eddy M (2004). "Hanagid on God and Men". Prooftexts. 24 (1): 87–98. doi:10.1353/ptx.2004.0013. JSTOR 10.2979/pft.2004.24.1.87. S2CID 170782841. Gale A122418387 Project MUSE 172473 ProQuest 195790515.
  19. ^ "Samuel ha-Nagid | Spanish-Jewish scholar and statesman | Britannica".

External links[edit]