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A Living Legacy: Ibn ‘Arabi in Today’s World

October 23, 2015 @ 6:45 pm - October 24, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

For the 850th anniversary of the birth of Muhyiddin Ibn ’Arabi, the Ibn ‘Arabi Society in the U.S. is pleased to announce a major conference on his legacy.

As one of history’s greatest universal mystics and interpreters of the human condition, Ibn ’Arabi’s teachings can offer us a window into a form of Islam that we in the West are rarely exposed to, as well as a more sophisticated understanding of the more exalted aspects of the Islamic cultural heritage.

This year’s conference, the third in a series on the same theme after those held in Murcia, Spain and Oxford, England, includes talks and workshops from some of the foremost experts on Ibn ‘Arabi, poetry readings from Ibn ‘Arabi’s works, and a musical performance.

Friday evening’s events will take place in Columbia’s Faculty House, on the 3rd floor. Enter through the Wein Gates at 116th Street, between Amsterdam Ave & Morningside Drive.

Saturday talks will be in Davis Auditorium in Schapiro Hall, and breakout workshops will be next door in Mudd. Enter Shapiro Hall through the 120th Street gate.

Much more information is available at ibnarabisociety.org.

Register now here.
mapAnyone with a Columbia University UNI may register FREE.
Email info@ircpl.org for the Columbia University promotional code.

Sponsored by the Ibn ‘Arabi Society and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.

For all inquiries, please send email to the Secretary at mias.usa@ibnarabisociety.org.



William C. Chittick

William ChittickWilliam C. Chittick is professor of religious studies at Stony Brook University. He is author and translator of many books and articles on Sufism and Islamic philosophy, the most recent of which are Divine Love: Islamic Literature and the Path to God (Yale 2013) and Unveiling the Mysteries (http://altafsir.com/Books/kashf.pdf).

Ibn ‘Arabi: The Doorway into an Intellectual Tradition
Talk abstract: Ibn `Arabi and many others draw a sharp distinction between transmitted and intellectual knowledge. Transmitted knowledge is everything we know second-hand, that is, practically all of the knowledge that we live by. Intellectual knowledge is everything we know without intermediary (including the intermediary of sense perception). Intellectual knowledge alone allows us to be truly human.

On knowledge and recognition
Workshop abstract: We will look at various ways in which Ibn `Arabî interprets the famous saying, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.”

Jane Clark

Jane ClarkJane Clark (B. Sc, M.Phil (Oxon)) is a Senior Research Fellow of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabî Society, and a support tutor for University of Oxford. She has been involved in the study of Ibn ‘Arabi’ for more than thirty years, and has lectured and presented conferences on his thought in both UK and internationally, plus has published many articles on his thought, including the entry for Encyclopaedia of Literary Culture (2012). She currently runs seminars on Islamic mysticism for the University of Oxford Department of Continuous Development, and for Temenos Academy in London. As a researcher, she has been involved since 2001, (with Stephen Hirtenstein) in the Society’s Manuscript Archiving Project, and as a translator she is working on a new editions of Ibn ʿArabī’s Rūh al-Quds  and  Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam.

The Dignity of the Human Being
Workshop abstract:Ibn ʿArabī talks in many places about the dignity (sharaf, which can also be translated as eminence, nobility or excellence) of the human being. Whilst the concept is often understood as referring to different levels of attainment or standing in the world, he argues that all people have essential “eminence” – and thus equality – because the Real created them all with “his two hands”; thus they all have the same potential for realisation and completion. This seminar will look at some texts which explore what Ibn ʿArabī means by “his two hands”, and his consequent assertion of the sanctity of human life.

Zahra’ Langhi

Zahra LanghiZahra’ Langhi is a researcher in Islamic history, Sufism, metaphysics, and female spirituality in comparative religions. She has an MA from the American University in Cairo on Sitt ‘Ajam’s Commentary of Ibn Arabi’s Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries and the Rising of the Divine Lights. She is also the co-founder of of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace, a socio-political movement which aims at peace building, inclusivity and gender equality. She is a member of the Libyan National Dialogue & has taken part in the peace talks. Her MA thesis on Sitt ‘Ajam, A Muslim Woman Gnostic of the Middle Ages, is to be published by Fons Vitae.

And My Mercy Encompasses All: Peace in light of Akbari metaphysics of Compassion
Talk abstract: Peace and harmony in the perspective of Ibn Arabi is the fruit of his conception of compassion inherent in the all encompassing totality of the Divine Self with its complicated diversity of divine qualities. We will be specifically exploring his concept of the Encompassing totality of Mercy (Shumuliyat Ar-rahmah). We will also be looking into his view of the relationship between justice (‘adl) and generosity (fadl). For Ibn Arabi the qualities of divine anger manifested in Justice are not being denied as they are seen as consequences of human sin. However, they are limited and relative and thus cannot be placed on the same level as those who are intrinsically ties with thee Absolute, as Mercy. The talk will also address the theological differences between Ibn Arabi and the traditional schools such as the Mutazili and the Asharite regarding the concept of the Encompassing totality of Mercy (Shumuliyat Ar-rahmah)

And My Mercy Encompasses All: Peace in light of Akbari metaphysics of Compassion
Workshop abstract: At the very heart of Ibn Arab’s thought, great stress is placed on love as being the fountain head of creation and the Names of Mercy, al-Rahman, al-Rahim manifest the dynamics of divine love. We will be reading and exploring together Ibn Arabi’s hermeneutics of Quranic verses related to Compassion, peace and love. We will also read passages from the Divine Governance (Tadbirat Ilahiayya) regarding the concept of Justice, Khilafa and order.

Todd Lawson

Todd LawsonTodd Lawson is emeritus professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Toronto where he taught for 25 years. He has published widely on Qur’an commentary (tafsir) the Qur’an as literature, Sufism, Shi’i Islam and the Babi and Bahai traditions. His book on Jesus in Islamic thought, The Crucifixion and the Qur’an was published in 2009 (Oneworld), hisGnostic Apocalypse and Islam in 2011 (Routledge). The article, “Qur’an and Epic” appeared recently in The Journal of Qur’anic Studies (2014: 16.1). This and other of his publications are available at www.toddlawson.ca. He is now writing a book on the Qur’an as sacred epic. He lives in Montreal.

The Mark of Friendship and the Structure of Sanctity in the Teachings of Ibn ‘Arabi
Talk abstract: Friendship/waláya is the central value of Ibn Arabi’s visionary teaching. It precedes all other divine names and attributes in order of importance and is, in fact, that without which there would be no vision or teaching. The world today suffers from numerous economic, social, spiritual, ecological dislocations and imbalances. Ibn Arabi’s source for this at once most valuable and most abundant resource is the Qur’an. In the end we will wonder aloud whether “sainthood” is the best way to think of this most widespread, characteristic and yet infinitely various reality and how we might best benefit from this Islamic legacy, especially as it has been bequeathed to us through Ibn Arabi’s achievement.

Friends and Strangers
Workshop abstract:
Who are the friends and who are the others? Our workshop session will focus on the Qur’an and what it has to say about friendship and its opposite. Selected verses (in English translation) and other brief readings will be distributed to the workshop members for discussion, interpretation and analysis. Each participant will be expected to contribute ideas and interpretations to the discussion in the hope of deepening our understanding of the idea of friendship and its relation to sanctity in the context of Ibn Arabi’s thought and vision.

Pierre Lory

Pierre LoryPierre Lory pursued his studies in political science and in Arabic literature in Paris. He moved to the Middle East, where he lived in Lebanon and Syria while completing advanced coursework in Arabic. He decided to focus his research on the history of Islamic spirituality and Sufism. He earned a Masters on mystical exegesis in the Koran, and a PhD on Arabic alchemical texts (1981). He then pursued further post-graduate work in Islamic Studies, receiving a “Doctorat d’état”. He became Professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) in 1991. His participation in international conferences, panels, and research groups frequently takes him to the Middle East, North Africa, Iran… He was also director of the department of Arabic studies at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient, in Damascus, from 2007 to 2011. He has published several books and many articles on Sufism, Arabic alchemy, Islamic esotericism.

Animal world and Perfect Man: Ibn ‘Arabi and the metaphysics of ecology
Talk abstract: A simple comparison between men and animals in Islamic sacred texts leads to the conclusion that man is neither more virtuous, nor more pious, nor even more intelligent than his fellow animals. The study of Ibn ‘Arabi’s texts on animals will lead us to another explanation of man’s centrality in creation: human perfection doesn’t yet exist, it is still to come. The whole creation – animal, vegetal and inanimate beings – is encompassed in the reality of “the Perfect Man”. Men are the accomplishment of the whole creation because some of them may become saints. The holiness of Saints encompasses everything, including other living beings.

“And there is no creature on the earth or bird that flies with its wings except that they are communities like you” (Q 6:38)
Workshop abstract:
The Koran and hadith stress that animals are intelligent creatures, able to use a language, conscious of the greatness of God, obeying His law, praising Him, receiving revelations from Him. By contrast, humans can often be destructive unbelievers and sinners. Where does the superiority of humans lie, what then justifies their metaphysical position? Why did God order the angels to bow before Adam? Ibn ‘Arabi develops an original conception of the status of the animal world in the wider frame of his conception of the Perfect Man. Although it doesn’t have a direct link with the modern concept of ‘ecology’, it may inspire a new reflection on the relations between man and nature from an Islamic point of view.

