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26.10.2019 12:45 Alter: 19 days

Historicity and Islamicity

Conference Announcement

Theme: Historicity and Islamicity
Subtitle: Perceptions of Early Islamic History in Contemporary Muslim Thought
Type: International Conference
Institution: Center for Islamic Studies, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Location: Frankfurt am Main (Germany)
Date: 12.–14.12.2019

The early history of Islam has served as an important point of
reference for the construction of Islamic identities and Islamicity
in general, particularly in the modern Muslim thought.

Beginning with the 19th Century, scholars of Western Oriental studies
have shown a strong interest in the study of the early period of
Islamic history. About the same time, the globalization of ideas in
the advancing global public sphere, including modern
conceptualizations of history in the newly emerging science of
history, influenced the ways history was imagined and construed among
intellectuals and religious thinkers in the Muslim world. The
transfer of ideas resulted both in defensive stances among Muslims as
well as in their adaptations of modern philosophical and political
concepts to older epistemes of Islamic intellectual history. The
modern reconstruction of the concept of ‘Islam’ as a historical
subject, which emerged out of these entanglements, facilitated new
forms of collective identity construction that in turn were justified
by historical references.

For Muslim intellectuals and theologians of the 20th Century, it was
especially the early period of the history of Islam that assumed an
important role as such a point of reference and identification.
Modern Muslim understandings of early Islamic history include the
sacralization of historical processes in terms of salvation history,
the construction of the complex of the ‘Golden Age’ and of the ‘times
of origin’ as well as the turning of the early Islamic polity into an
ideal paradigm for the justification of modern social orders. Despite
the emergence of critical Muslim perspectives rooted in the
methodologies of modern historical scholarship. the implications of
the above-mentioned constructs have proved profoundly vital over
time, especially with regard to the interpretations of religion.

On the other hand, mainly since the second half of the 20th century,
some Muslim thinkers have elaborated more sophisticated approaches to
the notion of historicity and developed a serious involvement with
the state of the art of historical scholarship, with important
consequences for the diversification of the modern Islamic
theological thought. Yet, even these modern academic approaches tend
to take the early history of Islam and the early texts of Islamic
intellectual traditions as the main point of reference for the
understanding and the normative formulations of Islamicity. Such is,
for example, the case with the historical hermeneutics of the Qur’an
championed by Fazlur Rahman and expressed in his
double-movement-method, which focuses on the early period of Islamic
history as the context for the original formulation of universal
ethical principles of Islam. In a similar manner, some feminist
interpretations of Islam seek to reconstruct the alleged egalitarian
spirit of the early Islamic community and to ‘liberate’ the Islamic
traditions from their patriarchally charged historical overload.

However, recent approaches of academic Islamic theologies developed
over the past decade at European universities — and increasingly in
some parts of the Islamic world – attempt to enter an
interdisciplinary exchange with modern historical and textual
scholarship and to integrate its results into an Islamic theological
reflection that goes beyond the ideological and dogmatical distortion
of history.

It is against this background that our conference attempts to shed
light on the contemporary Muslim perceptions and perspectives on the
early history of Islam. It will first address the mechanisms of
construction of ‘early Islamic history’ and its use in the processes
of identity building among Muslims (Part One) and, in a next step,
the critical and revisionist approaches to history developed by
Muslims scholars (Part Two). Finally, the last part will address the
current interactions and interdisciplinary exchange between Islamic
theological approaches and modern historical scholarship on Islam as
well as the consequences of these involvements for the Muslim
reimagination of Islamic history and for religious interpretations.


Thursday, 12.12.2019

18.00 - 18.30

18.30 - 19.00
Opening Remarks

Armina Omerika (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Soumaya Louhichi-Güzel (Goethe University Frankfurt)

19.00 - 20.00

Angelika Neuwirth (Free University of Berlin)
Reading History in Reverse: The Concept of the umma wasat (Q 2:142)
and the Muslim Shrines on the Temple Mount


Friday, 13.12.2019

Session 1

09.00 - 09.45
Stefan Reichmuth (Ruhr University Bochum)
The Prophet in a Muslim Age of Revolutions, ca. 1775-1850

09.45 - 10.30
Hüsein Yılmaz (George Mason University)
The Archetyping of Early Islamic History as a Paradigm for
Modernization among Late Ottoman Intellectuals

10.30 - 11.00
Coffee Break

Session 2

11.00 - 11.45
Peter Webb (Leiden University)
Al-Jāhiliyya for Modern Times

11.45 - 12.30
Dietrich Jung (University of Southern Denmark)
Islamic Modernism: The Search for Modern Authenticity in an Imaginary

12.30 - 14.00
Lunch Break

Session 3

14.00 - 14.45
Asma Afsaruddin (Indiana University, Bloomington)
Muslim Feminist Hermeneutics and the Rereading of Early Islamic

14.45 - 15.30
Ayşe Başol (Goethe University Frankfurt)
What Remains Unspoken: Representations of the Life of Zaynab Bint
Muḥammad in Past and Present

15.30 - 16.00
Coffee Break

Session 4

16.00 - 16.45
Carool Kersten (King’s College London)
Historicized Acculturation and A-historical Enculturation:
Perceptions of Islamization in Southeast Asia

16.45 - 17.30
Jamal Malik (Erfurt University)
The Making of History Islamic: Memory and Narrative in Early Muslim
South Asian Expansion


Saturday, 14.12.2019

Session 1

9.00 - 9.45
Rainer Brunner (CNRS, Paris)
Rectifying Hadith - Correcting History? Aḥmad al-Qabānjī’s
Self-Criticism of Shiite Islam

9.45 - 10.30
Ata Anzali (Middlebury College)
Between Ethnic Nationalism and Perennialism: The Encounter between
Iran and Islam in the Writings of Kazemzadeh Iranshahr

10.30 - 11.00
Coffee Break

Session 2

11.00 - 11.45
Bacem Dziri (Goethe University Frankfurt)
The Modern Career of an Ancient Heretic: Antisemitic Stereotyping of
ʿAbdallāh b. Sabaʾ in the 20th Century

11.45 - 12.30
Idriss Jebari (Bowdoin College)
Hichem Djaït’s Original Islam Between the Orientalist and the
Historian’s Gaze (1960s-90s)

12.30 - 14.00
Lunch Break

Session 3

14.00 - 14.45
Ebrahim Moosa (University of Notre Dame)
Time and Method in Muslim Historical Thinking

14.45 - 15.30
Nimet Seker (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Revelation as Communication in History. Historical References in
Methodological and Hermeneutical Discussions in the Exegesis of the

15.30 - 16.00
Coffee Break

Session 4

16.00 - 17.30
Final Discussion
  Bekim Agai
  Mira Sievers
  Mahmoud Bassiouni
  Mark Bodenstein


Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Campus Westend, Casino 1.802
Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 2a
60323 Frankfurt am Main

No registration required.

Prof. Dr. Armina Omerika
Dr. Soumaya Louhichi-Güzel
Email: louhichi-guezel(at)

Conference website: