The AMI Podcast
By Al-Mahdi Institute
The AMI PodcastOct 20, 2023
Medical Discussions on Lovesickness (ʿIshq) during the Post-Classical Period by Prof. Nahyan Fancy
The late Michael Dols in his book on the Majnūn rightly asserted that when dealing with madmen in medieval Islamic societies, we need to have in mind a model of medical pluralism. He had spotted the various intersections of genres of texts and learning, and even sociological classes and behavioral norms in his examination of madness, more broadly, and lovesickness (ʿishq), in particular. In this chapter, I shall focus on the discussions on lovesickness from five medical commentaries from the Mamluk period. The focus will be not only be on illuminating how the texts and the authors engage with the work(s) of their predecessor(s), but also what we can learn about the specific intellectual landscapes in which each author operated along with their specific interests in the topic.
Professor Nahyan Fancy is the Al-Qasimi Professor in Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. He received his PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Notre Dame. He taught for 17 years in the History department at DePauw University, Indiana, before joining the faculty at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter this year. He works on the intersections of philosophy, medicine, science and religion during the period between 1200 and 1520. His first book, Science and Religion in Mamluk Egypt: Ibn al-Nafis, Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection (Routledge, 2013), situated Ibn al-Nafis’s proposal of the pulmonary transit of blood within the context of debates amongst philosophers and religious scholars over the proper role of reason in interpreting revelation and the possibility of bodily resurrection. He has published widely on post-classical medicine, including more recent work on pre-modern understandings of sleep and plague. His current book project examines eight medical commentaries on the Canon of Medicine and its Epitome, to reveal that neither were Ibn al-Nafis’s works ignored after 1300, nor was there a decline in medical and scientific thought due to religious antagonism.
Educational Challenges Facing the Role & Scope of Female Scholarship by Dr Fella Lahmar
Dr Fella Lahmar presents "Educational challenges facing the role & scope of female scholarship"
Embryo Politics, Morality and Shia Islam by Dr Mansooreh Saniei
Dr Mansooreh Saniei (King’s College London)
While considering the relationship between ethics, religion, and regulatory policy in the field of emerging life sciences and technologies, this presentation focuses on the politics of embryo, specifically embryo donation for modern medically assisted reproduction and embryo research, and debates about its status in the context of Shiism, with particular reference to Iran with a majority Shia population in the Middle East and North Africa. It shows that the meaning of laws and moral values attributed to the human embryo is closely related to the notions of reproduction and kinship. In addition, this confirms that Iran has recorded these policies and their applications in several fields: the coherence of positions between religious, medical and legal authorities — at the intersection of the sacred and the secular, political and medical institutions, complex total values and norms, professional interests—such as individuals ’choices, and the emergence of commercial agencies.
Is a Foetus a Person in Imami Fiqh? by Dr Mohammad Rasekh
Dr Mohammad Rasekh (Shahid Beheshti University and Institute of Ismaili Studies)
Under Imami fiqh (Muslim jurisprudence), various rules are applicable to foetus. Among them, this research focuses on the rules on blood money (dīyya) and inheritance (irth), as applicable to foetus, in order to examine the underlying personhood picture of the entity. That is to say, a question may be raised on whether the said rules share similar understanding of foetus as person. In this regard, taking into account the relevant rulings on the two topics embedded in the major fiqhi (jurisprudential) corpuses authored by Imami jurisprudents, such as those compiled by Ṭūsī , Muḥaqqiq Ḥillī, Ibn ‘Idrīs, Khānsārī and Khu’ī, it can be said that the rules on blood money, to be paid as compensation for the harm inflicted on foetus, consider the entity as a person. The least reason is that, according to them, the money would be inherited by the heirs to the foetus, rather than by the mother alone. Heirs are certainly heirs to a person. In comparison, those rules on the right of a foetus to inheritance make it conditional on the foetus being born alive, even for one second. It means that when it comes to the issue of inheriting, foetus is not regarded as a person at any stage of pregnancy period. In other words, foetus does not turn into a person, i.e., an entity that bears rights and responsibilities, unless and until it is born alive.
Therefore, the answer to the question stated in the title of this research is both in the affirmative and the negative. On the other hand, the said rules and rulings on the two status are undoubtedly reasoned for. However, they do not seem to embody a consistent personhood picture of foetus. Can the inconsistency be countered by the existing reasoning and rule inference method of the prevalent Imami jurisprudential tradition? If not, what can be offered as a way out of the conundrum?
Artificial Intelligence and Twelver Shiʿi Theology: The End of Anthropocentrism? by Dr Amina Inloes
Dr Amina Inloes (The Islamic College, London)
Recent advances in artificial intelligence technology have revived debates over the nature of knowing, consciousness, and the soul. This paper will explore whether the emergence of speaking, rational machines and the possibility of sentient machines could challenge classical Twelver Shiʿi Islamic theology. It will consider in what ways sentient machines would bring to light implied notions of anthropocentrism and anthropocentric notions of God within Islamic theology. It will also consider in what ways sentient machines would challenge the celebration of the human being as the “speaking, rational animal”. From a classical perspective, it will consider whether an intelligent machine could be considered as “living” or as having a soul. In doing so, it will consider which classical models would require updating, such as classical divisions between solids, plants, humans, and celestial beings. It will also explore, from a Twelver Shiʿi perspective, whether the human being has the right to create another living being or species, insofar as God is held to be the ultimate creator. Part of the argument will incorporate Twelver Shiʿi hadith supporting the possibility of non-human sentient life in the physical universe as a theologically alternative to anthropocentrism.
Human Reproductive Cloning: Theological and Ethical Implications by Shaykh Arif Abdul Hussain
Shaykh Arif Abdul Hussain (Al Mahdi Institute)
Since the widely publicised announcement of the birth of the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, human reproductive cloning became a theoretic possibility that received a great deal of attention in both religious and secular settings. Reproductive cloning, which is the creation of a genetically identical human being, could potentially be used by infertile couples or by parents who have lost a child and want to have another child with the same genetics. However, most governmental and human rights organisations oppose cloning, contending that it is a violation of human dignity and integrity at both the individual and societal level.
From a religious perspective, these ethical and societal considerations are secondary to the theological problems raised by human reproductive cloning. It is only possible to move onto the ethical issues once the theological questions have been resolved. Is reproductive cloning ‘playing God’ and does it violate the creatorship of God? Furthermore, does the cloned individual have the same status conferred to human beings in the Qurʾan as the ones who were fashioned by God? This paper delves into the nature and meaning of God as the creator in the Qurʾan considering the nuances in the Qurʾanic descriptions of God. It also discusses the nature of the human soul and the notion of the soul as pure consciousness.
Biological Evolution: An Islamic Kalām Perspective by Professor Mohammed Basil Altaie
Prof Mohammed Basil Altaie (University of Leeds)
This article discusses the question where the Qurʾan sets a conceptual limitation on the interpretation of biological evolution of the first human creature, Adam, and presents a novel understanding for the process of biological evolution in general. The work is part of my endeavour to promote new studies in Daqīq al-Kalām which represent the Islamic approach to Natural Philosophy. The question of the creation of Adam will be discussed in two contexts, the first is what the Qurʾan precisely presents about this miraculous creation, and in the second context the general process of evolution will be discussed using of the principles of daqīq al-kalām. Due to the limitation on the size of the article to be presented in this workshop I will not be concerned with the traditional views about biological evolution, nevertheless I will focus on the how the Qurʾan presented the creation of Adam where it is explicitly shown that the special status obtained by this event centres on the divine spiritual blow which transformed a developed being into a human.
The second part of this article presents a new-kalām perspective to understand evolution through the principle of re-creation which was introduced by the Mutakallimūn and was adopted by several Muslim scholars like Mulla Sadra and others. This new approach will enable Muslim scholars of philosophy of science to establish new vender in the approach to delicate questions related to Islamic SharīꜤa and Science.
Testing Children’s Genes vs Testing Adults’ Values: Which Life is Worth Living? by Professor Mohammed Ghaly
Prof. Mohammed Ghaly (Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar)
Genetic testing is one of the ground-breaking advancements brought forth by the field of genetics, which have revolutionized biomedical sciences. This revolutionary potential has led these technological breakthroughs to become a major target for ethical reflection within both religious and secular moral traditions. From the 1990s onwards, Muslim religious scholars and biomedical scientists, with the help of transnational Islamic institutions, have been engaging in interdisciplinary deliberations on the ethical implications of genetic technologies, including genetic testing.
This presentation will focus on the ethical inquiries arising from three main types of genetic testing: premarital testing, preimplantation testing, and prenatal testing. By critically examining and analysing these deliberations, the presentation aims to explore the multifaceted and interrelated aspects of genetic testing in the Islamic bioethical discourse. It will illustrate how these deliberations provide answers to the question of when (human) life begins while also revealing an underlying perception of what embryonic life actually means and when it would have sufficient moral worth to be protected.
Moral and Legal Responsibility for Reproduction of a Generation with Genetic Defects: An Islamic Perspective by Dr Rahim Nobahar
Dr Rahim Nobahar (Shahid Beheshti University)
The continuity of human generation, its strength and health are oftenemphasised in Islamic teachings. According to Islamic theology one of the aims and philosophies of prophecy is to save material and spiritual life of mankind (hifz al-nawa al-insani). In such a context every permissible measure for having a healthier linage is welcomed. In Islam having children is highly recommended and rewarded, however, with the advancement of premarital genetic testing it is possible to determine the risk of passing on a genetic disorder that would negatively impact the quality of a child’s life. Just as it is wrong to inflict pain and suffering on a living human being for no reason, it is also morally wrong to deliberately or negligently produce a generation for whom life is painful.
In addition, Islamic principles emphasise a reasonable quantity of humanity coupled with strength, ability, and health. By appealing to both moral and Islamic principles it is possible to argue for societal authority to curtail the reproduction of generations with painful genetic diseases through the enforcement of legal sanctions. From another perspective, the government has responsibilities towards the well-being of its citizens. These responsibilities give the government authority to make some decisions regarding the quality and quantity of future generations. The financial and societal burden entailed in taking care of an unhealthy generation, justifies the government imposing pre-marital genetic testing. The expediency of producing a healthy and strong generation is so important that it necessitates this level of restriction on the freedom and privacy of individuals. Failing to carry out such tests can be considered a crime under certain circumstances. It seems that those who deliberately or even negligently reproduce unhealthy children can be held legally responsible by their children and liable for compensation of material and spiritual damages they have caused.
Sex Selection from a Religious and Moral Point of View by Dr Ali Fanaei, Dr Elham Farahani, and Ms Arefeh Sadat Hosseininejad
Dr Ali Fanaei, Dr Elham Farahani, Ms Arefeh Sadat Hosseininejad (Al Mahdi Institute, Mofid University)
The impressive advances in science and technology in the modern world have dramatically increased the freedom of humans to make decisions and their power to control nature. Since humans are free and responsible agents, it is reasonable and meaningful to expect religion and ethics to have something to say about the way in which humans conquer nature with the help of modern science and technology. Religious and moral teachings are normative — which
means religion and ethics are both action-guiding — and the more the power of humans to control nature and their scope of abilities increases, the more they will need practical guidance.
One of the fields that modern science and technology have made possible for humans to control and intervene in is determining the sex of a foetus before pregnancy, which is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). In this method, X and Y sperms are separated from each other and several embryos with different sexes are produced in a laboratory environment using the sperms. The embryo with the desired sex is then transferred to the mother's womb.
This method can be used for two different purposes: One is preventing the birth of babies who suffer from disorders of sex development, and the other is choosing the sex of the baby by the parents or the government. It is clear that using this method, for whichever purpose, is important and challenging from a religious and moral point of view, regardless of the personal and social consequences resulting from it. This article attempts to first formulate the religious and moral questions regarding this issue, and then critically analyse and evaluate the answers that have been or can be provided using religious and moral arguments about the permissibility or prohibition of using this technology in determining the sex of the foetus.
