Felix Emeka Udolisa, O.P.
Parish pastor in Gusau, Zamfara State
icon-calendar Tuesday April 2nd, 2019
Since 1999, the Muslim-majority states of northern Nigeria have decided to apply Sharia law not only to issues regarding personal status (which was already the case before that date), but also to criminal law, which some consider to be unconstitutional. Indeed, states do not have the constitutional competence to apply their own criminal law, in order to guarantee the equality of all citizens under the law, regardless of their place of residence in Nigeria.
Not all Muslims in Nigeria, however, are supportive of these measures in the north. The Yoruba people living in the west of the country, for example, have always had a more conciliatory approach with the minorities living on their territories. On the other hand, in the north, the Hausa and Fulani peoples are much more intolerant of mixed marriages or support for minorities, and the few Christian villages in the region are neglected by the state (i.e. education, health…).
There is a lot of violence in the region: conflicts between sedentary and nomadic groups, drugs, banditry, and sectarianism which is too easily attributed to the Boko Haram group who originated in the east of the country. This group, whose anti-Western rhetoric has seduced populations abandoned by the federal government, has been able to find support even within the army, which makes their eradication very complicated.
Twenty years after the application of Sharia law to criminal law, daily life has normalized, however insecurity remains high, and ethnic and economic tensions remain.
Dr. Catarina Belo
Associate professor of philosophy at The American University in Cairo
icon-calendar Tuesday March 19ᵗʰ, 2019
During this seminar session, Catarina Belo presented the views of al-Fārābī (d. 339/950) on prophecy and prophethood, in the frame of his philosophy of religion. Indeed, the metaphysical and political writings of al-Fārābī seek a harmony between philosophy and religion, as expressed in his vision of the philosopher-king and the prophet.
Dr. Zeinab Taha
Assistant Professor of Arabic Language at the American University of Cairo
icon-calendar Tuesday March 5ᵗʰ, 2019
There is often a difference between the meaning of words, according to the dictionary, and the intention of the speaker who uses these same words according to his knowledge, culture, religion, or context in which he lives. It is the pragmatic which can, for example, reflect the fact that one can perfectly understand the meaning of each word in a joke, but not understand what is beyond it. The same applies to certain idiomatic expressions. For example, one can perfectly understand what a “watermelon” is, what the verb “to put” means, and what “the stomach” is, yet not understand the expression “he has put a summer watermelon in his stomach” (ḥāṭiṭ fī baṭnihi baṭṭīḫa ṣayfī), which in Egypt means “he is quiet” or “he doesn’t care”.
The first Arab grammarian who explicitly inquired about the difference between the obvious/surface meaning and the speaker’s intended meaning is ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Ǧurǧānī (d. 470/1078). Unlike the grammarians before him, who organize their grammar treatises according to grammatical forms, al-Ǧurǧānī takes as his starting point the speaker’s desired meanings and studies the different ways of rendering them in grammatically correct language.
Mr. Oussama al-Saadouni Gamil
PhD student at Dār al-ʿUlūm, Cairo University
icon-calendar Tuesday November 13ᵗʰ, 2018
Mr. Oussama al-Saadouni Gamil is preparing his doctoral thesis at Dār al-ʿUlūm on inflation during the Mamluk era. He chose to focus on a ten-year period, from 800/1397 to 810/1408, in order to study in as much detail as possible the factors at play, the role of the various figures, and the precise evolution of the prices of essential products. The year 806/1403-1404 marks the beginning of a period of strong price hikes, up to 500% for some products. A low Nile flood, epidemics, and some unfortunate political decisions help to explain the phenomenon. Relief will only come after the implementation of a policy of imposed price reduction by the Sultan al-Muʾayyid Abū al-Naṣr (d. 824/1421) after his coming to power in 815/1412.
Director of Studies at the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology (IFAO) in Cairo
icon-calendar Tuesday October 16ᵗʰ, 2018
Frédéric Abécassis is the new Director of Studies at the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology (IFAO) in Cairo. This seminar was an opportunity for him to present the different stages of his research project. Since his first visit to Egypt, Frédéric Abécassis has worked on a diverse set of research topics: private religious schools in Egypt, car traffic in Egypt and Morocco, and Muslim and Jewish migration in the Maghreb. Yet, all deal with the question of community building as a defense against the effects of the market economy in a liberal society.
Communities are built and disappear by a) economic solidarity (e.g. the richest paid the tuition of the poorest in religious schools), b) relationships of belonging and authority (e.g. the police were at the service of car owners rather than pedestrians), or c) conflicting historical narratives (e.g. Moroccan Jews gradually saw themselves as foreigners in Morocco).
If the study of history has therapeutic value, then the historian must assist everyone record the history of the communities to which they belong and of those they have left.
Click here to watch the pictures presented during the lecture…
Doctor of Arabic Philosophy
icon-calendar Wednesday October 3ʳᵈ, 2018
Muḥammad ʿĀbid al-Ǧābirī (d. 2010) supported the idea of an epistemological break between the philosophical thought of the Arab East and Arab West. According to him, thinking in the East devolved, especially with Avicenna (d. 428/1037), into Gnosticism and irrationalism. Whereas thinking in the West saw the culmination of the rationalist tradition in Islam, particularly with Ibn Bāǧǧa (d. 533/1139) and Averroes (d. 595/1198). This simplistic framework overlooks the influence that al-Fārābī (d. 339/950) had in Andalusia. It is clearly visible in the political philosophy of Ibn Bāǧǧa, particularly in his treatise Tadbīr al-mutawaḥḥid, in Averroes’ commentary on Plato’s Republic, or in the work Ḥayy b. Yaqzān by Ibn Ṭufayl (d. 581/1185). Although Ibn Ṭufayl declares himself as an Avicennian, and does not hesitate to criticize (unfairly) al-Fārābī, it can be said that there is a common purpose and structure between Ḥayy b. Yaqzān and the thought of al-Fārābī. Ibn Ṭufayl is so indebted to the political philosophy of the “Second Master” (aka al-Fārābī) that it is hard to understand why he treats him in such a passing way in his introduction to Ḥayy b. Yaqzān.
What complicated al-Fārābī’s reception in Andalusia was that he still believed, like all in the East, that Aristotle wrote the treatise known as Aristotle’s Theology, when in fact it is a more or less faithful translation of part of Plotinus’ Enneads. Thus, he desperately attempts to reconcile this Neo-Platonic text with what he knows about Aristotle. It will be Averroes who definitively unmasks the confusion. For example, unlike al-Fārābī, Ibn Bāǧǧa and Averroes conceive the agent intellect as something immanent to man. According to the two authors, the agent intellect is no longer this transcendent and completely separate intellect, which fit perfectly with the Fārābian theory of emanation inherited from Neo-Platonism.
PhD candidate, Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne University
icon-calendar Monday April 30ᵗʰ, 2018
In his work Ansāb al-ašrāf, al-Balāḏurī (d. 279/892?) relates an episode of the construction of the canal “al-Mubārak” by Ḫālid b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Qasrī (d. 126/743), the governor of Iraq at the time. He was praised by the poet al-Farazdaq (d. 110/728?) then mocked by him, as a way to get revenge on Ḫālid who did not reward him for his initial praise. Al-Farazdaq was imprisoned for this insult, then finally released by the grace of the Caliph Hišam b ʿAbd al-Malik (r. 724-743), after which he wrote poetic verses of praise about him.
The text of al-Balāḏurī integrates these famous verses into its historical narrative in prose, to the extent that one may wonder if the narrative prose is not, in reality, the historical contextualisation of these verses, even though researchers tend to consider them as a simple illustrations of historical prose.
This impression is reinforced, for example, by the different historical contextualization that Abū al-Faraǧ al-Aṣfahānī (d. after 362/972) gives of the same verses in his Kitāb al-aġānī.
However, the reality is probably in between these two extreme points of view, one that would make poetry a simple illustration of historical narrative and the other that would make historical narrative a commentary on the poetry cited. Poetry plays a major role in pre-Islamic culture as it creates and destroys reputations, records events, builds history, relies on the authority of feared and respected characters, has an aesthetic role… In a word, it is one with the text and it is by holding the two together, verse and prose, that one must read and interpret these ancient historical sources.
Guillaume de Vaulx
Doctor of Philosophy and IDEO member
icon-calendar Tuesday December 12ᵗʰ, 2017
It is impossible to hold these three statements at the same time: 1) “God wants all people to be saved”, 2) “God shows people a path of salvation”, and 3) “Anyone who does not follow this path cannot be saved”. Either God wants the salvation for all, in which case He cannot impose only one path of salvation; or He imposes a particular path, in which case He risks that some will not follow it. And in any case, whatever the revealed path, it is only given to a given group, at a given time, condemning those who lived prior to or far from the place of this revelation.
The author of Rasāʾil Iḫwān al-ṣafā, whom Guillaume de Vaulx believes to have discovered to be Aḥmad al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫrsī (d. 286/899), offers an original solution within a Muslim context. For him, the world is built on complementary relationships: no one person can have all skills, per se. Rather, together, we have all skills. This principle of complementarity is valid not only in everyday life, but also for eternal salvation. individually, we cannot achieve salvation, but together, each according to his religion and beliefs, we are able to achieve salvation for all, because salvation is beyond what any of us can achieve alone.
Doctor from al-Azhar University
icon-calendar Tuesday November 28ᵗʰ, 2017
The city of Cairo has this special feature of having neighborhoods in cemeteries where you can also find mosques, schools for teaching the Qurʾān, steam rooms, and palaces, which amazed Ibn Ǧubayr (d. 614/1217) in his Riḥla. This phenomenon, which began with a combination of circumstances in the Fatimid era (beginning in the 4th/10th century), became a conscious decision on the part the Mamluks who deliberately built houses in these quiet neighborhoods starting in the 7th/ 13th century.
This explains the existence of a very particular literary genre which exists only in Cairo. It also consists of real “tour guides” of these districts of the dead, known as qarāfa (plural qarāfāt) in Egyptian Arabic, probably in reference to the Banū Qarāfa tribe who had previously moved into this area. They are different from the kutub al-ziyārāt (“books of visits”) found in other parts of the Muslim world, especially since they never discuss the legal question of the lawfulness of these visits. Rather, they are limited to descriptions of the tombs and other buildings, as well as to the biographies of the people buried there.
There are 25 of these books, written between the 6th/12th and 13th/19th centuries, only some of which having survived to today. They are organized either geographically (grave by grave), by the order of the visit, by categories of death (scientists, mystics, midwives, etc.), or by year of death. The most famous of these works is probably the Kitāb al-kawākib al-sayyāra by Ibn al-Zayyāt (d. 805/1402).