Jewish physician and statesman; grand vizier from 1289 to 1291 under the Mongolian ruler in Persia, Argun Khan; assassinated March 5, 1291; son of Hibbat Allah b. Muḥasib of Ebher (Hammer-Purgstall, "Gesch. der Ilchane," i. 382) and, according to Abu al-Faraj, father-in-law of the prefect of Bagdad. He held a position in the treasury department, where he so distinguished himself that the Mongolian governor was jealous and recommended him to court as a physician. Here Sa'd made a friend of Ordu Kia, a powerful general, and through his influence was sent to collect the arrears of taxes in Bagdad. He was so successful in raising money that Argun appointed him assistant ("muṣarrif") in the department of finances at Bagdad, Ordu Kia being appointed military governor,or emir, of that province. The historian Wassaf says that Sa'd cured Argun of an illness, and, having thus gained his confidence, informed the "Ilkhan" of the corruption among the officials at Bagdad. At the same time he impressed Argun with his own ability by his knowledge of Mongolian and Turkish, and by his intimate acquaintance with the conditions existing in the province. He was soon made general controller of the finances of Bagdad, and then of the whole empire, becoming grand vizier. "Thus," remarks Abu al-Faraj, "were the Moslems reduced to having a Jew in the place of honor."
The administration of Sa'dal-Daulah (= "Felicity of the Empire," a name which he took as vizier) appears to have been wise and just, although Von Hammer calls it "sanguinary and golden." He adopted the Mohammedan code in civil affairs, and instituted regulations which, although strict, were wise and aimed at a sure increase of the revenue. The taxes were on a fixed basis, and no extraordinary requisitions—of food or animals—were allowed. He employed only Jews and Christians in office, and, as was natural, a large share of the positions fell into the hands of his own relatives. Under him the Jews enjoyed a short period of prosperity, and Abu al-Faraj says they flocked to Bagdad from all parts of the world. It is possible that Sa'd was instrumental in establishing diplomatic relations with Europe. Besides, he patronized the arts and literature; and a collection of poems and culogies dedicated to him was made and circulated in Bagdad. On account of this work, mentioned by Wassaf, Grätz identifies Sa'd with Mardocai b. al-Kharbiya, who is described in a poem (still extant) dedicated to him in terms that might well apply to Sa'd (Grätz, "Gesch." vii., note 10).
Sa'd had many enemies. The Mongolian officials hated him because they could no longer divert the revenues to their own use; and the Mohammedans felt it a degradation to have a Jew placed over them. Sa'd had moreover made an enemy of Argun's favorite. He himself was proud and haughty in his bearing. False reports were circulated about him; and no opportunity was lost of maligning him to Argun, although without effect. It was said that Sa'd was trying to introduce a new religion at the head of which was to be the Ilkhan. Finally Argun fell ill, and Sa'd's enemies took advantage of the opportunity to get rid of the Jew. He was killed, as stated above, on March 5, 1291; his goods were confiscated; and his family and the Jews in general were persecuted. Argun died soon after.
- Abu al-Faraj, Chronicon Syriacum, pp. 610, 624-625, Leipsic, 1789;
- Hammer-Purgstall, Gesch. der Ilchane, i. 377 et seq., Darmstadt, 1842;
- Howorth, History of the Mongols, iii. 331 et seq., London, 1888;
- Grätz, Gesch. vii. 173, 183-186;
- Weill, Gesch. der Chalifen, iv. 146 et seq.