IIIT LONDON OFFICE LECTURE SERIES
The IIIT London
Office Lecture Series is being jointly organised by the
City Circle London. The series is
aimed at disseminating knowledge about topical Islamic issues through lectures
given by academics in specialised areas of knowledge, and stimulating debate
and exchange through questions and answer sessions. Seven lectures were delivered in 2008, and now more lectures are planned for 2009.
2009 LECTURE 5: THE LANGUAGE OF THE QUR'AN: IS IT MIRACULOUS? A NEW READING
Speaker: Dr. Bassam Saeh
Date: 11 December 2009, Abrar House
Hundreds of books written in Arabic discuss the linguistic miracle of the Quran. Whilst Muslims accept this without question we live in an age of scepticism demanding scientific proof as the language and criteria of a man-centered theoretical vision. Time honoured works written by venerable scholars therefore, whilst backed by evidence perfectly acceptable to Muslims, will have to be reconsidered to meet the challenges of the times. Subjecting the Qur'an to modern empirical analysis Dr. Saeh discovers some interesting facts. Not only does his research criticise the writings of some earlier scholars, but also in the process reveals a new side to the Qur'anic language hitherto not considered.
DR. BASSAM SAEH holds a BA in Arabic literature from Damascus University, Syria, and an MA & PhD in modern Arabic poetry from Cairo University. He has been Head of the Arabic Department in Tishreen University, Syria (1977) and has taught in a number of other universities, including: Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Oxford. He was the founder and principal of Oxford Academy for Advanced Studies (1990 – 2005). He has been presenter of several radio and TV programs and author of several books.
2009 LECTURE 4: ISLAM: THE DIPLOMATIC FRONTIER
Speaker: Dr. Riad Nourallah
Date: 13 November 2009, Abrar House
Dr Riad Nourallah briefly introduced diplomacy as an instrument of foreign policy and a channel of international relations and discourse. Its universality, long history and traditional features and functions were highlighted along with its more modern metamorphoses and priorities. Islam's diplomatic credentials and historical contribution to the practice were illustrated and critiqued. The challenges and opportunities which the emerging forms and forums of diplomacy in the age of globalisation and information technology provide Muslims with were also introduced and assessed.
DR. RIAD NOURALLAH has an MA from the American University of Beirut and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He has taught at the American University of Beirut and the universities of Cambridge, Salford, the UAE, and Durham. He currently teaches and supervises MA and PhD students at the Diplomatic Academy of London, University of Westminster.
2009 LECTURE 3: TRANSLATING THE QUR'AN INTO ENGLISH: A BRIEF HISTORY AND IMPORTANT ISSUES
Speaker: Professor Muhammad Abdel Haleem
Date: 7 August 2009, Abrar House
Professor Abdel Haleem translator of The Qur'an into English (2004, Oxford University Press) spoke to a packed audience on Friday 7th August discussing in brief the history of the translation of the Qur'an. He presented a survey of influential English translations including Yusuf Ali, Arberry, and M. Asad and reflected on the process he himself went through, and the difficulties he encountered in producing his own translation. Dwelling briefly on Yusuf Ali's translation the speaker pointed to its significance in containing explanatory notes, running commentary, appendices, and indices, and also pointed to Asad as being one of the most original translators who did the background research for himself. He went on to discuss at length issues including the impossibility of conveying the beauty and syntax of the original language, the context in which verses were revealed, and the difficulties of interpretation etc. giving several examples to illustrate his point. Interpretation is complicated by the highly concise style of the Qur'an and the lack of awareness of the different meanings
of a given term in different contexts.
Finally Professor Abdel Haleem discussed what has been achieved and what remains to be done. In terms of the future, translations should focus on target audience, conveying the Qur'an in a language people are familiar with. The speaker's own translation for instance employs clear, contemporary English. Further the Qur'an needs to be made more widely and accurately available to those who do not know Arabic and it also needs to be wisely and carefully interpreted.
