BRAIS 2016


In Collaboration with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies & Human Rights Consortium

London, 11–12 April 2016 

Senate House, University of London 




Day 1:


09:00 – 09:30: Registration


09:30 – 09:45: Welcome


09:45 – 11:15: Session 1. Plenary.


The History of Islamic Art and Architecture

Room: Beveridge Hall, Chair: Hugh Goddard (University of Edinburgh)

Doris Behrens-Abouseif (SOAS), Mamluk Architecture: Mirror of the Sultanate.

Tim Stanley (Victoria and Albert Museum), Objects Tell Many Tales: Four Stories from Later Islamic Art.


11:15 – 11:35: Break


11:35 – 13:05: Session 2. Five concurrent panels.


Panel 1: The Qur’an: Concepts and Style

Room: Bedford, Chair: Marianna Klar (SOAS)

Ramon Harvey (Cambridge Muslim College), The Quest for Qisṭ: Defining Societal Justice in the Qur’an.

Although societal justice is recognised as a leitmotif of the Qur’an, it escapes easy definition and has received inadequate attention from academic scholars. In this paper, I make an original attempt to define the significant Qur’anic term qisṭ based on a semantic and intra-textual analysis of the Qur’an’s moral narrative of human history. I argue that qisṭ often refers specifically to an objective condition of justice upheld within society and can be distinguished from the virtue of ʿadl(equity). By defining qisṭ alongside key concepts that inform the scripture’s moral world view, such as khalīfa (steward), dīn (religion; indebtedness to God), kitāb (Writ), ḥikma (wisdom; wise purpose) and mīzān (Scale), I lay the foundation for a new theory of Qur’anic ethics. The insights presented in this paper are the basis for my forthcoming thematic study on societal justice in the Qur’an.

Ryan Woloshen (Wayne State University), An Analysis of Shifting Rhymes in Sura 52.

Many early Meccan suras are characterized by blocks of verses with identical end-rhymes that treat a coherent theme, with shifts in end-rhyme corresponding to shifts in theme. However, some early Meccan suras display frequent shifting end-rhymes that do not clearly correspond to shifting theme, which raises questions about why such rhyme shifts occur, how they relate to theme, and what implications they have for the development of the sura as a textual unit. My paper offers a close analysis of Sura 52, which exemplifies apparent aberrations in rhyme, in order to argue for a rather coherent pattern of rhyme shifting that I tentatively call ring-structured rhyme. Adopting the theme-cum-structure analytical framework epitomized in Ernst’s How to Read the Qur’an, I demarcate basic thematic blocks of the sura and map out the end-rhymes of all its verses. Seeing the emergent theme and rhyme patterns in light of each other reveals a distinctive rhyme scheme that elegantly delineates the thematic blocks. Within each block are pairs of verse-final letters, one I call high-frequency and the other low-frequency, based on their frequency of use. It is the numerical incidence and spatial distribution of these low-frequency-letter verses vis-à-vis the high-frequency-letter verses that manifest an elegant—implying deliberate—ring-structured rhyme pattern.

Abdulla Galadari (Al-Maktoum College/ Masdar Institute), The Son or the Temple of God? A Study of the Term ‘Ibn Allah’.

Qur’an 9:30 is the only passage in the Qur’an that mentions the term “Ibn Allah,” which is usually understood as the Son of God. Early Muslim exegetes suggest that the circumstances of revelation is when a Jew or a group of three Jews come to Muḥammad making this statement. Some classical exegetes suppose that there were perhaps a Jewish sect that made this claim. With the emergence of Western scholarship on this topic, it has been suggested that it is perhaps a misreading from apocryphal work. This paper argues that the term “ibn” is rooted in the word “bny,” which means to build. The Book of Ezra uses this term and its morphological permutations plentiful times, including the term “ibn” to mean building the Second Temple in Jerusalem. It is argued that the passage may be understood as the Jews stating Ezra is the Temple of God (an allusion to the Second Temple) and the Christians state that the Messiah is the Temple of God, which moves in parallel with the Gospel of St. John that gives an allusion that Jesus is the Temple in the Body.

Shaul Bartal (Bar Ilan University), Reading the Qurʼān: Hamas and Islamic Jihad explanation of Sura 17.

Sura 17, in particular verses 1-8. What is the meaning of verse 5 that the Jews corrupted the land - twice? Which land? Is it Medina, or Jerusalem? Reading  books of Hamas and Islamic  Jihad  prisoners  and  scholars  revealed  that  this  is  form  of prophecy. For example Fahmi  'Aid Ramadhan al-Mashaira, Hamas prisoner since 2002. "The Jews corrupted this land, the first time in Medina and al-Hijaz...the second time of their corruption is here in our land, in Palestine." Another version in the Islamic Jihad version is that the first time was also here in Palestine, and not in Medina. This political interpretation of the Qur’ān justifies the saber (patience) principle of the Islamic stream in the Palestinian society. It is written already in the Qur’ān as Sheikh Ahmad Yassin  said in 1998. The Muslim Palestinian movements are Allah servants that will fulfill this prophecy. Verse 104, in the same chapter said another prophecy about Beni Israel. "Dwell in the land, and when there comes the promise of the Hereafter, We will bring you forth in [one] gathering." What promise?  When?  How do Muslim scholars deal with such contradictions between the verses?


Panel 2: Defining Islamic ‘Orthodoxy’

Room: Bloomsbury, Chair: Ayman Shihadeh (SOAS)

Kadir Gömbeyaz (Kocaeli University), Two Main Sources of Ottoman Firaq Tradition: Sayf al-Dīn al-ʿĀmidī and ʿUmar al-Nasafī.

Classifying theological Islamic dissidents/sects and their views has been a scholarly activity for Muslim scholars from the earliest times. Under the influence of the functional content of the 73-sect ḥadīth saying that the Muslim community will be divided into 73 sects, firaq lists with 73 items appeared and has gained currency as a religious literary genre until now. Ottoman scholars, too, wrote books and treatises including such these lists. When the related literature during the Ottoman time is examined, two main firaq lists was widely referred to and frequently repeated: One is the list made by an Ashʿarī scholar Sayf al-Dīn al-ʿĀmidī (d. 631/1233) in his Abkār al-afkār, which Ottoman scholars mostly became aware of it through writings of ʿAḍuḍ al-Dīn al-Ījī and al-Jurjānī. The other is the list of a Ḥanafī scholar ʿUmar al-Nasafī (d. 537/1142) in his tafsīr, which is a list abridged from that of Abū Muṭīʿ Makḥūl al-Nasafī’s firaq work, al-Radd ʿalā l-ahwā. Consequently, Ottoman firaq tradition was largely dominated by both Ashʿarite and Eastern Ḥanafite Firaq Traditions. The present paper will examine the samples and characteristics of Ottoman firaq tradition with special reference to the two mentioned influential firaq lists. Also it will point out the fact that there was not almost any influence of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s firaq works on Ottoman firaq tradition although al-Rāzī was a surely determinative figure on Ottoman religious thought, and will briefly discuss the reasons behind it.

Jon Hoover (University of Nottingham), Early Mamluk Ash‘ari responses to Ibn Taymiyya on God’s attributes.

Modern research on theological production in the early Mamluk sultanate of Egypt and Syria has focused extensively on Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), but this does not mean that he was generally representative of early Mamluk theological discourse. On the contrary, he expressed controversial views that others sought to marginalize and quell, even by state sanction. It is apparent from Ibn Taymiyya’ s writings that his primary opponents were Ash‘ ari in theology. However, the thought of these opponents has not been examined from their own writings, and in fact very little is known about Ashʿarism under the early Mamluks. To begin rectifying this lack, this paper will examine how three of Ibn Taymiyya’ s contemporary opponents interpreted texts such as “The All-Merciful sat on the Throne” (Q. 20:5) that apparently suggest corporeal and spatial attributes for God. The three opponents are Ibn Jahbal al-Kilabi (d. 733/1333), Safi al-Din al-Hindi (d. 715/1315-6), and Badr al-Din Ibn Jama‘ a (d. 733/1333). The paper will show that these scholars all worked within a post-classical Ash‘ ari framework that was incommensurable with Ibn Taymiyya’ s theology but differed in their attitudes toward non-literal reinterpretation (ta’ wil) of God’ s attributes implying corporeality and spatial extension.

Necati Alkan (University of Bamberg), The Ottoman Concept of ‘Correction of the Belief’: Its Roots and Application.

Studies about heterodox minority groups in the late Ottoman period of Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909) discuss the application of the official policy of ‘correction of the belief’ (tashih-i itikad). The Hamidian administration built mosques and medreses in the empire’s periphery as a measure to ‘civilise heretics’, make them obedient and ‘good’ Muslims and so prevent foreign Christian intervention that aimed at protecting and converting these groups. The higher aim of this policy was the legitimization of the sultan as caliph of all Muslims and the centralization of his power. Here we shall try to define the hitherto neglected roots of the concept of tashih-i itikad. This Islamic concept (Ar. tashih al-iȽtiqad) is not mentioned in the Qur’an but discussed in books about the principles of Islam. It is linked to the qur’anic ‘enjoining good and forbidding evil’, and concerns the rectification of the religious beliefs of the Muslim individual in relation to social and political life. The Ottoman ruler was commissioned to maintain the order. We shall outline how throughout Ottoman history conversion campaigns were carried out to enforce Sunni orthodoxy in order to preserve or restore the order in the face of the threat of heterodoxy.


Panel 3: When Fiqh Meets the State: New Problems and Solutions in Islamic law

Room: Woburn A, Chair: Justin Jones (University of Oxford)

Sarah Albrecht (Free University Berlin), Relocating Dār al-Islām in the 21st Century, or how to Measure the “Islamicity” and “Sharia Compliance” of Modern States.

In the course of debates about how to interpret the sharīʿa for Muslims in the West, Muslim scholars and intellectuals found themselves faced with the challenge of how to contextualize and conceptualize their juristic approaches in the light of the centuries-long discourse about Muslims living under non-Muslim rule. A key question they addressed was how to locate secular democratic states within traditional Islamic legal understandings of territoriality. Starting from the division of the world into a “territory of Islam” (dār al-islām), a “territory of unbelief” (dār al-kufr), and a “territory of treaty” (dār al-ʿahd), prominent voices in this discourse, such as Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, Ṭāhā Jābir al-‘Alwānī, Saʿīd Ramaḍān al-Būṭī, and Tariq Ramadan, have reviewed the applicability of this territorial paradigm in the 21st century: What actually renders a territory “Islamic” in today’s world? How can one measure the “sharīʿa compliance” of modern states? Is the West necessarily less “Islamic” than self-declared “Islamic states”? And are these traditional territorial concepts relevant at all to contemporary juristic debates? This paper provides insight into the diverse ways in which scholars have responded to these questions. By outlining how some of them adapt criteria that have traditionally been applied to define the “Islamicity” of territories to today’s geopolitical realities, it illustrates how they do not only combine elements from across the madhāhib but also blend traditional criteria with decidedly modern ones.

Pooya Razavian (University of Oxford), Towards a Social Epistemology of Ijtihād: The Influence of Labour Unions on Iran's Labour Law.

This paper will argue that laypersons have helped to shape contemporary approaches to ijtihād. An analysis of the history of Iran's labour law will show how a traditionalist approach to Islamic law, one which excluded workers in a version presented in the early 80's, was countered by the protests of labour unions. These protests helped to push the debate in favor of those who wanted to exercise a more dynamic form of ijtihād. The debate on labour law led to the recognition of the importance of maṣlaḥa, expedience, and to the development of the Expediency Discernment Council which finally ratified a new labour law in 1990. Furthermore, I will argue that this case gives weight to developing a social epistemology of ijtihād. The inclusion of laypersons whose lives are affected by the rulings of the mujtahid leads to an epistemic gain. It will also be shown that there are already categories within uṣūl al-fiqh which can be used to justify the inclusion of laypersons.

Justin Jones (University of Oxford), Fitna in the Family: Talfīq, Trickery and New Legal Strategies in Muslim Divorce Law in 1930s India.

In the late-1930s, the colonial state in India passed the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, which extended the grounds upon which Muslim women could initiate divorce proceedings against husbands. By established interpretations, this legislation was spearheaded by ‘modernist’ Muslim politicians and social reformers, against ‘conservative’ or ‘priestly’ forces within Muslim society. Instead, by analysing a number of fatāwa and legal treatises from this decade, this paper argues that it was in fact a number of ʿulamāʾ who, responding to a perceived condition of fitna (decadence/immorality) afflicting Indian Muslim families, initiated and developed these discussions. Engaging a language of dire necessity (żarūrat-i-shadīda), and employing adaptive legal tools from within the Islamic legal tradition such as talfīq (borrowing from across madhāhib) and ḥiyal (justifiable circumvention of declared rulings), these ʿulamāʾ sought means to evade the established constraints of Hanafi fiqh and establish new grounds for legal reformulation. In doing so, they were able to reconfigure aspects of divorce law in India, at once influencing state legislation and re-establishing an interpretative adaptability within sharīʿa which they could contrast with the inflexible, more codified version of Muslim laws hitherto implemented by the colonial courts.

Simon Wolfgang Fuchs (University of Cambridge), Diverging Fates: Madhhab Identities in the Middle East and South Asia.

This paper intends to explore the relevance and shifting conceptualizations of the Sunnī madhāhib during the course of the 20th century. Scholarly works on modern Islamic law primarily emphasise experiences of rupture like the adoption of foreign legal sytems and codification attempts by independent nation states that fundamentally undermined the intellectual vigour of these discursive schools. Consequently, “Inter-madhhab surfing” and borrowing from various schools (talfīq) seem to be norm. The rising prominence of Salafī thinkers put the custodians of the commentarial tradition further on the defensive. Yet, if we look beyond the Middle East and focus in particular on South Asia, the Ḥanafī school appears to be well entrenched and thriving. Barelvī and Deobandī ʿulamāʾ debate among each other who most faithfully represents the madhhab's heritage. Taking a comparative view on both the Middle East and South Asia, this paper seeks to explain the diverging fate of the madhhab in both regions. It argues that state control and the bureaucratization of Islam in the modern Middle East must be seen as a key factor for the comparative irrelevance of school identities. In a second step, this contribution also pays attention to the arguments by contemporary scholars about how to revitalize the madhhab as a (once again?) guiding force for the believers.


Panel 4: Re-Examining Muslim Youth in France and Britain

Room: Gordon, Chair: Christopher Moses (University of Cambridge).

Margot Dazey (University of Cambridge), Mapping generational dynamics: Youth Activism in French Revivalist Islam.

Generational competition functions as a key explanatory pattern to understand Islamic revivalism in France. A commonly held narrative traces a linear evolution from ‘blédard’ (Maghrebi Muslim migrants) organisations in the 1980s, to ‘beur’ (French-born Muslims) associations in the 1990s and to ‘salafi’ movements from the 2000s (Kepel, 2012; Haenni, 2006; Roy, 2002). It delineates diverging generational geographies of activism (from homelands, to host societies, to deterritorialised Ummah) as well as conflicting discourses dealing with culture, religion and belonging. Building on in-depth interviews and observations among young Muslims involved in revivalist organisations (e.g., Jeunes musulmans de France, Étudiants musulmans de France), this paper aims at disentangling a number of assumptions underlying such narrative, by suggesting three focal shifts: 1) From static, homogenous generational categorisation towards an analysis of ‘activist trajectories’ and ‘generation micro-units’ among Muslim youth, 2) From explanations in terms of cultural-religious gaps between generations towards a more mundane framing in terms of power relations within organisations, 3) From a focus on contentious dynamics towards an enquiry into processes of intergenerational negotiation and accommodation. Overall, it aims to contribute to better understanding of the history of Muslim youth activism in France, while engaging with recent debates on generational relationships within sociology of activism and social movement theory.

Hira Amin (University of Cambridge), British Muslim Youth: Re-examining intergenerational conflicts.

A common narrative in the literature surrounding British Muslims is the inevitable generational conflict between ‘traditional’ parents and their ‘modern’ British-born children. This ‘clash’ and confusion in identity, the historiography argues, is the primary factor that causes young Muslims to become more religious and use their faith to gain a sense of stability and belonging. This paper aims to re-examine this popular narrative. Instead of focusing on conflict, I argue that it is important to examine how both generations negotiate and adapt. The over-arching emphasis on conflict and resistance obscures the complex and more fluid reality of cooperation and adjustment. Reconstructing and questioning the essentials of Islam is seen to be only a characteristic of second generation British born children. However, research reveals that the first generation, far from simply importing their understandings of religion from their countries of origin, also themselves undergo a process of exploration and adaption.  Moreover, interviews reveal that time is a factor missing from current analysis. There seems to be a lack of appreciation of how the meaning and practice of Islam evolves in an individual over time and how this impacts the family.

Basma Elshayyal, ’Nourishing roots, lending wings’ – The impact of tafsir studies on shaping young Muslim girls’ identity and self-image in London 2000-2013.

It would appear that current prolific offerings seeking to understand and comment on young Muslims’ self-perception revolve almost exclusively around young Muslim men, with few notable exceptions attempting to redress this marked imbalance by portraying young women as agents of change in their own right. (eg Dr. Katherine Brown, KCL / Birmingham). This study showcases the educational pedagogy behind over a decade’s worth of teaching Qur’an to adolescent girls at a London secondary school; the findings of which, in turn, culminated in an intensively analytical PhD study at King’s College, London, focusing on the role of RE generally and Qur’anic studies in particular in shaping young girls’ self-image, identity and faith. (Demirel 2014). Inspired by Dr. Abdullah Sahin’s pioneering approach to holistic Islamic education within a European context and using his unique MSIS model as an aid to evaluation, (Muslim Subjectivity Interview Schedule - Sahin, 2013), this study briefly outlines the evolution of academic thought from Phenomenology to various Critical Realisms, then seeks to present an innovative framework for the delivery of Qur’anic Studies that uncompromisingly demands both academic rigour and theological integrity. Finally, drawing on the author’s own personal training in comparative religious studies and teaching, this paper will conclude by highlighting similar recent educational initiatives emerging from within Christian and Jewish faiths.


