Past Events:


A lecture by Professor Francis Robinson, Visiting Professor in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago and Professor of the History of South Asia at the University of London

Tuesday, March 8

4:30 – 6 pm
Swift Hall, Third Floor Lecture Room 
Reception to follow



Friday, February 20, 2015
9 – 5:30 pm
Swift Hall Common Room
Reception to follow

A conference organized by Mellon Visiting Professor Regula Qureshi


Opening session – 9:00 – 9:45  (Michael Sells, Welcome)

The Sublime and Music: Islam and the West
Regula Burckhardt Qureshi and Philip V. Bohlman in Conversation
Discussant: Michael Sells

Poetry –10:00 – 10:45 am

Recitation and Discussion of Poetry 
Michael Sells, The University of Chicago: “Love Lyrics of Ibn al-Farid and Ibn al-`Arabi”
Saleem Qureshi, The University of Alberta: “Sublime Rebellion, Iqbal’s Urdu and Farsi Verse”
Chair:  Thibaut d’Hubert

Colloquy  1 – 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Colloquy 1: Deborah A. Kapchan, NYU: “Witnessing the Sublime: Sufi Samaa in Secular France”
Moderator: Hakan Karateke

Deborah Kapchan is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. A Guggenheim fellow, she is the author of Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press 1996), Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Music and Trance in the Global Marketplace (Wesleyan University Press 2007), as well as numerous articles on sound, narrative and poetics. She is translating and editing a volume entitled Poetic Justice: An Anthology of Moroccan Contemporary Poetry, and is also the editor of two recent volumes:  Intangible Rights: Cultural Heritage in Transit (2014 University of Pennsylvania Press) and Theorizing Sound Writing (currently under review).

Lunch break, 12:00-1:00 pm

Music and Sublime across the Muslim World – 1:00 – 3:00 pm         

1:00 – 1:30 pm – Bertie Kibreah, The University of Chicago: “Sufi Tattva: The Sound and Space of Mystical Song in Bangladesh”
1:30 – 2:00 pm – Shayna Silverstein, Northwestern University: “Performing Sacred Popular: Syrian Sufi Dance as National Heritage”
2:00 – 2:30 pm – Michael O’Toole, The University of Chicago:  “Staging the Sublime: Music and Islam on Stage in Germany”
2:30 – 3:00 pm – Lauren Osborne, Whitman College: “Locating Experience and Emotion in the Recited Qur’an”
Moderator: Marcia K. Hermansen, Loyola University Chicago

Coffee break – 3:00 – 3:30 pm

Music – 3:30 – 4:15 pm

The Labor of Sublimity: A Conversation
Kaley Mason, Robert L Kendrick, Regula Burckhardt Qureshi

Colloquy   2 – 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Peter L. Manuel, CUNY: “Qawwali as the Anti-Sublime”
Moderator: Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago

Peter Manuel has researched and published extensively on musics of India, the Caribbean, Spain, and elsewhere.  His several books include Cassette Culture: Popular Musics and Technology in North India. An occasional performer of sitar, flamenco guitar, and highland bagpipes, he teaches ethnomusicology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Reception – 5:30 pm

Sufism today has gained widespread interest mainly through its music and poetry, but also through its contrast with orthodox scriptural Islam. Sufism stands for an inclusive Islam focused on personal love of God and spiritual guidance within a wide range of devotional practices. Music and mystical poetry are the sonic embodiment of Sufism and its worldwide placeholder in the search for spiritual goals. Sufi, thus, can designate a broader spectrum of vernacular devotional and ritual identities. The core idea for this workshop allows us to approach this near-global vogue of a Sufi Imaginary through its music.

“Islam and Sufism” also brings into conversation a range of ideascapes and practices, from the traditional South Asian spiritual lineages to a new generation of Muslim popular culture. Sufi music is founded in ritual and its constraints, but its practice is also open to creative agency. Reaching for the gift of the sublime enables embodied engagement on multiple levels—through rhythm, repetition of words, even ecstatic dance, to reach for the gift of the sublime, individually or collectively.

