I.K.A. Howard Memorial Lecture

On the 23rd March 2016 at Senate House, London, The Shīʿah Institute hosted the first I.K.A Howard Memorial Lecture, with a talk from Professor Charles Burnett (of the Warburg Institute) on ‘Translation and Morality in the Middle Ages’. At the event, Professor Burnett spoke on the history of translation in the mediaeval world and the various methodologies deployed by translators working with Arabic, Greek, and Latin in this era. Professor Burnett is a renowned scholarly authority on the transmission of Arabic science and philosophy to Western Europe, and has published over two hundred works on subjects ranging from astronomy and astrology to medicine and psychology. This lecture was held as a tribute to the memory of the late I.K.A. Howard, the distinguished scholar of Shīʿah Islam and esteemed translator of many early Shīʿah texts, who taught for many years at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Burnett’s talk was preceded by an introduction from The Dean of the Shīʿah Institute, Sayyid Amjad H. Shah Naqavi.

The Shīʿah Institute would like to thank all our guests for their attendance and Professor Charles Burnett for his lecture.


The Shīʿah Institute Annual Symposium 2016 – Call for Papers


Lamenting Karbala: Commemoration, Mourning, and Memory

 31 August–2 September 2016, The Warburg Institute, University of London

This three day international symposium convened by the Shīʿah Institute will address one of the perennial issues in the Shīʿah tradition, namely the martyrdom of Imām Ḥusayn and his companions at Karbala in 680 AD, and explore across disciplinary boundaries how this cataclysmic event in Islamic history has been figured in discourse and ritual, and subsequently mourned and commemorated for over 1300 years.

Its commemoration has been interpreted and performed in a plethora of diverse and distinct ways in manifold times and places, from Iraq, Iran, and the Levant, to Central and South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, and far beyond. While countless scholars have sought to explain Karbala’s cosmic significance and the religious obligation to commemorate ʿĀshūrāh, as well as pilgrimage to the third Imām’s shrine, a great many cultures have assimilated and incorporated this sacred event into their own living traditions and identities in creative and unexpected ways. The Shīʿah Institute’s Annual Symposium will strive to capture the profound and variegated nature of this rich and plurivocal heritage.

This symposium endeavours to examine the discourses and ritual practice relevant to Imām Ḥusayn’s martyrdom, its commemoration and remembrance in the areas of classical, medieval, and modern theology and eschatology; comparative religion; ‘popular’ versus ‘high’ religion; historiography; devotional and hagiographical literature (dirge, epic, poetry, elegy) and its vernacularisation; theatrical depictions and performance of the scenes of Karbala in Iran and Iraq and replicas of the shrines in South Asia (taʿziyah); ritual practice and sartorial traditions; pilgrimage (ziyārah) and issues of divine intercession; architecture, and sacred space (shrines, takiyyah, ḥusayniyyah); gender and gendering imagery and practices; murals; painting; film; and questions of material culture more broadly. In this way the Shīʿah Institute aims to convene a symposium that is comprehensive in scope and multi-disciplinary in approach in furtherance of the academic study of Shīʿah Islam.

Please send a 300 word abstract and short biography to info@shiahinstitute.org by 1 April 2016.

Limited funding will be available to support the travel expenses of successful applicants. Papers selected will also form part of the Shīʿah Institute’s symposia series, which is published as an edited volume on an annual basis.

Because of the sheer number of submissions, only successful applicants will be contacted once abstracts have been reviewed and assessed.

Book Launch Event – The Mystery of Prayer

On the 9th of October 2015, the Shīʿah Institute held the book launch for The Mystery of Prayer by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Macmillan Hall at Senate House, University of London. At the event, Riyaz Dhalla gave his reflections on the life and thought of Ayatullah Khomeini, Sayyid Ali Kazimi spoke on the importance of The Mystery of Prayer, and the Dean of the Shīʿah Institute, Sayyid Amjad H. Shah Naqavi discussed the challenges and theories involved in authentically translating the work. The event commenced at 6.30 pm and concluded at 9 pm with a food and beverage reception. The Shīʿah Institute would like to thank all our guests for their attendance and our speakers for their talks.

The Mystery of Prayer

The Mystery of Prayer by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, completed in June 1939, represents the author’s most original contribution to modern Shīʿī philosophy (ḥikmah) and gnosticism (ʿirfān), a work that draws upon scriptural sources and the Shīʿah intellectual and mystical traditions to engage with the understanding of the higher pursuits of mankind’s reconnection with God. Taking the ritual of prayer as a vehicle for comprehending the nature of reality as a reflection, manifestation, and determination of the divine, The Mystery of Prayer elucidates upon the esoteric dimensions of each stage of the ritual prayer as the wayfarer ascends through degrees and theophanies to arrive in the presence of God.

