Maimonides was born in 1135 in Córdoba, during what some scholars [attribution needed] consider to be the end of the golden age of Jewish culture in Spain, after the first centuries of the Moorish rule. Maimonides studied Torah under his father Maimon who had in turn studied under Rabbi Joseph ibn Migash. The Almohades conquered Córdoba in 1148, and threatened the Jewish community with the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile. Maimonides' family, along with most other Jews, chose exile. For the next ten years they moved about in southern Spain, avoiding the conquering Almohades, but eventually settled in Fez in Morocco, where Maimonides acquired most of his secular knowledge, studying at the University of Al Karaouine. During this time, he composed his acclaimed commentary on the Mishnah.
Following this sojourn in Morocco, he lived briefly in the Holy Land, before settling in Fostat, Egypt, where he was physician of the Grand Vizier Alfadhil and Sultan Saladin of Egypt as well, and considered to be the greatest physician of his time, being influenced by renowned Islamic thinkers such as Ibn Rushd and Al-Ghazali.  He composed most of his oeuvre in this last locale, including the Mishneh Torah. He died in Fostat, and was buried in Tiberias (today in Israel). His son Avraham, recognized as a great scholar, succeeded Maimonides as Nagid (head of the Egyptian Jewish Community); he also took up his father's role as court physician, at the tender age of eighteen. He greatly honored the memory of his father, and throughout his career defended his father's writings against all critics. The office of Nagid was held by the Maimonides family for four successive generations until the end of the 14th century.
He is widely respected in Spain and a statue of him was erected in Córdoba alongside his synagogue, which is no longer functioning as a Jewish house of worship but is open to the public. There is no Jewish community in Córdoba now, but the city is proud of its historical connection to Rambam.
Maimonides was by far the most influential figure in medieval Jewish philosophy. A popular medieval saying that also served as his epitaph states, From Moshe (of the Torah) to Moshe (Maimonides) there was none like Moshe.
Radical Jewish scholars in the centuries that followed can be characterised as "Maimonideans" or "anti-Maimonideans". Moderate scholars were eclectics who largely accepted Maimonides' Aristotelian world-view, but rejected those elements of it which they considered to contradict the religious tradition. Such eclecticism reached its height in the 14th-15th centuries.
The most rigorous medieval critique of Maimonides is Hasdai Crescas' Or Hashem. Crescas bucked the eclectic trend, by demolishing the certainty of the Aristotelian world-view, not only in religious matters, but even in the most basic areas of medieval science (such as physics and geometry). Crescas' critique provoked a number of 15th century scholars to write defenses of Maimonides. A translation of Crescas was produced by Harry Austryn Wolfson of Harvard University, in 1929.
The 13 principles of faith
In his commentary on the Mishna (tractate Sanhedrin, chapter 10), Maimonides formulates his 13 principles of faith. They summarized what he viewed as the required beliefs of Judaism with regards to:
- The existence of God
- God's unity
- God's spirituality and incorporeality
- God's eternity
- God alone should be the object of worship
- Revelation through God's prophets
- The preeminence of Moses among the prophets
- God's law given on Mount Sinai
- The immutability of the Torah as God's Law
- God's foreknowledge of human actions
- Reward of good and retribution of evil
- The coming of the Jewish Messiah
- The resurrection of the dead
These principles were controversial when first proposed, evoking criticism by Hasdai Crescas and Joseph Albo, and were effectively ignored by much of the Jewish community for the next few centuries. ("Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought", Menachem Kellner). However, these principles became widely held; today, Orthodox Judaism holds these beliefs to be obligatory. Two poetic restatements of these principles (Ani Ma'amin and Yigdal) eventually became canonized in the "siddur" (Jewish prayer book).
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