The founding of the Fatimid caliphate across the southern Mediterranean, and then in Egypt, Syria and the Hijaz at the turn of the fourth AH / tenth CE century, necessitated its negotiation with the ashraf, those who claimed lineal descent from the Prophet Muhammad, and who by this time had gained significant influence as a social class based on their charismatic descent. While other dynastic powers fostered relationships with various members of the ashraf, the Fatimid-ashraf dynamics were distinctive in that the Fatimids legitimised their rule as Ismai‘li Shi‘i imam-caliphs, based on their claim of descent from the Prophet Muhammad, and as the sole successors to his authority and leadership over the Islamic world. Consequently, Fatimid-ashraf relations were permeated by fraternal camaraderie as well as competing contestations based on their shared claim of Prophetic lineage.
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Prof. Taylor will explicate the notion of primary and secondary causality as it appears in various forms in philosophical thinkers of the Greek, Arabic and Latin traditions, including Plotinus, Proclus, the Plotiniana Arabica, the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khayr (Latin: Liber de causis), al-Fārābī, Ibn Sīnā, Ibn Rushd and Thomas Aquinas.
Approaches to the plurality of religions vary from exclusivist monism to all-inclusive universalism. Mark Sedgwick will examine these approaches from a historical perspective. He will discuss perennialism, an approach that in the West has its origins in the Renaissance concept of the prisca theologia, an ancient universal revelation. Sedgwick will follow the development of perennialism alongside other approaches such as Deism and Pantheism during the Enlightenment, through the nineteenth-century, to the modern perennialism of René Guénon and Aldous Huxley and thence into contemporary Traditonalism, in and beyond Islam. He will close with a comparison between these forms of perennialism and contemporary universalism.