News & Events

Dr Khalid Medani's Op-ed in the Globe and Mail 

The brutal conflict in Sudan is not a civil war. It’s a war on civilians

Dr Michelle Hartman's Talk at George Mason University on April 22

Poster of April 22 Talk of Dr Michelle HartamanWomen's War Stories: Translation, Political Commitment, and Arab Women's Writing

Speaker: Michelle Hartman

Location: George Mason University and on zoom

Time: Mon., April 22, 3:00-4:30 pm

Michelle Hartman is Professor of Arabic Literature at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University and a literary translator. Her research interests are in the politics of Arabic to English translation, the engagement of politics and aesthetics in literature, particularly in women's writing. Her newest book, coauthored with Malek Abisaab (April 2024) is What the War Left Behind:

A glimpse back at Nowruz 1403 (نوروز ۱۴۰۳)

After snowstorms in April, Spring is FINALLY here in Montreal so let us take a look back at this year’s Nowruz event (Nowruz 1403) held this semester by the Persian program.

On the evening of March 12, we gathered with students, faculty, and people from different communities in Montreal, from and beyond McGill, to celebrate and learn about Nowruz. Nowruz (literally meaning ‘New Day’ in Persian) marks the beginning of Spring and the new year for Iranians and is also celebrated in many other countries and regions such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

We had Persian food and some Nowruz-specific sweets, and of course(!) tea, around our traditional Nowruz table (beautifully decorated by our own Persian students), listening to Iranian music and playing games about this important cultural event. If you were there, thanks for coming and if you weren’t, make sure to catch us next year!

Or better yet, come join our Persian courses with us!Group picture at Nowruz eventPanoramic view of room of Nowruz eventView of room of Nowruz eventNowruz foodNowruz  food and student Professor Taraneh Sanei giving presentation on NowruzProfessor  Taraneh Sanei talking about NowruzProfessor taraneh Saneih and student around the traditional tablePhD student Behzad Borhan and Professor Taraneh Sanei presenting traditional table

Congratulations to Giovanni Carrera!

Congratulations to IIS doctoral student Carrera Giovanni on successfully defending his PhD thesis, "The Development of "ILM AL-WAD" (8th/14th – 15th/20th Century): Origins, Contexts and Canons of a Semantic Theory ". His supervisor was Professor Robert Wisnovsky.

Giovanni Carrera with Robert WisnovskyGiovanni Carrera with IIS students and alumni and Dr Khalid Medani and Dr Setrag Manoukian

Poster of Basit Iqbal TalkTalk by Basit Iqbal on March 18

The Old Women of Nishapur Initiative on Gender, Knowledge, Religion

"To the Threshold of Capacity: Tribulation and Ambivalence in Zaatari Camp"

Dr. Basit Iqbal, McMaster University

Monday, March 18, 12:30 - 14:00

Peterson Hall 108 (Critical Media Lab), 3460 McTavish

Co-sponsored by The McGill Refuge Research Group, The Department of Anthropology and the Institute of Islamic Studies.

Abstract: Freed from the Assad regime’s obsessive control of religion, displaced Syrians in Zaatari Refugee Camp pursue sharia studies. They refuse the lure of resettlement or restoration, developing instead an extensive program of study. These teachers and students relate their pursuit of religious knowledge to the existential question of their own individual and collective capacities. In doing so they underscore the essential opacity of human experience. This lesson, at once anthropological and theological, leads away from conventional affirmations of refugee agency or resilience. This lesson demands admitting the heteronomous conditions of existence. They call this: fate.

Basit Kareem Iqbal is assistant professor of anthropology (and associate member of religious studies) at McMaster University. Based on fieldwork in Jordan and Canada with refugees, relief workers, and religious scholars, his current book manuscript is titled “The Dread Heights: Refuge and Tribulation after the Syrian Revolution.” His previous publications have appeared in Critical Times, diacritics, Political Theology, Muslim World, Anthropologie et sociétés, the Journal of Religion, Anthropological Theory, and Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, among others.

Prof. Iqbal will also hold a discussion seminar on Tuesday March 19, at 9am. If you are interested in participating in the seminar, please email setrag.manoukian [at] (Setrag Manoukian).

Poster of Ajay Rao TalkTalk by Ajay Rao on March 21

From McGill's School of Religious Studies + Institute of Islamic Studies, part of the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies Winter 2024 Speaker’s Series.

