Madrasa-Midrasha: Mysticism in Islam & Judaism

Thursday, February 20th 2020, 6:00pm
Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Road Berkeley, CA 94709

Both Islam and Judaism place an emphasis upon a sacred revealed text as a central element in the mystical experience. Join us as we consider the powerful place of the Qur'an and the Torah in the mystical imaginations of these religious traditions. Reception to follow.

Mystical Authority and Apophaticism in Shi’i Islam - Dr. Todd Lawson

Authority (both spiritual and social or “political”) in Twelver Shi’i Islam is indicated by the Arabic word waláya. This is a frequent Qur’anic word with an extremely rich semiotic profile. In this presentation we will explore and highlight the mystical dimensions and meanings of the word and relate this to the strong apophatic theology of Islam as such and Shi’ism in particular.

Todd Lawson, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Islamic Thought at the University of Toronto. He has published books and articles on Quranic exegesis, Islamicate apocalyptic, Shi’ism and the Bábí and Bahá’í religions. His most recent books are: Being Human: Bahai Perpsectives on Islam, Modernity and Peace (Kalimat 2019) and Tafsir as Mystical Experience: Intimacy and Ecstasy in Qur’an Commentary  (Brill 2018). He lives in Montreal with his wife Barbara.

Mystical Authority in Kabbalah - Dr. Daniel Matt

Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, deeply respects the literal meaning of the Bible. And yet, it constantly creates, or discovers, new layers of meaning. How does it manage to balance the “ancient” and the “new”? What is the source of its bold creativity and its mystical authority? We will examine these questions by studying several passages from Kabbalistic texts.

Daniel Matt, PhD, is a scholar of Kabbalah and the Zohar. He has published over a dozen books, including The Essential Kabbalah (translated into eight languages), Zohar: Annotated and Explained, and God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony between Science and Spirituality (revised edition, 2016). Several years ago Daniel completed an 18-year project of translating and annotating the Zohar. In 2016, Stanford University Press published his ninth volume of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, concluding the Zohar’s main commentary on the Torah. For this work, Daniel has been honored with a National Jewish Book Award and a Koret Jewish Book Award. Daniel lives in Berkeley with his wife Hana. Currently he is writing a biography of Elijah the Prophet for the Yale series, Jewish Lives. He also teaches Zohar online.

The Collaborative Learning Space is the large glass room on the main level of the library.