World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th – 24th 2010



· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE, 20 - 2.30 - 4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Todd Lawson (University of Toronto)

Discussant: Shadaab Rahemtulla (Ph.D. Candidate in Islamic Studies -Oxford University (UK))

Paper Presenter: Noor Shakirah Mat Akhmir (Associate Professor and. Dr., Universiti Sains Malaysia), “Conserving the Environment Via Spiritual Realization: a Study on Mountain in Al-Quran”
In Islam, all creations are the signs of the existence and the power of Allah. Mountain is one of the signs and of natural heritages to mankind. The Arabic word for mountain is al-jabal. The plural form is al-jibal. The word al-jabal with its construct forms occur approximately 50 times in the Quran. In Islamic religious tradition, mountains have been discussed and associated with many events and roles. Instances given are Mount Sinai, where Prophet Musa spoke to Allah directly and Jabal Hira’s cave; the mountain where Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. received his first revelation. Mountains are also designated as earth pegs in the Quran. Considering the roles of mountains, any act of devastating them is fatal and destructive to the earth stability. The above fact is corroborated by scientific research. Understanding the roles of mountain mentioned in the Quran can enhance man’s spiritual development. Spiritual strength gained will then create awareness and efforts to sustain the roles of mountains. This paper thus is an attempt to highlight Quranic verses on mountains, portray their significance to mankind, how to gain spiritual strength by contemplating on their roles and functions, and the ways to sustain mountains as depicted in the Quran.
Key words: signs; mountain; spiritual; Islam

Paper Presenter: Todd Lawson (Associate Professor, University of Toronto, NMC), “Varying Images of the Divine in Islam: Trends in Shi’i Exegesis: Isma’ili and Ja’fari Understandings of Qur’an 4:157’8”
By the time of al-Tabari (d. 923), the problem of the Quranic [non]crucifixion of Jesus had been solved in what would come eventually to be known as Sunni Islam. In order to explain the multivalent quranic phrase wa lakin shubbiha lahum the great exegete sorted through a select store of hadith to conclude that what happened was a miraculous shifting of the identity of Jesus onto another so that in the end Jesus himself was not crucified, rather he was raised alive to God. Classical, Buyid and post-Buyid Ithna-’Ashari Shi’i exegesis (e.g., Tusi d. 1067, Tabrisi, d. 1153) supports this understanding of the verse, relying on Tabari and various Mu,tazili scholars. And this interpretation has remained a feature of 12er Shi,i exegesis to our own day. Other Shi’i scholars, e.g. the Isma’ilis, al-Razi, Ja’far ibn Mansur al-Yaman, Sijistani, & the Ikhwan al-Safa) hold a very different view based on a very different reading of the same verses. Thus, Isma’ili authors uphold the traditional Christian teaching that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross in contradistinction to majoritarian Muslim view. The irony is that both conclusions serve both communities in similar, parallel ways: they provide a typological prefigurement for the Imam/Qa’im. In the case of the Ithna’ashariya, the Imam is the hidden one, who, like Jesus remains alive but in the Unseen realm. For the Isma’ilis, the Imam is above all a spiritual reality, invulnerable to the assaults of an unbelieving and faithless world. In the case of the 12er tradition, however an added feature of the exegesis is that it expresses agreement with Sunni Islam on an important point of sacred history and images of the divine.

Paper Presenter: Dina Hosni Mostafa (Graduate Student and Instructor, American University in Cairo), “A Comparative Study of the Representations of Women in the Translations of Qur'an”
This paper is concerned with the representations of women in the translations of Qur’an, with a focus on the gender of the translator and the way it reflects on the translation and the reader. Considerable research has been conducted regarding the interpretation of women in Qur’anic texts in an attempt to shed light on the role of women in Islam. However, no study to my knowledge has concentrated on the study of women through the different translations of the Qur’an, let alone carrying out a comparative study of the translations of the Qur’an based on the gender of translators. One of the major themes adopted by Western scholars and Orientalists pertains to the image of women in Islam, where they largely depend on the translations and interpretations of the Qur’anic text. Focusing on translation studies, post-modern deconstruction theories of language and translation have recognized the translators visibility in the text he or she is ‘intimately reading’. As gendered politics has recently dovetailed with post-modern theories of translation, this raises the two-fold question as to how far the gendered voice of the translator - as an intimate reader - could be visible in the Qur’anic text, and to what extent such voice might impact the target language reader toward constituting a ‘gendered’ culture. Within the present study, I will endeavour to draw a comparison between two recently published translations of the Qur’an; namely, Tariff Khalidi’s The Qur’an: A New Translation and Laleh Bakhtiar’s The Sublime Qur’an as an endeavour to explore the differences if exist, and whether such differences could be attributed to the gender of the translators. For instance, Bakhtiar has translated the word ‘iDrib’ in Surat an-nisaa’ (4:34) as ‘go away’ or ‘leave’, not some form of ‘beat’ arguing that Prophet Mohamed never beat any of his wives; unlike Khalidi who has used ‘smack’. Such decisions on the part of translators merit scholarship consideration, especially in the realm of translation studies. To achieve this goal, I will first do a content analysis of the language used by the two translators in translating women’s image as represented in some verses of Surat an-nisaa’ (women) using Islamic exegesis as a reference point, to be followed by semi-structured interviews with Muslim and non-Muslim women in order to explore their attitudes toward the different interpretations as presented by the two translators. The study could thus be a pilot to further investigations of the bond of reading as women.

Paper Presenter: Simon O’Meara (Assistant professor of Art History, American University of Kuwait), “The Unseen and the Seen in the Perception of the World”
This paper analyzes the quranic binary ghayb/shahada, unseen/seen, for what it reveals about early and medieval Arab-Muslim perception of the material world. Although the unseen is primarily the realm of extra-mundane realities, according to the Qur’an the earthly world also partakes of it to some unspecified degree, a fact borne out in Prophetic hadiths and other Muslim reports of the unseen irrupting into the seen, particularly at taboo, sacred places. Taking the Ka’ba and the Dome of the Rock as prime examples of such places, the paper recasts them in terms of the ghayb/shahada binary, with the aim of increasing academic understanding of how the material world was perceived in early and medieval Arab-Muslim urban culture.