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Moses ben Samuel of Damascus


MOSES BEN SAMUEL OF DAMASCUS (14th century), Karaite poet. Moses, who was born in Safed, Ereẓ Israel, was employed in Damascus as clerk in charge of the emir's private estates. In 1354 the emir received an order requiring him to remove non-Muslims from government service. Moses was seized, charged with blasphemy against Islam, and given the choice of forfeiting his life or becoming a Muslim. He chose the latter. Some time later the emir went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and Moses was compelled to accompany him. What he observed of the pilgrimage ritual led him to resolve to return to Judaism. The emir at first refused to release him but he fell ill and soon died. Moses then appears to have escaped to Egypt and entered the service of the royal vizier, apparently returning to his ancestral faith. His works, all in Hebrew verse, include a description of his tribulations and of his Mecca pilgrimage. His liturgical pieces display depth of feeling and an occasional lyrical inspiration.


Mann, Texts, 2 (1935), 213–32; L. Nemoy, Karaite Anthology (1952), 147–69.

[Leon Nemoy]

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