A Maimonidean Life

Joseph ben Judah Ibn Shimʿon of Ceuta’s Biography Reconstructed

In: Maimonides Review of Philosophy and Religion Volume 1, 2022
Author: Reimund Leicht1
  • 1 The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Jewish Thought
Open Access

Abstract

This article is an attempt to integrate the available information about Joseph ben Judah Ibn Shimʿon, Maimonides’s famous disciple and the recipient of the Guide of the Perplexed, into a synthetic view of his intellectual profile and to depict his biography in a strictly diachronic perspective. It reconstructs four distinct periods in his life, which—when taken together—are so deeply connected to the person of Maimonides both in their development and in their general outlook that they can perhaps best be described as a “Maimonidean life at the turn of the twelfth to the thirteenth century.” Joseph Ibn Shimʿon is presented as a fascinating and complex personality who was active in a dramatic period of Jewish history in the Islamicate world. His life and work deserve more systematic investigation and attention than they have received thus far.

1 Introduction

Joseph ben Judah ibn Shimʿon of Ceuta is Maimonides’s famous disciple and the addressee of the Guide of the Perplexed. He is perhaps one of the less illustrious personalities in the cultural and intellectual history of the Jews in the Islamicate world of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but he has been repeatedly discussed by modern researchers and a considerable amount of biographical material has been brought to light. This material, however, has never been systematically assembled and synthesised. This is quite deplorable, because the scattered information about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life—even if it is not very extensive—is more than sufficient in quantity and quality to allow the reconstruction of a fairly comprehensive outline of the life of a person whose biography proves to form a significant chapter of a stormy period in Jewish history.1

It seems that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was born in Ceuta around the middle of the twelfth century and that he died in Aleppo in 1226. Since David Hirsch (Zvi) Baneth published a much-quoted article on the subject, modern scholarship has unanimously accepted that Maimonides’s disciple is not the same person as Joseph ben Judah Ibn ʿAqnin.2 In Muslim Arabic sources, he is called Yūsuf Abū Ḥaǧāǧ ibn Yaḥyā ibn Isḥāq ibn Samʿūn al-Sabtī al-Maġribī. As Salomon Munk showed in a seminal study published in 1842,3 the change from Joseph ben Judah to Yūsuf ibn Yaḥyā has other precedents among Jews in medieval Arab countries. In Jewish sources, he is often called Joseph ben Judah ha-Maʿaravi (i.e., the Maghrebi, or: Ner ha-Maʿaravi, “the Maghrebi candle”) and occasionally also R. Joseph ben Judah Roʾš ha-Seder.4 The latter name and title must not be confused with Joseph (ben Jacob) Roʾš ha-Seder, an Iraqi scholar who was active in Egypt during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.5

Most of the basic biographical data about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon assembled by Munk in his “Notice” were taken from the biography in Ibn al-Qifṭī’s Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ and Barhebraeus’s Historia Dynastiarum (Taʾrīḫ muḫtaṣar al-duwal), which largely depends on the former. This biographical skeleton was fleshed out with information taken from Judah al-Ḥarizi’s Sefer Taḥkemoni, the correspondence between Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon that was known to him at that date, Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed, and Abraham Maimonides’s polemical letter Wars of the Lord (Milḥamot ha-Šem). Munk also mentions and quotes from a manuscript of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s theologico-philosophical treatise On the Necessary Existent, the Quality of the Forthcoming of Things from Him and the Creations of the World and briefly refers to the entry on Abū al-Ḥaǧāǧ Yūsuf al-Isrāʾīlī in Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿah’s ʿUyūn al-Anbāʾ. All these sources allowed Munk to create a coherent picture of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life.

Since Munk’s days, however, important additional material has come to light. The most important primary sources stemming from Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s pen to which Munk did not have access are a maqāmah sent to Maimonides (Sayeth Ṭuviyyah ben Ṣidqiyyah), a polemical treatise about resurrection (the Silencing Epistle), and his only surviving medical work, the Abbreviation of the Commentary of Galen on the Aphorism of Hippocrates. Some of the other main sources—al-Ḥarizi’s Sefer Taḥkemoni and other pieces of poetry—were either only available in uncritical editions or else not printed at all. A further source is ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī’s Book of the Two Pieces of Advice (Kitāb al-Naṣīḥatayn), an Arabic text which possibly also sheds more light on Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s biography but which came to light only in the course of the twentieth century. In addition to this, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s tombstone was also identified in Aleppo in the course of the twentieth century.

In spite of all these discoveries, modern research on Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was hampered for decades by one unfavourable factor. About ten years after the publication of Munk’s study, Moritz Steinschneider began to publish some of the results of his research, and—contrary to Munk—he was firmly convinced throughout his life that Joseph ben Judah Ibn Shimʿon, Maimonides’s faithful student, was the same person as Joseph ben Judah Ibn ʿAqnin, the author of the philosophical work Ṭibb al-Nufūs and many other halakhic, exegetical, ethical, poetical, philosophical, and scientific works.6 Accordingly, all his articles combine historical information about the two men and thus convey a hybrid picture of a historical figure that never existed. More recent scholarship—including the present study—generally rejects this assumption and accepts Baneth’s arguments in favour of Munk’s thesis that they were two separate figures. There is, however, a flipside to this. The fact that Steinschneider’s studies evolved from a mistaken fundamental assumption has apparently led many scholars to believe that his studies are altogether irrelevant for the study of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life and works, and indeed, they have barely been used. This, however, is a serious mistake, because irrespective of Steinschneider’s (probably incorrect) opinion regarding the identity (or identities) of the two Joseph ben Judahs, his studies contain a plethora of relevant sources and are full of important observations. These are still largely untapped sources of information, as long as one carefully divides them between the two historical figures.

To date, no study has attempted to integrate the available information into a synthetic view of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s intellectual profile or to depict his development diachronically.7 It is the purpose of this paper to do so by reconstructing four distinct periods in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life, which are the parts of what can perhaps best be described as a “Maimonidean life at the turn of the twelfth to the thirteenth century.” It will unveil the image of a fascinating and complex personality whose life and work deserves more systematic investigation and attention than it has received thus far.

2 Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s Early Years in the Maghreb

Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was born and spent the early years of his life in the Maghreb. It is not entirely clear whether the designation “al-Sabtī” which is sometimes added to his name refers to his birthplace or the place where he grew up or lived later on. Alternatively, the Arab biographer Ibn al-Qiftī (1172–1248), who was to become a personal friend of his and thus can be seen as one of the most important biographical sources for Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life, says in the Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was from the people of Fez (ahl al-Fās), which again may refer either to his birthplace or to his hometown.8 In any event, he was obviously born into a Jewish family that was forced to adopt Islam during the Almohad persecutions.9 Ibn al-Qiftī reports that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s father was active in one of the (or: various, baʿḍ) “market (i.e., vulgar?) professions (or: crafts)” (ḥiraf sūqīyah) and that the son had studied “this science” in his homeland.10 It is not entirely clear exactly what kind of knowledge he acquired during these early years of study, but we are informed that he achieved quite some proficiency (šadā) in them.11 Later, he also came to study some of the mathematical sciences, and these were “present in his mind” (ḥāḍirah fī ḏihnihi) while he was lecturing (ʿinda al-muḥāḍarah). It is possible, but not certain, that this also refers to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s predilection for astronomy, which is attested for later periods in his life.

We hear very little in the biographical sources about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon receiving any kind of philosophical or theological training while he was in the West. There is no evidence that he met any of the famous twelfth-century Muslim or Jewish philosophers of the Maghreb or al-Andalus in his youth.12 In the famous dedicatory letter to the Guide of the Perplexed, Maimonides mentions that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon had been taught in in kalām before he came to study with him, but nothing more is known about this teacher, not even whether he indeed studied with him when he was still in the Maghreb. Scholarship has, however, brought this information into connection with the one literary document that possibly dates from Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s early life. This is the theologico-philosophical Treatise on the Necessary Existent, the Quality of the Forthcoming of Things from Him and the Creation of the World (Maʾamar bi-Meḥuyyav ha-Meṣiʾut we-Ekhut Siddur ha-Devarim mimmeno we-Ḥidduš ha-ʿOlam), which was originally written in Arabic (or Judaeo-Arabic) but survives only in a deficient Hebrew translation.13 According to David H. Baneth’s studies, it seems likely that it was written by Joseph Ibn Shimʿon as a student exercise for an Arab Muslim teacher (called Siddur ha-Torah and Siddur ha-Din in the Hebrew translation)14 in the period of his life as a Muslim in the West.15 The apparently more kalāmic outlook in this work is also seen to be sufficient proof that it must have preceded his encounter with Maimonides’s Aristotelian thought. This is possible, but it must be noted that this difficult text has not yet received the systematic and source-critical investigation that would allow us to draw far-reaching conclusions about its place in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s intellectual development.

Although Ibn al-Qifṭī describes Joseph Ibn Shimʿon as a “physician from the people of Fez” (ṭabīb min ahl al-Fās) at the beginning of the chapter, this does not seem to refer to his education or profession during this early period of his life. In a text by Judah al-Ḥarizi to be discussed more in detail below, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon is counted among the poets of the Maghreb, but this probably also refers to his family origins and should not be taken as evidence that he had already gained fame in this field before he left for the East.16

It is unknown in which year and at which age he left the Maghreb. A tentative conjecture has been drawn from the information provided in the Sefer Taḥkemoni by al-Ḥarizi, who met Joseph Ibn Shimʿon in Aleppo around the year 1217 and mentions that he had come to this city some thirty years earlier (i.e., around 1187).17 If this information is combined with a remark by Ibn al-Qifṭī which is often interpreted to the effect that he only lived in Egypt for a short time (muddatan qarībatan),18 one can reach the conclusion that he must have left the Maghreb for Egypt sometime in the mid-1180s. It should be noted, however, that in using these words, the Arab historiographer does not actually say anything about the total period of time that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon spent in Egypt, but rather says that the period of his discipleship with Maimonides was a short one.19 It is, of course, not impossible that the two more or less coincided, but Ibn al-Qifṭī provides no definite evidence for this. Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s departure from the Maghreb and his arrival in Egypt could therefore also have taken place at an earlier date.

The reason why Joseph Ibn Shimʿon left his homeland is also uncertain. Many scholars assume that he first and foremost wished to escape the religious persecutions under the Almohads,20 which is also implied in Ibn al-Qifṭī’s report. On the other hand, in the letter sent to Maimonides from Alexandria, which probably accompanied the maqāmah entitled Sayeth Ṭuviyyah ben Ṣidqiyyah, he presents his decision as being solely motived by his desire to study with his future master.21 Ibn al-Qifṭī explicitly reports that he fled to Egypt, taking his possessions (mālahu) with him, so Joseph Ibn Shimʿon cannot have been a poor man when he arrived there.

3 Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s Sojourn in Egypt and His Encounter with Maimonides

The second period in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life brings us to Egypt. Next to nothing is known about the period of time he spent in Alexandria, where he arrived first, except that it was from there that he attempted to get into direct contact with Maimonides, sending him a maqāmah (probably the one opening with the words Sayeth Ṭuviyyah ben Ṣidqiyyah) and the accompanying letter mentioned above. This maqāmah seems to have become quite famous in the Middle Ages and can be largely reconstructed using fragments from the Cairo Genizah.22

The story of the encounter between the two men is described in Maimonides’s Judaeo-Arabic dedicatory letter to the Guide of the Perplexed, which was written many years after the events took place.23 It becomes clear from Maimonides’s recollections that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, arriving from the West and eager to study with Maimonides, was already able to compose letters and good poetry and that he had studied (“read,” qaraʾa) a good deal of astronomy and the necessary mathematical sciences. This allowed them to deepen the study of mathematics—and later, of logic—to such a degree that Maimonides became confident that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon would soon be ready to understand the “secrets of the books of prophecy” (asrār al-kutub al-nabawīyah), first through hints and then—after Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s own request—through direct instruction in “metaphysics” (umūr ilāhīyah) and the discussion of kalām arguments, about which he had already heard from another teacher and which had caused him some perplexity. Maimonides, however, insisted on the proper order of the (Aristotelian) curriculum of study (which, as a matter of fact, implicitly stands behind the intellectual path described in the dedicatory letter as a whole).

Apart from the allusion to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s interest in kalām, the intellectual profile documented here largely concurs with that drawn in Ibn al-Qifṭī’s biography: nothing is found in these sources about the study of religious law or the study and/or practice of medicine. It appears that when Joseph Ibn Shimʿon arrived in Egypt, he was an educated man whose forte was the mathematical sciences, especially astronomy. This image is further corroborated by Maimonides himself in Guide 2.24, where the study of astronomy with his student is explicitly mentioned. Ibn al-Qifṭī also provides some important information to the effect that Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon studied and edited a copy of Ibn Aflaḥ’s book on astronomy together, which the latter had brought with him from Ceuta.

In spite of the same general outlook in Ibn al-Qifṭī’s report and Maimonides’s description of the past events, it must be noted that there are considerable differences between them regarding the details and the quality of the astronomical studies that the two carried out together. Whereas Ibn al-Qifṭī describes the two men as scholars who were working on an almost equal footing, Maimonides seems to stress that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s knowledge of astronomy did not go beyond a basic level. As I will argue elsewhere, it further seems possible that a conflict between Maimonides and his student broke out regarding Ibn Aflaḥ’s astronomical book that they had agreed to study together, which might have found some echoes in the so-called Allegorical Correspondence. However, the authenticity of these letters and the interpretation of the allegories are still a matter of scholarly controversy.24

Nothing is known about exactly how long Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s sojourn in Egypt lasted or why he decided to end his stay with Maimonides as early as ca. 1187. A possible explanation could be the conflict mentioned above, but it is also possible that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon needed to look for opportunities to increase the wealth he had brought with him from the Maghreb. There is no evidence that he made any attempts to become active as a trader (tāǧir) in Egypt, but it is possible that such considerations stood behind the decision to move away from there and to settle in Syria.

