Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Third Series)

Research Article

The Rediscovery of Samuel Lyde's Lost Nuṣayrī Kitāb al-Mashyakha (Manual for Shaykhs)


Yeshiva University


The K. al-Mashyakha is a manual for Nuṣayrī shaykhs. Its significance as a window into the otherwise secret world of Nuṣayrī ritual was augmented by the role it played in the formation of Nuṣayrī studies: in 1860, it served as the basis for the first monograph on the Nuṣayrī religion, Samuel Lyde's posthumously published Asian Mystery. However, for over 150 years, the K. al-Mashyakha has been missing. This article announces its rediscovery in two identical manuscripts and identifies two additional works based on this text, the well-known Nuṣayrī catechism, K. Taʿlīm diyānat al-nuṣayriyya, and the recently published K. al-Mashyakha issued by the Lebanese press, Dār li-ajl al-maʿrifa. In solving the mystery of its disappearance and rediscovery in two copies, this article provides new insight into the nineteenth-century Nuṣayrī world from which the K. al-Mashyakha emerged, as well as that of the European orientalists who pioneered this field.


*  Acknowledgements: Many have helped in the researching of this project and in the acquisition of manuscripts. I would like to specifically acknowledge Frances Willmoth at the Old Library, Jesus College, Cambridge, Elizabeth Gow at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, Marie-Geneviève Guesdon at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and Kenneth Dunn at National Library of Scotland. I would like to additionally thank Nicolas Barker at the Rare Books School for his advice on the Bibliotheca Lindesiana and Ron Naiweld and Udi Engelsman for their help obtaining manuscripts. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Meir Michael Bar-Asher, Luke Yarbrough, and my doctoral advisors Michael Cook and Patricia Crone for their invaluable comments on several versions of this paper.