Panel 5: Rulers, Rebels and Scholars: Power and Legitimacy in the Medieval Middle East

Room: Woburn B, Chair: Konrad Hirschler (SOAS).

Hasan Al-Khoee (SOAS), Communicating Legitimate Rebellion: The Demonstrative Gestures of anti-Fāṭimid Rebels in the 4th-5th/10th-11th Centuries.

In the century following the Fāṭimid conquest of Egypt in 358/969 and their immediate expansion into Syria, a number of localised revolts against Fāṭimid rule proclaimed the restoration of ʿAbbāsid authority as their cause of action. From occasional minor outbreaks to major rebellions, these varied and disconnected revolts were led by figures of diverse backgrounds, including members of the defeated Ikhshīdīd establishment, local Damascene power-brokers, Turkish mercenary generals and Bedouin chieftains. Whether the revolts of the inhabitants of Tinnis in 361/971 or of regions of Upper Egypt soon after, of the Damascene aḥdāth or of the Turkish general Alp Tegīn in 365/975, or of that decades later led by Nāsir al-Dawla within Egypt in 443/1051, they were nonetheless seemingly united by publically legitimizing their armed action in favour of ʿAbbāsid legitimacy through the use of a consistent stock of symbolic motifs. This paper shall therefore ask how did the deployment by anti-Fāṭimid rebels, of symbols associated with ʿAbbāsid authority, and their engagement in demonstrative public gestures, relay the necessity of engaging in public communication to both legitimise their action and draw support to their cause?

Paula Manstetten (SOAS), Negotiating Power and Authority in 5th-6th/11th-12th Century Syria: Scholars and the Ruling Elites under the Seljūqs and their Successors.

When the Seljūqs expanded their empire into Syria in the second half of the 5th/11th century, they ended a century of relatively unstable rule of the Ismāʿīlī Fāṭimids in the region. This paper takes a look at the interaction of the new Sunni rulers and their successors (the Būrids and Zengids) with the scholarly communities of Damascus and Aleppo. It sheds light on the following questions: How did rulers and their entourage use bonds of patronage with local scholars to stabilise and legitimise their rule? How much room for manoeuvre did scholars have within these negotiations of power and authority, and how could they use these bonds to their own advantage? To answer these questions, the paper explores the attempts of the ruling elites to associate themselves with revered local scholars, and their policies of “importing” loyal Ḥanafī scholars from the Eastern Islamic lands and endowing madrasas for Ḥanafīs and Shāfiʿīs. It looks at the impact of these policies on the scholarly communities of Syria, in particular the increasing institutionalisation of education, and the tensions between and within the different schools of law created by the favouritism of the ruling elites.

Rasmus Bech Olsen (Birckbeck College), Mamlūk Politics and Spatial Practices: Creating a Ceremonial Topography in 7th/14th Century Damascus.

How did the Mamlūk rulers of Damascus assert their claims to power within the urban landscape? Did they rely on previously established local patterns of rulerly behaviour or did they cultivate new ways of presenting the state in public space? In his seminal work Knowledge and Social Practice in Medieval Damascus, 1190 – 1350 (1994) Michael Chamberlain argues that both the Ayyūbids and the Mamlūks ruled Damascus as an audience state whose agents remained spectators and supporters of ceremonial events instead of staging themselves as the protagonists. With regards to ceremonies connected with the major religious institutions inside the walled city this argument certainly rings true. My paper, however, seeks to discuss and reevaluate the concept of the audience state by shifting the focus to the extra-mural quarters of the Damascus with special reference to the Northwestern suburb known as Taḥt al-Qala‛a (lit. beneath the citadel). This suburb saw intensive development during the early 7th/14th century and therefore I wish to examine how state-sponsored building activities in this area related to the ways in which it was used as a setting for ceremonial events.


13:05 – 14:00: Lunch


14:00 – 15:30: Session 3. Five concurrent panels.


Panel 1: Workings of the Soul: Explorations in Psychology, Epistemology and Optics

Room: Bedford, Chair: Roy Jackson (University of Gloucestershire)

Kenneth Goudie (University of St Andrews), Between Ibn al-Mubārak and al-Ghazālī: al-Sulamī and jihād al-nafs.

The Kitāb al-jihād of al-Sulamī (d. 1106) is the earliest extant example of the Muslim response to the First Crusade. At its simplest, it exhorts the Muslims of al-Shām to fight the crusaders: as part of this al-Sulamī calls upon his audience to give precedence to the jihād against their anfus over the jihād against the crusaders. The term nafs (pl. anfus or nufūs) denotes the 'soul' or the 'self', with jihād al-nafs therefore denoting internal, spiritual jihād. Modern scholarship generally equates jihād al-nafs with al-jihād al-akbar, the 'greater jihād', though whether the distinction between the greater jihād and the lesser jihād (that is, military jihād) had any reality outwith scholarly circles is debated. The perfunctoriness with which al-Sulamī uses the term suggests, however, that his audience were familiar with jihād al-nafs. This paper will therefore explore the significance of al-Sulamī's use of the term, focusing in particular on the extent to which his use of the term and his audience's (potential) understanding of it correlated with earlier conceptions of jihād al-nafs, notably in the Kitāb al-jihād of Ibn al-Mubārak (d. 797), and the Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn of al-Ghazālī (d. 1111).

Wahid Amin (Al-Mahdi Institute/University of Oxford), Truth and Truthmaking: Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and the Problem of Nafs al-Amr in Post-Classical Islamic Thought.

Arabic philosophers since the time of al-Fārābī increasingly emphasized the role of mind and mental existence in their attempts to apprise the science of metaphysics by adding to the inherited Aristotelian framework a realm of beings uniquely characterized with a purely mind-dependent status. By contrast, Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī amassed a range of arguments against mental existence to show its invalidity, one such argument being that a concept which is purely mind-dependent so as not to have an extramental referent must therefore be false, thus undermining the philosophers’ claim that knowledge is mental existence. Though intended as an argument against the theory of mental existence al-Rāzī inadvertently presented a new problem in the history of ideas within Islam through an application of Aristotle’s notion of truth as a relation of correspondence. The following paper discusses the metaphysics of truth in a source critical study of post-classical thinkers from Nasir al-Din al-Tusi to Ibn Turka Isfahani and shows how nafs al-amr, a transcendent truthmaking principle, was posited as the corresponding correlate of propositions whose terms could not be referred in extramental being. The paper also shows why later Islamic philosophy cannot exclude the contribution of thinkers in the School of Ibn ʿArabī.

Osman Demir (Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University), Treatise on ruyat Allah in Context of History of Islamic Sciences: Optics in the Treatise of Khatibzada Muhyi al-din.

In the period which begins with Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in history of Islamic Theology, the main address of Muslim theologians became philosophers. As a result it ensured the contents of theological treatises expanded to embrace all philosophical issues. Accordingly, the studies in this period, unlike the ones before al-Ghazali, were strong texts that justifies the main issues of Kalam such as divinity, prophethood and hereafter with the subjects like physics, geometry, astronomy, optics, geography etc. Although the issue of God’s vision (ru’yat Allah) in hereafter had been discussed in the context of Qur’anic verses and hadiths before, it was proven with the help of physics in this period. In fact the scholars such as al-Ash’ari, al-Maturidi, and al-Ghazali give more particular attention to the religious dimension of the issue of ru’yat Allah, although they use concepts like light, colour and confrontation (muqabala). After Ibn Haysam who founded the science of optics in Islam, the concept of vision (ru’yat) was examined in detail in the philosophical kalam works like Sharh al-Mawaqif by al-Jurjani, furthermore specific treatises written on the subject benefited from the findings of optics. An Ottoman scholar of XVth century, Khatibzada Muslih al-Din, in his treatise Risala fi kalam Allah wa-ru’yatihi, discussed the issue of ru’yat Allah with references to the facts and laws of optics. He studied, in thiswork, the vision’s definition, conditions to actualise, factors to affect, and also other concepts such as direction, colour and light in detail. In this way, the arrangement of physcial premises in the direction of meta-physical aims as a main method of kalam was sustained. This paper aims to examine the facts of optics that are mentioned in the treatise in the context of that period’s scientific understanding and the history of Kalam, then to evaluate them withregards to history of Islamic sciences. 


Panel 2: Shi’a Muslims in the UK: Between Local and Global Dynamics

Room: Bloomsbury, Chair: Oliver Sharbrodt (University of Chester).

Chris Heinhold (University of Chester), Organising, mobilising, and debating online: English (language) Shia virtual spaces.

We increasingly live our lives online, or mediated through the tools and spaces of social media. This paper will look at numerous examples of English language Shia activity online. It draws from the larger literature on the use of social media by groups to organise their activities and mobilise support for specific causes or events. This literature has led to debates concerning the effectiveness or otherwise of such virtual bonds. While academic discussion of this topic has touched on many different social actors, the lack of a specific focus on Shia communities in the UK has led to a corresponding lack of information on such groups’ online presence. Through my wider research, concerning generational dynamics within transnational Shia networks, it has become apparent that Shia virtual spaces are also used as a debating space for highly contested religious ideas and practices, as well as the calling to account of religious authority figures. This paper aims to give an overview of English language, British Shia virtual space. Through a number of examples, I will plot how social media is used to create virtual spaces for organising, mobilising, and debate among, young British Shia and their transnational interlocutors.

Zahra Ali (University of Chester), Being a Young Devout Shi’i in London: Religiosity and Multiple Senses of Belonging between the UK and Iraq.

This paper explores the religious beliefs and practices, and the socio-political and transnational self-identifications of young educated British Shi’a (adherent of Twelver Shi’ism) of Iraqi descent living in London. My research is based on a double approach, socio-historical and ethnographic and is guided by an intersectional analysis imbricating concepts of religion, ethnicity, class, sect and translocality. The socio-historical approach looks at the evolution of transnational Iraqi Shi’a networks between Iraq (Najaf-Karbala and Baghdad) and London since the 1990s to today focusing particularly on the post-2003 period. The ethnographic approach relies on semi-structured interviews and participant observation within youth-oriented British-Iraqi Shi’a’s organizations and networks in London. In this paper, I will seek to address the following questions: how do devout British Shi’a of Iraqi descent experience, express and define their religious beliefs and practices? What is their relationship to Shi’a transnational networks and more precisely to Iraq as both their country of origin and as the main land of the Shi’a sacred shrines and religious authority? How does British-Iraqi Shi’a relate and define their relationship to other Muslim communities? In exploring the religiosity and multiple senses of belonging of young educated British-Iraqi Shi’a living in London I intend to enrich the existing, but limited, literature on Shi’a communities in Europe and transnational Shi’a networks and to develop an intersectional and complex understanding of notions of religiosity, belonging-ness and translocality.

Sufyan Abid (University of Chester), An alternative umma: The construction and development of Shia globalism among South Asian Shia Muslim Communities in London.

This paper explores the paradoxical nature of Shia globalism as proposed and propagated by Shia speakers and activists of a South Asian background in London. The paper will elaborate the complexities that the proponents of Shia globalism have to confront with while introducing themselves as an alternative umma vis-á-vis Sunni Islam both within Shia Muslim communities and to the wider public by taking the discourses and practices of South Asian Shia Muslim communities in London as a case study. The paper is based on fieldwork undertook among South Asian Shia communities in London and the analysis is based on both discourses and religious and political practices undertaken by these communities. The Shia speakers and activists based in Britain emphasise unity and consensus about the political leadership of the Supreme Leader in Iran as single representative of global Shia Islam among various sections of Shia Muslims.  The paper also maintains that Shia globalism is not an acceptable position for some sections of Shia Muslim who have their reservations about the hegemonic ambitions of the Supreme Leader in Iran and the ideology and institution of wilayat al-fiqh (guardianship of the Muslim jurist).

Yafa Shanneik (University of South Wales), ‘The Mode of Representation of Otherness’: Female Religious Authority among European Converts to Shia Islam in London.

 Female religious authority within diasporic religious communities manifests itself in various complex ways. This paper examines the relationship between born Shia women and European female converts to Shia Islam competing for authority and leadership within the various Shia communities in London. This relationship, I argue, can be best understood within what Homi Bhabha terms the ‘mode of representation of Otherness’ (Bhabha, 1994) as the authority and leadership of these converts is in most cases dependent on and subordinate to the political agendas of their Shia communities in response to current religio-political tensions in the Middle East and Europe. The religious and political factions as well as the ethnic and national backgrounds of Shia communities in London are diverse. What roles do European women converts to Shia Islam play within these complex religious and political dimensions of the various Shia communities in London? To what extent is the degree of authority and leadership of European converts within Shia communities in London influenced by the geo-political developments in the Middle East, on the one hand, and by terrorist attacks in Europe, on the other hand?


Panel 3: Inter-Religious Relations in Changing Contexts

Room: Gordon, Chair: Alison Scott-Baumann (SOAS).

Rana Abu Mounes (University of Aberdeen), The Role of Notables in the 1860 CE Riot in Damascus and their Impact on the Christian-Muslim Relations.

On 9 July 1860 CE, an outbreak of violence occurred in Damascus that focused the attention of the whole world on that city. Damascus, the multi-religious and multi-ethnic city, witnessed unprecedented bloody riots between its locals. A crowd which consisted of Druzes, Bedouins, the lower class people of the city, and Kurdish auxiliaries attacked Bab Tuma, the inner-city Christian quarter in Damascus. In the course of a few days, thousands of Christians were killed. It is perhaps easy to explain the 1860 riot of Damascus as religious fanaticism since the aggressors were Muslims and the victims Christians. However, a critical study of how the rioters proceeded and of the selective nature of the choice of victims warrants a critical reconsideration of the underlying factors. Therefore, this paper focuses on the role of the three types of notables in Damascus who played (or could have played) significant roles in directing the events. What did they do to control the mob? This paper also examines whether any of them were involved in planning the riot, and if so, to which extent, and whether or not its realisation would have been advantageous to them. By identifying the party (or parties) standing behind the riot, the identification of their reasons and motivations will be an easier task. After considering the evidence, it could be argued that the riot was a conscious, even organised, mode of conducting mass politics on the part of significant political actors and their agents rather than a blind eruption caused by the breakdown of society.

Khaled Al-Anbar (University of Southampton), Exploring Constructions of Interreligious Dialogue in Political Discourses: An Integrative CDA Account.

Guided by the question of how language can be used in the processes of shaping and influencing socio-political realities (Fairclough, 2005), the current paper aims at critically exploring and analyzing emerging political discourses which –on different bases- emphasize interreligious dialogue in the political public sphere. Notwithstanding that the rise of certain radicalized groups over the past decade further complicated the task for political actors to integrate Islamic (and interfaith) narratives into their discursive practices, it simultaneously necessitated making inevitable religious references through which various political actors can debate the issue. Embracing a constructionist view, this paper sheds light on how particular Muslim and non-Muslim leaders have used language to depict a common political present and future despite the many ostensible ideological differences appealed to in their discourses. To this end, representative examples of textual formations, intertextual relations and interdiscursive connections are pursued in an attempt to demystify and unravel ideological positioning in the studied discourses. In other ways, too, analyses will illuminate the use of particular ‘discursive strategies’ (De Cillia et al., 1999; Reisigl and Wodak 2009) that were utilized as powerful means to represent a platform of cooperation between Muslims and the West on some of the most pressing issues of the 21st century.

Yafiah Katherine Randall (University of Winchester), A ‘Mutual Enrichment’: Jewish-Muslim Interreligious Encounters in Israel.

Based on field studies undertaken in Israel this paper argues that Jewish-Muslim interreligious relations can be an enriching experience for both faiths. My respondents were Jewish and Muslim Israelis who study and practice Sufism together and who, although not explicitly a peace group, nevertheless make a contribution to reconciliation and conflict transformation within the context of grass-roots peace initiatives. Despite the challenges these individuals face they noticeably benefit from the interreligious engagement and, as expressed by one interviewee, find a ‘mutual enrichment’ in their activities. While the focus here is based on examples from Israel the paper also expands its attention to Europe with examples given from news reports on incidents of Jewish-Muslim reciprocal support in London, Norway, and Germany. The paper will attempt to answer the question of how such mutual support might serve as a contributory factor in defusing anti-semitism and islamophobia both as coming from within the two faith communities and as coming from outside the communities. A comparison of the two geopolitical areas – the Middle East and Europe – intends to highlight some commonalities and differences in the challenges faced by Jewish-Muslim interreligious engagement while addressing the transnational demands confronting Europe in the present political climate.


Panel 4: Islamic Law and Ethics: Theoretical Formations and Their History

Room: Woburn A, Chair: Robert Gleave (University of Exeter).

Omar Anchassi (Queen Mary University, London), ‘A Trace of the Traces of Unbelief’: Some Notes on the Logic of Slavery in Islamic Legal (and other) Texts In the Last Millennium.

In a discussion of court testimony in his Kitāb al-Mabsūt, the Transoxianan ‘Shams al-A’imma’ al-Sarakhsī (d. 490/1096) opines that the capacity of non-Muslims to serve as witnesses is deficient on the grounds that Muslim slaves’ exclusion from the relevant class (ahl al-shahāda) applies a fortiori to non-Muslims.  This is, he writes, because slavery is ‘[merely] a trace of the traces of unbelief’.  Although alternative justifications have been advanced for the same doctrine, this passage calls attention to an interesting notion enjoying broad acceptance in the furū` literature.  With the formal abolition of slavery in the Muslim world over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, opinion on the nature and place of this institution in Islamic Law has shifted drastically, notwithstanding important continuities.  This paper will explore developments in the logic of the law of slavery diachronically from the eleventh to the twenty-first centuries, citing legal, tafsīr and kalām works where appropriate.  Particular attention will be paid to major nodes of controversy over this practice in the late nineteenth/early twentieth and the present centuries.

Rana AlSoufi (Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg-Germany), Do Ḥudūd Punishments Deter Ḥadd Offenders? A Critique of the Justification of Ḥadd Punishment as Deterrence in Islamic Law.

