Book Talk: Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity

March 1, 2013
10359-B Democracy Ln.
Fairfax, VA 22030,
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Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity

Place: Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies Main Hall

Shalom/Salaam is a groundbreaking study introducing to the popular reader, the story of respectful interfaith relations between Sufis and Jewish spiritual thinkers for nearly one thousand years.  From the inception of Islam, to the Golden Age (8th-12th centuries) Jewish-Sufis of Arabia, North Africa and Spain, through the Kabbalists in Spain and the Holy Land, and then into 18th-century European Hasidism, Islamic and Jewish ideas commingled to inspire both paths, as well as strongly influencing the Jewish mystical system.

Many medieval Jews interacted with and were influenced by the Sufi way.  Moses Maimonides, considered the pre-eminent Jewish medieval thinker, Solomon ibn Gabirol, whose “piyyut” are still sung during the Sabbath liturgy, Judah Halevi, whose work, according to the chief Rabbi of Palestine in the early 20th century, contains that which is most precious about the Jewish soul and hundreds of other seminal Jewish thinkers read Sufi treatises in Arabic, wrote Islamic-inspired mystical odes and sometimes even based their interpretations of Jewish tradition on Sufism.
Some Jewish thinkers went so far as to quote Islamic thinkers directly.  Fragments of Sufi tracts are woven through medieval Jewish writings, from those of Moses Maimonides’ son Abraham, to Judah Halevi’s “Sefer ha-Kuzari.”  David Maimonides (15th century) went so far as to mention Muslims by name, with paeans to their virtuosity and wisdom.