A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue
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A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue
Philosophy and Mysticism in Bahya ibn Paquda's "Duties of the Heart"

Diana Lobel

376 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 2006 | ISBN 978-0-8122-3953-9 | $59.95s | £39.00 | Add to cart
Ebook 2011 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0265-6 | $59.95s | £39.00 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Jewish Culture and Contexts series
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"It is difficult to imagine a timelier book that this. . . . Outstanding."—Speculum

"An ambitious attempt to fill a long-standing lacuna in the history of Jewish thought by presenting a synthesis and evaluation of Bahya in his intellectual context. It draws on over a century of scholarship, suggests some new sources for Bahya and new readings of old sources, and offers an interpretation of his thought."—Charles H. Manekin, University of Maryland

"This manuscript contains a subtle, probing, and rich exposition of the key issue of devotional self-examination within Jewish and Islamic mysticism. The author has a superb sense of Arabic, Sufi mystical psychology, and the extraordinary dialogue (sometimes openly acknowledged, often left unacknowledged) among Jewish, Islamic, Christian, and Greek traditions at the time of Ibn Paquda."—Michael Sells, University of Chicago

"Lobel illustrates the power of philology in the best sense. Her critical ear for the nuances and history of Arabo- Islamic terminology . . . enables her to probe the deep structural penetration of Sufi ideas in the work of Jewish thinkers and seekers. To put it another way, A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue traces the process by which Arabo-Islamic conceptual frames are imported into Judaism through shared use of the Arabic language. . . . Lobel is keenly attuned to the historical dimension of the work and its place in the cultural and intellectual history of the Jews of al-Andalus and all of Islam."—TMR

Written in Judeo-Arabic in eleventh-century Muslim Spain but quickly translated into Hebrew, Bahya Ibn Paquda's Duties of the Heart is a profound guidebook of Jewish spirituality that has enjoyed tremendous popularity and influence to the present day. Readers who know the book primarily in its Hebrew version have likely lost sight of the work's original Arabic context and its immersion in Islamic mystical literature. In A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue, Diana Lobel explores the full extent to which Duties of the Heart marks the flowering of the "Jewish-Arab symbiosis," the interpenetration of Islamic and Jewish civilizations.

Lobel reveals Bahya as a maverick who integrates abstract negative theology, devotion to the inner life, and an intimate relationship with a personal God. Bahya emerges from her analysis as a figure so steeped in Islamic traditions that an Arabic reader could easily think he was a Muslim, yet the traditional Jewish seeker has always looked to him as a fountainhead of Jewish devotion. Indeed, Bahya represents a genuine bridge between religious cultures. He brings together, as well, a rationalist, philosophical approach and a strain of Sufi mysticism, paving the way for the integration of philosophy and spirituality in the thought of Moses Maimonides.

A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue is the first scholarly book in English about a tremendously influential work of medieval Jewish thought and will be of interest to readers working in comparative literature, philosophy, and religious studies, particularly as reflected in the interplay of the civilizations of the Middle East. Readers will discover an extraordinary time when Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thinkers participated in a common spiritual quest, across traditions and cultural boundaries.

Diana Lobel is Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University. She is the author of Between Mysticism and Philosophy: Sufi Language of Religious Experience in Judah Ha-Levi's Kuzari.

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