Islamic Civilization and its Influences on the Western World
A Quintessence Lecture Series
Lecture Dates: 6 Thursdays
March 31, April 14, 28, May 12, 26, June 9
7:00 – 9:00 pm, Columbus Community Centre
Week 1 (March 31) “Arabia in the pre-Islamic setting” – David Mason, Ph.D. (cand.), McGill University
This lecture will address the language, religion and culture of pre-Islamic Arabia in order to establish an understanding of the milieu into which Islam was revealed. Aspects to be considered will include the tribal system of the Bedouin, pre-Islamic religion and practices, language and poetry and trade and economy.
Week 2 (Apr. 14) “The Revelation of Islam” – Todd Lawson, Ph.D., University of Toronto
Both Islam and the study of Islam begin with the revelatory experience of the Prophet Muhammad. These experiences, preserved in book form by his followers as the Qur'án, are read today as the incomparable and binding guidance of God. This lecture will discuss the literary form and contents of this most read and studied of all books. The goal will be to analyze its aesthetic, religious and charismatic qualities in order to gain an appreciation both for its unparalleled role in the lives of Muslims and its heretofore under-appreciated status as a unique "classic" of world literature.
Week 3 (Apr. 28) “Landmarks of Science in the Medieval Islamic World” – Ingrid Hehmeyer, Ph.D., Royal Ontario Museum, University of Toronto
In the early Islamic centuries learning was held in high esteem. This included study of the natural world in order to understand the greatness of God’s creation. It was due to Islam’s religious endorsement that the natural sciences flourished, regardless of the boundaries of language and culture. The lecture will focus on three scientific disciplines:
- mathematics which formed the basis for an understanding of the universe and which was applied in commerce and art,
- astronomy and its significance for religious observances,
- and the medical sciences. Major advances were made in surgical techniques, and new medicines became available. Muslim society did not regard sick people as outcasts, and a hospital system developed for their care.
Week 4 (May 12) “Islam and the Life of the Mind: Theological, Philosophical and Mystical perspectives” – Todd Lawson, Ph.D., University of Toronto
While Islam was conceived in the Arabian Peninsula, it was actually born in such cosmopolitan centres as Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo. The remarkable spread of Islam over a vast geography gave rise to the encounter of Muslims with a wide variety of cultures, each with its own moral, ethical and philosophical history. The genius of Islam may be thought to be expressed in the way its great scholars and thinkers read these cultures through the lens of the Qur'an and the principle features of Islamic religion. One of the more significant of these encounters was with Greek philosophy and science. Another was with various spiritual and mystical traditions. This lecture will elucidate the manner in which the characteristic and sophisticated ethos of mediaeval Islamic "multiculturalism" represents an enduring gift and challenge.
Week 5 (May 26) “Sultan Hasan: the Jewel of Mamluk architecture” – Dina Ghaly, Ph.D., York University
The Complex of Sultan Hasan is one of the most impressive buildings among the over 200 monuments surviving in Mamluk Cairo (1250-1500AD). Combining a mosque, a madrasa, a mausoleum, a mill, and other facilities, it is also one of the largest. Yet, its importance does not lie in its size, but in the ingenuity of its design and urban setting. This building exemplifies the characteristics of Mamluk architecture in Cairo, while also reflecting the political history of the dynasty in Egypt.
Week 6 (June 9) “Introduction to Modern Islamic Developments” – Nader Hashemi Ph.D. (cand.), University of Toronto Alia Hogben, Exec. Dir., Canadian Council of Muslim Women, and Kirstin Sabrina Dane, M.A. (cand.), McGill University
The advent of modernity -- science, culture, thought, politics -- challenged inherited monotheistic religious views of the world and the universe. Whereas traditional Christianity and traditional Judaism in Europe faced challenges from within their own societies, traditional Islam confronted modernity in the first instance at the point of a gun. This inauspicious beginning of the modern era conditioned, but did not fully determine, the responses of Muslim thinkers and societies to the new forces of change that have defined the world since at least the 17th century. As societies around the world become increasingly intertwined, Muslims no less than others ponder and respond to the relationship between faith, values and traditions on the one hand, and the accelerating pace and pressures of globalization on the other.
What is it like being a Muslim woman today in terms of identity, authority and participation within the Islamic community and in the greater Canadian sphere? What are the issues facing Muslim women within their faith and how do we respond to the array of voiced opinions? The current movement towards the introduction of Shariah family law in Ontario affects the identity of Muslim women and represents one of the major issues facing Muslim women in modern Islamic development.
Alia Hogben and Kirstin Sabrina Dane.
