The Institute sponsored a panel on ‘The Bible and the Qur’an in Ismaili Sources’ at the International Meeting of the Society for Biblical Literature, which took place at King’s College, London. Speakers at the event included Dr Paul E. Walker, Dr David Hollenberg, Dr Daniel De Smet and Dr Jan Van Reeth. The panel was organised by Dr Michael Pregill and Dr Omar Ali-de-Unzaga.
Dr Paul E. Walker’s presentation, entitled Early Ismaili Attitudes to the Religion and Scripture of Christians and Jews, examined three important aspects of Ismaili doctrine, exploring evidence that the law and scripture of the Christian and Jewish communities were subject to the interpretation of Imam Ali b. Abi Talib and the Imams after him.
He also explored a separate but equally interesting record indicating that leading members of the Ismaili da‘wa knew and could quote from the Hebrew and Syriac scriptures, often in their original languages. Prof. Walker ended his presentation by discussing past attitudes and policies adopted by the Ismaili Imams towards these communities.
Dr David Hollenberg presented a paper entitled The Nature of Fatimid Universalism: Ja‘far Ibn Mansur al-Yaman’s Ta’wil of Non-Islamic Sources. The paper discussed how two generations after the advent of the Fatimids, missionaries such as Ja‘far Ibn Mansur al-Yaman (d. circa 969 CE) continued to adopt a universalist approach in their teachings and writings. Dr Hollenberg also highlighted similarities between the writings ascribed to Ja‘far ibn Mansur al-Yaman and those of the local Jews and Christians suggesting that the interpretations were also used to help Fatimid missionaries ward off challenges from other communities on the nature of the Imamat.
Dr Daniel De Smet and Dr Jan Van Reeth presented a joint paper entitled The Ismaili da‘i Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani (d. ca. 1021CE) Quoting the Bible in Syriac and Hebrew: His Sources and Purposes. Dr De Smet and Dr Van Reeth’s paper explored the Biblical citations in both Syriac and Hebrew that appeared in several Arabic works of Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani, a major Ismaili da‘i, scholar and author under the reign of the Fatimid Imam-Caliph al-Hakim (r. 996-1021CE). In particular, they examined new source material to try to identify the origins of these Biblical citations and understand the motivations of an Ismaili author of Persian origin writing in Fatimid Egypt who quoted the Old and New Testaments in Hebrew and Syriac respectively.
The International Meeting, of which the Panel was a part, was attended by over 900 people and ran over the course of three days.