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Ibn Killis, Abu Al-Faraj Yaʿqūb Ibn Yūsuf


IBN KILLIS, ABU AL-FARAJ YA ʿQŪB IBN YŪSUF (930–991), businessman and administrator of various Egyptian rulers. Tradition holds that Yaʿqūb ibn Killis was a scion of the al–Samawʾal family, of the famous pre-Islamic Jewish Arab poet of that name. He was born in *Baghdad and in his early youth settled with his father in Ereẓ Israel; the family resided at Ramleh. Yaʿqūb engaged in trade and banking but after several years of successful business he went bankrupt. In approximately 960 he fled to Egypt and established contact with Kāfūr, who was then the regent. He became a government supplier, and when the government treasury was empty, Kāfūr paid him notes which assigned him the taxes due from agricultural districts. In the course of collecting these taxes, Ibn Killis gained considerable knowledge of agriculture, became Kāfūr's economic adviser, and eventually his political adviser as well. After his appointment as head of the financial administration, Ibn Killis converted to *Islam in the hope of becoming vizier. These hopes, however, were frustrated by the vizier in power, Jaʿfar ibn al-Furāt, and when Kāfūr died in 968, Ibn Killis was imprisoned. He managed to escape and turned to the *Fatimids in *Tunisia who were preparing to conquer Egypt. He encouraged the Fatimid al-Muʿizz in his plans of conquest and provided him with important information on the situation in Egypt. When Egypt fell to the Fatimid army, Ibn Killis returned there with al-Muʿizz and, together with a Muslim minister, was put in charge of tax collection. He instituted a reform of the monetary system which brought great profit to the government; he gained a further rise in status during the reign of Caliph al-ʿAzīz (975–96) who appointed him vizier in 977. While holding this post, Ibn Killis reorganized the entire administrative system of the Fatimid caliphate. In 983 he was dismissed and arrested, but was reinstated after two months, retaining his post until his death.


Mann, Egypt, 1 (1920), 17–19; Fischel, Islam, 45–68; Hirschberg, Afrikah, 1 (1965), 74, 153. add. bibliography : S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, vol. 6, index; M. Gil, Ereẓ Yisrael ba-Tekufah ha-Muslemit ha-Rishonah, 6341099 (1983), esp. vol. 1.

[Eliyahu Ashtor]

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