The Evolution of the Idea of Ensoulment in Abū Bakr Ibn al- ʿArabī’s Oeuvre by Dr Khaoula Trad
Dr Khaoula Trad (University of Hamburg)
This paper examines the diachronic evolution of the idea of the ensoulment in one Qurʾanic exegesis and two ḥadīth commentaries by Abū Bakr Ibn al- ʿArabī (d.543H/1148 CE). I trace the exclusion of the ensoulment of the creational formula in Aḥkām al-qurʾān. Subsequently, the idea appears for the first time in al-Qabas as a phase that juristically represents a pivotal criterion for establishing penalties. Finally, I demonstrate how in his ḥadīth commentary ‘Āriḍat al-aḥwadhī, Ibn al-ʿArabī assimilates and inserts Ibn Masʿūd’s ḥadīth and accordingly the concept of ensoulment in his embryological approach.
Islam and the Simulation Hypothesis by Mr Rizwan Virk
Mr Rizwan Virk (Arizona State University)
In the twenty-first century, a new idea has arisen, The Simulation Hypothesis, about the nature of the universe as a computer simulation or a video game, which both challenges and extends existing popular belief systems, (i.e. atheism/materialism and the worldviews of various world religions). The Simulation Hypothesis also provides a bridge between an increasingly scientific and technological society which takes a materialistic view of the world, and those of faith, which tend to believe that the physical world is not all there is. Some have even called The Simulation Hypothesis a new kind of religion, though for many younger people, the simulation hypothesis is a technological and relatable path into theology using video games as the metaphor. In this paper, my goal is to provide a comparison with and parallels between, the Simulation Hypothesis, its various flavours and conclusions, and the Abrahamic religions in general, and Islam in particular. This includes passages from the Qurʾan (and the Bible), and various aspects of popular, orthodox, and Sufi Islamic theology, cosmology and metaphors used therein, including unseen entities like jinn, angels (in particular the recording angels, the kiramin kitabin), the Scroll of Deeds, the purpose and nature of the temporary world, duniya in comparison to the hereafter, the akhirah, the existence of a soul, and the final reckoning (or ḥisāb) during the Day of Judgement (Yawm al-qiyāmah).
Sharia Perspectives on Artificial Insemination: Exploring Permissibility and Ethical Considerations by Prof. Mustafa Mohaghegh Damad
Prof. Mustafa Mohaghegh Damad
(The Academy of Sciences of Iran)
Infertility has become a pressing issue in modern society, prompting the use of "artificial insemination" as a viable solution. This term refers to the process of facilitating the fusion between male sperm and female eggs, utilising medical devices or alternative methods excluding intercourse and sexual intimacy, to enhance fertility and promote conception. Artificial insemination is practiced in two forms:
1. Complete Artificial Insemination: Prepared sperm is placed directly inside a woman's reproductive tract to help with fertilization. This is subdivided into: i) Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Sperm is placed into the uterus using a thin tube during ovulation.
ii) In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Eggs are taken from the woman's ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryos are then put back into the uterus.
2. Incomplete Artificial Insemination: These methods assist with fertilization, but sperm isn't placed directly inside the woman's reproductive tract. An example is Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) where a single sperm is injected into an egg in a laboratory, and then the fertilized egg is transferred to the uterus. Another example is Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) where eggs and sperm are collected and placed into the fallopian tubes, allowing natural fertilization to happen inside the woman's body.
However, from an Islamic legal perspective, artificial insemination does not possess a historical precedent. Therefore, it is not explicitly mentioned in Islamic scripture, principles, laws, or traditions. To ascertain its permissibility within Islamic jurisprudence, Muslim jurists require specific supporting evidences or references. Some arguments have been presented in support of artificial insemination based on general jurisprudential rules, as well as narrations referring to a third party becoming pregnant by coming into contact with sperm without sexual intimacy. These instances can provide a basis for inferring the ruling for artificial insemination within the broader framework of Islamic jurisprudence.
Embryo Moral Status and Ontological Grounding in Islamic Ethics: Examining Ethical Implications of Contemporary Medical Practices Through Sunni Jurisprudence by Dr Rafāqat Rashid
Discussions on applied Islamic ethics related to the beginning of human life primarily focus on the moral status of the embryo, foetus, and child, as well as the developmental stages and the time elapsed between these stages that inform Islamic rulings. The moral status assigned to each developmental stage
carries significant implications for contemporary medical practices such as In vitro fertilization (IVF), embryonic stem cell research, prenatal testing, and foetal surgery. This article aims to explore the ontological grounding of the embryo's moral status within Islamic ethics, concentrating on the diverse approaches presented by Sunni schools of jurisprudence and addressing the complexities
arising from the intersection of religious and scientific viewpoints.
Initially, the article will provide an overview of the current landscape of ethical debates surrounding the beginning of human life, emphasising the need for a comprehensive understanding of the various factors shaping the moral status of embryos in Islamic ethics. It will then define the full moral status (FMS) of the
human person and outline the theoretical conceptions of moral status proposed by various Sunni schools of jurisprudence, addressing the challenges that their
theories face. The article will suggest two mutually inclusive routes to FMS: (1) belonging to the human species, determined by biology and human form
(takhlīq), and (2) possessing capacities or potentialities that differentiate an embryo from a human person.
