Research Seminar: “Human Potential in the Faith Epistle of Ikhwan al-Safa’”

On Thursday 18th May 2017,  Al-Mahdi Institute held a Research seminar on the topic of; “Human Potential in the Faith Epistle of Ikhwan al-Safa’” conducted by Dr Arzina R Lalani from The Institute of Ismaili Studies. The seminar was attended by AMI students, faculty and many interested members of the public.

An abstract of her research reads;

“One of the recurring themes in the Risala fi’l Iman is the potential of the individual self – nafs, described as an essence within that traverses the realms, beholding visions and scenarios while the body remains still. The Brethren of Purity consider this to be a distinct testament to the existence of the self, contrary to those who deny it and as such, refute the reality of visions (ahl al-jadal). The voyage of the soul and its awareness is portrayed in several parables –hikaya, serving as pedagogic tools and moral training to awaken the self from the slumber of negligence and perceive matters with an inner eye to recognise the beauty of one’s essence (jawhar). It is only then that one lives in the spirit of the sciences, enjoying a blissful life aided by good fortune and become a pure, clean soul, illumined and joyous, having liberated from a grave, oppressive, altering and decaying body.”

Dr. Arzina Lalani is a Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. She is an Arabist with a doctorate in Islamic Studies from the Department of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Edinburgh. She has previously taught Hadith Literature at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge, served as a mentor in Arabic at DeMontfort University and lectured for several years on Early Shi’i Studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Her book, Early Shi’i Thought: The Teachings of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (London, 2000) has been translated into several languages including Arabic, Persian and French. Following peer reviews, this work recently won a prestigious literary award in Iran as one of the distinguished books of the year (Kitab Sal-e-Vilayat, 2002). Dr Lalani’s forthcoming publication, The Apex of Humanity: A Philosophical Approach to the Imamate is a critical edition and translation of a Fatimid manuscript by Ahmad al-Naysaburi. She is a contributor to the Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an (Leiden), the Encyclopaedia of Religion , and the Dictionary of Islamic Philosophers amongst others, as well as an editorial board member on the Routledge Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an. She also regularly presents at national and international academic conferences.