Monthly Lecture Series


Qalandar Shi’ism in Safavid Iran

Dr Lloyd Ridgeon

26 January 2017

3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, New College Building

The Safavid dynasty is commonly known to have been anti-Sufi, yet a more nuanced understanding recognises that there were periods when various Sufi movements were tolerated and even promoted. This presentation looks at the case of Qalandar Sufis in Iran, whose Shi’a sympathies most probably gave them a certain degree of protection from those clerics who were hostile to Sufism. In this lecture, the nature of Qalandar Shi’ism is examined along with the role and functions provided by the Qalandars in supporting the state.

Lloyd Ridgeon is Reader in Islamic Studies at the University of Glasgow. He has published extensively in Sufism, but his current project investigates flexible interpretations of shari’a law in modern Iran.

Previous Lectures

Spiritual Authority of the Awliyā’ in the Shi‘i and Sufi Traditions

Dr Rebecca Masterton


1 December 2016 

3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, New College Building

Similarities between Shī‘ī and Sufi doctrine have long been noted, but little analysis has been made on how and why these developed. Taking a central tenet of both, walāya, this paper discusses several of its key aspects as they appear recorded in Shī‘ī hadīth collections, and as they appear later in one of the earliest Sunnī Sufi treatises. By extension, it seeks to explore the identity of the awliyā’ and their role in relation to the Twelve Imams. It also traces the reabsorption into Shī‘ī culture of the the Sufi definition of walāya.

Dr Rebecca Masterton has graduated with a PhD in Islamic and francophone literature of West Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 2006. Having taught for fifteen years, she is now the director of Online Shi‘a Studies. Her academic papers are available on

Martyrdom in Christianity and Islam with Special Reference to Imam Husayn (as)

Dr Chris Hewer

10 November 2016 

3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, New College Building

Dr Chris Hewer comes from a background in Christian theology, education, Islamic studies and inter-faith studies and has worked in the field of Muslims in Britain and Christian-Muslim relations since 1986, first at the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Selly Oak in Birmingham and from 1999 to 2005, as the Adviser on Inter-Faith Relations to the Bishop of Birmingham. From 2006-2010, he was the St Ethelburga Fellow in Christian-Muslim Relations in London, with a brief to deliver adult popular education courses, study days and talks around Greater London. His current work is to teach study days and residential courses, and to develop written and electronic resources. He has recently completed a forty-six part series of half-hour TV talks, broadcast on an international Muslim satellite channel to give a general introduction to Understanding Islam, which can be seen, together with accompanying articles and other written and video resources, on his website:

Muslim Views of the Bible up to the 5th/11th Century

Dr Martin Whittingham

19 of October 2016
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, New College Building

Muslim views of the Bible in the early centuries are complex and varied, characterised by both criticism and use of the previous scriptures. The Qur’an and hadith literature, both Sunni and Shi‘i, form the basis of this complexity and variety, while many Muslim writers also discussed the Bible in the kalām tradition, and in historical writing. But a turning point was reached during the 5th/11th century with the writings of ‘Abd al-Jabbār and Ibn Ḥazm, in Iran and Spain respectively. These decisively shift the focus towards severe criticism of the Biblical text, a trend which came to dominate Muslim discourse in the following centuries.

Dr Martin Whittingham is a member of faculty of Theology and Religion at University of Oxford. His research interests concern the history and theology of Muslim-Christian interactions, focusing on the history of Muslim views of the Bible and also views of other elements of Christian faith. He is currently working on a major book project, A History of Muslim Views of the Bible.

Islamic Studies in the Light of Futures Studies:
A Critical Assessment

Dr Ali Paya

19th of April 2016
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, New College Building

Ali Paya is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster and a Professor of Philosophy at the Islamic College in London. His recent publications include, The Misty Land of Ideas and the Light of Dialogue: An Anthology of Comparative Philosophy: Western & Islamic (editor, 2014), A Critical Pathology of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Iran (co-author, 2015), Analytic Philosophy from a Critical Rationalist Point of View (2016), Iraq, Democracy and the Future of Islam (co-author, 2012); “A Critical Assessment of the Notions of ‘Islamic Science’ and ‘Islamisation of Science/Knowledge’”.

Limits of Orthodoxy?
The Text as Lost and Found in Pre-Modern Shi`ism

Prof Andrew Newman

15th of March 2016
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, New College Building

The religious ‘text’ has long been held to be the repository of the normative for those researching the history and development of Shi`ism in the pre-modern period. Dr Newman will explore the extent to which the texts, authored by a small number of identifiable scholarly elites when the community, as society at large, was overwhelmingly illiterate, can shed light on Shi`i dynamics across the centuries following the occultation of the Imam. He will also address the causes and implications of the relative loss of copies of such works over these years and their rediscovery in the later 17th century.

Prof Andrew Newman is the founder and moderator of the ‘Shi`i News’ list and its associated website ‘Shii News and Resources’. His most recent book, Twelver Shi`ism: Unity and Diversity in the Life of Islam, 632 to 1722, was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2013.

Contributions of Muslim Scholars and Scientists to Western Civilisation

Dr Charles Burnett

16th of February 2016
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, New College Building

Charles Burnett has been Professor of the History of Islamic Influences in Europe at the Warburg Institute, University of London, since 1999. He received his MA and PhD from Cambridge University, and has been a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, a Leverhulme Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, a Distinguished Visiting Professor in Medieval Studies in the University of California at Berkeley and Visiting Professor at the Ludwig Maximilian Universität, Munich (2009). His work has centred on the transmission of Arabic science and philosophy to Western Europe, which he has documented by editing and translating several texts that were translated from Arabic into Latin, and by describing the historical and cultural context of the translations. A major project on which he has been engaged for several years with Keiji Yamamoto of Kyoto is the edition of the major Arabic texts on astrology in the Middle Ages, accompanied by English translations and editions of the medieval Latin translations. His interest in Japan has led him investigate the impact of Jesuit education in Japan in the late sixteenth century, and the use of Japanese themes in Latin drama in Europe in the seventeenth century.

Sayyid Jamal Al-Din ‘Al-Afghani’:
‘Irfan and Modern Islamic Activism

Dr Oliver Scharbrodt

25th of November, 2015
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, New College Building

This presentation will provide an overview of the life and career of Sayyid Jamal Al-Din Al-Astarabadi, also known as ‘Al-Afghani’ (1838/9-1897), one of the most prominent Muslim activists of the 19th century. The lecture will explore his Iranian roots and early training in traditional Shi‘i scholarship while highlighting in particular his interest in ‘irfan and its prominent 19th century expression in the Shaykhi School. The lecture will also draw a connection between his mystical and philosophical interests and his prominent role as an anti-imperialist Muslim activist. Finally, some questions will be raised about Sayyid Jamal’s lasting influence on the creation of modern forms of Islamic activism.

Oliver Scharbrodt is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Chester and Director of the Chester Centre for Islamic Studies. He works on modern and contemporary Islamic intellectual history, Shi‘i Islam, Sufism and Muslims in Europe.