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Conferences – July 2016

Conference Poster FINAL 3


  • Please register by e-mailing Dr. Imranali Panjwani at: Imranali.Panjwani@imamhasancentre.com.au with your institution name, days of attendance and country. Or simply complete the online registration form on the right-hand column of this page.


Saturday – 16th July 2016

  • 9:00 – 9.30 am              Arrival, Registration & Coffee at Imam Hasan Centre

  • 9:30 am                             Welcome – Imranali Panjwani (Imam Hasan Centre)

  • 9:45 am                              Guest Speaker (TBC)

  • 10:00 – 11.00 am             Keynote Session 1: Human Dignity & Human Rights


“Human Rights and Human Dignity in Islam”

Liyakat Takim (McMaster University, Canada)


  • 11:00 – 11:15 am                              Break & Refreshments


  • 11:15 – 12:15 pm        


“The Question of Human Dignity & Identity Formation: The Case of Young Muslims”

Nahid Afrose Kabir (University of South Australia)


  • 12:15 – 1:45 pm             Prayers & Lunch for participants


  • 1:45 – 2:45 pm              Keynote Session 2: Conceptions of Human Dignity


“Islamic Conceptions of Human Dignity and their Relevance for an Islamic Ethics of End-of-Life Healthcare”

Aasim Padela (University of Chicago)


  • 2:45 – 3:45 pm


Human Dignity: A Means for the Re-evaluation of the

Qur’anic Instructions pertaining to Mu‘amalat within the Existential Scheme”

Arif Abdulhussain (Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham, UK)



  • 3:45 – 4:00 pm                    Closing Remarks Day 1

Sunday – 17th July 2016


  • 9:30 – 10:00 am                  Arrival, Registration & Coffee at Imam Hasan Centre

  • 10:00 – 11:00 am               Keynote Session 3: Contemporary Discourses on Human Dignity


“The Absence of Human Dignity in the Discourse of Muslim Terrorists”

Jan Ali (Western Sydney University)


  • 11:00 – 12:00 pm


“Drawing on the Strengths and Avoiding the Weaknesses

of the Europeans – Perspectives of a Modern Exegete of the Qur’an on Human Dignity”

Majid Daneshgar (University of Otago, New Zealand)


  • 12:00 – 1:30 pm                Prayers & Lunch for participants

  • 1:30 – 2:30 pm                  Keynote Session 4: Frameworks for Human Dignity        


Constructing a Framework for Human Dignity in Islam: The Thought of Imam Zayn al-Abidin”

Imranali Panjwani (Imam Hasan Centre)


  • 2:30 – 3:30 pm


“The Formation of a New Fatwa: Intrinsic Purity of Humankind in Contemporary Shi’ite Jurisprudence”

Mahmoud Pargoo (Australian Catholic University)


  • 3:30 – 3:45 pm                   Thank you & Closing Remarks




Shaykh Arif Abdulhussain

Shaykh Arif

Shaykh Arif founded the Al-Mahdi Institute in 1993, and currently serves as its Director and as Senior Lecturer in uṣūl al-fiqh and Muslim Philosophy. Shaykh Arif has been at the forefront of developing and delivering Advanced Islamic studies, tailored toward training students capable of addressing the needs of contemporary societies, for over twenty years.

Shaykh Arif was educated at the Madrassah Syed Al- Khoei, London and graduated with Honours in 1988 where he also taught Grammar, Logic, Islamic Law and Usul al-Fiqh. He then travelled to Iran to further his studies and received his training at Hawza Ilmiyyah of Qum between 1989-93. He also attended private training and research studies with leading scholars of Qum between 1990 and 1994. Alongside these studies he was also teaching in Qum across a wide spectrum of the traditional Muslim scholarly disciplines. On his return to the U.K. after founding the Al-Mahdi Institute he continued his graduate (kharij) training in Usul al-fiqh and fiqh from 1994 and until 2000 under Ayatullah H. Amini. Full profile: http://almahdi.edu/faculty-1/member/shaykh-arif-abdul-hussain 


