Daniel ben Moses Al-Qūmisī

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DANIEL BEN MOSES AL-QŪMISĪ (ninth-tenth centuries), Karaite scholar and leader of the *Avelei Zion ("Mourners of Zion"). He was born in Damghan, in the province of Qumis, northern Persia. Little is known about Daniel's life. He was evidently the first eminent Karaite author to settle in Jerusalem, where he died. Independent in theological outlook, Daniel even belittled the founder of Karaism, *Anan b. David, and dissented from certain of his halakhic principles, justifying himself by the maxim "those who come later will find the truth." Daniel also consistently maintained this principle in regard to himself. According to the Karaite scholar *Kirkisānī, "he would accept any conclusion arrived at by reasoning … and would acknowledge changes whenever they occurred in regard to opinions he had expressed in his writings…." In matters of law, Daniel was more rigorous than his fellow Karaites. On the other hand, he is said to have exempted males aged under 20 from the duty to observe all the biblical ordinances, and admitted the testimony of Muslims in matters connected with the determination of the Jewish calendar.

Daniel occupied himself to a considerable extent in biblical exegesis. While refraining from exhortation, he supplies brief comments intended to explain the simple meaning of the biblical text in a rationalistic manner. He interprets, for instance, the concept "angels" as natural forces, such as fire and water, sent as divine emissaries, and consequently negates the existence of angels. Daniel's commentaries on the Bible served him as a means of propagating his view on Karaism and asceticism. His most complete extant work, Pitron Sheneim-Asar (ed. by I. Markon, 1948, 1957), a commentary on the Minor Prophets, contains bitter criticism of the rabbinate and of the degeneration of the Jewish people through pursuit of worldly occupations and pleasures. Daniel blamed the prolongation of the Exile on the neglect of the divine truths – i.e., the Bible – due to the negative influence of the *Rabbanite "shepherds of the Diaspora." He especially condemned the arrogance of the rabbis and their officials, and their economic exploitation of the people. According to Daniel, the Torah was at first in the possession of a restricted group, "the priests and levites, together with the king." However, after the destruction of the First Temple it was handed over to the entire Jewish people in order that each individual should bear responsibility for his actions. Daniel became the leader and spokesman of the Avelei Zion; he was probably the author of their official program. He enjoined perpetual public mourning for the destruction of the Temple and constant supplication for redemption, all to be practiced while living in Jerusalem. He proposed the collection of funds from Karaites abroad to enable chosen members of the sect to live in Jerusalem and represent the community as mourners. "And if you do not come, because you yearn for your merchandise, send five people from each city supplied with means of subsistence, that we may form one association to appeal to God constantly from the mountains of Jerusalem."

Al-Qūmisī's homiletical commentaries (derashot) have been published (Zion, 3 (1929), 26–42), and of his brief commentary on the Bible, the part on the Minor Prophets has appeared, though its attribution to Daniel has been questioned (Marwick, in jbb, 5 (1961), 42ff.).

david (abu suleiman) al-qŪmisĪ (died c. 945), a Karaite scholar, was apparently his son. According to the Arabic scholar al-Masʿudī, David lived in Jerusalem and translated the Bible into Arabic, with explanations. He is mentioned by *Japheth b. Ali in his commentary (to Lev. 23:p 5), as well as in an anonymous Arabic commentary on Leviticus (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms. Heb. d. 44).


on daniel: S. Pinsker, Likkutei Kadmoniyyot (1860), index; A. Harkavy, Zikkaron la-Rishonim, 8 (1903), 187–92; Marmorstein, in: Ha-Ẓofeh le-Ḥokhmat Yisrael, 8 (1924), 44–60, 321–37; 9 (1925), 129–45; Mann, in: jqr, 12 (1921/22), 273–91; Mann, Texts, index; L. Nemoy (ed.), Karaite Anthology (1952), index s.v.al-Kūmisī, Daniel; Z. Ankori, Karaites in Byzantium (1959), index. on david: Poznański, in: jqb, 8 (1896), 681; Steinschneider, ibid., 11 (1899), 606.