Islamic Jurisprudence on the Beginning of Human Life and Its Legal Implications on Foetus and Mother by Mrs Hatice Kubra Memis
Mrs Hatice Kubra Memis (University of Exeter)
The question of when human life begins is a multifaceted issue that extends beyond the realm of medicine. In Islamic Law, this topic is of particular importance, particularly in cases of induced miscarriage. Islamic legal rulings concerning the foetus can be categorized into two groups: those that relate directly to the foetus, such as nasab (lineage), diya (blood money), and inheritance, and those that relate to the foetus’ influence on its mother’s life, including her waiting period (ʿidda), manumission, fasting, maintenance, and punishment. This paper examines several of the rulings that have direct relevance to the foetus and its mother, including diya (blood money), kaffāra (expiation), ʿidda (waiting period), and umm walad (mother of the child). The way fuqaha (Muslim jurists) approach miscarriages vary depending on whether the foetus has a human appearance at the time of its demise or on the opinion of four trustworthy women who are experts in their field. To understand the criteria for determining when human life begins, this study focuses on the broader context of Islamic schools, such as Sunni and Shia, and particularly on the impact of the beginning of life on four issues: diya, kaffāra, completion of the ʿidda, and the status of umm walad.
These issues are critical for establishing a discussion on matters that directly impact real-life situations such as abortion, stem cell and embryo research.
The Relationship Between Islam & Science by Hamzad Zahid
The Relationship between Islam & Science by Hamzad Zahid
The Journey of a Muslim Medical Practitioner by Dr Rafaqat Rashid
Practical Interactions Between Science and Islam in the UK by Dr Mansur Ali
Practical Interactions Between Science and Islam in the UK by Dr Mansur Ali
Science & British Muslim Religious Leadership Overview by Dr Stephen Jones, Dr Saleema Burney and Dr Riyaz Timol
Science & British Muslim Religious Leadership Overview by Dr Stephen Jones, Dr Saleema Burney and Dr Riyaz Timol
In Support of Assisted Dying: A Christian Perspective by Dr Scott S. McKenna
Religion is often used as a reason for opposing the principle of an assisted death. In fact, the principle is supported by people who belong to the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church of Wales, Catholicism, Baptist Church, Methodist Church, URC and, more widely, Quakerism, Liberal and Reform Judaism, and Sunni Islam.
For myself, Jesus embodies love, compassion, tenderness, forgiveness, dignity, respect, humanity, and humaneness. These traits are to the fore in the practice of Christian faith, and because of that, I am drawn to supporting assisted dying legislation, at least in some form: for those terminally ill who are mentally sound. Assisted dying legislation is centred on personal choice, the relief of suffering, the avoidance of indignity, and the honouring of humanity. Our understanding of what it is to be a human being underpins the possibility of choice; in part, our understanding is culturally determined.
I argue that there is nothing in the Bible which explicitly excludes the principle of assisted dying. The ethical issue of a physician-assisted death on a patient who is mentally competent and terminally ill is not in the Scriptures, either the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) or New Testament. Biblical texts may be stretched one way or another but assisted dying, as we understand it, was not an issue of the ancient world. From first-hand experience at his brother’s bedside, the late Hans Küng, witnessed intolerable suffering and asked, ‘Is this the sort of death God wants?’
As a society, we must face the legal and moral ambiguity that people in the UK travel abroad for an assisted death. People of faith, individuals within faith communities, have travelled abroad for an assisted death. Clergy have supported people who have chosen an assisted death. We also need to be honest about the medical practice of ‘double effect’.
Excellent palliative care ought not to be under threat by the introduction of assisted dying legislation. Moreover, in all areas of medical practice, medical practitioners need to be aware of their own value systems so as not to impose, consciously or unconsciously, their value system onto patients. It is also true that that things may go wrong in the procedures of an assisted death, but mistakes and unforeseen consequences happen in most medical procedures: risk is unavoidable.
Made in the image of God, we are moral decision-makers and this includes in matters of life and death.
Ritual Washing Before Burial: A Comparison by Rabbi Jeff Berger
This paper looks closely at the process of Tahara (ritual washing of the dead before burial) practiced in the Jewish religion. It will also explore similarities and differences with ritual washing of other traditions, including the Islamic custom of Ghusl. And it will include a short section on the practicalities of performing the ritual during the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
Among the core tenets of Jewish belief is that all human beings are holy and were created in the ‘Image of God’. Therefore, in life as in death, we are obliged to treat people with the utmost dignity and respect. The question of what happens to a person after death has been of great interest to all religions. In Judaism, when a person dies, their body which housed their Neshamah (soul), must be treated with the same respect as it was during their life. Jewish medical ethics, for the most part, prevents hastening death. Just as a new-born child is swaddled after birth, the Met (deceased) is washed and dressed as they are prepared for burial.
The ritual process is called Tahara (purification).
Living Eschatologically: A Catholic Understanding of Death by Dr Christopher Clohessy
Rooting itself in in faith and reason, which Pope John Paul II described as two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of Truth, traditional Catholic teaching gives articulation to both natural and supernatural Revelation, by teaching us that human beings are composite creatures, composed of body and soul; the soul being the nobler component element, although without this every being permitted to reduce the value of the body; and that we are made in imago Dei, to the likeness and image of God, giving foundation to much of Christian ethics and to its teaching about the meaning and nature of death.
A living human body is patently not the same thing as a corpse. The soul is the fundamental difference between corpse and living being. A corpse cannot move, eat, think, self-express, or take joy in something or feel sadness. It can only disintegrate and return to dust. Something must stop our bodies from doing that in the present moment, and that is the soul. As surely as every activity must have a principle of operation behind it, the principle by which a person loves, makes rational choices, experiences happiness or grief, is a real thing. It is not nothing, less than the very body it animates. Nor is it a chemical. No forensic scientist, examining a corpse, can tell you what chemical is missing leading to its death, as if there were nothing else save chemical substances. Human life cannot be generated by a gathering of chemical substances, for it is quite patently animated by the soul or spirit.
It is this soul that survives the physical death of the body; although it may be a popular opinion in the received wisdom of our age that there is no continuance after death, a reflection upon the simple structure of the soul, upon the future administration of the sanctions attached to the moral law, upon the rectification of worldwide inequalities, and upon the teleological inclinations to a lasting and perfect good, makes it a violation of reason to deny the soul’s survival. This, in and of itself, changes the whole aspect of the nature and finality of death, making the process worth re-examining.