Dr Nahid Afrose Kabir

Nahid Afrose Kabir

Dr Nahid Afrose Kabir is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in the School of Education, University of South Australia, Australia. She is expected to join the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA, as a Visiting Researcher in August 2016. Nahid Kabir was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, USA, in 2009-2011. She the author of Muslims in Australia: Immigration, Race Relations and Cultural History (London: Routledge 2005), Young British Muslims: Identity, Culture, Politics and the Media (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2010), and Young American Muslims: Dynamics of Identity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2013). Nahid Kabir’s next book, Muslim Americans: Debating the Notions of American and un-American is expected to be published by Routledge (London) in September 2016.


Professor Aasim Padela

Aasim Padela

Dr. Padela is Director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Sections of Emergency Medicine and General Internal Medicine at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. He an emergency medicine physician, health services researcher, and bioethicist whose scholarship focuses on the intersection of community health, religious tradition, and bioethics. Dr. Padela completed undergraduate degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Classical Arabic & Literature at the University of Rochester, earned a medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College, and obtained emergency medicine training at the University of Rochester.

From 2008-2011, Dr. Padela was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan, where he led a program of community-based participatory research studying American Muslim health behaviors  and healthcare challenges. In 2010, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Centre of Islamic Studies at Oxford University working on projects related to Islamic moral and theological ethical frameworks. And from 2013 to 2014 he was a Templeton Foundation Faculty Scholar conducting a national survey of Muslim physicians’ bioethical attitudes and experiences with religious discrimination. Full profile: https://pmr.uchicago.edu/padela


Professor Liyakat Takim


Professor Liyakat Takim is the Sharjah Chair in Global Islam at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. A native of Zanzibar, Tanzania, he has spoken at more than eighty academic conferences and authored one hundred scholarly works on diverse topics like reformation in the Islamic world, the treatment of women in Islamic law, Islam in America, the indigenization of the Muslim community in America, dialogue in post-911 America, war and peace in the Islamic tradition, Islamic law, Islamic biographical literature, the charisma of the holy man and shrine culture, and Islamic mystical traditions. He teaches a wide range of courses on Islam and offers a course on comparative religions.

Professor Takim’s second book titled Shi’ism in America was published by New York University Press in summer 2009. His first book, The Heirs of the Prophet: Charisma and Religious Authority in Shi‘ite Islam was published by SUNY press in 2006. He is currently working on his third book, Ijtihad and Reformation in Islam. Professor Takim has taught at several American and Canadian universities and is actively engaged in dialogue with different faith communities. Full profile: https://religiousstudies.mcmaster.ca/faculty/ltakim


Dr. Jan Ali


Dr Jan A. Ali is a Sociologist of Religion (Islam). He is a Lecturer in Islam and Modernity in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and simultaneously holds a title as the Community and Research Analyst in the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies at the University of Western Sydney. His main sociological focus is on the study of existential Islam.

Jan has published numerous peer reviewed articles in international journals and book chapters. He also recently published a book entitled Islamic Revivalism Encounters the Modern World: A Study of the Tablīgh Jamā‘at, New Delhi: Sterling Publishers. Currently, Jan is researching the concept of Shar’iah in Australia and collaborating with Professor Kevin Dunn and Dr Michael Kennedy from UWS on a research project studying the Effects of the New South Wales Police Counter-Radicalisation Community-Engagement Model in Australia; an empirically based research project investigating the most effective ways of “de-radicalising” young Muslim men within the community and preventing their imprisonment for terrorism related offences. Full profile: http://www.uws.edu.au/religion_and_society/people/researchers/doctor_jan_ali


Dr. Majid Daneshgar

Majid Daneshgar

Majid’s main research interests are (a) Islam in the nineteenth Century (e.g., Islam and Science among Egyptian scholars); and (b) Islam in the Malay World (e.g., Qur’anic manuscripts and Persian-Shi’ism in Nusantara). He completed his PhD in Religion focusing on Modern Approaches to Science in the Qur’ān. On this subject, he worked extensively on modern Arabic exegeses of the Qur’ān such as al-Manar, al-Jawahir fī Tafsir al-Qur’an, al-Tafsir al-‘Asri and so forth.

