Dialogue Series, Panels, Race & Society

CIRS Hosts Conference on "Innovation in Islam"

Innovation in Islam

On April 5–6, 2008, the Center for International and Regional Studies hosted the “Innovation in Islam” Conference.

Innovation in Islam explored topics such as the idea and reality of innovation in Islam; development of knowledge in early Islam; development and change in the Islamic legal system; the arts and artistic innovation in Islam; science and scientific innovation in Islam; jurisprudential innovation in Islam; and politics and political innovation in Islam.

In addition to posting the proceedings of the conference on its website, CIRS plans on compiling, editing, and publishing some of the key papers of the conference in the form of an edited volume titled Innovation in Islam: Traditions and Contributions (University of California Press, 2011). 

Keynote Speaker:

The keynote address for the conference was delivered by the acclaimed poet Adonis. A pioneer in modern Arabic poetry, Ali Ahmad Said Esber has written more than twenty books in Arabic. 


The conference brought together some of the most prominent scholars on Islamic thought, culture and history. They included Amira Sonbol, Hassan Hanafi, John Voll, Mehran Kamrava, Mohammed Arkoun, Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd, Nelly Hanna, Omaima Abou Bakr, Patrick Laude, Peter Gran, Sherman Jackson, Sumaiya A. Hamdani, Tariq Ramadan, Walter Denny, Zakaryya Abdel-Hady, and Ziba Mir-Hosseini. 


Panel I – Innovation In Islam: Concept and Reality 

Chair: James Reardon-Anderson

  • Development of Knowledge in Early Islam – Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd
  • History from Below; Dictionary from Below – Nelly Hanna  

Panel II – Islamic Institutions: Traditions and Contributions

Chair: Patrick Meadows

  • The Fatimid Legacy: Policy and Precedent for Minority-Majority Coexistence in Islam – Sumaiya A. Hamdani
  • The Changing Family in Islam – Amira Sonbol
  • The Mosque Yesterday and Today – Zakaryya Abdel-Hady ​  

Panel III – Islam and the Intellectual Process

Chair: Ibrahim Oweiss

  • New Directions in Islamic Thought – Hassan Hanafi
  • Islam and the Intellectual Process: Deconstructing Episteme(s) – Mohammed Arkoun
  • Knowledge and Hermeneutics in Islam Today – Tariq Ramadan  

Panel IV – Literary and Artistic Innovation

Chair: Patricia O’Connor

  • Innovation and Tradition in Islamic Art – Walter Denny
  • Sufi Poetry:  Innovation and Tradition – Patrick Laude
  • History and Biography – Jawid Mojaddedi ​  

Panel V – Theology and Politics of Fiqh

Chair: Edmund Ghareeb

  • Shi’a Fiqh at the Gates of  Historic Change – Mehran Kamrava
  • Fiqh and Moral Disagreement in : Challenging the Justice of the Criminal Justice System – Ziba Mir-Hosseini 
  • Interpreting Women’s Biographies in Medieval Islamic Writings – Omaima Abou-Bakr ​  

Panel VI – Islam and Modernity 

Chair: Joshua Mitchell

  • Liberal/Progressive, Modern and Modernized Islam: Muslims and the American State – Sherman Jackson
  • Modern Movements in Islam – John Voll
  • The Reception of Islamic Roots of Capitalism  – Peter Gran