4 Between Syria, Iraq, and India: Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s Intermediate Period

As mentioned above, nothing certain is known about the reasons that convinced Joseph Ibn Shimʿon to leave Egypt in ca. 1187. However, if he had wished to (or had had to) leave Egypt, then there were probably good reasons to choose Syria and Aleppo as his first destination. At that time, large parts of Syria were ruled by the same dynasty as Egypt, and Aleppo had become the residence of the Ayyubid governor and (from 1193 onwards) independent ruler al-Malik al-Ẓāhir Ġāzī (1172–1216). The city was of growing political importance and apparently also economically prosperous, and it may have appeared to be a good outpost for trading activities between the East and the Mediterranean. Another important motive could have been that Aleppo had a Jewish community of considerable size.25

To judge from Ibn al-Qifṭī’s report, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life after he left Egypt should be divided into two different periods. During the earlier period, he seems to have lived a rather unstable life with extensive travels to Iraq and India, although it was also during this period that he married his first wife, who came from a distinguished Aleppan Jewish family.26 It transpires from Ibn al-Qifṭī’s words that during this period, he invested his money in trading activities until he had finally amassed a sufficient fortune to allow him to permanently install himself in an estate that he purchased near Aleppo. Extensive travelling in the earlier period is also attested in a couple of other sources. For example, in a chapter of the Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ dealing with the Muslim scholar ʿAbd al-Salām al-Baġdādī, Ibn al-Qifṭī reports an episode he had heard about from Joseph Ibn Shimʿon that probably took place in Baghdad in 1192: in an assembly (maḥfil) that came together in that city, he listened to an anti-philosophical and anti-scientific speech by a certain ʿUbayd Allāh al-Taymī al-Bakrī, also known as Ibn al- Māristānīyah, who sharply attacked and finally burnt Ibn al-Haiṯam’s Kitāb al-Hayʾah.27 This report is interesting not only because it provides us with information about the “travelling period” in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life, but also because it may indirectly corroborate his interest in astronomy.

A period of travelling is also indicated by a passing remark in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s major polemical work, the Silencing Epistle (Risālat al-Iskāt),28 which scholars have dated to around 1191/92.29 Here, he reports on what can be seen as a chapter in the prehistory of the famous controversy about resurrection in which Maimonides became involved during the 1190s. In that text, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon tells us about a dispute that took place in Baghdad between him and the Gaon Samuel ben Eli (who is also often called in the Arabic form Samuel ben ʿAlī in modern scholarship), who was to become one of Maimonides’s greatest adversaries later on.30 The topic of the dispute was the correct interpretation of the biblical story of the witch of Ein Dor. According to the Silencing Epistle, this event had taken place “years ago.”31 After that dispute, he left the city, first to go West (probably Syria), then returning (sāfartu ʿan Baġdād maġriban wa-ʿudtu ilayhā), and finally travelling from Baghdad to the East (probably India) before returning to Baghdad once again. There, he learnt that in the meantime, the Gaon had written a pamphlet about that very dispute (wa-sāfartu ʿanhā mašriqan wa-ʿudtu wa-kānat al-ʿawdah baʿd muddah ṭawīlah munḏu iǧtamaʿtu bihi).32

Nothing can help us to determine how long this period of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life endured, and we do not have clear evidence as to whether he was in permanent contact with Maimonides during these years. However, a piece of correspondence between the two men which may well fit into this period can be found in the final section of Maimonides’s Letter on the Dispute with the Head of the Yeshiva. It probably forms an independent piece that should be viewed separately from the rest of the text.33 In this section, Maimonides first gives Joseph Ibn Shimʿon his approval to go to Baghdad and to teach there.34 He even agrees that he may open a midrash35 where the Mishneh Torah (simply called al-Ḥibbur) would be taught, but then expresses some reservations, for two main reasons: first, Ibn Shimʿon might be drawn into constant conflicts with the local establishment because of the tense atmosphere in Baghdad, and second, opening a schoolhouse could harm his business affairs. Maimonides warns him that he might lose his economic and institutional independence, meaning that he would have to teach for money—something Maimonides generally considered inappropriate and forbidden36 —and that he would have to do so under the authority of the exilarch (Roʾš ha-Galut). Maimonides’s opinion (raʾy) is therefore to make trade (tiǧārah) his work (for financial income) and then to study medicine (qirāʾat al-ṭibb), together with the true (economically independent) study of the Torah (Talmud Torah ḥaqīqatan). Only hesitantly does he give Joseph Ibn Shimʿon instructions on how to teach halakha on a rather basic level using the Mishneh Torah in conjunction and comparison with the Hilekhot ha-Ri”F (called Hilekhot ha-Rav).

It is interesting to see that after these instructions on how to teach halakha (if he is really to insist on doing so), Maimonides adds a passage in which he informs Joseph Ibn Shimʿon about how he himself had meanwhile gained considerable fame as a medical doctor among the leading circles in Egypt (kubarāʾ), especially that of the qāḍī al-Fāḍil. This seems to have been an enormous success in Maimonides’s eyes, although he stresses that his profession leaves him almost no time for studying the Torah and other sciences. He states that he has even found no time to make a more in depth study of the writings of Ibn Rushd, which had recently reached him almost in their entirety. Maimonides does not explicitly state to which of Ibn Rushd’s books and commentaries this refers, but it has been argued that they might have been the recently completed Long Commentaries.37 The text concludes with a section in which Maimonides asks Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, whom he apparently believed to be residing in Aleppo at that time, to help him with some business with a trader (called Ibn al-Maššāṭ) returning from India, and finally with a long list of greetings.38

In many respects, this letter, which can perhaps be dated to 21 October 1191 according to its colophon, tallies quite well with the information that we have assembled so far about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s activities immediately after he left Egypt: he was travelling between Syria and Iraq, he had contacts in India, and he attempted to increase his wealth through international trade. It contains, however, a couple of quite surprising new details that must not be overlooked. In this text, we find for the first time a recommendation to study (and perhaps practice) medicine. Even though it is not impossible that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon had gained some knowledge of this profession and science at an earlier date, we have not heard anything about it so far in the sources that are available to us. It furthermore seems not unlikely that Maimonides’s advice to study medicine is connected to the description of his own professional success and the daily routine of a physician (even if the lifestyle that resulted from it might not have seemed very appealing). He seems to recommend to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon a professional career that he himself had successfully pursued and that was now allowing him to come into direct contact with the ruling élite of Egypt. Moreover, it seems worth noting that Maimonides appears to present his success as a medical doctor as a recent development. One thus gets the feeling that this must have been entirely unknown and perhaps even unforeseeable to his addressee. Accordingly, this letter gives the impression that the author and the recipient had not had contact for quite a while.39 It is not unreasonable to surmise that a considerable period of time had elapsed between Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s departure from Egypt and the renewal of their correspondence—time during which Maimonides had gained the privileged status of a court physician, which he had not had before.40

However, a few other things had also changed: we have so far heard only about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s interest in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and theology, but now all of a sudden we encounter a person who seriously intends to open a religious school in Baghdad in which Jewish law would be taught using Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah.41 Within its concrete historical context, such a plan could have meant no less than the founding of a Maimonidean stronghold in the immediate vicinity of the honourable old institutions of Jewish learning in Babylonia and within the exilarch’s sphere of influence. Nothing that we have heard about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s inclinations and qualifications so far indicates that he would go in the direction of teaching Jewish law. Therefore, it seems not implausible that after a period of time during which he was travelling between Aleppo and India as a trader with regular stops in Iraq, he came up with the idea of establishing himself as a teacher in Baghdad, in direct competition with the traditional institutions located there. The disputes that he held with the representatives of the older schools in the city may have convinced him that it was high time for a change towards new methods of religious learning. If it is correct that some time had elapsed since Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon had had their last contact (as I have tried to argue before), it seems not implausible that the renewal of the contact between the two men was motivated by such plans.

Thus, it is possible that not only the letter discussed above, but also much of the remaining correspondence about halakhic issues and the status of the Mishneh Torah for the teaching of the law42 have their origin in this context and period of time.43 It is quite noteworthy that upon reading these sources, the Mishneh Torah appears here to be a work with which Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was not closely familiar from his “Egyptian” period. It had obviously not been the object of any intensive study with Maimonides before, and the latter’s reluctant approval of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s initiative might indicate that he was not altogether convinced that he was the right man to carry out such a plan.

There is no evidence that the idea of installing a Maimonidean schoolhouse in Baghdad ever came to fruition, but it is not far-fetched to assume that some of the belligerent responses from the Babylonian side against Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah may well be a kind of pre-emptive, defensive strike from the local élite against Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s barely disguised attempts to gain a foothold in Baghdad. Irrespective of the question of who took the first step in this controversy, we are probably witnessing here the fascinating dynamics of the conflict centred on the Mishneh Torah that developed in this period of time. Most, if not all of Maimonides’s correspondence with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon concerning their conflicts with the Gaon Samuel ben Eli (who probably died between 1194 and 1197) and others will therefore probably also belong to this period of time.44 As mentioned above, the controversy over Maimonides’s teachings about resurrection (including the composition of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s Silencing Epistle) also falls into this period.

If the scholarly consensus regarding the date of the completion and dedication of the Guide of the Perplexed to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon is accepted (around 1191), it is notable that all this also occurred during this third period of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life, and it may be indicative of an intensification of the relationship between the two men:45 most of the letters exchanged between Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon were written around the beginning of the last decade of the twelfth century, just at the time when the Guide was completed and dedicated to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and when the controversy over resurrection broke out. Whether this concentration of so many “important events” within a very few years indeed reflects the historical facts remains to be investigated in detail.

It is noteworthy, however, that none of the letters exchanged between Maimonides and his student that are generally accepted to be genuine seems to depict Joseph Ibn Shimʿon as a person who had successfully established himself as an authority in Aleppo. As far as I can see, there is no conclusive evidence that forces us to predate Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s ultimate establishment in that city to the time before Maimonides’s death in 1204, although it must be admitted that there is no counter-evidence that precludes the opposite either. Accordingly, we cannot define the date of the transition between the third and fourth periods in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life with any precision.

5 A Controversial Dignitary in Aleppo: The Last Period of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s Life

Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s plan to establish himself as a religious teacher apparently failed in Baghdad, but he seems to have succeeded with a not altogether different project in Aleppo. Ibn al-Qifṭī makes it clear that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon used the wealth he had earned from his trading activities in order to permanently settle near that city. He further describes Joseph Ibn Shimʿon as a man who had become an honourable merchant (i.e., one who no longer had to travel himself). He now possessed the means to purchase an estate near Aleppo, where he assembled students around him from near and far. It is interesting to see that like Maimonides, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon did not settle down in the capital city itself. In addition to his status as a wealthy patron and teacher (who was economically self-sufficient), he is now described by his Muslim friend as a physician to the local rulers: Ibn al-Qifṭī explicitly says that he was among the “physicians who served the notables of the kingdom of [al-Malik] al-Ẓāhir [Ġāzī]” (wa-ḫadama fī aṭibbāʾ al-ḫāṣṣ fī al-dawlah al-ẓāhirīyah). In other words, in the last period of his life, he had become a widely recognised political, social, intellectual, and religious leader in the Aleppan Jewish community, and—if we are to believe Abraham Maimonides’s testimony a few years later—even beyond.46 He also served as a Jewish representative to the Aleppan court.

The richest source of knowledge regarding Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s biography in the last period of his life comes from al-Ḥarizi’s poetical works. Unfortunately, the biographical and historical interpretation of these texts is burdened with numerous chronological and methodological problems which need to be tackled first. Based on these results, we will be able to reconstruct two major aspects of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon last years in greater detail: his controversy with Daniel ha-Bavli and his activities as a physician.

5.1 Critical Analysis of Judah al-Ḥarizi’s Descriptions of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon in Aleppo

The most eloquent testimonies of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s success can be found in the works of Judah al-Ḥarizi, who arrived in Syria in 1217. He can thus be seen as an important eyewitness to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s biography, and we possess no less than five different descriptions in poetic garb from al-Ḥarizi’s pen. In view of his proximity to the persons and events he described, it is highly tempting to take al-Ḥarizi’s descriptions as more than mere poetic products that vaguely describe the general traits of a historical figure and to employ them as hard evidence in the reconstruction of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s status and social prestige. Accordingly, the minute differences between the five different descriptions can be—and have been—taken as important pieces of evidence of certain biographical developments or even specific historical events. It must be noted, however, that such an approach is not without problems and pitfalls.

To start with, al-Ḥarizi is writing as a poet, not as a historiographer. His language, expressions, and formulations are often hyperbolic and cannot be taken at face value. Moreover, differences between his works do not necessarily reflect changing historical and social realities in the Jewish communities he visited in the East, but often al-Ḥarizi’s changing attitudes towards some of the prominent figures that he met there. In addition to this, it becomes clear that the texts are written from multiple authorial perspectives and with different intended audiences in mind (including changing constellations of patronage). Last but not least, the relative and absolute dating of the different descriptions is uncertain, largely speculative, and a matter of scholarly dispute. However, in spite of all these uncertainties, these texts are still of great value for any reconstruction of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s biography in Aleppo, and a close—and sometimes quite laborious—reading and interpretation of them is unavoidable, but ultimately also rewarding.