The Soul, Barzakh and Human Transformation in Life & Death by Dr Maria Massi Dakake
The nature of the soul in life and in death, as well as its moral, ontological, and eschatological transformation is a problem that has exercised Muslim thinkers and generated a range of theological, philosophical, and mystical speculation. Ideas about the malleability and ambiguity of the soul may be said to derive from the Qur’anic references to the nafs, but the issue of the nature and existence of the soul in death (and prior to the Day of Resurrection) is not clearly elaborated in scripture. The influence of Greek thought on Muslim theology and philosophy further complicated Muslim debates about the soul. Neither Plato’s idea of the separability of the soul from matter, nor Aristotle’s view that the soul—which he conceived of as inextricably connected to the material body (unlike intellect)—did not continue to exist after death was consistent with the many Qur’anic references to the existence of souls with their bodies in the hereafter.
For many Muslim thinkers, questions about the nature of the soul’s transition to and in death could only be answered with reference to an understanding of the ontological nature of the soul itself. Like Aristotle, many leading Muslim theologians and philosophers understood the soul as a “substance,” and they endeavored to theorize the nature of its “substance” in a way that would be logically consistent with Qur’anic and Islamic ideas of the soul’s transitions in both life and death. In this paper, I compare the thought of two major Muslim thinkers on the problem of the soul, its nature, and its transitions: Ibn ʿArabī (d. 1240) and Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1636). Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī was an Andalusian Muslim mystic and metaphysician, who thought about the soul neither as material, nor as purely spiritual, but as a meeting (or barzakh) between the two, with its changeability related to its intermediate state. For Mullā Ṣadrā, a Shiʿi theosopher who creatively synthesized the thought of many earlier Muslim thinkers, including Ibn ʿArabi, the soul is the site of the transformation between the material and spiritual realities of the human being. The soul, he argued, undergoes a continuous process of both epistemological and ontological transformation, which he referred to as “trans-substantial motion” (al-ḥaraka al-jawhariyya), and which allowed him to posit the soul’s transformations both in life and in death as part of a seamless process of human becoming.
Quranic Conceptions of Life, Death and Resurrection by Dr Ali Fanaei
This paper aims to articulate and compare three conceptions of the relationship between the “life before death” and the “life after death”, that can be found in the Qurʾān. These three conceptions can be called “Legal conception”, “Philosophical conception”, and “Mystical conception” respectively.
The first conception portrays God as a lawgiver and humans as His subjects. Like other legal systems, divine law (Sharīʿa) comprises of some rewards and punishments for those who abide by it and those who transgress it. But unlike secular legal systems, the main rewards and punishments are postponed until the next world. Therefore, since the relationship between positive laws and their sanction is conventional as opposed to real/natural, the relationship between what we do in this world and what we receive in the next is also conventional.
The second conception posits that the relationship between what we do in this world and the reward and punishment that are waiting for us in the next world is causal, meaning that what we do in our life on Earth produces good or bad consequences in the hereafter. Like other causal relationships between causes and their effects, this relationship is real not conventional.
According to the third conception, the relationship between our actions in this world and what we would experience in the next world is neither conventional nor causal. It is deeper than that. That is, whatever we do has two simultaneous and inseparable aspects: apparent and hidden. However, while the apparent aspect is observable in this world, the hidden aspect only becomes apparent once we die.
I explore and substantiate these three conceptions using some of the relevant verses of the Qurʾān and then argue that the last conception is the correct one, but since it is beyond the imagination and understanding of most people, the Qurʾān has had to utilise the two former conceptions to simplify the matter, so that ordinary people can have at least a vague understanding of this central and abstract religious concept.
Not a Simple Soul: Jewish Views of the Human Psyche by Rabbi Mark L. Solomon
This paper surveys Jewish concepts of the human soul from Biblical to modern times, showing the changing ideas of the psyche over the centuries. It commences with an examination of the vocabulary of the human spirit in Hebrew Scriptures, involving terms like nefeš (life, breath, self, life-force), ruaḥ (wind or spirit) and nᵊšāmāh (breath, breathing thing). Early Biblical writings show little sign of body/soul dualism, but by the later stages, passages in the Psalms and Ecclesiastes, for example, raise questions about the possibility of spiritual survival after death.
Intertestamental writings, and the New Testament, show that such dualism had developed, probably under Hellenistic influence, and became a topic of interest in Rabbinic discourse, where ideas about post-mortem spiritual survival coexist in a complex and unresolved way with the belief in bodily resurrection at the end of days. In contrast to Christian orthodoxy, which insisted on the creation of the soul simultaneously with the body at conception, a Rabbinic consensus developed that all souls were created at the beginning of time and exist in inchoate form with God until their time comes to be incarnated.
In the influential synthesis of Rabbinic Judaism and Islamic Aristotelianism created by Moses Maimonides (12th century), the focus of belief in immortality shifts from the soul to the mind. The soul, as the form of the body, perishes with its material counterpart, and only the “acquired intellect” survives. The impersonal and elitist implications of this concept proved unacceptable to most contemporary and subsequent Jewish thinkers.
Under Neoplatonic influence, Jewish mystics drew upon the variety of Biblical terminology to create a complex, multi-layered theory of the soul. This evolved from an earlier three-tiered model (nefeš–ruaḥ–nᵊšāmāh: active–emotional–intellectual) to a more complex one, in which only the lower levels were “contained” in the body, while the higher ones exist constantly in a heavenly sphere. To this was added the idea of the universal soul, like that of Adam.
Stemming from the Shi’i-influenced teaching of Judah Halevi, that Jews inherit an ʾamr ʾilāhī as their unique connection with God, later Kabbalah and Ḥasidism came to teach that Jews alone possess a divine soul that is “an actual portion of God from above.” The paper explores the particularistic implications of this doctrine.
