Influence of Islamic thought seen in the tradition of Jewish thought
Intensive efforts have been underway in the United Kingdom to address the issue of religious coexistence in Europe, where the process of secularization and religious diversification is advancing at a rapid pace. In this country, research on monotheistic religions including Judaism is also pursued earnestly, with much progress achieved in identifying the distinctive contribution of Jewish thought to the Western civilization. We will work with Leo Baeck College, which is home to leading researchers in this field of study.
Date: 11:30-15:30 Thu. 28th February, 2013
Located: Leo Baeck College, London, U.K
Researcher: Aiko Kanda (Doctral Student of the Graduate School of Theology, Doshisha University)
The influence of Islamic thought seen in the tradition of Jewish thought
Purpose of the research:
This research aims at shedding light on mutual influence among Jewish thought, classical Greek philosophy, Islamic thought, and Christian scholastic philosophy, and identifying the essence of Jewish thought from a contemporary perspective through the multifaceted and in-depth reading of the relevant texts.
Method of the research:
In this research, I focus on the original Judeo-Arabic text of The Guide of the Perplexed (Dalālat al-ḥāʾirīn in Arabic and Moreh nebukhim in Hebrew), authored by Maimonides. I am closely reading this text with the rabbis of the receiving institution, Leo Baeck College, while comparing the text with several Hebrew and English translations, examining how some specific keywords were used in medieval times when the text was written, and referring to relevant secondary literature as necessary. In addition, I attempt to shed light on the Jewish background of the quotations from the Talmud, the Midrash, and the Bible by examining the contexts from which the quotes were taken, as well as to explore the intention of the author in quoting the particular passages. In order to develop an extensive understanding of the thought of Maimonides and the factors that affected his thought, I am also reading his works in the fields of law, medicine, astronomy, and ethics, as well as the works of his contemporary thinkers, who were active mainly in al-Andalus region in Spain, for comparison. In this way, I am striving to understand his works in greater depth and in a more multifaceted manner, thereby obtaining a comprehensive picture of his thought. In addition, I examine the historical situations of the Mediterranean region in the days of Maimonides, namely al-Andalus, the Maghreb, and Egypt in medieval times, focusing on the mutual influence among the three monotheistic religions―Judaism, Islam, and Christianity― in those days, by way of shedding light on how the thought of Maimonides was shaped.
In reading the above texts, I remain conscious of the background of Jewish thought in the living tradition of Judaism and am committed to academic pursuit, while interacting with students studying at Leo Baeck College to become rabbis. By doing so, I attempt to foster understanding of the texts from a contemporary perspective in an existential manner, not merely in an ideological manner. I also try to develop a more existential understanding of the Jewish tradition by positively participating in study meetings and religious events held at synagogues so that I can embrace the Jewish tradition as my own. Furthermore, I am willing to engage in discussions not only with my co-researchers but also with other faculty members of the college, so that I will be able to understand the texts from a contemporary, multifaceted perspective, based on my knowledge of living Jewish tradition. Finally, I positively take part in academic meetings and workshops held in the U.K. to study the latest research trends of the related themes and to learn from world-class research projects, in order to get nearer to them.
From time to time, at research meetings, I present the results of the research that I have conducted by using the abovementioned method, and also I publish the results through the Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Monotheistic Religions (CISMOR). Already, I have read a paper titled, The Use of Rabbinical Sources in Maimonides’ Account of the Beginning – According to the Guide of the Perplexed II:30, at a research meeting held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in August 2012, along with another paper titled, Erets and Adam in Maimonides – According to the Guide of the Perplexed II:30, at a workshop at my receiving institution, Leo Baeck College, in London, in February 2013. In both cases, I made the presentations in English. At the end of June 2013, I am going to read a paper titled, Cosmology of Maimonides: Examining the Difference from Greek and Islamic Thought, at the Conference on Jewish Studies. I am also planning to contribute a paper concerning the historical background of the thought of Maimonides in The World of Monotheistic Religions (JISMOR), issued by CISMOR.
Bibliography (Secondary Sources):
Davidson, H. A. (2011). Maimonides the Rationalist. Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization.
Davies, D. (2011). Method and Metaphysics in Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Halbertal, M. (2007). Concealment and Revelation: Esotericism in Jewish Thought and its Philosophical Implications. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Kellner, M. (2009). Science in the Bet Midrash: Studies in Maimonides. Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press.
Klein-Braslavy, S. (2011). Maimonides As Biblical Interpretor. Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press.
Seeskin, K. (2005). Maimonides on the Origin of the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.