The originally independent maqāmah called Maḥberet ha-Nedivim (Gate of the Patrons)47 by modern editors has been described in recent scholarship as “Alḥarīzī’s initial attempt to cope with patrons of the East.”48 In this text, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon is depicted as the first among the honourable leaders of the community of Aleppo. His Western origin is repeatedly mentioned, and he is lavishly praised as a leader and wealthy patron of the community who is the head of a school (roʾš ha-seder), a benefactor of the poor (hirwah ṣemeʾim), and a practising medical doctor (rippeʾ nekhaʾim), but he is not explicitly called a court physician. Al-Ḥarizi even goes so far as to designate him as a person whom “God anointed as prophet in the East.”49 Some scholars have detected allusions to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s return to Judaism in a few lines, although this interpretation is uncertain.50 The last section, in which Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s education is exalted, is of particular interest. It apparently included ethics (middot), religion (sodot ha-teʿudot), medicine (refuʾot), geometry (ḥokhmat ha-middot), arithmetic (šeʾelot ha-minyan), astronomy (netivot ha-galgal), logic (teʿudot ha-higgayon), exegesis (raze ha-Torah), grammar (diqduq), Talmud, and Mishnah.51 He seems to have taught all of these in his school (ohel moʿed).52

The second and third descriptions are to be found in a chapter of the Sefer Taḥkemoni entitled Mozne ha-Dor, which underwent heavy reworking in the two main revisions of the book.53 In one version of this chapter (version A, according to the editors), Joseph Ibn Shimʿon is found in third place on a list of the honourable personalities of the Jewish community of Aleppo, and the description is considerably shorter than the one found in version B.54 He is praised for his teaching activities, even if one of his students is said to have revolted against him, though the identity of this student is not mentioned. Moreover, it is noteworthy that slightly later in the text of version A, al-Ḥarizi included a passage describing a fierce dispute that broke out between Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and a certain Eleʿazar the Physician (ha-rofeʾ Eleʿazar).55 The latter is said to have desecrated the Sabbath while working in the king’s service. Joseph Ibn Shimʿon reportedly criticised him severely for this haughtiness, and his ignorance was publicly revealed (we-hodiaʿ le-khol ha-ʿolam petayuto). It is not impossible that this criticism was indeed religiously motivated, but as we will see later, this information can be interpreted as traces of a much deeper public rivalry between a physician who is explicitly said to have reached the status of court physician and another medical doctor who has not. At any rate, even if al-Ḥarizi calls Joseph Ibn Shimʿon “a great physician” (rofeʾ gadol), there is nothing that says that he had access to the royal court in Aleppo when these lines were written. It must be mentioned, however, that from a literary point of view, the reappearance of “R. Joseph, the Maghrebi,” who was already introduced to the reader a few lines earlier, looks slightly unorganic and might well be a secondary addition.

In version B of this chapter of the Sefer Taḥkemoni, al-Ḥarizi places Joseph Ibn Shimʿon at the top of the list of the Aleppan élite.56 Similarly to version A, he is praised for his teaching not only of the sciences (ḥokhmot), but also of musar.57 Al-Ḥarizi does not repeat his statement about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon as a prophet, but says in a more moderate tone that “if this generation was a generation of prophecy, God would have anointed him as a prophet.” The slightly less enthusiastic point of view adopted in this version is further corroborated by the observation that Eleʿazar is also named as a court physician (rofeʾ ha-melekh) here, but we are not told that he was defeated by Joseph Ibn Shimʿon in any kind of polemic.58 In addition to this, version B does not contain any explicit references to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon being active as a physician.

From reading these texts, one gets the impression that version B represents a more distanced perspective on Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and that it lacks a few references to specific historical events that are alluded to in version A. These differences lead to an interpretation that sees version A as the better-informed iteration of the text, which might also reflect later developments. This is the approach privileged in the present study, although such local observations alone are probably not sufficient to decide upon the relative chronology of the versions as a whole, which is nevertheless crucial for a proper interpretation of the differences between the two.

Any decision about the chronological relationship between the two versions is further complicated by another difference, which is also indirectly connected to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon. This difference has traditionally been taken as proof that version A has an earlier date of composition than version B, albeit—I believe—for insufficient reasons. It has been pointed out in modern research (already since Carmoly and Steinschneider) that Daniel ben Saadia ha-Bavli,59 who was a student of Samuel ben Eli and an opponent of Maimonides (and of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, for that matter), is praised in a few lines in version A of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor as an honourable resident of Damascus,60 while he remains entirely unmentioned in version B.61 It therefore seems plausible that this was a damnatio memoriae which was provoked by the controversies that broke out between the Maimonideans (Abraham Maimonides, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon) and the anti-Maimonideans (Daniel ha-Bavli) of that time. In that case, version B would reflect a later development of the Sefer Taḥkemoni.

This interpretation rests, however, on a few problematic assumptions, which can only be elucidated through a broader look at the historical events. The controversy between Daniel ha-Bavli and the Maimonideans seems to have started in 1213, when the former sent his critique of Maimonides’s Sefer ha-Miṣwot and Mishneh Torah to Abraham Maimonides, who sent his detailed reply a few months later.62 This event obviously cannot have been the reason for the elimination of Daniel ha-Bavli’s name from the Sefer Taḥkemoni, because it predates al-Ḥarizi’s arrival in the East. The sequel to this initial controversy with Daniel ha-Bavli is documented through Abraham Maimonides’s report, which is found in the apologetic Letter to the Sages of Southern France (Wars of the Lord—Milḥamot ha-Šem) composed in the year 1235.63 In that text, he tells his addressees that a few years after his first contact with Daniel (i.e., after 1213), he received a letter from Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and some unnamed others in which he was informed that Daniel ha-Bavli had written a commentary on Ecclesiastes in which he criticised Maimonides (though without mentioning his name). Consequently, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon asked him to put a ban on Daniel ha-Bavli. Abraham Maimonides, however, refused to do so, declaring that he considered himself to be a party (and not a judge) in this affair. Interestingly, however, he did not find much to be blamed either in Daniel ha-Bavli’s activities as a religious preacher or in his philosophical opinions, apart from a minor disagreement concerning demons. It further becomes clear from Abraham Maimonides’s letter that after Joseph Ibn Shimʿon had failed in his initiative to secure a ban on Daniel ha-Bavli, he is said to have approached the exilarch (naśiʾ) David ben Zakkay in Mossul, who in fact excommunicated Daniel ha-Bavli until he repented, fell ill, and finally died in Damascus. The predominant tendency in Abraham Maimonides’s letter is to deny any direct responsibility for the ban put on Daniel ha-Bavli.

Nothing is known about the exact date that this second part of the controversy took place except that it must have been a few years after 1213 and before the death of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon in 1226. If one accepts the assumption that the naśiʾ David ben Zakkay II died around 1216,64 then the whole affair must have happened at least one year before al-Ḥarizi reached Damascus and Aleppo for the first time (1217) and consequently before he composed both versions of the Sefer Taḥkemoni, which are to be dated to shortly before 1220.65 If so, it is again difficult to imagine that the elimination of Daniel ha-Bavli from version B was motivated by the ban. Moreover, it is also surprising to see that the omission of Daniel ha-Bavli occurs in version B, which is generally—as we have seen—also less enthusiastic about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon than version A.

The whole picture of both Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s changing representation in al-Ḥarizi’s poetry and the Daniel ha-Bavli affair becomes even more complicated if one takes into consideration al-Ḥarizi’s fourth description, which is found in the Judaeo-Arabic maqāmah entitled Kitāb al-Durar.66 This text was probably written towards the end of al-Ḥarizi’s life, apparently for a predominantly Arabic-speaking audience.67 It places Joseph Ibn Shimʿon in the penultimate position in the chapter on Aleppo and almost exclusively deals with his proficiency in medicine, which is praised not only with respect to the accusations of his contemporaries (lawm abnāʾ haḏā al-aʿṣār), but also in comparison to Galen. Nothing is said about any official status, but with this poetic text al-Ḥarizi apparently wished to support Joseph Ibn Shimʿon against enemies who were critical of his professional qualifications as a physician. However, the Kitāb al-Durar is also relevant for the question of the dispute with Daniel ha-Bavli, because this person reappears in the later Judaeo-Arabic work (probably written around 1221/22)68 without further comment among the notables of Damascus.69 In view of this evidence, the whole argument of the damnatio memoriae of the anti-Maimonidean adversary in version B of the Sefer Taḥkemoni collapses unless one wishes to press all the events of the controversy (i.e., Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s appeals to Abraham Maimonides and David ben Zakkay, the excommunication, and Daniel’s repentance, about which we hear nothing from al-Ḥarizi) into a very few years. Accordingly, we will have to look for a different explanation for Daniel ha-Bavli’s absence from version B of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor than that hitherto suggested (see below).

An entirely different perspective is taken in the fifth description found in the Maḥberet ha- Mešorerim,70 which al-Ḥarizi also included in his Sefer Taḥkemoni. Here, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon is exclusively praised for the quality of his poetry, most notably for his maqāmah entitled Neʾum Ṭuviyyah ben Ṣidqiyyah, which is said to be superior to everything else written by poets from the Maghreb. Al-Ḥarizi’s description creates the impression that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon had composed the maqāmah when he was still in the West, but this does not seem to reflect precise historical information.71

As mentioned above, the chronological order of these five different descriptions has always posed problems to modern scholars. In a pioneering study, Samuel M. Stern had stated—here referring to the mixed version of the Sefer Taḥkemoni, the newly discovered Maḥberet ha-Nedivim, and the Judaeo-Arabic text—that “both Hebrew maqāmas can be dated before the Arabic maqāma, although the relative dates of the two Hebrew parallel texts cannot be established.” He further surmised that “the two parallel Hebrew versions were probably composed in order to be presented to different patrons.”72 Ezra Fleischer, on the other hand, found reasons to sharply criticise the chronology of version A and version B proposed by Joseph Yahalom, Joshua Blau, and Naoya Katsumata by arguing—referring to the two versions of the Sefer Taḥkemoni that had meanwhile been separated and reconstructed—that the order of the “first” and “second” versions actually needs to be inverted.73 Similarly, Michael Rand has put forward for consideration some observations about the different dedications of the books, which likewise would ultimately lead to an early dating of version B.74

The discussion of the different descriptions of a single figure obviously cannot supply any definite answers to the question of the chronological relationship between different versions of an extensive literary work. On the other hand, for our purposes, the question of chronology cannot be completely avoided, because it is of considerable interest to ask whether the differences between the descriptions may reflect specific events and real developments in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s professional, social, and political status, whether they are nothing but expressions of al-Ḥarizi’s changing attitude towards him, or both. Therefore, it might be worthwhile to summarise a few crucial aspects.

To start with, it is noteworthy that all the different descriptions of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon found in al-Ḥarizi’s works are positive. He appears to be a highly educated and wealthy man who had students and who taught in different fields of knowledge. But even though Joseph Ibn Shimʿon consistently appears to be an important figure in the Aleppan Jewish community, his position relative to other Aleppan dignitaries changes. One feature that varies across the different descriptions is Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s involvement in public disputes and scandals. These are practically absent from the Maḥberet ha-Nedivim and from version B of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor in the Sefer Taḥkemoni, yet they are clearly present in version A of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor (the anonymous rebellious student and Eleʿazar ha-Rofeʾ) and in the Judaeo-Arabic Kitāb al-Durar (the dispute about his medical knowledge). Now, if one considers this evidence from a biographical perspective, one is easily tempted to believe that version A of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor and the Kitāb al-Durar reflect events that happened during al-Ḥarizi’s stay in Aleppo. Both descriptions thus represent later stages than the Maḥberet ha-Nedivim and version B of Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor. This assumption is hypothetical, but in the following paragraphs, it will be shown that this interpretation can perhaps shed new light on two important aspects of the biography of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s later years: his dispute with Daniel ha-Bavli and his activities as a court physician in Aleppo.

5.2 Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s Dispute with Daniel ha-Bavli

As we saw earlier, it seems rather unlikely that Daniel ha-Bavli’s absence from version B of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor can be explained as a result of his dispute with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, and therefore a different explanation for his appearance and disappearance needs to be found. A way to solve this problem could be that one actually does not have to look for reasons for Daniel ha-Bavli’s disappearance from certain versions of al-Ḥarizi’s works, but rather for the reasons for his gradual appearance in other descriptions. In that respect, I would like to suggest the hypothesis that al-Ḥarizi started mentioning Daniel ha-Bavli at a later stage (i.e., in version A) because of his growing influence after he settled in Damascus and that this growing influence was the historical background for the outbreak of his dispute with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon.

Unfortunately, we do not possess reliable evidence to determine when Daniel ha-Bavli moved from Baghdad, where he had studied with Samuel ben Eli, to Damascus. We also have very little evidence about when and how he succeeded in becoming a dominant figure in the Damascene community. As noted above, the only historical document providing a coherent narrative about this dispute is a letter by Abraham Maimonides written much later, during the so-called “first Maimonidean controversy.” This text retrospectively recalls the pre-history that led to the outbreak of the controversy in 1232, mainly with the intention of defending its author against various accusations made by the anti-Maimonideans. This slight bias notwithstanding, there seems to be no reason to doubt the reliability of the general picture that arises from Abraham Maimonides’s report. It therefore seems worthwhile to cast an eye on the dynamics behind the events connected with the (ultimately successful) attempt to excommunicate Daniel ha-Bavli. Our information is, of course, fragmentary, but if is it attentively read, it transpires from Abraham Maimonides’s report that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s attempt to have Daniel ha-Bavli excommunicated was founded upon a relatively weak factual basis. Maimonides’s name was not mentioned in the commentary, nor were the teachings that were expounded in this book so revolting that they justified any further actions. Accordingly, it seems not unlikely that Abraham Maimonides’s refusal to react was actually motivated by the consideration that the whole affair was built on exceedingly flimsy grounds and that he was not convinced that it was worthwhile to give Joseph Ibn Shimʿon unreserved support.75 The argument that he was an involved party and therefore not a suitable judge could then be interpreted as a polite excuse that he formulated in order to avoid becoming involved in this affair.

