1. Representations of the Prophet: figuration and controversies

The thematic focus of the first year will be on the representation of the Prophetic image in the different strands of Islamic discourse. As many of these  representations  can  be  traced  to earlier developments and clearly remain significant for early modern and even for contemporary Muslim society and culture, this year will have to take in a good deal of the medieval Islamic heritage. Exploration envisaged for the joint work and for the conference of the first year will concentrate on the  following fields of Prophetic representation, together with the debates and controversies that they have generated:

  • Islamic Law (fiqh), Prophetic Tradition (adīth), Prophetic Biography (sīra)
  • Theology  (kalām),   Philosophy   (ḥikma,   falsafa),   Theosophy   (taawwuf,   e.   mystical theology,  Prophetology/anthropology  and  cosmology)
  • Poetry and Literature
  • Calligraphy and Visual Arts, Visual Media

The three guiding assumptions will be confronted with the findings in these four fields, which will be tested on their turn for their significance for the realization of a future and   present   eschatology,   for   metahistorical   immediacy   in   its   different   individual   and collective  dimensions,   and   for   the   shaping   of   Muslim   identity   and   empowerment.   Conflicts and  polemics  to  be  taken  into  account  will  include  the  rising  significance  of   the   Prophetic Tradition for discussion within and between  the  legal  schools,  together  with  an  increasing moralisation of  Islamic  Law  (see  e.g.  Pagani  2004  with  her  study  on  Shaʿrānī,  d.1565).  The adaptation  of  the  heritage  of  Ibn  ʿArabī  and   his  theosophical   Prophetology    in   different Muslim  regions  (especially  the  Ottoman  world  and  the  Maghreb,  Iran,  and  South  Asia),  and the fierce controversies which arose  in  response  to  it,  it  will  be  a  major  focus  of  this  year,  as they can be found to constitute a major  component  in  the  formation  of  later  Muslim consciousness and piety. The deepening of the splits within the Muslim community  over  the approach to the Prophet  and  his  Sunna  will  remain  a  current  topic  during  this  year  (as  also later  with  its  political  and  more  socio-­‐‑cultural  aspects)   The   discussion   of   the   rich development  of  Prophetic  biography  since  the  16th   century   which   still   awaits   fuller assessment, will include the modern literary attempts down to Salman  Rushdie,  and  also  the sceptical biographies by Maʿrūf al-­Ruṣāfī (d. 1945) and ʿAlī  Dashtī  (d.  1982).  An  attempt  to explore  the   wealth   of   early   modern   and   modern   poetry   in   praise   of   the   Prophet,   including the  poems  on  his  birth   (mawlid)   and   ascension   (miʿrāj)   will   also   be   made   during   this   year, with  a  focus  on  selected  and  representative  material,  including   Alevi   « ʺheterodox »ʺ   texts   (its general cultural dimensions will  be  taken  up  once  more  in  the  third  year).  Visual  and calligraphic  representations  of  the  Prophet,  like  the  development  of  his  figure  and  image  in miniature   painting   and   early   print,   and   the   emergence   of   the   calligraphic   representation   of his description in the Ottoman ḥilye-­yi sherīf will also form an important field of study. The transformation  of  Prophetic  praise  poetry  and  its   musical   recitation   into   a   contemporary media  event,  and  the  controversial  visualisations  of  the  Prophet’ʹs  career  will  be  at  the  centre of  the  media  focus  of  this  year.