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Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme

RESEARCH: Leverhulme Visiting Professor Lecture & Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations - Dr Asad Q. Ahmed

The Senior Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations and Leverhulme Visiting Professor Lectures from Professor Asad Q. Ahmed: 'Scripture and Logic' and 'Prophethood, Sectarian Politics, and Rationalist Disciplines in Nineteenth Century India', will take place on Thursday 1 March and Friday 2 March 2018, 12.00 pm – 1.30 p.m. in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity.

This term the Faculty of Divinity is introducing a new Senior Seminar series in Inter-Religious Relations. Our second session will be spread across two seminars and will be given by the Leverhulme Visiting Professor Asad Q. Ahmed. The two sessions, 'Scripture and Logic', and 'Prophethood, Sectarian Politics, and Rationalist Disciplines in Nineteenth Century India' will take place on Thursday 1 March and Friday 2 March, 12.00 pm – 1.30 p.m. in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity. 

Both sessions will be followed by an informal lunch in the Selwyn Room (Divinity).

All welcome. Please email if you would like to attend the lunch, so we can have an idea of numbers. 



'Scripture and Logic'

In the history of Muslim exegesis, Qurʾān, Chapter 8, Verse 23, posed a vexing challenge.  On the one hand, the contextually-grounded interpretation of the passage meant the abandonment of several foundational claims and canonical elements of the Sunnī theological system.  And on the other hand, the preservation of this system required reading practices that generally lacked historical recognition.  In other words, a significant tension existed between the elaborated system that constituted the grounds of Sunnī theological discourse and the traditionally-preferred hermeneutics on the integral Qurʾānic lemma.  This lecture presents some historical approaches to this verse, with the focus resting on a treatise by the Ottoman scholar Ismāʿīl Gelenbevī (1143-1205/1730-91).  It concludes with some broader reflections on how the latter scholar imagined the relation of logic to scripture.

'Prophethood, Sectarian Politics, and Rationalist Disciplines in Nineteenth Century India'

This paper presents a partial theory of commentarial practices and of the genre of commentary/gloss in postclassical philosophical writings in the Muslim world.  The thesis is based on the study of a seventeenth-century logic text produced in Muslim India and a range of commentaries it inspired.  The case study focuses on the subject term of propositions.

Asad Q. Ahmed is associate professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  He is the author of The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic HijazAvicenna's Deliverance, and of the forthcoming Palimpsests of Themselves:  Philosophical Commentaries in Postclassical Islam.  He has written several articles and co-edited collected volumes in the areas of Islamic history, philosophy in the Islamic world, and on Muslim legal theories.

Sessions will be chaired and responded to by Dr Tony Street, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge.


Senior Seminar: An Overview

Since its 2002 founding, the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme has pursued questions of ‘interactive particularity’ among religious traditions, in terms of both academic research and public engagement.  This intellectual approach seeks to avoid the assumption of universal or ahistorical essences or impulses present in all cultures and individuals, sometimes marked as ‘comparativist’ approaches. Instead, it draws attention to the formation of the identity-bearing particularities of religious traditions, exploring the internal character, the forms of intentionality and the practices associated with these identities. In this respect, we seek to keep in play both theological and religious studies approaches, in the expectation that this mode of enquiry will yield a deeper understanding of the complexities associated with inter-faith relations, and how and where we might begin to analyse them.

In establishing the Seminar, we encourage a broad and inter-disciplinary interpretation of ‘interactive particularity’. The heuristic value of each of these explorations lies in how studying the profound engagements between religious ideas, embodied lives and texts develops a more nuanced understanding of the traditions themselves. Topics include Jewish, Christian, and Muslim engagement with Platonism, the role of religious texts and traditions of interpretation, the use of particular spaces by separate religious traditions, and contemporary engagements with science, ethics, the law, and forms of secularism. We are also interested in analyses of ‘inter-faith’ and related ideas as objects of study, such as evaluations of conceptual and methodological approaches associated with this field.    

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