The Blessed Jew From Morocco: The Story of a Scholar’s Conversion

Translated by : A.J. Kassem

The Blessed Jew From Morocco: The Story of a Scholar’s Conversion

 

By: Al-Samowal, the son of Yahya, the son of Abbas Al-Maghribi - known before his Islam as Samuel the Son of Judah, the son of Aabun (died approximately 1175 / Islamic year 570)

Edited and translated by: AJ Kassem

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After praising Allah and sending blessings on the Prophet Muhammad ﷺand his family, I would like to recount to you the way that God guided me with His grace to true Islam from the religion of the Jews, with hopes that my story will be a lesson and an inspiration for whomever it reaches.

We should know that divine kindness is more subtle than to be realized by every seeker; God bestows honor and dignity on whomever He wills; wisdom will be given to whom He wills and guides to the straight path.

My father was known as Rabbi Judah, the son of Aabun, from the city of Fez, which is in Morocco.

The term, Rabbi is a title, not a name. It means, “ink”[1].  My father was the most knowledgeable of the people of his time in Torah studies and Hebrew linguistics.

My father was known among the Arabs as Abu Al-Baqa Yahya bin Abbas Al-Maghrabi; Most of the Jewish scholars also had an Arabic name other than their Hebrew names. He met my mother in Baghdad. She was originally from Basra. She was is one of three sisters educated in Torah studies and literate in Hebrew; They were the daughters of Ishaq bin Ibrahim Al-Basri Al-Levi, from the tribe of the Levites, which is the tribe of noble descent, because their ancestor is Moses, peace be upon him.

My mother’s name was the same as the name of the mother of Samuel, the prophet, peace be upon him. The Prophet Samuel was born after his mother was barren and did not bear a son nor get pregnant for several years until she prayed to her Lord for a son who would be devoted to God. A righteous man from the religious leaders called Eela also prayed for her. She was then blessed with Samuel. This story is mentioned in the Book of the Prophet Samuel.

My mother lived with my father for some time and was not blessed with a child until she began to believe that she was barren and could not bear children. After that, she saw in a dream that she was reciting the prayer of Hana, the mother of Samuel, to her Lord. She vowed that if she had a boy, she would name him Samuel, because her name was the same as Samuels mother’s (Hana). So, when she gave birth to me, she called me Samuel. The Arabic version of this name is Al-Samowal. My father gave me the kunya[2], Abu Nasr, which was also my grandfather’s kunya. My father kept me occupied first with learning Hebrew, then with the knowledge of the Torah and its interpretations until I became a master of this knowledge at the age of thirteen.

My father then occupied me with learning arithmetic and solving the puzzles of the great teacher, Sheikh Abu Al-Hassan Bin Al-Daskari, studying the medical sciences with the philosopher, Abu Al-Barakat Hiballah, the son of Ali, and learning to be a healer with my uncle, Abu Al-Fath Al-Basri.

As for the arithmetic and puzzles, I mastered their knowledge in less than a year, before I became fourteen years old. During that time, I did not stop reading about medicine and observing the treatment of diseases.

After that, I learned about accounting, the science of geodesy (surveying the shape and form of the Earth), algebra and quadratics with Sheikh Abu Al-Mudhfar Al-Shahrazuri.

I followed a course of engineering studies with Abu Al-Hassan Al-Daskari and Abu Al-Hassan Al-Naqash until I mastered Euclidean geometry. In the meantime, I was preoccupied with medicine until I absorbed what I learned from the masters in these sciences.

My passion for these sciences was something that prevented me from the normal activities of going to restaurants and drinking that other youth engaged in. I usually stayed alone at home, where I analyzed of mathematical problems and wrote explanations for them. I corrected mistakes that I found in the books of past authors, as well as the mistakes of their compilers, and was able to solve what those in the past were unable to. Euclid’s book, the Elements, was impossible to master for most engineers because they did not approach the problems mentioned in it in a holistic manner. However, I was able to master the problems in Euclid’s book by rearranging them to make their progressions more efficient. I accomplished all of this before my eighteenth birthday.  

My status of a master of these sciences was established from that year until now; God allowed me to understand and accomplish what prominent wise men before me were unable to. I hereby leave my writings for all those who come after me to benefit from.

During the time that I was studying, I had no income except by practicing medicine. I had much success with this healing; God gave me a talent to be able to treat just about every ailment and disease, even those that were considered to have no cure. I did not treat a patient except that his or her condition improved, and I never refused to treat a sick person that other doctors were unable to cure.

Much knowledge became clear to me after reading books from Iraq, the Levant, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, including methods to prepare previously unkown medicines, such as what I call “the savior”, which has a strong force that can heal several difficult diseases, as well as other medicines that can benefit and heal people, God willing.

