At the annual meeting of the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA), held on 20-23 November, Dr. Yousef Meri, a Research Fellow of the Institute, organised a panel on the topic of: Defining without Confining: Reflections on Prophetic Usage of Sacred Space with Dr. Farhad Daftary as panel Chair.

Muslim scholars have discussed and debated the nature of the sacred for many centuries. The IIS panel at the MESA conference provided a forum for scholars to explore and discuss Prophetic usage of sacred space. As part of the formative period of the early Muslim community, it is essential for understanding what has informed and influenced the faith and practice of Muslims throughout its 1400 year history.

From Medina to Cordoba under Muslim rule, important connections between community identity and community formation were explored by the panellists, elaborating on various literary sources, historic events and Prophetic Sunna which contribute to the negotiation of boundaries between sacred and profane, and its ensuing social meaning and conscious expression.

Defining without Confining is a timely panel enabling intellectual reflection and discourse on a topic so centrally connected to Muslims historically and in the present, providing a much needed perspective into understanding contemporary global events.

MESA, established in 1966, is a private, non-profit, non-political learned society that brings together scholars, educators and those interested in the study of the region from all over the world. This year's annual meeting and conference in San Francisco attracted 1,400 scholars and people from a variety of disciplines and fields interested in the study of the Middle East, North Africa, Iran and the larger Muslim world. In addition to its annual meetings, MESA also publishes the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies in association with Cambridge University Press and a quarterly newsletter, the MESA Bulletin.