PROFESSOR MUHAMMAD ABDEL HALEEM learned the Qur'an by heart as a child in an Egyptian village, and then studied at Al-Azhar schools. He got his BA from Cairo University, and his PhD from Cambridge University where he also taught Arabic. He then went on to teach at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and in 1995 became Professor of Islamic Studies. He is the Founding Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies at SOAS, and Chief editor of the 'Journal of Qur'anic Studies'. In 2004, Oxford University Press published his book 'The Qur'an: a New Translation'. He has thirteen grandchildren.
2009 LECTURE 2: COULD TODAY'S UK BE A 'LAND OF ISLAM'? WHAT IS THE 'LAND OF ISLAM'?
Jasser Auda, Al-Maqasid Research Centre, UK
Date: 1st May 2009, Abrar House
The 'Land of Islam' versus the 'Land of War/Disbelief' is a false dichotomy! Black-and-white classifications of the world are almost never true, and a more realistic and 'logical' classification looks at not only the grey levels in between the black and white extremes, but various colours as well. In other words, what counts is the relative achievement of the criteria for considering a certain land to be a 'land of Islam', namely, the application of the Islamic rulings, security, freedom to practice the Islamic acts of worship, and justice, whether in Muslim-majority or Muslim-minority societies. This requires a comprehensive and realistic survey of various countries in order to create a 'ranking' of some sort. However, a rough but very reasonable assessment of how the UK meets all of the above criteria gives it a relatively high score on the 'Land of Islam' scale!
DR. JASSER AUDA is currently the Director of Al-Maqasid Research Centre in the Philosophy of Islamic Law (Markaz Dirasat Maqasid al-Shariah al-Islamiyah) in London, UK, and a visiting lecturer in several academic institutes in Canada, UK, Egypt, and India. He has a colourful multi-disciplinary background, with a PhD in the field of Philosophy of Islamic law and a PhD in the field of Systems, from the University of Wales, UK, and the University of Waterloo, Canada, respectively. He had also received sustained traditional training in Islamic sciences from some distinguished mentors/sheikhs, especially in Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt. Although Dr. Auda had written on various topics of Islamic law, this book seems to combine all his different specializations and approaches to knowledge into one extensive and important argument. Dr. Auda is also a
member of the AMSS UK Executive Committee.
2009 LECTURE 1: A CREATIVE MINORITY FOR SPIRITUAL AND SOCIAL RENEWAL: THE CHALLENGE FOR MUSLIMS IN BRITAIN TODAY
Speaker: Dr. Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, Executive Director The Book Fouundation
Date: 13th March 2009, Abrar House
As a reaction to perceived threats to national identity and social cohesion arising from migration, multiculturalism and, above all, the resurgent Muslim presence in its midst, a vocal political and cultural tendency has emerged in the West to claim national ownership of a set of core values which purport to distinguish modern, progressive Western civilization and its way of life from alien and hostile influences which are held to be incompatible with it. I will suggest, however, that instead of misappropriating values for the purpose of asserting tribal superiority, we should all, no matter what our affiliation, be working together to reclaim those core human values which transcend national, cultural, ideological and religious divides. The challlenge for Muslims in Britain today is to assume the mantle of a truly creative minority which can inspire social and spiritual renewal and help the nation as a whole to lift its ambition, rediscover its moral compass and heal its social maladies. This is a task which cannot be accomplished by any group acting in the interests of narrow identity politics, tribal partisanship or triumphalism, but only by all people of goodwill embracing shared universal human values and acting together for the common good.
DR. JEREMY HENZELL-THOMAS is Executive Director of the Book Foundation, a registered UK charity working with worldwide partner institutions to improve understanding of Islam in the West. He was the first Chair of FAIR (UK Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism) and is a member of the Executive Committee of the AMSS (UK). He holds degrees in English and Linguistics from London and Edinburgh universities, and a Ph.D. in applied psycholinguistics from the University of Lancaster. He has worked at many levels in education both in the UK and overseas, as a teacher, academic director, curriculum development specialist, schools inspector, university lecturer, doctoral research supervisor and educational consultant. He speaks widely on the themes of education, society and spirituality, and writes regular columns for Islamica and emel magazines. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Islamica and a contributing editor of The American Muslim. His recent international conference papers, including plenary addresses, have been delivered at the Gustav-Stresemann Institut, Bonn (2002), University of Surrey, Roehampton (2003), University of Indiana, Bloomington (2003), University of Edinburgh (2004), Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, Aga Khan University, London (2005), University of Durham (2005), University of Westminster (2007) and University of Birmingham (2008). His most recent keynote address, "Beyond the Tower of Babel: A Linguistic Approach to Clarifying Key Concepts in Islamic Pluralism" was delivered at the AMSS conference on Citizenship, Security and Democracy in Istanbul in 2006. In December 2008, he introduced a working session addressing Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims at the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Vienna.
