A Book Containing the History of the Samaritan Sect and the Rituals of Their Religion


This manuscript preserves an untitled treatise that is referred to in the introduction simply as Kitābun muḥtawin ʻalá siyyar ḥāl ṭāʻifati al-sāmirah wa ṭuqūsi diyānatihim (A book containing the history of the Samaritan sect and the rituals of their religion). The author is unknown. The work is divided into ten chapters, covering what Samaritans “believe to be the truth about their doctrine and faith.” The chapters are: 1) On the origins of the Samaritan sect; 2) The belief in Mount Gerizim as their qibla (prayer direction); 3) The observance of the Sabbath; 4) Circumcision and the rules governing it; 5) Samaritan months and festivals; 6) Impurities and ablution; 7) Rules governing ritual slaughter; 8) Marriage rituals; 9) The nonexistence of a doctrine of abrogation in their Torah; and 10) The rituals pertaining to death, passage to the afterlife, and resurrection. The Samaritans are an ancient, ethnoreligious group of Levantine origins. They believe they are descendants of the original Israelites. Often referred to as the smallest religious minority in the world, today they number about 800, and live in tight-knit communities on the holy site of Mount Gerizim, near present-day Nablus, and in Holon, south of present-day Tel Aviv, Israel. The manuscript is written in black ink, in naskh style, with catchwords on rectos. Each chapter begins with a rubricated synopsis that gives an overview of the chapter. The manuscript is almost entirely void of images, with the exception of two small illustrations, on pages 126 verso and 127 recto (frames 69 and 70 in this presentation). The first illustration shows an altar “taken from the Book of Exodus,” with two water bowls in the center, and notes on the sides indicating where a sacrifice is slaughtered and where worshipers stand. The second illustration is a drawing of a kiln “taken from the covenant with Abram.” No scribe name or copy date is given, but the manuscript was likely produced in the 18th century.

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Title in Original Language

كتاب محتوي على سير حال طائفة السامرة وطقوس ديانتهم

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Physical Description

133 folios ; 17 x 33 centimeters

Last updated: September 29, 2017