If this was the case, one might still ask why Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was so eager to take action against Daniel ha-Bavli at that moment in the first place. In this respect, I would like to put forward for consideration the possibility that Daniel ha-Bavli’s arrival in Damascus only a few years earlier could have played a crucial role here. Since Daniel ha-Bavli was known to be a direct student of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s old adversary Samuel ben Eli, it does not seem unlikely that he may have considered Daniel ha-Bavli’s move to Damascus to be an act of overt aggression in his own sphere of influence (similar to his own plans to move to Baghdad many years earlier), which he had little reason to appreciate.76 This must have been even more the case if Abraham Maimonides is correct in his remark that Daniel ha-Bavli was a successful preacher who might have appealed to a large audience. In order to meet this challenge, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon may have considered it a promising strategy to employ Abraham Maimonides, whom he must have hoped to have been holding a grudge against Daniel ha-Bavli from the earlier dispute, to defeat an unpleasant competitor. After Abraham ben Maimon’s refusal to serve as a handy tool in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s strategy, the latter tried his luck with the exilarch (naśiʾ) David ben Zakkai, and this time, he met with more success. Therefore, if Abraham Maimonides’s report is essentially reliable, it seems that the so-called Maimonidean camp has to be blamed for the outbreak of this chapter of the Maimonidean controversy. Abraham Maimonides, who might have been well aware of this and have later intended to prove his innocence in these controversies, tried his best to politely distance himself from the instigator(s). In that respect, it must also be noted that there is no sound evidence to decide how far-reaching Daniel ha-Bavli’s anti-Maimonideanism actually was or whether he became the target of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s attacks for mainly theological and philosophical reasons or rather out of political concerns.77 On the other hand, to return to al-Ḥarizi’s descriptions of both Ibn Shimʿon and Daniel ha-Bavli, he seems to have remained largely unaffected by this specific dispute.

5.3 Joseph Ibn Shimʿon as a Physician

A second new feature that gradually emerges in al-Ḥarizi’s descriptions is that of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon as a practising physician. This activity remains unmentioned in version B of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor, but it becomes quite dominant in version A and the Maḥberet ha-Nedivim, and it is the only relevant aspect in the Kitāb al-Durar. This tallies nicely with the information in Ibn al-Qifṭī’s biography mentioned above, where we are explicitly told that in that period, he became one of the “physicians who served the notables of the kingdom of [al-Malik] al-Ẓāhir [Ġāzī].”

Following—and under the long-lasting influence of—Ibn al-Qifṭī’s biographical sketch, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon subsequently also gained considerable fame as a Jewish physician in biographical works by other Arabic writers.78 A development of this kind is found in Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿah’s (1203–1270) short biography in the ʿUyūn al-Anbāʾ, where we can read that he served (ḫadama) not only al-Malik al-Ẓāhir, but also the amīr Fāris al-Dīn Maimūn al-Qaṣrī.79 The latter resided in Aleppo and was in the service of al-Malik al-Ẓāhir during the last years of his life, dying in 1219, three years after the ruler’s death.80 Ibn Abī ʿUṣaibiʿah’s words therefore perhaps imply that he served the amīr in the years 1216 to 1219 (i.e., after al-Malik’s death), but this remains uncertain. Probably based on his own conjectures, Ibn Abī ʿUṣaibiʿah’s was also convinced that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon must have studied and practised (ištaġala) medicine under the guidance of the raʾīs Maimonides during his sojourn in Egypt, something for which no other evidence has yet been found. Finally, it is only much later in the biographical information provided by Ḫāǧī Ḫalīfa (1609–1657) that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon becomes nothing less than the “head of the physicians of al-Malik al-Ẓāhir” (raʾīs min aṭibbā’ al-Malik al-Ẓāhir).81 This formidable evolution of information about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s status and career from one court physician among others to the leading authority must thus not be taken at face value.

The image of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon as one of the physicians active at al-Malik al-Ẓāhir’s court in Ibn al-Qifṭī’s biography and Judah al-Ḥarizi’s descriptions is perhaps reconfirmed by an additional contemporary source, which can be found in ʿAbd al-Laṭīf ibn Yūsuf al-Baġdādī’s (1162–1231)82 Book of the Two Pieces of Advice (Kitāb al-Naṣīḥatayn).83 However, this description entails a couple of additional problems that need to be discussed in some detail.

In a long section of the medical part of his work, al-Baġdādī sharply criticises the physicians of Aleppo in general, and more specifically recounts the scandalous events surrounding the untimely death of the Ayyubid ruler in 1216. In an early paragraph, he compares the physicians of Aleppo unfavourably with those of Damascus, saying that they are greedy and that they apply inappropriate therapies. He informs his readers that he thinks (aẓunnu) that this is due to a “Maghrebi sheikh” who converted to Islam and later pretended to have re-converted to Judaism, although all his coreligionists distrusted his religious fidelity. This unnamed Jewish physician had been a poor man, but had entered into the service of merchants and become rich. Only in his old age did he develop an interest in medicine. All in all, al-Baġdādī believes, this man was mainly pursuing financial gains.

This short description of the life of the anonymous “Maghrebi sheikh” sounds in more than one respect like a negative image of Ibn al-Qifṭī’s account of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s economic and social success and brilliant professional career. For al-Baġdādī, this serves as a kind of introduction to a detailed report of the circumstances of al-Malik al-Ẓāhir’s death.84 If we are to believe the “medical” report from al-Baġdādī, who seems to have been present in the city at that time, Aleppo was plagued by an epidemic in the years 613 and 614 H (around 1216 CE), which affected many of its inhabitants. Among those who fell ill was the governor of the city, who was attended by a team of doctors. Al-Baġdādī was apparently not a member of this team, and so much of his report must have relied on hearsay and speculation. In any event, a dispute broke out between a “converted” physician, who suggested bleeding, and another “cursed” (malʿūn) physician who convinced the team that a therapy based on a purgative was preferable—not so much out of professional considerations, but rather because of his pride, his struggle for status, and his jealousy of the other physician’s success. The development of al-Malik al-Ẓāhir’s illness, which is described in great professional detail by al-Baġdādī, does not interest us here, but it seems important to note that towards the end of the ruler’s life, only two doctors were appointed to treat him: the “evil” doctor and another good and famous one “of mature age” (šayḫ). The second physician was, however, subordinated (maġlūb) to the first, so he was unable to carry out the correct treatment, and the ruler eventually died.

Samuel M. Stern, who was the first to recognise the similarity of many of the biographical details reported by al-Baġdādī to what is known about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon from other sources, was not prepared to believe that there “should be anything true in ‘Abd al-Laṭīf’s allegations.”85 In a new study of the material, however, N. Peter Joosse is less convinced that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was a personality without blemish, believing that “there is no smoke without fire.”86 From Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s correspondence with Maimonides, Joosse derives many unfavourable details about his somewhat problematic personality, and he then conjectures that al-Baġdādī might in fact be identical with the “rebellious student” in al-Ḥarizi’s Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor discussed above.87 After al-Baġdādī had studied with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, Joosse believes, he distanced himself from his former teacher, perhaps following the scandal of the ruler’s death, which might still have been a matter of enquiry when al-Ḥarizi visited Aleppo in 1217. On the other hand, al-Baġdādī avoids mentioning Joseph Ibn Shimʿon by name, perhaps because he might still have been the protégé of powerful people.88

Joosse’s reconstruction of the events is thought-provoking, but it is not the only possible interpretation of the sources, even if one accepts the assumption that the two biographies are interconnected and that they are describing the same people.89 First of all, nothing in al-Baġdādī’s report conclusively indicates that he was the student of either of the two physicians he describes. Even though such a possibility cannot be ruled out, it should be kept in mind that al-Baġdādī was probably about the same age as Joseph Ibn Shimʿon. When he visited Aleppo in 1216, he was already working as a physician, even if he was not a member of the team of local doctors in charge of the ruler’s health.

Contrary to Joosse’s interpretation, it seems more likely that al-Baġdādī’s report echoes events surrounding the public scandal about Eleʿazar to which al-Ḥarizi alludes in version A of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor.90 Al-Ḥarizi accused this court physician of having transgressed the Jewish law in the service of the ruler and described him as proud man who was subsequently publicly degraded by Joseph Ibn Shimʿon. Al-Ḥarizi harshly denounces Eleʿazar in this version and says that “his name shall be excised” (yehi šemo nigzar), whereas in version B of the Maḥberet, he and his family are praised for their wisdom and political influence.91

If al-Ḥarizi and al-Baġdādī are in fact speaking about the same event, the question arises: Who is who? In my opinion, it seems not unlikely that al-Baġdādī’s report combines elements which are attributed to two different persons by al-Ḥarizi and Ibn al-Qifṭī into a single figure. Much of what we learn about the earlier biography of the “evil” physician (conversion and re-conversion, travelling and trading activities, working as a physician only later in his life) tallies perfectly with what is known about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, and even if such a biography was perhaps not unique, it seems unlikely that two persons with the same biographical background met in Aleppo at exactly the same time. On the other hand, the accusation of religious unbelief is more resonant of al-Ḥarizi’s characterisation of Eleʿazar, even if it cannot be ruled out that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s enemies also eventually accused him of having only seemingly converted back to Judaism.92 Al-Baġdādī thus cannot be read without enormous interpretative caution.

However, be this as it may, the death of al-Malik al-Ẓāhir in 1216 and the possibility that Jewish or converted Jewish physicians were involved in it seems to have been a major scandal in Aleppo, which probably did not remain merely professional, and it may well have affected the Jewish community as a whole. If this is the case, there seem to be two main directions for interpreting the contradictory evidence. It is conceivable that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was indeed al-Baġdādī’s “evil” physician. In that case, he must have lost quite a bit of his professional prestige among both Jews and non-Jews after al-Malik al-Ẓāhir’s death. On the other hand, we hear nothing about an explicit accusation of murder against him, and if he became the physician of the amīr Fāris al-Dīn Maymūn al-Qaṣrī only after al-Malik al-Ẓāhir’s death in the year 1216–1219, these events cannot have destroyed his career altogether. This fact notwithstanding, al-Ḥarizi’s apologetic praise of his professional qualities as a physician in the Arabic Kitāb al-Durar may still be seen as an attempt to restore his seriously endangered reputation. In addition to this, if Eleʿazar is indeed al-Baġdādī’s “good” physician, then the information that this doctor had converted to Islam may be echoed in al-Ḥarizi’s harsh words about him desecrating the Sabbath and his hope that his “name should be excised.” In any event, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon seems to have preserved his status within the Jewish community as described by al-Ḥarizi in version A of the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor, but echoes of the dispute were still palpable when he composed the poem for the Kitāb al-Durar.

This, however, is not the only possible interpretation. It seems equally possible that al-Baġdādī’s report in fact confuses the identity of the two figures and mixes up biographical details from both of them. This is not inconceivable in view of the fact that al-Baġdādī composed his report many years later and did not even claim to have been a direct eyewitness to all the information he provided. The identification of the evil doctor with the “Maghrebi sheikh” is explicitly said to be what he “believes” (aẓunnu) to have happened. In that case, he could have transposed some information about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, who was not a completely unknown personality at that time even among Muslims, to the “evil” physician involved in al-Malik al-Ẓāhir’s death, who was in fact al-Ḥarizi’s controversial court physician Eleʿazar. The confusion could quite easily have occurred, since both were Jews and it is possible that Eleʿazar, like Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, was originally from the Maghreb and may therefore also have had to convert to Islam at some stage. But even if this was not the case, it is possible that Eleʿazar, who could also have been a successful local physician from an Aleppan family, came into conflict with the learned and self-assured Maghrebi immigrant Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and that this struggle for recognition and success culminated in the dramatic events around the ruler’s death. If we are to believe al-Ḥarizi, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon (and in that case al-Baġdādī’s honourable elderly physician) prevailed in this conflict. On the other hand, after this scandal, the Jewish community tried to distance itself from Eleʿazar, who was publicly suspected of having applied a treatment that ultimately led to the ruler’s death. The fact that no other Muslim author apart from al-Baġdādī reports any setback in Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s professional career and the possibility that he entered into the service of the amīr Fāris al-Dīn Maimūn al-Qaṣrī in the years right after al-Malik al-Ẓāhir’s death (1216–1219) renders this interpretation quite likely.

