Oct 242012
 

Frenemies?

This accursed Jew was in himself one of the most perfect men, although God had denied him his guidance. He excelled in learning, endurance, intelligence and wit, charm of character, perseverance, astuteness, cunning, self-control and natural courtesy. He knew how to act according to the requirements of the moment, how to flatter his enemies and remove suspicion from their heart by his fine manners. What an uncommon man! He wrote with two pens and cultivated two fields of learning. He was passionately interested in the Arabic language, explored it, studied the literature written in this language and investigated its roots. His hand and his tongue mastered it quite freely, and he used to write in Arabic in his own name and on behalf of his king, applying if necessary Muslim invocations to God and his prophets. He exalted Islam and enlarged on its advantages, so that his letters sounded like propaganda for that faith. He was also proficient in the learning of the ancients, in the various branches of mathematics, and his lore of astronomy surpassed that of the astronomers. He also knew all about geometry and logics. His consummate debating crushed his opponents. As he was wise, he spoke little …. although he thought much.

Ibn Hayyan, upon the death of Shmuel ha-Nagid.1

  1. as quoted in Jefim Schirmann, “Samuel Hannagid, the Man, the Soldier, the Politician,” Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Apr. 1951), pp. 99-126.

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