An international conference on Shi’i studies brought together speakers and participants from across the globe, some travelling from as far afield as Australia and Argentina. The conference was hosted at The Islamic College on 7-8 May in London. This year’s conference successfully highlighted the diversity of new research within Shi’i studies. Talks ranged from the traditional scholarly subjects such as fiqh and hadith to sociological, anthropological and epistemological studies. Key contemporary issues involving Shi’as and Shi’ism, such as feminism and Tafkikis were also discussed.
This is the second year the Islamic College has hosted the International Conference on Shi’i Studies. The conference was organised by the Journal of Shia Islamic Studies, the Islamic Centre of England, and the Institute for Islamic studies in Iran. Following on from last year’s success, they decided to hold this year’s event over two days. While last year’s discussions were mostly focussed on the pedagogical study of Shi’ism itself, this year’s agenda was more diverse and included pedagogical studies.
The proceedings of the conference will be published in the Journal of Shi’a Islamic Studies, an academic, peer-reviewed journal, focusing on studies of Shi’ism and Shi’as which is now in its ninth year.
One of the speakers at the conference, Professor Ali Paya delivered a talk looking at ‘The Disenchantment of Reason: An Anti-Rational Trend in Modern Shi’i Thought – The Tafkikis’. He focused mostly on an epistemological point of view of the basic tenets of a powerful anti-intellectual trend in modern Shi’i thought known as the Tafkikis School.
“While anti-rational and non-rational trends, tendencies and approaches form a spectrum in which a large variety of positions can be identified, rationality is identified solely by subscribing to valid and sound arguments. It is important to note that even anti-rationalists and non-rationalists, e.g. Sophists, make use of arguments but the type of arguments they use are invalid and fallacious. Moreover, for them, the final arbiters in judgements about knowledge claims are things other than critical reason and reality.” – Professor Ali Paya – The Islamic College, London and University of Westminster, London
The college also put up a bookstall selling ICAS, MIU, and EWI publications offering all participants and attendees 50% off all books.
The Annual International Conference on Shi’i Studies aims to strengthen the field of Shi’i Studies by bringing together academics to present the outcomes of their latest research and to cultivate an environment for intellectual discussions and interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary collaborations.
With regard to this year’s conference it seems the consensus of the participants and attendees was that it succeeded in achieving its stated goal by creating a platform for critical examination and scholarly elaboration of new ideas and emerging trends within the sphere of Shi’i Studies.
“The conference was an opportunity for researchers from around the world to gather and present their research on different aspects of Shi‘ism and the experiences of Shi‘i peoples. I enjoyed the diversity of the subjects as well as the thoughtfulness that they approached their topics with. We are looking forward to printing their papers.”
–Amina Inloes – Managing Editor, Journal of Shi‘a Islamic Studies
“The Conference was absolutely fantastic, and the wide variety of speakers and topics were intellectually stimulating. It was good to see that this conference attracted speakers from around the world.” – Fatema Muraj, an attendee.