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  • Participants in the Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya workshop from Bar-Ilan University and Berlin's Free University

    Bar-Ilan and German Scholars Studying Contribution of Medieval Syrian Author to Modern-Day Islamic Thought 

    Date: 2013-07-07 Hour: 8:57

    Bar-Ilan University and German researchers are teaming up on a project that may well shed further light on the roots of the Arab Spring, modern-day Islamic thought, and future prospects in Islamic countries.

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

    The three-year research project is being undertaken by scholars from the University's Department of Arabic and Berlin's Free University, and funded by a grant from the German-Israel Foundation (GIF).

    "Making possible a serious scholarly understanding of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, the project 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 awarded funding to the project.

    The Bar-Ilan scholars, headed by Arabic department Chairman Dr. Livnat Holtzman, just returned from Berlin's Free University, where they met with their counterparts, headed by Prof. Birgit Krawietz.  By teaming up and sharing their expertise – Holtzman's in Islamic theology and Krawietz's in Islamic law – they are exploring 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.

    The group participated in an international workshop, entitled Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya: Normative and Theological Dimensions of a Mamluk Polygraph, held in the framework of the joint project. 

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

    Israeli team members and workshops participants included MA students and research assistants.  Orit Rozmarin lectured at the workshop in English on sexuality and morality in al-Jawziyya's writings; Shimon Rachamim spoke in English about the influence of Ibn Taymiyya on al-Jawziyya's writings; Eiman Abu Kishek lectured in Standard Arabic on Koran commentator Alkertabli's concept of God, a concept refuted by al-Jawziyya.  Miriam Ben-Moshe, formerly of the Israeli team and now a member of the German team, lectured on al-Jawziyya's concept of God, the central theme of her doctoral thesis at Berlin's Free University.  Scholars from the United Kingdom and Hungary also took part in the workshop.

    Students from the University's Arabic department were highly praised by their counterparts for their knowledge of the material, thorough preparation of their lectures, lecture delivery and, most of all, for their depth of knowledge of Arabic.

    The working relationships created between students of both universities, as well as between students and researchers, will undoubtedly deepen and enrich the written research to be produced by the Department of Arabic in the framework of this research project.