Finally, the paper considers developments from Bruno Bettelheim’s interpretation of Freud’s concept of the psyche to the prevalent agnosticism among many Jews today, about the existence of an immortal soul – perhaps a return full-circle to the non-dualist Biblical conception of the human being.
The Case for the Pre-existence of Human Souls: A Qur’ānic Perspective by Shaykh Arif Abdulhussain
Questions pertaining to the nature of the human soul and its purpose through bodily existence have perplexed the minds of humanity from time immemorial. The issue is further compounded, for the Abrahamic faiths, due to their presumption of a Merciful God who initiates the existence of the soul and places it in the domain of strife and suffering as a part of God’s bestowal. The reconciliation between the notions of a benevolent God who initiates the human soul and the prospect of the soul’s eternal damnation, without allowing for a pre-worldly existence for the soul with the ability of discretion and choice to come into this world, becomes extremely difficult.
Through reference to the Qur’ānic verses and its accompanying exegesis, together with the deliberations of Muslim philosophers and mystics, this paper explores the idea of a pre-worldly existence of individual souls who choose to enter a worldly existence. The human souls both pre-exist their embodied states and are eternal posterior to death. This is because death and life are states of the body and not the point for the origination of the soul; the soul is merely initiated in the worldly domain through a bodily medium, and allowed agency through the body during bodily life and denied such agency at the point of bodily death. The life of this world, or the lowly life (hayat al-dunya), is an unreal and illusionary life through which human souls find an opportunity to come to the fullest of their potential.
The paper will allude to how this line of reasoning can allow for the formulation of a theodicy in which human beings bear the onus of coming to a world of strife with a prospect of possible damnation. Similarly, through the aid of verses, and the thoughts of the likes of Ibn Arabi, it is postulated that the fate of individual souls at the level worldly existence is left unknown as opposed to the idea of a God Who had foreknowledge of the destinies of the souls. Finally, it will be argued that both paradise and hell cannot be eternal abodes.
Ṭalāq as a Mode of Dissolution of Marriage under Muslim Personal Law in India and its Challenges by Dr Meena Kumari
In India, the law of ṭalāq as a means of dissolving a marriage is one of the most significant aspects of Muslim personal law. The Supreme Court of India declared triple ṭalāq unlawful in 2017. Subsequently, the Indian Parliament passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019, declaring ṭalāq al-bidda or any other type of ṭalāq with the impact of an immediate and irrevocable divorce to be null and void, as well as a penal offense. Some regard this legislation as a landmark for gender equality for Muslim women, while others decry its repercussions.
The presentation traces the legal history of ṭalāq from pre-Islamic Arabian customs through the formative years of Islam. It also provides a glimpse of the colonial administration of personal laws. It focuses specifically on the most recent development of the law of ṭalāq in India and its complications.
Women and Gender in the Qur’an by Dr Celene Ibrahim
Stories about gendered social relations permeate the Qur'an, and nearly three hundred verses involve specific women or girls. The Qur'an features these figures in accounts of human origins, in stories of the founding and destruction of nations, in narratives of conquest, in episodes of romantic attraction, and in incidents of family devotion and strife. Overall, stories involving women and girls weave together theology and ethics to reinforce central Qur'anic ideas regarding submission to God and moral accountability. Celene Ibrahim explores the complex cast of female figures in the Qur'an, probing themes related to biological sex, female sexuality, female speech, and women in sacred history. Ibrahim considers major and minor figures referenced in the Qur'an, including those who appear in narratives of sacred history, in parables, in descriptions of the eternal abode, and in verses that allude to events contemporaneous with the advent of the Qur'an in Arabia. Ibrahim finds that the Qur'an regularly celebrates the aptitudes of women in the realms of spirituality and piety, in political maneuvering, and in safeguarding their own wellbeing; yet, women figures also occasionally falter and use their agency toward nefarious ends. Women and Gender in the Qur'an outlines how women and girls - old, young, barren, fertile, chaste, profligate, reproachable, and saintly - enter Qur'anic sacred history and advance the Qur'an's overarching didactic aims.
Islam and Evolution by Dr Shoaib Ahmed Malik
Dr Malik, a scientist by training, has been researching this topic for many years and recently published a work on the topic through the lens of Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī. His lecture laid out a systematic framework by which Muslim scholars can approach the topic of evolution. Dr Malik outlined the major theories on evolution including creationism, human exceptionalism, Adamic exceptionalism, and the no exceptions theory and examined whether such theories are scripturally compatible from an Islamic perspective.
The Words of the Imams: al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq and the Development of Twelver Shīʿī Hadith Literature by Dr George Warner
Ibn Babawayh – also known as al-Shaykh al-Saduq – was a prominent Twelver Shi'i scholar of hadith. Writing within the first century after the vanishing of the twelfth imam, al-Saduq represents a pivotal moment in Twelver hadith literature, as this Shi'i community adjusted to a world without a visible imam and guide, a world wherein the imams could only be accessed through the text of their remembered words and deeds. George Warner's study of al-Saduq's work examines the formation of Shi'i hadith literature in light of these unique dynamics, as well as giving a portrait of an important but little-studied early Twelver thinker. Though almost all of al-Saduq's writings are collections of hadith, Warner's approach pays careful attention to how these texts are selected and presented to explore what they can reveal about their compiler, offering insight into al-Saduq's ideas and suggesting new possibilities for the wider study of hadith.
Angels from an Islamic Perspective by Dr Mahshid Turner
Dr. Mashid Turner presents a surface overview of the Islamic perspective of angels. She begins by outlining that the belief in angels is a foundational aspect of Islamic theology – one that has been emphasised upon in the Quran. As her talk develops, clear parallels can be seen between the Islamic perspectives and that of the Christian and Jewish backgrounds.
Dr. Turner explains how, in her understanding of the Islamic belief, angels were manifestations of God’s power and mechanisms of His will to be enacted; without having autonomous will of their own or power to dissent against God’s command, nor agency to act beyond His will.
