World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

David ben Merwan al-Mukkamas

Article Id: WHEBN0028416121
Reproduction Date:

Title: David ben Merwan al-Mukkamas  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jewish philosophy, Early Islamic philosophy, Judah Hadassi, Isaac Husik
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

David ben Merwan al-Mukkamas

David (abu Sulaiman) ibn Merwan al-Mukkamas al-Rakki (died c. 937) was a philosopher and controversialist, the author of the earliest known Jewish philosophical work of the Middle Ages. He was a native of Rakka, Mesopotamia, whence his surname. Harkavy derives his byname from the Arabic "ḳammaṣ" (to leap), interpreting it as referring to his asserted change of faith (Grätz, Gesch. Hebr. transl., iii.498). This is uncertain. The name is written "אלקומסי" in Masudi's Al-Tanbih (ed. De Goeje, p. 113), in a Karaitic commentary to Leviticus, and in a manuscript copy of Jefeth's commentary to the same book (Jew. Quart. Rev. viii.681), and is perhaps a derivative from the city of Ḳumis in Taberistan (Yaḳut, iv.203). Another Karaite bears the name "Daniel al-Ḳumisi," and in Al-Hiti's chronicle this name is also spelled with a ẓade (Jew. Quart. Rev. ix.432).

Polemical works

David, the father of Jewish philosophy, was almost unknown until the latter part of the 19th century. The publication of Judah Barzilai's commentary to the Sefer Yezirah (Meḳiẓe Nirdamim, 1885), in which is found a poor Hebrew translation of the ninth and tenth chapters of David's philosophical work, first brought the latter into notice. Barzilai says that he does not know whether David was one of the Geonim, but claims to have heard that Saadia had known him and had profited by his lessons. Pinsker and Grätz, confounding him with Daniel ha-Babli of Cairo, make him a Mohammedan convert to Karaism, on the ground that he is quoted by Karaite scholars, and is called by Hadasi "ger ẓedeḳ" (pious proselyte).

The discovery by Harkavy of the Kitab al-Riyaḍ wal-Ḥada'iḳ, by the Karaite Al-Ḳirḳisani, threw further light on David. Al-Ḳirḳisani cites a work by him on the various Jewish sects, and says that David had "embraced Christianity" (tanaṣṣar), that he was for many years the pupil of a renowned Christian physician and philosopher named Hana, and that, after acquiring considerable knowledge of philosophy, he wrote two works against Christianity which became famous. But it seems more probable that the word "tanaṣṣar" means simply that David had intercourse with Christians. Ḳirḳisani, indeed, does not mention his return to Judaism, and no Rabbinite mentions his conversion to Christianity. His conversion to Christianity can hardly be reconciled with the fact that he is cited by Baḥya, by Jedaiah Bedersi (in Iggeret Hitnaẓẓelut), and by Moses ibn Ezra. Ḳirḳisani mentions two other books by David: Kitab al-Khaliḳah, a commentary on Genesis extracted from Christian exegetical works; and a commentary on Ecclesiastes. He is incorrectly mentioned as a learned Karaite by David al-Hiti in his chronicle of Karaite doctors, published by Margoliouth (Jew. Quart. Rev. ix.432).

In 1898 Harkavy discovered in the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg fifteen of the twenty chapters of David's philosophical work entitled Ishrun Maḳalat (Twenty Chapters). The subject-matter of these fifteen chapters is as follows:

  1. The Aristotelian categories
  2. Science and the reality of its existence
  3. The creation of the world
  4. The evidence that it is composed of substance and accidents
  5. The properties of substance and accident
  6. A criticism of those who maintain the eternity of matter
  7. Arguments in favor of the existence of God and His creation of the world
  8. The unity of God, refuting the Sabians, the Dualists, and the Christians
  9. The divine attributes
  10. Refutation of anthropomorphism and Christian ideas
  11. Why God became our Lord
  12. Showing that God created us for good and not for evil, and combating absolute pessimism as well as absolute optimism
  13. The utility of prophecy and prophets
  14. Signs of true prophecy and true prophets
  15. Mandatory and prohibitive commandments.

David as well as other Karaites—for instance, Joseph al-Basir and Al-Ḳirḳisani—was a follower of the Motazilite kalam, especially in his chapter on the attributes of God, wherein he holds that, though we speak of these attributes as we speak of human attributes, the two can not be compared, since nothing comes to Him through the senses as is the case with man. God's "life" is a part of His "being", and the assumption of attributes in the Deity can in no way affect His unity. "Quality" can not be posited of the Deity. In his tenth chapter, on "Rewards and Punishments," David holds that these are eternal in the future world. This chapter has many points in common with Saadia, both drawing from the same source (Schreiner, Der Kalam, p. 25).

Other works

David quotes two others of his own works which are no longer in existence: Kitab fi al-Budud and Kitab fi 'Arḍ al-Maḳalat 'ala al-Manṭiḳ, on the categories. In one passage David relates that he had a philosophical disputation in Damascus with a Muslim scholar, Shabib al-Baṣri. A fragment of another work, Kitab al-Tauḥid, on the unity of God, has been discovered among genizah fragments, and has been published by E. N. Adler and I. Broydé in Jew. Quart Rev. (xiii.52 et seq.). David does not betray his Jewish origin in his philosophical work. Contrary to the practice of Saadia, Bahya, and other Jewish philosophers, he never quotes the Bible, but cites Greek and Arabic authorities. It is possible that this accounts for the neglect of his work by the Jews.

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography

  • Fürst, in Literaturblatt des Orients, viii.617, 642;
  • Gabriel Polak, Halikot Ḳedem, pp. 69 et seq.;
  • Pinsker, Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot, ii.17 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. v.285;
  • A. Harkavy, Le-Ḳorot ha-Kittot be-Yisrael', in Grätz, Gesch. iii.498 et seq. (Hebr. transl.);
  • idem, in Voskhod, Sept., 1898;
  • Samuel Poznanski, in Jew. Quart. Rev. xiii.328;
  • Steinschneider, in Jew. Quart. Rev. xi.606, xiii.450;
  • idem, Hebr. Uebers. p. 378;
  • Kaufmann, Attributenlehre, Index, passim.

Recent Bibliography

  • Sarah Stroumsa, Dawud ibn Marwan al-Muqammis's 'Ishrun Maqala (Etudes sur le judaisme medieval XIII, Leiden: Brill, 1989)


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.