AMI Faculty present their research at the annual conference by BRAIS at the University of Leeds

Held over two days from 20th – 21st May 2024, this year’s BRAIS conference hosted by the University of Leeds invited four members of AMI’s faculty, including Dr Haidar Hobballah, Dr Muhammed Reza Tajri, Dr Zoheir Esmail, and Ali Khaki to present their research at the conference.

Dr Haider Hobballah:

Dr Haider Hobballah presented his research on the movement of hadith criticism among Shia scholars in the twentieth century. In his research, he focused on Sayyed Abu al-Fadl al-Burqa’i (1990), explaining the circumstances and historical context surrounding al-Burqa’i’s emergence. He discussed the objectives al-Burqa’i aimed to achieve in his hadith criticism, noting that al-Burqa’i was not a specialist in hadith studies in the classical sense but was more focused on the critique of hadith content. Hobballah highlighted al-Burqa’i’s experience in critiquing the book “Usul al-Kafi” by Sheikh al-Kulayni and the methodology al-Burqa’i employed in his criticism of Shia hadith, emphasising his frequent comparisons of hadith with the Qur’an and reason. Hobballah also mentioned that al-Burqa’i’s criticism of hadith content was not solely for the sake of hadith science but was driven by a theological goal to critique the doctrinal and theological system of Twelver Shia Islam in the twentieth century. He pointed out that al-Burqa’i insisted on presenting himself as Shia rather than Sunni, despite being accused by his opponents of being a Sunni Wahhabi due to his criticism of many Shia ideas found in “Usul al-Kafi” and other works, such as tawassul, divine guardianship, and knowledge of the unseen. Hobballah explained that al-Burqa’i’s methodology extended beyond Shia hadith books to include Sunni hadith books as well, as al-Burqa’i himself stated. The reason al-Burqa’i focused on critiquing Shia texts was that he aimed to address the society around him and that criticism of Sunni books by a Shia would not be as effective as each group critiquing its own hadith books to eliminate incorrect doctrinal legacies and superstitions.

Dr Muhammed Reza Tajri:

Dr Muhammed Reza Tajri offered preliminary findings from an ongoing pioneering research project into the experiences of people from Shīʿa Muslim backgrounds who either experience same-sex attraction and/or identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB). The presentation highlighted the previously unacknowledged prevalence of LGB experiences within Shīʿī societies and underlined the possible adverse ramifications of continued inattention. The presentation used textual sources to position mainstream Shīʿīsm as doctrinally antithetical to homosexual performances. These doctrinal positions factor into explaining the absence of non-heteronormative identity and its non-acceptance in mainstream Muslim societies. Thereafter, the gathered research data was used to demonstrate the various ways participants have negotiated the seemingly dichotomous aspects of their identities. The research, therefore, frames the participants’ standpoints as responses to a backdrop of normative lived Shīʿīsm and Shīʿī orthopraxy, which is determined as incompatible with homosexual acts. The presentation concluded by tentatively proposing ‘intersectionality’ as a theoretical framework through which the positions of the research participants can be viewed and through which data analysis may be affected.

Dr Zoheir Esmail:

Dr Zoheir Esmail presented his research on the role of the Oneness of Being in the process of comprehending alternative readings of Quranic verses according to a mystical framework in the surviving sections of the commentary of Sayyid Haydar Amuli. Amuli defines the process of ta’wil as: “…making the unambiguous and ambiguous agree and correspond on the basis of the rule of the intellect and revelation”. Dr Esmail discussed specific examples of ta’wil in al-Muhit al-Azam, illustrating the framework through which Amuli interprets the term “book” in certain verses of the Quran as the books of the horizon and the soul.

Ali Khaki:

Ali Khaki‘s presentation delved into the implications of taqiyya in Shia legal theory (usūl al-fiqh) in instances where there is a real conflict between the evidence. He aimed to scrutinise the criteria used to determine when an Imam is not practising taqiyya, focusing specifically on the concept of mukhālifat al-‘āma—opposition to the mainstream view. Additionally, he outlined various Shia perspectives on the topic and examined Sayyid Ali al-Husayn al-Sistani’s critique of the usage of taqiyya in instances of conflict in his work, taʿāruḍ al-adilla. The presentation provided a comprehensive understanding of taqiyya and its significance in Shia jurisprudence, challenging oversimplified narratives and exploring the intricate relationship between historical context, jurisprudential development, and modern legal applications within Shia Islam.


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