By: Meyer Kayserling
The largest of the ancient divisions of southern Spain, comprising the Moorish kingdoms of Seville, Cordova, and Granada, with the towns of Malaga, Lucena (Alicena), and several others. This most beautiful portion of the Iberian peninsula early attracted Jews, as it had earlier attracted the Phenicians. Jews, both those who were already settled there and those who served in their army, gave essential assistance to the followers of Islam when they conquered Spain. African Jews, under Kaula al-Yahudi, took part in the decisive battle near Xerez de la Frontera, 711. The captured cities of Cordova and Seville were entrusted by the conquerors to the care of Jews; and the latter, owing to its large Jewish population, became known as "Villa de Judíos" (Jews' City). The Jews, so long oppressed, were now allowed the fullest religious freedom by their new rulers. They lived under no civil disabilities whatever; and a poll-tax (dhimmah) was the only fiscal burden laid upon them.Good-Will of Abd-er-Raḥman.
Notwithstanding this, scarcely a decade later, many faithful Jews followed the pseudo-Messiah Serene; abandoning their goods and homes, which were confiscated to the public treasury. But when the wise and powerful Abd-er-Raḥman III. (912-961)—to whom, it is said, a Jew had foretold his future fame and glory—established a strong Moorish kingdom in Spain, many Jews that had been suffering under the oppression of the Fatimite califs settled in Andalusia. Under Abd-er-Raḥman the city of Cordova became the chief seat of learning in theWest. He showed himself well disposed toward his Jewish subjects. Their trade, in silk especially, and their various industries contributed not a little to the prosperity of the kingdom; while their varied knowledge and cultivation of the Arabic tongue were of great assistance in the elevation and spread of science. Jews distinguished for culture and wealth were especially preferred by the califs as counselors and astrologers, and were appointed to such important posts as judges and secretaries of state (ḳadi, ḥajib, katib).
Abd-er-Raḥman's own physician was Ḥasdai ibn Shaprut, who, knowing Latin, became also confidential secretary—a post hitherto held by the abbot Samson—and rose to be his master's trusted counselor and a distinguished statesman. He conducted the calif's negotiations with the Greek and German empires, and also with several Christian Spanish rulers. Ḥasdai urged the establishment of a rabbinical college in the flourishing Jewish community of Cordova, with the fugitive scholar Moses ben Ḥanok (Enoch) at its head, which enabled the Spanish Jews to be independent of the Babylonian gaonate in matters of Jewish law. A dispute which arose upon the death of Moses ben Ḥanok as to the appointment of a successor to the office of rabbi was decided by the calif Al-Ḥakim II. in favor of Moses' son Ḥanok, and against Joseph ibn Abitur, a protégé of the silk-merchant Ibn Jau. This Abitur had translated the Mishnah into Arabic at Al-Ḥakim's request. After Al-Ḥakim's death all power was in the hands of the great ḥajib (chamberlain) Al-Mansur, who was very friendly to the Jews. Among other things, he appointed the wealthy Ibn Jau, who lived in princely style, as nasi (prince) and supreme judge over all the Jewish communities in the Andalusian califate. In true Oriental fashion, however, he very soon deposed him and threw him into prison.First Persecution and Massacre.
The first disputed succession to the califate was the occasion of the first persecution of the Jews in Andalusia. When Al-Ḥakim's son was opposed by Sulaiman, Al-Mansur's successor, he sent an embassy, composed mainly of Cordovan Jews, to Count Raymond of Barcelona, asking for help. The angry Sulaiman swore revenge on the Jews, and many were slain in a massacre at Cordova; but many escaped to Saragossa, Seville, and Malaga. Among the fugitives was the learned philologist
Samuel, who was loyal to Badis, retained his position and was made nasi and chief rabbi of the Jews in Granada, for which his profound Talmudic erudition especially qualified him. This was the golden age of the Jews of Granada; they were in all respects placed on the same footing as their Moorish fellow citizens. Samuel died in 1055, at a ripe age, and deeply venerated. His son Joseph, who succeeded him, was not so fortunate. Reared in luxury, he lacked all his father's modesty; his arrogance earned for him the hatred of the Moorish grandees; and on December 30, 1066, a terrible massacre of the Jews in Granada was organized, from which but few escaped. Joseph was among the slain. This was the first massacre of Jews on Spanish soil resulting from religious hatred. The era of Mohammedan supremacy in Spain had been of comparatively short duration. Small principalities were established from time to time, always with special provision for the government of the Jews, who, as heretofore, devoted themselves to the service of the state, and to science and art. A Jewish musician, Mansur, was held in high esteem by King Ḥakim. In Aragon there were Jewish lion-tamers; in Andalusia, Jewish foot-racers.Conversion to Mohammedanism Averted.
