Bar-Ilan News

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  • Left to right: Arabic Department Chairman Prof. Eliezer Schlossberg, Dr. Livnat Holtzman, Prof. Birgit Krawietz and her doctoral student, Nadine Westphal, and Israeli team members Orit Rozmarin and Miri Ben-Moshe

    Department of Arabic and Berlin's Free University Kickoff Joint Research Program Funded by German-Israel Foundation

    Date: 2011-04-11 Hour: 8:15

    Little is known about Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, the prolific medieval author who lived in 14th century Damascus, other than his connection to the father of Islamic Fundamentalism, Ibn Taymiyya, of whom he was a disciple.

    Now, Dr. Livnat Holtzman, of the Department of Arabic, and her German counterpart, Prof. Birgit Krawietz, of Berlin's Free University -- along with a team of scholars from the two universities -- are joining forces to shed light on his work in a three-year project funded by a research grant from the German-Israel Foundation (GIF).

    By teaming up and sharing their expertise – Holtzman's in Islamic theology and Krawietz's in Islamic law – the pair will explore the entire theological and legal thinking of a single Muslim scholar of outstanding significance, his role in the development of Hanbali Islam -- one of the four schools of religious law within Sunni Islam -- and his independent contribution to Islamic thought.

    "Making possible a serious scholarly understanding of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, the project will train younger scholars and will contribute further to deepening Western understanding of critical aspects of Islam in fields which are central to the modern world despite their medieval background," wrote the GIF Referees who selected Holtzman's and Krawietz's proposal.

    "In his some 500 monographs, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya dealt with issues meaningful to everyday life – from the cradle to the grave," said Prof. Krawietz, who, together with one of her doctoral students, just visited Dr. Holtzman and the Department of Arabic – her first trip to Israel -- in order to devise a working program for the project. We are interested in his perspective on the importance of the conscience of the individual and his outlook on mankind and how one should lead a morally respectable life," added Krawietz, who wrote her dissertation about modern Islamic medical studies, and has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University.

    "This is the first time that the work of an Islamic scholar is going to be looked at in such a broad perspective," says Dr. Holtzman, adding that it is the first time GIF has allocated money to a project of the sort -- in the humanities in general, and Islamic studies in particular. The joint project is expected to produce a large monograph and three articles.

    The GIF grant is yet another highlight in Holtzman's fascinating career. After completing her BA at the Hebrew University, she served in the IDF for 13 years as a Major, and head of the translators' section in the renowned 8200 Intelligence Unit. During her IDF service, she completed her MA at Bar-Ilan. In March 2000 she became a member of the first group of students selected to the Doctoral Fellowships of Excellence Program established by University President Prof. Moshe Kaveh. She became a lecturer in the Department of Arabic immediately upon completing her PhD three-and-a-half years later. Dr. Holtzman recently received a grant from the Israel Science Foundation for an independent study she is conducting on anthropomorphism in Islam.