World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010



· NOT_DEFINED date: MON 19, 5.00-7.00 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: CSIC - Madrid (Spain)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Maribel Fierro

· NOT_DEFINED sponsor: European Research Council. Advanced Research Grant, KOHEPOCU F03049 / Instituto de Lenguas y Culturas del Mediterráneo y de Oriente Próximo (ILC) - CSIC / Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas / Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Organizer: Maribel Fierro, CSIC Madrid

It has recently been shown that Averroes had to change a previous version of his al-Kashf ,an manahij al-adilla - in which he departed from Ibn Tumart’s doctrine - under the pressure of the Almohad purists who wanted to preserve their founder’s views on anthropomorphism. Censorship and pressure to conform in this case resulted in the alteration of a text and probably influenced Averroes’ ‘disgrace’ and banishment. In other cases it led to more painful consequences. In this panel other instances of altered texts as result of censorship or auto-censhorship will be studied with the aim of exploring how religious and political control in the writing domain was carried out in a variety of contexts.

Chair: Maribel Fierro, CSIC – Madrid

Paper presenter: Monica Balda-Tillier, Oxford University , La passion interdite : le martyre d’amour en proie à la censure
Le traité d’amour intitulé al-Wâdih al-mubîn f’ man ustushhida min al-muhibbîn est un recueil d’histoires sur les martyrs de l’amour chaste, écrit au XIVe siècle par un auteur mamelouk appelé Mughultây. Il se base sur le dire du Prophète de l’islam selon lequel celui qui aime passionnément, qui reste chaste et meurt par amour doit être considéré comme un martyr. Or le concept de martyre d’amour en Islam a suscité beaucoup de discussion. Le livre de Mughultây a été en effet retiré du marché au XIVe siècle à cause de son contenu considéré comme « scandaleux » et il a été à nouveau frappé par la censure en Syrie en 1997, lors de la publication de l’édition imprimée. Dans notre communication, nous verrons examinerons les raisons pour lesquelles l’ouvrage de Mughultay a été frappé deux fois d’interdiction, à des moments aussi éloignés dans le temps. Cela nous conduira à discuter le concept de martyr et le statut de ce dernier dans la société arabo-islamique médiévale.

Paper presenter: Sonja Brentjes, Universidad de Sevilla, Witnessing, majalis and tarajim as forms of sanctioning knowledge
Since Ignaz Goldziher's famous paper on the attitude of the ‘old Islamic orthodoxy’ towards the ancient sciences, i.e. philosophy, astronomy/astrology, geometry, medicine and other disciplines, historians of science and philosophy have either subscribed to Goldziher’s thesis of a widespread stigmatization of these sciences in Islamic societies or rejected it as flawed conceptually and methodologically. While I belong to those who reject the thesis I think the widespread evidence that Goldziher amassed for documenting hostile comments towards these sciences cannot and should not be downplayed as merely rhetorical and ineffective. I will argue that this kind of narrative served to build values for policing the ‘ulama’ and their intellectual as well as social activities and for creating identity and affiliations. Telling stories about who introduced and who participated in the ancient sciences formed an important element in the biographical literature of different Islamic dynasties. I will discuss differences and similarities between biography writers of different times and localities. Such stories were only one form of valorizing knowledge and setting boundaries. Historical chronicles point to majalis at courts as another form. Reports about happenings at majalis stress that rulers presided over knowledge production acting as the ultimate arbiter or inviting participants to engage in controversies. Rulers also used witnessing as a means to sanction astronomical and astrological projects and their results. I will analyze a few examples in order to highlight the processes through which specific audiences in different Islamic societies were made to accept knowledge patronized by rulers.

Paper presenter: Daphna Ephrat, The Open University of Israel, Purifying Sufism: opposition to antinomians in the earlier middle period
The denunciation of certain Sufi beliefs and practices as antinomian, or even opposition to the whole of Sufism, in legal and anti-bid`a treatises produced by medieval traditionalist such as Ibn al-JawzÐ and Ibn al-Jawziyya has been displayed in length in scholarly literature. My paper contribution will shift the focus of inquiry from condemnations by outsider critical observers to the efforts of astute Sufis to cleanse their scene from unruly and deviant elements. My central proposition is that as a moderate, ethical Sufi tradition emerged and gained dominance in the public sphere in the course of the early middle period (from the late 10th to the mid-13th centuries), the old animosities between the fuqahÁ' and the fuqarÁ' gave way to dissentions within Sufism. While Sufism contained an intensively self-critical strain from its very beginnings, along with the consolidation of the mainstream Sufi tradition higher barriers were constructed between ‘true’ and pseudo-Sufis. Consistently featured in Sufi manuals from this period was the clear distinction drawn between mainstream Sufism and its edge. Warnings were addressed to frivolous imitators, 'fools of God' and antinomians in general, not to act in ways that might bring into question the legitimacy of the Sufis as arbiters of religious knowledge and proper Islamic conduct. Drawing on the writings of such famous mainstream Sufis as al-SulamÐ and `Umar al-SuharawardÐ, as well as on accounts by other Sufi critical observers, this paper will analyze the discourse and mechanisms used and articulated in order to define deviant practices, purify the Sufi tradition, and exclude the rejected elements from the public sphere. While highlighting the inner dynamic of purification, I shall also aim at drawing attention to the role played by the political rulers who joined hands in the effort of marginalization and exclusion, by denying patronage from the unruly, and by publically condemning and even banishing antinomian Sufis.

Paper presenter: Sebastian Gunther, Göttingen University, Boundaries and Horizons of Learning in al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd
The 11th century theologian, mystic, and religious reformer Abu Hamid al-Ghazali is famous for his ''spiritual'' approach to learning. In fact, today he is considered one of the great architects of religious education in Islam. The 12th century Andalusian philosopher Ibn Rushd, in turn, has attracted much attention for his ''rationalist'' take on learning. This particular interest includes his critique of al-Ghazlali`s refutation of the philosophers. Certain modernist intellectuals, therefore, view Ibn Rushd as a model for their struggle for a liberal modern civil society within the framework of Islam. This paper re-visits certain epistemological concepts advocated by al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd respectively. Yet, instead of focusing on their undisputed contributions to the advancement of knowledge, this study will examine critically the question of where (and how) these two influential Muslim thinkers identified, or consciously instituted, ''restrictions'' in Muslim learning. In addition to relevant explicit information given in their major works, an exploration of implicit arguments (e.g., on learning strategies, the contents of learning, and education of the elites vs. the public) will help us to come to a fuller understanding of the complex educational foundations of Muslim civilization in classical times.