Joseph ben Judah ibn Aknin

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Joseph ben Judah ibn Aknin (c. 1150 – c. 1220) was a Jewish writer of numerous treatises, mostly on the Mishnah and the Talmud. He was born in Barcelona, but settled in Fez, where by his own admission he lived as a crypto-Jew. Though a native of Spain, his family had originated in North Africa.[1]

In addition to an introduction to the Talmud in Arabic (Hebrew translation at Mevo ha-Talmud), and a treatise on Talmudic weights and measures, his surviving works include:

  • Sefer ha Musar ("Book of Morality")
A commentary on the Pirkei Avot similar to that of Maimonides.
  • Tibb al-Nufūs ("The Hygiene of Healthy Souls and the Therapy of Ailing Souls")
A book on psychology, with a chapters on friendship, speech and silence, keeping a secret, lying, food and drink, asceticism, education, the needs and destiny of the soul, persecutions and the proper response to them, and repentance. The chapter on education argues that the study of logic and science should not be undertaken before the age of thirty, and only after a solid traditional education so that religious convictions should not be affected by philosophical doubts.
  • Inkishāf al-asrar watuhūr al-anwār ("The Divulgence of Mysteries and the Appearance of Lights")
A commentary on the Song of Songs, treating each verse at three levels: at the literal level, citing contemporary grammarians to explain every word on the scroll; at a rabbinical level, based on midrashic texts, symbolising the people of Israel's relationship with God; and at an allegorical level, describing the soul trying to unite itself with the intellect, supported by Jewish and Arab poets, and the philosophy of Al-Farabi and Avicenna.

Works which have been lost include Hukkim u-Mishpatim (a compendium of Jewish law), and a theological work Risalat al-Ibana fi Uṣul al-Diyana ("A Religious Clarification of Religious Fundamentals").

Ibn Aknin is known to have known Maimonides in North Africa, and draws on many of the same sources, sharing a similar outlook. But he is not the Joseph ben Judah to whom the Guide is addressed.


  1. Wexler, P. (1996). The Non-Jewish Origins of the Sephardic Jews. State University of New York Press. p. 127. ISBN 9780791427958. Retrieved 2014-10-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>