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The Department of Studies in Comparative Religion

The Department of Studies in Comparative Religion explores the relationships between different religious systems, emphasising both commonalities and distinctions between Islam and other faiths as well as between the various Muslim traditions. This comprehensive approach enables a profound understanding of the multifaceted ways in which religion, particularly Islam, shapes our contemporary world. To facilitate the pursuit of knowledge in this domain, the department oversees two key research platforms that encourage collaboration, critical discourse, and mutual understanding: The Centre for Intra-Muslim Studies (CIMS) and The Inter-Religious Symposia (IRS). Additionally, the department also hosts research seminars, book talks by renowned academics and authors, visiting research fellows, and produces translations of prominent works within the field of Comparative Religion.

Head of Department:

Muhammed Reza Tajri, PhD (2023), Lancaster University, is a lecturer in Arabic and Director of both the Centre of Intra-Muslim Studies (CIMS) and the Inter-Religious Symposia Platform (IRS). Dr Tajri began his seminary studies at the Ḥawza ʿIlmiyya of London and went on to complete a BA in Islamic Studies at The Islamic College and Middlesex University. He then moved to Damascus to study at the Ḥawza al-Imām al-Khumaynī with advanced Arabic studies at the University of Damascus. Upon returning to the UK, he completed an MA in Islamic Studies at The Islamic College and Middlesex University and a second MA in Islam in Contemporary Britain at Cardiff University. His PhD thesis esplored the evolving perceptions of Shīʿī religious authority on British university campuses. His research interests revolve around Muslims in the UK and Europe, contemporary Shīʿism and Shīʿī identity, religious authority, and the impact of gender on religion. 

Research Workshops and Conferences

The Department of Studies in Comparative Religion hosts an annual international conference, which serves as a forum for scholars and academics from around the world to share and discuss their latest research findings related to religions and society. Below are details of the previous conferences held:

The Nature of the Soul and Death, from the perspectives of the Abrahamic traditions

On the 16th of March 2023, The Inter-Religious Symposia (IRS) Platform held its inaugural academic workshop, looking at the theme of The Nature of the Soul and Death, from the perspectives of the three Abrahamic traditions. The workshop brought together scholars from various persuasions from within each of the three Abrahamic faiths, each presenting on the topic from various disciplines within religious study. Presentations included those that posed jurisprudential, theological and philosophical questions. As such, the day’s panels were arranged to discuss, firstly, how theological tenets inform jurisprudential stances on the soul and death; secondly, addressing beliefs about the transition from this life to the next; and lastly, tackling the subject of the nature of the soul itself and its possible existence before this life.

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Muslims and Education

On the 6th and 7th of March 2023, The Centre for Intra-Muslim Studies (CIMS) held its inaugural academic workshop, looking at the theme of Muslims in differing educational contexts. The theme of this opening workshop was kept deliberately broad, in order to encompass a range of matters concerning Muslim communities, particularly in diasporic or minority contexts, within the various educational environments. Papers presented at the workshop included contexts of imparting and acquiring of what is traditionally considered ‘Islamic knowledge’, as well as the experiences of Muslims in settings of secular education. Responding to the changing needs of the Muslim societies they serve, institutions functioning as spaces for traditional Islamic learning have seen curricular developments over the last two decades, in both Muslim majority as well as minority countries.

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Research Seminars

Research Seminars welcome academics and dedicated researchers specialising in the study of comparative Religions to present their latest research findings. These seminars serve as a confluence of expertise and innovative perspectives, designed to benefit students, scholars, and individuals who are passionate about staying abreast of the latest advancements within this field. Some of the most recent seminars held include:

A Christian’s Perspective on Al-Husayn’s Humanity

Professor Christopher Clohessy

Reading ‘race’ in the Islamicate Past

Dr Haroon Bashir

Being Shia in Europe? Identity and Belonging in the Modern Age

Dr Emanuelle Esposti

Book Talks

Book Talks feature renowned academics and authors from the field of Comparative Religions to deliver insightful reviews and discussions of their most prominent works, to enrich the global community of researchers, scholars, and individuals with an interest in this specialist field. Some of the most recent book talks held include:

Shia Minorities in the Contemporary World

Professor Oliver Scharbrodt

A Secular Age

Dr Pooya Razavian

Leaving Iberia: Islamic Law and the Christian Conquest of North West Africa

Dr Jocelyn Hendrickson

Affiliations

To facilitate the pursuit of knowledge within its domain, the Department of Studies in Comparative Religion is affiliated with two key research platforms that encourage collaboration, critical discourse, and mutual understanding:

The Centre for Intra-Muslim Studies (CIMS) provides a space for dialogue among scholars from a diverse range of Muslim traditions, encouraging critical engagement and collaboration while transcending sectarian narratives. It encourages the exploration of new studies and teachings that encompass a wide spectrum of Muslim traditions, fostering a deeper appreciation of the diversity within Islam.

The Inter-Religious Symposia (IRS) brings together scholars from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions in an environment of respect and openness, encouraging scholars to engage in meaningful dialogue to address the challenges faced by diverse Abrahamic faith communities. Through collaborative efforts and critical discussions, the IRS aims to bridge gaps, promote understanding, and cultivate a spirit of cooperation among different religious traditions.

Latest News

Below are the latest news and developments related to the Department of Studies in Comparative Religion:

Dr Laurens de Rooij delivers a new module on the ‘Sociology of Islam’ for the Department of Studies in Comparative Religion.

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IRS hosts its inaugural workshop on ‘The Nature of the Soul and Death, from the perspectives of the Abrahamic traditions’ on 16th March 2023.

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CIMS hosts a two-day academic workshop focusing on ‘Muslims and Education’ on the 6th – 7th March 2023.

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