Shahab Ahmed’s What is Islam?

11 Abr Shahab Ahmed’s What is Islam?

El día 4 de mayo tendrá lugar en la Universidad Queen Mary de Londres (David Sizer Lecture Theatre, Francis Bancroft Building) el taller Shahab Ahmed’s What is Islam?, que reunirá a investigadores del Reino Unido con el fin de discutir, comentar y criticar este trabajo.

Las personas que deseen asistir (el evento está abierto al público de forma gratuita), deberán inscribirse previamente en el siguiente enlace:


Descripción del evento:

Shahab Ahmed’s posthumous What is Islam? starts with a problem:  Is Sufi pantheism ‘Islamic’?  Should we call philosophical exploration, figural art and drinking wine – all activities highly valorized by many pre-modern Muslims, ‘Islamic’? And if so, what do we actually mean?

Historically, ‘Islam’ was not merely a religious system, a cultural set of symbols, or a code of law. All these conceptualizations, Ahmed argues, fail to capture the distinctive and paradoxical qualities of the Islamic tradition. Instead, Islamic tradition encompassed different ways of exploring God’s design behind scripture, and conflicting contextual readings and ways of making meanings of text and pre-text.

This one-day workshop will bring together leading scholars of Islam in the UK to comment, discuss, and critique this ambitious and eccentric book, and to explore its radical implications for the very framework of Islamic Studies.



9.15 – Welcome.

9.30 -10.30:  The significance of What is Islam ?

Yossef Rapoport (QMUL), Nenad Filipovic (University of Sarajevo).

Chair: John-Paul Ghobrial (Oxford).
11 – 12.30: Text and Pre-text / Theology and exegesis:

Jon Hoover (Nottingham), Ayman Shihadeh (SOAS), Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster).

12.30 – 14.00 – Lunch Break

14.00 – 15.30 – Private and Public / Law and Politics:

Rob Gleave (Exeter), Nafay Choudury (KCL), Humeira Iqtidar (KCL).

Chair: Chris Moffat (QMUL)

16.00 – 17.30 – On the importance of Being Islamic / Wine, art and science:

Hugh Kennedy (SOAS), Emilie Savage-Smith (Oxford), Nur Sobers-Khan (British Library).

Chair: Miri Rubin (QMUL)

18.00 – 19.00 Reception held by Princeton University Press, Francis Bancroft Foyer


The workshop is funded with generous support of the British Association of Islamic Studies; The School of History, QMUL; ERC-funded project ‘Stories of Survival: Recovering the Connected Histories of Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World’; Princeton University Press.

The event is being held in the Bancroft Building at Queen Mary University of London. The closest tube stations are Mile End (Central, District, Hammersmith and City lines) or Stepney Green (District and Hammersmith and City lines). The Bancroft Building is number 31 on the campus map



Resumen del libro:

What is Islam? How do we grasp a human and historical phenomenon characterized by such variety and contradiction? What is “Islamic” about Islamic philosophy or Islamic art? Should we speak of Islam or of islams? Should we distinguish the Islamic (the religious) from the Islamicate (the cultural)? Or should we abandon “Islamic” altogether as an analytical term? In What Is Islam?, Shahab Ahmed presents a bold new conceptualization of Islam that challenges dominant understandings grounded in the categories of “religion” and “culture” or those that privilege law and scripture. He argues that these modes of thinking obstruct us from understanding Islam, distorting it, diminishing it, and rendering it incoherent. What Is Islam? formulates a new conceptual language for analyzing Islam. It presents a new paradigm of how Muslims have historically understood divine revelation–one that enables us to understand how and why Muslims through history have embraced values such as exploration, ambiguity, aestheticization, polyvalence, and relativism, as well as practices such as figural art, music, and even wine drinking as Islamic. It also puts forward a new understanding of the historical constitution of Islamic law and its relationship to philosophical ethics and political theory. A book that is certain to provoke debate and significantly alter our understanding of Islam, What Is Islam? reveals how Muslims have historically conceived of and lived with Islam as norms and truths that are at once contradictory yet coherent.


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