Sufism is part of a larger social imaginary of Muslims responding to the global fundamentalist movement. Its appeal is the Spiritual and Aesthetic in Sufi music, which can inspire lofty goals of self realization as well as the pursuit of social justice, especially as inspired by Islam’s profoundly egalitarian commitment.



A lecture by Professor Regula Qureshi, Visiting Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Chicago, and Professor of Music at the University of Alberta

Friday, January 16
4:30 – 6 pm
Swift Hall Common Room
Reception to follow



The Muslim world witnessed many parallel tides of change on the political, social, cultural and communication landscapes simultaneously in recent years. The new developments which have been sweeping many parts of the Muslim world in the socio-political domain, such as the quest for democratization and the calls for reform in some Muslim countries, the growth of diasporic Muslim communities in many parts of the globe, the spread of Islamic resurgence movements, and the birth of new generations of young, educated and technologically savvy Muslims, have been accompanied by equally captivating developments in the media arena, with the introduction of new communication technologies, such as the internet, satellite television channels, and cell phones. The workshop “Mediated Muslim Identities in a Changing World” attempts to capture the complexities, intricacies and intersectionalities of these parallel forces of change and their dynamics, as they both shape and reflect the way Muslims use the media today, in an effort to forecast the future implications of this cyclical and interconnected process on new generations of Muslims, whether politically, socially, or culturally.

Friday, May 9, 2014
9 am – 5 pm
Swift Hall Common Room

Reception to follow



9 am – Introduction, Sahar Khamis, “Mediated Muslim Identities in a Changing World: Theoretical Insights”

9:30 am- First Session

Mohamed El-Nawawy, “Islamic Cyberspace between Collective and Divergent Identities: Platform for Faith Diplomacy?”

10:30 am – Second Session

Iza Hussin, “Online Fatwa: Networks, Textuality, and New Spaces of Muslim Authority.”

11:30 am – coffee

11:45 pm – Third Session

Hamid Naficy, “Iran’s Mediatic Public Diplomacy with the West—War by Other Means”

12:45 pm – break for lunch

2:15 pm – Fourth Session

Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, “Race, Representation and Performing the American Muslim”

3:15 pm – coffee

3:30 pm – Fifth Session

Thomas E.R. Maguire, “Developmental Da’wah: Contesting Ultimate Authority through Satellite Television”

4:30 pm – Closing Discussion

5:00 pm – Reception

Workshop Participants:

Sahar Khamis
Univeristy of Maryland
Mellon Visiting Professor,
The University of Chicago
Mohamed El- Nawawy
Queens University of Charlotte
Iza Hussin
The University of Chicago
Hamid Naficy
Northwestern University
Suad Abdul Khabeer
Purdue University
Thomas E.R. Maguire
The University of Chicago



How is the Internet contributing to shaping and redefining the notion of the “Virtual Umma?” How is it giving birth to new forms of “Online Fatwa?” How is it contributing to the creation of new “Islamic Public Spheres?” In this Mellon Public Lecture, Visiting Mellon Professor Sahar Khamis discusses the introduction of the Internet in the Muslim world which imposed new realities and dynamics, whether in the political, social, cultural or communication landscapes. Her lecture seeks to tackle the complexities and implications of this new digital age, with all its multi-faceted dimensions as well as discuss some of the most important debates, controversies, and deliberations being shared and exchanged between different groups of Muslims. 

Sahar Khamis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is an expert on Arab and Middle Eastern media. She is the former Head of the Mass Communication and Information Science Department in Qatar University. Dr. Khamis holds a Ph.D. in Mass Media and Cultural Studies from the University of Manchester in England. She is the co-author of the books: “Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and “Egyptian Revolution 2.0: Political Blogging, Civic Engagement and Citizen Journalism” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Dr. Khamis has been appointed as a commissioner in the Human Rights Commission of Montgomery County, Maryland.    

