Interfaith · Religion

Guiding Jewish/Muslim Relations Through the Life of Maimonides, the 12th Century Jewish Scholar

Source: CIAS
Source: CIAS

Maimonides did not think it was healthy for the soul to have “unbounded desires” which “is never stated with pursuing passions.” Referencing Jewish Holy Scripture (Koheles 5:9) he argued in The Guide that a person who has a covetous soul “will not be sated with all the wealth of the world.” Maimonides’ thought mirrors Rumi, the Sufi poet who wrote later in the 13th century that those who know “the value of every article of merchandise… don’t know the value of [their] own soul, it’s all foolishness.” Maimonides and Rumi encouraged people to move beyond materialism. Instead they wanted people to live generous and compassionate lives.

Maimonides’ passion for knowledge and his willingness to join ideas from other cultures into his philosophy serves as an important reminder and useful tool in building bridges of intercultural understanding. Instead of focusing on cultural differences, he worked to find areas of common ground. In this light Maimonides’ life is an example of how people living in diverse societies can work together to build stronger communities.

Maimonides’ legacy reminds us of the great Jewish saying of tikkun olam, “to heal a fractured world.” In searching outside the realm of his own cultural tradition for wisdom, Maimonides showed us how we can build on our commonalities through a process of mixing. His life is proof that people of various backgrounds can break down walls which divide us upon our differences.

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