In the year 711 the Moslems of Morocco, led by Tariq, invaded the Iberian Peninsula, and Spain became an Arab-Moslem Kingdom. Thus, from the beginning of the eighth century, the Arabic-speaking Moslem world extended from Babylonia in the East to the Atlantic shores of North Africa and Spain in the West. All of these lands now formed one cultural-linguistic complex in which the Islamic faith was dominant and Arabic was the language spoken by all of its populations.
55. Under these transformed conditions, the structure of authority in the Jewish world also underwent specific changes. It seems that the functions formerly held by the Kallah had been taken over by new institutions known as the Yeshivot, and the men in supreme authority in making decisions on Jewish Law were now the Ge’onim. The title Ga’on was an official title in the Jewish community. It could best be translated as “Eminence” or “Excellency.”
56. The Ga’on was the head of a Talmudic academy, or School of Law and served as chief judge of the court of law in the Jewish community of a particular city and its surrounding region. The major centers were the cities of Sura and Pumbeditha . These cities had been centers of Jewish legal scholarship and authority during the days of the creation of the Babylonian Talmud. But in the period following the establishment of the Moslem Empires some changes had taken place in the Jewish communal structure and the period of the Ge’onim begins with the rise of the Islamic governments.
57. Since the Babylonian Jewish community had been the leading center of Jewish life during the period of the creation of the Talmud, it seems that with the changes that took place with the rise of the great Islamic empire which was centered in Baghdad, the Jewish authorities in Babylonia became even more influential in their governing of the Jewish communities located throughout the regions encompassed by the Islamic empires. Thus, the Ge’onim of the so-called Ge’onic Period, ruled all Jewish communities within the realms of the Islamic empires.
58. The Ga’on of Sura became, in time, the leading authority of the Jewish communities. One could say, for all practical purposes, that he was the authority on Jewish Law for all Jewish communities the world over.
59. Another significant change took place at the beginning of the 9th century which effectively made the Babylonian Talmud the universal legal system of the Jewish world. On the 25th day of December in the year 800, Charlemagne, ruler of the Franks of Northern Europe, was crowned Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III, who named him “King of the Holy Roman Empire.”