Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Day in Qom

Hitched a ride to Qom for the day - apart from the visit to the shrine of Sayyida Fatima Ma'suma, the sister of Imam 'Ali al-Rida (which was busy as it is the eve of eid al-ghadir), got roped into various events and still found some time to buy books (beginning to think my small suitcase cannot handle it. Picked up a series of works relating to Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Shahabadi (d. 1950), the teacher of Khomeini, from the bookshop of the Islamic Research Institute for Culture and Thought (IICT, Pazhuheshgah-e farhang o andishe-ye islami) including the Rashahat al-bihar, Shadharat al-ma'arif and other works. Later in the evening attended a very long mini-conference on Islamic perspectives on the philosophy of art.It was supposed to be from 6.30 to 8.30. Sensibly, I turned up at 8.10 not having agreed to give a paper. It still lasted until 9pm. A hall full of turbans - but bright ones. One of the papers which I did catch was an interesting account of Avicenna's notion of aesthetics based on a reading of the ninth namat of Pointers and Reminders (al-Isharat wa-l-tanbihat). Reminded me of a discussion at the WPD concerning a two-fold division of the text into theoretical and practical philosophy with namats 1-7 comprising the former and 8-10 the latter. Am tempted to go back to Pointers at some point soon to check this (when I have time...) I think I slept through most of the rest.

Earlier in the day had a tour of the Mar'ashi library - the chap had clearly done it a million times before. But it is still an amazing collection - 37,000 manuscripts. Although given my previous experiences, I did not exactly buy the story of helping all researchers and providing copies - but perhaps things are different now since I have a tenured job.

Sandwiched between were sessions at the Research Institute for Islamic Sciences and Culture (Pazhuheshgah-e 'ulum-e islami o farhang). As they are organising a conference in early March on the mind/body/soul problem, I felt going along would be fine. Had a meeting with the research unit on philosophy and Islamic theology. Interesting work being done even it is seems rather too beholden to analytic philosophy's categories. Later before lunch there was a more extensive meeting with Karim Crow, his wife Asna Husin and myself taking questions on everything from the concept of an Islamic science (I really don't understand why the islamisation of knowledge seems to be returning as a concern in Iran) to the political philosophy of the revolution and beyond.Seems there is much interesting and creative work arising out of the seminary that is potentially revolutionary (!). I also suggested that if one assumes that a faith-based philosophy is a requirement, then it would help to engage with successful examples such as the literature on Buddhist philosophy.

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