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Abu Al-Fat


ABU AL-FAT (Samaritan Abi-Afeta Ban Ab-Ḥisdah ; 14th century), author of a Samaritan chronicle in Arabic, Kitāb al-Tarĭkh ("Annals"). Born in Damascus of the Danati family, which was renowned for its scholars and scribes, Abu al-Fat went on a pilgrimage to Nablus in 1352. He was invited by the high priest Phinehas b. Joseph to write the history of his people from the creation of the world to his own time. Only in 1355, on a second visit to Nablus, was he able to start this undertaking. He brought with him three fragmentary chronicles in Hebrew and a Silsila (chain), i.e., a genealogical list of the Samaritan high priests beginning with *Aaron (Moses' brother) that came from the home of the high priest in Damascus; this was presumably the Tolidah (see *Samaritans, Language and Literature). The high priest in Nablus put at his disposal a number of chronicles in Hebrew and Arabic, among which was the still extant Samaritan Book of Joshu in Arabic. Another work in the otherwise unknown chronicle of Ẓadakah was rejected by Abu al-Fat as unreliable.

The 14th century was a time of revival for the Samaritan community in Nablus, and Abu al-Fat sought to make use of the scanty and dispersed source material still existing in his time before it might be lost. Like all medieval chronicles, his work contains much legendary material. The dating is not always accurate. Abu al-Fat wrote in Middle Arabic, and his language is colored by many Hebraisms, showing his dependence on the Pentateuch and in some places on other Hebrew scriptures. The occasional use of elegant Arabic rhetorical figures reveals that he was also versed in Arabic literature. Abu al-Fat's Annals end at the time of Muhammad, but, in accordance with Samaritan practice, various manuscripts were extended by later scribes. R. Payne-Smith began to edit the Arabic text together with a literal English translation (in M. Heidenheim's Deutsche Vierteljahrschrift fuer englisch-theologische Forschung und Kritik (1863), 303–35, 431–59), but discontinued his work with the appearance of E. Vilmar's scholarly edition Abulfathi Annales Samaritani (Gotha, 1865). Vilmar added a detailed introduction and short notes in Latin.


A.E. Cowley, Samaritan Liturgy, 2 (1909), xix; J.A. Montgomery, Samaritans (1907, repr. 1968), 305–7; M. Gaster, Samaritans… (1925), 3, 99, 156–7; I. Ben-Zvi, Sefer ha-Shomeronim (1935), Samaritans (1964), 46.

[Ayala Loewenstamm]

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