Thursday 11/19: Nathan Miller, “Hudhayl: The Conversion of a Tribe”

Please join us for tomorrow’s session of the Islamic Studies Workshop, co-sponsored by the Middle East History and Theory Workshop (MEHAT):

Nathan Miller (NELC), “Hudhayl: The Conversion of a Tribe”
Thursday, November 19th, 12:00pm-1:30pm
Swift Hall room 208
Hope to see you there!
Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

Friday 11/13: Sarah Waheed (Davidson College), “Ethics and Censorship: Angare and the Politics of Indo-Muslim Respectability in Late Colonial India”

Please join the Islamic Studies Workshop for a special session this Friday:

Sarah Waheed, Davidson College
“Ethics and Censorship: Angare and the Politics of Indo-Muslim Respectability inLate Colonial India”

Friday, Nov. 13th, 3:30pm
Swift Hall room 106

There will be a dinner at the Nile restaurant after the talk at 6:30pm with Prof. Waheed for interested students and faculty. If you wish to attend, please RSVP to Francesca Chubb-Confer (

Hope to see you there!


Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

Studying Religion in Iran: Between University and Seminary

Co-sponsored with the Craft of Teaching program at the Divinity School!


Studying Religion in Iran: Between University and Seminary

Thursday, November 12, 12:00-2:00, Swift Hall Common Room

Iran is well-known for its centuries-old centers of Islamic scholarship where students from all over the world learn jurisprudence, sciences of hadith transmission, Qur’anic exegesis, theology, and philosophy. It is less commonly known that academic scholarship on religion has also been burgeoning outside the direct sphere of the hawzah (seminary) system. Join us for a conversation with visiting scholars from the University of Religions and Denominations in Qom who will discuss the philosophies, methods, and approaches these different institutions have adopted – not only in the study of Islam, but more broadly in comparative scholarship on religion.

Dr. Naeimeh Pourmohammadi is Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Religion at the University of Religions and Denominations
Dr. Fatima Tofighi is Assistant Professor of Women and Religion at the University of Religions and Denominations
Mahdi Salehi is a Ph.D. student in Comparative Theology and Director of International Relations and Cooperation at the University of Religions and Denominations.

Alireza Doostdar, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and the
Anthropology of Religion, will moderate the discussion.

– See more at:

Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

Pascal Held (NELC), “ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī’s Theory on the Origin of the Term ‘ṣūfī’”

The Islamic Studies Workshop presents:

Pascal Held (NELC), “ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī’s Theory on the Origin of the Term ‘ṣūfī’”
Thursday, November 5th, 12:00pm-1:30pm
Swift Hall room 208
Abstract:  This presentation aims to examine the interpretation of the origin of the word ‘ṣūfī’ by the well-known ḥanbalī mystic ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (d. 1166), as set out in his work al-Ghunya li-Ṭālibī Ṭarīq al-Ḥaqq. The theory most commonly accepted in the medieval Islamic world as well as in modern scholarship holds that ‘ṣūfī’ derived from ‘ṣūf’, meaning ‘wool’, which originally designated individuals in early Islam who adopted woolen clothes as part of their ascetic lifestyle before the term would come to be applied generally to mystically inclined Muslims.  ʿAbd al-Qādir’s theory diverges fundamentally from this as he perceives ‘ṣūfī’ to originally stem from the verb ‘ṣūfiya’ based on the root ṣ-f-ā rather than ṣ-ā-f, as in the case of the prevailing opinion. Instead of identifying a person donning a woolen dress, it represents, according to his interpretation, a person characterized by inner purity. ʿAbd al-Qādir was not the first individual to make use of this etymology. It appears to have been floating around in mystical circles beforehand; allusions to it are found in major works such as by Kalābādhī (d. 990s) and Hujwīrī (d. 1070s). More recently, Louis Massignon and Alexander Knysh have pointed to it. That said, ʿAbd al-Qādir is perhaps the first mystic to take a definite and well-elaborated stand for this etymology. What’s more, his viewpoint in this matter ties in with his broader ideas and therefore opens a window to trace the major stages of his proposed mystical path. Beyond adding an important contribution to the discussion on the origins of the term ‘ṣūfī’, ʿAbd al-Qādir’s theory also provides us with a valuable glimpse into the contemporaneous evaluation of ṣūfīs and Sufism as a whole.
Hope to see you there!
Francesca Chubb-Confer
Graduate Student Coordinator
Islamic Studies Workshop
Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

Fall 2015 at the Islamic Studies Workshop


The Islamic Studies Workshop is pleased to announce our fall lineup!  Workshop sessions will take place on alternate Thursdays from 12:00pm-1:30pm in Swift Hall room 201.  Refreshments will be provided.
For more information, including past events, and to view our call for papers, please visit the Islamic Studies Workshop website.
October 8th:  Professor Michael Sells, “Thinking toward PhD Applications in Islamic Studies.”  This discussion is primarily geared toward 1st and 2nd year MA students, but all are welcome.
October 22:  Nora Jacobsen Ben Hammed (Divinity School), “The Mystical and the Rational Paths: Miʿrāj of the Rational Soul in Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī”
November 5th: Pascal Held (NELC), “ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī’s Theory on the Origin of the Term ‘ṣūfī’”
November 19th: Nathaniel Miller (NELC), “Hudhayl: The Conversion of a Tribe” (co-sponsored with the Middle East History and Theory Workshop
December 3rd: Antonio Musto, “The zuhd of Wakī‘ ibn al-Jarrāḥ”
We look forward to a quarter of lively discussions!
Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

Call for Papers

Dear colleagues,

The CAS Islamic Studies Workshop is once again up and running for the 2015-2016 academic year, and we invite all interested faculty and graduate students to present.  Presentations can include portions of dissertation chapters or proposals, job talks, master’s theses, conference presentations, or other research.  We aim for half of all our workshop presenters to be University of Chicago graduate students.  The pre-circulation of papers via the email list is encouraged, but not required.

We are especially interested in presentations that will bring Islamic Studies into conversation with other disciplines and areas of study, such as (but certainly not limited to!) anthropology, comparative literature, philosophy, history of science, history of Christianity and Judaism, South Asian studies, and political science.

We will meet on alternate Thursdays from 12:00-1:30pm (venue TBA), beginning in the fall quarter on October 8th and continuing on October 22nd, November 5th, November 19th, and December 3rd.  We will also be placing papers for the upcoming winter and spring quarters, so please indicate when you submit in which quarter you would like to present.  If you would like to present but cannot attend at the regular scheduled time, please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate you, since we will occasionally have workshop sessions outside of the regular schedule.

You can visit the Islamic Studies Workshop website to see upcoming events.

Email Francesca Chubb-Confer ( with the following information if you would like to present:

Your name

  • A tentative title for your presentation
  • Your university and departmental affiliation
  • The type of work you are presenting (dissertation chapter, article-in-progress, etc.)
  • Your preferred term (fall, winter or spring )
  • A brief overview of your project (1-3 sentences)


We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at our meetings!

Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

October 8th – Michael Sells

For our first meeting of the new academic year, Professor Michael Sells (John Henry Barrows Professor of Islamic History and Literature in the Divinity School and the department of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago) will host a discussion on the PhD program in Islamic Studies at the Divinity School for students interested in applying.

Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

Thanks for a great year!

To view the schedule of events from the past year, see the 2014-2015 academic year events.

Please join us next year for more workshops by graduate students and professors!  The schedule will be updated at the beginning of the fall 2015 quarter.  Have a great summer!


Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment