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Between Mysticism and Philosophy

Sufi Language of Religious Experience in Judah Ha-Levi's Kuzari

Diana Lobel

Publication Year: 2000

A revealing study of this important medieval Jewish poet and his relation to Islamic thought. Judah Ha-Levi (1075–1141), a medieval Jewish poet, mystic, and sophisticated critic of the rationalistic tradition in Judaism, is the focus of this ground-breaking study. Diana Lobel examines his influential philosophical dialogue, Sefer ha-Kuzari, written in Arabic and later translated into Hebrew, which broke religious and philosophical convention by infusing Sufi terms for religious experience with a new Jewish theological vision. Intellectually engaging, clear, and accessible, Between Mysticism and Philosophy is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the intertwined worlds of Jewish and Islamic philosophy, religion, and culture.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy

Front Matter

Front Cover

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Half Title Page

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table Of Contents

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pp. ix-x

This project began to take shape in the spring of 1987 in dialogue with Professor Bernard Septimus, and came to its first phase of completion in the spring of 1995 through conversations with Professor Isadore Twersky z"l. I am grateful to Professor Twersky for his patience and trust in the project, for his invaluable insights and Socratic guidance, for encouraging me to ask large questions and meet challenges I would not otherwise have considered...


Between Mysticism and Philosophy

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pp. 1-20

Twelfth-century Spain was alive with spiritual possibilities. A new language of religious experience was taking hold in medieval Islam; philosophers and Sufi mystics, legal scholars, theologians, and poets all sought to capture the experiential dimension of religious life and were reinventing Islamic vocabulary to do so...

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1.The Language of Relationship: Religious Experience as Connection or Union (Ittisal) and Arrival (Wusul)

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pp. 21-54

As we have noted, various rival groups in the medieval Islamic world—philosophers, theologians, Sufi mystics, legal scholars—were each laying claim to common Arabic terms. Ha-Levi adapts and transforms these Arabic terms in an original way to reflect his distinct perspective on religious experience...

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2. The Language of Human Striving

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pp. 55-88

In chapter 1, we noted that various groups in the Islamic sphere were diversely interpreting common terms for religious experience. We saw that Ha-Levi draws upon a cluster of meanings associated...

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3. The Language of Perception: Religious Experience as Witness (Mushāhada ) and Taste (Dhawq)

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pp. 89-102

In Part 1, we saw that Ha-Levi describes religious experience in relational terms as contact or connection (ittisāl), a term which figures prominently in Book One of the Kuzari. Part 2 described Ha- Levi’s rejection of human-invented paths to achieve..

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4. The Language of Prophecy

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pp. 103-146

Ha-Levi repeatedly uses the verb shahāda (to witness) in his discussions of prophecy. Mushāhada thus functions as a bridge term, one which suggests a continuum between the private religious experience of those who are not prophets, the experience of prophets, and the collective revelation at Mount Sinai...

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5. The Language of Intimacy (Uns), Longing (Shawq) and Love ('Ishq)

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pp. 147-158

We have seen in our discussion of ittisāl that Ha-Levi regards the human connection with God as a true relationship between two parties; Ha- Levi is more interested in the experiential dimension to the language of ittisāl than he is in any suggestion of ontological union...

Back Matter

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pp. 159-178

What, then, has our exploration of Ha-Levi’s terminology shown us about the Kuzari? We have seen that Ha-Levi is keenly sensitive to nuances of language; he is a master of Arabic prose and uses the sounds and rhythms of the Arabic language to underscore key themes...


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pp. 179-180


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pp. 181-250


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pp. 251-266


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pp. 267-277

Back Cover

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p. 278-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780791493229
E-ISBN-10: 0791493229
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791444511
Print-ISBN-10: 0791444511

Page Count: 290
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy