The Regulation of Purity (Ṭahāra) and Impurity (Najāsa) in Islam: Practical, Socio-Ethical and Theological Implications

The Regulation of Purity (Ṭahāra) and Impurity (Najāsa) in Islam: Practical, Socio-Ethical and Theological Implications

Despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the Coronavirus situation, Al-Mahdi Institute successfully convened the 8th annual Contemporary Fiqhi Issues Workshop, on the 2nd and 3rd of July, 2020.

While keeping the Coronavirus restrictions in mind, the convening panel was determined not to allow the circumstances to hamper the sharing of ideas and the invaluable output elicited from the discussions. As such, for the first time, the annual Workshop was hosted virtually, allowing leading scholars to present and debate ideas whilst being based in different parts of the world.

The 2020 Workshop was organised to discuss issues on the theme of “The Regulation of Purity (Ṭahāra) and Impurity (Najāsa) in Islam: Practical, Socio-Ethical and Theological Implications”.

The practical importance of regulations pertaining to purity (ṭahāra) and impurity (najāsa) in Islam are testified to, not only by the typical treatment of purity as the opening chapter within works of juristic rulings, but also by their immense relevance to the daily lives of Muslims. Hence, while the focus of the workshop was a jurisprudential one, that focus was nestled in a bezel of presentations from a range of disciplines, helping to situate the jurisprudential discussions within the wider, often overlapping, discussions on the theme.

The workshop began with a joint presentation; from Prof. M. Fatemi, a lecturer at Al-Mahdi Institute, and Ali Redha Khaki, a graduate of the Institute’s four-year programme and faculty member. Their opening talk critiqued the traditional jurisprudential standpoint that largely classifies non-Muslims as physically impure and questioned its ethical legitimacy.

The second presentation was from Dr A. Fanaei, also a faculty member at the Institute. His talk problematised the reductive treatment of the purity/impurity discussions in squarely jurisprudential terms. Broadening the understandings of purity and impurity beyond their treatment as merely legal terms, he argued, would allow the religious texts that speak about these issues, to carry more meaning.

A later panel, on the first day, involved discussions on gendered matters within the discussions on jurisprudential purity/impurity. The University of Exeter’s Prof. R. Gleave and Lancaster University’s Dr S. Naguib delivered a joint presentation on menstruation, explaining how the jurisprudential stances impact women in personal and social spheres. This approach led seamlessly to a presentation from Dr Krista Riley (Vanier College, Canada), who gave insights into her ethnographic research, looking at how young Muslim women reflect on perceptions of themselves as pure or impure, on online platforms and social media.

The Workshop also benefitted from presentations from Dr S. Burge, Dr Javad Fakhkhar Toosi, Dr Reza Pourmohammadi, Shaykh Arif Abdulhussein and Dr Mohammad Movahedi Saveji.

The deliberations were concluded on the second day, with a presentation from Ayatollah Professor Mostafa Mohagegh Damad, who offered a wholistic understanding of the Arabic terms used to talk about purity and impurity in the Islamic texts. Through this, his talk offered an insight into the theological ramifications of viewing the purity/impurity discourse in a simplistic way with a solely legalistic outlook.

The participants who presented their findings at the workshop were:



Presenter Title of Paper View Abstract
Professor Seyed Mohammad Ghari S Fatemi (Al-Mahdi Institute & Shahid Beheshti University)

Ali Khaki
(Al-Mahdi Institute)

Apology for an inhumane division of humans! On the immorality of fiqhī approaches to the issue of purity/impurity Click here
Dr. Ali Fanaei
(Al-Mahdi Institute and Mofid University)
Purity and Impurity from Mystical, Moral, epistemic and Legal perspectives Click here
Dr. Stephen Burge
(The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London)
Purity and Piety: The Structure and Message of al-Kulayni’s Kitāb al-Ṭahāra Click here
Dr. Javad Fakhkhar Toosi (Independent Scholar) The Authority of the Wise in Determination of Impurity: The Negation of Impurity in the Case of Opposition in Al-Najāsa Al- Manṣūṣa Click here
Professor Rob Gleave (University of Exeter)

Dr. Shuruq Naguib
(Lancaster University)

Menstrual Questions: Purity and Gender in Islam Click here
Dr. Krista Riley (Vanier College, Montreal) Online Narratives of Menstruation, Public Conversations, and Relationships with Religious Law Click here
Dr. Reza Pourmohammadi (Women’s’ Research Centre, Iran) The Role of Purity (Ṭahāra) and Impurity (Najāsa) Regulation in Formation of Muslim’s Economy in Early Islamic Era Click here
Shaykh Arif Abdulhussein
(Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham)
Reassessment of the Notion of Impurity (Najāsa) through the Lens of Form and Essence and its impact on Trade, Societal Relations and Devotions Click here
Dr. Muhammad Hassan Movahedi Saveji
(Mofid University)
Ṭahāra (Ritual Purity) & Najāsa (Ritual Impurity); a conventional law or an objective fact? Click here
Ayatollah Professor Sayyed Mohaghegh Damad
(Shaheed Beheshti University)
The “Asrar” of Purity and Impurity in Islamic Shariah Click here