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Vizier to the calif of Egypt, Al-'Aziz Nizar; born at Bagdad 930; died at Cairo 990-991. His parents were Jews; and he himself professed the Jewish religion during the first half of his life. His biographers relate that he claimed descent from Aaron, or, according to another statement, from the poet Samuel ibn Adiyah. Having been instructed in writing and arithmetic, Ya'ḳub was sent by his father to Egypt. There he made the acquaintance of an officer on whose recommendation he was appointed by the calif of Egypt, Kafur al-Ikshidi, to supervise the furnishing of his palace. Having satisfactorily discharged this duty, Ya'ḳub was entrusted with more important public offices, in which he displayed such ability and probity that he soon became Kafur's confidential minister (960), and all the public expenditures were placed under his control.

The difficulties surrounding this high position, which must have excited much jealousy, probably urged Ya'ḳub to embrace Islam, which he did in 967. His power continued to increase till the death of Kafur, when he was arrested by the vizier, Ibn al-Furat, whose jealousy he had excited. The intervention of his friends, and still more effectively his bribes, soon set him at liberty. He then secretly betook himself to Maghreb, where he entered into the service of Al-Mu'izz al-'Ubaidi. Ya'ḳub soon won the confidence of his new master; and when the latter conquered Egypt and established the Fatimite dynasty, he appointed Ya'ḳub director of the civil administration (978). In 979, at the death of Al-Mu'izz, his son and successor, Al-'Aziz Nizar, appointed Ya'ḳub vizier, which position he continued to hold throughout the remainder of his life.

The historians of that time represent Ya'ḳub as one of the most able and upright of Egyptian viziers. He was fond of learning; and his palace was open to scholars, especially to poets. Ya'ḳub composed a work on jurisprudence, "Kitab fi al-Fikh," treating of the Shiitic doctrines which he had learned from Al-Mu'izz and Al-'Aziz. At Ya'ḳub's death 'Aziz himself attended the funeral, and kept no table and received no guests for three days. For eighteen days the government offices remained closed, and no business was transacted; and for a month Ya'ḳub's grave was a place of pilgrimage, where poets recited the virtues of the departed at the calif's expense and a legion chanted the Koran day and night.

  • Al-Maḳrizi, Al-Ḥiṭ?aṭ, ii. 5;
  • Ibn Sa'id, Kitab al-Mughrib, ed. Talquist, p. 76, Leyden, 1899;
  • Ibn Khallikan, ed. Slane, iv. 359 et seq.;
  • Abu al-Fida, Annales, ii. 540;
  • Hammer-Purgstall, Literaturgesch. iv. 125;
  • F. Wüstenfeld, Gesch. der Fatimiden-Chalifen, p. 104;
  • De Goeje, in Z. D. M. G. lii. 77;
  • Stanley Lane-Poole, A History of Egypt in the Middle Ages, Index;
  • Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. viii. 118 et seq.;
  • idem, Die Arabische Litteratur der Juden, § 60.
G. I. Br.
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