Just Before Islamic Invasion

When the Samaritans revolted against the Byzantine Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries, they were brutally oppressed by Byzantines and Ghassanids. This reduced the Samaritan population significantly, leading to a great change in the religious demographics of Palestine Prima. As a result of this rebellion, the Samaritans suffered serious consequences: the laws issued against them seemed to label them as the pioneers of Gnostic movements, which had scuttled the growth of Christianity for a long period of time. In fact, some scholars of religion argue that the consequences of this revolt could be compared to the consequences the Jews faced in the aftermath of the Jewish-Roman Wars, which took place during the 1st and 2nd centuries. Many Samaritans, especially those in the Diaspora, were forced to convert to Christianity.

Islamic Invasion and Influence

The final demise of the Samaritan religion came when Islam conquered the Samaritan territory in the 7th century. Since a significant population of the Samaritans had already converted to Christianity, it was easier for the remaining Samaritans to convert to another religion: Islam.

The Samaritans who lived in the Islamic nations at the time of this invasion also converted to Islam and adopted Islamic religious practices. As a result, the Samaritans who had tenaciously held onto their religion based on a Mosaic belief reduced in number significantly. For instance, by the time Napoleon came to power, the Samaritan souls on the face of the earth were only 200.

According to one of the highest ranking Samaritan leaders, Abd al-Muin Sadaka, the near extinction of the Samaritans resulted from assimilation, forced religious conversion, and intermarriage with other religions, especially Islam. By the end of the 20th century, the number of Samaritans had decreased to about 600. Today, most of the Muslims who live in Palestine and around Nablus today are of the Samaritan racial stock. They call themselves “Canaanites” or “Arabs.”