The myth of the ‘Islamic City’: rethinking the notion of sacred space

On Thursday 26th May, Al-Mahdi Institute held a research seminar on the topic of ‘The myth of the ‘Islamic City’: rethinking the notion of sacred space’ conducted by Dr Colin Turner, from Durham University. The seminar was attended by AMI students, faculty and interested members of the public.

Dr Colin Turner is a reader in Islamic Thought and Persian; Islamic theology and philosophy; shari’a reform; Sufism; Shi’ism; classical and medieval Islamic history; Safavid Iran; Persian language and literature; Koranic exegesis; Islam and gender. He gained a BA (Hons.,First Class) in Oriental Studies (Arabic, Persian, Islamic Studies and anthropology) from Durham University in 1982 and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Durham University in 1989. Dr Turner was born in Birmingham but has lived in Durham since 1979.

An example of Dr Turners analysis included the contention that the traditional notion of an Islamic city is a myth. He argues that the same misconceptions that divide cities into Islamic and other than Islamic, or give greater sacrality on some places over others are the very same misconceptions about the tiered sacrality of a space which are at the heart of the compartmentalisation of culture into religious and worldly. Dr Turner gives the example that in many Muslim majority countries, urban planners have looked and still look to past achievements in order to replicate patterns of building which are traditionally identified as Islamic. Furthermore he uses the example of the time portioned for salat (5 daily prayers) cannot rationally be more sacred than any other time of day, rather the sacrality comes from the mental and emotional associations which go with it.

To view an abstract click here

To view more photos from the seminar click here


Dr Colin Turner (Durham University)