Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed

16Sep14

Moses Maimonides was born into a distinguished family of Jews at Cordoba on March 30, 1135 and was well educated by his father Maimon. In 1148 the fanatical Berber Almohads led by the Mahdi ibn-Tumart conquered Cordoba and gave the Jews and Christians the choice between converting to Islam, exile, or death. The Maimon family continued to practice Judaism privately but hid by outwardly appearing as Muslims. About 1159 they went to Fez in Morocco. Moses studied rabbinical Judaism, philosophy, and medicine. After his teacher Rabbi Judah ibn Shoshan was arrested for his religion and was executed in 1165, the Maimon family moved to Palestine for a few months before settling in Egypt near Cairo. There Jews could practice their religion unless they had previously submitted to Islam, in which case they were put to death. After his father died, and his brother David, a jewelry merchant, lost his life and the family fortune in a shipwreck, Moses took up the profession of a physician. He became quite successful and even treated the famous Sultan Saladin and his son al-Afdal, to whom he dedicated a popular collection of health rules. Maimonides also taught and became the leader of the Cairo Jewish community in 1177. Ten years later he was accused of being a renegade but was acquitted because he had never really adopted Islam. Maimonides argued that the Torah revokes all obligations made under compulsion. When Saladin conquered Palestine, Maimonides persuaded him to let Jews settle there.

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