James W. Morris

James MorrisJames W. Morris, Ph.D., currently teaches Islamic studies at Boston College; he lectures widely on Sufism, the Islamic humanities, Islamic philosophy, the Qur’an, Shiite thought, and cinema and spiritual teaching. His many books include: Knowing the Spirit ; The Reflective Heart: Discovering Spiritual Intelligence in Ibn ‘Arabi’s ‘Meccan Illuminations’;Orientations: Islamic Thought in a World Civilisation ; and the forthcoming Approaching Ibn ‘Arabi: Foundations, Contexts, Interpretations.


Inspiration and Discernment: Ibn ‘Arabi’s Introduction to the Challenges of Spiritual Sensitivity and Judgment
Talk abstract: At the very center of Ibn ‘Arabi’s long opening Section on the forms of spiritual awareness (fasl al-ma‘ārif), chapters 50-58 of his Meccan Illuminations offer his initial practical introduction to the essential dimensions of his spiritual psychology: i.e., to the complex, never-ending interplay between each human being’s inner awareness, the processes of testing or temptation, and our gradually unfolding discovery of right (and unconscious) inspiration and action.  In a way, these foundational chapters literally set the stage for those subtle inner dramas of spiritual realization that constitute his ultimate subject throughout the remaining Sections of this monumental work.

Inspiration and Discernment: Ibn ‘Arabi’s Introduction to the Challenges of Spiritual Sensitivity and Judgment
Workshop abstract: Relying on a handout of a few key passages from chapters 50-58 of the Futūhāt, we will explore together the inner workings of Ibn ‘Arabi’s account of the “phenomenology” of spiritual life. As with most popular spiritual psychologies we encounter today (whether or not overtly religious in origin), Ibn ‘Arabi’s interest here and throughout his writings—just as with earlier and later Sufi authors—is primarily practical and therapeutic, rather than in creating a purely theoretical account of the soul.  The insights in question here must be provided by each reader, and the challenges Ibn ‘Arabi evokes are intimately familiar ones.

Sa’diyya Shaikh

Sadiyya ShaikhSa’diyya Shaikh is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She has an interest in Sufism and its implications for Islamic feminism and feminist theory. She teaches courses in religion and gender, Islamic mysticism and the psychology of religion. In 2000 she co-presented at the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit of Spiritual and Religious Leaders in New York. Her book Sufi Narratives of Intimacy: Ibn ʿArabī, Gender and Sexuality is published by the University of North Carolina Press (2012). Sa’diyya is married, the mother of two children and an ever-grateful member of the “ant-family” of Shaykh Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.

Ibn Arabi and Reimagining Gender
Talk abstract: Focussing on Ibn Arabi’s approach, this paper explores the ways in which mystical language presents a radically destabilizing and fluid epistemology that expands current debates on the meaning of gender. Tracking Ibn Arabi’s dialectical modes of engaging dominant gender narratives, the paper reflects on the implications of such dynamic disruptions for our understandings of being human.

Integrations and Intimacies
Workshop abstract: What are the ways in which Ibn ‘Arabi both reflects and resists the dominant gendered narratives of his period? What are ways that he holds gender “gingerly” recognizing its creative power while refusing to reify its contents and meanings? How might his approach impel us to rethink the gendered conditions of possibility in our time? These might be some of the questions we will address in this workshop whilst examining a selection of Ibn Arabi’s excerpts on gender and sexuality (in English translation).

Axel Takacs

Axel TakacsAxel M. Oaks Takacs is a doctoral candidate in the study of religion at Harvard Divinity School. He studied Christian theology and medieval philosophy and history as an undergraduate at Saint Louis University, and then later obtained a Masters in Islamic Studies at Harvard Divinity School. Axel studies, reads, and writes as a comparative theologian. On the Islamic side, he focuses on the development of the Akbarian tradition (particularly as it manifested in the Persian poetic tradition) and also on the so-called madhhab-i ʿishq (School of Love). On the Christian side, Axel engages the early and medieval tradition, but in conversation with contemporary concerns and theology. He is the founder and editor of the Journal of Comparative Theology.

“Nothing is worshipped except through passion”: Ibn ʿArabī, Ḥāfiẓ, and the Many Forms of Meaningful Love
Workshop abstract: We will explore together a couple love lyrics from the “Tongue of the Unseen,” Ḥāfiẓ, and put them into conversation with various teachings on love from al-Shaykh al-Akbar, Ibn ʿArabī. The aim of this workshop is to unpack the various ways these love lyrics draw the reader into a certain passionate engagement with the world. How does interpreting the lyrics train us to interpret the world as divine self-disclosure? In what way does the passionate love found in these lyrics move the reader beyond oppositional duality and toward a discovery of meaningful love within phenomenal experiences of desire?


October 23, 2015 @ 6:45 pm
October 24, 2015 @ 5:00 pm
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Davis Auditorium, Schapiro Center
530 W. 120th St.
New York, NY 10027 United States
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