ḲIRḲISANI, ABU YUSUF YA'ḲUB AL-(according to Steinschneider, Yusuf Abu Ya'ḳub):

Karaite dogmatist and exegete; flourished in the first half of the tenth century; a native of Circassia (whence the name of Ḳirḳisani). He seems to have traveled throughout the Orient, visiting the centers of Mohammedan learning, in which he was well versed. In 937 Ḳirḳisani wrote an Arabic work on the precepts—under the title "Kitab al-Anwar wal-Marakib" (known in Hebrew as "Sefer ha-Me'orot," or "Sefer ha-Ma'or"), with the subtitle "Kitab al-Shara'i'" ("Sefer Miẓwot Gadol")—and a commentary entitled "Al-Riyaḍ wal-Ḥada'iḳ" ("Sefer ha-Gannim we-Pardesim," or "Sefer ha-Niẓẓanim"), on those portions of the Pentateuch which do not deal with the laws.

Contents of "Kitab al-Anwar."

Of these two volumes the more interesting is the former, which not only provides valuable information concerning the development of Karaism, but throws light also on many questions in rabbinical Judaism. It comprises thirteen treatises, each divided into chapters, and the first four treatises form an introduction to the whole work. In the first treatise, of eighteen chapters, Ḳirḳisani gives a comprehensive survey of the development of the Jewish sects, the material for which he drew not only from the works of his predecessors, as David ibn Merwan al-Muḳammaṣ, whom he mentions, but also from his personal experiences in the learned circles in which he moved. The enumeration of the sects is given in chronological order, beginning with the Samaritans, and concluding with the sect founded by Daniel al-Ḳumisi. Ḳirḳisani declares the Rabbinites to be a Jewish sect founded by Jeroboam I., although it did not make its appearance until the time of the Second Temple. Zadok, the founder of the Sadducean sect, in his excursuses against the Rabbinites, revealed part of the truth on religious subjects, while Anan disclosed the whole. However, in spite of Ḳirḳisani's admiration for Anan, he often disagrees with him in the explanation of the precepts.

View of Christianity.

It is noteworthy that Ḳirḳisani includes Christianity among the Jewish sects. In the third treatise (ch. xvi.) he says that "the religion of the Christians, as practised at present, has nothing in common with the teachings of Jesus." It originated with Paul, who ascribed divinity to Jesus and prophetic inspiration to himself. It was Paul that denied the necessity of carrying out the Commandments and taught that religion consisted in humility; and the Nicene Council adopted precepts which occur neither in the Law, nor in the Gospels, nor in the Acts of Peter and Paul. Ḳirḳisani devotes a great portion of the first treatise to attacks upon the Rabbinites, in which he does not show himself impartial; but he is not blind to the faults of the Karaites. In the last chapter he draws a sad picture of the spiritual condition of Karaism in his time. "You can scarcely find two Karaites of one and the same opinion on all matters; upon almost any point each has an opinion different from those of all the rest." He deplores the neglect by the Karaites of the study of rabbinical literature,which, according to him, would furnish them with weapons for their controversies with the Rabbinites. Here Ḳirḳisani is referring to the discrepancies frequent in haggadic and mystic literature, such as the "Shi'ur Ḳomah," which, indeed, he often uses in his attacks against the Rabbinites.

The second treatise, of twenty-eight chapters, discusses the duty of applying critical methods to the study of religious matters. Ḳirḳisani is the first Karaite known to have been a firm believer in the study of the sciences, and he criticizes those who, although accepting the fundamental principle of independent inquiry and research, are against the demonstrative sciences of dialectics and philosophy. Reason is the foundation upon which every article of faith is based, and from which all knowledge flows. The third treatise, of twenty-three chapters, is a critical review of adverse religious sects and Christianity. In the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters Ḳirḳisani refutes the doctrine of metem-psychosis, though among its exponents was Anan, who wrote a work on the subject. For Ḳirḳisani, the solution of the question, much debated by the Motazilite Kalam, concerning the punishments inflicted upon children is not to be found in the doctrine of metempsychosis, but in the belief that compensation will be given to children in the future world for their sufferings in this.

