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Medieval Exegesis and Religious DifferenceCommentary, Conflict, and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean$
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Ryan Szpiech

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264629

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264629.001.0001

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The Father of Many Nations

The Father of Many Nations

Abraham in al-Andalus

(p.29) 1 The Father of Many Nations
Medieval Exegesis and Religious Difference

Sarah Stroumsa

Fordham University Press

This chapter considers the figure of the Patriarch Abraham as developed by Jewish and Muslim philosophers in al-Andalus. In particular, Sarah Stroumsa compares two specific cases, one Muslim and the other Jewish: that of the Cordoban Neoplatonist philosopher Ibn Masarra (d. 931) and Cordoban-born Aristotelian philosopher and Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides, d. 1204). After questioning the appropriateness of the term “Abrahamic religions” in comparing Judaism and Islam in the Iberian Peninsula, she shows that both writers evoke the figure of Abraham, albeit in idiosyncratic yet parallel ways. Stroumsa compares Ibn Masarra’s unconventional discussion of Abraham to traditional Muslim and Jewish characterizations, including those of Jewish mystical texts such as the Sefer Yeẓira and contemporary Jewish philosophers such as Isaac Israeli. She also shows that Maimonides, in similar fashion, seems to have drawn his ideas about Abraham departing from the “Sabian” polytheism around him through contemplation in part from contemporary Muslim interpretations of the Sabians. Her analysis problematizes the theological appeal to Abraham as a common father figure at the same time as it traces a rich commerce of reading and interpreting across religious lines.

Keywords:   Abraham, Abrahamic tradition, Ibn Masarra, Sefer Yeẓirah, Isaac Israeli, Moses Maimoides, Sabians

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