16:00 CET Research Paper Discussion
FOR THE CARE OFY & SOUL THE GREEK BIBLE AND AN ARAB-ISLAMIC BOTANICAL TEXT IN A 10TH-CENTURY PALIMPSEST FRAGMENT
Matteo Pimpinelli, Sapienza University of Rome
Respondents: Matthew Monger (Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society), Konrad Hirschler (Freie Universität Berlin)
This paper is focused on the study of an unpublished palimpsest fragment from the Qubbat al-khazna in Damascus, which presents a very interesting structure. The Greek scriptio inferior, already identified as a biblical text, coexists with the Arabic scriptio superior − referred to an Islamic text − which has not been properly studied in its textual and paleographical features so far. The Arabic text is an excerpt belonging to the medical-botanical work entitled Mukhtaṣar fī-l-ṭibb (“Compendium of Medicine”) − known from only one manuscript witness so far − written by the Andalusian jurist ‛Abd al-Malik b. Ḥabīb (d. 238 AH/AD 853).
The textual examination of the Arabic text will be conducted along with the paleographical and codicological analysis of the fragment, in order to suggest some hypotheses about its dating and provenance. Such a multidisciplinary research represents a starting point from which some thoughts, referred to the Arabic scriptio superior in the first place, has been carried out. For example, the study of the Arabic text − which testifies a high degree of knowledge in the fields of botany and medicine − along with the palimpsest order of the fragment, has suggested a monastic environment as its probable place of origin. Furthermore, the fragment represents a documentary witness which highlights the relevance of the body care, as attributed in such environment, in addition to the peculiar process of the discard of a religious text − the Bible in Greek − apparently sensed as no more useful, in a context arguably yet arabized. More interestingly, it is a clear evidence of the fact that such a vision of life was pursued acquiring ideas and concepts, also derived from different cultures − even if it would have implied the study and the use of an Islamic text, written in the Arabic script.
Matteo Pimpinelli is currently a PhD student and a master's graduate from “Sapienza” University of Rome, with a thesis entitled: “Two unpublished fragments from the Mukhtaṣar fī-l-ṭibb by ‘Abd al Malik b. Ḥabīb (d. 238 AH/AD 853) from the Qubbat al-khazna in Damascus” (supervisor: Prof. A. D’Ottone Rambach).The study of the Arabic language and culture represents the main topic of his interest. Thanks to a scholarship for the Erasmus exchange program, he studied at the University of Alicante. His PhD project is focused on the study of a 13th century treatise on ophthalmology.
A TRANS-DENOMINATIONAL FRIENDSHIP IN LATE 14TH-CENTURY ALEPPO
Gregor Schwarb, Israel Institute for Advanced Studies
An Arabic commentary on Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Sefer ha-Maddaʿ, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah I–IV, attributed to a Ḥanafī muwaqqit in late 14th century Aleppo, has attracted the attention of many distinguished scholars over the last century and a half. The research history of this significant document is almost as intriguing as the text itself and attests to the difficulty of 19th- and 20th-century scholarship to come to terms with the peculiar setting of a Muslim scholar commenting on a Jewish halakhic treatise.
In my presentation, I will briefly summarise the research history to illustrate how historiography is prone to be (mis-)guided by cultural predispositions and shaped by issues, concerns, and blind spots rooted in the historian’s realm of experience.
The commentary by ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Abū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Ṭaybughā was the result of a longstanding friendship with Rabbi David ben Yehoshuʿa, the grandson of Maimonides’ great-grandson. The impact of this friendship comes to the fore on several occasions in David’s own commentary on the Mishneh Torah. In David’s view, this friendship represented far more than a mere social acquaintance with a Muslim soulmate. Like his illustrious ancestor, he conceived of the Foundational Laws of the Torah as a straightforward, ‘exoteric’ digest of all theoretical sciences, in such a way that a well-conceived commentary upon these chapters should build upon the most advanced scientific knowledge available at a given time. The perfect commentator should therefore be a leading scientist of his time, irrespective of his religious affiliation.
