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Caterina Bori / Livnat Holtzman (eds.): A Scholar in the Shadow: Essays in the Legal and Theological Thought of Ibn Qayyim al-Gawziyyah (= Oriente Moderno; 1 - 2010), Rom: Istituto per l'Oriente Carlo Alfonso Nallino 2010, 295 S., ISSN 0030-5472, EUR 50,00

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Miriam Ben Moshe
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Stephan Conermann
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Miriam Ben Moshe: Rezension von: Caterina Bori / Livnat Holtzman (eds.): A Scholar in the Shadow: Essays in the Legal and Theological Thought of Ibn Qayyim al-Gawziyyah, Rom: Istituto per l'Oriente Carlo Alfonso Nallino 2010, in: sehepunkte 13 (2013), Nr. 4 [15.04.2013], URL:

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Caterina Bori / Livnat Holtzman (eds.): A Scholar in the Shadow: Essays in the Legal and Theological Thought of Ibn Qayyim al-Gawziyyah

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The singular thought of the prolific medieval neo-Hanbali scholar Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (1292-1350), which is embedded in the scholarly activities of the ʿulamāʾ in Mamluk Damascus, has until now received little attention from western scholars. Since Ibn al-Qayyim and his writing were strongly influenced by the persecutions he endured as Ibn Taymiyyah's (1263-1328) most prominent disciple, it seems that the master's image has eclipsed that of his devotee. However, the significance of Ibn al-Qayyim as an accomplished intellectual in his own right has become increasingly clear in recent years, thanks to recent studies of his work and oeuvre. The present volume is the first collection of articles exclusively dedicated to Ibn al-Qayyim as a leading scholarly figure.

The editors of the volume, Caterina Bori (Bologna) and Livnat Holtzman (Bar-Ilan), are specialists of Islamic History and Religious Studies. In their highly informative introduction, the editors' survey Ibn al-Qayyim's life, education and career, as well as his relations with the contemporary scholastic Ashʿarite elite and the Mamluk state. This part of the book reveals little-known information drawn from the biographical dictionaries and chronicles composed in the Mamluk era (17). One interesting example can be found in their analysis of Ibn al-Qayyim's confrontations with the Chief Judge of Damascus, Taqī al-Dīn al-Subkī (died 1355). In terms of methodological trajectories, the introduction lays out the editors' plausible and fruitful approach to the study of Ibn al-Qayyim's works in general, emphasizing the importance of an inter-textual reading based on consultation with not only the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah, but also those of other scholars who preceded them both (30).

The volume is divided into three sections: 'society and law',' God and man', and 'body and soul'. The first section opens with Birgit Krawietz's examination of Ibn al-Qayyim's contribution to the theory of Islamic law (uṣūl al-fiqh), in which she analyzes his legal work Iʿlām al-Muwaqqiʿīn. Krawietz sees Ibn al-Qayyim's originality in this discipline in his pragmatic and fluid usage of several literary techniques in one and the same text, producing a work of hybrid character that moves between the genres of uṣūl al-fiqh, adab al-muftī; (advice literature for the jurist) and furūʿ al-fiqh (practicalities of the law) (64). In the next article, Yehoshua Frenkel deals with the work Zād al-Maʿād and the utopian Islamic worldview held by Ibn al-Qayyim, who relied on the ideal prototype of the Prophet Muhammad and the pious ancestors of the early Islamic community (salaf). Frenkel illustrates Ibn al-Qayyim's reaction to his historical surroundings describing his striving to realize the ideal Islamic model in the political and social structure of 14th century Mamluk Damascus. In addition, Frenkel gives a tentative outline of Ibn al-Qayyim's ideas about jurisprudence (76). Following that, David Friedenreich delves into Ibn al-Qayyim's differentiated approach to non-Muslims as articulated in his work Aḥkām Ahl al-Dhimmah. Exploring the legal questions concerning the meat of animals slaughtered by Christians and Jews, Friedenreich points out Ibn al-Qayyim's innovative contributions to Islamic legal thinking and their far-reaching implications for relations with non-Muslims (108).

