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- Written by Fatih
- Category: Culture
“It’s important as a person in the West to be informed about the philosophy and spiritual teachings of a culture that is considered one of the largest religions in the world, and is one of the three Abrahamic religions,” said Aracely Brown, program director at the New York Open Center, who co-organized the conference.
She said that lack of knowledge in the “west” about Middle Eastern culture is a disadvantage. Ibn Arabi and Rumi are two of Islam’s greatest Sufi masters and there is no excuse for westerners not to be familiar with them.
“The teachings in this conference are an attempt to explore one area of this tradition - Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam,” Brown explained. “They are not only teachings that the Western mind can relate to, find common ground in, but should be regarded as living knowledge that has a pulse, that anyone can learn or benefit from.”
The conference is a two-day event, beginning on Friday, November 4, with keynote speaker James W. Morris, PhD a professor at Boston College and former Chair of Islamic Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. He will then lead a workshop focusing on a few texts from Ibn ‘Arabi’s al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya – a 560 chapter tome that is often forgotten because of its length.
On Saturday there will be plenaries in the morning, led by Fatemeh Keshavarz, an Iranian academic, writer, and literary figure as well as professor of Persian Language and Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. Also present will be Michael Sells, PhD, the John Henry Barrows Professor of Islamic History and Literature in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.
Saturday afternoon will consist of workshops led by several scholars providing a more in-depth look at these literary masterpieces, followed by a panel discussion with presenters. The conference will cap off with a concert by Coleman Barks and David Darling, Salman Ahmad, and others.
Nick Yiangou, program director at the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society, who co-organized the event, explained that although there are annual conferences in the U.S. and the U.K. that bring together translators, scholars and researchers, this may be the first of its kind.
“For this event specifically, we wanted to bring together the two great pillars of Sufism: Ibn Arabi and Rumi,” he explained. “This may perhaps be the very first time something of this nature has happened. The reason for including Rumi is obvious - his popularity in the West is unprecedented, and his message of unity and love appeals to all human beings, regardless of religious background. It is said there were as many Christians at his funeral as Muslims!”
Yiangou spoke to Aslan Media about the two scholars’ relationship: “Ibn Arabi was a late contemporary of Rumi, and the issue of whether or not they ever met is a subject of much debate and scholarship,” he said. “They were apparently in Damascus and Konya at the same times, and many have thought it impossible that they never met. The flavor of their spirituality is different, but complementary, and they perhaps manifest the highest order of mystical or esoteric expression of the Islamic world.”
Brown hopes that those who attend the conference walk away with new perspectives and ideas.
“I would hope they become more inquisitive and be inspired to seek out more learning about the spirituality of Sufism, its mystical teachers, Sufis in political life, explore other areas of Islamic culture and the arts; and continue to further their education through reading, films, travel, cultural organizations and attendance of other similar events,” she explained.
Brown went on, “As for young students, we hope they become excited about the possibility of becoming a scholar in this field of study, connect to libraries here in the city which have incredible amounts of stored knowledge, learn a second language, form a reading group, or join a travel or discussion group,” she added. “These are just some of the ideas that can grow out of this conference and I hope it will generate many more.”
To register for the event, visit here. Space is limited, so register today!
By Denise Romano, Aslan Media Contributor,
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