I also used to be interested in history and stories, and learning about the past and other civilizations. I read tales and anecdotes, then moved on to the great collections, such as Diwan Akbar Antar, Diwan al-Hima, Al-Batal, the Story of Alexander the Great, the Epic of the Phoenix, and the Tale of Al-Tarf bin Luthan. I had a great passion for the writings of ministers and writers, as I gained a lot of knowledge from their stories, which helped me to develop my own mastery of rhetoric and eloquence in expression in my own writings.

Eventually, it became clear to me that most of what I was reading was written by historians (as opposed to eye-witnesses), so I began to search for the truth. I found and read The Experiences of the Nations by Abu Ali bin Miskawayh and the Book of History by al-Tabari, as well as other books of history. I came across information about the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in these books - his conquests, the miracles that God has shown him, the honor that was given to him, the divine victory and support in the Battle of Badr, the Battle of Khaybar and other battles, as well as the story of his upbringing as an orphan in weakness, and the hostility of his own people to him after his prophethood, due to them denying his message for many years until God authorized him to emigrate to another city. I also read about the victories of his followers such as the defeat of the Persians under the leadership of Saad bin Abi Waqas, the conquest of the cities of Kisra, the defeat of the Romans and the destruction of their soldiers at the hands of Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah and his army, may God have mercy on them and the sincere and just rule of Abu Bakr and then Umar, may God be pleased with them. 

As I refined my mind in the mathematical and engineers sciences, I contemplated the differences between different religions and sects. Most importantly, I recognized a miracle in the Quran that I did not see in normal human discourse.

As we proceed through life and our search for the truth, until the time that we are certain of our belief in the truth of the final revelation, the mind is the reference by which all of this world’s affairs should be judged and understood. If it were not for the mind to guide us to follow the prophets and messengers and benefit from the stories of the righteous predecessors, we would not have believed them in any of the information that we received from them. It follows that, if adherence to the doctrines inherited from ancestors is accepted by the mind, then the mind should also be used to analyze them; receiving this information is not enough for us to accept – we should accept only if we truly believe in its truth.  

If inheriting information was enough of a criterion for acceptance, this would also be an acceptable argument from all of those who inherited false religions form their ancestors, such as the Christians; they quoted their ancestors in the false statements that Jesus is the son of God, and that he is the sacrificial lamb, benefactor, and savior. If the fact that information is received through tradition is a sufficient indicator of the validity of what was reported, then this would necessitate recognition of the validity of the contradicting doctrines of Christianity, Magianism, and all other religions simultaneously, however this is impossible because many aspects of these doctrines are in opposition to one another.

With respect to our adopting the religion and traditions of the Jews, in exclusivity to others, it is not acceptable for us to do so except if we come across strong evidence that our ancestors were wiser and more knowledgeable than the ancestors of all other nations and religions. The reality is that the Jews do claim the superiority of their fathers and their ancestors, even as the information in their own scriptures clearly contradicts this claim. 

If we can bring ourselves to recognize and suspend any biases we may have in favor of our Jewish ancestors, and consider them to have been equal to the ancestors of other nations in terms of their fallibility, we should realize that, if we agree that Christians and others have accepted incorrect beliefs and teachings from their fathers and ancestors, then it is not impossible that our Jewish ancestors have also transferred incorrect beliefs and fallacies to us and we, in turn, have considered them to be correct without questioning or critically analyzing them solely of a preference for our ancestors over others. The truth is that the Jewish tradition is full of many untruths and invalid arguments about religion, Moses and the other prophets.

Since we have not seen Moses with our own eyes, nor did we see his miracles or the miracles of other prophets, peace be upon them, had it not been for the writings and narrations of our ancestors, we would not have known anything about them. Therefore, it would not make sense for a person to believe the religious information related from certain men and reject the same type of information related from others – we should either believe in them all or reject them all.

As for denying all, reason does not compel this, because we find their messages to support morality and virtue while minimizing and forbidding vice, and because many political systems of the world have been based upon their teachings. Therefore, my conclusion is to believe in the messengers Jesus and Muhammad ﷺjust as I have believed in the messengers before them.

I believed in this truth but did not formally accept nor practice Islam for some time, due to my residence in the house of my concerned and loving father, who had devoted many years to my upbringing and education. It was only after I my moved out of my father’s house and began my travels that I was inspired to truly embrace Islam. While I was in Azerbaijan, I had the vision of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺin a dream on a Thursday night on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah in the 558th year of the Islamic calendar. This is an explanation of what I saw:

In my first dream, I was in the green area of Fayha, where a great tree grew in the east, and people rushed to that tree. I asked one of them about what they were doing. He said: Samuel, the Prophet, is sitting under the tree and the people are going to greet him. I was pleased with what I heard and went to the tree. In its shadow, I found a bright and dignified white-haired elder of great prestige holding a book in his hands. I said to him in Arabic, “May God’s peace be upon you, O prophet of Allah”. He turned to me with a smile and said, “And peace be upon you, our partner in Islam. Sit down and do what I say”. I sat in front of him and he gave me the book from his hands and said, “Read what you find”.