Time and place: Tuesday March 12th , 5:30-7 pm – Morrice Hall, Room 017

"Historicizing Caste Exclusion"

Ajay Rao, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

March 21, 2024, 4:00 PM EDT
Birks Building, Rm. 100 Senior Common Room
3520 University Street

The argument in Vedānta interpretations of the apaśūdrādhikaraṇa (1.3.34-38) for a rigid hierarchy of knowledge represents perhaps the most extensive evidence available to us of premodern theoretical justifications for caste exclusion and the cultural oppression of śūdras and Dalits. Taking these Sanskrit philosophical abstractions as socially symbolic acts, I examine how they give voice to brahminical anxieties about non-brahmin cultural power and knowledge at a time when "śūdra" had undergone radical transformation as a social category.

Poster of NowruzCelebration (Event) of Nowruz 1403

It’s that time of year again! Spring is around the corner and so is Nowruz (نوروز), the new year celebrated by Iranians and several other nations and ethnicities! Continuing a long-lasting tradition, the Persian program at McGill is holding a Nowruz celebration event.

Come learn about Nowruz, see our Haftsin (هفت سین) table, enjoy some music, play games, and have some Persian food and pastries! Join us for a glimpse of بهار (bahār, ‘Spring’ in Persian) on an ever-so-cold Montreal evening!

Time and place: Tuesday March 12th , 5:30-7 pm – Morrice Hall, Room 017

Poster to the Alexandre Jabbari EventTalk by Alexander Jabbari on March 14

Please join us to this talk in person, part of the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies Winter 2024 Speaker’s Series.

"The Making of Persianate Modernity"

Alexander Jabbari, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota 

March 14, 2024, 5:00 PM GMT-5
Morrice Hall Rm. 328
3485 McTavish Street
Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

From roughly the ninth to the nineteenth centuries, Persian was the pre-eminent language of learning far beyond Iran, stretching from the Balkans to China. In this talk on his recently published book, Alexander Jabbari explores what became of this vast Persian literary heritage in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Iran and South Asia, as nationalism took hold and the Persianate world fractured into nation-states. He shows how Iranians and South Asians drew from their shared past to produce a ‘Persianate modernity.’ Drawing from both Persian and Urdu sources, he reveals how intellectual and literary exchange between South Asian Muslims and Iranians resulted in the modernization of literary history, sexuality, national identity, and print culture.

Prof Michelle Hartman: How I became a Translator

Poster of the Arabic Literature in Translation Event

On Sunday February 25, 2024 IIS Prof Michelle Hartman joined fellow translators at the Muscat International Book Fair on a panel titled, “How I became a Translator of Arabic Literature? A Journey Between Two Worlds”.

Talk by Sara Grewal on March 15

Please join us to this talk in person, part of the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies Winter 2024 Speaker’s Series.

“What’s My F@cking Name?”: Partition, Diaspora, and Translation in Rap Versions of “Toba Tek Singh”

Sara Grewal, Associate Professor, MacEwan University

March 15, 2024, 5:00 PM GMT-5
Morrice Hall Rm. 328
3485 McTavish Street
Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

In 2020, actor and musician Riz Ahmed released the song “Toba Tek Singh,” the title and content of which productively alludes to Saadat Hasan Manto’s Urdu short story of the same name. Manto’s “Toba Tek Singh,” which has long been hailed as a paradigmatic example of Partition literature, tells the story of its titular character, who resides in an insane asylum, speaks only in gibberish except when obsessively asking after the fate of his village with whom he shares a name, and who ultimately dies in the no-man’s-land between the Indian and Pakistani borders. In his rap engagements with this story, Riz Ahmed recuperates Toba Tek Singh as the quintessential figure of the South Asian diaspora. In returning to Manto’s “Toba Tek Singh” as the central allegory for the experience of diaspora, Riz Ahmed helps us see that Partition was not just or even primarily a moment of incipient nationhood, but rather a moment of diaspora–such that Partition itself becomes both metaphor and historical precedent for Riz’s experience of diaspora in the UK. By examining multiple versions of “Toba Tek Singh,” I show that Partition and diaspora act as “mutually constitutive” (Gopinath 2005) moments of uprootedness.

Poster for the Sayeh Meisami Even on February 20Talk by Sayeh Meisami, “Mulla Sadra on Causality and Freewill”, on February 20

Please join us to this talk in person, part of the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies Winter 2024 Speaker’s Series.

"Mulla Sadra on Causality and Freewill: Between Ibn Sina and Ghazali"

Talk by Sayeh Meisami

Associate Professor, University of Dayton, Ohio

Feb 20, 2024, 4:00 PM GMT-5
Morrice Hall Rm. 328
3485 McTavish Street
Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

Mullā Ṣadrā's position on human action and freewill is based on his reading of Avicenna through the lens of Muḥammad Ghazālī's Sufi Ashʿarism. In his adaptation of causal necessity from Avicenna, Mullā Ṣadrā argues that "necessity" as a concept is as evident as "existence" and co-extensional with it because in reality all that is the case is necessarily so. On the other hand, all things including human will are only relatively existent. This talk is focused on how Mullā Ṣadrā's understanding of human action and freewill can be explained as an example of his indebtedness to both Avicenna's metaphysics and Ghazālī's Sufi perspective of unity.

