‘Understanding Islam: A Conference on the Culture and Religion of Islam’ was held at The Dublin Castle Conference Centre from 6-8 December, 2004. Dr. Daftary, Associate Director and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications, joined other prominent scholars from the United Kingdom, North America and Germany in a two-day conference to deliberate on the history, religion, art and culture of Islam, past and present.

Dr. Daftary’s session provided a survey of early Shi‘ism, discussing the nature of Shi‘i Islam, to the audience which comprised scholars and students of Islamic studies as well as other interested people. He then elaborated on the long and complex history of the Ismailis, a major Shi‘i Muslim community, and the two occasions when they had states of their own: the Fatimid caliphate and the Nizari Ismaili state of Iran and Syria.
Highlighting the diversity of literary and intellectual traditions that the Ismailis cultivated at various periods in their history, Dr. Daftary elaborated on the important contributions the Ismailis have made to Islamic thought and culture. His overview of Ismaili history during the conference presented the findings of modern scholarship in the field. He also summarised the contemporary progress in Ismaili studies based on the recovery and study of numerous Ismaili manuscript sources, mostly preserved in private collections in different regions of the Muslim world.

Amongst the other distinguished speakers at the two-day conference were Professor Hugh Kennedy of St. Andrew’s University, speaking on ‘The Early Muslim Caliphate’; Professor Robert Hillenbrand of The University of Edinburgh, speaking on ‘Monuments of Faith’; and Dr. Malise Ruthven, an independent scholar and author speaking on ‘Jihad, Fundamentalism and Modernity.’