I found in it a verse from the Torah, which means: “The Lord, your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must obey him.”[3]

This verse was a revelation of God Almighty to Moses. The Jews said that this verse refers to the Prophet Samuel because he was like Moses in that he was from the same tribe of Levi.
In my dream, I thought that the Prophet Samuel was happy because God mentioned him in the Torah to Moses, so I said,” Congratulations to you, O Prophet of God, for the status that God has honored you with!”

He looked at me angrily and said, "What has happened to your intelligence? It seems that all of your engineering work hasn’t benefitted you”.

So I said, “O Prophet of God, what does God mean by this?”

He said, “It is the desert of Paran”. When he told me that, I realized that the verse was referring to the Prophet Muhammadﷺ, because he was from the mountains of Mecca and the Torah mentions that Paran[4] is the homeland of the Ismail’s family (the Prophet Ismail was the son of the Prophet Abraham and the ancestor of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ, peace be upon them).

Then he turned to me and said, “As for you, you already know that God did not send me to abrogate anything from the Torah, but, rather, sent me to remind the people of it.

I said, “Yes, O Prophet of God”.

He said, “Do you see any need for them to be instructed by their Lord to follow those who did not make any changes in their religion or law, and were from the same background as them, such as the Prophets Daniel, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel?

I said, “No, by my life, that was not needed”.[5]

He then took the scripture out of my hand and angrily left. I was taken aback by his anger and felt affected by his chastisement. I woke up before dawn in panic, remembering every detail of this dream. I learned that this dream was a mercy from God Almighty to remove any doubts in me that prevented me from proclaiming the word of truth and announcing my Islam.
I repented, washed and prayed to God Almighty, asking for forgiveness and thanking Him for the guidance that he gave me. After that, I sat in contemplation for some time until sleep overtook me again and I had the second dream, which was as follows:

I was sitting on an unfamiliar path. A man came to me in simple the clothes of a poor mystic. He did not greet me, but, he said, “Answer the Messenger of God”.

I rose and rushed to follow him, delighted with the news of an encounter with the Prophet. He walked in front of me until we ended up at the door of a house. He entered it then I entered behind him. We walked down a long, dark corridor. When we reached the end of the corridor, I knew that the time had come to meet the Prophet, so I started preparing to meet him and greet him with the greeting of peace.

We then emerged in to the courtyard of a house. There was a long outdoor seating area and another seating area inside of the house; each area had two men sitting in it. I do not remember their appearances, but I do remember that they seemed to be prepared to travel. I saw the Messenger of God standing in the corner of the courtyard in between the two sitting areas, as if he had been working on something before turning his attention to us. He was dressed in white clothing and with a beautiful white turban on his head and a white scarf on his neck. He was of moderate height, well-built, with a moderate complexion between white, tan and reddish. He had black eyes and eyebrows and his hair was medium-length and parted down the middle.

When I approached him, he turned to me and saw me. Then, he came to me with a smile and was very gentle with me. I said, “Peace be upon you, O Messenger of God, and the mercy and blessings of God. He said: Peace be upon you and God's mercy and blessings. He extended his hand to me and I immediately ran to him and placed my hand in his hand and said, “I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah and you are the Messenger of Allah.” 

I saw him become filled with joy. He then sat in the corner between the two sitting areas and I and sat in front of him. He said, “Be prepared to walk go with us to Ghamdan for battle. When he said that, it occurred to me that he meant the great city that Islam had not yet conquered where a king sits. In my readings, I had come across a mention that the most direct route to China through the Green Sea is a treacherous and dangerous route.

When I heard that command from the Prophet, I became afraid to travel by sea. I thought to myself, “Wise men do not travel by sea, so how will I do it?” I immediately corrected myself and thought, “Glory be to God - I have believed in this Prophet and pledged allegiance to him; How could he give me an order and I do anything but obey him? I said to him, “I hear and I obey, O Messenger of God”.

He said: “Your doing so is by the grace of God Almighty.”

After I rose and left his presence, I did not pass through the same dark corridor that I came through on the way there. I found myself in the city center, between the money changers and the school of judgment, where I saw three people wearing the clothes of asceticism; One of them was wearing rough black wool on his chest, a cloth on his head, a bow wrapped in felt in one hand and a bayonet in the other. Another one had a sword sheathed in palm fronds. Although I had imagined, due to some of what I had read, that the companions of the Prophet were weak, poor and had no serious equipment to go to battle with, when I saw the three men, I thought, “These are the conquering mujahideen - these are the companions of the Prophet, with whom I will travel and be victorious with. My eye shed a tear even as I was sleeping because of my happiness from seeing them and how much I admire them.