In Sunnī uṣūl al-fiqh the severe ḥadd punishments are justified, although unsystematically, in three main categorical justifications: a) ḥadd punishments serve to protect a right that belongs to God (ḥaqq Allāh), b) deterrence (zajr and radʿ) and c) expiatory acts (kaffārāt) to amend for offences forbidden in the Qurʾān. Pursuing an analysis of the Sunnī justifications of ḥadd offences and their punishments, I argue that the Sunnī writings of jurisprudence (fiqh) show that the jurists had an inkling of the ineffective ability of the severe ḥadd punishments to achieve deterrence. However, this inkling was never systematically pursued by Sunnī jurists or turned into a fully developed legal argument. This article seeks to question whether the Sunnī jurists attempted to doubt the ineffective effects of the severe punishments of ḥadd to serve as a deterrent mechanism to prevent ḥadd crimes.

Salman Younas (University of Oxford), Iraqi Ḥanafīsm in the 3rd/9th Century: The Contribution of Muḥammad ibn Shujāʿ al-Thaljī (d. 266/880).

This paper investigates the development of the Ḥanafī school during the 3rd/9th century through an analysis of the scholarly career of Muḥammad ibn Shujāʿ al-Thaljī, identified as one of the leading jurists of the period. Utilizing both published and hitherto unexamined legal manuscripts, I argue that the legal activity of Ibn Shujāʿ demonstrates that a number of features previously thought to have arisen towards the end of the 3rd/9th century were in fact present almost half a century earlier. These include aspects relating to the social structure of the Ḥanafī school in terms of identifiable teacher/student relationships and the systematic transmission of legal doctrine, as well as elements of legal discourse, such as legal theory, legal principles, and the authoring of commentary literature. Further, while this paper does not attempt to challenge the dating of the doctrinal/classical schools to the 4th/10th century, as argued by Wael Hallaq and Christopher Melchert, it does assert that a more thorough reading of the extant legal literature is required to better understand the evolution of Islamic law during the 3rd/9th century. 

Sobhi Rayan (Al-Quds University), The Theory of Jurisprudence between Ra'yy and Hadith Schools.

This paper deals with the evolution and development of the theory of jurisprudence in Islam during the first two centuries of Hegira, and analyses different opinions that had effective roles on jurisprudence rulings (hakim). This development is reflected in the appearance of two conflicting schools: the school of the Raa'y (personal opinion), which is based on free rational Ijtihad (diligence), and Hadith school which refers to  the endeavor of a Muslim scholar to derive a rule of divine law by independent interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith. The triumph of Hadith School constituted a sharp turning point in the development of jurisprudential theory, which narrowed the space of rational thought to the advantage of religious texts. It also contributed to the development of sciences and methods that are related to AHadith of the Prophet and keeping away from developing free thinking methods. This situation led to stagnation of the jurisprudential theory, which changed from a developable and criticizable theory, into a fixed and stagnant one in both method and content.


Panel 5: Religion, Politics and Ideology in the Contemporary Middle East

Room : Woburn B, Chair: Ulrika Mårtensson (Norwegian University of Science and Technology).

Borja Wladimiro González Fernández (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), Between Maroun and Muhammad. Navigating Politics and Religion in pre-war Lebanon (1943-1975).

Ever since the successful partnership between the Maronite Bishāra al-Khūrī and the Sunni Riyaḍ al-Ṣulḥ that led Lebanon to independence in 1943 and until the outbreak of the civil war thirty years later, the Lebanese Republic and its institutions were sustained by an Islamo-Christian “coalition of the elites” that, in spite of punctual breakdowns, managed to create the most socially and economically developed State in the Arab world, as well as the only one with a functioning democracy, notwithstanding its undeniable flaws. By analyzing the evolution of the Lebanese system throughout the three decades commonly identified as its âge d’or, this paper will argue that the inter-sectarian power-sharing agreement that underlined most State institutions contributed directly to the appeasement of confessional hatreds and led the way to a growing cooperation across the religious divide. Finally, this paper will try to demonstrate that the sectarian system set up by the National Pact, by leaving aside Western-defined concepts of modernity, managed to provide a democratic formula adjusted to the peculiar circumstances of the Lebanese State, offering, perhaps, a good role model for other multi-religious countries, such as war-torn Syria or the equally distressed Iraq. 

Omar Bortolazzi (University of Bologna), The Making of a Shiite Bourgeoisie in Lebanon. Political Mobilisation, Economic Resources and Formation of a Social Group.

This work analyses the making of the Shiite middle- and upper/entrepreneurial-class in Lebanon from the 1960s till the present day. The trajectory explores the historical, political and social (internal and external) factors that brought a sub-proletariat to mobilise and become an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie in the span of less than three generations. The paper proposes the main theoretical hypothesis to unpack and reveal the trajectory of a very recent social class that through education, urbanisation, diaspora, political and social mobilisation evolved in a few years into a very peculiar bourgeoisie: whereas Christian-Maronite middle class practically produced political formations and benefited from them and from Maronite’s state supremacy (National Pact, 1943) reinforcing the community’s status quo, Shiites built their own bourgeoisie from within, and mobilised their cadre snot just to benefit from their renovated presence at the state level, but to oppose to it. The middle/upper class described here is at once an economic class related to the control of multiple forms of capital, and produced by local, national, and transnational networks related to flows of services, money, and remittances. What is the social, political and spatial status of this ‘new’ (entrepreneurial) bourgeoisie? How does kinship, class affiliation, ethnicity and identity influence the transformation of capitals? (‘the sect as a class’). How did the Lebanese confessional groups re-organised and reshuffled the capitals (P. Bourdieu) accumulated through diaspora remittances and diaspora enterprises? How hegemonic is the Lebanese post-war middle class? Who controls who? By massively investing and transforming economic capital into social capital - what is the final outcome of this investment? What is the sociality of this entrepreneurship? (the cultural aspect of Lebanese middle class). Which bourgeoisie supports which political party? (Specificities; Strategic allegiances; Connections with the State; State control/resources; Territorial Control; Syndicates; Clientelism or Mafiocracy?).

Talal Mohammad (University of Oxford), The Employment of Islamic Symbolism in Iranian and Saudi Mutual (Mis)Representations of the Other.

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979), the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia has undergone shifts ranging from an intense hostility during the Iran-Iraq War; rapprochement during Khatami’s Dialogue of Civilizations; to a resumption of intense rivalry and tensions during the Ahmadinejad period, witnessed by a return to revolutionary rhetoric in Iran coinciding with heightened Sunni-Shi’i tensions. By conducting a diachronic approach from 1979 to 2009, this paper discusses the employment of Islamic symbolism to explore the concept of the ‘representation of the Other’ in the context of Saudi-Iranian confrontation. Through the investigation of three main Iranian and Saudi spheres/discourses, namely the political (speeches of the elite), religious (Friday prayer sermons) and media (newspaper editorials) discourses, I will be discussing the main Islamic narratives and themes such as Hussein’s Karbala, the wars the Prophet Mohammad undertook in the early days of his Islamic mission, and Islamic conquests by leading Islamic historical figures such as Saladin, to discuss the discursive measures allowing for the definition of the Self and representation of the Other. Finally, this will allow for a discussion into how Islamic themes of Othering functions in the discourse and their relationship to political and sectarian rivalry.

 Kasper Ly Netterstrøm (European University Institute), The Tunisian Revolution and Governance of Religion.

How did the Arab uprising of 2011 affect formal governance of public religion? Many academic studies have been devoted to the role of Islam and Islamism in the Arab Spring, but very few studies have explored how the uprising has influenced the actual administration of religious affairs. This paper explores how the revolution in Tunisia and the subsequent democratisation process  has changed  imams’ ability to define sermons, the content of religious education and the administrative practices of the ministry of religious affairs. Building on more than 30 interviews and an extensive review of Tunisian sources (French and Arabic), the paper traces the evolution of the governance of religion from Ben Ali’s dictatorship through the revolution until the formation of the grand-coalition after the 2014 elections. The authors argue that despite its democratic transition, the Tunisian model of state-controlled Islam has proven remarkably resistant. Mosques and imams remain strictly controlled by the state and subordinated to its policies, as do the main centres of religious teaching. This is partly the result of the integration of the Islamist Ennahda party into the political system, as well as the securitisation of religion as a result of the threat from terrorism.


15:30 – 15:50:     Break


15:50 – 17:20:     Session 4. Five concurrent panels.


Panel 1: Cross-Cultural and Inter-Cultural Exchange of Knowledge in Philosophy

Room: Bedford, Chair: Kazuyo Murata (King’s College London).

Veysel Kaya, (Isatanbul University), The Reception of the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity in the Fifth Century AH: The Case of Said ibn Dadhurmuz.

The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwan al-Safa) had considerable impact on subsequent literature, having diffused into the writings of notable figures, such as the famous mystic-philosopher Ibn Arabi. Besides, the epistles’ reception in the fifth century AH have specifically attracted the attention of recent researchers, because we know that scholars such as Ghazali and Nasir Khusraw were noted to be influenced by the Epistles in certain ways. This presentation aims to shed more light on the reception of the epistles in this age, in the context of the writings of Said ibn Dadhurmuz, an interesting personality whose philosophical project was to combine all philosophical and theological discourses available to him. In the presentation, Said ibn Dadhurmuz’ usage of the epistles is shown, and his attempts to buttress and update the ideas of the Brethren of Purity are investigated.

Elaine van Dalen (University of Manchester), The Prolegomena to the Arabic Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms (9th -15th century): A Standardised Format?

This paper argues that the introductions to the medieval Islamic medical commentaries (9th - 15th century) were of a protean nature, lacking a standardised format and not showing a linear progress towards such a standardisation. To support this, the paper explores the ways the authors of the Arabic commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms present themselves and their readership in the introductions to their commentaries. It particularly focuses on the introductions by al-Baġdādī (1162-1231), an-Nilī (d. 1029), and Abū Ḥusayn as-Sinǧarī (fl. c. 1100). Unlike the other commentators on the aphorisms, these three authors begin their commentaries with relatively lengthy introductions in which they set out their reasons for commenting, present themselves as commentators, and identify their intended audience. Even though the other authors , such as Ibn al-Quff (1233-1286) and Ibn Abī Ṣādiq (d. after 1068), do include some of these elements in their introductions, they are not as lengthy and personal as al-Baġdādī’s and as-Sinǧarī’s prolegomena. Since both later and earlier prolegomena adhere to different models, it seems the format of the commentary introduction remained flexible throughout the medieval period.

Kamran I. Karimullah (University of Manchester), Post-Classical (1100-1900 C.E.) Changes in Medical Commentary Prolegomena: A Case-Study of Ibn Abī Ṣādiq (d. after 1067 C.E.) and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1209).

The continuity of the prolegomena to the commentary in late antique and classical Islamic philosophy is well-documented. In post-classical Islamic philosophy and medicine, late antique models appear to be put aside. In this paper, I suggest that the change in the structure and content of the prolegomena may be traced in part to Avicenna's (d. 1037 C.E.) influence. In this paper I suggest that Avicenna's biography by al-Juzjānī (d. 1070 C.E.) and Avicenna's autobiography served as models for how post-classical commentators introduced their lemmatic commentaries on medical works. I examine Ibn Abī Ṣādiq's introduction to his lemmatic Commentary on the Hippocratic Aphorisms and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī's introductions to three lemmatic commentaries on Avicenna's works (Commentary on the Canon of Medicine, Commentary on Pointers and Reminders, and Commentary on the Wellsprings of Philosophy). I conclude that the change in form and structure of the prolegomena tradition is in part due to a shift toward the summa of philosophy and medicine. I point to an increased emphasis on the author's and commentator's explicit claims to have special inspiration. I claim that this is in imitation of Avicenna's claims about his philosophical intuition (ḥads), and (4) the commentator's own attempt to claim authority in the tradition of “verification” inaugurated by Avicenna.

Mehmet Fatih Arslan (Istanbul University), Imagining the Time: Mir Damad’s Critique of the Theory of Imaginary Time.

In this paper, I will try to analyze Mir Damad’s critics towards the theory of ‘Imaginary time’ (al-zaman al-mawhoum) which is developed by late Asharites’. As it is known, eternity of the universe is one of the most controversial subjects between Islamic Peripatetics (Falasefa) and Asharites. Modern researches on the topic are vastly conducted through the Asharite point of view which is based on the criticism of the Peripatetic theory of an eternal universe. However in the post-Avicennian Islamic Philosophy, theologians’ view had been harshly criticized and elaborated arguments are designed to prove otherwise. In order to do so, first, I will give a brief account of the relations between the concept of ‘non-existence’ (adam) and the time lapse until the creation of universe according to Asharites. Then, I will focus on the concept of ‘Imaginary time’ and describe how the term is coined by Asharites. Finally, I will give a detailed description of Mir Damad’s critique towards the theory and argue that these critiques are based on Mir Damad’s doctrine of perpetual origination (huduth dahri). 


Panel 2: Islam, Politics and the State: Global Perspectives on Authority, Dissent and Power

Room: Bloomsbury, Chair: Jørgen Nielsen (University of Copenhagen).

Ismail Numan Telci (Sakarya University) and Nebi Mis (Sakarya University), Politics in Exile: Internationalization of Muslim Brotherhood during the Counter-Revolution in Egypt.

This study focuses on how Muslim Brotherhood implemented its political agenda in abroad in the aftermath of the July 2013 military coup in Egypt. There are three main countries that the group based its activities, Turkey, Qatar and the United Kingdom. Despite the differences in their approach to the group’s activities, these countries were the main recipient of Muslim Brotherhood members. To various extents they allowed the movement to operate and conduct number of activities. Because of its transnational experience in the past, Muslim Brotherhood easily adapted a new strategy and turned international. This paper argues that the internationalization of the Muslim Brotherhood helped the group to successfully get its voice heard by the global community. There have been three main pillars of the group’s abroad strategy; (1) diplomatic efforts, (2) use of media and social media, and (3) social activities. The group utilized these instruments in order to make its voice heard internationally. This article aims to demonstrate how this internationalization process was being employed by the movement. It also tries to explain how religiously motivated social movements organize in other countries and conduct activities such as engaging with diplomatic circles, establishing TV stations and holding mass public rallies.

Sophie Lemiere (European University Institute), Politics by Proxy: Complicit Militancy in Malaysia and Tunisia. 

From the end of the Mahathir era to the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, power transitions have allowed the emergence of political entities that were until then repressed or invisible. While often seen as social movements, civil society or other symptoms or actors of democratization, many of these structured or fluctuant groups entertain a very close relationship to political parties, and are not neutral. This paper focus on complicit militants used as political proxy to take party struggles into the streets. In Malaysia, gangs are creating NGOs to serve the ruling party interests; in Tunisia, politically and religiously marginalised groups (salafi or self-proclaimed revolutionary) ousted from the political scene have an ambiguous collusive relationship to the Islamist party as the only way to channel their voices. Complicit militancy is a political arrangement by which a formal political actor sub-contract political actions serving its interests from advocacy to demonstrations and violence (Lemière 2013). This paper is drawn from an original and on-going comparative ethnographic project on complicit militancy in transitional context and looks at the grey zone of politics challenging the understanding and uses of the concepts of civil society, democratization and social movement. 

Felicitas Becker (University of Cambridge), Idealized pasts and loud silences in Swahili Muslim preachers’ sermons concerning East African history. 

As in many Muslim congregations, so in East Africa, public preaching has become considerably more salient in recent decades, and has become a media phenomenon. Sermons are traded on cassettes and (now predominantly) DVDs, and increasingly made available via youtube or dedicated online video channels. The preachers engage with the history of Muslim congregations and with the current social, political and economic dispensation in the region both explicitly and implicitly. As preachers are almost by definition reformist and discontent with their place in East Africa’s polities is widespread among Muslims, it is not surprising that typically they view the present critically. But that does not mean that they find it easy to identify a usable better past. Rather, they tend to focus heavily on the heroic early days of monotheism, represented by the Old Testament prophets, and the age of Muhammad and his companions. By contrast, they tend to tread very carefully around the more recent history of Islam in East Africa and its relationship with both Omani and European imperialism. The exception to this are the most strident preachers associated with the Zanzibari ‘mwamko’ (awakening) movement, now repressed, who depicted the islands as victims of ‘Black (as in mainland) colonialism’. In this paper, I will try to tease out how different preachers’ varying explicit claims and implicit stances (expressed in habitus, clothing, language use, tone) address or skirt around the past in ways that indicate that the harsh social stratification of the pre-colonial coast, with slavery at its core, and its colonial transformations still have the potential to offend and divide.


Panel 3: Historical and Literary Approaches to Ḥadīth

Room: Gordon, Chair: Rana AlSoufi (Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nurnberg-Germany)

Nuha Alshaar (The American University of Sharjah), The Use of Ḥadīth in Popular Literary Genres. 

The study of the use and treatment of ḥadīth in popular literary genres has been overlooked in scholarly research, particularly where their attestation serves as a foil to presenting literary and cultural motifs. This paper will explore the use of Prophetic utterances from the ironic adumbration of isnād in the Maqāmāt of al-Hamadhanī to the spontaneous citation of traditions in works such as Ibn ‘Abd Rabbihi’s al-‘Iqd al-farīd and Ibn Qutayba’s ‘Uyūn al-akhbār, and even popular prose works such as the qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā’. It will focus on how these utterances are vehicles that invoke authority, an authority that sometimes emerges from the topos of the famous maxim that the Prophet had been endowed with "jawāmi‘ al-kalim", a phrase that came to be interpreted as the ability to express himself with brevity, wit, and fluency. This paper aims to assess the context of the citation of traditions in popular literature and related literary texts, showing what current research reveals about various attitudes towards the traditions in classical literary circles and their aesthetic function. 

Yasmin Amin (Exeter University), Age is just a number or is it? ʿAʾisha’s age between Ḥadīth and History.