He is currently the Islam section editor of the Open Theology Journal of De Gruyter, Poland/Germany, and an editorial member of the Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association. From from 2012-2014, he was the editor and review editor of al-Bayān Journal of Qur’ān and Hadīth Studies, published by Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden. Full profile: http://www.otago.ac.nz/religion/staff/daneshgar.php


Mahmoud Pargoo


Mahmoud Pargoo is a PhD researcher at Institute for Social Justice, Australian Catholic University. He has studied Shi’ite jurisprudence, Islamic philosophy and theology at Imam Sadiq University, Tehran. His research focuses on the development of the Shi’ite jurisprudence from the perspective of post-positivist philosophies of science and law. Full profile: http://isj.acu.edu.au/people/mahmood-pargoo/


Dr. Imranali Panjwani


Dr. Imranali Panjwani completed his LLB in Law from the University of Sheffield. Thereafter, he underwent hawza (seminary) training in classical Islamic sciences at Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham while concurrently attending the College of Law to study on the Legal Practice Course. He obtained his PhD in Theology & Religious Studies from King’s College London focusing on the role of the self in Islamic-Western human rights discourse.

He pursued his Persian language studies and further research at the Research Institute of Al-Mustafa International University (Jami’at al-Mustafa), Mashhad where he focused on the role of case law as a relevant source of law in Shī‘ī jurisprudence. His interests intersect between Islamic jurisprudence, Western law, Islamic Mysticism, Existentialism and Islamic education. 




Human Dignity: A Means for the Re-evaluation of the Qur’anic instructions pertaining to

Muʿāmalāt within the Existential Scheme


Shaykh Arif Abdulhussain

Director, Al-Mahdi Institute


The Qur’anic text relating to human origin and eschatology confirms a noble existential state through which humans are to lead purposeful lives. Furthermore, this existential state is confirmed by the Qur’ān through human intuition and reason. The Qur’ān makes a categorical distinction between the human and the rest of the animal kingdom through superior human consciousness. In this respect, the Qur’ān regards humans as moral and spiritual entities whose material functions of procreation and general interactions are instructed in the form of regulations within a framework of human dignity and decency.

Generally, the sense of self-worth and dignity together with a befitting eschatology is appealed to by the Qur’ān in encouraging appropriate human conduct and outlook. This then informs the Qur’anic attitude of urging humans to a worthy state of existence through human worth rather than resorting to threats and warnings. An evidence of this is in the form of the universal Qur’anic verses talking of god–consciousness as a measure of proximity to God, the pardoning and forgiving of others, not begging through a sense of dignity and generally by reducing and minimising retributive practices of the pre-Islamic society for a variety of crimes.

When analysed through the existential framework, the Qur’anic regulative system in relation to the general category of muʿāmalāt (transactions and interactions including human rights and punishments) promote human moral and spiritual growth on the bases of human dignity within its original context. What this means is that since human existence in line with general existence is both evolutionary on the vertical axis and relativistic along the collective horizontal axis, the regulative system in terms of muʿāmalāt is in a constant state of flux where a sense of human dignity becomes an objective and a means through which muʿāmalāt are formulated in their given existential contexts.

The aim of this paper, therefore, is to demonstrate that muʿāmalāt are in a constant state of flux having no finality due to their contingency to the ever morally and spiritually evolving human community.