2008 LECTURE 7 : MINORITY MUSLIMS IN THE WEST: SOME THEOLOGICAL AND CIVILISATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
Speaker: Dr. Mohammad Siddique Seddon, Chester University
Date: 14th November 2008, Abrar House
In The phenomena of western colonialism and globalisation have both fissured and synergised Muslim identities through
imposed political nation-state nationalisms and 'virtual' ideas of universal brotherhood. The combined effects appear to
have facilitated a distinct postcolonial and anti-western sense of 'Muslimness' that is deemed a considerable potential threat to modern western hegemony. But what of Muslims living as minorities in the west? How do they attenuate ideas concerning their 'belongingness' and issues relating to the marginality of their faith? This talk examines the paradigms of 'minority Islam' from the Prophetic era and considers how contemporary western Muslims might resolve their marginal predicament.
DR. MOHAMMAD SIDDIQUE SEDDON obtained his PhD in Religious Studies at University of Lancaster and is currently lecturer in Muslim Studies at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Chester. He has previously taught
at the Universities of Lancaster and Cardiff and at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education. He is a former Research
Fellow at the Islamic Foundation, Leicester, and is an Executive Member of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists
(UK). His research interests are historical and contemporary issues relating to Islam in Britain and British Muslim
DR. MUHAMMAD MESTIRI holds a PhD in Philosophy from Sorbonne University, Paris, 1994. He has a Bachelors in Islamic Theology and Philosophy, Zeitouna University, Tunis, 1989. He is a Professor and responsible for training at the High Institute of Journalism, France; Visiting Professor in Islam in Western Societies at the Institut Polytechnique Saint Louis – Cergy; Scientific Director for Religious Sciences: Islam, at the University UCL, Belgium where he is also Professor of Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Epistemology; member of the research group, "Peace and War in Coran",EHESS (School ofHigh Studies in Social Sciences),Paris; affiliated member of the Unesco Chair of Intercultural Studies; member of international interfaith and intercultural organisations, such asWCRP,"Abraham Brotherhood;"Academic Advisor in the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and Coordinator of AMSS, France. Since 1999, he is Editor of "Roua" revue and Director of the Centre of Studies on Civilizations, Paris. His publications include different articles in contemporary islamic thought (french, arabic and english), and a number of books including Traité des fondements de la religion, Penser la modernité et l'islam.
communities. He has published a number of related works and book including, British Muslims: Loyalty and Belonging,
(2003), British Muslims Between Assimilation and Segregation: Historical, Legal & Social Realities, (2004) and The
Complete Illustrated Guide to Islam, (2009).
2008 LECTURE 6: REFORM, SHARIAH AND RADICALISATION IN CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC THOUGHT
Speaker: Dr. Muhammad Mestiri, Director IIIT Paris
Date: 31st October 2008, Abrar House
In this talk Dr. Mestiri will present a new analysis of the common and conventional terminology used to define the Islamic reform in the contemporary world within the dynamic of Shari‘a and modernity. He proposes a new methodology to study the articulation issue between reformism and radicalism through a contemporary vision of founding (Ta’sil) the Islamic discourse and its renewal. He presents a critical vision of Ta’sil’s utopia principle in order to revive a contemporary role of Ta’sil’s process or a dynamic relationship with the sources of Islam to the finality of humanity happiness.