There is hard evidence that in the last period of his life, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was not only active as a practicing physician, but also in the composition of medical treatises. Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿah mentions the titles of two such texts in the ʿUyūn al-Anbāʾ: an Epistle on the Measurement of Soft and Hard Nutrition (Risālah fī tartīb al-aġḏīyah al-laṭīfah wa-l-kaṯīfah) and a Commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates (Šarḥ al-fuṣūl li-Abuqrāṭ). Of these two, Ḫāǧī Ḫalīfa mentions only the second, and this is the only one which is preserved to this day.93

When Moritz Steinschneider composed his Catalogus librarum hebraeorum in bibliotheca Bodleiana in the years 1852 to 1860, he was still convinced that the attribution of such a tractate to Joseph ben Judah (Ibn ʿAqnin) must have been a confusion with Maimonides,94 but in 1871/72, he was able to correct his mistake when he described a fifteenth-century Sephardic manuscript containing the Judaeo-Arabic text of an Abbreviation of the Commentary of Galen on the Aphorism of Hippocrates (Iḫtiṣār Šarḥ Ğālīnūs li-Fuṣūl Abuqrāṭ) attributed to Abū Ḥaǧāǧ Yosef (or rather Yūsuf) ben Yaḥyā al-Isrāʾīlī al-Maġribī (whom Steinschneider naturally identified with Ibn ʿAqnin).95 In 1964, David H. Baneth claimed the Abbreviation of the Commentary for Joseph Ibn Shimʿon,96 but upon the “second discovery” of this manuscript, which had meanwhile reached the Guenzburg Collection in Moscow, Tzvi Langermann attributed the treatise to Joseph Ibn ‘Aqnin once more, without further discussion.97 The same attribution was adopted by Hadar Perry in a doctoral thesis submitted in 2007, in which she edited the entire Judaeo-Arabic text from this unique manuscript.98 In the introduction to her edition, she briefly mentions and rejects Baneth’s attribution of it to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and attempts to identify connections between the Abbreviation of the Commentary and other works by Joseph Ibn ʿAqnin. These parallels, however, mainly refer to rather general aspects of medieval medicine and therefore seem to remain inconclusive as far as authorship is concerned.99 Consequently, her arguments stand against the strong positive evidence provided by the Arab biographers and bibliographers who clearly attribute the work to Abū Ḥaǧāǧ Yosef ben Yaḥyā al-Isrāʾīlī al-Maġribī (i.e., Joseph Ibn Shimʿon), even more so since this is the same name that appears in the manuscript. In addition to this, this attribution may also find some indirect reconfirmation in al-Ḥarizi’s poem about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon in the Kitāb al-Durar, where he praises his wisdom in which “even Galen would drown.” Galen’s verbosity was almost proverbial, so the poem is possibly alluding to the efficient method of abbreviation that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon applied. If al-Ḥarizi’s poem is indeed to be dated to after his return to Aleppo (i.e., after 1220), it might be of some value for dating Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s medical writing(s) to the very last years of his life, when—perhaps following Maimonides—he became a physician with direct access to the court of the local ruler.

5.4 Other Activities in Aleppo and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s Death

Medicine, however, was only one part of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s activities, and possibly not even the most important one. As indicated by Ibn al-Qifṭī, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s self-staging as a Maimonidean scholar in musar, religious studies, science, and philosophy in his private court was important to him, and he had achieved quite a lot in that respect during the last period of his life. It is reasonable to assume that it was from this time onwards that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon received the title Roʾš ha-Seder by which he is designated in some documents from at least 1217, when al-Ḥarizi met him in Aleppo.100

As far as I can see, nothing more is known about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s other activities during the last years of his life, which ended, according to Ibn al-Qifṭī’s report, in the “first ten days” (al-ʿušr al-awwal) of the month of Ḏū al-Ḥiǧǧa in the year 623. This date, which equals 23 November–2 December 1226, nicely tallies with the fragmentary date provided on a Jewish tombstone for a certain “Yosef ha-Maʿaravi, ha-Rav ha-me[hullal ben Yehuda]h” preserved in the walls of the citadel of Aleppo, if Alexander Dotan’s reading according to which this tombstone provides the date of the second day of the month of Kislew is accepted.101 The year of death is illegible on this tombstone, but if one converts the second day of Kislew to the respective date in the year 1226, the indicated day falls squarely into the period of time given by Ibn al-Qifṭī. It could therefore be concluded that Ibn Shimʿon died on 30 November 1226 and that he was buried in Aleppo.102

6 Conclusion and Outlook

This survey of all the available evidence regarding Joseph ibn Shimʿon’s life has uncovered a historical figure who perhaps does not belong to the very first rank of Jewish thinkers in the medieval Islamicate world, but who undoubtedly played a major role in Jewish life in the transitional period between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. He was a younger contemporary of Maimonides and was much less influential than him from a historical perspective, but he lived what can be called a “Maimonidean life.” Born into an élite Jewish family during the Almohad persecution, he is a representative of that generation of Jews from the Maghreb and al-Andalus who emigrated from their homeland in order to find new homes in new places in the Islamic or Christian world. Wherever these refugees arrived, they brought with them a cultural and intellectual heritage (and possibly also the financial means) that allowed them to aspire to (and often to successfully achieve) statuses of considerable cultural, social, political, and religious influence and prestige. In many cases, this was the case only after they had fought violent conflicts against traditional local élites, which they were often more than willing to carry out with a considerable degree of self-confidence. The self-imposition of Jews from the Western Islamic world upon other Jewish communities both in the East and in Europe was a complicated process of cultural transition that was to change their profiles dramatically.

In Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s case, the connection to Maimonides’s biography goes beyond these external parallels and similarities. His life and career were at least deeply influenced and tied to his early encounter with Maimonides, if not totally determined by it. Even if the period of direct discipleship was perhaps relatively short, Maimonides seems to have served as a model to him, and one whom he followed in more than one respect: after his first studies in the fields of musar, science, theology, and philosophy in the Maghreb, which seem to have yielded their first literary products before his encounter with Maimonides (the maqāmah Sayeth Ṭuviyyah ben Ṣidqiyyah and probably the treatise On the Necessary Existent), he received a solid higher education from him after they met in Egypt. The reasons why he left for Aleppo are difficult to determine, but if we can trust the information provided by the correspondence between the two, the student followed the master’s advice to take care of his economic success above all. This would also guarantee him a high degree of independence as a scholar, something Maimonides held in extremely high esteem: true sages must be independent and must not teach for money! Once he had achieved this status and had the financial means to purchase an estate near Aleppo and install himself there, he, like Maimonides, devoted himself to the study and practice of medicine in the later period of his life. The occupation of physician was apparently much less important as a source of income than as a way to present oneself as a benefactor to the community and to concomitantly gain access to non-Jewish political and cultural leaders. This elevated political and social status exposed him to considerable dangers, but it can be seen as the crowning pinnacle of a long and laborious career. Part and parcel of being a professional physician must have been the ability to teach, so Joseph Ibn Shimʿon also followed Maimonides in the composition of medical treatises in the last period of his life.

A major difference between Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon—apart from his activities as a poet—lies in the role of halakhic studies and writing in their respective careers. Maimonides, born into a family of Andalusian rabbis, wrote his first halakhic works while still in the West (the Commentary on the Mishnah), whereas the available sources do not tell us anything about any specific interest in such topics from Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s side. His forte was the sciences, especially the mathematical sciences, musar, and perhaps also theology. Only as part of a larger project to establish himself as a teacher did he come up with the idea to teach Jewish law in a new school in Baghdad. On Maimonides’s advice, he probably planned to base the teaching on the Mishneh Torah, which he surprisingly does not seem to have intensively studied with his master during his Egyptian sojourn. This project must have been an obvious provocation for the traditional Jewish élites in Baghdad. It apparently never materialised, but the controversies in which Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was involved in Baghdad (of which the literary controversy about resurrection with Samuel ben Eli was only the most prominent)103 reveal a person who did not shun conflicts where he deemed them to be useful or necessary. It cannot be ruled out that the sudden interest in teaching halakhah was partly motivated by aspirations to become a communal authority. In the end, however, Aleppo proved to be a better place to achieve these goals. Here, he seems to have succeeded in building a strong citadel for halakhic and philosophical Maimonideanism in Syria under the shadow of Ayyubid protection, although even this stronghold occasionally had to be defended against real or imaginary intruders.

In his lifetime, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was an influential, but also highly controversial figure. There can be no doubt that various details about his life—a mixture of true facts, benevolent hearsay, and also malevolent gossip—were created and circulated during his life and perhaps even after his death. His early life under the Almohad persecution in the Maghreb, his close relationship with Maimonides (which was probably one of the major sources of his prestige), including his status as the dedicatee of the Guide of the Perplexed, his financial success, and his service to the rulers of Aleppo were probably all fertile ground for the evolution of various narratives among his co-religionists and even among non-Jews. The contradicting biographies found in Ibn al-Qifṭī on the one hand and ‘Abd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī on the other are perhaps telling examples of this, and the popularity of al-Ḥarizi’s poetical accounts may well have added to the spreading of rumours about him.

All this taken together leads to a situation in which historians cannot take every piece of evidence about Joseph Ibn Shimʿon at face value, and one has to reckon with misinformation and even forgeries. Important examples of this are certain pieces of his correspondence with Maimonides that have come down to us. For many of the letters, there is no reason to doubt their authenticity, even if their transmission poses serious philological and historical problems. On the other hand, there are pieces that arouse a considerable deal of suspicion, and more research will be required to reach certainty.

For instance, it is surprising that in addition to Maimonides’s famous Judaeo-Arabic dedicatory letter in which he describes his first encounter with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon in a rather prosaic form,104 there is yet another dedicatory letter written in Hebrew and fashioned in a more poetic style. The authenticity of this second letter, which was first published in the Constantinople edition of Maimonides’s letters (1517) and which is transmitted in only two manuscripts, has occasionally been questioned in modern scholarship.105 It seems quite remarkable that the letter lavishly praises Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, who is presented at more or less the peak of his success in Aleppo. According to the biographical reconstruction presented here, this does not fit the historical realities in 1191 (the generally accepted date of the completion of the Guide), and it is not even certain that this was the case before 1204, the date of Maimonides’s death. On the other hand, given the fact that the dedication of the Guide was a major source of social prestige for Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and his supporters, there is—to say the least—a convincing scenario for the creation of a literary forgery.

A second problematic piece of the correspondence between Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon is the so-called allegorical letters presumably exchanged between the two.106 The leitmotiv of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s letter to Maimonides is that a certain young lady (called Kimah, the Hebrew name for the Pleiades) had become his legal wife, but that she had gone astray and was being unjustly kept from him by her father Maimonides. Joseph Ibn Shimʿon asks the master to return his wife to her legal husband. However, in his reply, Maimonides vigorously denies Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s claims, blames him for his stupidity, but ultimately returns his wife to him, not without rebuking him for his behaviour. According to Salomon Munk, the first interpreter of a fragmentary version of this document, Kimah allegorically stands for Maimonides’s philosophy, which had somehow disappointed Joseph Ibn Shimʿon at a certain point in his life, which led him to complain about her and to ask his teacher for help.107 A few years later, this interpretation was given slightly more nuance by Abraham Geiger, who was not convinced that Kimah stands for philosophy in general. Rather, he thought that the text was speaking about the study of astronomy.108 This interpretation was rejected by Moritz Steinschneider, although he did not suggest an alternative.109 Salomon Cohn, on the other hand, interprets Kimah as the “philosophical understanding of Judaism” and argues that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon intended no less than to criticise Maimonides for inserting elements of Ibn Rushd’s philosophy into his own thought.110 In a similar vein, Joseph Heller believes that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s letter deals with the (seemingly) unresolvable contradiction between philosophical and prophetic truth.111 All these interpretations, however, were rejected by David H. Baneth, who favoured the assumption that the allegorical correspondence concerns events connected to the dissemination of the Guide of the Perplexed, which Maimonides initially promised to send to his faithful student, but which then—to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s great disdain—seems to have reached other readers before him.112

In a separate study, I will present the arguments for and against yet another interpretation of these letters,113 which is based on the assumption that the allegorical correspondence between Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and Maimonides mirrors a dispute that is neither about philosophy as such nor about the philosophical interpretation of Judaism or the study of astronomy, but rather about one specific book—namely, Ğābir Ibn Aflaḥ’s (ca. 1000–ca. 1060) astronomical Kitāb al-Hay’ah—which according to Ibn al-Qifṭī, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon possessed from his time in the Maghreb and had studied and revised together with Maimonides. If read from this background, it transpires from the allegorical correspondence that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon had first studied the book with Ibn Rushd in the Maghreb before arriving in Egypt and that a dispute broke out between him and Maimonides about the material and perhaps also intellectual ownership of this book.

As will be shown in that study, it is far from certain that the allegorical correspondence is authentic, but if authentic, the letters could serve as key sources for biographies of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and Maimonides and their relationship. The conflict between the two could provide an explanation for Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s departure from Egypt, and the letters would be of tremendous importance for the reception histories of the astronomer Ğābir Ibn Aflaḥ and the philosopher Ibn Rushd (1126–1198) among Andalusian Jews in the twelfth century.

From reading these letters, however, it soon becomes clear that it is Joseph Ibn Shimʿon who suffers the heaviest damage to his prestige, though Maimonides does not gain much from the dispute either. Moreover, there are certain literary features which arouse suspicion as to whether either of the two protagonists could have had any interest in writing the letters in their present form. The allegorical letters can easily be read as more of a polemic against Joseph Ibn Shimʿon. Therefore, if future research shows that the correspondence is a literary forgery directed primarily against Joseph Ibn Shimʿon (and secondarily against his teacher Maimonides), it becomes a fascinating testimony of an early period of the so-called Maimonidean Controversy in the East, in which Joseph Ibn Shimʿon played a pivotal role.