Friday, April 18
4:30 pm
Swift Hall Common Room
Reception to follow


Scholarship on secularism in the Middle East and South Asia has been radically transformed in the last decade, and continues to be one of the most innovative and creative, as well as challenging, areas of inquiry. It has become apparent that we are talking about multiple ways of constituting and imagining secularism, and that recognition of historical context and diversity is essential. We no longer use Western Europe as a yardstick, or even speak of secularism as a uniform phenomenon, instead we have moved to exploring the diversity of secularisms in a wide variety of social, cultural and historical contexts. Scholarship increasingly probes ways in which secularisms are constructed in interaction with new understandings of religion and expressions of religiosity, the redefinition of ‘public’ and ‘private,’ ideas of citizenship, and individual subjectivities.

The aim of this conference is twofold. First, to bring together some of the formative theorists of secularism from a variety of disciplines (political science, religious studies, anthropology, sociology, history) to enable dialogue with them about their existing scholarship; and secondly, to hear from these scholars about where their research is headed.

This conference is organized in tandem with Professor Monica Ringer’s course at the University of Chicago in the winter quarter of 2014, where students will read works by the speakers and prepare a paper that engages their scholarship.

Friday, February 28, 2014
9 am – 5 pm
Swift Hall Common Room

Reception to follow



9 am – Welcome, Monica M. Ringer

9:30 am- First Session

Metin Heper, “Some Notes on Secularism in Turkey”

10:30 am – coffee

11:00 am – Second Session

Berna Turam, “The City after De-privatization: Spatializing Religion and Secularism”

12:00 pm – break for lunch

1:30 pm – Third Session

Peter van der Veer, “Keeping the Muslims Out: Concepts of Civilization, Civility, and Civil Society in India, China, and Western Europe”

2:30 pm – Fourth Session

Tomoko Masuzawa, “Trifurcating Abraham: the Rise of Philology and the Disaggregation of Jewish, Islamic, and Biblical Studies”

3:30 pm – coffee

4:00 pm – Closing Discussion

5:00 pm – Reception

Workshop Participants:

Monica Ringer
Amherst College
Visiting Professor, University of Chicago
Tomoko Masuzawa
University of Michigan
Peter van der Veer
Max Planck Institute, Germany
Metin Heper
Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
Berna Turam
Northeastern University


With Professor Monica M. Ringer, Visiting Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago and Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History at Amherst College

French religious studies scholar Ernest Renan’s famous lecture given at the Sorbonne in 1883, “Islam and Science,” caused enormous consternation in Muslim intellectual circles, and launched a series of refutations. In many ways, the debates surrounding Renan’s argument prefigured the “Clash of Civilizations” debate engendered by Samuel Huntington’s infamous article published in 1993. In this talk, Professor Ringer examines one of the least well-known of the refutations, written by the Imam of the St. Petersburg mosque, Ataollah Bayezidof. Despite many shared premises, the two scholars’ central disagreement surrounds the nature of Islamic exceptionalism.

Friday, January 17, 2014
Swift Hall Common Room
4:30 pm 

Reception to follow


Join Gamal Al Ghitany and participants for discussions on the reception, transformation, and reiteration of classical Arabic biographical and autobiographical literature in modern Arabic fiction, as well as the process of translation and its relationship with the original text.

Gamal al-Ghitany is the fall quarter 2013 Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative visitor.  He has been appointed visiting professor of practice.  Practice professorships are reserved for those who have achieved distinction in the creative arts, such as musicians, choreographers, poets, or fiction writers.  Al-Ghitany has published more than forty novels, collections of short stories, and works of literary criticism; and was the founder and, until recently, director of the Egyptian literary periodical Akhbar al-Adab, widely viewed as the most influential literary periodical in the Arab world.  

Three of his works were translated by the late Farouk Mustafa Abdel Wahhab, the University of Chicago’s award-winner translator of modern Egyptian fiction: Zayni Barakat (1988); The Zaafarani Files (2009); and The Book of Epiphanies (2012).