In the fourth treatise Ḳirḳisani expounds, in sixty-eight chapters, the fundamental principles leading to the comprehension of the particular religious prescriptions. The remaining treatises are devoted to the precepts themselves, which are arranged in systematic order. Ḳirḳisani quotes the views of the earliest Karaite authorities (as Anan, Benjamin Nahawendi, Daniel al-Ḳumisi, etc.), which he often refutes. Belonging to the Ba'ale ha-Rikkub, he is particularly severe in his views on the laws of Incest, and he combats the opinion of his contemporary Jacob ben Ephraim al-Shami, who permitted marriage to the daughter of one's brother or sister.

Extant Manuscripts.

Most of the "Kitab al-Anwar" and the beginning of the "Al-Riyaḍ wal-Ḥada'iḳ" are still extant in manuscript, in the Firkovich collection in the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg (Nos. 1142-1444). The first treatise of the "Kitab al-Anwar," dealing with the Jewish sects, was published by A. Harkavy in the memoirs of the Oriental section of the Archeological Society (viii. 1849). Various fragments of seven treatises (ii.-vi., viii., ix.-xii.) are found in the British Museum (Oriental MSS. Nos. 2,524, 2,526, 2,578-2,582). They were analyzed by Poznanski, who published the text of chapters xvii. and xviii. of the third treatise, dealing with the doctrine of metempsychosis, and chapter xxxv. of the fifth treatise, in which Ḳirḳisani discusses the question whether it is permitted to read on the Sabbath books written in other than Hebrew characters (Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 435-462; "Steinschneider Festschrift," pp. 195 et seq.). The text of the sixteenth chapter of the third treatise, dealing with the criticism of Christianity, was published by H. Hirschfeld in his chrestomathy. A dissertation on the Decalogue by Ḳirḳisani, and which Steinschneider supposes to be the first chapter of the sixth treatise, beginning with proofs of the existence of God, is found in the Bibliothèque Nationale (No. 755). Both the "Kitab al-Anwar" and the "Al-Riyaḍ wal-Ḥada'iḳ" were abridged, the former by a certain Moses ben Solomon ha-Levi . Harkavy deduces from quotations that Ḳirḳisani translated the Bible into Arabic, wrote commentaries on the Book of Job and on Ecclesiastes, and wrote a work on the unity of God ("Kitab al-Tauḥid").

  • Geiger, Melo Chofnajim, p. 74;
  • Munk, in Israelitische Annalen, iii. 76, 93;
  • Delitzsch, to Aaron ben Elijah's 'Eẓ ha-Ḥayyim, p. 313;
  • Dukes, Beiträge, i. 28;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Leyden, pp. 181, 185;
  • idem, Hebr. Bibl. xx. 107, xxi. 13;
  • idem, Hebr. Uebers. p. 449;
  • idem, Die Arabische Literatur der Juden, § 43;
  • Pinsker, Liḳkuṭe ḳadmoniyyot, i. 169, ii. 201;
  • Fürst, Gesch. des Karäert. ii. 140;
  • Firkovich, Bene Reshef, pp. 20, 21;
  • Harkavy, Meassef Niddaḥim, pp. 2, 16;
  • idem, Studien und Mittheilungen, iii. 44;
  • idem, in Memoiren der Orientalischen Abtheilung der Archœologischen Gesellschaft zu St. Petersburg, 1894, viii.;
  • Poznanski, Die Qirqisani Handschriften im Brit. Mus. in Steinschneider Festschrift, 1896, pp. 195-218;
  • idem, Aus Qirqisani's Kitab al-Anwar, in Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 435-462;
  • idem, Jacob ben Ephraim, in Kaufmann Gedenkbuch;
  • Bacher, in J. Q. R. vii. 687 et seq.
K. I. Br.
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