Third International Conference on Shi‘i Studies T
he Islamic College situated Willesden, London in cooperation with the Islamic Centre of England, hosted the 3 rd International Conference on Shi‘i Studies, on 6-7 May. The first conference launched as an annual event back in 2015.
The conference was organised by the Research and Publications department of The Islamic College, an academic institution specialising in the study of Islam at undergraduate and postgraduate level. While the College’s broader approach to the study of Islam is academic and non-sectarian, its Research and Publications department has a more focused objective, specialising in the publication and study of Shi‘a Islam. This year twentythree papers were presented over a two-day conference divided into nine separate sessions/panels. The event was also open to the public. Some of the titles of the various panels, highlighting the diversity of subjects were: ‘Contemporary issues’, ‘Intrafaith identity: Dynamics and demographics’, ‘Shi‘ism worldwide’, ‘Classical text and exegesis’, ‘Intersection: East and West’, ‘Knowledge, authority and philosophy’ and ‘Education’. In the introductory address, Sheikh Mohammed Ali Ismail, Director of Research and Publications explained that the response to the call for papers was great and the number of papers received was twice the amount that could be presented in two days. He also commented on the wide range of topics addressed by the researchers, demonstrating how the area of Shi‘i studies is a vast one which is receiving increasing attention in academia. The international participants came from Canada, Europe, the Middle East, South America and the USA. The first session, focussing on contemporary issues, set the pace for the event and speakers made their research available for the scrutiny of both members of the public and experts in the field of Islamic studies. The result was an engaging conversation between presenters and the audience who asked interesting and challenging questions. In ‘Intrafaith identity: Dynamics and demographics’, the three panellists discussed the causes of sectarian tension, in the case of Iraq and Syria, demographic changes in Iran and Pakistan’s Shi‘a ulama’s (religious scholars) perception of the role of the state in providing security for the Shi‘a minority. The ‘Shi‘ism worldwide’ panel, was divided into three separate sessions over the two days. The first one provided the opportunity to explore the condition of three different Shi‘a communities in Qatar, Kuwait and most interestingly the region of the Colombian Pacific. The three researchers in this panel gave an insight into the condition and