The second section, 'God and man', begins with Jon Hoover's investigation of Ibn al-Qayyim's idea of theodicy with respect to God's creation of Iblīs (the devil). This study aims to obtain a broader understanding of Ibn al-Qayyim's theological ideas and their various scholarly sources. Hoover provides an annotated translation of a passage from the work Sifā ʾ al-ʿAlīl, in which Ibn al-Qayyim elaborates on God's wisdom in creating evil, thereby revealing the complexity of his thought (122). The following two articles in this section focus on Ibn al-Qayyim's copious theological work al-Ṣawāʿiq al-Mursalah. The first one, by Yasir Qadhi, comprehensively surveys the work and offers an overview of its polemic framework, in which Ibn al-Qayyim storms against certain fundamental kalāmic methods, including taʾwīl (figurative interpretation), regarding God's divine attributes (139). Further examination of one aspect of Ibn al-Qayyim's fierce criticism in al-Ṣawāʿiq appears in the article by Abdessamad Belhaj, which deals with the refutation of majāz (the metaphorical meaning of words). Belhaj stresses Ibn al-Qayyim's highly sophisticated discussion of the concept of majāz, and points to its major linguistic contribution to the field of Arabic rhetoric (160). The section is closed with Ovamir Anjum's article, which interrogates Ibn al-Qayyim's perception of 'positivistic' Sufism, as it appears in the work Madārij al-Sālikīn. Anjum describes Ibn al-Qayyim's redefinition of the Sufi notion as purely discursive spiritual knowledge, far removed from the mysticism and ecstatic experiences which are commonly associated with it (185).

The last section of this volume, titled 'body and soul', commences with the article by Irmeli Perho, dealing with the advanced medical theory of Ibn al-Qayyim in his al-Tibb al-Nabawī (a part of the work Zād al-Maʿād). Perho points out the holistic approach taken in this work, synthesizing rational and divine knowledge in an attempt to heal physical illness through the spiritual guidance of the Prophet (209). Next, Ibn al-Qayyim's Kitāb al-Rūḥ is discussed from two different angles: Tzvi Langermann views it as an exemplary work that signifies the assimilation of early Greek scientific thought into the Islamic thought of the 14th century. As the Islamic idea of rūḥ (spirit) grew to closely resemble the Greek concept of the soul (as a result of a long process initiated by scholars like al-Ghazālī died 1111, and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī died 1210), Langermann examines the almost natural manner in which Ibn al-Qayyim treats certain Greek philosophical ideas in his theological writing (214). A systematic survey of Kitāb al-Rūḥ is provided by Geneviève Gobillot, who first clarifies the terminology used by Ibn al-Qayyim in the work, focusing on the concepts of rūḥ and nafs (soul). Gobillot also addresses several theological issues, such as the question of fitrah (the believer's inborn natural disposition), predetermination (al-qaḍāʾ wal-qadar) and the duration of Hellfire, as they are raised in Kitāb al-Rūḥ, and studies the various sources which influenced the work (253).

Illuminating many unknown aspects of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah's thought, this new volume represents an important contribution to the study of neo-Hanbali thought in the Islamic intellectual arena of Mamluk Damascus. Moreover, each of the volume's ten articles enhances our modern perception of Ibn al-Qayyim, long depicted as a scholar of a modest nature, as an extremely remarkable scholar on his own right. This volume makes it clear that Ibn al-Qayyim's intellectual endeavor resulted in a substantive development of the Taymiyyan ideas in almost every theoretical field, while still adhering to the master's groundbreaking 'traditional-rationality' point of view. It remains for other researchers in the field to study additional scholars and historical factors influencing Ibn al-Qayyim's writings. In that respect, the effort invested by the editors and contributors of this volume broadens our perception of Ibn al-Qayyim and his works, and paves the way for further research.

Miriam Ben Moshe