The Siddiqi Lecture in Islamic Studies was launched in 2014 to bring top scholars in the field of Islamic Studies to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and to foster a greater understanding of Islam in East Tennessee. We are grateful to our donors, Siddiqi Holdings of Knoxville, TN.
2022 Lecture – Butch Ware
“Islam, Race, and Social Justice: Historical and Qur’anic Perspectives on
Black Freedom Struggle.”
Tuesday, Oct 11, 2022
Strong Hall 101 (live and also webcast)
Departments of Africana Studies, History, Political Science
Interdisciplinary Program in Middle East Studies
Haslam College of Business
Professor Ware, Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is a historian of Africa and Islam. He is the author of The Walking Qur’an Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa (UNC Press, 2014) and co-author of Jihad of the Pen: Sufi Thought in West Africa (American University in Cairo Press, 2018).
The Qur’an, though Arabic in language, is largely a book about black people, with most of its named characters living in and around the ancient Nile Valley. This is often overlooked by scholars of Islamic thought (from within the tradition and without) because the Qur’an is – in fact – a colorblind Book. There are no mentions of skin color or hair texture associated with any of the Qur’an’s human characters. The partial exception to this rule is the name Adam, which meant black-skinned in ancient Arabic.
Though it is without racial marking, the Qur’an offers powerful material for reflection on racism and racial justice. In its telling of the timeless cosmological drama, Satan is the first creature to claim superiority on the basis of bodily composition and lineage origin. The devil becomes the first racist at the moment when he refuses to bow to Adam. In this space of reflection, racism is a spiritual sickness thrust upon humanity by an avowed enemy who causes us to see one another with the same contempt that he has for all.
Black Muslims – in the continent and diaspora have mined Islamic sources of reflection on race and justice to make powerful spiritual and social interventions. This talk will focus on three interrelated moments in the Afro-Islamic struggle against white supremacy.
1. The Muslim anti-slavery movements of late 18th-century West Africa and the Diaspora
2. The Sufi anti-imperialist movements of late 19th-century West Africa
3. The mid-twentieth-century racial justice ideology formulated by Malcolm X.
2021 Lecture – Stephennie Mulder
“The Architecture of Coexistence: What Medieval Islamic shrines can tell us about Modern Iconoclasm”
Thursday, Oct 7, 2021
In the past decade, with the rise of cultural heritage destruction by Islamist extremist groups like the Taliban and ISIS, it has become common for media representations to associate Islam with iconoclasm. Indeed, in 2014-2015, ISIS claimed they were following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad when they destroyed ancient sites in Syria and Iraq, capturing headlines around the world. Yet few observers stopped to consider an obvious fact: that the ongoing presence of ancient sites throughout the Islamic world can only mean that they had, in fact, been cared for and preserved by Muslims over the course of many centuries. While ISIS’s destruction of famous ancient sites dominated the headlines, little attention was paid to ISIS’ more widespread destruction of Islamic holy sites, including shrines devoted to prophets, sufis, and other saintly figures revered by Muslims for centuries. Their ongoing survival can only mean that the iconoclasm of contemporary extremist groups like ISIS – despite their claim to represent a medieval reality – is in fact a very modern phenomenon. In this lecture, Dr. Stephennie Mulder will explore a group of shrines devoted to the family of the Prophet Muhammad in Syria, showing how they survived precisely because they have always been sites for inter-sectarian and interfaith exchange and coexistence.
2020 Lecture – Shahzia Sikander
2019 Lecture – Omid Safi
2018 Lecture – Zareena Grewal
“The Quran in the American Imagination”
Thursday, October 18, 2018
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Strong Hall Auditorium (Room 101)