The Question of Human Dignity & Identity Formation: The Case of Young Muslims


Dr. Nahid Afrose Kabir

University of South Australia


Human dignity is intricately connected to the worthiness of a person. Individual status is a major part of the idea of human dignity because it struggles against the notion of superiority and social injustice. When dignity is attacked, people express themselves with emotion and passion. Dignity is aligned with moral grounds, and when it is assaulted, it may result in repercussion, marginalisation or depression.  

A person’s identity can be at stake when any individual is treated as a lesser human being. Respect is a key point to human dignity. Language is also important to human uniqueness. However, in the cultural and political complexities, lack of respect and offensive language can demean human dignity. For example, some Muslims are marked as the ‘Other’ by members of their own community through the sectarian and gender issues. While in the wider society’s context, their dignity can be undermined through stereotypes and racial profiling.

In my study of young Muslims’ identity in Australia, Britain and America, I found my participants’ identities varied. They shifted from single to dual to multiple identities. I also found that identity formation was a flexible process, and various factors influenced identity formation. Yet the defining moment of their identity formation has been on certain incidents that can be considered as attacks on their human dignity. In this paper I discuss some of those incidents. I also observe the bicultural stance of the participants. I conclude that cross-cultural awareness and education is vital to the development of human dignity.


“Islamic Conceptions of Human Dignity and their Relevance for an Islamic Ethics of End-of-Life Healthcare”

Professor Aasim Padela

University of Chicago

The ever-increasing technological advances of modern biomedicine have increased physicians’ capacity to carry out a wide array of clinical interventions near the end-of-life. The new-found ability to intervene upon and control physiology has resulted in “new” states of life that blur the once clear lines between the living and the dead. As a result, societies and individuals grapple with questions about the moral worth of physiological states that have minimal or no cognition, with delineating the moral duties physicians and surrogate decision-makers have to assist individuals with the process of dying, and with describing what constitutes a “good” death in the contemporary era.  

In the bioethical debates surrounding end-of-life healthcare delivery, the concept of human dignity is invoked by all sides in support of their arguments. Dignity is invoked by those seeking to end the posited suffering of individuals in physiologically and neurologically compromised states by withdrawing life support. It is also invoked by those who desire to control the time and manner of their departure from this earth and request the medical professional to assist in this departure. Human dignity is further invoked by those who believe all human life, irrespective of the physiological and neurological state of that life, has inestimable worth and merits preservation in so far as the technology exists to do so. Taking stock of the way in which human dignity is bandied about, some scholars decry the concept as a worthless one or at least one that has little utility for modern bioethics beyond its rhetorical effect. Other scholars search for its fundamental (and possibly universal) meaning and source and by doing so hope to clarify its true relevance for bioethical analyses.  

Against this background, this paper seeks to provide greater theoretical clarity and conceptual rigor to the construct of human dignity within the context of the Sunni Islamic tradition and the end-of-life care ethics. We will set the Islamic theological concepts of karāmah and urmah as conceptual analogues to the term human dignity as used within western bioethical discourse today. Next we will demonstrate that the Qur’an and Sunnah evidence each of the three categorical usages of dignity – intrinsic, attributed, and inflorescent – proposed by Sulmasy as relevant to bioethical discourse. We will then move from theory to applied ethics by describing how the Islamic theological concepts of human dignity (karāmah) and inviolability (ḥurmah) provide a moral vision for end-of-life healthcare by furnishing the ethical grounds for non-intervention at the end-of-life and underscoring the need for spiritual care as one transitions from this world.


Human Rights and Dignity in Islam


Professor Liyakat Takim, Sharjah Chair in Global Islam

McMaster University, Canada


Until recent times, nations have lived in relative isolation. With the advanced means of communication and increased emigration, different religious and ethnic groups have had to share common space. More than ever, the need to understand, respect, and live with the “other” has become imperative. More importantly, citizens of all nations must come to terms with human diversity that characterizes their terrestrial existence. Dealing with human diversity requires a proper articulation of the means of peaceful coexistence.