The afterlife of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon still needs to be written. He was a well-known person in his time, and the fame of the Roʾš ha-Seder probably spread at least in Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. Fragments of his works and letters are found in the Cairo Genizah, and as we have seen above, echoes of his reputation as a poet were also heard in thirteenth-century Spain.114 In the fourteenth century, Moses Narboni says that “the honourable student” (ha-talmid he-ḥašuv) was the recipient of a pseudepigraphical Iggeret ha-Sodot,115 and in manuscripts he is also the addressee of the treatise Megillat Setarim, which is attributed to Maimonides.116 In the fifteenth century, Abraham Bibago quotes Yaḥya ha-Maʿaravi in his commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics 9, but apparently without identifying him with Maimonides’s student.117 Moreover, Moses Rieti mentions the “loving student from Minno Ammon” (i.e., Alexandria) in his Miqdaš Meʿaṭ.118

Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was well known close to his lifetime, but he was not sufficiently famous to avoid being confounded with his contemporary Joseph ben Judah Ibn ‘Aqnin after his death. This mishap has not only befallen modern scholars, as medieval authors also committed this mistake. As early as the fifteenth century, Don Isaac Abarbanel’s commentary on the dedicatory letter identifies Maimonides’s student Joseph Ibn Shimʿon with the author of a commentary on the Canticles, a work which was actually written by Ibn ‘Aqnin.119 This confusion in medieval and early modern sources means that the division of the literary heritage between the two Joseph ben Judahs poses some problems. There are a few texts in the list of “Joseph-ben-Judah’s works”120 which were clearly written by Ibn ‘Aqnin (the commentary on Avot called Sefer ha-Musar, Sefer Ḥuqqim u-Mišpaṭim, the commentary on the Canticles entitled Inkišāf al-Asrār we Ẓuhūr al-Anwār, and the most famous Ṭibb al-nufūs al-Salīma wa-Muʿālaǧat al-Nufūs al-Alīma). Others were clearly the work of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon (the medical treatises and the Silencing Epistle), but the attribution of many of the other minor halakhic, theological, and poetical works remains a matter for further research in view of the fact that copyists may well also have confounded the two authors.121

Once the outline of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s biography and the bibliography of his works is established, there will also be a great deal of room for more penetrating and contextualising research. To mention just a few examples, the historical and philosophical context in which the—presumably early—theologico-philosophical treatise Ma’amar bi-Meḥuyyav ha-Meṣi’ut we-Ekhut Siddur ha-Devarim mimmeno we-Ḥidduš ha-‘Olam was written has never been firmly established. It would be illuminating to compare it to the opinions and argumentative methods applied in the polemical Silencing Epistle. The surviving medical Abbreviation of Galen’s Commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates should not only be compared to Maimonides’s medical writings,122 but perhaps also to ‘Abd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī’s commentary on the same text.123 This could help us to decide upon the question as to whether there is any reason to believe that the two may have met or even been student and teacher in Aleppo. Finally, Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s role as Maimonides’s student is not only a fascinating part of the early Maimonidean Controversy in the East; it is also an interesting aspect of the dynamics that stood behind the diffusion of the Mishneh Torah and the controversies that broke out around it. Whereas Isidore Twersky simply states that “completed in 1180, or probably 1178, it became known with amazing rapidity, first in the Oriental countries (Palestine, Syria, Babylon, Yemen), then in the Mediterranean area (including Spain and Provence), and finally in the Franco-German orbit,” and that by “1191 Maimonides spoke of its renown in all corners of the earth,”124 the study of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life reveals interesting details of ways in which Maimonides’s legal code gradually gained a foothold in different places in the East. He was in that sense a “distributor” of the Mishneh Torah and played an interesting role in the canonisation process of this work described by Menahem Ben-Sasson.125 All these aspects show that more research on Maimonides’s honourable student will indeed yield important insights into the intellectual and cultural life of the Jews in the Islamicate world in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries and help to uncover a fascinating key figure against the background of the dramatic developments in that period of time.

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1

Earlier drafts of this paper were read by Miriam Frenkel, Gad Freudenthal, Warren Zev Harvey, and Amir Mazor, who made many valuable comments on it. I also owe my deep gratitude to Sarah Stroumsa for her close reading and comments on the text. She sent me drafts of two of her own articles on Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s biography. One of them has meanwhile been published as “Convivencia in the Medieval Islamic East: Al-Raqqa, Mosul, Aleppo,” in Eine dreifältige Schnur: Über Judentum, Christentum und Islam in Geschichte und Wissenschaft/A Cord of Three Strands: On Judaism, Christianity and Islam in History and Scholarship, ed. Sarah Stroumsa and Guy G. Stroumsa (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020), 8–125. The second will be published as “Temunah Qibbuṣit u-Temunat ha-Yaḥid be-Šikhvat ha-Manhigut ha-Yehudit ba-Meʾot ha-Y”B we-Y”G be-ʿOlam ha-Islam: Wariʾaṣiyot ʿal Yosef Ibn Šimʿon” [Hebrew], in a forthcoming collection of articles in honour of Menahem Ben-Sasson.

2

See D.Z. Baneth, “El discípulo José Ben Shimon y José Ben Waknin” [Hebrew], Tesoro de los judíos sefardíes 7 (1964): 11–20.

3

Salomon Munk, “Notice sur Joseph be-Iehouda ou Aboul’Hadjadj Yousouf ben Ya’hya al-Sabti al-Maghrebi, disciple de Maïmonide,” Revue asiatique 2 (1842): 5–72 (repr. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1842).

4

On the historical importance of this title, see also n. 100 below.

5

Arnold Franklin, “Joseph Rosh ha-Seder,” in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, ed. Norman A. Stillman (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 3:31; see also the comprehensive unfinished PhD thesis by Lipa Ginat, “Rabbi Joseph Rosh Hasseder and His Manuscripts of the TOSHBA and Halacha (from the Geniza)” [Hebrew] (PhD diss., Tel Aviv University, 2004).

6

Moritz Steinschneider’s studies on Joseph ben Judah (Ibn ‘Aqnin) from the years 1852 to 1888 were collected in Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften von Moritz Steinschneider, Band I: Gelehrten-Geschichte, ed. Heinrich Malter and Alexander Marx (Berlin: Poppelauer, 1925), 35–89 and 575–98; see also Steinschneider, Die arabische Literatur der Juden. Ein Beitrag zur Literaturgeschichte der Araber großenteils aus handschriftlichen Quellen (Frankfurt am Main: Kaufmann, 1902), 228–33. His opinion was supported by Wilhelm Bacher in his edition of Joseph Ibn ʿAqnin, Sepher Musar. Kommentar zum Mischnatraktat Aboth von R. Joseph ben Jehuda, ed. Wilhelm Bacher (Berlin: Itzkowski, 1910), viii–xi, and it is tacitly assumed in many subsequent publications, such as Samuel Posnański, Babylonische Geonim im nachgaonäischen Zeitalter nach handschriftlichen und gedruckten Quellen (Berlin: Mayer und Müller, 1914), 16, 30–34, 56, 120. However, it was rejected by Adolf Neubauer, “Joseph ben Aqnin,” Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 19 (1870): 348–55, 395–401, and 445–48, who expressed his scepticism about the status questionis in a review article published in Revue des études juives 11 (1885): 310–11; Simon Eppenstein, “Moses ben Maimon, ein Lebens- und Charakterbild,” in Moses ben Maimon. Sein Leben, seine Werke und sein Einfluss, ed. Wilhelm Bacher, Marcus Brann, and David Simonsen (Leipzig: Gustav Fock, 1914), 2:1–103, at 58–60 n. 1, and many others.

7

The biographical sketch found in Judah al-Ḥarizi, The Wanderings of Judah Alharizi: Five Accounts of His Travels [Hebrew], ed. Joseph Yahalom and Joshua Blau (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2002), 33–34, stresses the changing economic status and social prestige that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon enjoyed during his lifetime. An interesting collection of sources for Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s life that is often neglected is found in Joel L. Kraemer, Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization’s Greatest Minds (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 359–70.

8

Ibn al-Qiftī, Ibn al-Qiftī’s Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ. Auf Grund der Vorarbeiten Aug. Müller’s herausgegeben, ed. Julius Lippert (Leipzig: Dieterich’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1903), 392–94. The chapter was translated into French in Munk, “Notice,” 14–18, and into English in Judah al-Ḥarizi, Kitāb al-Durar: A Book in Praise of God and the Israelite Communities, ed. Joshua Blau, Paul B. Fenton, and Joseph Yahalom (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2009), 51*–53*, and Alan Verskin, “A Muslim-Jewish Friendship in the Medieval Mediterranean: ʿAlī al-Qifṭī’s Biography of Rabbi Yūsuf Ibn Shamʿūn (Joseph ben Judah),” in The Idea of the Mediterranean, ed. Mario Mignone (Stony Brook, NY: Forum Italicum Publishing, 2017), 193–95. In the following pages, I will make no explicit references to Barhebraeus’s Taʾrīḫ muḫtaṣar al-duwal, ed. Anton Ṣāliḥa, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Imprimerie catholique, 1958), 238 and 242–43, which only summarises passages from Ibn al-Qifṭī.

9

On the profile of the forced converts (anusim), see Menahem Ben-Sasson, “On the Jewish Identity of Forced Converts: A Study of Forced Conversion in the Almohade Period” [Hebrew], Peʿamim 42 (1990): 16–37.

10

Ibn al-Qifṭī, Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ, 392.

11

In Ibn al-Qiftī’s terminology, the word šadā seems to designate the achievement of a certain level of proficiency in a certain subject or profession after one has “read” (qaraʾa) or “studied” (ʿāna) it, similar to aǧāda. He uses the same terminology in the description of Maimonides’s early education, although there the verb šadā is replaced by šadda (literally, “became strong”); see Ibn al-Qifṭī, Ta’riḫ al-Ḥukamā’, 317. The meaning and translation of the latter passage is discussed in Sarah Stroumsa, Maimonides in His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 126; Herbert A. Davidson, “Ibn al-Qiftī’s Statement Regarding Maimonides’ Early Study of Science,” Aleph 14 (2014): 245–58; and in Stroumsa’s reply, “On Maimonides and on Logic,” Aleph 14 (2014): 259–63.

12

Ibn Rushd is briefly mentioned in the so-called allegorical correspondence between Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and Maimonides (to be discussed in more detail below); see Moses Maimonides, Epistulae, ed. David Hirsch Baneth (Jerusalem: Mekize Nirdamim, 1946; repr. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1985), 23. Some scholars have read this passage as an allusion to the possibility that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon studied astronomy with Ibn Rushd in the West, but this interpretation is highly speculative. This is the case even if the Andalusian philosopher was known to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and is also mentioned in a letter to him from Maimonides from the year 1191; see Moses Maimonides, Iggerot ha-RaMBaM [Hebrew], ed. Yiṣḥaq Shilat, 3rd ed. (Jerusalem: Hoṣaʾat Šilat, 1995), 1:299 and 313.

13

This treatise has been edited twice, once in a partial edition accompanied by a German translation as Joseph Ibn ʿAqnin, Drei Abhandlungen von Josef b. Jehuda, dem Schüler Maimûni’s, ed. and trans. Moritz Löwy (Berlin, 1879), and in a complete Hebrew edition with an English translation as Ibn ʿAqnin, A Treatise as to the Necessary Existence, the Procedure of Things from the Necessary Existence, the Creation of the World, by Joseph ibn Aqnin, ed. and trans. Judah Leon Magnes (Berlin: Itzkowski, 1904). Short descriptions and studies can be found in the revised English translations of Julius Guttmann, Philosophies of Judaism: The History of Jewish Philosophy from Biblical Times to Franz Rosenzweig, trans. David W. Silverman (New York: Schocken, 1973), 215–18, and Colette Sirat, A History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages, trans. M. Reich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 206.

14

See Ibn ʿAqnin, A Treatise as to the Necessary Existence, 3, ll. 10–11, and 6, l. 3.

15

David Hirsch Baneth, “Philological Observations on Joseph ben Judah ibn Shimʿon’s Metaphysical Treatise” [Hebrew], Tarbiz 27 (1958): 236–39.

16

See also Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 47 n.24.

17

See the critical editions of the Sefer Taḥkemoni in al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 67, version B, l. 221, and al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni or The Tales of Heman the Ezraḥite by Judah Alharizi [Hebrew], ed. Joseph Yahalom and Naoya Katsumata (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2010), 454, l. 151.

18

See Ibn al-Qifṭī, Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ, 393.

19

See Ibn al-Qifṭī, Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ, 393: wa-aqāma ʿindahu muddatan qarībatan.

20

Munk, “Notice,” 47, raises the question of whether Joseph Ibn Shimʿon himself had to convert to Islam—as it appears from Ibn al-Qifṭī’s description—or whether he was born into a family which had already converted to Islam after the beginning of the persecution. Given the fact that the beginning of the persecutions is dated to between 1146 and 1148, the first option would mean that he must have been born in the fourth decade of the twelfth century, which would make him roughly the same age as Maimonides. Munk considers this to be highly unlikely in view of the quality of the relationship between the two that developed in later years.

21

The letter is published in Joseph Yahalom, “‘Sayeth Tuviyyah ben Ẓidkiyyah’: The Maqama of Joseph ben Simeon in Honor of Maimonides,” Tarbiz 66 (1997): 543–77, at 574–76. A fragment was previously published in Maimonides, Epistulae, 5–6.

22

See Yahalom, “‘Sayeth Tuviyyah ben Ẓidkiyyah’”; Yahalom, “A Romance Maqāma: The Place of the ‘Speech of Tuvia Ben Zedeqiah’ in the History of the Hebrew Maqāma” [Hebrew], Hispania Judaica Bulletin 10 (2014): 113–28 (Hebrew section), with additional fragments on 122–24, and Maimonides, Epistulae, 5–6. The maqāma is also praised by Judah al-Ḥarizi in chapter 12 (on the poets) of the Sefer Taḥkemoni; see al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 179, l. 192, and al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 222, l. 282. On the reception history of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s poetry, see Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 47–48, Yahalom, “‘Sayeth Ṭuviyyah ben Ẓidkiyyah,’” 553–55, and Jefim Schirmann, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press and Ben Zvi Institute, 1997), 273–78 (on Abraham Ibn Ḥasdai).

23

In addition to all the standard editions and translations of the Guide, the Judaeo-Arabic dedicatory letter is also found in Maimonides, Epistulae, 7–9, and Maimonides, Iggerot, 2:250–53.

24

See the discussion below and my forthcoming article: Reimund Leicht, “Ibn Rushd and Ğābir Ibn Aflaḥ among the Jews—New Interpretations for Joseph ben Judah Ibn Shimʿon’s Allegorical Correspondence with Maimonides” in Averroes and Averroism in Medieval Jewish Thought, ed. Racheli Haliva, Daniel Davies, and Yoav Meyrav (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

25

There is a description of Aleppo in this period in Anne-Marie Eddé, La principauté Ayyoubide d’Alep (579/1183–658/1260) (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1999); on the status of the ḏimmīs, see Eddé, La principauté, 466–72. On the history of the Jewish community in Aleppo, see Miriam Frenkel, “The Jewish Community of Aleppo: Preserving Unity and Uniqueness” [Hebrew], Peʿamim 61 (1994): 57–74; Frenkel, “The Leadership of the Jewish Community of Aleppo” [Hebrew], Peʿamim 66 (1996): 20–42; and the studies assembled in Yom Tov Assis, Miriam Frenkel, and Yaron Harel, eds., Aleppo Studies. The Jews of Aleppo: Their History and Culture [Hebrew], vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2009).