2008 LECTURE 5: MUSLIMS
UNDER NON-MUSLIM RULE - A CLASSICAL FATWA
Speaker: Professor Yahya
Michot, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford University
Date: 18th July
2008, Abrar House
The famous Syrian theologian Ibn Taymiyya
(d. in jail, Damascus, 1328) remains one of the main sources of inspiration for
many contemporary Muslim militants and movements. He is also the object of
various accusations of theological and political extremism. Revisiting some of
his writings helps in developing a more balanced understanding of his ideas and
actions. This talk presents an evaluation of Ibn Taymiyya's fatwas on how
Muslims must act under the rule of non-Muslims. It shows the misreading of Ibn
Taymiyya by neo-Orientalist scholars and by certain violent extremists. In
theory and practice Ibn Taymiyya, advocated force only against foreign
invaders; he forbade the use of force against established authorities; he
himself died in prison for outspoken criticism of the State, without resorting
to force or sedition of any kind.
PROFESSOR YAHYA M. MICHOT was
director of the Centre for Arabic Philosophy at the University of Louvain
(Belgium) from 1981 until 1997. He gave courses in Arabic, History of Arabic
philosophy, Commentary on Arabic philosophical texts, History of Muslim peoples
and Institutions of Islam. His main field of research was the history of Muslim
thought, mainly Avicenna (d. 428/1037), his predecessors and his impact on
Sunni thought. This led to a growing interest for the theologian Ibn Taymiyya
(d. 728/1328), the time of the Mamlûks and Ilkhâns and modern
Islamic movements. Since October 1998, Prof. Y. Michot is KFAS fellow in
Islamic Studies at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Islamic Centre
Lecturer in the Faculty of Theology, Oxford University. He gives introductory
courses to Islamic theology and Arabic. He is member of various international
scientific societies, and founder and director of the collection Sagesses
musulmanes. He was president of the Conseil Supérieur des
Musulmans de Belgique from April 1995 to June
2008 LECTURE 4: WHO NEEDS AN ISLAMIC
Speaker: Dr. Abdelwahab El-Affendi, University of
Date: 6th June 2008, Abrar House
In this lecture Dr. El-Affendi presents a critique of
modern Islamic political thought on the "state," in the form of a three-part
dialogue with the West, with Islamic tradition and with 20th-century Muslim
thinkers. He discusses the divide between Islamic values and the basic
principles that guide Western political thought. He traces the development of
Muslim constitutional practice and considers the current debate on the nature
and desirability of an "Islamic state." He separates the problems that are
internally-derived from the by-products of Western culture. Dr. El-Affendi
argues that if Islamic values were brought to bear internationally, the
entrenched dogmas of Western political thought as much as both the
tradition-bound and modernist trends of Muslim thinking would have to be
DR. ABDELWAHAB EL-AFFENDI is a Senior Research Fellow at the
Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster and Co-ordinator
of the Centre's Democracy and Islam Programme. Educated at the Universities of
Khartoum, Wales, and Reading, he is author of a number of books including Who
Needs an Islamic State? He has also contributed to many leading journals, He is
also a member of the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, member of
the Board of Directors of Inter-Africa Group, a trustee of the International
Forum for Islamic Dialogue, and a member of the AMSS UK Advisory Board. He is
the 2006 winner of the Muslim News Allama Iqbal Award for Creativity in Islamic
2008 LECTURE 3: IS
'ISLAMIC FINANCE' REALLY ISLAMIC? MAQASID AL-SHARI'AH AND
Speaker: Dr. Mehmet Asutay, University of Durham
Date: 30th May
2008, Abrar House
Islamic finance is supposed to be built on
the foundations of moral and charitable ethics, justice, equity and fairness in
trade. Is modern Islamic finance a step in the right direction in
counter-balancing the injustice and exploitation of unfettered, usurious
capitalism, or is it a hollow endeavour, involving the mere re-labelling of
financial products and services as "Islamic" whilst the underlying paradigm
continues to (allegedly) further global financial injustice?
lecture Dr. Mehmet Asutay examines these debatable issues and also discusses
Islamic finance in the light of the universal principles of Islamic law, the
Maqasid al-Shariah. The lecture will be published in the IIIT London Office
Occasional Papers Series.
DR. MEHMET ASUTAY is Lecturer in Political
Economy at the University of Durham. He is also former lecturer in Economics
and Social Theory at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education (affiliated to
Loughborough University) teaching International Development and Finance;
Quantitative Methods; Cross-Cultural Management, and Research Methodology in
Social Sciences. He has also tutored at the Department of Economics, University
of Leicester (Macroeconomics, Microeconomics and Analysing Economic Data). Dr.
