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Karaites: Influence of Islamic Law on Jewish Law (Imran Nyazee, 1993)

Karaites: Influence of Islamic Law on Jewish Law (Imran Nyazee, 1993)

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An article about rationalism versus literalism in Jewish law, with the Karaites representing literalism.
An article about rationalism versus literalism in Jewish law, with the Karaites representing literalism.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee on Mar 07, 2012
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11/05/2012

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THE KARAITES:
INFLUENCEOFISLAMICLAWONJEWISHLAW
IMRANAHSANNIAZI
TheoriginoftheKaraites,aJewishsectcharacterizedprimarilybyits denialof thetalmudic-rabbinicaltradition,continuestobeshroudedinmystery.AccordingtoMartinCohen,thereasonsfor thisarethepaucityofevidencerequiredtoreconstructtheirhistory,theingrained prejudice(againstthemovement)harbouredbyvarious Jewish scholarsreared in the Rabbanitetradition,and the failureofmostJewish historiansto treatKaraismin itstotalhistoricalcontext.1Thetremendous effortsmadebyscholarslikeLeonNemoy,2onthe otherhand,do reflectsincere effortstoarriveatthe truthandtouncoverthehistoryofthissect.Astudyoftheworkof "thegreatestKaraite mindofthetenthcentury",3AbuYusufYa'qubal-Qirkisam(oral-Karkasani)(cace937),indicatesthatthoughthereare someunexplainedgapsinthehistoryof theoriginsofthesect,itis,infact,theprinciplesofthissect,theirlegaltheory,thathavebeenneglectedmost.Al-Qirkisanl'swork4alsosuggeststhatthereal difference betweentheKaraites andtheRabbaniteslies intheirdifferentapproachesfortheidentification andinterpretationofsacredtexts.Whilethe Rabbanitetraditionmaybesaidtousetwomethodsfordevelopingthehallakha,the midrashicmethodandindependentreasoning?throughtakkanot(legislation),andminhdg (custom)?theKaraitestrytostay-closetothemidrashic methodasfaraspossible.Italsoappearsthat theKaraitesdonotrejecttheorallawcompletely,but havetheirownsystemfor authenticatingit.
Themajor pointto noteabout themethodologyof theKaraitesaswellasthat fRabbanitesis that theKaraiteswishedtostayclosetothemidrashicmethod. This methodrequiresthat the law be deriveddirectly
fromthetextsthroughmore orlessliteral methods. Thisissimilartothe
method followedin usulal-fiqhbyMuslimjurists.twasemphasisedby
al-Shafi'i,whoinsistedthat thederivedlawmuststayclosetothe evidence
 
138
IslamicStudios,32:2(1993)
(dalit).Theindependent easoningundertakenbyRabbanites wouldbe
characterizedaspersonal opinionorra'ybyMuslimscholars. The exercise
ofpersonalopinion bytheRabbanitesshouldnotbe confusedwithra'yattributedotheHanafis. TheHanafi method is basedonreasoningfrom
general principlesderivedfromthetexts.Undertakkanot,theRabbaniteshavemuchmorediscretion and freedom. Western writersintheirattempttoshowsimilarities betweenIslamic law and Jewish law havestretched the
meaningofprinciplesikestihsdnndistisldhoequatethemithlegislation
undertakenbytheRabbanitesthroughtakkanotandminhag.This isincorrectand wouldamounttoadistortionoftruth.Inanycase,the Shafi'I influenceonthemethodologyof the Karaites isobvious,andcanbenoticedinal-Qirkisani'sbook.Inthisarticle,themajorideasinal-Qirkisani'sKitabal-Anwdr wa'l
Mardqib(TheBookofLightsandWatchtowers) concerningheoriginsftheKaraitemovementwillfirstehighlighted.hiswill befollowedbyadescriptionofthe Karaiteprinciples,asexplainedbyal-Qirkisaniand
acknowledged bythelater Karaites. Theprimarysourcerelieduponfor thispurposewillobviouslybeal-Qirkisani'sbook. Acomparisonofthisbook
withbooksonusulal-fiqhwrittenbyMuslimjuristsill also beundertaken
toshowthe influence ofIslamiclawonKaraitethought.
ThefounderftheKaraitemovementisgenerallyonsideredtobe
'Anan Ben David.Cohenlists fivesourcesthatcontainaccountsabout'Ananand hisrole.5The firstaretheextantfragmentsof'Anan'sownbookSeferha-Miswot,while theother fourareaccountsthatprovideevidenceabout'Anan's role inthe formation of themovement.Thelatter fouraccountshavebeentranslatedbyLeonNemoy.6ThreeareRabbanite while thefourth,byAl-Qirkisani,is the Karaiteaccount.TheRabbaniteaccountsdepict'Ananasascholar,apparentlythesonoftheExhilarch7oratleast hisnephew,8trainedinthe Rabbanitelore
andaspiringothe exhilarcateutsuspectecause ofhisfreethinking.isyoungerrother ananiahispreferredverhimnd heproceedstoestablish
asecret sectalongwith "allmannerofevilandworthlessmenfromamongtheremnantsofZadokandBoethus".9Thesectisdiscoveredand 'Ananisputinjailfortreasonand istobehanged.However,he receivesadvice
fromMuslimjurist,10hois alsoinjail,andmanagestogainfavouriththeGentilegovernment.ohensays,[t]heassertion hat llthisookplace
within thespaceofoneweekappearstobeatelescopingcommontolegends".11He alsosaysthatwhen all fouraccountsareconsidered "theKaraitetextemergesasthecalmest andmostmatter-of-fact.Bycontrast,alltheRabbaniteaccountsareintensely polemical",calling'Anan'sfollowers"heretics,mockers,anddespisersofthe words ofourRabbis",andcursing
 
