Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain

From Academic Kids

The Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain, also know as the Golden Age of Arab Rule in Spain, were the years between 900 and 1200 in Spain and North Africa, a sort of Jewish renaissance that arose from the fusion of the Arab and Jewish intellectual worlds. Jews watched their Arab counterparts closely and learned to be astronomers, philosophers, scientists, and poets.

This was a time of partial autonomy. As the dhimmis, Jews were free to live in the Islamic world as long as they paid a special tax, the jizya, to Muslim rulers. Jews had their own legal system and social services but were supposed to wear identifying clothing.

While Jewish communities in Arab and Islamic countries fared better overall than those in Christian lands in Europe at the time, Jews were no strangers to persecution and humiliation among the Arabs and Muslim. In the opinion of Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis: "The Golden Age of equal rights was a myth, and belief in it was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam." (by Mitchell Bard, referencing Bernard Lewis, The Pro-Islamic Jews, Judaism, 1968, p. 401.)

"At its peak about one thousand years ago, the Muslim world made a remarkable contribution to science, notably mathematics and medicine. Baghdad in its heyday and southern Spain built universities to which thousands flocked. Rulers surrounded themselves with scientists and artists. A spirit of freedom allowed Jews, Christians, and Muslim to work side by side." (by Francis Ghiles, "What is Wrong With Muslim Science", Nature, 24 March 1983.)

According to some historians, the Golden Age ended in 1090 by the invasion of Almoravides, a puritan Muslim sect from Morocco. Even under the Almoravides, some Jews prospered (although far more so under Ali III than under his father Yusef I bin Tashfin). Among those who held the title of "vizier" or "nasi" in Almoravide times were the poet and physician Abu Ayyub Solomon ibn al-Mu'allam, Abraham ibn Me飏 ibn Kamnial, Abu Isaac ibn Muhajar, and Solomon ibn Farusal (although Solomon was murdered May 2, 1108). However, they were ousted in 1148 and the years following by the even more puritanical Almohades. Of the Almohad reign, the Jewish Encyclopedia writes, "As in Africa, so in Spain, the Jews were forced to accept the Islamic faith; the conquerors confiscated their property and took their wives and children, many of whom were sold as slaves. The most famous Jewish educational institutions were closed, and the beautiful synagogues every where destroyed."

During these successive waves of narrowly interpreted Islam, many Jewish and even Muslim scholars left the Muslim-controlled portion of Spain for the then still relatively tolerant city of Toledo, which had been reconquered in 1085 by Christian forces. Several of them were involved in what became known as the School of Toledo, which produced some of the first translations into Latin of works from the Arab world, notably the works of Averroes and of the Jewish poet and philosopher Solomon Ibn Gabirol, known in Spain as Avicebr髇.

Notable figures

External links

he:תור הזהב של יהדות ספרד


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