26

Ibn al-Qiftī mentions that his father in law was Abū ʿAlāʾ, the scribe (al-kātib) mārḏakāʾ (or dārḏakāʾ, in Munk’s version). The meaning of this title, which is sometimes translated as “supervisor of the butchery,” remains uncertain; see the discussion in Munk, “Notice,” 15–16 n. 1; Eddé, La principauté, 466–67. The article in front of al-kātib renders it grammatically unlikely that this is to be read as a genitive construction (i.e., “supervisor of …”). Mār could stand for the Aramaic honorary title “master.”

27

Ibn al-Qiftī, Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ, 229. The episode is discussed and dated by Munk, “Notice,” 18–20. See also Ferdinand Wüstenfeld, Geschichte der Arabischen Aerzte und Naturforscher (Göttingen, 1840), 103 (§§185–86).

28

Sarah Stroumsa, ed. and trans., The Beginnings of the Maimonidean Controversy in the East. Yosef Ibn Shimʿon’s Silencing Epistle Concerning the Resurrection of the Dead. Arabic and Hebrew Texts of Risālat al-iskāt fī ḥašr al-amwāt, with Introduction and Annotated Hebrew Translation [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1999).

29

For an analysis of the historical context of the composition of the Silencing Epistle, see Stroumsa, Maimonides in His World, 165–83.

30

See Marina Rustow, “Ibn al-Dastūr, Samuel ben ʿAlī,” in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, 2:450–51.

31

The relevant paragraph (71) is missing in the fragmentary Judaeo-Arabic original, but it is translated by Ibn Vivas using the words lifnei šanim; see Stroumsa, The Beginnings of the Maimonidean Controversy, 105.

32

Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, Silencing Epistle, paragraph 85, in Stroumsa, The Beginnings of the Maimonidean Controversy, 34.

33

Baneth, in Maimonides, Epistulae, 31–49, was convinced that the unity of the whole letter (edited on 49–71) can be established. Based on the evidence drawn from an anonymous letter written sometime after Abraham Maimonides’s death in 1237, A.S. Halkin, “In Defense of Maimonides’ Code” [Hebrew], Tarbiz 25 (1956): 422–28, and Shilat in Maimonides, Iggerot, 289–91, convincingly argue that the letter consists of—at least, one might say—two separate units.

34

Maimonides, Epistulae, 68–71; Maimonides, Iggerot, 1:288–89 and 311–14.

35

As Shelomo Dov Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (Berekely: University of California Press, 1971), 2:199, shows, the term midrash is more common in the Genizah than the term bet midrash.

36

See Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilekhot Talmud Torah 1:7 and 3:10.

37

This is the opinion of Warren Zev Harvey, “The Problem of Many Gods in al-Ghazālī, Averroes, Maimonides, Crescas, and Sforno,” in Sceptical Paths: Enquiry and Doubt from Antiquity to the Present, ed. Giuseppe Veltri, Racheli Haliva, Stephan Schmid, and Emidio Spinelli (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), 85–86 n. 6.

38

On this passage, see also Shelomo Dov Goitein and Mordechai Akiva Friedman, India Traders of the Middle Ages: Documents from the Cairo Geniza. “India Book,” Part One (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 90–91 (Hebrew version: Shelomo Dov Goitein and Mordechai Akiva Friedman, India Book III. Abraham ben Yijū. India Trader and Manufacturer. Cairo Geniza Documents [Hebrew] [Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2010], 35–36).

39

Modern scholarship normally assumes that the contact between Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was uninterrupted (see, e.g., Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 40), but there is no compelling evidence for this.

40

The story of Maimonides’s career as a physician is difficult to reconstruct. Ibn al-Qifṭī, Taʾrīḫ al-Ḥukamāʾ, 317, reports that Maimonides had studied medicine in his youth, but that he had not practised it. Opinions differ as to when Maimonides started practising medicine. This might have occurred after the death of Maimonides’s brother, which left him without solid financial support. This event, however, cannot be dated with precision, and the direct connection to the practice of medicine remains conjectural. See also Herbert A. Davidson, Moses Maimonides: The Man and His Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 35–36 and 67–68 (on the correspondence with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon), and Stroumsa, Maimonides, 124–38, esp. 128–31. Stroumsa argues that Ibn al-Qifṭī’s remark about Maimonides’s medical knowledge probably refers to his early training in al-Andalus, because from Maimonides’s medical writings, we learn that he did practice medicine (or at least followed other physicians in their rounds and consultations) in North Africa and that when he started practising medicine in Egypt, his career began at the court. This may indicate that Maimonides was already an accomplished physician when he arrived in Egypt. In any event, if the dating of the letter is correct, Maimonides’s appointment as physician to the house of al-Fāḍil around the year 1191 must have been a relatively recent event; see also Bernard Lewis, “Maimonides, Lionheart, and Saladin,” Eretz Israel 7 (1964): 75.

41

On the correspondence between Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon concerning the study of the Mishneh Torah, see also Menahem Ben-Sasson, “Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah: Towards Canon-Formation in the Life of an Author” [Hebrew], in Uncovering the Canon: Studies in Canonicity and Genizah, ed. Robert Brody, Amia Lieblich, Donna Shalev, and Menahem Ben-Sasson (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2010), 150 and 157.

42

For an interpretation, see Isadore Twersky, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah) (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980), 41–43, 45–47, 62 n. 101, 73, 74, 76, 520.

43

Three pieces from the correspondence between Maimonides and Joseph Ibn Shimʿon on the teaching of the Mishneh Torah which probably belong this period were assembled in the later twelfth century by an anonymous student of Abraham Maimonides; see the text edited from the Genizah fragment New York, JTS, ENA 2379 (IMHM F 33643) in Halkin, “In Defense of Maimonides’ Code”; see also Maimonides, Epistulae, 49–52 and 68, and Maimonides, Iggerot, 1:256–59, 300–304, and 311.

44

See Maimonides, Epistulae, 49–79 and 88–90 (letters 6 and 7), and Maimonides, Iggerot, 1:256–60, 275–79, 282–88, 293–314, 377–94, 404–18, and 420–22 (letters 15, 18–20, 22, and 24–25).

45

See Z. Diesendruck, “On the Date of the Completion of the Moreh Nebukim,” Hebrew Union College Annual 12/13 (1937/38): 461–97, and Davidson, Maimonides, 322. See also the announcement to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon to the effect that he would send him parts of the Guide in Maimonides, Epistulae, 67–68, and Maimonides, Iggerot, 1:298, 310 and 311.

46

Abraham ben Maimon, Milḥamot ha-Šem, ed. Reuven M. Margaliot (Jerusalem: Mossad ha-Rav Kook, 1953), 54: באו אלי כתב ושליח מתלמיד נכבד חכם גדול היה, תלמיד אבא מרי ז״ל, ר' יוסף בר שמעון היה שמו, בצובא היתה ישיבה שלו אחר פרידתו מן הרב אבא מרי ז״ל, והוא שחבר אבא מרי ז״ל מורה הנבוכים על שמו, ורב נכבד היה בכל ארץ קדם בחכמת התורה ובשאר החכמות. It is interesting to see that Abraham Maimonides limits Ibn Shimʿon’s influence to the “East” so as to avoid any competition with his own realm of authority.

47

The text is edited in al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 85–87, ll. 159–95, and al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 595–96, ll. 32–62. In the early printed editions—Constantinople, 1578, fols. 75b–76a, and Amsterdam, 1729, fols. 74a–75a—the text was appended to chapter 50 of the Sefer Taḥkemoni.

48

See al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, vii (Hebrew introduction, 10). The text was first published by Samuel M. Stern, “An Unpublished Maqama by al-Harizi,” Papers of the Institute of Jewish Studies London 1 (1964): 186–210, who did not want to decide upon the relative chronology of the different Hebrew travel descriptions, but predated them to the Arabic version (198–99). In Joshua Blau and Joseph Yahalom, “‘Kitab Aldurar’: An Unpublished Work by Judah Alharizi” [Hebrew], Peʿamim 108 (2006): 38, the authors express the assumption that this text was dedicated to “Joseph ha-Maʿaravi” (i.e., Joseph Ibn Shimʿon) upon their first encounter in Aleppo.

49

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 86, l. 173: u-va-mizraḥ mašaḥakha el le-naviʾ.

50

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 86, l. 175–78; see Munk, “Notice,” 35–37.

51

Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 44, surmises that this description of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s comprehensive education might in fact allude to his works. However, this statement—as attractive as it might be—requires reconsideration in view of the fact that Steinschneider’s identification of Joseph ben Judah Ibn Shimʿon with the prolific writer Joseph ben Judah Ibn ʿAqnin is no longer generally accepted.

52

See note on l. 195 in al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 87.

53

This is chapter 46 in the earlier printed editions (Constantinople, fols. 62b–66b, and Amsterdam, fols. 62b–66b). In the new critical edition, the Maḥberet Mozne ha-Dor is chapter 39; see the relevant passage in al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 445, ll. 283–93, and al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 67, ll. 189–96.

54

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 67, ll. 190–96; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 445, ll. 282–91.

55

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 69, ll. 204–10; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 446, ll. 303–12.

56

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 67, ll. 219–32; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 454, ll. 150–61.

57

The meaning of the Hebrew term musar in this context can be interpreted in different ways. It could stand for “ethics” or “moral education,” but it is more likely that it represents the Arabic concept of adab; for the latter usage of the term musar by al-Ḥarizi, who translated the Arabic Adāb al-Falāsifah into Hebrew under the title Musare ha-Filosofim, see Jonathan P. Decter, “Concerning the Terminology of Al-Ḥarizi’s Virtues Debate,” in Giving a Diamond: Essays in Honor of Joseph Yahalom on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. Wout van Bekkum and Naoya Katsumata (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 171, where the term is rendered as “refined culture” and adab respectively.

58

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 69, ll. 255–58, and al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 455, ll. 176–79. Based on the text as given in the Amsterdam edition from 1729, which intermingles the two versions of chapter 46, Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 44 n. 21, believed that this Eleʿazar must have been a different person. The reconstruction of the two distinct recensions renders this assumption unnecessary (see al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 43, on Eleʿazar in the mixed recensions).

59

See Roni Shweka, “Daniel ben Saʿadya ha-Bavli,” in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, 2:20.

60

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 59, ll. 81–83; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 438, ll. 123–25.

61

See, for example, Eliakim Carmoly, trans., Itinéraires de la Terre Sainte des XIIIe, XIVe et XVIIe siècle, traduits de l’hébreu, et accompagnés de tables, de cartes et d’éclaircissements (Brussels, 1847), 141; Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 45 n. 22, and al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, xiv; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, xlviii–xlix.

62

The critique and reply are preserved in manuscripts and were published in Abraham ben Maimon, Birkat Avraham, ed. Baer Goldberg (Lyck, 1859 and 1860), and Abraham ben Maimon, Maʿaśeh Nissim, ed. Baer Goldberg (Paris, 1867). The historical details of the correspondence between Daniel ha-Bavli and Abraham Maimonides are found in the latter’s accompanying Judaeo-Arabic letter printed in Maʿaśeh Nissim, 107 (Hebrew translation, iii). For a summary of the controversy, see Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 44–45; Jacob Mann, “The Rabbanite Exilarchs in Egypt,” in Jacob Mann, Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature, 2nd ed. (New York: Ktav, 1972), 1:401–3; Daniel Jeremy Silver, Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy 1180–1240 (Leiden: Brill, 1965), 66–68; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, xlviii–xlix (English) and 51 (Hebrew). Daniel ha-Bavli’s critique and Abraham Maimonides’s reply have received little attention in modern scholarship; see, however, for a discussion of some of the arguments, Ben-Sasson, “Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah,” 151–52.

63

Abraham ben Maimon, Milḥamot ha-Šem, 54–55.

64

See Arnold Franklin, “David ben Zakkay II,” in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, 2:41.

65

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, xvi (Hebrew introduction, 24).

66

The text was published under the title Al-rawḍah al-anīqah in al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 91–167 (for Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, see 134–35, ll. 760–73). After the discovery of additional fragments, the text was republished in al-Ḥarizi, Kitāb al-Durar, with the relevant passage on 167–68, ll. 236–49. See also Blau and Yahalom, “‘Kitab Aldurar.’”

67

See al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, vii (Hebrew introduction, 10).

68

See al-Ḥarizi, Kitāb al-Durar, 32 (41*, English).

69

Kitāb al-Durar, 210–11 and 91*.

70

This is chapter 18, or chapter 12 (in the new edition).

71

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 179, ll. 189–93; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 222, ll. 278–86.

72

Stern, “An Unpublished Maqama,” 199.

73

Ezra Fleischer, “Hašlamot le-Qoveṣ Šire ha-Ṣimmudim šel Yehudah Alḥarizi li-Khevod Nikhbedei Qehal ha-Qaraʾim be-Dameśeq,” Qoveṣ ʿal Yad 18 (2005): 197–222; see also the detailed response in Blau and Yahalom, “‘Kitab Aldurar,’” 38–43.

74

Michael Rand, The Evolution of al-Ḥarizi’s Taḥkemoni (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 24–41.

75

It should be recalled that Maimonides’s support for some of Joseph Ibn Shimʿon’s plans was also not overwhelmingly strong.

