Severus ibn al-Muqaffa

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Severus ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (Arabic: ساويرس بن المقفع‎) or Severus of El Ashmunein (ساويرس الأشمونين)[1] (died 987) was a Coptic Orthodox Bishop, author and historian. In Arabic, his name is spelled Sawires ساويرس. Severus is sometimes confused with ibn al-Muqaffa'.

He was bishop of Hermopolis Magna in Upper Egypt around the end of the tenth century. In this period, Egypt was ruled by the Isma'ili Fatimid Caliphate, which had taken Egypt from the Abbasid Caliphate in 969. Fatimid rule slowly but surely changed Coptic Christian culture, especially in the realm of language. Complaining that the Coptic Orthodox Christians of Egypt no longer knew the Coptic language, Severus composed a theological text in Arabic—the first Coptic text written in that language.[2]

He is best known as the traditional initial author of the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria. One of the stories in it relates how Bishop Severus was asked by the Muslim Chief Justice(qadi al-qudat) whether a passing dog was Muslim or Christian. As it was a Friday, the Bishop said to ask the dog by offering it both meat and wine as Muslims do not drink wine and Christians do not eat meat on Fridays.[3]


  • Lamp of the Intellect (in Arabic مصباح العقل)
  • History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria (in Arabic تاريخ بطاركة كنيسة الإسكندرية القبطية). This is a compilation begun by Severus Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ[4] and based on earlier biographical sources. It was continued by others including Michael, bishop of Tinnis (11th century, writing in Coptic, covering 880 to 1046), ibn Mufarrij, deacon of Alexandria., and Pope Mark III of Alexandria (for 1131 to 1167).
  • Affliction's physic and the cure of sorrow (In Arabic طبّ الغمّ وشفاء الحزن)


  1. ^ [1]; known as Severus of Al-Ushmunain, Severus, Bishop of Al-Ushmunain, Severus of Al'Ashmunein, Severus of Ashmunein, Severus of El-Eschmounein, Severus Ben al-Moqaffa, Severus Aschmoniensis, Sawires Ibn Al-Muqafah, Sawiris etc.
  2. ^ Petry, Carl; Paula A. Sander (1998). "The Fatimid State, 969–1171". The Cambridge History of Egypt. p. 170.
  3. ^ A.S. Atiya, Yassa `Abd al-Masih and O.H.E. Burmester History of the Patriarchs of the Egyptian Church known as the History of the Holy Church , Vol II part II (Cairo 1948), 92-93 (text), 138 (translation)
  4. ^ One scholar, Johannes den Heijer, contests its attribution to Severus. Johannes den Heijer, Coptic historiography in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and early Mamluk Periods, Medieval Encounters 2 (1996), pp. 67–98.

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