22 Monday

The Oneness of Being: Interpretation, Reception, and Implications

Mon, April 22, 2024 (10:30 am - 6:00 pm)
Al-Mahdi Institute
Al-Mahdi Institute (AMI), 60 Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 6RB, United Kingdom


Al-Mahdi Institute is delighted to host its Mysticism and Spirituality conference convened by Dr Zoheir Esmail on 22nd – 23rd April 2024.

About this event

The fundamental tension between meaningful theological unity and self-evident multiplicity is one of the most complex rational problems that Muslim scholars have faced. Ensuring a clear separation between Creator and creation, while not allowing for an independent source of perfection other than God, gives rise to complex questions which need to be coherently answered for the rational integrity of an intellectual framework for religion. The Akbarian doctrine of waḥdat al-Wujūd (oneness of Being), developed by the school of Ibn ʿArabī, provides a powerful contribution to this intricate problem which reflects on the essence of tawḥīd, the most fundamental doctrine of Islam. But waḥdat al-Wujūd has received a mixed reception amongst different groups of Muslim scholars and has provided an impetus to charged and sometimes polarising discussion. It has inspired some towards stating the completeness of the doctrine such that no improvement can be made to it, and from others it has invoked rulings of takfīr (excommunication) for one who subscribes to it. The polemics are further confused by a plethora of possible meanings of the term, as well as unscholarly engagement with the concept by groups of Ṣūfīs who may have been unable to grasp the intellectual intricacies of a topic that comes with repeated warnings of the ease by which it can be easily misconstrued and misinterpreted. Erroneous interpretations, or the occurrence of mystical outbursts (shaṭḥīyāt) in mystics like al-Ḥallāj, which are interpreted as outward expressions of unbelief, serve to deepen disdain of more scripturally minded scholars who see the mystical process as one of misguidance and error. But amongst mystics and transcendental philosophers, certain readings of waḥdat al-Wujūd occupy an elevated position as a coherent solution to one of the most disturbing intellectual problems. Its role is beyond theological doctrine and the concept intersects with exegetical literature which engages with the scriptural sources in order to explain their obscurities and deeper meanings. As a doctrine that engages with the meaning of tawḥīd, its applications stretch to many aspects of Islam and indeed to the very core of what it means to be a Muslim. In order to negotiate the meaning of waḥdat al-Wujūd it is at times compared to other terms such as waḥdat al-mawjūd and waḥdat al-shuhūd.

The purpose of this two-day inaugural Mysticism and Spirituality conference at Al-Mahdi Institute is to explore the different perspectives and implications of the concept of waḥdat al-Wujūd and to reflect on its reception in the Muslim world. By discussing how various scholars from diverse denominations and in different geographical locations have engaged with the doctrine and its applications in elucidating the scriptural sources (Qurʾān, aḥādīth and liturgical literature), the papers presented at this conference will provide a more nuanced appreciation of the complexities involved in understanding the doctrine of waḥdat al-Wujūd in historical and modern contexts.

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Monday, April 22, 2024

10:30 am - 6:00 pm  

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