76

Mann, “The Rabbanite Exilarchs in Egypt,” 403, says that the “causes that led to his moving from Bagdād to Damascus are unknown.” The competition with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon could have been a good reason.

77

This statement rests, of course, on the assumption that Daniel ha-Bavli is not identical with Daniel Ibn al-Amšaṭa (Ibn al-Māšiṭah), the author of the Taqwīm al-Adyān; see Paul B. Fenton, “Le Taqwīm al-Adyān de Daniel Ibn al-Māšita, nouvelle pièce de la controverse maïmonidienne en Orient,” Revue des études juives 145 (1986): 279–94, and Fenton, “Daniel Ibn al-Māshiṭa’s Taqwīm al-Adyān,” in Genizah Research after Ninety Years, ed. Joshua Blau and Stefan C. Reif (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 74–81. On Daniel Ibn al-Amšaṭa, see also Goitein and Friedman, India Traders of the Middle Ages (Hebrew version: Goitein and Friedman, India Book III, 58–59).

78

For modern summaries, see Wüstenfeld, Geschichte der Arabischen Aerzte, 120–21 (§212), and Max Mayerhof, “Mediaeval Jewish Physicians in the Near East, from Arabic Sources,” Isis 28 (1938): 451–52 (which does not differentiate between Joseph Ibn Shimʿon and Ibn ʿAqnin). See also Eddé, La principauté, 476–77.

79

Ibn Abi Useibia, ʿUyūn al-Anbāʾ, ed. August Müller (Königberg, 1884), 2:213.

80

For biographical references for Fāris al-Dīn Maimūn al-Qaṣrī, see Kraemer, Maimonides, 569 n. 36. The amīr was friendly with Ibn al-Qifṭī’s family, so the contact with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon was probably mediated through him. Munk, “Notice,” 11 n. 1, inverts the chronological order and believes that Joseph Ibn Shimʿon had met Ibn al-Qifṭī in Fāris al-Dīn’s residence. Eddé, La principauté, 271, provides 1213–1214 as his date of death.

81

Ḫāǧī Ḫalīfa, Lexicon bibliographicum et encyclopaedicum a Mustafa ben Abdallah Katib Jelebi dicto et nomine Haji Khalfa celebrato compositum. 4: Literas shín—cáf complectens, ed. Gustav Flügel (London: Oriental Translation Fund, 1845), 438.

82

There is a constantly growing literature on ʿAbd al-Laṭīf ibn Yūsuf al-Baġdādī; see, e.g., Claude Cahen, “‘Abdallaṭīf al-Baghdādī, portraitiste et historien de son temps: Extraits inédits de ses Mémoires,” Bulletin d’études orientales 23 (1970): 101–28; Angelika Neuwirth, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādīs Bearbeitung von Buch Lambda der aristotelischen Metaphysik (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1976); ʿAbd al-Laṭīf ibn Yūsuf al-Baġdādī, “The Autobiography of ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baghdādī (1162–1231),” trans. Shawkat M. Tootawa, in Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition, ed. Dwight F. Reynolds (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 156–64; Cecilia Martini Bonadeo, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī’s Philosophical Journey. From Aristotle’s Metaphysics to the “Metaphysical Science” (Leiden: Brill, 2013); Avinoam Shalem, “Experientia and Auctoritas: ‘Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi’s Kitāb al-Ifāda wa’l-Iʿtibār and the Birth of the Critical Gaze,” Muqarnas Online 32 (2015): 197–212.

83

The text was discovered and first described in Samuel M. Stern, “A Collection of Treatises by ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Bag̲h̲dādī,” Islamic Studies 1 (1962): 59–66. It was edited, translated, and studied by N. Peter Joosse in ʿAbd al-Laṭīf ibn Yūsuf al-Baghdādī, The Physician as a Rebellious Intellectual. The Book of the Two Pieces of Advice or Kitāb al-Naṣīḥatayn by ʿAbd al-Laṭīf ibn Yūsuf al-Baghdādī (1162–1231). Introduction, Edition and Translation of the Medical Section, ed. and trans. N. Peter Joosse (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014). The Arabic text is found on 102–4 and the English translation on 74–77. See also his detailed study with references to earlier research on 17–28 and the remarks in Verskin, “A Muslim-Jewish Friendship,” 187–89.

84

For a detailed historical account of the ruler’s death, see Eddé, La principauté, 84–88.

85

Stern, “A Collection,” 61: “The account itself […] shows that the monstrous accusation was trumped up by him on the basis of professional gossip concerning disagreement between the doctors attending the prince as to how he should be treated. (To mention one feature: it is hardly credible that some of the doctors should circulate the story that they agreed to apply a treatment they knew was wrong, simply to prevent a colleague scoring a success; this would make them accomplices to ‘murder’)! This passage shows the reverse side of ʿAbd al-Laṭīf’s flamboyant personality.”

86

Al-Baġdādī, The Physician, 19.

87

See The Physician, 20–28. Joosse seems to have worked with the English translation of the Sefer Taḥkemoni: Judah al-Ḥarizi, The Book of Taḥkemoni, trans. David Simha Segal (Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2001), which relies upon the earlier edition: Judah al-Ḥarizi, Sefer Taḥkemoni, ed. Yisrael Toporovsky (Tel Aviv: Maḥbarot le-Sifrut, 1952) and does not differentiate between the versions of the book.

88

Al-Baġdādī, The Physician, 28.

89

It should be noted that Stroumsa, “Temunah Qibbuṣit u-Temunat ha-Yaḥid be-Šikhvat ha-Manhigut ha-Yehudit ba-Meʾot ha-Y”B we-Y”G be-ʿOlam ha-Islam: Wariʾaṣiyot ʿal Yosef ibn Shimʿon” (forthcoming), and “Convivencia,” 84–91, is convinced that the biographical sketch in ʿAbd al-Laṭīf’s work is too unspecific in its content to identify it with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon, especially given the fact that no name is mentioned in it and that there were two Jewish physicians from the Maghreb with a similar biography who were active in Aleppo at the same time.

90

Al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 69, ll. 204–10; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 446, ll. 303–12.

91

Wanderings, 69, ll. 225–28; Taḥkemoni, 455, ll. 177–78.

92

It is uncertain whether both court physicians in al-Baġdādī’s report had a Jewish background. The “good” one is said to have embraced Islam (ṭabīb muslim). Joosse in Al-Baġdādī, The Physician, 75, translates this as “who had embraced Islam (or: had become a Muslim),” although the Arabic text on 103 also allows the translation of “Muslim physician.”

93

See also Manfred Ullmann, Die Medizin im Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 29.

94

Moritz Steinschneider, Catalogus librorum hebraeorum in bibliotheca Bodleiana (Berlin, 1852–1860), col. 1441.

95

Moritz Steinschneider, Verzeichniss karaitischer und anderer hebräischer Handschriften (im Besitze des Herrn J. Fischl) (Berlin, 1872), 21 (also published in Hebräsiche Bibliographie 11 [1871]: 119).

96

Baneth, “El discípulo,” 17.

97

Moscow, Russian State Library, Guenzburg 1024, fols. 3a–58a [IMHM F 48112]. Tzvi Langermann, “Some New Medical Manuscripts from Moscow,” Korot 10 (1993/94): 54–73.

98

Hadar Perry, “A Medical Writing of Yosef Ben Yehudah Ibn ‘Aqnin: ‘Ikhtisar Sharh Jalinus li-Fusul Abuqrat. Its Place in Thought of Ibn ʿAqnin and in the Tradition of Interpretation of Hippocrates’ Aphorisms” [Hebrew] (PhD diss., Bar Ilan University, 2007); see also Hadar Perry, “Demuto ha-Refuʾit šel Yosef ben Yehuda Ibn ʿAqnin” [Hebrew], Korot 19 (2008/9): 21–42.

99

Perry, “Medical Writing,” 139–55.

100

See al-Ḥarizi, Wanderings, 85, l. 62; al-Ḥarizi, Taḥkemoni, 596, l. 35: manhig ha-ʿeder we-roʾš ha-seder; see also the headings of the letter to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon on the dispute with Samuel ben ʿAlī according to MS Vatican, Neofiti 11 (Maimonides, Epistulae, 76; Maimonides, Iggerot, 1:300) and on Ibn Ğābir (Epistulae, 88; Iggerot, 420). On the title, see Jacob Mann, The Jews in Egypt and Palestine under the Fātimid Rule (London: Oxford University Press, 1920), 1:279–80; see also Iggerot, 1:285 n. 3. I owe my gratitude to Miriam Frenkel, who drew my attention to the fact that the title Roʾš ha-Seder was apparently given by the Babylonian exilarch; see Moseh Gil, Palestine During the First Muslim Period (634–1099) [Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Press, 1983), 2:472–73, and also Goitein, Mediterranean Society, 2:198–99. It seems not unlikely that the title Roʾš ha-Seder given to Joseph Ibn Shimʿon at a certain stage in his life reflects his good relations with the exilarch and their common opposition against the influence of the Gaonate in Baghdad (see the dispute with Samuel ben Eli and his student David ha-Bavli).

101

See Alexander Dotan, “Hebrew Inscription [sic!] in the Citadel of Aleppo” [Hebrew], Sefunot 8 (1964): 163.

102

Nathanja Hüttenmeister, “Mittelalterliche jüdische Grabsteine aus Aleppo—ein Nachtrag,” in Memoria—Wege jüdischen Erinnerns. Festschrift für Michael Brocke zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Birgit E. Klein and Christiane E. Müller (Berlin: Metropol, 2005), 232–33, proposes a reconstruction of the partly damaged inscription, which gives the 23rd day of an illegible month.

103

Ben-Sasson, “Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah,” 163–65, convincingly argues that the dispute about resurrection was an influential factor in the process of diffusion of the Mishneh Torah.

104

In addition to all the standard editions and translations of the Guide, the Judaeo-Arabic dedicatory letter is also found in Maimonides, Epistulae, 7–9; Maimonides, Iggerot, 250–53.

105

See Baneth in Maimonides, Epistulae, 12–16, who does not doubt its authenticity, and Shilat in Maimonides, Iggerot, 2:646–47, who reproduces this text under the heading of “doubtful letters.”

106

The first (incomplete) modern edition and French translation of the texts is found in an appendix to Munk’s “Notice.” A German translation and brief interpretation of this text was published by Salomon Cohn, “Zwei Briefe aus Maimonides Correspondenz,” Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 14 (1865): 25–30 and 69–74. In the first critical edition of Maimonides’s correspondence with Joseph Ibn Shimʿon (Maimonides, Epistulae), the two allegorical letters were re-edited with direct or indirect usage of four manuscripts. The letters are not reproduced by Shilat in Maimonides, Iggerot, 2:694–95, who explains that he believes them to be a Provençal or Spanish forgery.

107

Munk, “Notice,” 61, n. 1.

108

Abraham Geiger, in a review of Munk’s study published under the title “Haleb und die Provence in der ersten Hälfte des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts,” Literatur-Blatt zum Israeliten des 19. Jahrhunderts 1/31 and 1/32 (August 1846): 135 n. 3.

109

Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 39–40 n. 10.

110

Cohn, “Zwei Briefe,” 70–71.

111

Joseph Heller, “Aknin, Josef ben Jehuda, Ibn,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica: Das Judentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Bd. 2: Akademien—Apostasie, ed. Jakab Klatzkin and Ismar Elbogen (Berlin: Eschkol, 1928), cols. 33–38.

112

Maimonides, Epistulae, 18–21.

113

See Leicht, “Ibn Rushd and Ğābir Ibn Aflaḥ among the Jews.”

114

See n. 22 above.

115

Moses Narboni, Der Kommentar des Rabbi Moses Narbonensis, Philosophen aus dem XIV. Jahrhundert, zu dem Werke “More Nebuchim” des Maimonides [Hebrew], ed. Jacob Goldenthal (Vienna, 1852), fol. 4a (Guide 1:21).

116

The text was edited in Moses Maimonides, Ḥemdah Genuzah. Maḥberet Riʾšonah, ed. Ẓevi Hirsch Edelmann (Königsberg, 1856), fols. 42a–45a, which mentions the quotation of this text by Moses ben Isaac Alashqar in its critical notes on Shem Tov ben Shem Tov’s Sefer ha-Emunot; see also xvi–xvii and xxix.

117

Moritz Steinschneider, “Abraham Bibago’s Schriften,” Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 32 (1883): 133.

118

Moses Rieti, Il Dante ebreo ossia Il picciol santuario, poema diddatico in terza rima, contenente la filosofia antica e tutta la storia letteraria giudaica sino all’età sua dal Rabbi Mosè, medico di Rieti, ed. Jacob Goldenthal (Vienna, 1851), fol. 101a. This geographical designation of Minno Ammon is also found in a fragment from the opening passage of the maqāma Sayeth Ṭuyviyyah ben Ṣidqiyyah edited in Yahalom, “A Romance Maqāma,” 122.

119

Isaac Abarbanel, Peruš Abrabanel ʿal Sefer Moreh Nevukhim, ed. Moshe Landau (Prague, 1831), vol. 1, fol. 1a.

120

See the lists of works in Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 46–73, with numerous additions on 74–89, and Steinschneider, Die arabische Literatur, 230–32.

121

An important collection of sources from manuscripts is found in Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 82–89 (with sources collected by Adolf Neubauer). An additional poem attributed to Joseph ben Judah not mentioned by Steinschneider is found at the beginning of a manuscript of the Guide of the Perplexed in Hamburg, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Hebr. 264 [IMHM F 1063].

122

This was done by Perry, “Medical Writing,” 156–75.

123

See Ullmann, Die Medizin im Islam, 29.

124

Isadore Twersky, “The Beginning of Mishneh Torah Criticism,” in Biblical and Other Studies, ed. Alexander Altmann (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 167–68.

125

Ben-Sasson, “Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah.”