Muʿtazilī Theology in Levi ben Yefet’s Kitāb al-Niʿma

in Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
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‭The Kitāb al-Niʿma of Levi ben Yefet (late 10th to early 11th c.) is the earliest known Karaite compendium of Muʿtazilī thought. It was written at the request of his father Yefet ben Eli as a defense of Judaism on the basis of Muʿtazilī rational theology. Yefet ben Eli, a prominent Karaite legal scholar, disapproved of Muʿtazilī theology and in his Commentary on Daniel polemically denounced Islam in general and the Fāṭimid caliphate in particular. In adopting Muʿtazilī rational theology, Levi ben Yefet implicitly recognized Muḥammad as a friend of God endowed with prophethood, in rank below Moses, the prophet of Israel. He also adopted the Shīʿī concept of hereditary imāma, applying it to the Jewish belief in the hereditary kingship among the descendants of David. His views were in concord with the majority of Jews under Fāṭimid rule who strongly supported the Fāṭimid regime against Sunnī polemic and military attack. Levi ben Yefet’s Muslim teacher may have been the Imāmī Shīʿī scholar Abū l-Fatḥ al-Karājikī (d. 449/1067).‬

Muʿtazilī Theology in Levi ben Yefet’s Kitāb al-Niʿma

in Intellectual History of the Islamicate World

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References

1

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” pp. 157–216.

2

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” p. 157.

3

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” p. 160.

4

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” p. 159 n. 11.‬

5

‭See Ben-Shammai“The Attitude of Some Early Karaites” pp. 17–23.

6

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” p. 161.

8

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” p. 208.

11

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” pp. 158–160.

14

‭MargoliouthCommentary on the Book of Daniel p. 68 Ar. text p. 128. The present translation is that of Margoliouth slightly revised. The passage has also been translated and discussed by Stern in Chapter 5 of his Studies in Early Ismāʿīlism and recently by Franklin This Noble House p. 156.‬

17

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” p. 215.

18

‭Sklare“Levi ben Yefet” p. 164.

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