Friday, November 22
9:30 am – 4:30 pm
Swift Hall Common Room
Reception to follow


9:30 am – Introduction of Workshop

10:00 am – 11:15 am
Kay Heikkinen will lead a panel devoted to readings from Gamal al-Ghitany’s works in the English translations by Farouk Mustafa, followed by readings by al-Ghitany from the original and comments by al-Ghitany on the narrative form and linguistic register of each work.

11:30 am -12:30 pm
Cameron Cross on Translating a Work of Yusuf Idris, followed by Michael Sells on Authorial Personas of Ibn al-`Arabi

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Gamal al-Ghitany on the Autobiography of Ibn Sina, followed by a discussion of the text.

3:15 am – 4:30 pm
Plenary Address by Gamal al-Ghitany:
Tarajim as a Source of Literature

Workshop Participants:

Gamal Al Ghitany
Visiting Professor, University of Chicago
Michael Sells
University of Chicago
Kay Heikkinen
University of Chicago
Noha Foster
University of Chicago
Mohamed Wajdi Ben Hammed
University of Notre Dame
Nathaniel Miller
University of Chicago
Cameron Cross
University of Chicago
Nora Jacobsen Ben Hammed
University of Chicago

To Download Texts:

Ibn Sina’s Autobiography (Arabic):–lFuJ2it9BMDdtaW00V2ZYNHc/edit?usp=sh…


A lecture by Gamal al Ghitany, a renowned Egyptian author, whose short stories and novels have helped shape currents in Arabic fiction over the past four decades.

Translation by Mohamed Wajdi Ben Hammed, PhD student of Literature at the University of Notre Dame

Friday, November 1
Swift Hall Common Room
4:30 pm
Reception to follow


This workshop aims to focus on Strauss’ concern with Islamic political philosophy. With a few important exceptions, the long history of criticism applied to Strauss’ thought has neglected the pedagogical weight of that itinerary, an itinerary intended to mark a disruptive way – to quote Strauss himself – to begin the study of medieval philosophy. Our workshop is intended as an occasion to verify to what extent the Straussian inquiry devoted to the Islamic sources of a historical “Western” tension can serve as a resource for thinking about the history of modernity, as well as about the history of medieval Islamic philosophy.

Friday, May 24
Swift Hall Common Room
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Reception to follow


9:00 am – Introduction: David Nirenberg (University of Chicago), Leonardo Capezzone (Sapienza-Università di Roma)

9:30 am – Steven Harvey (Bar-Ilan University)  
Leo Strauss’ Reading of the Falâsifa and Its Reverberations in the Study of Medieval Islamic (and Jewish) Philosophy
Chair: James Robinson

10:30 am – Joshua Parens (University of Dallas)
From Strauss’s Spinoza to ‘Scholasticism’ and back again to Alfarabi
Chair: David Nirenberg

11:30 am – Coffee break

11:45 am – Miriam Galston (George Washington University)
Introductory Thoughts about the Differences Between Alfarabi’s Political Regime and Virtuous City
Chair: Ralph Lerner

12:45 pm – Lunch

2:00 pm – Charles E. Butterworth (University of Maryland)
Alfarabi on Politics and Legislators as opposed to Lawgivers
Chair: Nathan Tarcov

3:00 pm – Oliver Leaman (University of Kentucky)
Leo Strauss and the role of the attentive reader in Islamic philosophy
Chair: Josef Stern

4:00 pm – Coffee break

4:15 pm – Closing discussion

5:00 pm – Reception


With Professor Leonardo Capezzone, Visiting Professor in Social Thought and Associate Professor of the History of the Arab-Islamic Mediterranean at the University of Rome

Friday, April 26
Swift Hall Common Room
4:30 pm
Reception to follow


What are the methodological issues facing Shīʿī studies?  Are these different from those posed to Islamic studies more generally?  This workshop will examine whether Shiʿism forms a distinct field of research and study, with its own methodological approaches. Through presentations of the latest research from both established and emerging experts in the field of Shīʿī Studies, the future direction of Shīʿī studies will be explored.

