Shari L. Lowin

Biography

My research centers on the interplay between Judaism and Islam in the early and early medieval Islamic periods, c. 800-1200 CE, focusing mainly on  the development of Jewish and Muslim exegetical narratives. I am particularly interested in the ways in which the Muslim and Jews living in Islamic societies interacted with one another, namely as they contributed to and drew from each other’s exegetical corpus on shared scriptural forefathers. Earlier scholarship has attributed any similarities between the two textual traditions to Judaism’s influence on Islam. However, this is an oversimplified reading of the materials that does not take into account both Islam’s original creativity and Judaism’s openness to influence from outside traditions.  

The most recent fruits of my interest in the relationship between Judaism and Islam is Arabic and Hebrew Love Poems of al-Andalus (Routledge, 2013). In the seven chapters of this book, I examine Hebrew and Arabic eros poetry (shirat esheq/ `ishq poems) of religious scholars in 10th-13th century Muslim Spain. I investigate the ways in which religious scholars incorporated and manipulated their tradition’s sacred scriptural imagery in their decidedly secular poems of physical passion. This perspective has been largely overlooked by scholars of Golden Age Spain, who maintain that scriptural allusions serve mostly as literary ornaments to the poems. I compare the scripturally inflected eros poems of these religious scholars with the exegetical Jewish and Muslim materials on the same scriptural accounts and characters. Such a comparison reveals a deeper trend at work. Namely, the Jewish scholar-poets of Muslim Spain used their desire poems as alternate sites for subversive biblical exegesis. The Muslim scholar-poets, by contrast, used religious materials in order to justify profane expressions of earthly love.

My earlier work on Judaism and its relationship with Islam focused on the narratives of Abraham and on accounts of enemies of God in the midrash aggadah and in the ḥadīth.  In one such study, a monograph entitled The Making of a Forefather: Abraham in Islamic and Jewish Exegetical Narratives (Brill, 2006), I demonstrate that while Judaism and Islam used each other’s narratives to create narratives of sacred history, they tweaked and adjusted each other’s accounts in their retellings. In the case of the shared forefather Abraham, they did this in order to portray Abraham as the epitome of particularly Muslim or Jewish values.

At Stonehill, I teach courses on a variety of topics in Islam and Judaism, as well as a popular team-taught LC course that travels with the students to Europe.

Education

  • B.A., Columbia College, Columbia University, 1993
  • Ph.D., Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, 2002

Accomplishments

  • Professional Development Grant, Stonehill College (Summer 2012, 2009, 2007, 2004, 2003)
  • Yad HaNadiv/ Beracha Foundation Fellowship, Fellow (2009-2010)
  • American Council of Learned Societies, Fellow (2008-2009)
  • Albright Institute Associate Fellowship, Fellow (2008-2010)
  • Albright Institute Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellowship, Awarded, Returned (2008-2009)
  • Brandeis Summer Institute in Israel Studies, Fellow (Summer 2006)
  • Conboy Fund Award, Stonehill College (Spring 2006)
  • Davis Grant Fellow, Stonehill College (Spring 2005)
  • Fuerstenberg Fellow, University of Chicago (2001-02, 1999-2000)
  • Whiting Foundation Doctoral Fellowship (2000-2001)
  • Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship (2000-01, 1999-2000)
  • Lady Davis Fellow, Hebrew University (1998-1999)
  • Interuniversity Fellow, Hebrew University (1998-1999)

Courses Taught

  • Demons, Devils, and Satans: Monsters of Religion
  • Islam and the Bible
  • Islamic Tradition
  • Religion & Culture of the Jewish People
  • Hard Rockin' Jews: Judaism & Pop Culture in Israel
  • Women in the Islamic Tradition
  • Sex and God: Jewish and Muslim Poetry of Muslim Spain