The first work in the Modern Shīʿah Library, published in June 2015 in partnership with Brill, Sayyid Amjad H. Shah Naqavi’s English translation includes extensive explanatory footnotes and a twenty-eight-page introduction that explores the sources, influences, and development of Khomeini’s gnostic concepts and taxonomies in his intellectual milieu.

The Shīʿah Institute’s Annual Symposium 2015: Philosophy and the Intellectual Life in Shīʿah Islam

On the 2nd to the 4th of September 2015, the Shīʿah Institute held its first Annual Symposium at the Warburg Institute, University of London. This year’s Annual Symposium was themed around the subject of ‘Philosophy and the Intellectual Life in Shīʿah Islam’.

The Dean of the Shīʿah Institute, Sayyid Amjad H. Shah Naqavi, delivers a welcome note to those convened for the Shīʿah Institute’s Annual Symposium 2015

A look at the papers presented as part of the Shīʿah Institute’s Annual Symposium 2015 on ‘Philosophy and the Intellectual Life in Shīʿah Islam’

The following papers were delivered at this year’s Annual Symposium:

  • Sajjad Rizvi (University of Exeter) – The Problematic of Shīʿī Philosophy: Between Philosophical Analysis and Intellectual History
  • Wilferd Madelung (University of Oxford) – Shīʿah Islam and Universality in the Encyclopaedia of the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ
  • Hussein Abdulsater (American University of Beirut) – The Theory of States from al-Mufīd to al-Murtaḍā
  • Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad (American University in Cairo) – ‘Imāmate by Any Other Name would Smell as Sweet’: Ibn ʿArabī, his Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam, and the Doctrine of al-Insān al-Kāmil in Shīʿī Philosophy
  • Elizabeth R. Alexandrin (University of Manitoba) – Breaking Open the Seal: Ḥaydar Āmulī, Saʿd al-Dīn Ḥamūye, and Messianic Expectations
  • Seyed Salman Safavi (London Academy of Iranian Studies) – The Safavid Order and the Importance of Shaykh Ṣafī al-Dīn Ardabīlī in Shīʿī Thought
  • Mohammed Rustom (Carleton University, Ottawa) – Ḥaydar Āmulī on Imām ʿAlī as the Seal of Walāyah
  • Ahab Bdaiwi (University of St Andrews) – The Epistemic Value of Shīʿah Islam in Mediaeval and Early-Modern Philosophical Traditions in the Islamic East: from al-Dashtakī (d. 1498) to al-Shīrāzī (d. 1636)
  • Reza Pourjavady (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt) – The Assemblies of the Believers: Nūr Allāh Shūshtarī’s Compendium on the Legacy of the Shīʿah
  • Matthew Melvin-Koushki (University of South Carolina) – Mīr Dāmād and the Neopythagoreanisation of Philosophy in Safavid Iran
  • Mohammed Redha al-Lawati (al-Raʾy, Muscat, Oman) – Linking the Contingent to the Eternal and the Material to the Abstract in the Horizons of the Substantial Motion of Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī
  • Cyrus Ali Zargar (Augustana College, Illinois) – The Imām’s Ethical Body: Embodied Virtue and the Human Constitution according to Mullā Ṣadrā and Fayḍ Kāshānī
  • Sayyid Amjad H. Shah Naqavi (The Shīʿah Institute, London) – ‘I am the Prayer of the Believers and their Fast’: Ḥakīm-i Kuchik’s Concept of the Holy Mystery
  • Hasan Ali Khan (Habib University, Karachi) – The Role of Astrology in the Celebration of Nawruz Through the Wilāyat of ʿAlī at Ghadir-Khumm
  • Jari Kaukua (University of Jyväskylä) – Mullā Ṣadrā on the Uṣūl al-Kāfī
  • Sumeyye Parildar (Istanbul University) – Applying Gradational Ontology onto Logic: Mullā Ṣadrā on Propositions, Conception, and Assent
  • Mathieu Terrier (École pratique des hautes études, Paris) – Between Theology, Historiography, and Philosophy: The Concept of Badāʾ in Mīr Dāmād’s Nibrās al-Ḍiyāʾ, its Sources, and its Extensions
  • Emann Allebban (McGill University, Montreal) – Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī’s Reception of Avicenna’s Metaphysics of Causation
  • Hossein Kamaly (Barnard College, Columbia, NY) – On Knowledge by Presence and the Epistemological Turn in Ḥikmah
  • Pooya Razavian (University of Oxford) – A Gadamerian Critique of Shabestarī’s Philosophical Anthropology
  • Robert Gleave (University of Exeter) – Twelver Uṣūlī Debates in the Philosophy of Language after Ākhund al-Khurasānī