Syllabus - The Seminar Series
Seminar Dates: 4 Fridays
April 15, 29, May 13, 27
11:00 – 1:00 pm, Swallow Hill
Week 2 (Apr. 15) Principal Qur’anic Themes – Todd Lawson, Ph.D., University of Toronto
This seminar will look more closely and in greater depth and detail at certain topics presented in the lecture such as: the historical development of the Arabic script and grammar, types of Quranic commentary, the role of the Qur'an in the formation of consciousness, and specific questions regarding the use of metaphor and trope in the holy book. Seminar participants will be asked to encounter the text firsthand, both through reading and listening and share the results of this encounter. There will also be ample opportunity for questions and free discussion.
Week 3 (Apr. 29) Private Life in a Medieval Islamic City – Ed Keall, Ph.D., Royal Ontario Museum
A principle that defines Islamic cities in a very striking way is the concept of privacy for the women, and extended family ties. Neighbourhoods are characterized by their groupings of houses around a cul-de-sac which effectively limits access by outsiders. The houses themselves are oriented inwardly, often around a courtyard, again emphasizing privacy. Neighbourhoods in southern Spain retain this atmosphere from the days when Islam was the dominant religion in the peninsula. Managing the neighbourhood was very much the responsibility of the community, since it fell outside of the government's responsibility. The comparative independence of these neighbourhoods served for their survival, in spite of the never-ending succession of revolutions that toppled government after government. An analogy to-day would be a case where a rate-payers' association successfully maintained an independent position within a city, in spite a change of government.
Week 4 (May 13) Sufism – Todd Lawson, Ph.D., University of Toronto
Further exploration of the Sufi ethical and mystical tradition will entail discussions of central topics and motifs such as: the oneness of being, the relationship between love and spiritual authority, various ramifications or interpretations of the path, and the role of music and dance. Participants will be asked to read a variety of brief Sufi texts in translation as a basis for group discussion. Special focus will be given to the problem of defining Sufism as such and assessing its role in the general history of Islam.
Week 6 (June 10) The Islamic Tradition of Knowing the Realms of Reality – Maliha Chishti Ph.D. (cand.), OISE, and Janis Orenstein, soprano, and Aydin Sencan, saz
The pursuit of knowledge is considered among the highest acts of worship in the Islamic intellectual tradition, and the philosophy of education is to realize both the material and spiritual realms of reality. Classical Muslim scholars have long held the belief that seeking knowledge is first through the senses, and fundamentally through the position of the heart, or the intuitive perception of the heart. This remains central to the development of classical Islamic epistemologies, pedagogies and the processes that have anchored the sensory experience of opening the heart to the gateway of understanding, interpreting, and making sense of reality.
This session will explore this theme through the live presentation of Sufi Music by members of the Halvati-Jerrahi Order of Dervishes.
The Idea of Democracy in a Global World
A Quintessence Lecture Series
Locations Quintessence Lecture Series:
Columbus Community Centre
232 Spencer Street East, Cobourg
Thursday evenings, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Seminar Series: “Swallow Hill,” 1940 Hill 60 Road, Cobourg
Friday mornings, 10:00 am to noon
Special Event: Columbus Community Centre, 232 Spencer Street East, Cobourg
Thursday evening, November 3, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Week 1 Thursday, September 29, 2005
Lecture 1 “Setting the stage”
Frank Cunningham, Ph.D.; Professor, Departments of Philosophy and Political Science, and former Principal of Innis College, University of Toronto
In 1955 the philosopher William Gaillie published an influential article called “Essentially Contested Concepts.” These are concepts central to any area of study or discourse (examples are “energy,” “time,” “life,” or “person”) which, though essential to thought and action, admit of many, conflicting interpretations about which there are ongoing debates. These debates, moreover, do not take place outside of the areas of thought and action to which they apply, but are implicated in controversies taking place within these very fields. “Democracy” is a prime example of such a contested concept. The nature of democracy, its value, and its relation to other contested political concepts, such as “rights” or “equality,” are subjects of debate or of cross-purpose argumentation both in political-theoretical circles and in actual political arenas themselves. What is more, there are contests over the very meaning of the term “democracy.” In this lecture, central positions taken on the meaning, nature, and value of democracy from the time of Aristotle to the present will be reviewed and the implications for political institutions and practices of adopting one position against others will be discussed relative to topics to be ddressed in subsequent lectures in the series.
Friday, September 30, 2005
Seminar: “The Meaning of Democracy”
An open discussion with Professor Cunningham, author of “Theories of Democracy: A Critical Introduction,” on the meaning of democracy and an exploration of democratic values.
Week 2 Thursday, October 13, 2005
Lecture 2 “The Impact of Globalization,”
Nisha Shah, Ph.D. (cand.); Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto
This lecture will overview contemporary processes associated with globalizatiton. In particular, attention will be devoted to the economic dimensions of globalization as manifested in international trade and finance. After detailing the definitions of and debates about globalization, the challenges raised for democracy will be discussed. What are the key challenges for democracy and what are the best ways to overcome them will be the main questions addressed in this lecture. I propose that how we seek to interpret and represent globalization determines how we construct the possibilities for democracy governance. Different models of ‘global’ democracy will be therefore be reviewed and assessed through an analysis of popular metaphors of globalization.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Seminar: “The Influence of Corporations”
Wade Rowland, Ph.D.; Adjunct Faculty, Trent University
An open discussion with the author of “Greed, Inc.: Why Corporations Rule Our World and How We Let It Happen.” The session will focus on the evolving nature of the modern, publicly-held business corporation and its role and influence in liberal democratic society.