Poster to Afsar Mohammad Event on February 16Talk by Afsar Mohammad, “For the Love of Urdu” on February 16

Please join us to this talk in person, part of the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies Winter 2024 Speaker’s Series.

"For the Love of Urdu: Relocating Urdu within Telugu Literary Culture"

Talk by Afsar Mohammad

Senior Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania

Feb 16, 2024, 2:00 PM GMT-5
Morrice Hall Rm. 328
3485 McTavish Street
Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

This talk focuses on how Urdu became a model for the reconstruction of the Telangana-based Telugu writings in the late 1940s. Debating the rise of new prose genres including short fiction, autobiographical writings and personal essays, we learn about the shared literary patterns between these two languages and their incredible impact on the making of a local literary modernity.

IIS Annual Lecture on Islamophobia

On February 8, 2024 the IIS hosted Dr Arun Kundnani’s talk, “How to Hide a Genocide: Anti-Muslim Racism and the Vught Camp.” This event was our annual lecture on Islamophobia, commemorating the 2017 white supremacist attack in the CCIQ in Quebec City. A vigorous question and answer session followed a fascinating lecture.

Arun Kundnani Lecture

Gaza Crisis Talk

On February 1, 2024, IIS Director Professor Khalid Medani was the moderator for a talk by Mouin Rabbani, “Gaza Crisis, Background and Implications.” The seats were full at this important event, hosted by the Critical Media Lab and the Research Group on Democracy, Space, and Technology. 

February 1 EventFebruary 1 Event Closer-up

Poster with all events in winter 2024 related to Women of Nishapur InitiativeTalk by Nada Moumtaz on February 6

The Old Women of Nishapur Initiative on Gender, Knowledge, Religion 

"Economy, Charity, Family"

Dr. Nada Moumtaz, University of Toronto

Tuesday, February 6, 9:00 - 11:30 am

Peterson Hall 108 (Critical Media Lab), 3460 McTavish

NADA MOUMTAZ is an Associate Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and in the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. Her fields of study intersect the Anthropology of Religion, Islamic Studies, and research on Culture & Politics. Her book, God’s Property: Islam, Charity, and the Modern State (2021), examines the contemporary Islamic revival of a centuries-old charitable practice of pious endowment in Beirut to shed new light on the secularization of religion through the lens of its separation from “the economy.”

To participate in the seminar please email setrag.manoukian [at] (Setrag Manoukian)  to receive the pre-circulated readings that constitute the ground for the seminar discussion.

Poster of the January 31 EventUnpacking the Dynamics of Islamophobia in Canada, January 31

Amira Elghawaby

Unpacking the Dynamics of Islamophobia in Canada-Challenges and Opportunities

Wednesday, January 31, 4:30 - 5:30 PM, in Leacock 232

Ms. Elghawaby is an award-winning journalist and human rights advocate. In January 2023, she was appointed by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as Canada’s Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia. Ms. Elghawaby has been actively involved in initiatives countering hate and promoting inclusion, such as a founding board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. During this public lecture, Ms. Elghawaby will address her efforts to tackle Islamophobia in Canada and opportunities to create more inclusive environments on university campuses.

Registration required.

Co-sponsored by Semaine de la sensibilisation musulmane/Muslim Awareness Week & Institute of Islamic Studies.

CANCELLED: Roundtable with Alessandro Cancian on January 30

Poster of Alessandro Cancian EventThe Institute of Islamic Studies and the Old Women of Nishapour Initiative present:

Roundtable on the book:

"The Emergence of Shi'i Sufism: Sultan 'Ali Shah Gunabadi and His Commentary on the Qur'an"

Alessandro Cancian, Author, Institute of Ismaili Studies

Tuesday, January 30, 5 pm

Morrice Hall 328

Discussants: Reza Tabandeh (Brock University) & Saleh Pezhman (Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill)

Chair of the panel: Setrag Manoukian (Institute of Islamic Studies and Anthropology, McGill)

