Project Summary

by Sabine Schmidtke

The project will focus on theological rationalism in the medieval world of Islam between the 10th and the 13th centuries beyond and across denominational borders. Within this field, all major desiderata have been identified and will be addressed in a number of primary and secondary sub-projects.

The project is frontier research in several respects. It aims at crossing the boundaries between three main disciplines of academia, viz. Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies and the study of Eastern Christianity. The followers of the three denominations constituted a unique cultural and intellectual commonality in the medieval world of Islam. They shared Arabic as their common language and often read the same books, so that a continuous, multi-dimensional exchange of ideas, texts, and forms of discourse was the norm rather than the exception. This widely accepted historical reality notwithstanding, scholars usually opt for a one-dimensional approach with an (often exclusive) focus on either Muslim, Jewish or Christian authors and their writings. The project aims at radically breaking away from this established one-dimensional pattern replacing it with a multi-dimensional interdisciplinarity that is justified by the historical reality of the periods and regions under investigation. Yet it goes beyond "mere" interdisciplinarity in that the applicant furthermore seeks to connect between the leading researchers in the field who are not only separated by the established disciplinary boundaries but also by political ones. Close cooperation will be sought with researchers from the West and the Islamic world and an attempt will be made to bring them together during the two international workshops. The primary purpose in bringing scholars from such diverse disciplines and worlds together is to create a new quality within research. As such, the project also serves a wider political purpose: In a world in which borders – national, religious, cultural and economic – increasingly gain significance, the project is meant to demonstrate that intellectual history characteristically disregards any such borders and that intellectual symbiosis was often the norm rather than the exception, and that this holds true particularly in one of today’s hottest conflict areas, the Middle East.