Gregor Schwarb (SOAS University of London) is currently a fellow at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem and works on several research projects related to manuscripts from the Second Firkovič Collection at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg.He studied theology, philosophy and Jewish studies in Freiburg (CH), Jerusalem and Damascus. His research focuses on trans-denominational intellectual thought in the pre-modern Islamicate world (https://soas.academia.edu/GregorSchwarb). Between 2004 and 2013 he promoted a series of research projects at the Institute of Islamic Studies of the Freie Universität Berlin leading up to the formation of the Research Unit Intellectual History of the Islamicate World (2011-13). After 2016 he acted as editor-in-chief of Index Islamicus and visiting scholar at SOAS, University of London
Communities of Knowledge Usaybia.net Tagging, Prosopography, and Networks
Nathan P. Gibson, Nadine Löhr, Robin Schmahl
University of Munich (LMU)
The project “Communities of Knowledge: Interreligious Networks of Scholars in Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa’s History of the Physicians” aims to examine the social encounters of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars in the Abbasid Near East, broadly defined as 750–1258. While the fact of exchange between scholars of many different communities during this period is well established, and their accomplishments are well known, the ways in which this exchange occurred are not as well researched. Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa’s (1203–1270 AD) biographical dictionary provides rich information about such interactions, which sometimes occurred directly between scholars, but other times involved much larger networks of people, including patrons, patients, family members, rulers, and slaves.
The project asks, in general, how Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa depicts these networks, as well as, more specifically, which people, places, and types of communication were involved in them. This project demo will explain the different stages of this analysis. First, we identify and “tag” people and places in the source text. Next, we use these tags to create prosopographical nuggets called “factoids,” which encapsulate many different assertions throughout the text about the people involved and form the basis for mapping their relationships as a network. Finally, we analyze these networks, using quantitative metrics to focus our attention on the persons, places, or features in the network that call for in-depth qualitative study. We anticipate—and our preliminary results suggest—that this process will bring to light specific but underappreciated aspects of interreligious exchange.
The “Communities of Knowledge” project is funded by the “Kleine Fächer – Große Potentiale” program of the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education, 2018–2021.
- Students, academics, and anyone else interested may register by clicking on any of the registration links. This will take you to a Zoom page, where you can select any or all of the nine sessions to attend virtually. The number of Zoom participants for each session is limited to 100.
- Registered participants will be sent drafts of research papers to read and comment on ahead of time. We'll use the web tool Hypothes.is to do this collaboratively. You can get a free Hypothes.is account here, and you'll receive an email ahead of the session containing a link to read the paper and another link to join the private Hypothes.is group where you can comment or ask questions.
- During the live Zoom sessions, you'll hear two presentations and, for research paper discussions, 1–2 responses from invited participants. The remainder of the time will be open for you to interact with the speaker, so come with questions!
- Proceedings: Revised papers from the forum will be submitted to a special issue of medieval worlds: comparative & interdisciplinary studies, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ISSN 2412-3196).
All times are Central European Time (CET). Logistical support has been provided by Usaybia.net team members Vanessa Birkhahn and Malinda Tolay.
From the eighth century to the thirteenth century and beyond, scholars in the Abbasid and neighboring realms pioneered study in medicine, mathematics, the astral arts, and many other disciplines. Scholarly treatises from that era together with biographical sources such as Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa's History of Physicians and documentary texts from the Cairo Genizah show that this scholarly activity was not isolated to a single community. Instead, it emerged from a rich exchange between scholars affiliated with many different communities: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Samaritan, and others. Sometimes this exchange occurred through books or letters while at other times it was face-to-face in formal, institutional settings, side-by-side in the workplace, or even mediated through patrons, servants, or family members.
In the framework of the project "Communities of Knowledge" (funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research), we invite contributions to a series of discussions on the topic of person-to-person knowledge exchange among Near Eastern communities during Abbasid rule.