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Historical and Contemporary Intersections among Judaism, Christianity and Islam
The nexus between monotheism and ethics, especially in the forms professed by the three Abrahamic faiths, is the theme that binds together the studies in this volume. Fourteen leading academics from around the world discuss philosophical and theological connections, historical interactions, as well as responses to new and contemporary issues. Most, though not all of the essays, find a meaningful connection between monotheism and ethics; but none shy away from the problems involved.

Miʿrāj al-duʿāʾ wa-mirʾāt al-dawāʾ (“The Ascent of Prayer and the Mirror of Medication”) by Muḥammad ʿAlī al-Qazwīnī, a Shiʿite presumably working in eastern Iraq in the eighteenth century, gathers information on methods for rejuvenation and longevity from different traditions: traditional Islamic (mainly Shiʿite), Greek, and Indian. The last of these are a set of recipes for rasayanas, herbal and chemical recipes drawn from Indian sources. Though some rasayanas are mentioned in earlier Arabic treatises, the collection displayed in Miʿrāj al-duʿāʾ is by far the most extensive. Hardly any are mentioned in earlier Arabic texts. Miʿrāj al-duʿāʾ, then, contributes an important chapter to the ongoing interchange between India and the eastern Islamic world. Unlike the majority of treatises which deal with India, it is written in Arabic rather than Persian, though not a few loan words are employed. I present here an edition, translation, and analysis of the relevant chapter.

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World

Abstract

Representations of the heavens in various levels of detail can be found in a number of branches of Arabic literature. One particular genre, the hay'a texts, has as its purpose a full though non-mathematical discussion of the arrangement of the celestial orbs; hay'a writers are particularly sensitive to the philosophical requirements which all systems must meet. The pivotal work in this genre, On the Configuration, was written by Ibn al-Haytham. Later writers continued to produce works in the spirit of On the Configuration. In the east, al-Tusi and his followers developed new models; in the west, a group of thinkers tried to rediscover the models which, so they thought, were the ones endorsed by Aristotle himself.

In: Early Science and Medicine

Abstract

David Ibn Shoshan, a Jewish savant and a victim of the Spanish Expulsion of 1492, addresses the question of the status of the human spirit (rūah, rūh, pneuma) in the course of his commentary to Ecclesiastes. Spirit is the substrate of the soul; but as such, is it divine like the soul, so that it too ascends after death? Or is it rather purely material and hence perishable? After reviewing a number of medieval Islamic sources, Ibn Shoshan decides in favor of the view of Ibny Tufayl who, in his "philosophical romance" Hayy Ibn Yaqzān, declares the spirit to be divine. Among the interpretations that Ibn Shoshan rejects is that of "the authors of the Zohar." However, his critique is conducted entirely in a scientific idiom, without any polemical overtones. This is instructive insofar as it illustrates that kabbalists and natural philosophers of the period engaged on the whole in a constructive discourse based upon shared concepts. The texts studied here testifies to the endurance of Andalusian Jewish learning even after the expulsion of 1492. Indeed, perhaps Giordano Bruno mined some of the same sources utilized by Ibn Shoshan.

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies

Abstract

Criticism of authority was a prominent feature of medieval philosophical writing. In this study the critiques of two contemporaneous scholars, Moses Maimonides and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, are compared. Maimonides criticized Hellenistic authorities, mainly Aristotle. However, the starting point for his critique was Aristotle's admission of the limitations of his own inquiries. Maimonides admired Aristotle's questioning of his own conclusions; indeed, his own thought was characterized by constant self-doubt. Al-Rāzī criticized an earlier Muslim scholar, Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), an intellectual giant whose imprint was strongly felt in philosophy and medicine. Al Rāzī used his commentaries on a number of Ibn Sīnā's books as a stage for criticizing the master and for arguing for his own, alternative viewpoints.

In: Early Science and Medicine