Members of the Jewish sect called "Al-Yudghaniyyah," after the name of its founder, Yudghan or Judah of Hamadan, a disciple of Abu 'Isa al-Isfahani. Shortly after the defeat of Abu 'Isa and his followers, the 'Isawites, at Rai (the ancient Rhagæ) early in the eighth century, Yudghan conceived the project of forming a new sect from the scattered followers of his master. More prudent than the founder of the 'Isawite sect, Yudghan did not pretend to have been entrusted by God with the mission of delivering the Jews from the rule of the Gentiles and of making them politically independent, but confined himself to the rôle of a prophet and teacher, assuming the surname of "al-Ra'i" (= "the Shepherd"; not "al-Da'i," as given erroneously by Shahrastani in his "Kitab al-Milal wal-Niḥal," ed. Cureton, p. 168).Influence of Sufism.
Influenced by the doctrines of Sufism, which at that time began to spread among the Mohammedans in the land of the Magi, Yudghan set aside the literal meaning of the words of the Torah in favor of a mystic or spiritual interpretation. Like the Sufis, he taught that all religious beliefs, such as those relating to paradise, hell, etc., are allegories; but, on the other hand, he opposed the Sufic doctrine of predestination, and declared that man is absolutely free in the choice of good and evil and is therefore responsible for his actions. From among the tenets of the 'Isawites Yudghan retained the prohibition of wine and animal food, and probably also the institutionof seven daily prayers instead of the three rabbinical ones. In opposition to the ancient traditional view, according to which the Biblical accounts of God's deeds and thoughts must be taken literally, he asserted, probably under the influence of the Motazilites, that one is not allowed to represent God with material attributes, i.e., anthropomorphically. Yudghan attached more importance to praying and fasting than to the observance of the ceremonial laws. He held that the laws concerning the Sabbath and the festivals were not binding in the Diaspora, but were observed merely as a remembrance."Al-Mushkaniyyah."
Like Abu 'Isa, Yudghan declared that Jesus and Mohammed were prophets, and that each was sent as a missionary to his nation. According to Ḳirḳisani, both Abu 'Isa and Yudghan took this attitude for diplomatic reasons; for had they not recognized the post-Biblical prophets, their own claim to prophetic inspiration would very likely have been challenged. Yudghan gained many followers, who maintained their beliefs long after the death of their master. Their faith in him was so great that they declared he had not died, but would appear again in order to bring a new doctrine with him. Shahrastani relates that after the death of Yudghan a follower of his named Mushka founded a new sect called "Al-Mushkaniyyah." The tenets of the new sect were the same as those of the Yudghanites, with the single addition of an injunction to forcibly impose the doctrines of Yudghan upon all Jews. Mushka marched out of Hamadan with a troop of followers, but they were all killed in the vicinity of Koom (east of Hamadan and southwest of Teheran).
According to some scholars, Saadia, in criticizing in his "Emunot we-De'ot" (vi.) the belief in metempsychosis of "the so-called Yehudim" ( ), had reference to the Yudghanites, who were still in existence in his time. Although this is not impossible, as maintained by Rapoport (introduction to the "Hegyon ha-Nefesh" of Abraham bar Ḥiyya, p. lii.), it is highly improbable, since no mention is made by either Shahrastani or Ḳirḳisani of such a belief among the tenets of the Yudghanites. It is more probable that Saadia referred not to a special Jewish sect, but to all those, among either the Karaites or the Rabbinites, who held to the doctrine of Pythagoras.
- Shahrastani, Kitab al-Milal wal-Niḥal, ed. Cureton, p. 168, London, 1846;
- Judah Hadassi, Eshkol ha-Kofer, § 79;
- Ḳirḳisani, in Harkavy, Le-Ḳorot ha-Kittot be-Yisrael, in Graetz, Hist. Hebr. ed., iii. 503;
- Jellinek, Beiträge, p. 53;
- Grätz, Gesch. v. 191.