Tokyo-Jerusalem Joint Workshop (October 2023)
The Quranic Heritage and Intellectual-Historical Challenges in Early and Medieval Islam
This workshop aims to review different aspects of Islamic thought and culture, as they found expression in the Quran, hadith collections, exegetical literature, theological and philosophical writings etc. in early and medieval Islam. Each presentation will cover one specific topic and offer a fresh evaluation in light of new findings and analyses. The central question is how Muslim authors struggled to give birth to a new spiritual creation in intellectual-historical contexts, in which they were inevitably situated. In this connection, we shall also pay attention to the acts of Verstehen by Muslims of their canon as well as clusters of interpretations and speculations surrounding it, not excluding moments of prejudices, deviations and distortions inherent in them, which are hermeneutically positive and necessary.
The workshop will be held as part of the activities carried out under the international research project “Humanitas Futura: Traditions of Thought and New Vistas for Understanding Man,” which is propelled by Dr. Koji Yamashiro. On the basis of the academic collaborations between the University of Tokyo and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this project intends to promote creative interactions on research frontiers and to serve as a truly interdisciplinary platform for international scholarly cooperation.
Date: October 22, 2023 (Sun), 13:00 – 15:30 (IST)/ 19:00-21:30 (JST)
Venue: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus Campus, Rabin Building (The Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies), Room 2001
Chair: Prof. Meir Bar-Asher (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
13:00-13:05 (IST)/19:00-19:05 (JST)
Greetings by Prof. Nissim Otmazgin (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities)
13:05-13:25 (IST)/19:05-19:25 (JST)
Dr. Hannelies Koloska (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
“From Sights and Signs: Sensory Piety in the Qur'an”
13:25-13:45 (IST)/19:25-19:45 (JST)
Dr. Koji Yamashiro (The University of Tokyo)
“Al-Burāq behind the Ladder: On Sura 17, Sura 53, Sura 81 and the Isrā’/Mi‘rāǧ Tradition”
13:45-14:05 (IST)/19:45-19:05 (JST)
Dr. Tanja Wertmann (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
“The Transmission of Plato through the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Rasā'il Ikhwān al-Ṣafā)”
14:05-14:20 (IST)/20:05-20:20 (JST)
14:20-14:40 (IST)/20:20-20:40 (JST)
Dr. Michael Ebstein (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
““Your Lord Has Decreed that You Worship None but Him”: Ibn al-ʿArabī on the Prophet Noah”
14:40-15:00 (IST)/20:40-21:00 (JST)
Dr. Fuga Kimura (The University of Tokyo)
“Islamic War Theory in the Mamluk Period: The Case of Ibn Jama'a al-Shafii (d. 1333) and his Sources”
15:00-15:30 (IST)/21:00-21:30 (JST)
Hannelies Koloska, "From Sights and Signs: Sensory Piety in the Qur'an"
The domain of sensation, as an instrument of human experience, source of knowledge and condition as well as impediment to spiritual insight, is broad in the Qur’an. However, the examination of the conceptualization, calibration, and utilization of sensory perception in the Qur’an is at its very beginning (e.g. Lange 2022, Bursi 2020, Akkach 2021). Christian Lange is the first scholar who introduced sensory studies into Islamic Studies within an extensive framework, but in the historical and philological study of the Qur’an hardly any comprehensive study exists about the senses in the Qur’an. In contrast, studies in the cultures and religions of Late Antiquity are witnessing an increased awareness of the importance of sensory perception as a cultural act in holy scriptures, theological writings, and ritual practices. In this talk, I would like to draw attention to the Qur’anic recourse to the senses and sensual experiences as requisite and also as an impediment to spiritual insight, which shows the Qur’an’s active participation in the shared “age of sensory piety“ of Late Antiquity. Focusing on two Qur’anic passages: Abraham’s desire to see divine power (Q. 2:260) and the request of Jesus’ disciples to taste food from a heavenly table (Q. 5:112-115), the talk will discuss a main concern among Christians and Jews and its Qur’anic response: How the senses of sight and taste might be utilized and able to recognize, know and respond to the presence of the divine.
Koji Yamashiro, “Al-Burāq behind the Ladder: On Sura 17, Sura 53, Sura 81 and the Isrā’/Mi‘rāǧ Tradition”
This presentation aims to offer a new proposal for solving the problem of the complex relation between Sura 53 and Sura 81 in relation to their respective visionary passages, and as a corollary, to shed some light on the origin and development of the early Muslim traditions on the isrā’ and mi‘rāǧ, i.e. the Prophet’s so-called night journey and ascension to heaven, taking into account the significance of Sura 17 therein. Reference will also be made to Jewish and Christian connections to the whole issue.