IslamicStudios,32:2(1993)
139
'Ananwiththewords"mayhisnamerot".12
Al-Qirkisanlbeginsthesecondchapter13fhisbookbybrieflyntroducingthehistoryf thesectsorpersonswhohavebeenguiltyfsowingdissensionntheJewisheligionndwithinthisstheccountof'Anan.A
translationof theentirechapter,exceptthelast fewlines,isprovidedbyLeonNemoy.14It isnecessaryforourpurposestobrieflyreproducethe
substancef thischaptersitthrowslightnthepresumedoriginsfthe
Karaites.
The firstersonmentionedisJeroboam.Thisisfollowedbythe
namesof theSamaritans,theChiefsoftheCommunity,whoweretheoriginal
Rabbanites. AftertheRabbanitesthereappearedtheSadducees,asectfoundedyZadokandBoethus.Zadok,hesays,wasthe irstoexposethe
errorsoftheRabbanites.ThencametheMagarianswhosebookswerediscoveredina cave.NextthereappearedonecalledJesus,sonofMary.On the shoresofEgyptasectappearedknownasal-Qar'iyahbecausethey
usedinstrumentsnownasqar\Itwasafterthisthat theRabbanitessplitintotwogroups,calledtheSchool ofHillel and theSchoolofShammay.The RabbanitesofIraqfollowed hepracticeof theSchoolofHillel,whilethose ofSyriafollowedthe SchoolofShammay.15extthereappearedObadiah,betterknownasAbu'Isaal-Isfahani,hoconsideredhimselfobeaprophet,ollowedbyhispupilYudghan,theShepherd,hoalsoclaimed
tobeaprophet."AfterYudghanappeared'Anan,the Ra'sal-Jalut,andthisinthedaysof Abu Ja'far al-Mansur.Hewasthe firsttoelaboratethe
wholetruth bout theobligations fara'id)andwaslearnedn theopinions
oftheRabbanites.Therewas noneamongthemwho coulddiscredithiserudition....TheRabbanites triedtokillhim,but God didnotenablethemtodoso."16
Thesedescriptionsrefollowedbyverybriefaccountsof Isma'fl
al-'Ukbari,Ben Yamin(Benjamin)al-Nahawandi,Musa al-Za'faranialsoknownasAbu'Imranal-TiflisI,Malikal-Ramll,Mishawayhal-'Ukbariy,
andfinallyaniyal(Daniel)al-Damighani,etterknownasal-QumisI.He
observestwofactsabout4Ananand all thosefollowinghim.First,that their
followersreveryfewralmostxtinct,ndsecond,thatheyonotfollowanalogyrthe ictatesfsystematiceasoning ma'qul,from'aqlorintellect)
inmatters oflaw. Heacknowledgesthatal-QurmsIdoesacceptopinionsbasedonreasoningandrationalargumentation,yethedeniessystematicreasoningandcriticisesthose whopractiseit.17It isimportantto notehere
thatanalogyqiyas)isa sourceof lawfortheKaraites,aswillbeexplained
later.
Themostimportantpointtobe made about the fouraccountsof

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