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Muslim Identities in Historical Perspective

Session Chair: N.N. | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Sami Helewa

Lament for the Sacred: Islamic perspective

Medieval Islamic writing includes narrative commentaries of the Biblical figures that serve as proto-types of heroic Muslim leadership. The hero motif in these accounts is not void of challenges that drove some of these Biblical figures into the abyss of shame. In the narrative context of shame also emerges a narrative of lament, and the two narratives blend into deep quest for the sacred that was once forsaken. The intricate balance of shame and lament in the Islamic accounts of Adam, David and/or even Job suggests an underlying narrative voice searching for the sacred as part of a heroic life. This paper addresses the function of lament in Islamic narratives of the lives of prophets. Stories of the aforementioned Biblical figures from medieval writers like al-Kisāʾī, al-Thaʿlabī and even al-Ṭabarī will be considered.

Gemechu Jemal Geda

The Shrine of Sheikh Hussein and religious transformation among the Arsi Oromo of Ethiopia

The Arsi Oromo are one of the largest groups of the Oromo in Ethiopia (Melbaa 1999: 8, Hassen 1990: xi). They inhabit Arsi, Bale, southern Shoa and western Hararge. They are Predominantly Muslims or Christians. However, many still practice their pre-Islamic and pre-Christian religion, Waaqeffannaa. Regardless of their religion, Muuda (journey to venerated sites) and performing various rituals occupies an important place in their lives. One of these venerated sites of the Arsi Oromo of Ethiopia is the shrine of Sheikh Hussein. It is located in Bale zone of the region of Oromia and established by Sheikh Hussein, believed to have been born about 900 years ago. Various political and religious developments throughout its history have greatly transformed the rituals performed at the center.

Shinichi Yamamoto

A Comparative Analysis of Great Resurrection of Nizari Ismailism and Messianic Eschatology of Sabbateanism

Two similar historical events and their esoteric backgrounds are examined in this paper: the Great Resurrection of Nizari Ismailism and the messianic eschatology of Sabbateanism. The Nizari leader Hasan II proclaimed the abrogation of the current sharia in 1164. After the death of Hasan II, however, his successor abandoned his revolutionary scheme. The self-proclaimed Jewish messiah, Sabbatai Tzevi, converted to Islam in Adrianople, the Ottoman Empire in 1666. Before his conversion, he intentionally violated traditional Jewish customs. All of these blasphemous deeds were based on the Kabbalistic idea that the true messiah could discharge the Jews from the commandments and give the new Torah. Interestingly, both of these events had almost identical backgrounds in the esoteric ideas of world cycle. Although difficult to claim a direct historical connection between them, it is possible to indicate that this type of eschatology could result in a similar frustration and apologetic doctrine.

Se-Min Lee

Umma and Hajj: Declining Tribalism, Pre-Islamic Pilgrimage, and Political Leadership in Early Islam

As 6th-century Arabian tribal society declined as a source of cohesive kinship unit governing conduct and behavior, a fresh set of laws was required to secure order. Muhammad’s political genius in the creation of the umma was in manipulating the weakening tribal divisions in Arabia while simultaneously providing new laws under a super-tribe, setting the foundation for future Islamic legal discourse. This paper examines the impact Bedouin tribal morality had on the development of the umma and its legal precedent for subsequent Islamic societies. Bedouin poetry is analyzed to determine the pre-legal values of 6th century tribal life. The Constitution of Medina is examined to bring to light the mechanism by which the umma consolidated in Medina. The paper argues that the umma brought unity by expanding the cultural and structural framework of Bedouin life through the centralization of authority, spiritualized adaptation of genealogical legitimation, and Islamization of tribal values.


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