2021-2022 doctoral seminar: "Islam: plural approaches".

27 April 2022
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Year 2021-2022 : Man and his representations in Islam
This seminar is organized by the Centre de recherches Moyen-Orient Méditerranée (CERMOM), Hocine Benkheira (EPHE), Francesco Chiabotti (Inalco) and Jean-Jacques Thibon (Inalco).
All sessions take place on Tuesdays from 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm at Inalco, Maison de la Recherche, 2 rue de Lille, Paris 7ème, except for the first session.
Illustration du Coran sur rouleau
Rouleau coranique vers 1400 Égypte © BNF département des mansucrits, 6088‎
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As part of sanitary measures, access to the rooms is strictly reserved for the student public on presentation of a card, as well as for teacher-researchers. Sessions will be transmitted live by zoom and are accessible without registration.


The Arabic language, the "liturgical" language of Islam (according to Louis Massignon's formula), has two terms to designate generic man: insān and bashar, not counting the expression from the biblical corpus - banū Ādam -, which long ago passed into the spoken language and remains alive. A singular fact worth pondering, neither insān nor bashar designate the masculine gender. For the latter we have other terms: rajul or even more explicitly ḏakar. The occurrences of insān and bashar are numerous in the Qur'an (not to mention the terms derived from both roots, equally numerous). What content do these different terms cover? How is man apprehended in Islam, in his components as well as in his singular unity?
We can speak of an image of man (= anthropology) in Islam, as indeed in all cultures and civilizations, which derives from more or less differentiated representations. This image plays a fundamental role. It's the one that all discourses mobilize, whether they concern "profane" or "interior" life. It has its own characteristics and history. In the 12th c., Ghazzālī, refining early representations, defines it by four poles: ʿaql, nafs, qalb and rūḥ. This square is undoubtedly reducible to a triangle since the first three are the most solicited, while the last, whose Qur'anic meaning remains open to debate, has given rise to theological questioning of the man/God relationship. The content of these notions changes according to the era and knowledge in which they are applied. In the Islamic context, does man as understood by a jurist, a philosopher, a theologian, a man of letters or a Sufi present any particularities? Does it fit into a different space of representations? Is his presence in the world affected by it?
The ʿaql is sometimes perceived as the instance of censorship, a kind of brake that prevents the subject from committing serious faults concerning his relations both to the divinity and to his loved ones or fellow human beings. From this point of view and more simply, the ʿaql is the opposite of madness or possession. He who is mad or possessed is no longer master of himself: what he says or does is no longer attributable to him. This assumes that man possesses within himself a faculty that enables him to orient himself, even if it is not endowed with great sovereignty over the world. But the ʿaql, no doubt due to the choice made by the translators of Greek philosophy, who chose to render "intellect" by this term, also designates the faculty of grasping the nature of things and realities in general. Is there a link between these two ʿaql?
Nafs is undoubtedly a central notion in Islamic anthropology. It has come to the fore because of its ability to account for an element that is absent in this anthropology: the body, to which the Islamic tradition of thought accords almost no role. The physical body, as an entity or in its components (jasad, badan, jawāriḥ...), is often reduced to a mere habitacle. It is above all the eschatological body, the resurrection body, the repository of deeds, that interests the Koran and subsequently religious traditions. The subject certainly possesses a body, but it remains external, even foreign, to him. It is sometimes presented as a divine deposit, entrusted to man for his earthly life. Desires and appetites are not born, as in modern Western tradition, in the body, before being returned to the psyche with psychoanalysis, but in the nafs (concupiscent soul). This is not a dualistic concept: the "corporeal" soul opposed to the "celestial" spirit. The concupiscent soul is as important as the ʿaql: it is in it that the appetites without which the individual could not survive and the species could not reproduce (hunger, thirst, sexual desire, etc.) take root. From this point of view, a singular conception of freedom can develop: we don't seek to free ourselves from desire, we only seek to master it. The heart in particular has been the focus of much attention from philosophers and Sufis. They have examined all its folds, multiplying terms to designate its different parts: qalb. ṣadr, fu'ād, sirr. Place of the divine gaze, seat of light or 'face of Truth', the heart is man's central organ. But its relationship with its other constituents, as indeed its role in human destiny, comes under different appreciations.
The eye, organ of perception of the sensible or the invisible (baṣar / baṣīra), hearing, receptacle of revelation, or language, privileged but not exclusive means of human expression, are also mobilized to complete the picture of the faculties making up the image of man.
During this seminar, by confronting the different knowledges of Islamic culture, we will explore this rich lexicon in order to apprehend man, as a species, in all the diversity of his representations.


- Session 1: Tuesday October 19, 2021: The first man in the Koran and the Bible (Gaston Paris room, Sorbonne, rue de La Sorbonne, staircase E, 1st floor).
Moderator: Hocine Benkheira

  • José Costa (Paris 3): "Le motif de la prosternation des anges devant Adam : une lecture à la lumière du binitarisme juif"
  • Jacqueline Chabbi (Paris 7): "Y a-t-il un premier homme dans le Coran?"