Week 3 Thursday, October 27, 2005,
Lecture 3 “Democracy, Public Opinion and the Media”
Murray Seeger, educator, writer and journalist; Nieman Fellow, Harvard University.
Christine Stewart, former MP representing Northumberland County
Some 500 years after the Gutenberg invention that initiated the age of mass communications, democratic societies are flooded with news, information, opinion and amusement as never before. Gutenberg changed history, opened the path to universal literacy and democracy. Are we facing a comparable change in history behind the surge of modern communications technology?
The focus is sharpest on the dissemination of news by newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television and the Internet. Are these public media still performing their essential function of providing the information citizens need to make the best possible decisions in a democracy? There is emphasis on the status of the U.S. media, which often sets a pattern for other democratic societies.
In a brief presentation following Mr. Seeger’s talk, Christine Stewart will discuss the role and responsibility of an MP.
Friday, October 28, 2005,
An open dialogue on these matters with Murray Seeger and Professor Derrick de Kerckhove, Ph.D.; Director, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto
Week 4 Thursday, November 10, 2005
Lecture 4 “Democracy and Religion”
Dr. Gregory Baum, Professor Emeritus, McGill University; Catholic theologian and one of the architects of Vatican II Council
The Calvinist Reformation fostered democratic government in church and society and opened the door to capitalist development, while the Catholic and the German Lutheran Church remained largely identified with the feudal order. They wanted the princes to make responsible political decisions and expected the people to obey them. These Churches were seriously challenged by the democratic revolutions at the end of the 18th century, yet it took them a long time to rethink their position. The Catholic Church affirmed democracy, human rights and religious liberty only at the Vatican Council II (1962-1965). Under the impact of modernity, many Muslim religious thinkers are presently rethinking their tradition and find that democracy, human rights and religious liberty are sustained by the highest ideals of the Koran.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Seminar: An open discussion with members of the clergy, incl. Dr. Gregory Baum and the Reverend Ronald Kydd, Ph.D., Associate Priest, St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Cobourg
Week 5 Thursday, November 24, 2005
Lecture 5 “Democracy Multiculturalism and Education”
Professor Melissa Williams, Ph.D.; Professor, Department of Political Science, and Director, Centre for Ethics at Trinity College, University of Toronto
The principle of equality lies at the heart of ideals of democratic citizenship. Equal citizenship may or may not require some measure of economic equality – a worthy topic in its own right – but it clearly requires equality before the law and an equal capacity to participate politically. Historically, the construct “equal rights for all” has been interpreted as “the same rights for all.” But in recent decades feminists and “racial” or multicultural theorists and activists have argued that “equality” and “sameness” are not synonymous terms: sometimes we have to treat people differently in order to treat them as equals. This idea is not alien to Canadian democratic sensibilities; Canadians accept it and practice it much more readily than our neighbours to the south tend to do, probably because the historic legacy of bilingualism and biculturalism makes us more prone to accommodate than to suppress social and cultural differences. Still, the moral basis for “differentiated citizenship” needs to be articulated and justified, and its limits explored. How are the ideals of democratic citizenship and democratic equality rendered more complex in multicultural societies? How do the claims of cultural equality relate to claims for greater economic equality? Finally, given that democratic citizens are made, not born, how should our practices of democratic education acknowledge the multicultural character of our bodies politic?
Friday, November 25, 2005
Seminar: “Democracy and the Origins of a Public Culture”
Professor Caryl Clark, Ph.D.; Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and Janet M. Brooke, M.A.; Director, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University
Caryl Clark: Drawing on musical examples of western European art music, the seminar will explore growing democratic ideals in public music-making, listening and spectatorship in London, Paris and Vienna during the long nineteenth century.
Week 6 Thursday, December 8, 2005,
Lecture 6 “The Canadian Scene”
Professor Simone Chambers, Ph.D.; Department of Political Science, University of Toronto
Abstract to follow.
Friday, December 9, 2005
Seminar: “Quebec in or out of Canada? - Threat or Opportunity?”
Mrs. Gretta Chambers, CC, OC, BA, LLL, LLD, Chancellor Emerita, McGill University
An open dialogue on this topic, which will be considered from the perspective of a
Thursday, November 3, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Lecture: “Astronomy in the Medieval Islamic World”
By popular request, Ingrid Hehmeyer, Ph.D., Professor, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, returns to present a second lecture.