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Jan Thiele (Alumnus BGSMCS)

Jan Thiele

Die Theologie des Zayditen al-Ḥasan ar-Raṣṣāṣ. Rezeption und Entwicklung bahšamitischer Lehren im Jemen des 6./12. Jahrhunderts

Dissertationsprojekt (2008 - 2012):

Die Theologie des Zayditen al-Ḥasan ar-Raṣṣāṣ. Rezeption und Entwicklung bahšamitischer Lehren im Jemen des 6./12. Jahrhunderts.

The Muʿtazila was one of the most important rational schools in the history of Muslim theology. From the 11th century onwards, the school’s influence gradually deteriorated within Sunnī Islam as rival theological movements gained predominance. Muʿtazilism continued to flourish, however, among other denominational strands. Shīʿīs, specifically the Zaydī community, as well as Jewish scholars, proved to be particularly open to Muʿtazilī influence and gradually adopted its tenets. As almost the entire literary tradition of the Muʿtazila was lost or destroyed in Sunnī Islam, the most important primary sources on Muʿtazilī thought are to be found today in Yemeni and Jewish manuscript collections.

During the 12th century, the reception of Basran Muʿtazilism experienced a sudden rise among the Zaydīs of Yemen. Their Imams began supporting the establishment of an indigenous Basran Muʿtazilī school, thereby preserving numerous Muʿtazilī theological sources that would otherwise have been lost. One of the most important representatives of this school was al-Ḥasan al-Raṣṣāṣ (d. 1188 C.E.). He left behind an extensive body of works that provides a unique perspective on the vibrant intellectual atmosphere of 12th century Yemen. In highly sophisticated texts, he focused on subjects like ontology, causality and a specific theory of attributes that has become known as the theory of “states” (aḥwāl). He is therefore a rare case of a Muʿtazilī thinker who left a comprehensive and systematised account of his natural philosophy.

Jan Thiele’s study makes extensive use of hitherto unexplored manuscripts, thereby providing new insight into a largely unknown chapter of Zaydī and Muslim doctrinal history. With its focus on the later Muʿtazila, the study aims at conveying a nuanced understanding of diachronic developments in the school’s teachings in order to refine a rather static perception that prevails in modern scholarship.

Erstgutachterin: Prof. Dr. Sabine Schmidtke

Zweitgutachter: Prof. Dr. Michael Bongardt