Link connection
Meeting ID: 975 8861 7234
Secret code: 949081

- Session 2: Tuesday November 16, 2021: Conceptions of man and reform (salle de Sacy L2.05, Maison de la Recherche de l'Inalco, 2 rue de Lille, Paris 7ème).
Moderator: Jean-Jacques Thibon

  • Sangaré Youssef (UCA, Clermont-Ferrand) "La liberté de conscience en islam à travers l'œuvre de l'égyptien 'Abd al-Muta'āl al-Ṣa'īdī (1894-1966).
  • Steven Duarte (Sorbonne Paris Nord) "La question des libertés individuelles dans les débats contemporains sur la réforme (iṣlāḥiyya)"

Link login
meeting ID: 952 2034 1397
secret code:867534

- Session 3: Tuesday, December 7, 2021: Theological positions in conceptions of man (Auditorium Dumézil, Maison de la Recherche de l'Inalco, 2 rue de Lille, Paris 7th).
Moderator: Francesco Chiabotti

  • Ahmed Oulddali (Lyon 2): "La conception de l'homme dans la pensée ašʿarite"
  • Guillaume de Vaulx (Dr. Ifao): "Le cadre théologique de la formalisation du concept d'insān au IXe siècle"

Connection link
Meeting ID: 956 1046 5819
Secret code: 916953

- Session 4: Tuesday, February 15, 2022: Man according to the Fiqh (Auditorium Dumézil, Maison de la Recherche de l'Inalco, 2 rue de Lille, Paris 7th).
Moderator: Jean-Jacques Thibon

  • Hocine Benkheira (EPHE): "Entre passion et raison"
  • Lahcen Daaif (Lyon 2): "L'homme selon Ibn Ḥanbal"
  • Nadir Boudjellal (Doctorant CERMOM)

Connection link
Meeting ID: 928 9061 6617
Secret code: 460254

- Session 5: Tuesday, March 15, 2022: Appréhender l'homme dans les sources littéraires arabes (Auditorium Dumézil, Maison de la Recherche de l'Inalco, 2 rue de Lille, Paris 7ème).
Moderator: Hocine Benkheira

  • Iyas Hassan (Sorbonne Université): "Une humanité pré-adamique. Autour d'un récit cosmogonique arabe subsaharien"
  • Brigitte Foulon (Paris 3): "Le corps du poète"
  • Miriam Rogasch (Doctorante Paris 1)

Connection link
Meeting ID: 998 1672 0881
Secret code: 672711

- Session 6: Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Man in philosophy and Sufism (Salon Borel, Maison de la Recherche de l'Inalco, 2 rue de Lille, Paris 7th).
Moderator: Jean-Jacques Thibon

  • Jean-Baptiste Brenet (Paris 1)
  • Francesco Chiabotti (Inalco)
  • Lucie Tardy (PhD student Paris 1): "L'ontologie des attributs divins : Ibn Rushd face à l'as'arisme"

Connection link
Meeting ID: 953 1477 7018
Secret code: 855064

- Session 7: Tuesday May 17, 2022: Political thought and conceptions of man (salle de Sacy L2.05, Maison de la Recherche de l'Inalco, 2 rue de Lille, Paris 7ème).
Moderator: Francesco Chiabotti

  • Makram Abbès (ENS Lyon)
  • Daniel de Smet (CNRS): "Is the imam, philosopher and prophet, of the virtuous city (al-madīna al-fāḍila) of al-Fārābī a Shi'ite imam? "
  • Mustofa Tohir (PhD student): "Imâm(s) and imâma in the political thought of Fakhr al-Dîn al-Râzî (d. 1210)"

Connection link
Meeting ID: 953 3301 7857
Secret code: 582925

Find all the talks from this seminar on the Youtube channel

See the Youtube channel

Hocine Benkheira (EPHE)
Francesco Chiabotti (CERMOM, Inalco)
Jean-Jacques Thibon (CERMOM, Inalco)

Contacts: francesco.chiabotti@inalco.fr and jean-jacques.thibon@inalco.fr

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Programme_Séminairedoctoral 2021-2022 : "Islam : approches plurielles" (363.98 KB, .pdf)

Affiche_Séminaire doctoral : "Islam : approches plurielles"_Séance 1_2021-2022 (86.79 KB, .pdf)

Affiche_Séminaire doctoral : "Islam : approches plurielles"_Séance 2_2021-2022 (138.22 KB, .pdf)

Affiche_Séminaire doctoral : "Islam : approches plurielles"_Séance 3_2021-2022 (145.51 KB, .pdf)

"Affiche_Séminaire doctoral : "Islam : approches plurielles"_Séance 4_2021-2022 (504.29 KB, .pdf)

Affiche_Séminaire doctoral : "Islam : approches plurielles"_Séance 5_2021-2022 (119.58 KB, .pdf)

Affiche_Séminaire doctoral : "Islam : approches plurielles"_Séance 6_2021-2022 (140.42 KB, .pdf)

Affiche_Séminaire doctoral : "Islam : approches plurielles"_Séance 7_2021-2022 (147.01 KB, .pdf)