On Saturday March 5th 2011, the CISS held its second international conference entitled ‘Shi’a Scholarship 16th Century – Present’ at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), London.
Shi’a scholarship is characterised by the interpretation of not only the Qur’an but the teachings of Prophet Muhammad & the Twelve Imams. Their teachings have been the bedrock and influence of many pioneering works in Shi’a and wider Islamic scholarship from the 16th century onwards which was a flourishing time for Shi’a scholars because of the freedom they had from persecution and oppression.
The conference focused on seminal texts by Shi’a scholars produced in that period and beyond to the present day; for example Bihar al-Anwar by Allamah Majlisi, Mu’jam Rijal Al-Hadith by Ayatullah Al-Khoei and Al-Asfar al-Arba’a by Mulla Sadra. The conference was graced by speakers from all over the world. The keynote lectures were delivered by Professor Liyakat Takim of McMaster University, Canada and Dr Andrew J Newman of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. In addition, graduate students and academics from Princeton University, USA, University of Basel, Switzerland, University of Exeter, The Islamic College and Azad University in Oxford presented papers on themes ranging from the obligatory nature of Friday Prayer, the concept of Jihad in Shi’a & Sunni jurisprudence and the Shi’a & Sufi concept of spiritual authority.
The conference was well attended with over 100 participants ranging from a variety of academic and non-academic backgrounds. The morning session was kicked off the Master of Ceremonies, Imranali Panjwani, welcoming attendees. Sayyid Fadhil Bahrululoom, Director of the CISS, gave some introductory remarks about the aims of the CISS and some challenges for Shi’a scholarship. In particular, he mentioned that there needs to be more scholastic exchanges between Eastern and Western scholars within the field to appreciate each other’s methodologies and mentalities. The 1st panel dealt with the ‘Legal Theory & Jurisprudence’, the second panel dealt with ‘Shi’ism Beyond Boundaries’, the 3rd panel focused on ‘Hadith and Rijal Studies’ and the final panel dealt with ‘Philosophy & Mysticism.’ The nature of the panels as well as the papers gave the conference a diverse outlook. In particular, the eagerly awaited keynote session delivered by Professor Liyakat Takim and Dr Andrew J Newman (chaired by Professor Charles R H Tripp) sparked discussion on the role of biographical studies in authenticating key Shi’a hadith.
Overall, the conference promoted fruitful and stimulating intellectual dialogue with regular refreshments and a sumptuous sandwich lunch to keep participants going throughout the day! The CISS would like to thank all the speakers that presented their intriguing papers, the attendees and SOAS for their hospitality. On a final note, the CISS intends to publish the conference proceedings with a major publisher.