Asutay is a member of the AMSS UK Executive Committee.
2008 LECTURE 2: ARAB EDUCATIONAL REFORM BETWEEN
AUTHENTICITY AND MODERNISATION
Speaker: Professor Yasir Suleiman,
University of Cambridge
Date: 23rd May 2008, Abrar House
Educational reforms have become an important feature of
the socio-cultural landscape of many Arabic speaking countries. Different
models are applied in implementing these reforms, some more far-reaching than
others. In some cases the reforms are calibrated against international
standards in teaching, learning, evaluation and assessment, for example
attainment levels in PISA and PIRLS. Others are less ambitious, producing
improvements but without breaking the boundaries of existing norms where
rote-learning and text-book dependent methods of teaching and assessment still
prevail. The deeper the reforms the more demanding they are of students,
teachers, school management, families and society at large.
reforms in the Arabic speaking countries have been implicated in discussions
about globalization, political hegemony and the uncritical application of
Western ideas that are said to challenge the very principles Arab and Muslim
cultures are based upon. This is a very narrow and uncritical approach to
educational reform, often relying on conspiracy theories that remove the power
of agency from national actors.
PROFESSOR YASIR SULEIMAN is Chair of
Modern Arabic Studies and a Fellow of King's College. He is author of a number
of books and a member of the editorial boards of a number of journals and book
series. Professor Suleiman is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Head
of Department of Middle Eastern Studies and Director of the Centre of Middle
Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University. He is a member of the AMSSUK
2008 LECTURE 1: UNDERSTANDING THE SPIRIT OF
ISLAMIC LAW: MAQASID AL-SHARI'AH AND COMMUNITY ISSUES
Jasser Auda, Al-Furqan Foundation, UK
Date: 16th May 2008, Abrar House
significant development in Islamic law between the 11th and 14th centuries CE
was the approach to legal purpose known as the Maqasid theory. Imam Ghazzali
(d. 1111) argued from a holistic reading of the Qur'an that the purpose of
Shariah was to fundamentally preserve five matters: faith, life, wealth,
intellect and family. This development occurred six centuries before John
Locke's articulation of a similar approach to law in England. Over the next
three centuries after Ghazzali, theologians such as Ibn Taymiyyah added a
number of other 'fundamental purposes' of law: preservation of reputations,
neighbourhoods and communities; fulfilment of contracts; moral purity;
trustworthiness; the love of God. Shatibi (of Jativa, Andalusia, d. 1388)
explicitly synthesised traditionalist and rationalist approaches but Islamic
legal theory and practice, once centuries ahead of other civilisations, fell
into relative decline for the next half-millenium. The last century of Islamic
legal thinking carries more hope, however. Recent thinkers have suggested that
the following are 'legal purposes' that must be protected and promoted by
Shariah: fundamental human rights and liberties; public welfare; education;
scientific and medical research; the environment.
In this lecture Dr.
Auda maintains that, for Islamic rulings to fulfil their original purposes of
justice, freedom, rights, common good and tolerance in today's context, the
Maqasid theory must be presented as the heart, and the very philosophy, of
Islamic law. The lecture also focused on the Maqasid al-Shariah in relation to
the challenges facing Muslims living in the West. The lecture will be published
in the IIIT London Office Occasional Papers Series.
DR. JASSER AUDA is the Founding Director of Al-Maqasid Research Centre in the Philosophy of
Islamic Law, a project of Al-Furqan Foundation, London. He has a
multi-disciplinary academic background with PhDs in both the Islamic Philosophy
of Law and Systems Analysis and Design, from the Universities of Wales, UK, and
Waterloo, Canada, respectively. He is a Visiting Lecturer at a number of
academic institutes in Canada, the UK, Egypt and India. His book, "Maqasid
al-Shariah as Philosophy of Islamic Law - A Systems Approach" (IIIT, 1429/2008)
is reviewed favourably by Dr. Taha al-Alwani of GSISS (USA), Robert Crane of
Harvard Law School and Shaikh Abdallah bin Bayyah of Mauritania. Dr. Auda is a
member of the AMSS UK Executive Committee.