Given the fact that, in recent times, there has been much discussion on violence and human rights in Islam, a discourse on the topic of human rights and dignity within the Islamic tradition is to be welcomed. It is imperative to voice an opinion on an issue that is of major concern to millions of people, especially for a religion that has often been targeted as violent and extremist.

In this paper, I will first attempt to delineate the Qur’anic position on human rights with the “other.” I will also examine the classical juridical and exegetical pronouncements on the topic. However, Islam is not monolithic and there are different understandings of the rights of human beings within the Islamic tradition. I propose to approach Islamic human rights from different perspectives, ranging from the moral basis for human rights in Islam to the rights of minorities within the Islamic context.

The paper also proposes to examine theological, philosophical, and juridical-ethical resources in Islam to demonstrate that it is possible to construct an internal and universal paradigm of human rights discourse. As I will discuss, the Qur’anic view of inherent human dignity and human rights is interwoven to its view of a universal moral discourse that unites all human beings. In fact, it can be argued that the Qur’ān posits a universal morality for humankind that is conjoined to values ingrained in the conscience of all human beings. This suggests a universal, ethical language that all human beings can connect to and engage in. Through this notion, Islam embraced certain universal human values like dignity and inalienable rights that formed the basis for interaction with a diverse “other.” This Qur’anic view of inherent dignity and human rights will be compared with and contrasted to how the adīth literature views the same topic.

In the final section, I will assess the possibility of an Islamic theology of peaceful coexistence based on the notion of inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all human beings. Having been trained in both the seminary in Qum and in the West, my approach will be to examine the topic from both perspectives so as to demonstrate the diverse scholarly discourse on the issue.


The Absence of Human Dignity in the Discourse of Muslim Terrorists


Dr Jan A. Ali

Western Sydney University


In the holy book of Islam – the Qur’ān – Allah declares human beings among the best of His creations. By virtue of this divinely bestowed status, human beings are commanded by their Creator to establish good rapport with each other and deal with one another kindly and justly. Among human beings who truly believe and perform righteous deeds – Muslims – according to the Qur’ān are the best of creatures with a special status who shall have an unending reward in the Hereafter.

Yet, there are a cohort of Muslims who not only mistreat and abuse other human beings and their fellow faithfuls but engage in constant conflict and indiscriminate killing through warfare and terrorism. For these Muslims the concept of human dignity hold a different meaning to those held by the majority ulemaic community and general Muslim population.

This paper examines the conceptualisation of human dignity in the ethical discourse of Muslim terrorists. It seeks to show that human dignity is conceptualised differently by Muslim terrorists because their ethical discourse whilst being coloured by the notion of seeking redress of socio-religious and political crisis of Muslim societies is nevertheless grounded in the politically expedient interpretation of Islamic scripture.


Drawing on the Strengths and Avoiding the Weaknesses of Europeans: Perspectives of a Modern Exegete of the Qur’ān on Human Dignity


Majid Daneshgar

University of Otago, New Zealand


Since the 18th and 19th centuries, Europeans with their different purposes have attempted to connect with Muslims more. Egyptians were among the very first people to be influenced by non-Muslims’ discoveries. These connections initialized the emergence of different parties within Muslim communities, including those who wished to eradicate the penetration of non-Muslims into the Muslim world, those who endeavored to unify Muslims, those inclined to become educated by Europeans and so forth. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Shaykh, Tantāwī Jawharī (d. 1940), well-known for his lengthy interpretation of the Qur’ān, attempted to draw the attention of Muslims to the true status he believed they deserved to achieve. To encourage Muslims to know themselves, Tantāwī Jawharī translated Immanuel Kant’s book Über Pädagogik into the Arabic language and authored more than 25 works [mainly] dealing with human dignity and progress, full of stories and events of/from the West. This article intends to demonstrate how Tantāwī Jawharī used European works and stories to establish a path toward virtue for the readers of his treatises, through which he believed readers would become more virtuous individuals.