A ḥadīth in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī narrates that ʿAʾisha was six years old at the time of her marriage to the Prophet, and that she was nine years old when the marriage was consummated. This ḥadīth is sometimes used as the basis for the permission of marriage to underage girls or minors. However, looking into Islamic heritage books - like for example the history books like al-Ṭabarī’s Tārīkh al-Rusul wa-l-Mulūk, popularly known as Tārīkh al-Tabari, Sīra works like Ibn Kathīr’s al-Bidāya wa-l Nihāya and Ibn Isḥāq's Sirat Rasūl Allah, Tafsīr works like al-Ṭabarī’s Jāmi` al-bayān `an ta'wīl āy al-Qur'ān, popularly known as Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī and biographical dictionaries such as Ibn Saʿd’s al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubra - a different picture emerges.  These books and many others, make statements such as “all of Abū Bakr’s children were born in Jahiliya.” They also compare her age to that of her sister and also to Fāṭima, daughter of the Prophet. They provide narratives about ʿAʾisha reading and memorising Qur’anic verses that were revealed prior to her birth if the ḥadīth got her age right. According to these statements and comparisons she was at least twenty years old at the time of her marriage. How old was she really? Why is there such a discrepancy in age between ḥadīth works and other books from the historical heritage? Can we determine with any degree of certainty how old she really was? This paper attempts to answer these questions by looking at the ḥadīth and the other heritage books.

Belal Abo-Alabbas (University of Oxford), Theoretical Formulation of Hadith Criticism in the 8th and 9th centuries.

Modern scholarship has relied on complex terminological writings of the 13th and 15th centuries on Hadith criticism, assuming that it accurately represents early Hadith criticism: that early critics were mainly concerned with personal information on Hadith transmitters such as dates of births and deaths, and statements regarding grades of their trustworthiness and competence; that a fairly general agreement on the technical terms existed among Hadith specialists. It was not until recently that research shifted from focusing on Hadith terminology to emphasizing the significance of the isnād as a methodological tool employed by early critics. This paper comes along the same lines but does more than showing how a certain critic worked. It emphasizes that the theoretical framework of 9th-century Hadith criticism was actually based on isnād analysis and illustrates the standards set for transmitters and hadiths to qualify as reliable. I compare al-Shāfiʿī’s Epistle with Muslim’s prologue to his Hadith compilation, measuring the consistency between them on the theoretical formulation of Hadith criticism in the 8th and 9th centuries. Both works, while different in structure and intent, are very comparable in terms of their critical examination of the methodology of Hadith criticism. 


Panel  4: Islamic Education in Regional Contexts: Challenges and Opportunities

Room: Woburn A, Chair: Farid Panjwani (Institute of Education, UCL)

Humaira Saleem (UCL Institute of Education), Effective Leadership of Islamic Schools in the UK.

There are over 160 Islamic schools in the UK, including 18 state-funded schools. Empirical research related to Islamic education, particularly educational leadership of Islamic schools, is vastly underdeveloped. Islamic schools, similar to other faith schools, have a distinctive nature underpinned by the faith and therefore require a body of knowledge to understand them. It remains to be explored what ‘distinctiveness’ do Islamic schools have and what is the core purpose of these schools in the UK. The traditional Islamic model of ‘taleem & tarbiya’  of education aims to educate the whole child; what leadership skills and qualities are required by Islamic school leaders to provide such holistic education? School leadership, particularly head teachers, play a key role in the success of a school. This link has been recognised widely through research and it has been suggested that successful schools improvement is directly linked with effective leadership; what is effective leadership in the context of Islamic schools? What are the factors that influence school leaders’ work? To what extent are values underpinned by faith reflected in approaches and practice in leading an Islamic school? How can leadership of learning contribute to leading an Islamic school effectively?

Jenny Berglund (University of Warwick), Experiences of moving between Islamic and secular education.

Despite the many studies on Islamic education, “European Islam” and intercultural education, the field of Islamic supplementary education remains under-researched in relation to the direct experience of the students themselves. This paper stems from a project that has emerged to fill this gap by studying the experiences of Muslim school students in Sweden and Britain that move, or in their childhood have moved, between compulsory schools and supplementary Islamic classes. In this paper I focus specifically on the students’ experience of Quran-centered provision of Islamic education, characterized by memorization and person-to-person transmission of knowledge. A constructive understanding of Pierre Bourdieu's theories and its key concepts of habitus and capital anchor the theoretical understanding of the research. Quran classes and mandatory schools are approached as agencies, which variously augment and/or deplete the participants’ symbolic capital, and shape their identities and ideals. The paper highlights that learning the Quran by heart, is when mentioned in secular school questioned by for example teachers. The students themselves experience benefits of both their skills and knowledge. Interesting ideals of schooling emerges in the stories of the students when they formulate good as well as bad practice from both secular and Quran education, ideals that include both traditions and that could benefit education in both fields.

Alyaa Ebbiary (SOAS), Rehabilitating Ulema, Reimagining Islamic Education: Cambridge Muslim College and changing face of Imam training in Britain

Among the many criticisms afforded the British Muslim 'community', particular censure is reserved for its Imams and religious leaders, both by non-Muslim wider society and their own co-religionists. A common refrain is disappointment that they are in the main, born and educated abroad, have a poor command of English and an even worse understanding of British society and connecting with the youth. Over the last 30 years several institutions have been established to train home-grown religious specialists, but many of them have been similarly criticised as ‘backward’ and 'out of touch'. In the last decade, there has been a huge interest in nurturing a cohort of ulema (Islamic scholars) for whom cultural literacy is as important as religious literacy. This paper is about the training of specialists, a would-be religious elite who have the ‘knowledge’ to take up leadership positions, but whose authority and practical skills are contested in contemporary British Sunni Islam. There is currently little research on the training of Muslim faith leaders in the UK, and less on the changes afoot in this area. Since this is an ongoing project, I will explore some of the latest innovations in Imam training in the UK and how this compares to the training offered by the more ‘traditional’ institutions, taking as a case study the work of Cambridge Muslim College.

Nader Al-Refai (Yarmouk University), Towards Reforming Islamic Education: Critical Thinking and Islamic Studies.

Critical thinking is a landmark of education systems in the developed world. Yet, the education systems in many developing world countries have done little to incorporate a genuine reform to its education systems in this regard. The current paper aims to inductively investigate the different Islamic Studies resources such as: Qur'an, Hadith, Sirah, Creed and Jurisprudence in order to generate and build a robust theoretical framework for critical thinking within the Islamic Education system. The derived framework will be further used to examine ways in which Islamic Studies is taught in different settings. In the current paper, the researcher will present the results of examining Islamic studies syllabus at a sample of British Muslim Secondary Schools and compare it to the findings from a similar sample of Jordanian Muslim secondary schools. Findings are deemed to be important for both practitioners and policy makers in both Britain and Jordan, as well as for researchers of Islamic Education and Islamic Studies. The data was collected through interviews with key informants and through extensive curriculum content and document analysis. 


Panel 5: Law, Sharia and National Identity: The Case of Modern Egypt

Room: Woburn B, Chair: Ulrika Mårtensson (Norwegian University of Science and Technology).

Haifaa Khalafallah (Sinai Centre for Islamic Mediterranean Studies (SCIMS)), The Man with a Plan: Mohammed Abduh’s ‘bottom-up salafi map for change’.

It is rare for a discussion on Muslim reforms or Islam in modern times not to invoke the name of Mohammed ‘Abduh, the famous Azhari scholar and chancellor, who served as Egypt's mufti from 1899-1905. Still, the lens from which academia continues to examine ‘Abduh neither clarifies the main features of his legacy nor its import in his country. This paper looks at Mohammed ‘Abduh's plan for bottom - up reforms, focusing on how this key Muslim ‘alim effectively employed the arguments for continuities and the arguments for change to define governance and communal loyalties. With an eye always on their contexts, the author explores primary sources from ‘Abduh’s varied corpus of works, ranging from fiqh to education and political activism, as well as responses to these ideas among his Egyptian contemporaries. With Muslim experiences making daily headline news nowadays, the paper concludes with observations on the influence of ‘Abduh’s Shari‘a-linked plan for change on Egyptian society and, indeed, subsequently its impact on general Muslim narratives about their faith.

Jacquelene Brinton (University of Kansas), Muhammad Mitwalli Sha‘rawi’s Negotiation Between National and Religious Identity in Twentieth Century Egypt.

Muhammad Mitwalli Sha’rawi (1911-1998) was a religious scholar who gained celebrity through his televised Qur’an interpretations, which were broadcast on state-run television. Sha’rawi was essentially an Egyptian preacher—he spoke often about Egypt, used Egyptian dialect, and directly addressed Egyptians in his orations. His television career began in the late twentieth century, once the religious scholars were fully integrated into the Egyptian state, which made it easy for the state to solicit his help in its nation-building project. Sha‘rawi used his television show to reinforce the connection between support for the nation of Egypt and support for Islam. In order to establish a dominant public position for his interpretations of the Qur’an, Sha‘rawi theologized secular concepts by speaking about national identity as a form of piety. He sought to counter those who wanted to use political power to enforce the shari ‘a on the Muslim and Christian populations of Egypt. Sha‘rawi instead defined Islam by incorporating national inclusion, thus exemplifying how secularism helped redefine religion politically. Because Sha’rawi used nationalism as a way to identify and preserve religious commitments, his television appearances have been repurposed after his death, used to interpret the meaning of recent political events in Egypt.  


Ulrika Mårtensson (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Continuity & Change: Islamic Naturalism, Constitution and Social Contract.

Benedict Anderson (1983) and Anthony Smith (2003) have conflicting epistemic views of nations and national identity. For Anderson, who subscribes to social constructivism, these are modern constructs, whereas for Smith, empiricist and historian, they are continuations of ancient legacies, with religion as their source. This author tests Smith's thesis of the continuous function of religion as source of national identity through Michel de Certeau’s (1974/1988) concept of discourse. De Certeau analysed continuity and change by identifying institutional, discipline-based and subjective producers of discourses. In the context of this panel, the approach implies that authors have continuously employed Islam to construct narratives of nations, national identities, and social contracts. To illustrate the approach, the present author constructs a preliminary model for comparing al-Tabari (d. 923, jurist, Qur’an exegete and historian of the Prophet and early Islam); Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328, jurist and exegete who referred to Tabari’s Qur’an exegesis); and Hasan al-Banna (d. 1949, schoolteacher and politician, who studied al-Tabari, probably Ibn Taymiyya (as well as Muhammad ‘Abduh)). The model is built around concepts of ‘natural law and religion’ and social contract, and seeks to identify reasons for inclusion, exclusion, hierarchy and egalitarianism.


17:20 - 17:40:      Break


17:40 – 18:10:     BRAIS-De Gruyter Prize Ceremony - Chair: Ayman Shihadeh (SOAS)


18:10 – 19:40:     Session 5. Plenary Panel.


ERC Project IMPAcT. From Late Medieval to Early Modern: Thirteenth to Sixteenth Century Islamicate Intellectual History

Room: Beveridge Hall, Chair: Judith Pfeiffer (University of Oxford).

Giovanni Maria Martini (Independent Scholar), ‘Alā’ al-Dawla al-Simnānī’s (d. 736/1336) Autobiography: A Holistic Theory of World Religions from the Heart of the Ilkhanate.

Judith Pfeiffer (University of Oxford), Rashīd al-Dīn’s (d. 718/1318) work and its Sitz im Leben.

Talal Al-Azem (Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies), The Ordering (tartīb) of Education in Late Medieval Damascus.

Walter Edward Young (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Taḥqīq al-Muḥaqqiq fī Ādāb al-Baḥth: Editing a Verifier-Dialectician.


Day 2:


09:00 - 09:45     BRAIS Annual General Meeting (Beveridge Hall)


09:45 - 10:05:     Indonesian Delegation (British Council)

Abdul A’la (The State Islamic University, Surabaya).

Ahmad Fathan Aniq (The State Islamic University, Surabaya).

Eva Mushoffa, (The State Islamic University, Jakarta).

M. A. Nurwanto (Muhammadiyah University, Yogyakarta).

Zainul Fuad ((The State Islamic University, Sumatera).

Muhaimin Syamsuddin (British Council Indonesia).


10:05 – 10:20:     Break


10:20 – 11:50:     Session 6. Five concurrent panels.


Panel 1: Bounded and Unbounded: Conceptions of the Finite and the Infinite in Classical Islamic Texts

Room: Bedford, Chair: Taraneh Wilkinson (Georgetown University).

Tasi Perkins (Georgetown University), The Liminal Hero: Husayn as a Bridge between the Temporal and the Eternal.

Victor Turner, in developing Arnold van Gennep’s anthropological concept of liminality, notes that the process of religious initiation includes a period of uncertainty and anxiety, in which one’s identity is murky. Bjørn Thomassen has recently argued that the mechanics of Turner’s theory can be applied to other social sciences. Following this lead, I propose the theological concept of a “liminal hero.” As a case study, I examine the relationship between the infinite and the finite in three late ʿAbbāsid-era martyrologies of the Prophet’s grandson Ḥusayn. These texts—by al-Khwārizmī (d. 1172), ibn Namā al-Ḥillī (d. 1247 or 1252), and ibn Ṭawūs (d. 1265)—reflect an early-yet-codified Twelver piety. These accounts of Ḥusayn’s passion come from a time when Shīʿism was, in a sense, going through a liminal phase. They are a pivot between the more historically-focused accounts of pro-ʿAlids like Abū Mikhnaf and al-Iṣfahānī and the more pietistic modern-era retellings central to contemporary liturgy and ritual. In the three selected texts Ḥusayn is described dialectically: he is at once victim and victor, mortal and eternal, marked by humanity and imbued with divine light. As a liminal hero, Ḥusayn is for his hagiographers a nexus between heaven and earth. Thus, like liminal heroes from other traditions, the slain Imām provides finite humanity a channel to the Infinite.

Rachel Friedman (Williams College), Infinite excellence? Degrees of eloquence and perfection in iʿjāz al-Qurʾān discourse.

This paper addresses the place of the infinite in conceptions of language and speech in the classical Islamic discourse of iʿjāz al-Qurʾān. The discourse surrounding the Qurʾān’s inimitability, or iʿjāz, was a prime location in which scholars theorized the concept of rhetorical excellence and explained textual examples that illustrated various degrees of eloquence. The 10th century CE saw the development of iʿjāz discourse into a full-fledged discipline in Islamic thought, and the treatises of Abū Sulayman Ḥamd ibn Muḥammad al-Khaṭṭābī (d. 996), ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsa al-Rummānī (d. 998), and Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī (d. 1013) embody the movement to further lay out the idea of eloquence and its parameters. Al-Khaṭṭābī and al-Rummānī set the groundwork for this investigation, maintaining that human-authored speech can be of low, middle, or high ranks, but stopping short of affirming that the best of this speech can equal the Qurʾān’s own high level of eloquence. Al-Bāqillānī addresses that issue more fully, writing that humans can produce rhetorically excellent speech but cannot sustain that level for more than a line or two, whereas the Qurʾān is unwaveringly eloquent. However, he also writes that God could have created a Qurʾān yet more excellent than the actual Qurʾān, implying that the Qurʾān is not infinitely eloquent. This paper explores the context and implications of that idea.

Kirsten Beck (Williams College), Dhū-l-Rummah & Uncertain Knowledge in Iṣfahānī's Book of Songs.

In approaching Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani's 10th-century opus The Book of Songs (Kitāb al-Aghānī), modern scholarship has become preoccupied with assessing the reliability of knowledge contained in the text. This preoccupation often reflects an expectation that reliable knowledge offer certainty and finitude.  This paper calls this expectation into question, using the chapter of The Book of Songs that is dedicated to the 8th-century tragic love (‘udhrī) poet Dhū-l-Rumma—“The Dhikr and Khabar of Dhū-l-Rummah”—as a case study.  Dhū-l-Rummah and his poetry are at once both Islamic and pre-Islamic, urban and Bedouin,  inspired and learned, and these dual natures inspired an ambivalent reception of his poetry.  I argue that al-Iṣfahānī uses Dhū-l-Rummah, a poet whose in-betweenness problematizes poetry for the urbanizing Islamic society, to promote an approach to poetry that appreciates complexity and opens it up to a wider range of interpretation and inquiry. By releasing Dhū-l-Rummah’s poetry from the binds of authenticity and drawing attention to the way in which it problematizes poetry at a time of critical social and political change, I suggest, the “Dhikr and Khabar of Dhū-l-Rummah” attempts not to resolve the ambivalence surrounding his poetry but to unsettle certainty and to point towards the infinite possibilities for its interpretation.  

Taraneh Wilkinson (Georgetown University), Al-Ghazālī’s Infinity Beyond the Philosophers.

Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazālī’s (d. 1111) critique of philosophical attempts to monopolize divine discourse is well known and to this day hotly disputed. For many, The Incoherence of the Philosophers represents a definitive critique of preceding Islamic philosophy; for others, al-Ghazālī is viewed as Classical Islamic philosophy’s fateful death knell. Yet in recent decades, this rather static image has been increasingly challenged. In particular, recent scholarship has taken a fresh look his views on the relationship between philosophy and mysticism. Accordingly, this paper proposes to analyze al-Ghazālī’s use of the concept of infinity in three different works often not associated with his views on philosophy: Moderation in Belief, Revival of the Religious Sciences, and Niche of Lights. I argue that al-Ghazālī is very much aware of the Greek philosophical tradition’s concept of infinity through his reference to that tradition in his earlier Moderation in Belief. However, instead of stopping with the Greek understanding of the infinite, his use of the concept of infinity in the Revival and in the Niche of Lights furthers his own understanding of Sufi truth and insight. Thus, in moving from earlier theological works to later Sufi works, it is possible to better understand how al-Ghazālī’s use of the Greek concept of infinity served his own ‘mystical’ project.


Panel 2: Islam in Russia and the Balkans: Challenges and Opportunities

Room: Bloomsbury, Chair: Vanja Hamzić (SOAS).

Kaarina Aitamurto (University of Helsinki), Loyal and Patriotic Muslims in Russia.

