A Patriarch (70th, 1131-1145). Abu al-‘Ala’ Sa‘id ibn Turayk was a learned, generous, and pious layman who served as an administrator in various government bureaus before being chosen, in 1131, to be the 70th patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church under the name Gabriel. During his patriarchate he issued a number of sets of canons (in Arabic) that displayed his administrative skill, his zeal for reform of the Church and community, and his concern for the religious life of the laity.

For example, in the set of 32 canons issued shortly after he became patriarch, Gabriel forbids simony and concubinage and takes steps to ensure that prayers are offered and attended with reverence and in good order. Concern for the laity may be seen in Gabriel’s insistence (Canon 3 of the 32) that bishops teach their people the Doxology, the Lord’s , and the Nicene Creed in Arabic (since many of them no longer understood Coptic), and in his reform of the Holy Week liturgy (The Book of the ), which takes into account the work schedules of Coptic servants unable to dedicate the entire week to prayer.

Gabriel’s nomocanon, once considered lost but now available in a critical edition, is important for understanding the history of Copto-Arabic literature. Gabriel identifies his sources, which allows us to see him gathering materials from collections that had already been translated into Arabic by the early 12th century, including the Arabic Didascalia (al-Disquliyya), the Canons of the Apostles, the Canons of the Kings, the canons of the Council of Nicaea and regional synods, as well as the collections attributed to Hippolytus, Epiphanius, Basil, and John Chrysostom.