Angels from a Jewish Perspective by Rabbi Jeff Berger
Prof. Rabbi Jeff Berger provides a Jewish examination on angelology. Rabbi Berger gives a host of references to angels’ interaction with man, including apostles of God, as mentioned in Hebrew scripture. Subsequently, Rabbi Berger describes a hierarchy of angelic ranks as described in Judaism. He then classifies angelic beings into virtuous angels, who guide towards God, and those that are subversive and prompt man to act in an evil way.
Angels from a Christian Perspective by Revd Andrew Thompson
Canon Dr. Andrew Thompson begins his presentations by explaining how angels are part and parcel of religious belief, and not exclusively confined to formal or conventional religions. After explaining that Christian beliefs in angels are largely based on Hebrew texts of the Old Testament, Dr. Thompson’s presentation split the way angels are viewed in, Christian theology, into two categories: their ontological aspects and their nature on one hand, and their functional value on the other hand.
Is Life Sacred? Sanctity of Life Arguments by Dr Yaser Mirdamadi
This presentation outlines the religious, specifically the Muslim, background of the sanctity of life argument (SLA) in bioethics and its recent secular versions. It suggests a path towards the future of SLA by taking into account a widely neglected theological position in bioethics in general and specifically in SLA: negative theology. It further probes whether SLA is fundamentally a cataphatic (positive) theological position or whether an apophatic (negative) version of SLA is also possible.
The Hijab Controversy in Modern Iran by Dr Lloyd Ridgeon
In this presentation, Dr Lloyd focuses specifically on the views of two Iranian clerics, Ayatollah Motahhari and Ahmad Qabel, whose views on the hijab are diametrically opposed, but who argue from a position of “rationality”. These arguments assume greater importance given the current campaign for unveiling in Iran.
Karbala in London: Genealogy and Continuity of Contested Expressions of Muharrum Rituals among British South Asian Twelver Shia Muslims’ by Dr Sufyan Abid Dogra
The roots of the power struggle over authority and recognition among various factions of Twelver Shias of South Asian background living in London revolves around the idea of how the ‘true and authentic’ Shia Islam is practised through Ashura Rituals. The theological and political genealogy of this struggle can be traced by examining the history of Shia Islam in South Asia and by analysing the migration of Shia Muslims from India to Pakistan during 1947 partition of sub-continent, and subsequent migration to Britain from South Asia. This seminar will present the historical analysis and ethnographic accounts on Shia Islam and how it is practised in London. The influence of London based Iranian and Iraqi Shia transnational networks are vital to understand in order to approach the internal groupings of adherents in London based South Asian Hussanias. While some South Asian origin Shias confirm to the Iran-backed reformist versions of globally standardised ritual commemoration of Ashura, others detest this and search for religious reinterpretations that may legitimise their South Asian ways of commemorating the Ashura ritual.
Islam and Post-Ijtihadism by Prof Liyakat Takim
An important component in the post-Islamic discourse is the question of the status of Islamic law in contemporary times. Many contemporary jurists have argued that the juridical decisions in the past were interwoven to the political, cultural, or historical circumstances in the eighth century. They further argue while the Qur’an is a fixed text, the interpretive applications of its revelations can vary with the changing realities of history.
This paper argues that there is a need to move beyond the current form of ijtihad to an era of post-ijtihad in Twelver Shi‘ism. The present ijtihad, which was developed in the medieval ages, has failed to produce a coherent legal system that can effectively respond to the needs of contemporary Muslims. The paper will also focus on the post-ijtihadism phenomenon and will argue that the traditional text-centered ijtihad has to be replaced with a new form of ijtihad which utilizes different forms of exegetical principles to formulate new rulings that will serve the Muslim community better. Post-ijtihadism, as I call it, will entail new hermeneutic and interpretive principles to provide a re-evaluation of classical juristic formulations and to assert a new jurisprudence that is based on the notion of ethical axioms and universal moral values. Post-Ijtihadism will also entail revamping traditional Islamic legal theory (Usul al-fiqh) which has hampered rather than enhanced the formulations of newer laws.
British Muslim Perceptions of Biological Evolution by Dr Glen Moran
In recent years a significant amount of attention has been paid to British Muslim perceptions of evolutionary science. This has predominantly taken the form of sensationalist newspaper headlines written in response to alleged incidents of Muslim rejection of evolutionary science. Examples include statements by Richard Dawkins and media coverage of comments by geneticist Steve Jones or the publication of Harun Yahya’s Atlas of Creation. Unfortunately this has not been restricted to the media. Similar narratives are also found in academic literatures, with examples of unsubstantiated reports that a rise in “Islamic Creationism” has taken place. Yet, little academic research had been conducted to support such claims. This paper will draw on newly available data to critically examine British Muslims’ perceptions of evolution, as well as to gain a further understanding of the factors influencing perceptions of evolutionary science.
The Tragedy of Al-Mamun Reading Al-Saduq's Uyun akhbar al-Rida by Dr George Warner
In this presentation, Dr Warner focuses on the relationship that the book ʿUyūn portrays between al-Riḍā and his eventual murderer, the ʿAbbāsid caliph al-Maʾmūn. Imamicide though he is, al-Maʾmūn in ʿUyūn is no Yazīd, for what we see in al-Ṣadūq’s work is not a portrait of absolute, irredeemable evil but a man who has a choice; a man who encounters the imām, who recognises the imām but who ultimately fails to make good that encounter and so is ultimately damned. This intense vision of the stakes of meeting God’s ḥujja forms the core of ʿUyūn, around which are explorations of a range of other relationships that include both al-Ṣadūq’s readers’ relationship with their imām(s) and al-Ṣadūq’s relationship with the powerful, irascible vizier al-Ṣāḥib Ibn ʿAbbād.