Though Islam has a long history in Russia and is one of the named four traditional religions of the country, during the recent decade the suspicious attitudes toward Islam have increased in the society. A very strict division to ‘traditional, loyal’ and ‘dangerous, extremist’ Islam prevails in Russian media. These tendencies, coupled with the internal power struggles with accusations on ‘extremism’, compel the Muslim leaders to continuously underlay their patriotism and loyalty to the state.  This paper examines the discourse of the leading Muslim communities in Russia and the response and the interpretation they have received in media and in academic studies. By examining some case studies, this paper argues that in recent decade, the pressure to display loyalty has narrowed the scope of what is considered acceptable behaviour for Muslim leaders. Nevertheless, they also cleverly adopt arguments and popular catch words from the rhetoric of the political elite in order to emphasise the role of Islam in Russian society and tradition. Thereby, Russian Muslim leaders are also seeking to challenge and to influence the societal discussions about Russian identity and to defend the position of Muslims in the country.

Sumeyye Mine (Bogazici University), State Policy Towards Muslims in Russia in the post-Soviet era.

Russian state was historically composed of multi ethnic and multi religious population. This diversity is also maintained with the dissolution of Soviet Union in 1990s. In this multiplicity, Islam is the second major religion and the Muslims constitute 8-10% of the population. This paper will focus on state’s policy towards its Muslim population in the post-Soviet decade. While abandoning the state promoted atheism of the Soviet era, the post-Soviet state policy towards religion is based on the notion of the coexistence of different religions. Yet, state’s policy towards Muslims contains some contradictory aspects. On the one hand, the state aims to utilize its Muslim population in building relations with other Muslim countries and relying on a form of ‘religious diplomacy’; on the other hand, it tries to establish full control over religious institutions through making distinction between ‘good Muslims’ and ‘bad Muslims’, ‘official Islam’ and ‘unofficial Islam’. In this context, the groups that are not become loyal to “official” Islamic discourse, even peaceful ones, are facing harsh repression. This includes setting ban on certain religious publications, on hijab and arrests of several Muslims. The discussion will revolve around this double folded policy and misuse of anti-extremism laws in Russia and its implications on the state-society relations. 

Piro Rexhepi (University of Graz), Genealogies of Humanitarian Violence: (Post)Socialist Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The paper examines the shift in the representation of Muslims in Balkans from subjects of death and violence to subjects marked for life and Europeaness through humanitarian interventions. The specter of humanitarian saving that has haunted Muslims in the Balkans since the end of the Cold War has made it impossible to articulate any alternative futurity but the one imposed by the humanitarian order. With impunity, humanitarian violence has worked to captivate and structure Muslims in the Balkans along Euro-American projects of EU enlargement and integration into NATO. This article examines how these missions are mandated, structured and implemented to secure a liberal democratic order in both Bosnia and Kosovo. It looks at how UN Missions were transferred to EU Missions and the subsequent shift from peacebuilding to EU Member State building. It specifically traces how the installment of international missions in both Bosnia and Kosovo prevented sought to create secular liberal Muslims in the Balkans that could be promoted as model Muslims for the rest of the world. 

Ermin Sinanovic (International Institute of Islamic Thought), Localizing Islam in a Globalizing World: Arabization and Indigenization in Indonesia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

We have witnessed, in recent years, a phenomenon of ‘indigenization’ of Islam in several countries, which ostensibly conflicts with the globalizing Islamic currents. In Indonesia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, two countries standing at the opposite sides of the traditional ‘Muslim world’ and seemingly having little in common, there have been calls to institute ‘Islam Nusantara/Indonesia’ and ‘Islamic Tradition of the Bosniaks’. These appeals are responses to an aggressive proselytization by socio-religious actors who give preference to Arab-based Islamic norms. Proponents of ‘Islam Nusantara’ or ‘Islam Indonesia’ claim that Southeast Asian Islam is ‘flowery’ (i.e., colorful and diverse) and tolerant, unlike the Middle Eastern/Arab Islam which is its antithesis. ‘Islamic Tradition of the Bosniaks’ places this tradition within the Ottoman/Turkish sphere of cultural and religious influence and adds a local flavor to it by acknowledging the continuity between pre-Islamic and Islamic cultural practices. The paper analyzes these two emerging discourses comparatively and examines the extent to which they construct and locate the ideal other in transnational, globalized Islamic discourses. It further investigates the use of customs (‘urf or ‘adah) in constructing norms in usul al-fiqh, and argues that these localizations seldom depart from what is generally understood as ‘orthodox’ Sunni Islam.


Panel 3: Boundaries of the Sacred in Rites and Sites

Room: Gordon, Chair: Doris Behrens-Abouseif (SOAS).

Aliasger Madraswala (Oxford Brookes University), Taʿmīr and Tajdīd: Architectural Renovation in Fatimid Egypt.

The history of taʿmīr or construction in Cairo goes hand in hand with the history of tajdīd: renovation and restoration. Historically, restoration was driven by the Islamic virtue of masjid upkeep as outlined in the Quran (9:18) and the system of waqf. Yet, in the 20th century, many restorations of Islamic monuments were carried out or influenced by foreign entities in accordance with Western principles of conservation. A group of Fatimid monuments restored by a small Muslim community from South Asia have been at the centre of controversy for their alleged deviation from these international standards of conservation. In an attempt to understand the historical and philosophical underpinnings of these controversial restorations, this paper will analyze inscriptions for renovation and construction work carried out during the Fatimid period, specifically during the vizierate of Syed Badr al-Jamali (1015-1094). It will look at taʿmīr, tajdīd, and related terms which commonly featured in these inscriptions, and discuss them in relation with contemporaneous Fatimid texts. The paper will show that the Fatimids advocated a set of ‘Islamic’ principles for the restoration of masjids, some of which seem to disagree with modern conservation guidelines, and it will explore the implications of these principles on contemporary architectural conservation of Islamic monuments.

Linda Hyökki (Fatih Sultan Mehmet Waqf University), Approaching the sacred: Prayer and veneration practices at the shrine of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari in Istanbul.

The courtyard of the Eyyüp Sultan mosque in Istanbul houses the shrine of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a Companion to the Prophet Muhammad (d. 672) and attracts daily thousands of visitors to perform the religious rite of ziyara, a pilgrimage practice of visiting the graves or shrines of Islamic saints in search of religious blessings (baraka). Aspects of ziyara as an Islamic rite in the Medieval Islamic world have been profoundly studied from a historical perspective (Meri 2002; Taylor 1999). As for the present day, few studies (Fartacek 2003, 2012; Kreinath 2014) have contributed to ethnographic accounts of ziyara practices in the border areas of Turkey and Syria. The latter are, however, focused on tombs of Islamic saints as local pilgrimage sites, and not as part of a larger mosque environment. Hence, this paper attempts at mapping observable recurring patterns and individual variations of ziyara practices and behavior among the diverse visitors at the Eyyüp mosque complex. It is based on ethnographic data collected through non-participant observations in spring 2015 and seeks also to identify dimensions of rituality in the specific setting of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari’s shrine.

Nadia Kurd (Thunder Bay Art Gallery), A Mosque on the Prairie: The Al-Rashid and the making of mosque architecture in Canada. 

During the height of the Depression on the Canadian Prairies, the Muslim community in Edmonton Alberta commissioned Ukrainian master builder Michael Drewoth to build a mosque. Its unique, church-like design, which showcased the amalgamation of the community’s needs with those of the builder’s skill and knowledge, would come to represent the hybrid nature of subsequent mosques in Canada. The early history of the Al-Rashid Mosque, like those of contemporary mosques in cities such as Montréal, Toronto and Richmond, presents a much deeper history of Muslim settlement and arrival, one that is far less politically or socially polarized from Canada’s imagined past. This paper examines the history of the Al-Rashid Mosque and its early community as well as the challenges Canadian mosque poses to a universalized Islamic architectural history. From its outward design, social history and geographic location, the Al-Rashid provides a clear example on where and how the North meets the East. Moreover, the mosque, like many other mosques across Canada provides a glimpse into the intersections of belonging, national histories and symbolism. Beyond the varied cultural visual forms used by the Al-Rashid, Canadian mosques also provide look into the ways in which Muslim identity is spatially constructed in North America and they challenge the presumption of a secular and ‘raceless’ urban landscape in countries with growing immigrant Muslims populations.


Panel 4: Islamic Law: Contemporary Thought and Practice I

Room: Woburn A, Chair: Carool Kersten (King's College London)

Ali-Reza Bhojani (Al-Mahdi Institute), Debates on taklīf al-kuffār bil-furū ͑ in Shī ͑ī thought and the two levels of Sharīʿa; particular Muslim duties and universal human responsibilities.

Conditions for Sharīʿa responsibility in Muslim juristic literature usually always include considerations such as sanity, capacity, and maturity. In line with debates found across Muslim juristic schools, Shī ͑ī scholars also discuss the possibility of al-Islām (an acceptance of the fundamentals of Islamic belief) being a further condition. Should al-Islām be a condition, non-Muslims would not be deemed to hold responsibility toward the practical elements of Sharīʿa until and unless they accepted the fundamentals of Islamic belief. The dominant position in the Shī ͑ī tradition is that non-Muslims are responsible for the practical elements of Sharīʿa, irrespective of whether they have accepted Islamic belief or not. This paper will examine a counter trend within Shī ͑ī thought culminating in a close examination of the view held by Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Khū’ī (d. 1992), arguably the most important Uṣūli Shī’ī jurist of his generation. al-Khū’ī argues against a comprehensive view of Sharīʿa responsibility, maintaining that al-Islām is a condition for some, but not all practical Sharī ͑a responsibility. After demonstrating the consistency of his views with the ʿAdliyya (justice-orientated) theology subscribed to by the Shī ͑ a, the paper will draw out the implications of his views suggesting two distinct levels of Sharī ͑a duty; particular duties exclusive to Muslims and a more fundamental universal category of human responsibilities that are shared by all capable people.

Reik Kirchhof (University Erfurt), Reconfiguring the Study of Sharia: The Relation of Sharia and Law in View of Modern Theories on the Concept of Law and Global Normative Orders.

The study of Islam commonly discusses the term ‘Sharia’ as ‘Islamic law’. This heuristic linkage was coined by the early European study of Islam and is based on a legal positivist philosophy of the 19th century. Despite a growing critique on the argument “Sharia is Islamic law” (An-Na’im, Hallaq, Doupret) the study of Islam neglects to question its fundamental theoretical concepts for the study of Sharia. Instead the discourse practices legal Orientalism, perceiving Sharia as something exotic, intuitively calling for reconciliation. While reconciliation might glue a broken love affair, this method is inapt to gain further insights of the research object. This paper exposes the traditional foundations of the study of Sharia as outdated and calls attention to a contemporary philosophy on the concept of law drawing on latest theories on global transnational normative orders (Parson, Galtung, Teubner, Luhmann, Koskenniemi). By skipping controversial elements such as ‘state’, ‘territory’ and ‘sanctions’, the paper widens the approach towards the research object and thus reconfigures the study of Sharia.  The result of this adoption is twofold: 1) Sharia cannot be perceived as law as its concept is unable to decide on colliding normative expectations with non-competitive decisions (concept of law), but only as an intellectual attempt to cope with colliding legal orders (legal pluralism); 2) the vast elaborations of Islamic scholarship on the concept of Sharia may serve as a treasure of knowledge in discussing the challenges global society is facing today: a fragmentation of normative orders and the insignificance of state territories.

Mozzammil Jaffer (Al-Mahdi Institute), The Juristic Utility of Taqiyya as a Hermeneutical Tool in Modern Shi’i Usuli Jurisprudence.

In Shī’a Islam taqiyya is a theological concept of dissimulation by which it is permissible for a believer to deny or act contrary to their beliefs. Its use is usually restricted to only those instances which carry a significant risk of persecution. Whilst the basis for the permissibility of practicing taqiyya is something discussed in theological works it also has a practical implication in the discipline of fiqh. This paper will examine the use of taqiyya as a practical tool employed by the jurist in the process of deriving laws from their sources. In fiqh, the application of taqiyya arises when attempting to resolve a conflict between two or more narrations. In the case of two conflicting rulings from authentic (ṣaḥīḥ) narrations from an infallible (ma’ṣūm ) then a real conflict (al-ta’āruḍ al-ḥaqīqī ) arises and it is upon the jurist to resolve this and determine the real law. If one of the narrations is in conflict with the majority opinion and one is in line with the majority opinion then the jurist can drop the narration that is in line with the majority. This is based on the probability of it being mentioned in a state of taqiyya. Therefore this paper will focus on the use of taqiyya by modern Shī’ī jurists and seeks to critically examine the basis for the application of this theological concept in fiqh and to assess the challenges posed by its use as a hermeneutical tool for the reconciliation of ḥadīth literature.

Najah Nadi Ahmad (University of Oxford), Negotiating Legal Discourses and Social Structures: Divorce Cases at Dār al-Iftāʾ of Egypt.

In response to the noticeable frequency of divorce in modern Egypt, muftis at Dār al-Iftāʾ developed a method of legal interpretation that aims at invalidating the divorce pronouncements of Egyptian husbands, preserving marriages, and by extension preserving the society, they believe.  By developing this pro-marriage legal discourse, Dār al-Iftāʾ hopes to offer Egyptians with not only suitable legal fatwas but also accessible alternative to courts where they negotiate marital disputes. Through a synthesis of theoretical research of traditional legal manuals (adab al-fatwā) and data from interactive iftāʾ sessions, this paper analyzes the dynamic interplay of the legal and societal commitments of muftis and mustaftīs (petitioners). Out of 140 sessions I attended at Dār al-Iftāʾ in the summer of 2012, 115 sessions were on questions concerning marriage and divorce.  Therefore, the research focuses on the impact of fatwas on gender ethics amongst Egyptian families. It shows that Dār al-Iftāʾ in its institutionalized form developed a threefold iftāʾ model: legal, social, and religious. This model of iftāʾoperates under a reconstructed discourse of the inherited tradition, integration of ethical concerns in the interpretation of the law, and consideration of the powers of the nation-state.  


Panel 5: Femininity, Women’s Agency and Motherhood in Islam: A Multidisciplinary Discussion

Room: Woburn B, Chair: Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (Coventry University).

Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster University), Mothers of the Believers or Mothers of the Believing Men?

The Prophets’ wives are designated as ‘Mothers of the Believers’ in Qur’an 33:6. In the exegetical tradition, this designation is understood in light of the bar on marrying the Prophets’ wives ‘after him’ in Q. 33:53.Their honorific title invokes the prohibition on marriage to the mother (Q. 4:23). According to al-Tabari, this is the exegetical consensus which is also supported by a tradition reported from ‘A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, in which a woman addresses her as ‘mother’ and ‘A’isha retorts: “I am not your mother, I am a mother to your men.” According to this reading, the status of ‘Mothers of the Believers’ derives from their spousal role and is narrowed down to their sexuality. However, when in Q. 33:30 the Prophets’ wives are reminded of their peerlessness (‘you are not like any [other] woman’), this is more evidently linked to a stringent ethical code that governs their sexuality, femininity and relation to revelation. The whole passage (Q. 33: 30-34) depicts an active model of moral agency transcending the marriage prohibition but still grounded in that prohibition which transforms them from female to maternal subjects of the community. The paper interrogates Sunni and Shi’i works of commentary to map out conceptions of the Prophets’ wives ‘motherhood’ and the extent to which their moral agency is expressed in matricentric terms. The paper will conclude with a discussion on whether these conceptions indicate an understanding of their moral agency as historical (limited to their lifetime) or prophetic (as part of the Prophetic tradition).

Haifaa Jawad (University of Birmingham), Sufi Spirituality and the Feminine Dimension.

As a social, economic, and political system, Islam is not monolithic. Hence, the religion in these contexts tends to be susceptible to different interpretations and different readings; some could be dogmatic and authoritarian, others could be liberal, and still others could be spiritual, depending on the social, political, and economic settings. In this context, the emphasis will be primarily on the Sufi paradigm. Historically speaking, Islamic spirituality or the informal spiritual dimension of the tradition has favoured and venerated feminine spirituality. It is important to highlight the main features of Islamic female spirituality and observe its various manifestations over the ages, for in the context of the Islamic tradition, there exists a type of spirituality with distinctly feminine attributes. The spiritual values of Islam that Sufism espoused, even when they were not always made explicit, found broad acceptance by Muslims and non-Muslims. Whereas the attraction of Sufi spirituality is widely studied, less is known about the appeal of the Sufi notion of the feminine. Here I shall concentrate on the Sufi theological paradigm rather than Sufi practices, which might, in some cases, be more authoritarian than the paradigm. The paper will first give a brief summary of the importance of Sufism to the overall faith of Islam. Besides the spiritual values of Sufism, the paper will also highlight the Sufi gender paradigm that offers a particular notion of feminine equality and dignity. To understand this concept, it is important to consider the Sufi approach to the feminine principle within Islam. The capacity of Sufism to incorporate and encourage feminine activities within its sphere in both spiritual and social terms attests to the importance attributed by the Sufis to the feminine element in the Divine Nature itself. I shall examine each of these elements under three categories: Sufism and the acceptance of feminine activities, Sufism and feminine social values, and Sufism and the feminine element in spiritual life.

Yafa Shanneik (University of South Wales), Shia Notions of Woman- and Motherhood: Fatima bint Muhammad as a Role Model.

For Twelver Shiis, Sayyida Fatima as the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, the wife of Imam Ali and the mother of Imam Husayn occupies a special status as member of the ahl al-bayt. She is also the central genealogical link between the Prophet Muhammad and the Twelve Imams. Historically, she has been portrayed by Shiis as a woman who demonstrated strength expressed in her endurance of pain and suffering through patience and piety. Writing elegies and performing them in mourning rituals has been a central element in lamenting the death of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in Karbala in 680 CE. Although Sayyida Fatima died years before the battle of Karbala, she always occupies a particular space in mourning rituals in which she is remembered as a woman who particularly embodies Shia notions of woman- and motherhood. This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork in London, Kuwait city and Dubai and examines and compares the contemporary presentation of the figure of Sayyida Fatima in husayni lamentation poetry and elegies presented in women-only Shia religious ritual gatherings and recited in Arabic and Persian.

Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (Coventry University), Motherhood as constructed by us: Muslim women’s negotiations from a space that is their own.

According to foundational Islamic texts, motherhood is a key aspect of women’s diverse social roles; however some Muslim religious commentaries position motherhood as the only aspect of women’s contributions to society. The everyday mothering experiences of Muslim women remain absent from these discussions. This anthropological article will examine Muslim women’s narratives of motherhood and mothering in contemporary Britain. In my research, Muslim women in Britain chose motherhood, firstly, as one of the many fronts on which to challenge patriarchy that is evident in some Muslim texts and to thus ‘reclaim their faith’ as articulated in foundational Islamic texts. Secondly, they also used motherhood as a construct to find commonality within a feminist sisterhood – motherhood was something these Muslim women believed they shared with their ‘sisters’ who were from backgrounds different to their own. Within their diverse and multifaceted struggles, Muslim women thus identified a space which they share with other women.


11:50 – 12:10     Break


12:10 – 13:40     Session 7. Five concurrent panels.


Panel 1: Approaches to the Qur’an: Language, Gender and Exegesis

Room: Bedford, Chair: Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster University).

Nesya Rubinstein-Shemer (Bar Ilan University), Stories and traditions in Transformation: A New Look at the Story of Mary in Qur’ān 19: 15-17 and its Commentaries.

The persona of Maryam is mentioned twice in the Qur’ān—the first as the sister of Moses and Aaron and the second as Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the Qur’ān and its commentaries (Tafsῑr), what stands out is how the character of Maryam, Aaron’s sister and the daughter of Amram, is confused with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Some scholars argued that Muhammad “confused” the two figures. New research on this issue, however, has discarded the “confusion” argument and instead considers the  Qur’ānic text, i.e. chapter 19, (Sūrat Maryam) and chapter 3, (sūrat Al Imrān) as dealing only with Mary, the mother of Jesus. In this paper I would like to suggest a new reading for the story of the birth of Jesus in chapter 19. In my view verses 15-17, which are usually read as the opening to the story, are actually a transformation of a biblical story about Miriam, sister of Moses, appearing in Numbers, chapter 12. Evidence for this hypothesis can be also found in the Qurʼān commentaries on these verses.

Alena Kulinich (Seoul National University), The discussion on ‘schools’ of Islamic exegesis and its implications for Mu‘tazilite tafsīr.

The history of the interpretations of the Qur’ān has been traditionally approached through the study of different ‘schools’ of tafsīr. These ‘schools’ usually correspond to various Islamic intellectual/sectarian traditions and include, among others, Mu‘tazilite, Ṣūfī, Sunnī and Shī‘ite tafsīr. An underlying assumption of this division is that each of these traditions developed a distinct approach to the Qur’ān, and that tafsīr works authored by scholars associated with them fall into recognisable traditions due to the manifestations of this approach in their texts. This well-established framework, however, has been revisited in several publications, which critically engaged with the notion of exegetical ‘school’ and its efficiency for the analysis of individual tafsīr works and the history of Islamic exegesis. This paper explores the implications of this engagement for the study of Mu‘tazilite tafsīr. It examines a traditional approach to Mu‘tazilite tafsīr, which defines it through the unique set of characteristics deemed essential for this tradition, exploring its foundations and limitations. It further suggests that these limitations could be addressed by adopting a historical perspective on Mu‘tazilite tafsīr, which regards it not as a homogeneous category, defined by a unique and unchanging ‘essence’, but as heterogeneous, dynamic, and interacting with other tafsīr traditions.

Zohar Hadromi-Allouche (University of Aberdeen), The hind of dawn and ghazālat al-ḍuḥā: A comparative rereading of Psalm 22 and Q 93.

Sūrat al-Ḍuḥā (Q 93) is often regarded as reflecting biographical details from the sīra of the Prophet Muḥammad and/ or the Qur’anic prophet. The current study suggests that this sūrah should be understood as a re-reading of a biblical text: Psalm 22. This re-reading in itself, however, is also informed by Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 (the crucifixion narrative). This paper consists of three parts. The first one surveys the traditional tafsīr of the sūrah, and examines the correlation between Q 93 and Muḥammad’s sīra. The second part contains the main discussion, which compares sūrah 93 with Psalm 22. This comparison demonstrates the interlinks between the two texts and their exegetical traditions in terms of form, content and function. Part 3 examines the two texts from an additional dimension: that of the linkage between Q 93 and Psalm 22 on the one hand, and prophetic and saviour figures, to whom exegetical traditions connect both texts, on the other. 


Panel 2: Travelling Texts – Intellectual Exchange in ‘Frankish’ and Arabic Historiography in the Period of the Crusades

Room: Bloomsbury, Chair: Hugh Kennedy (SOAS).

Gowaart Van Den Bossche (Ghent University), Governing the Emotions: The Construction of Emotion and Ideal Rule by Bahā’ l-Dīn Ibn Shaddād and Jean Sire de Joinville.

The biographies of Salāḥ al-Dīn (r. 1174-1193) by Bahā’ l-Dīn Ibn Shaddād (d. 1234) and of Louis IX (r. 1226-1277) by Jean Sire de Joinville (d. 1317) are in some respects remarkably similar. This paper will argue that this similarity is not entirely coincidental. Rather, it bespeaks a conception of ideal rulership shared by both authors, probably originating from the mirror-for-princes tradition common in both the Islamic world and Europe. The ideals that can be found in many examples from such texts clearly influenced the biographical narratives of Joinville and Ibn Shaddād. As a general assessment of this relation between the mirror-for-princes genre in general and the two biographies in particular is too extensive to cover in a presentation, the paper will focus on the specific field of emotional representation. What did it mean to Joinville and Ibn Shaddād when they described their subjects as (excessively) sad, angry or joyful, and what were they trying to communicate to their audience(s)? I will explore this question by linking Barbara Rosenwein’s concept of emotional communities to contemporary discussions of “passions” and “virtues” as reflected in a number of mirrors-for-princes.

Mohamad El Merheb (SOAS), Criticising the Saint: Western Influence on the Muslim Narrative of the Seventh Crusade.

This paper examines the transfer of ideas across the Mediterranean, from West into the Muslim East, before and after the Seventh Crusade. The medium of this cross-cultural interaction was letters and embassies sent from Sicily to Ayyubid and Mamluk Egypt. Prominent Muslim officers, chancery secretaries, poets and historians, directly or indirectly connected to the Sicilian courts of Frederick II and later his son Manfred, were the agents of this transfer. This process will be analysed by studying the portrayal of the French King (and subsequent saint) Louis IX in medieval Arabic historiography. The paper argues that the court of Sicily disseminated an anti-Louis IX, anti-Papal, and pro-Frederick II narrative that shaped the king’s portrayal in contemporaneous Arabic historiography. This cross-cultural process of transfer started before the Seventh Crusade and continued for at least a decade after it. It was to shape the Muslim view of Sicily, the papacy, and the Franks for centuries to come.

Konrad Hirschler (SOAS), Fierabras and Les Enfances Godefroi: Who read chanson de geste in 13th-century Damascus?

There is little doubt that a considerable body of written Western-language material must have circulated within the Frankish principalities during the 200 years of Frankish presence in the Levant. However, we have only a very small number of manuscripts that bear direct witness even to this ‘internal’ Frankish text production and circulation. Beyond that, evidence of these texts’ circulation outside the Frankish territories has been virtually absent. This paper asks for the meaning of newly discovered Latin and Old French texts that circulated in Damascus during the 13th century. Fragments of such texts were deposited in the Umayyad Mosque’s Gheniza-style Dome of the Treasury and many of them were subsequently ‘recycled’ for producing cheap Arabic manuscripts. These texts offer a new venue for considering moments of cultural exchange during the Crusader period and for assessing these texts’ position within the reading landscape of medieval Damascus.


Panel 3: Transforming Islam: Comparative Approaches to Representations of Muslims and Islamic Culture in Trans-cultural and Trans-historical contexts.

Room: Gordon, Chair: James Hodkinson (Warwick University).


James Hodkinson (Warwick University), Ambiguous Brothers and Sisters: Constructing the Similarities of German and Islamic Culture, 1770-1918.

My paper considers how Islam, Islamic culture and Muslims are represented across a range of cultural discourses in the German-speaking world, including academic writing, travel writing, literature, journalism and also the visual culture of photography, during the period 1770 to 1918. Rather than adhere solely to a Saidian model of ‘orientalism’, which seeks to map out how Islam and Muslims are reduced to various forms of ‘Other’ within European culture, my paper traces how German culture conceives of its ‘similarity’ to Islam in terms of shared beliefs, cultural and political aspirations, though I retain a notion of how similarity is not necessarily seen as ‘positive’ or ‘progressive’ and often serves as a smokescreen for Eurocentric political and cultural ideologies, which seek to assimilate, domesticate, normalize and control. In closing I will show how these tensions still pertain to the position of Muslim communities in the UK, and outline ways in which the German, historical context is proving a useful tool in my public outreach work with Muslim groups, as it allows burning topics to be discussed via ‘cooler', apparently distant material.

Felicitas Becker (University of Cambridge), Idealized pasts and loud silences in Swahili Muslim preachers’ sermons concerning East African history. 

As in many Muslim congregations, so in East Africa, public preaching has become considerably more salient in recent decades, and has become a media phenomenon. Sermons are traded on cassettes and (now predominantly) DVDs, and increasingly made available via youtube or dedicated online video channels. The preachers engage with the history of Muslim congregations and with the current social, political and economic dispensation in the region both explicitly and implicitly. As preachers are almost by definition reformist and discontent with their place in East Africa’s polities is widespread among Muslims, it is not surprising that typically they view the present critically. But that does not mean that they find it easy to identify a usable better past. Rather, they tend to focus heavily on the heroic early days of monotheism, represented by the Old Testament prophets, and the age of Muhammad and his companions. By contrast, they tend to tread very carefully around the more recent history of Islam in East Africa and its relationship with both Omani and European imperialism. The exception to this are the most strident preachers associated with the Zanzibari ‘mwamko’ (awakening) movement, now repressed, who depicted the islands as victims of ‘Black (as in mainland) colonialism’. In this paper, I will try to tease out how different preachers’ varying explicit claims and implicit stances (expressed in habitus, clothing, language use, tone) address or skirt around the past in ways that indicate that the harsh social stratification of the pre-colonial coast, with slavery at its core, and its colonial transformations still have the potential to offend and divide.


Panel 4: Gender Studies in Islam: Beyond Islamic Feminism

Room: Woburn A, Chair: Yafa Shanneik (University of South Wales)

Joshua Roose (Australian Catholic University), Political Islam, Masculinity and Multiculturalism: Muslim Men in the West.

The “question of Muslim identity” and more specifically, Muslim masculinities, political loyalty and action has become the central pivot around which debate has focused for the place of Islam in the West and the adequacy of state polices on citizenship and multiculturalism. Despite the centrality of young, Western-born Muslim men to these questions they remain poorly understood. Even less understood is the relationship between social influences shaping Muslim men and the cultural, political, and intellectual trajectories of Islam in Western contexts. This paper examines the reasons young Muslim men often from very similar social backgrounds are pursuing such dramatically different political paths in the name of Islam. In particular, I discuss the post-9/11 generation of young men who have left their families and homes to fight in Iraq and Syria. I have conducted in depth case studies of four young Australian men involved in suicide attacks and engage with shaping influences upon them including hegemonic masculinity, vulnerability, grief, dis-empowerment, social injury, anger and altruism. I make the case that current governmental approaches engaging with young Muslim men and women across Western contexts need significant recalibration.

Azfar Anwar (University of Oxford), Constructing Quranic Language and Wisdom on the Metaphysics and Teleology of ‘Dispositional Homosexuality’.

Did the Qur’an make any distinctions between the act of sodomy and same-sex disposition, whether directly or indirectly? Is the Qur’an truly silent on ‘dispositional homosexuality’? What is the Islamic teleology on ‘dispositional homosexuality’? Is there no Qur’anic wisdom behind it? Why did God create ‘homosexuality’ according to Islam? Whilst introducing a new approach in Tafsīr, called the contextual-positional-thematic approach, this paper will seek to answer the abovementioned questions and more by constructing a particularly new Qur’anic rhetoric on ‘dispositional homosexuality’; one that does not contradict the direct and clear prohibition of the act of sodomy in Islam. This approach, inspired by the ‘Abduh’s and Redā’s Tafsīr al-Manār, will argue that the positions of Qur’anic verses which mention the People of Lot, can be derived from it Qur’anic wisdom behind the creation of ‘dispositional homosexuality’ thus creating a new Islamic attitude towards the latter. This new attitude could potentially be a springboard for future discourses, particularly ethical discourse, on Islam’s relation with ‘homosexuality’.

Sümeyra Yildiz (Foundation for Political Economic and Social Research), A Women’s Movement on the Holy Lands: Murabıtat.

The site that is known both as Haram al Sharif by the Muslims who believe that it is the place where Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven, and as Temple Mount by Jews who revere it as the site of two Biblical temples is sacred to the two religions. For decades it has been a flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians. After the Six Day War in 1967 Israel occupied the old city and East Jerusalem, but the holy site has stayed administered by a Jordanian Waqf, an Islamic Trust. There is an agreement that Jews may visit but may not pray there. However some Jews have tried to worship at the Temple Mount regarded as provocative by Muslims at Al Aqsa Mosque. Many Palestinians are suspicious that some Jewish nationalists want to challenge the waqf’s jurisdiction. One of the main actors in the politics around the site has been Murabıtat, which was composed of Palestinian women dedicated themselves to the protection of the site from the possible Jewish violations. In this paper, I will analyze the dynamics of this women’s movement and the role that they have been playing in the politics around the site. In the absence of any literature on the Murabıtat, except references in some human rights reports, I will make use of the interviews conducted with the members of the Murabıtat


Panel 5: Islamic Law: Contemporary Thought and Practice II

Room: Woburn B, Chair: Ali Reza Bhojani (Al-Mahdi Institute)

Bahar Davary (University of San Diego), Islamic Ecological Ethics: Contemplation of Water, Wind, Coral, and Fish.

Within the contemporary study of Islam, the topic of environmental ethics is under-examined, while ethical conduct, which involves the wellbeing of the created world – and its relation with the creator – has been the central theme of Islamic thought and action for centuries. The Quran and the sunnah (tradition) make references to the sanctity of nature. All Islamic schools of law have set out guidelines for the proper treatment of animals and plants as well as natural resources (e.g. polluting the water being a sin according to the shari’ah). The Qur’an speaks about the cosmic balance, mizan, while the shari’ah addresses issues of land cultivation, and consecration (hima’), water resources, animals, birds, and plants. This paper will focus on select schools of shari’ah and their rulings regarding the environment, with special focus on bodies of water and the living beings within it. As a practical contemporary example the paper will also explore the early roots of deep ecology in the philosophy and actions of Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988) and in his opposition to the construction of kalabagh Dam in the Punjab province and its impact on the environment of the region.

Angus Slater (University of Cumbria), Queer(ing) Notions of Authority in Contemporary Representations of the Sharῑ’ah.

This paper aims to argue that contemporary notions of authority within the representations of Islamic law in the West are fundamentally queer in comparison to established classical legal norms. This applies not only to the way in which authority has been reconfigured within the work of reformist figures such as Abou El Fadl or Ramadan, but also the way in which authority is produced and monopolized within more conservative circles. In doing so, the paper draws on the notion of “Islamicity” to argue that both strands of contemporary engagement with the classical tradition of the law are offering fundamentally different accounts of the place of contemporary authority and its place relative to the authority of the divine law. Most notably, the paper draws a distinction between the conservative notion of authority which, while queer relative to classical understandings, remains internally authoritarian, and some forms of more liberal reformism, which is queer relative to the classical tradition in its understanding of authority, but also functions as a process and methodology of ‘queering’ authority itself. In doing so the paper brings together critical queer theory with two normally opposed streams of engagement with Islamic law in an attempt to illuminate some underlying similarities, as well as procedural and methodological differences.

Pejman Abedifar (University of St Andrews), The Doctrine of Riba in the Contemporary World: Is Islamic Finance the Answer?

This paper re-examines the doctrine of Riba and attempts to reconcile it with the contemporary world. I argue that conventional banking and finance practised in formal markets is not against Islamic principles so long as it operates on the basis of justice and does not treat the poor and the needy in an opportunistic manner. The doctrines of Riba and Infaq (charity) are inextricably linked and must therefore be considered together. The latter emphasizes helping the poor and the former prevents extracting rent from their need. Interest-based lending was merely an instance in the medieval era, and the exploitation of the poor can occur in different forms within different landscapes. 


13:40 – 14:40:     Lunch


14:40 – 16:10:     Session 8. Five concurrent panels.


Panel 1: Medieval Muslim Conceptions of Power and Knowledge

Room: Bedford, Chair: Jon Hoover (University of Nottingham)

Shainool Jiwa (Institute of Ismaili Studies), Invoking the Imam’s Dhimma: Exploring the state-subject dialectic during the reign of the Fatimid Imam-caliph al-‘Azīz bi’llāh (975-996).

The Fatimid arrival in Egypt in 969 CE placed them at the head of a burgeoning, ethnically and religiously diverse populace. Recent scholarship has noted the Fatimid sovereigns’ articulations of their universal authority over their subjects through the paradigm of the Imam’s universal Dhimma, his protection. Less explored, however, is how this paradigm played out in the interactions between Fatimid officials and the Egyptian populace. Through a review of primary Fatimid sources, this paper will examine the theoretical articulations of the role and responsibilities of the Imam-caliph over those whom he reigned. It will particularly focus on Fatimid officials as functionaries of the Imam-Caliph’s sovereignty, as intermediaries between him and the populace and as agents who were imbued with his responsibility for care, equity and protection. Drawing upon select case studies pertaining to interactions between official intermediaries and members of the general populace during the reign of al-‘Azīz bi’llāh, the first Fatimid ruler to begin his reign in Egypt, including instances of transgression by state-officials, the paper will aim to probe the Fatimid state-subject dialectic.