Tanja Wertmann, “The Transmission of Plato through the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Rasā'il Ikhwān al-Ṣafā)”
The encyclopedic oeuvre The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Rasā’il Ikhwān al-Ṣafā’), composed in the 10th century, contains treatises devoted to various spheres of science: mathematics, natural sciences, astronomy, psychology and epistemology, metaphysics and theology, music, etc. Both the identity of the author(s) and the exact period of composition of the Epistles remain uncertain. The Epistles draw on a variety of sources, yet it is the Neoplatonic spirit which prevails in the corpus.
Plato is mentioned in the Epistles on various occasions, at times in the frame of ideas and traditions rooted in Plato’s oeuvre, yet sometimes traditions are ascribed to him which do not originate in Plato’s writings. This lecture will deal with the striking presence of Plato’s heritage in the Epistles which is not indicated by references to Plato. A close inquiry into The Epistle on the Essence of Love shows that Muslim scholars had access to sources of Platonic tradition that by far exceed medieval Arabic translations and adaptations of relevant Greek texts extant today.
Michael Ebstein, ““Your Lord Has Decreed that You Worship None but Him”: Ibn al-ʿArabī on the Prophet Noah”
Who were the real heroes of the Biblical and Qurʾānic story of the flood? Who was truly worshipping God, and who was a victim of his own erroneous beliefs? In my lecture, we will read and discuss the chapter on Noah in Ibn al-ʿArabī’s (560/1165-638/1240) famous (or notorious) Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam (“The Ring-Gems of Wisdoms”), in which he offers his radical interpretation of this classical story, commenting mainly on chapter 71 of the Qurʾān (sūrat al-nūḥ).
Fuga Kimura, “Islamic War Theory in the Mamluk Period: The Case of Ibn Jama'a al-Shafii (d. 1333) and his Sources”
Ibn Jama'a (d. 1333) was an Imam (clerics) of the al-Aqsa mosque, a chief qadi (judge) in both Damascus and Cairo, and a representative Shafii scholar in the Mamluk era (1250-1517). His work “Tahrir al-Aḥkam fī Tadbīr Ahl al-Islām (Clarifying the Regulations for Organizing the People of Islam)” is a representative classic of Islamic law of war. In this book, he is doing comparative analysis on early judicial opinions about warfare not only from the perspective of his own madhhab (school) but also all other Sunni madhhabs. Based on his analysis, sometimes he criticizes the representative legal opinions of his own school (like one by Abū al-Ḥasan al-Māwardī, d. 1058), and moreover he recognizes some regulations are not fitted and realized in his living time. It means that he recognized the gap between classical/ideal theory and real society. In my presentation, through his classical work on Islam, I will show how he tried to re-create the fundamental regulations of war and territory through his critical review of early legal sources.
Dr. Hannelies Koloska is a scholar of Qur’anic and Islamic Studies. She is a senior lecturer at the Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research focuses on the Qur’an in its late antique context, and on its interpretation, Islamic material cultures and religious practices. Her first book, “Revelation, Aesthetics and Qur’anic Exegesis. Two Studies of Surah 18 (al-Kahf)” (published in German) explores the rhetorical composition and theological focus of a Qur’anic text and sketches out its immediate impact on its initial audience and takes account of later Muslim interpretation. She also published the first German translation of Aḥkām al-nisāʾ by Ibn al-Jawzī, including considerable annotations. She currently runs a five-year research project VISIONIS – Vision and Visuality in the Qur’an and Early Islam funded by the European Research Council.
Dr. Koji Yamashiro is Project Researcher at the University of Tokyo, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, where he leads the research project “Humanitas Futura: Traditions of Thought and New Vistas for Understanding Man.” His fields of interest include, among others, the comparative study of the Abrahamic religions, the theory of religions, the history of philosophical and scientific ideas, Gnostic and Manichaean Studies and Jewish and Christian studies.
Dr. Tanja Werthmann is Lecturer in the Department of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She specializes in medieval Jewish philosophy and mysticism against the background of Greek and Arabic thought.
Dr. Michael Ebstein is a senior lecturer in the Arabic Language and Literature Department and in the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his research, he focusses mainly on the study of Islamic mysticism, particularly as it developed in al-Andalus (Spain or the Iberian Peninsula) during medieval times.
Dr. Fuga Kimura is Project Assistant Professor at Centre for Middle Eastern Studies in the University of Tokyo. He is working on the Sunni legal texts in the Mamluk era. He graduated from Keio University (B.A.), and studied at the University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, where he obtained a M.A. in March 2019, and a Ph.D. in March 2023. He assumed his current position in April 2023.