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Ibn al-Rāwandī, Abū Bakr al-Rāzī, and Their Impact on Islamic Thought
Author: Sarah Stroumsa
This book endeavors to identify and define the phenomenon of freethinking in medieval Islam, in particular as exemplified in the figures of the two most notorious intellectual heretics, Ibn al-Rāwandī (9th C.) and Abū Bakr al-Rāzī (10th C.).
The development of Islamic freethinking is analyzed on the background of the paramount importance of prophetology in Islam. The book examines the image of the freethinkers in Islam and its connection to the legacy of late antiquity, and to the traditions about Indian and Sabian religions. The last chapters examine repercussions of his phenomenon in various aspects of Muslim, Jewish and Christian medieval thought.
It is argued that, despite its rare occurrence, freethinking was in fact a pivotal Islamic phenomenon, which had a major impact on the development of Islamic thought.
Author: Sarah Stroumsa

‭This paper briefly reviews the evidence regarding Muʿtazilite presence in al-Andalus, and the evolvement of contemporary scholarship on this topic. It argues that the actual penetration of the Muʿtazila to al-Andalus was very limited, and that at no point did it amount to a significant presence among Muslims in al-Andalus. It also argues that a broader view of Andalusī intellectual history, a view which takes into account the Andalusī Jewish minority in general and the Karaites in particular, may explain the continuous significance of the Muʿtazila in the intellectual life of al-Andalus.‬

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
Author: Sarah Stroumsa

In the historiography of the medieval Islamicate world, major events that concern two or three religious communities sometimes appear only in the records of one of them. The absence of evidence for a major event from the records of a community it supposedly concerns can be seen as merely reflecting the random survival of manuscripts, or it may cast doubt on the veracity of the existing reports concerning this event. The present paper discusses this methodological question through the examination of two examples from Umayyad al-Andalus: the alleged military position of Samuel ha-Nagid/Ibn al-Narghīla, and the so-called Cordoban voluntary martyrs. The paper argues that the evidence—explicit, implicit, or silent—of all concerned communities must be treated as relevant, and it offers some criteria for evaluating such unbalanced records.

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
In: Arabica
In: Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe
In: Self, Soul and Body in Religious Experience
Author: Sarah Stroumsa

A common methodological assumption is that the number of preserved manuscripts is a reliable indicative of a book’s popularity. Also common is the recourse to levels of popularity in determining the relative importance of each work in the so-called medieval Jewish “philosophical canon”. This paper argues that in the study of Jewish medieval philosophy the quantitative method is misleading. In the medieval world of Islam the double liminality of Jewish philosophers—as Jews, and as philosophers—determined the books they read, those they had in their possession, those they openly cited, and the differences between these categories. The manuscript evidence must therefore be complemented by additional information, gleaned from other sources. Rather than a fixed canon, the end-result should give us a reader-sensitive library: what did people read, who were the readers of particular books, and what books influenced their writings.

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
Author: Sarah Stroumsa

Abstract

The attitude of Muslim and Jewish medieval philosophers to paradise was determined by their religious traditions as well as by their rationalistic philosophical approach. The present article examines the way in which medieval philosophers of the Islamic world handled this philosophic and religious heritage. In particular, it focuses on Avicenna and Maimonides, who represent, among Muslim and Jewish falasifa respectively, the first explicit and sustained attempts to translate the religious traditions on paradise into philosophical language. The article presents their interpretations of the notion of paradise, and attempt to show that, within the boundaries of their common philosophical outlook, their differing religious traditions dictated different nuances of attitude.

In: Medieval Encounters
Author: Sarah Stroumsa

Abstract

In his reconstruction of what he believed to be a typical Mediterranean medieval society, Shlomo Dov Goitein gave prime of place to the documentary material found in the Cairo Geniza, and it is primarily through this prism that he sought to analyze the Geniza and the society it mirrored. Focusing, instead, on the literary material permits a different perspective on the genizot. The Cairo Geniza was shaped not only by the Jewish tradition, but also by contemporary practices, perhaps specifically Fāṭimid ones. The level of integration of scientists and philosophers within the broader Islamicate culture often surpassed what is usually described as “symbiosis.” The integration of Jewish intellectuals within this philosophic sub-culture requires that we correct our perception of their place in it, and that we modify our vocabulary accordingly.

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World