The battle of Zalaca (1086), in which Jews were numerously represented in both Christian and Mohammedan armies, and which was won by the Almoravide Yusuf ibn Tashfin, had the most disastrous results for the Jews in Andalusia. Yusuf sought to compel the Jews of Lucena—one of the richest, oldest, and most respected communities of the califate of Cordova and possessing rabbinical colleges directed by Rabbis
Yusuf's son and successor, Ali, employed Jews again as farmers of the taxes, and many of them, such as the physicians Solomon ibn Almuallem and Abraham b. Meir ibn Kamnial, also Abu Isaac ibn Muhajar, became his prime ministers. Cordova, Seville, and Granada became anew centers of Jewish learning, under such rabbis as Baruch ibn Albalia, Joseph ibn Ẓaddiḳ, and Joseph ibn Migash, but only for a short time.Under the Almohades.
Andalusia was severely scourged by African invaders. Abdalla ibn Tumart, a politico-religious fanatic in Morocco, was the founder of a sect that preached the absolute unity of God, without any conception of corporeality—called hence Almohades or Almuwaḥids—and preached it with fire and sword. After his death, Abd-al-Mu'min, another great fanatic, took the leadership and in the middle of the twelfth century conquered Cordova, with the greater part of Andalusia, consigning both Jews and Christians to the flames and to the spear. Beautiful synagogues were demolished, and the colleges at Lucena and Seville were closed. Abd-al-Mu'min's persecution lasted ten years (1146-1156). Many Jews were stripped of their possessions and sold as slaves; many others fled to Castile and Aragon; still others pretended to become Moslems. But there were not lacking brave Jews, like Aben Ruiz aben Dahri, who successfully resisted force with force, and liberated many of their coreligionists.
The battle of Muradal, or Navas de Tolosa, in 1212, broke the power of the Almohades. Cordova, Lucena, and a large portion of Andalusia fell into the hands of the king of Castile. When Ferdinand III. captured Seville, the Jews of the city delivered to him a costly silver key, engraved with Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions, which is still preserved among the relics of the Seville Cathedral. Moors thenceforward ruled over only the kingdom of Granada. The Jews lived among them, undisturbed and in perfectequality and security. Mohammed of Granada built a costly bath-house in his capital with the revenues derived from his Jewish and Christian subjects. Ismail, in 1316, laid a special tax upon the houses of Jews.The Inquisition.
But in the year 1391 there began on Andalusian soil that general massacre of Jews which was to spread over all Spain; and it was in Seville that the Inquisition began its activity. In 1478, before the outbreak of the great war which was to put an end to the Moorish power in Spain, Jews were forbidden to dwell in Cordova, Seville, and other cities of Andalusia. After the capture of Malaga (1487), the Jews of that city withdrew; and on the fall of Granada, in 1462, Jews were allowed to depart unscathed from all towns and settlements of that kingdom. Andalusia, however, remained full of secret Jews after the edict of expulsion, and against these the Inquisition strove until the middle of the eighteenth century.
- Conde, Historia de la Dominación de los Arabes en España, 1820-21, 3 vols., translated into German by von Kuttchman, 1824-1825 i., ii.;
- Almakkari, History of the Mohammedan Empire in Spain, ed. Gayangos, London, 1843;
- Ersch and Gruber, Encyklopädie, 2 sec. xxvii. 206 et seq.