Organ donation in Shi'i Jurisprudence by Mahdiyah Abdul-Hussain
The shortage of organs donated for transplantation is resulting in the deaths of three people daily in addition to being burdensome on the NHS, which has to provide costly treatments. Quantitative surveys on the attitudes of British Muslims towards donation reveal that although the majority say that they are happy to receive an organ if needed, they are reluctant to become donors. Individuals feel constrained by advice from religious leaders and the interpretation of religious scriptures, considering organ donation to contravene Sharia rulings. In light of the imminent transition towards a system of ‘deemed consent’, in which there is a presumption that everyone is willing to donate their organs, Muslims are faced with the question of whether they want to opt out of saving, potentially, several lives.
Women's Right to Child Custody in Shi'i Fiqh by Sayed Hossein Qazwini
Sayed Hossein Qazwini (Islamic Seminary of Karbala) discusses the different Shi'i Fiqhi views on Women's right to child custody.
Dangerous Liaisons by Dr Omar Anchassi
Dr Omar Anchassi (University of Edinburgh) presents on the early juristic position within the various schools of jurisprudence regarding marriage to non-Muslim women who are either pagans or from the Abrahamic religions.
Being Shia in Europe by Dr Emanuelle Degli Esposti
What does it mean to be a practicing Shi'a in Europe in the contemporary moment? How do individuals from Shi'a backgrounds negotiate their place in European society, especially in countries where Shi'is represent a "minority of a minority" with regards to the wider Muslim population? Drawing on my doctoral research among practicing Shi'is in the UK, this seminar will present some of the key findings regarding the development of a modern "British Shi'a" identity, as well as ask questions about the transferability of such an identity across European borders. The seminar will thus function simultaneously as an exploratory workshop, encouraging feedback and interaction from participants regarding their own sense of identity and belonging, and the ways in which academic scholarship needs to reflect the changing nature of what it means to be Shi'a in the modern world.
How (Not) to Teach Creed: Disputes Over "the Belief of the Common Folk" in the Early Modern Maghrib by Dr Caitlyn Olson
Despite their broad agreement about the definition of belief (īmān) and about key theological doctrine, Muslim scholars in the 15th-17th century Maghrib argued fiercely over whether and how to teach that doctrine to non-elite members of society. This seminar will explain the concepts, argumentation, and stakes of these disputes and discuss several moments when "the belief of the common folk" became an especially heated issue. In doing so, it moreover offers space to reflect on the appropriateness of translating īmān as belief and on the place of belief within Islamic thought.
Book Review: 'Leaving Iberia: Islamic Law and Christian Conquest in North-West Africa' Dr Jocelyn Hendrickson
Leaving Iberia: Islamic Law and Christian Conquest in North West Africa examines Islamic legal responses to Muslims living under Christian rule in medieval and early modern Iberia and North Africa. The fall of al-Andalus, or Reconquista, has long been considered a turning point when the first substantial Muslim populations fell under permanent Christian rule. Yet a near-exclusive focus on conquered Iberian Muslims has led scholars to overlook a substantial body of legal opinions issued in response to Portuguese and Spanish occupation in Morocco itself, beginning in the early fifteenth century.
By moving beyond Iberia and following Christian conquerors and Muslim emigrants into North Africa, Leaving Iberia links the juristic discourses on conquered Muslims on both sides of the Mediterranean, critiques the perceived exceptionalism of the Iberian Muslim predicament, and adds a significant chapter to the story of Christian–Muslim relations in the medieval Mediterranean. The final portion of the book explains the disparate fates of these medieval legal opinions in colonial Algeria and Mauritania, where jurists granted lasting authority to some opinions and discarded others.
Based on research in the Arabic manuscript libraries of five countries, Leaving Iberia offers the first fully annotated translations of the major legal texts under analysis.
Standpoints on the Belief in Imam Mahdi: A Sunni-Shia Discussion
Standpoints on the Belief in Imam Mahdi: A Sunni-Shia Discussion
Scrutinising the Sunni Standpoint on the belief in Imam Mahdi by Shaykh Muhammad Umar Ramadhan
Scrutinising the Sunni Standpoint on the belief in Imam Mahdi by Shaykh Muhammad Umar Ramadhan
Reassessing the Mainstream Shi'i Standpoint on the belief in Imam Mahdi by Prof. AbdulAziz Sachedina
Reassessing the Mainstream Shi'i Standpoint on the belief in Imam Mahdi by Prof. AbdulAziz Sachedina
Book Review: 'Agents of the Hidden Imam: Forging Twelver Shi‘ism, 850-950 CE' by Dr Edmund Hayes
In 874 CE, the eleventh Imam died, and the Imami community splintered. The institutions of the Imamate were maintained by the dead Imam's agents, who asserted they were in contact with a hidden twelfth Imam. This was the beginning of 'Twelver' Shiʿism. Edmund Hayes provides an innovative approach to exploring early Shiʿism, moving beyond doctrinal history to provide an analysis of the socio-political processes leading to the canonisation of the Occultation of the twelfth Imam. Hayes shows how these agents cemented their authority by reproducing the physical signs of the Imamate, including protocols of succession, letters and the alm taxes. Four of these agents were ultimately canonised as “envoys” but traces of earlier conceptions of authority remain embedded in the earliest reports. Hayes dissects the complex and contradictory Occultation narratives to show how, amidst the claims of numerous actors, the institutional positioning of the envoys allowed them to assert a quasi-Imamic authority in the absence of an Imam.
Book Review: 'Transcendent God, Rational World: A Maturidi Theology' by Dr Ramon Harvey
Ramon Harvey revisits the Muslim theologian Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī (d. 333/944) from Samarqand and puts his system, and that of the Māturīdī school, into lively dialogue with modern thought. Combining rigorous study of Arabic Māturīdī texts with insights from Husserl’s phenomenology and analytic theology, Harvey explores themes from epistemology and metaphysics to the nature of God and specific divine attributes (omniscience and wisdom, creative action, divine speech and the Qur’an). His systematic treatment of these topics shows that a contemporary Islamic philosophical theology, or kalām jadīd, can be true to the past, yet dynamic in the present, and can provide original and constructive answers to perennial theological questions.