Book description: The Bayan al-sa'ada fi maqamat al-'ibada (The Elucidation of Bliss concerning the Spiritual Stations of Worship) is a central work in the modern intellectual and religious history of Iran and Shi'i Islam. A Qur'anic commentary (tafsir) by Sultan 'Ali Shah Gunabadi (d. 1909), it represents a mature synthesis between Twelver Shi'ism and Sufism. In this first detailed study of Sultan 'Ali Shah's Bayan, Alessandro Cancian argues that this commentary represents the foundational act of modern Twelver Shi'i organised Sufism. Cancian first explores the intellectual contexts of Iranian Shi'ism and Sufism, before introducing the author and the text. The eponymous master of the largest branch of the Ni'matullahi Sufi order (the Gunabadiyya), Sultan 'Ali Shah was a religious scholar taught by some of the most authoritative Shi'i ulama of his time; a philosopher in the Akbarian/Sadrian tradition who studied with superstar Qajar philosopher Mulla Hadi Sabzawari (d. 1873); and a master of mysticism who drew from the classical tradition of Persian and Persianate Sufism. Cancian shows how these elements coalesced into the formation of a Shi'i Sufi tariqa, making a credible claim for Ni'matullahi Sufi legitimacy within the Twelver Shi'i establishment and influencing subsequent Qur'anic exegesis in Iran. Cancian then provides a thematic and genealogical analysis of the text alongside a study of its impact and legacy. A translation of Sultan 'Ali Shah's own introduction, outlining his hermeneutical approach and theological and philosophical principles, is provided in an appendix. This book will appeal to scholars in a range of disciplines within Islamic studies, including Qur'anic exegesis, Shi'i studies, Sufi studies, mysticism, and the intellectual history of Iran.

Dr Alessandro Cancian is Senior Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, where he works on Shiʿi Sufism, Qur’anic exegesis and the intellectual and religious history of pre-modern Iran. A historian of religions and anthropologist by formation, he has published books and articles on religious education in Shiʿi Islam, Shiʿi Sufism and Qur’anic exegesis.

Talk by Shireen Hamza, “The Proximity of Masculinity” - on January 24

Poster of Shireen Hamza Event

Social Studies of Medicine (SSOM), the Department of Anthropology and the Institute of Islamic Studies present:

"The Proximity of Masculinity: Gender, Space, and Medical Authority in Medieval Islam"

Dr. Shireen Hamza, Northwestern University

Wednesday, January 24, 2:30 pm

SSoM Seminar Room 101, 3647 Peel Street

Masculinities shape intimacy, and vice versa. Across the medieval Islamic world, authors of medical texts could draw knowledge from multiple epistemic traditions. Often, their choices were shaped by which authorities they felt closest to and sought to emulate in their lives as well as their medical practice. Focusing on the regions surrounding the western Indian Ocean, I show how physicians and ulema were just as interested in how medical authorities lived as they were in what they knew. Their interest in these ancient and contemporary medical men helped them shape their own notion of an appropriate medical masculinity.

Shireen Hamza is a historian and artist, and an educator with the Prison & Neighborhood Arts/Education Project (PNAP). She continues her research on the history of medicine in the medieval Islamic world through a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University.

Dr. Hamza is also leading a discussion seminar on masculinity in the premodern Islamic World on Tuesday, January 23rd, 9:00-11:30am; write to setrag.manoukian [at] (Setrag Manoukian) for the pre-circulated reading.

Poster of the Haroon Siddiqui EventJournalist Haroon Siddiqui in Conversation with Political Science Professor Daniel Beland, on January 25

Join us at 4 pm on Thursday, January 25, in Leacock 232, for an event organized by the McGill Institute for Study of Canada and the Institute of Islamic Studies:

My Name Is Not Harry

The event is free, but registration is required

About My Name Is Not Harry

Canada has no official culture. It follows that there's no standard way of being Canadian, beyond obeying the law. In My Name is Not Harry, Haroon Siddiqui shows how Canada let him succeed on his own terms. Haroon Siddiqui’s journey took him from a divided India to a welcoming Canada — until the cataclysm of 9/11 hardened attitudes to Muslims around the world. His personal story weaves through growing Islamophobia in both India and North America.

Read for Refaat, on January 16

Join us at 9 am on Tuesday, January 16, for an hour of poems reading in honor of the life, work and resistance of Refaat al-Areer.
If I Must Die, Let it Be a Tale
Poster of Read for Refaat Event

Talk by Arun Kundnani, “How to Hide a Genocide” on February 8

Please join us to this talk in person, part of the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies Winter 2024 Speaker’s Series.
How to Hide a Genocide: Anti-Muslim Racism and the Vught Camp
Talk by Dr Arun Kundnani, Associate at the Transnational Institute
Thursday, February 8, 2024, 2:00 PM EST - Morrice Hall 017

Poster of Dr Arun Kundnani's Even on February 8, 2024

The Vught concentration camp was built by the Nazis in the Dutch countryside in the 1940s. Today the same building hosts a high security prison where Muslims accused of extremism are subjected to solitary confinement. How does this site connect histories of anti-Semitism to the US prison system's response to Black rebellion? What conception of racism can encompass the multiple histories that run through this place? Is there a relationship between the Shoah and the War on Terror? How can we understand the new forms of racial domination and violence that have been generated by neoliberal capitalism?

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