SRP Webinar by Ms Lin Jing, PhD Candidate, Religious Studies in Peking University
Jewish Representations of Islam in Medieval Thought with a Particular Focus on the Work of Saadia Gaon
Recently, Islamic-Jewish relations have weakened due to tensions between Israel and Arab countries, but for over a millennium Jews lived peacefully alongside Muslims. In the Middle Ages, there was much cultural openness and exchange. Arabic was their shared language, serving as a medium of wide-ranging influences. Jewish culture reached one of its peaks within the frame of a common Jewish-Muslim culture.
A representative scholar of this medieval Judeo-Arabic culture was Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882-947). His Book of Beliefs and Opinions was the first systematic attempt to integrate Jewish theology with philosophical principles, and was strongly influenced by Islamic kalam.”The crucial arguments of his philosophical work bear the stamp of the Mutazilites, as well as its structure and writing style.” His literary works, including poetry and Hebrew grammar, are important landmarks in the history of exchange between Hebrew and Arabic. Saadia Gaon was a religious leader who critically applied his knowledge of Islamic-Arabic resources to preserve Jewish tradition in a time of transformation. His thoughts passed on to later generations and significantly influenced the later course of Jewish civilization. His works are explored as an example of how Islam influenced Medieval Judaism, and elite Jewish attitudes towards Islam in that era.
Ms Lin Jing is pursuing a PhD in Religious Studies in the Peking University, and is a graduate from the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), China. She is interested in Jewish Studies. She has been on attachment to the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme, RSIS, since September 2020. She was previously a visiting PhD student at the Philosophy Department of the School of Humanities, NTU.