Publication Date

Summer 6-1-1999

Journal

ARC: The Journal of the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University

Volume

27

First Page

137

Last Page

159

Abstract

SETTING: Cordoba, Spain, 1135 CE, 29th year of the reign of ‘Ali “amir al-muslimin,” second king of the Berber Almoravid dynasty, rulers of Moorish Spain from 1071 to 1147. Cordoba, the capital of Andalus and the center of the Almoravid holdings in Spain, is a bustling cosmopolitan center, a crossroads for Europe and the Middle East, and the meeting-point of three religious traditions. Most significantly, Cordoba at this time is the hub of European intellectual activity. From the square—itself impressively large and surrounded by a massive collonade, the regularity and ordered beauty of which typifies the Moorish taste for symmetry (so beloved of M.C. Escher)—can be seen the huge Cordoban mosque, erected in the 8th-century by Khalif Abd-er-Rahman I to the glory of Allah, oft forgiving, most merciful. It is the second largest building in Islam, and the bastion of the still entrenched but soon to fade Muslim presence in western Europe.

SCENE: Three figures sit upon stone benches beneath the westernmost colonnade of the Cordoban mosque, involved in an animated, though friendly discussion on matters of faith and reason, knowledge and God, language and logic. The host is none other than Jehudah Halevi, and his esteemed guests Master Peter Abelard and the venerable Råmånuja, whose obviously advanced age belies his youthful voice, gleaming eye, quick hands, and general exuberance. It is autumn, early evening…