Elsa Cardoso (Centre for History, University of Lisbon), The theatre state and the divinization of the caliph in al-Andalus: a comparative perspective.

This papers aims at considering ceremonial features referring to the divinization of the figure of the caliph. Such features will be analysed for Christian diplomatic receptions held at the court of Cordoba under the rule of Caliphs ‘Abd al-Raḥmān III (912-961) and al-Ḥakam II (961-976), in a comparative perspective. The declaration of the Umayyad Caliphate of the West by ‘Abd al-Raḥmān III marked the institutionalization of a carefully planned court ceremonial, reaching its greatest development under the rule of al-Ḥakam II. Elaborated protocol standards are displayed, especially during receptions held for ambassadors from Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, King Otto I, or during submission receptions, such as the one held for Ordoño IV, deposed king of Leon. Oriental influence played a strong role concerning adoption and innovation of such ritualization of the figure of the Umayyad caliph, who faced the messianic religious essence of the Fatimid Shii‘te Ismaili doctrine. Such ceremonies will be compared with ‘Abbasid and Byzantine similar receptions. Furthermore, this paper aims at evaluating the origin and symbology of those rituals within the framework of diplomatic and cultural exchanges, taking as a model the symbolic anthropological analysis of Clifford Geertz’s Negara: the theatre state in nineteenth-century Bali.

Damaris Wilmers, (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen), Beyond Schools: Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm al-Wazīrʼs (d. 840/1436) Epistemology of Ambiguity.

The Yemenī scholar Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm al-Wazīr (d. 840/1436) has been associated with a process within the Zaydiyya that accommodated to Sunnī theological and legal thought. This so-called “Sunnisation of Zaydism” climaxed in the 19th century and fuels the current inner-Yemenī conflict. On the basis of theological and legal writings of Ibn al-Wazīr contrasted with those of his contemporary Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā b. al-Murtaḍā (d. 840/1436), this paper explores the role Ibn al-Wazīrʼs thought played in the “Sunnisation of the Zaydiyya” and emphasizes its significance for the timeless challenge of theological and legal diversity beyond the Yemenī context. Ibn al-Wazīr reacted to the increasing theological and legal diversity that impacted the Zaydī Yemen of his time with an integrative approach, claiming an essential agreement of different schools of thought and de-emphasizing the significance of school affiliation. His approach was based on an epistemology that restricted cognitive certainty to a minimum of religious knowledge upon which all schools agreed and located the bigger part of theological and legal knowledge in the realm of probability where diversity was expected. His epistemological distinction set him apart not only from his Zaydī contemporaries, but also from later proponents of “Sunnisation” that put a claim on him.


Panel 2: Identity and Belonging in Minority Contexts

Room: Woburn A, Chair: Dietrich Reetz (Zentrum Moderner Orient).

Simon Stjernholm (University of Copenhagen), Islamic Morning Services on Swedish Public Radio.

Early each weekday morning, a religious morning service is broadcast on Swedish public radio. Since 2004, Muslim and Jewish individuals are invited to deliver these services alongside Christians. This paper will present, contextualise and analyse the Muslim morning services broadcast during the years 2013–2014, with particular attention to: 1) how Islamic tradition is represented through references to authoritative texts and figures; 2) how personal experiences and narratives are used in the services; and 3) how current affairs and Swedish society is reflected in the services. The paper situates these services within a framework of contemporary Islamic oratory. While previous research has e.g. focused on Arab Islamic satellite channels, less attention has been paid to Islamic oratory in minority contexts. This paper investigates how unconventional Islamic oratory affects and is affected by mainstream broadcasting in a Western European setting. Relevant issues to consider in the analysis include possibilities and constraints related to public discourses on Islam, power and selection in constructing representations of Islam, and Muslim orators’ various expressions and arenas in the current media landscape. Analysing this type of Islamic oratory can further our understanding of diverse Muslim subjectivities in relation to hegemonic narratives and discourses.

Ringo Ringvee (Estonian Ministry of the Interior, Religious Affairs Department), Tensions between “old” and “new” Muslim communities in the Western secular society - “Should there be a ban on burqa?”

The paper focuses on the tensions between the “old” and “new” Muslims in a secular Western society. In the context of the paper the “old” Muslims include the traditional Muslims communities that have over century long histories while the “new” Muslims indicate communities of new migrants as well as native converts to Islam both appeared relatively recently. The paper focuses on the tensions between these two different types of Muslim communities in the secular society which in this context is mainly Estonia although similarities on the issues focused on are reflected also on other Western countries. The secularization processes have affected not only the ethnic majority but also ethnic minorities that include in this context the Tatars, the traditional Muslim community in Estonia. While Islam has been an element of ethnic and cultural identity for Tatars in Estonia (as well as for Tatars in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland) the “new” Muslims have a different approach to their religion. The tensions between the communities include the issues concerning religious customs, authority as well as language barriers between different ethnic groups.

Jacob Michelson (Kings College London), ‘We Grew Here Too!’ How every day racism impacts young Muslim Australians sense of belonging.

A recent study conducted by researchers in Australia found that Muslims who reside in Sydney are three to five time more likely to experience “very high rates of exposure of racism” in comparison to other minority groups. At the same time, 97% of the nearly 600 Muslims surveyed as part of this study indicated that relations between non-Muslim Australians were friendly and that they felt a “very strong sense of belonging.” In order to assess the extent to which everyday forms of racism impact Muslim Australian’s sense of belonging, this study will present oral testimonies from 13 young Muslim Australians of various ethnic background who reside in Sydney’s Western suburbs. The research will show that despite the rise in racial animus towards the Muslim community in recent years, young Muslim Australian continue to affirm their attachment to a shared sense of national identity which they regard as inclusive as well as compatible with the construction and maintenance of their religious identities. Moreover, these individuals are able to demonstrate a high regard for many of Australia’s key social and political institutions which they believe serve to enhance the betterment of the community as a whole.


Panel 3: Rethinking Islamism and Liberal Democracy in Turkey

Room: Gordon, Chair: Ayla Gol (Aberystwyth University).

Akif Avci (University of Nottingham), Conceptualising Neoliberal Authoritarian State in the Post-Washington Consensus Era: The Case of Turkey.

This paper critically engages with the role of the Turkish state in the Post-Washington Consensus (PWC) Era. In order to grasp the symbiotic relationship between state and capital, and between state and society, this paper argues that the policy agenda of the AKP (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, Justice and Development Party) governments in the 2000s was characterised by their adherence to the neoliberal privatization policies, which, in turn, have helped the AKP to constitute Islamist business elite who have been loyal to the AKP and its economic policies. This was also the policy prescription of the PWC which was incorporated after the 1997 East Asian economic crises, and became more influential especially after the 2008-09 global financial crises. Through these privatization policies and amendments to the Constitution during the AKP era, the process of internationalisation of Turkish capital, and thus, international expansion of Islamic bourgeoisie was achieved through foreign trade. Therefore this study employs principally a critical take in order to conceptualise the role of the state in the context of internationalisation of capital and state, and thus, to categorise the complex nature of relationship as reflected within the state apparatuses.

Caglar Ezikoglu (Aberystwyth University), Competitive/Conservative Authoritarianism and Crises of Liberal Democracy in Turkey.

This paper is aimed to exploring the crises of liberal democracy in Turkey with regards to competitive and conservative authoritarianism. The classification is borrowed from the work of Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way on competitive authoritarianism, where a regime violates at least one of the three defining attributes of democracy: free elections, broad protection of civil liberties, and a reasonably level playing field. Although Turkey has been classified as a ‘flawed democracy’ for a very long time, the current regime shows that it clearly fits the definition of competitive authoritarianism. Turkey has identified as an “illiberal democracy” that enjoys free elections, but not basic rights and freedoms, after previously promising a model of moderate Islamist democracy by Justice and Development Party (AKP). AKP has offered the concept of conservative democracy, but it has become more conservative and less democrat since 2011. This paper focuses why and how liberal democracy in Turkey has a serious crisis in light of the AKP’s competitive and conservative authoritarianism.

Oguzhan Goksel (Istanbul 29 Mayis University), Uneven Development and Unexpected Outcomes: A Historical Sociological Guide to the “New Turkey”.

Eurocentric theories have long presented Turkey as a ‘beacon of hope’ in the Muslim world – a Westernising society that would combine liberal democracy, Islamic values, secularism and material development. In contrast to these expectations, New Turkey constitutes an illiberal polity, a neoliberal economy based on clientelism and an increasingly Islamised social environment. It is a non-Western model that has more in common with Russia, Singapore and Iran than it has with Western liberal democracies. This paper seeks to provide an original non-Eurocentric perspective for comprehending New Turkey. For this purpose, a historical sociological approach inspired by the ‘uneven and combined development theory’ and the ‘multiple modernities paradigm’ is utilised. The paper answers the following questions: if modernisation does not transpire in similar ways across Western and non-Western societies, then how can we create an effective framework to understand this phenomenon? Secondly, which specific factors have led to the emergence of New Turkey and its divergence from Western modernity?

Gonenc Uysal (King’s College London), ‘Death Exists in Disposition’: A Critique of the Hegemonic Project of Conservative Democracy.

This paper argues that the AKP’s discourse on conservative democracy has aimed to consolidate the transition of state and societal structures within the authoritarian framework of neoliberal-Islamism. In this sense, the AKP broadened and deepened Turkish-Islamic Synthesis by merging Islamism with liberal democracy, and thus, transforming the understanding of democracy with references to religion. This paper borrows its theoretical framework from Marxism in order to unpack the hegemonic project of conservative democracy in accordance with relations of capitalist modes of production and the process of capital accumulation. It further argues that conservative democracy has aimed to religionise, in particular Islamise, the state’s ideology and societal formation in order to consolidate the rule of capital to the detriment of subordinate classes in the neoliberal era. It particularly focuses on the Soma mine accident of 2014 as a case study when the AKP and the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly stated that ‘death exist[ed] in disposition’.


Panel 4: Sufism: Historical and Literary Contexts

Room: Bloomsbury, Chair: Haifaa Jawad (University of Birmingham)

Eyad Abuali (SOAS), The Institutionalisation of Sufi psychology in 12th and 13th century Iran: The case of the Kubrawiyya.

The Kubrawiyya are sometimes characterised as an insular school of thought which was not particularly interested in engaging with wider society. Consequently, the contribution of the Kubrawīs towards the development of institutionalised Sufism during the 12th and 13th centuries seems to have been overlooked. This assumption seems to be partly based on the idealist nature of Kubrawī thought, and the propensity for the early Kubrawī authors to discuss the phenomena of dreams and spiritual visions. By analysing Majd al-Dīn al-Baghdādī’s (1219) codification of Najm al-Dīn Kubrā’s (1221) thought, this paper will show that many Kubrawī notions, from intihā’ (reaching the end of the path), to spiritual visions and dreams are employed in an attempt to formalise and govern the heart of the Sufi institution, the relationship between the shaykh and his disciples. Here, Kubrawī theory serves as the basis for important practical and institutional developments as al-Baghdādī asserts a consistency between psychological theory and Sufi practice. This paper will show that these developments are not detached from socio-political concerns of the Sufi institution and are employed to govern affiliations between Sufis and wider society, as well as limiting the scope for antinomian groups and non-affiliated individuals to claim spiritual authority.

Johannes Rosenbaum (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg), Modernizing Sufi Adab in South Asia. The case of contemporary marriage advice. 

While adab as literature has received considerable scholarly attention both in Arabic as well as in Urdu, the use, status, and employment of adab norms in modern societies has as yet garnered little attention. This is also true in spite of the importance of adab behaviour in South Asia. This paper will look at contemporary marriage advice and etiquette in Urdu and analyze how Sufi authors and ‘ulamā’ make use and possibly modernize adab. The basis of analysis form advice manuals from Sufi and reformist authors from the early 21th century, namely Zulfikar Ahmad Naqshbandi, Muhammad Aslam Shahin Qadri and Muhammad Anwar bin Akhtar. While propagating norms seemingly derived from hadith and traditional Islamic discourse and making use of traditional didactic anecdotes as a means of communication with their audience, there is a shift towards the South Asian environment and modern ideas of marital conduct. 

Samer Dajani (Cambridge Muslim College), Sufi Hadith Commentaries. 

This paper sheds light on a tradition of hadith commentaries by Sufis that goes back to the 3rd century of Islam. Sufis have had significant contributions to the field of hadith commentary which have been mostly overlooked. Nawadir al-Usul by al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. c. 298), may have been the second work of hadith commentary ever written. It was closely followed by Bahr al-Fawa’id by al-Kalabadhi (d. 380/990), author of al-Ta’arruf li-madhhab ahl al-tasawwuf. Other important works in the field are the Commentary on Forty Hadith by Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi (d. 673/1274), Ibn Abi Jamra’s (d. 675/1276) commentary on selections from al-Bukhari, and al-Tibi’s (d. 743/1343) commentary on Mishkat al-masabih. A more recent example is Salih al-Ja’faris commentary on forty traditions. Other figures who contributed to the field but did not write dedicated works include Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi (d. 543/1148). This paper will give a preliminary investigation into why these works were written, their style of commentary, and the influence of these works on later scholarship in the field of hadith sciences and Sufism.


Panel 5: Reconceptualising Islamic Education in Britain and Europe

Room: Woburn B, Chair: Ataullah Siddiqui (Markfield Institute of Higher Education).

Alison Scott-Baumann & Sariya Cheruvallil-Cotractor, Islamic Education in Britain, Book Launch.

Jan Felix Engelhardt (Center for Islamic Theology, Münster University), Islamic Theology at European Universities- Chance, Challenge or Complement to the Study of Islam.

In recent years, Islamic theological studies have been established at state universities in several European countries. With more than 25 chairs, first and foremost Germany introduced Islamic Theology as a means to produce Muslim academic knowledge in the West. This unique step in the non-Muslim world deserves further attention: Which effects does the growing number of university institutions conducting Islamic Theology have on the Islamic Studies? Does the alleged dichotomy of outsider Islamic Studies and insider Islamic Theology legitimate two separate disciplines working on Islam? In my paper, I focus on these questions from a sociology of science perspective. I argue that on the one side, the academisation of Muslim insider perspectives allows (Muslim) scholars to speak to an Islamic audience, while on the other it brings along serious misunderstandings about the nature of knowledge production on Islam. While one argument for establishing Islamic Theology was the inability of Islamic Studies to produce knowledge ‘from within’, this lead to the counter argument that Islamic Theology cannot produce ‘neutral’ knowledge due to the supposed lack of distance of Muslim scholars. I argue that this insider/outsider dichotomy is not the decisive difference between both disciplines, but their academic and social function.


16:10 – 16:30:     Break


16:30 – 18:00     Session 9. Five concurrent panels.


Panel 1: Inter-Religious Relations: Re-Examining the Texts

Room: Woburn A, Chair: Hugh Goddard (University of Edinburgh).

Nathan Gibson (Vanderbilt University), An Islamic scholar in a pluralistic society: The biography of al-Jahiz reconsidered.

In the 1950’s, Charles Pellat laid the foundation for scholarly biography of the renowned ninth-century author al-Jāḥiẓ with two publications: “Ǧāḥiẓ à Bagdād et à Sāmarrā” (Rivista degli studi orientali 27 [1952], 47-67) and Le milieu baṣrien et la formation de Ǧāḥiẓ (Paris: Librairie d'Amérique et d'Orient Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1953). Essential as Pellat’s work was, it had a significant, if subtle, omission: Pellat’s portrait depicted al-Jāḥiẓ in an entirely Muslim world. This is not unexpected, considering that both al-Jahiz’s own works and the portrayals of him in medieval Islamic biographies connect him primarily to Muslim personages. However, given the fact that al-Jāḥiẓ wrote about Jews and Christians in his society in some detail, one may hypothesize that he had some kind of contact—direct or indirect—with non-Muslims. This paper takes a prosopographical approach to exploring al-Jahiz’s personal network in a pluralistic society, using references both from his own works and from sources in his immediate context. It concludes that al-Jāḥiẓ was, at most, one step removed from personal contact with known non-Muslim intellectuals, and that the partisan portrayals of his social network in his own and his biographers’ works reflect their particular rhetorical purposes.

Zeynep Yucedogru (University of Nottingham), An Example of Muslim Biblical Testimonia: Ibn Taymiyya’s proof-texts for the Prophecy of Muhammad.

Early Christianity produced collections of biblical proof texts constructed around the themes of Christological events such as Jesus’ birth, incarnation and resurrection. These testimonia collections have been transmitted and circulated among early Christians independently of the biblical books. Similar to testimonia writings that contain biblical excerpts proving the validity of Jesus’ Christological mission, Muslim scholars also have a testimonia tradition known as Aʿlām an-nubuwwa (signs of prophecy) in which they employ selected biblical passages to claim that the prophecy of Muhammad is foretold in the Bible. In this presentation, I will explain how the biblical passages, which are also quoted in Christian testimonias, gain a new hermeneutical character in Muslim writings, by following Ibn Taymiyya’s (d.1328) explanation of Daniel 2.34-45; 7:13-14 and Deuteronomy 33.2 in his Takhjīl ahl al-Injīl (The Shaming of the followers of the Gospel). This paper will provide some preliminary readings of the Biblical verses in Takhjīl, which has always been overshadowed by the reputation of al-Jawāb al-Ṣaḥīḥ. Furthermore, this presentation will offer some initial points that might suggest further research topics for a probable link between Christian and Muslim testimonia collections, in general, and for an advance study on Ibn Taymiyya’s Takhjīl in particular.

Alessandro Scafi (University of London), Beware of the Eyes of the Houris: the Christian Critique of the Islamic Paradise.

