Between Mysticism and Philosophy

Sufi Language of Religious Experience in Judah Ha-Levi's Kuzari

By Diana Lobel

Subjects: Judaica
Series: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791444528, 290 pages, May 2000
Hardcover : 9780791444511, 290 pages, May 2000

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Table of contents



PART 1. The Language of Relationship: Religious Experience as Connection or Union (Ittisal) and Arrival (Wusul)

A. Sufi and Philosophical Terminology: Use of the Term Ittisal in the Opening Dialogue
B. Shi'ite Terminology
C. The History of the Jewish People as a History of Ittisal
D. Ittisal, Asceticism, and Mitsvot
E. Ittisal, Immortality, and the Afterlife

PART 2. The Language of Human Striving: Qiyas, Ijtihad, Taqlid

A. Qiyas: The Legal Context
B. Qiyas: The Philosophical Context
C. Qiyas: The Context of Mysticism and Pietism
D. Qiyas: The Context of Paganism and the Occult

PART 3. The Language of Perception: Religious Experience as Witness (Mushahada) and Taste (Dhawq)

PART 4. The Language of Prophecy

A. Prophecy as Witness (Mushahada)
B. Prophecy as Divine Inspiration (Wahy, Ilham, Ta'yıd, Nubuwwa)

PART 5. The Language of Intimacy (Uns), Longing (Shawq) and Love ('Ishq)






A. Primary Texts
B. Secondary Literature




A. Names and Subjects
B. Passages in the Kuzari

A revealing study of this important medieval Jewish poet and his relation to Islamic thought.


Judah Ha-Levi (1075–1141), a medieval Jewish poet, mystic, and sophisticated critic of the rationalistic tradition in Judaism, is the focus of this ground-breaking study. Diana Lobel examines his influential philosophical dialogue, Sefer ha-Kuzari, written in Arabic and later translated into Hebrew, which broke religious and philosophical convention by infusing Sufi terms for religious experience with a new Jewish theological vision. Intellectually engaging, clear, and accessible, Between Mysticism and Philosophy is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the intertwined worlds of Jewish and Islamic philosophy, religion, and culture.

Diana Lobel is Anna Smith Fine Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at Rice University.


"…Lobel's book is an excellent and fascinating piece of scholarship, an indispensable tool for gaining a clearer comprehension of the Kuzari in the light of its Islamic background, as well as a fine explanation of the basic ideas of a thinker whose work continues to exercise influence on Jewish thought. " — Journal of the American Oriental Society

"Guided by the late Harry A. Wolfson's observation that 'concepts ride on the back of terms,' Diana Lobel offers a deeply learned, yet broad-ranging account of how Ha-Levi adapted the religious terminology of Jewish and Islamic sources to provide a compelling exposition and defense of rabbinic Judaism. Moving with equal facility between legal, philosophical, poetic, and mystical texts, she provides balanced and judicious analyses of the key terms and concepts of religious experience and elucidates Ha-Levi's rhetorical strategies in employing them. In addition, she shows repeatedly and convincingly how Ha-Levi co-opted Sufi terminology to fit a Jewish religious context. Rich in insight and erudition, this study represents a superb contribution to our understanding of Ha-Levi's religious enterprise. " — Barry S. Kogan, author of Averroes and the Metaphysics of Causation

"This is a very fine work of scholarship, covering central themes both in medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophy and mysticism. " -- Alfred L. Ivry, author of Al-Kindi's Metaphysics: A Translation of Ya'qub ibn Ish'aq al-Kindi's Treatise "On First Philosophy"