I woke up before sunrise, made ablution for prayer, and prayed the dawn prayer.  I was determined to make the truth known and announce my conversion to Islam.

At that time, I was in the company of Fakhruddin Abdul Aziz bin Mahmoud bin Saad bin Ali bin Hamid al-Mudari, may God have mercy on him. He was afflicted with a disease that God had allowed him to recover from. I met him on a Friday morning and told him that God had removed the veil from me and guided me to Islam. He became filled with joy from this good news. He said, “I never stopped hoping and praying to God for this for you.

We used to deplore that your knowledge and virtues were not in harmony with Islam. Praise be to Allah that he answered our prayers for your guidance and rectification. So tell me, how did God make accepting the truth easy for you, after your denying it and refusing it?”

I said, “This is something that Allah has blessed me with with after inspiration and much contemplation of rational evidences and proofs. I used to know about the truth of Islam from my studies of the Torah, but I lived with my father and avoided confrontation. Now, I have moved on and it is time for me to bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, and bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

Upon hearing that, the shaykh stood up with excessive happiness, even though before that he did not stand except with great difficulty. He told me to sit down and ordered his staff to prepare new clothes for me and to have me sit on a beautiful riding beast to be taken to the masjid.

He then proceeded to the masjid ahead of me to attend the Friday sermon with the congregation. He asked everyone to wait to begin because the tailor was still finishing my new jacket.  When I arrived at the masjid, I found that everyone was waiting for my arrival. When they saw me, they began to say, “Allahu Akbar!” in celebration. After that, they returned to sending peace and blessings on the Prophet Muhammadﷺ, as is the practice for Muslims to do on Fridays. The person who was to deliver the sermon, the Judge Sadr Al-Deen Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Aburraheem was known as the “King of Orators”. He praised Allah for guiding me to wake up to the truth of Islam in a manner that was magnificent. His speech was so beautiful, it was almost indescribable. Most of the sermon was of this nature.  That day was the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Nahr (also known as Eid Al-Adha).  That same evening, I began to write a book exposing all of the flawed and corrupt religious arguments of the Jews, which I would later name, Ifham Al-Yahud.   

Some time later, when I was in Hasankeyfa (an area located in present-day southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border), I wrote to my father in Aleppo and explained to him the main points that I had mentioned in my book with their evidences in a way that I knew that he could not refute nor deny. After he received the letter, he rushed towards Mosul to meet me; however, he fell sick in Mosul and died there.

I would like everyone who reads this account to know that the dreams that I saw were not enough, in themselves, to disavow the religion and philosophy that I was raised on. In fact, no sane person should be fooled by dreams without consideration of proofs and evidences. The truth is that I had known long before them that the proofs and evidences of the truth of the prophethood of the Last Messenger, Muhammadﷺ, are real. The purpose of the dreams were to assist me in shaking off my reluctance and hesitation to begin life as a faithful believer and assist me in announcing my Islam and making the truth known to my father before the time of his death.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah for guiding us to Islam, which is truth and light for the whole world.  I ask Allah for his guidance according to what pleases Him, and I send peace and blessings on His Messenger, Muhammadﷺ.

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Books written by Al-Samowal Yahya/Samuel the Son of Judah:

  • A Comprehensive Manual of Medicine (المفيد الأوسط في الطب)
  • The Right Triangle (المثلث القائم الزاوية)
  • The  Fastener for Indian Calculations ( القوا في الحساب الهندي)
  • Mathematical Brilliance (الباهر في الرياضيات)
  • A letter to Ibn Khudud on Mathematical Calculations (رسالة إلى ابن خدّود في مسائل حسابية )
  • The Challenge for Engineers (إعجاز المهندسين)
  • A Brief Explanation of Calculations (الموجز في الحساب)
  • The Book of Water (كتاب في المياه)
  • A Refutation of Jewish Philosophy (بذل المجهود في إفحام اليهود) 

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1] This is because the Rabbis were people of much reading, writing and scholarship

[2] It is part of Arabic tradition to refer to respected men and women as the father or mother of hir or her eldest son. Sometimes, a person may be referred to the father or mother of something or someone even though that thing is not the name of his or her son.

[3] Deuteronomy 18:15                                                                                                         

[4] It is mentioned in the Bible: “He shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones, from his right hand went a fiery law for them.” (Deuteronomy 33:2)

[5] This implies that those who claim that the above verse is a command to follow Israeli prophets who came after Moses have misinterpreted it.  In fact, it is a command to follow the Prophet Muhammadﷺ who will emerge from Mecca.

 




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