The Christian critique of the Islamic notion of heaven was a commonplace in medieval theological literature and anti-Islamic polemical tracts. Peter the Venerable and William of Tripoli, among others, criticized the idea that the ultimate and perfect happiness given to man by God could consist of corporeal delights. The same point was made by other medieval writers, including Thomas Aquinas, who explained that in the heavenly paradise there will be no food, drink or sex. In the fifteenth century Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, after pointing out that Islam promised an eternal life surrounded by rivers of milk, honey and wine, delicate foods, plentiful and beautiful women and concubines, discredited the idea of a corporeal paradise. Other Christian thinkers, such as Nicholas of Cusa and Dionysius the Carthusian, viewed the Islamic paradise in a different way. As a whole, however, the Christian critique of the Islamic heaven bears witness to the longstanding Christian tendency to spiritualize the notion of paradise. The Christian arguments against the account of carnal pleasures in paradise found in the Qur’an are a clear indication of the desire to exclude any similarity between the physical aspects of human life and the state of perfection.  


Panel 2: Islamic Jurisprudence and Current Issues

Room: Bloomsbury, Chair: Mohammad Mesbahi (The Islamic College).

Nehad Khanfar (The Islamic College), Critical examination of the Quran war verses by extremists, Questioning the concept of holy war in Islam.

The text of Quran is used to justify many war crimes and violations of human rights by Islamic extremist at different places and occasion across the world. ISIS being the latest version to commit criminal acts in the name of Islam supported by a specific interpretation of some Quranic verses. This paper will critically examine whether the language and terminologies used in Quran encourage aggressions and if yes, to what extent and in what context? It also aims to critically analyse whether Quranic verses give permission for Muslims to initiate war on religious bases or start a holy war?? This paper will examine the validity of ISIS claims about the war and its rules from the Quranic standpoint.      

Fazel Milani (The Islamic College), Muslim Migration to Europe and the Necessity of the Ijtihādi Approach.

Europe is now home to about 38 million Muslims, or about five per cent of its population. With the recent flow of refugees, it is expected that the arrival of an estimated one million people from counties such as Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan will impact Europe even further. Britain is now a recognized multi-faith country, with Muslims accounting for the second largest religious group after Christianity. The 2011 census showed that there were 2.7 million Muslims living in England and Wales which equated to 4.8 per cent of the total population with some areas in London (the most diverse region in the country) 34.5 per cent of people reporting to be Muslim (over 7 times the England and Wales figure). Ijtihād, in Islamic law, is an independent, Innovative and original interpretation of problems that allows scholars an avenue in dealing with new issues faced by migrant Muslims based mainly on the Islamic sources of Qurān and Hadith. Just as surgeons utilize a range of instruments, Muslim scholars, expert in deducing the law from its sources, known as mujtahids, need to employ a range of principles in the process of the development of scholarly guidance. Whilst many Quranic texts are unequivocal, some others are equivocal, that’s to say that more than one meaning can be understood from them. Another possible problem arises from words and terms used in metaphorical senses and those who lack the proper expertise would conclude the literal meaning of them. The significance of being able to differentiate between the above examples draws a line what is regarded as appropriate or false conclusions. This research will review the use of Ijtihād by the Shia Ulema, outlining the source for the principles that guide and inform the Muslims on how to make Islam-based moral and ethical choices to respond to the challenges and contemporary concerns of ordinary Muslims at every level of society living in the UK (European non-Muslim society). It will reflect on the desperate need for authoritative guidance by such migrants and highlight a series of replies obtained on these targeted issues within a myriad of complexities that confronts them on a daily basis.

Mohammad Mesbahi (The Islamic College), Fasting and the Problems of Muslims in Europe: Visibility of the Moon and Unusual Time Zones.

The fasting of Ramadan is an agreed pillar of Islam by all Muslims but currently the most important worships in Islam, like that of Ramadan, are jurisprudentially inter-linked to the physical visibility of the moon, dawn, sunrise and the sunset. The dates of this holy month are only fixed when the crescent moon is sighted following 29 or 30 days of the lunar cycle. With the advancement of technology, and the political, economic and social issues being faced currently, has led to Muslims living world over, including the United Kingdom and Europe. As such, the sighting of the crescent by all communities at one time is no longer possible. This has led to intense discussion of the jurisprudence of this issue, causing problems for Muslim families and employees residing in Europe. This study will attempt to clarify the scientific stance and the jurisprudential aspects of moonsighting, reflecting on the issue of local sighting and the obstacles to physical sighting. It will also examine the opinion that only areas of close proximity may share a horizon for the purposes of a crescent sighting, which has led to Muslims around the world starting the new month on possibly three different days. The rational and traditional basis for such ruling is analysed and compared to that of other Mujtahids. Moreover, this research will attempt to explore the religious rulings regarding the Ramadan obligatory fasting period. For the case of the northern hemisphere, examining the prolonged sunlight period experienced by Muslims in Europe, and whether the shortening the fast is valid or permissible based on the legal definitions of fasting (sawm), the person obliged to fast (mukalaf), the beginning of the fast (imsaak), sunset (maghrib) and the night time.

Zahra Kamal (The Islamic College), Modern Designer Babies and the Islamic Perspective. 

Man’s continuous pursuit of medical advancement in genetic engineering has led to the recent approval by the British Government of a pioneering gene therapy as of February 2015. This technique permits the creation of human embryos using the genetic material of three individuals, being the parents and a female donor. Within the medical profession, the procedure is commonly know as Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT), however taking the underlying principle of having a third donor resulted in it being globally interpreted as creating “three parent babies”, which has attracted immediate and mixed public reaction, some citing fear and scepticism, while others welcomed with positivism. Within the sphere of religion and science it became a subject of heated controversy due to the nature of the procedure. With the imminent arrival of the first so called “three parent baby” in 2016, the position of many religions remains unknown and unexplored. This has exposed a gap within published literature and thus created an opportunity to conduct further research and investigation to see if Islamic law would permit using the genetic material obtained from three people in designing a baby free from mitochondrial mutations or has science gone too far in genetically engineering mankind? This paper explores the permissibility of this technique in Islamic law. 


Panel 3: Islamic Thought and Print Culture in the Late Ottoman Period

Room: Gordon, Chair: Omar Anchassi (QMU).       

Ayşe Polat (University of Chicago), Approved for Print: Late Ottoman Regulatory Mechanisms on Islamic Books.

The proposed paper investigates the approval and sanctioning mechanisms applied to Islamic books during nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Ottoman Istanbul. It examines a council established under the office of the Sheikh al-Islam in the Ottoman bureaucratic administration to inspect, to oversee, and to approve or reject books proposed for print and dissemination. It closely studies the institutional rise and development of this Islamic publication approval council, Tedkik-i Mesahif ve Müellefat-ı Şeriyye Meclisi, within the broader framework of reforms and regulations undertaken in the domains of education and printing press. It traces the expanded jurisdiction of the council from overseeing and approving printed Quranic codices to those of Islamic books in general and ultimately to press articles on religion and Islam. It analyzes the council’s operation mechanism and modes of reasoning, the conventions of judgment it deployed in the approval or rejection of books proposed by Muslim scholars and intellectuals. The paper sheds important light on print Islam in the late Ottoman Empire while also articulating on the critical yet mostly understudied role played by the state in shaping the production and dissemination of Islamic intellectual textual products.

Ayşan  Baylak, Bogazici University), Islam in Print: Mapping Islamic Culture in Turkey.

Islamic media and Islamic print culture in general and Islamic books in particular constitute the genre of Islamic revival in Turkey. Similar to the countries like Egypt, Indonesia, Iran etc. where different forms of media and new genres with Islamic content emerged in the same period, in Turkey the most expansive form of transferring religious knowledge have either been the printed materials or oral forms of speech either in private homes, mosques, lodges, community organizations, associations and later radio and TV channels. In this paper I would like to offer a general history of Islamic publication and the evolution of Islamic and Islam related books in the print history of Turkey as well as the relationship of diverse Islamic groups or communities’ with the religious and general publication affairs. Besides drawing a general map of the main themes, subject matters and institutional actors in the Islamic print sector, I would like to put forth how different genres of Islamic books in-print (i.e scripture, classical Islamic literature, devotional Islamic books, fictions, books for kids and self-reflexive Islam related books) emerged and changed during the Republican period (1923-2010) based on bibliographical data. I will also discuss the impact of traditional or modern religious groupings and their struggle to maintain symbolic power and authority in the production of Islamic knowledge and discourse formation through publishing activities.

Yakoob Ahmed (SOAS), Constitutionalism: The  explanation of Islamic constitutional theory by ulema journalist during the advent of the Young Turk Constitutional Revolution of 1908 in the Ottoman Empire.

Contemporary works on the compatibility of Islam with constitutional discourse continue to be viewed as an idealistic abstraction whose reality is yet to be explored outside the realm of the normative theories of the Muslim nation states. On closer inspection, although the Ottoman experience has been acknowledged, often ignored are the contributions of the Ottoman Sunni ulema towards Islamic-constitutional discourse from 1908 onwards. Although the idea of government limited by law is supported in Islamic tradition, however, discussion of limiting government to the rule of law mainly took expression after 1908. I intend to examine the ulema newspaper journals in Istanbul to explain the merits of these arguments and how the ulema attempted to generate public opinion in favour of the new political discourse. I shall in particular be looking the first ulema journal in Istanbul after 1908 titled Sırat-ı Müstakim and the Cemiyyet-I ilmiyye-I Islam-I’s Beyaulhak. I shall also examine the al-Manar publication of Egypt to draw some of the similarities and differences between Istanbul and the Arab world. It is important to place the remarkability of the Ottoman effort inclusive of the ulema within its context, be it historical, social, religious or political. The evaluation of both political tradition and theory of government became debated inherently rather than borrowed, where ulema participation in the constitutional amendment process, parliamentary representation and electoral activity became accepted. 


Panel  4: Through the Looking Glass: Perspectives on Reform, Extremism and Islamophobia

Room: Bedford, Chair: Hizer Mir (University of Leeds).

Hizer Mir (University of Leeds), Decolonising Islamic Thought: A New Typology.

This paper will look at the dominant typology within Islamicate thought: modernist and traditionalist. It is asserted in this paper that these two labels have attained a dominant hegemony when one characterizes Islamicate intellectual networks. This is proven through the happy adoption of these terms by those described as such and their ubiquitous nature. The flaws and colonial presuppositions inherent in these two labels will be discussed as well as the introduction of a new typology which has Islamicate history and tradition at its heart. This new typology will be dominated by a spectrum with canonism on the right wing and decanonism on the left wing. The basis of this typology is the fact that a secondary canon is being produced by canonist intellectual networks. Furthermore, it is asserted in this paper that our understanding of thinkers is changed because of this new typology with the scholar Ali Abd Al-Raziq being used as an example. 

Claudia Radiven (University of Leeds), Religious Revivalism or Political Power-Talk? Assessing the influence of Sunni and Shi’a Theologies On Their Respective Militant Offshoots.

This presentation will assess the differences between Islam’s two main theological schools and how this has affected some of the militant groups that have emerged in the contemporary era. I look specifically at Al-Qaeda, as one of the largest Sunni militant groups, and at the Iranian Revolution and Hezbollah as examples of Shi’a militant thought.  As part of this comparison I look specifically at the types of leadership, as well as how these specific leaders use their theological history to influence followers. A further aspect of this research is the influence of other ideologies such as leftist-socialism and Kharajism, and whether this has had an impact on how theology is used within militant organisations. In my conclusions I use these points to establish how the use of religious ideologies, such as Salafism, are being used in the ongoing ‘war of ideas’ rather than as part of a pure religious outlook. I shall be identifying the problems implicit in this ideological warfare as well as how certain groups have shown more stringent theological leanings. This will identify just how these groups use theology for their own purposes.

Ismail Patel (University of Leeds), Emergence of Institutional Islamophobia: The Case of the Charity Commission of England and Wales.

This paper will focus on the structural changes to the Charity Commission exploring the impact of the Charities Act 2006 on accountability. The singular 'Charity Commission' replaced the 'Charity Commissioners' who existed pre-2006. The role of the Charity Commission, it is argued, has become politicised and the appointment process dependent on the political ideology of the incumbent government. Where British Muslim charities are concerned, the Charity Commission is expected to implement anti-terrorism strategies such as the government's Prevent strategy. This paper will begin with a genealogy of the Charity Commission through various legislative measures, and explore its expanding remit over time and argue that it has become institutionally Islamophobic. It will attempt to discern if the disproportionate scrutiny of Muslim registered charities, which is at 38 per cent, is related to pressures from anti-terror legislation. It will employ the concept of governmentality to explore power relations and investigate whether the Charity Commission fits into a matrix of power being exercised on British Muslim communities/charities and the impact of restrictions on banking facilities. The context of 'charity' from within the Muslim traditions will focus on 'Zakah'. 


Panel 5: British Islam: New Movements and Identities

Room: Woburn B, Chair: Ataullah Siddiqui (Markfield Institute of Higher Education).

Anabel  Inge, Salafism and the challenge of cultivating commitment: ethnographic research among young women in London.

The attraction of many young Western Muslims to Salafism has prompted intrigue. Commentators stress Salafi recruiters’ skill in conjuring an aura of the ‘authentic’ to which many are highly susceptible. But neophytes’ continued commitment is hardly addressed, and NRMs research suggests this cannot be assumed – especially since Salafi groups demand a kind of ‘high-risk activism’ (Wiktorowicz, 2005). Drawing on extended ethnographic research among women in London, I explain how Salafi groups strategise to prevent initial zeal from fizzling out through ‘circles of knowledge’, which aim to foster instrumental, moral and affective commitment (Kanter, 1972). Teachers encouraged women to (1) consider further investment in Salafism as a cost-benefit calculation based on a clear-cut classificatory system of rules, (2) which are derived from unquestionably ‘moral’ sources (Qur’an and sunna), (3) and to feel a sense of belonging through shared identity markers and a notion of ‘sisterhood’. Yet the women faced social realities that disrupted these ideals. Personal and cultural divisions blighted the ‘sisterhood’, and many struggled to keep attending circles and to implement strict teachings in an un-segregated, Western society. Two years on, some had moderated their zeal or left, and influential community voices were calling for a more contextualised approach. The findings reveal a partial disconnect between the ‘official’, rigidly defined Salafism-as-taught – and as portrayed in the media – and the constantly evolving, adapting and often contradictory Salafism-as-lived. 

Davide  Pettinato (University of Exeter), British Muslims’ identity and agency in the 2010s: shades of faith-inspired activism between ‘post-secularity’,  ‘post-immigration difference’, and ‘post-conventional politics’.

Often exacerbated by concerns about security and prevention, recent discourse on Muslims in the UK has been dominated by crisis narratives about disaffection, disengagement, and alienation. Such a framing has contributed to develop a knowledge gap on the variety of Muslim civic initiatives, their discourses, and their modes of engagement. Informed by this context, the paper presents an original exploration of how UK-based Muslim faith-based organisations do engage constructively with the public sphere. Through the comparative analysis of two case studies from the British Muslim charitable/developmental sector (‘Islamic Relief’ and ‘MADE’), the paper explores contemporary articulations of Muslim identity and agency and informs broader debates about the Muslim presence in the British (and Western) public sphere. Acknowledging the complexity of the relationship between beliefs, ideas, discourse, and action, the paper adopts an original analytical approach from social movement theory, and it focuses on the framing components and processes adopted by the case studies to develop their discourse and orientate their action. Contextualising the analysis within the larger trends of ‘post-secularity’, ‘post-immigration difference’, and ‘post-conventional politics’, the paper enriches our understanding of British Muslims by highlighting how the emergence of different kinds of Muslim ‘activist sub-cultures’ in the 2010s might be representative of a wider paradigm-shift in the basis and nature of the Muslim presence in the UK.

Laura Jones (Cardiff Metropolitan University), Muslim chaplaincy approaches to mental health – integrating psychological and religious methods.

This paper is based on interviews with four Muslim chaplains in Britain and explores the ways in which Muslim chaplains support people with depression, focusing on how religious and psychological methods interact in their work.The findings show that each chaplain displayed a distinct model of working, incorporating both Islamic teachings and psychological theory, perhaps reflecting their positions as religious professionals in ‘secular’ institutions. Despite this integrative approach, participants maintained uniquely Islamic methods not present in wider psychological practice. This shows a level of confidence in their Islamic practice and identity despite wider claims that religion in Britain is declining. Nonetheless, none of the chaplains raised any concerns towards ‘Western’ psychology, contrasting some criticisms by Muslim writers (Badri 1979; Haque 2004; Skinner 2010). The use of a humanistic-Islamic approach by one participant shows how Muslim chaplains are innovatively engaging with contemporary debates around secularism and humanism. The chaplains also reflected on and adapted their theology to suit contemporary issues, in line with research suggesting Muslim chaplaincy encourages theological reflection and flexibility (Ali and Gilliat-Ray 2012). This small-scale study is one of the few empirical studies in the field of Muslim chaplaincy and contributes to the growing research in this area. 

Riyaz Timol (Cardiff University), Black Beards, White Beards and 40 Shades of Grey: Intergenerational Transmission in the British Tablighi Jama’at.

The Tablighi Jama’at (TJ) is frequently cited as the largest movement of Muslim renewal in the world yet, paradoxically, it is little known outside the Muslim community and remains severely under-researched.  The British branch of the movement developed in the context of mass economic immigration from former colonies following World War II and extant academic studies, notably that of Sikand in the 1990s, assert that the movement’s modus operandi remains inextricably intertwined with South Asian culture.  Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork undertaken recently with British TJ as part of the author’s doctoral thesis, this paper examines ways in which the movement is being appropriated and indigenized by second and third generation British-born Muslims raised in predominantly secular socio-cultural milieus.  Distinct shifts in relation to the cultural identity markers of language, dress and food are identified and the ways in which contemporary British-born TJ activists engage with the social structures of mainstream British society while maintaining a commitment to their religious activism are examined.  The paper also explores the extent to which TJ has managed to penetrate non South Asian Muslim communities resident in Britain and tentatively explores future trajectories of the movement, particularly in the face of current socio-political pressures.


18:00 – 18:10:     Break


18:10 – 19:10:     Session 10. Closing Plenary.

Room: Beveridge Hall, Chair: Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster University).

Ziauddin Sardar (The Muslim Institute), What it means to be a Critical Muslim


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