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 (ḥadīth), Prophetic Biography (sīra)
- Theology (kalām), Philosophy (ḥikma, falsafa), Theosophy (taṣawwuf, 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.