Workshop: The senses in the Qur’an and in early Islam

October 24, 2018

International workshop: The senses in the Qur’an and in early Islam
26 October 2018, Utrecht University, Dpt. of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Location: Janskerkhof 13, 3512 BL Utrecht, room 0.06
Convened by the SENSIS project at Utrecht University

This workshop seeks to trace the Quran’s and early Muslims’ conceptualization of the senses and of sense perception, starting from the notion that sensation is “the most fundamental domain of cultural expression, the medium through which all the values and practices of society are enacted” (Howes, 2003: xi). The workshop’s aim is two-fold: first, to unearth the roots of the Qur’anic/early Islamic sensorium in Late Antique culture, and secondly, to examine the processes of sensory disambiguation of “Muslim” identity from other identities (Christian, Zoroastrian, etc.) in the formation of Islam. Sources considered include the Qur’an, sīra and Hadith (both Sunni and Shiʿi), as well as texts from the surrounding literary cultures, and also non-textual evidence might be studied. The workshop explicitly welcomes exploratory, interactive papers. Prior to the meeting, but no later than 18 October, participants will circulate one or several short texts (in the format of a handout) for close reading in the workshop. Each paper will be 40 minutes long, and include a paper presentation (20 minutes); Q&A (10 min.); and a joint reading and discussion of texts led by the presenter (10 min.). No registration is required for participation, but those interested in attending are kindly requested to contact the event’s co-organizer Dr. Adam Bursi at:

9:00–9:10: Introductory Remarks by Christian Lange, lead researcher of SENSIS

Panel 1: Scriptural bases

9:10–9:50: Thomas Hoffmann (University of Copenhagen): “The Weltinnenraum of the Qur’an: Towards a visceral phenomenology”

9:50–10:30: Christian Lange (Utrecht University): “Sensation in the canonical Sunni hadith corpus”

10:30–11:10: Youshaa Patel (Lafayette College): “Looking different: Some hadith traditions against imitation”

11:10–11:40: COFFEE BREAK

Panel 2: Sensations in early Islamic thought and sensory practices

11:40–12:20: Adam Bursi (Utrecht University), “The old women of Quraysh did that: Touch and its contestations in early Islamic pilgrimage rituals”

12:20–13:00: Maroussia Bednarkiewicz (Oxford University): “Diversity in the acoustic space: From the birth of the ādhān to the disappearance of the nāqūs”

13:00–14:10: LUNCH

Panel 3: Sensory alterities

14:10–14:50: Eyad Abuali (Utrecht University): “Voices and Visions in Early Sufi Qur’an commentaries”

14:50–15:30: Arash Ghajarjazi (Utrecht University): “The senses in Nahj al-balāgha”

15:30–16:00: COFFEE BREAK

16:00–16:40: Mary Thurlkill (University of Mississippi): “Muhammad’s sweet sweat:  Modeling ritual purity in early Islam”

16:40–17:20: Simon O’Meara (SOAS University of London): “Many Meccas”

17:20–17:40: Concluding session

18:30–: Dinner for speakers and invited guests