The formation of a new fatwa: intrinsic purity of humankind in the contemporary Shi’ite jurisprudence


Mahmoud Pargoo,  Australia Catholic University


According to classical Shi’ite jurists, non-believers are ritually impure along with dogs, pigs, semen, urine, and blood, to mention some. Everything else is clean. The ritual impurity reflects the way Shi’ites have defined themselves as distinguished from Others of different degrees; the Sunni, the Christian and the Jew, the polytheist, and the followers of other purportedly false religions. Hence, it is instrumental in defining the permitted boundaries of interactions with the latter; whether one is permitted to dine with them, to reside in their homes, to socialize with them, to make business with them, and so on and so forth. Furthermore, the verdict of impurity of a group of people based on their faith is diametrically opposed to the modern and universally held notion of human dignity.

Recently, a growing number of Shi’ite jurists, however, are beginning to object the classical view and to announce all humans to be pure regardless of their faith. Here the question arises: are the arguments for the universal purity of human qua human based on the traditional jurisprudential frameworks or they are retroactively constructed at the expense of divergence from the Quran and hadith texts and in the violation of the rules of the Shi’ite legal theory?

This paper investigates three contemporary treatises written on the subject: Muhammad Ibrahim Jannati’s view in the book Adwāri Fiqh Wa Kiyfīyyati Bayāni Ān, Sayyid Muhammad Muhsin Huseini Tehrani’s views in Risāliyi Ṭahārati Insān, and Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Murtadawi Langirudi’s views in Lub al-Lubāb fī Ṭahārat Ahl al-Kitāb. I argue that, from the perspective of the Shi’ite legal theory, these new legal arguments are not a divergence from what may be considered the literal meaning of their textual sources. Furthermore, they are committed to the traditional frameworks and methodologies. In a broader sense, this means that bringing about change in the Sharia does not necessarily entail divergence from what is considered the literal meaning of sacred texts nor does it require distancing from the traditional/classical legal theory. Therefore, this indicates the capacities of the conceptual apparatus elaborated in the classical Shi’ite legal theory for the accommodation of change and adaptation to the modern values (like universal human dignity) while still attached to the traditional frameworks.


Constructing a Framework for Human Dignity in Islam: The Thought of Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidīn


Dr. Imranali Panjwani

Imam Hasan Centre


In the absence of a framework for the concept of human dignity in the Islamic intellectual tradition, this paper proposes that the thought of ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn (a.s) (d. 95/712), the great grandson of Prophet Muḥammad (s.a.w) and fourth Shīʿī Imām who was known as Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (the ornament of the worshippers), could be a viable starting point to begin such a formulation. Specifically, Risālat al-Ḥuqūq (the Treatise of Rights), a 7th century work attributed to Zayn al-‘Ābidīn, offers an intriguing combined metaphysical, philosophical, ethical and legal approach to a human being’s relationship with God, his self, body, ritual acts and duties towards other human beings.

The paper, in line with the order of Risālat al-Ḥuqūq, focuses on an existential understanding of human dignity that flows out from al-Ḥaqq (the Real) to human beings. In particular, the personal dignity gained by being aware of the moral functions of one’s bodily organs suggests our body plays a central role in both understanding and expressing human dignity – a point made much later on by Immanuel Kant (d. 1804) in his Metaphysics of Morals. The dignity of God Himself, the body in relation to the self (al-nafs) and ritual acts such as prayer and charity which gradually manifest into our human relationships act as key components for an Islamic framework for human dignity. It may be possible to ‘upbuild’ these components to arrive at an understanding of human autonomy, constraint, honour and rights which could be applied to ‘ilm al-uṣūl al-fiqh (the science of the principles of jurisprudence), ‘ilm al-akhlāq al-tibbī (the science of bioethics), ‘ilm al-‘irfān (the science of gnosis) and ‘ilm al-ta’līm (the science of education).