Culture, Global, Religion

Reclassifying Rambam?

The Bahraini Gulf Daily News reported Friday of an exhibit at the La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art in the Bahraini capitol of Manama showcasing rare Islamic manuscripts, metal work, woodwork and textiles from throughout the Arab world.
The article contains this nugget:

[French-Lebanese collector and bibliophile Antoine Abi-Heila] said the rarest book in the collection was by an Arab-Jewish philosopher called Moses Ben Maimonides.
The book is dated 1654 and is written in the Arabic language with Hebrew characters.

This is the first time I’ve seen the Rambam referred to as “Arab-Jewish”. Is the inclusion of the Rambam in a showcase of Islamica a good thing or a bad thing?

8 thoughts on “Reclassifying Rambam?

  1. Could be a translation thing, but I’ve heard of other Jews from Egypt and Morocco being called that. However, since he was born in Spain, it seems wrong on another account…

  2. Actually, it isn’t bad. (I don’t think it is bad.) It tends to point out that Rambam was culturally an Arab (why else would he write in Arabic) but religiously Jewish.
    Traditionally, many people in the Arab world refer to Mizrachi (Oriental) Jews, specifically the ones the emigrated from Arab countries since the founding of Israel, as Jewish Arabs.

  3. Y-Love, it’s nothing to get excited about. Academically, the Rambam is often classified as an Arab philosopher, or perhaps more appropriately, a Muslim philosophers. Recall that the Rambam’s philosophy is learned not from Jewish, Hebrew sources, but rather through Greek and Hellenistic sources, by the way of their Muslim and Arabic translators and interpreters.
    As to the comment of the Rambam being from Spain. Maimo was born in Muslim Spain – a palce where Jews and non-Jews alike spoke Arabic. Due to religious persecution he fled to Cairo, where he was very successful. Almost all of his writing (the Mishneh Torah is one of the few exceptions) is in what was then a common Judeo-Arabic dialect. Sort of like a yiddish or a ladino. It was mostly Arabic, but written with Hebrew characters.

  4. I’ve heard Rambam refered to as an Arab before plenty of times. And he def. was very familiar with Arab philosophy and many Arab philosophers were familiar with his work and still are.
    I’d say it’s a good thing b/c its historically correct. Many Muslims did and still do study Rambam(or Musa ibn Maimon)’s stuff as part of their own philosophical education.

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