Friday March 8
Swift Hall, Common Room

Schedule of Panels:

9:00 am
Welcome remarks: Michael Sells and Robert Gleave

9:45 am
Chair: Paul Walker
Sean Anthony: “Hidden Redeemers, Sleeping Heroes, and Wandering Messiahs: Early Shi’ite Messianism in the Sectarian Milieu”. 
Respondent: Edmund Hayes

10:30 am – Coffee Break

10:45 am
Chair: Tahera Qutbuddin
Najam Haider: “The Reconstruction of Local Ritual Practice in the 2nd/8th Century: Some Shi’i Considerations”. 
Respondent: Said Amir Arjomand

11:30 am
Robert Gleave: “Early Shi’i hermeneutics and the Kitab Sulaym b. Qays”. Respondent: Todd Lawson

12:15 pm – Lunch

1:15 pm
Chair: Franklin Lewis
Devin Stewart: “Preserving Family Tradition:  The Autobiography of ʿAlī al-ʿĀmilī (d. 1692).”
Respondent: Judith Pfeiffer

2:00 pm
Bella Tendler: “Concerning the Charge of Ibāḥat al-Nisāʾ: New Evidence from a Nineteenth Century Nusayri Text.”
Respondent: Evrim Binbaş

2:45 pm – Coffee Break

3:00 pm
Chair: Alireza Doostdar
Orit Bashkin “Whose isolation? Antisectarian moments in Modern Iraq”.
Respondent: Fadi Bardawil

3:45 pm
Elvire Corboz: “Khomeini in Exile: Writing the Najaf History of Iran’s Revolutionary Leader”.
Respondent: Said Amir Arjomand

4:30 pm
Closing remarks: Robert Gleave

5:00pm – Reception

Workshop Participants:

Sean Anthony
University of Oregon
Said Amir Arjoman
Stony Brook University
Fadi Bardawil
University of Chicago
Orit Bashkin
University of Chicago
Evrim Binbaş
University of London
Elvire Corboz
Princeton University
Alireza Doostdar
University of Chicago
Robert Gleave, Organizer
Visiting Professor, University of Chicago
University of Exeter
Najam Haider
Barnard College, Columbia University
Edmund Hayes
University of Chicago
Todd Lawson
University of Toronto
Franklin Lewis
University of Chicago
Judith Pfeiffer
University of Oxford
Tahera Qutbuddin
University of Chicago
Devin Stewart
Emory University
Bella Tendler
Yeshiva University
Paul Walker
University of Chicago


With Robert Gleave, Visiting Professor in the Department of History, and Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter.

Friday January 18
Swift Hall, Common Room
4:30 pm
Reception to follow


Organized by Angelika Neuwirth, Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago, Professor Freie Universität Berlin, this workshop reviews the diverse methodologies currently applied in Qur’anic studies. It takes a fresh look at texts that incorporate traditional and modern, Arab and Muslim scholarship. Rather than searching for influences or deviations, the relationship between the various traditions will have to be considered as a conversation—a process of negotiating, and sometimes superseding, given versions.

Workshop Participants

Mehdi Azaiez
University of Notre Dame
Catherine Bronson
Beloit College
Emran El-Badawi
University of Houston
Fred Donner
University of Chicago
Sidney Griffith
The Catholic University of America
Marcin Grodzki
University of Warsaw
Daniel Madigan
Georgetown University
Lauren Osborne
University of Chicago
Tahera Qutbuddin
University of Chicago
Gabriel Said Reynolds
University of Notre Dame
Andrew Rippin
University of Victoria  
Behnam Sadeghi
Stanford University
Walid Saleh
University of Toronto
Nora Schmid
Freie Universität Berlin
Michael Sells
University of Chicago
Mun’im Sirry
University of Notre Dame
Devin Stewart
Emory University


With Angelika Neuwirth, Visiting Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and Professor of Arabic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin

Friday, October 12
Swift Hall, Common Room
4:30 pm
Reception to follo