Presentation of the first conference «Islam facing the challenges of modern times»

The Averroès Chair inaugurates a cycle of studies and research on contemporary Islam in the face of the challenges of the 21st century. Why Averroes? The first conference of the cycle answers this question. Averroes rethought the status of the law thanks to a particular hermeneutics that opens the way to freedom for both the interpreter and the believer.

Among the major challenges that Islam has to face, priority must be given to the question of the democratic norm and human rights. For this, it is necessary to open up Islam from a certain fixist interpretation of the law to allow it to open up to democratic thought. But, for that, it is first necessary to open up the democratic norm itself from the historico-culturalist relativism in which the antidemocratic political theories, such as fascism, or even religious radicalism want to maintain it.

This opening can only be possible through a radical break with the mass orthodoxy that has framed Islamic thought for centuries. The mass orthodoxy that explains both proselytism and violence must be replaced by a new culture, that of tolerance. The problem is that tolerance is not originally part of the guiding principles of religion. It is through a complex game of intellectual destructuring and linguistic reconfigurations that Islam is gradually acclimating to this culture of tolerance.

This cycle of conferences was made possible thanks to the support of the Fondation de l’Islam de France and the A*Midex excellence initiative of Aix-Marseille University in partnership with the Rencontres d’Averroès.

Yadh Ben Achour, first holder of the A*Midex Chair (A*Midex / Iméra)

Yadh Ben Achour is a jurist, specialist in public law and political theories in Islam. Former Dean of the Faculty of Legal Sciences of Tunis, former President of the High Authority of the Revolution, member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. He is notably the author of The Foundations of Sunni Orthodoxy (PUF, 2008), of The Second Fatiha. Islam and the thought of human rights (PUF, 2011) and Tunisia, a revolution in the country of Islam (Cérès Editions, 2016).

Discover all the conferences (video content in French)

Conference #1 – September 27, 2018

Averroes and others. Introduction to Islam of freedom of styles

In all the religions of the world, Islam has the privilege of virtually monopolizing political debates and world opinion. Unfortunately, it is judged through ideological prisms, shortcuts or hasty judgments which result in understanding it as the expression of intellectual fixism, intolerance and violence, so many characteristics that would be inscribed in its very essence, as a religion.
Averroes represents the leader of a long line of critical thinkers who have successfully challenged this essentialist assumption about Islam. Beyond the philosophical debate, the real issue revolves around the status of the “sacred” law and its interpretation. Averroes is one of the first to have desacralized the law, thus opening the door to the freedom of the interpreter and the believer. This door will never close.

Conference #2 – November 29, 2018

On the concept of mass orthodoxy.

The concept of mass orthodoxy derives from a few key ideas. First, the civil character of the Islamic religion, proven by all the theory (theology, legal schools, political doctrines) and historical constitutional practices of Islam. The Islamic State poses as a State of believers, monads in direct relationship with God.
It is in this situation of sublime, although appalling isolation, that every individual must, without intermediary, face the sidereal universe which separates him from God. The religion “Islam” is the origin of a mental structure that stages the multiple, facing the Unique, whether this unique is the divine himself or his only representative on earth, the prince of believers. The absence of a constitutionally autonomous religious authority, the unity of political power and managers of sacred knowledge and worship explain the particular politicization of the Islamic religion throughout history. The elite of religious knowledge expounds and the masses consecrate. This causes both the constitution of majority orthodoxy and derived religions.

Conference #3 January 17, 2019

The universality of the democratic norm and Islam.
The democratic norm faced with historico-culturalist relativism.

How to get the democratic norm out of the relativism in which the partisans of cultural particularisms or those who configure identity according to a selective and exclusive collective memory want to lock it up?
How to demonstrate, other than by petitions of principle, that the democratic norm does not belong to any culture, that it is constitutive of the Human?
How to prove the moral superiority of democratic humanism which considers man and his freedom as the ultimate ends of the political city, without regard to even more ultimate ends?
The only philosophical principle capable of serving as a universal foundation for the democratic norm is the principle of non-suffering. It will have to be explained and justified.

Conference #4 – January 31, 2019

The universality of the democratic norm and Islam.

For some thinkers, Islam would have no difficulty in admitting the universality of the democratic norm and the philosophy of human rights that accompanies it.
For the supporters of what we can call religious radicalism, these ideas are of Western extraction and constitute a negation of the precepts of Islam and the rights of God. What interpretation can we oppose to them?

Conference #5 – April 25, 2019

Conversion, violence and tolerance.
Comparative approach between Islam and Christianity.

At the start, at the time of its emergence, and even more during its future history, any religion builds territories: its own and those of the Other. In this, nothing differentiates religion from politics. And vis-à-vis the Other, every religion aspires to gain followers through conversion. Each religion brings its arguments, its wisdom, its miracles, its proofs and its testimonies, with a view to convincing the Other of the correctness of its dogmas and to solicit then obtain its adhesion. Conversion proceeds from the very nature of religion. How far can she go? How to make the ecumenical religions admit the principle of tolerance which is not part of their principles?

Conference #6 – June 6, 2019

Islam and revolution.

In the history of the Muslim world, the revolts have never been understood by doctors of the law, theologians, philosophers, men of letters, other than in terms of “disestablishment of the world”.
This disestablishment of the world to which the revolutionary phenomenon belongs is part of the immense cycle of time with three faces decided by the Creator. This cycle includes the original time of the establishment of the order of the world and beings, deriving from the absolute will of God, then and secondarily, the times of the disestablishment of this order by human evil, starting with the “sin of the tree” which cost man the fall in earthly time and the suffering life, finally and thirdly the times of the restoration of this order, either by the direct effect of the divine will acting supernaturally on events, or by the saving action of man to curb and eradicate the roots of evil. A “revolution” therefore falls within the time segment of the disestablishment of the divine and natural order. It is fitna, disorder and trouble, and figures prominently in collections of hadith, books of heresiography and treatises of law, as the vector of human evil. What destructuring of thought and what linguistic reconfigurations could have made the idea of ​​revolution conceivable in the Muslim world?

Presentation of the second conference cycle «Political languages ​​in Islam»

The question of politics in Islam, its manifestations and its relationship to religion, remains one of the major themes that animate not only academic debates, but also public and media ones. The widespread idea is that of a fundamentally political religion, of a system where the political and the religious merge to form a theocratic model, hence the inability of Islam to rejoin modernity. This paradigm, reinforced by fundamentalist doctrines, prevents a fair appreciation of the plurality of political experiences in Islam, of the secular nature of the powers that have been exercised in the Islamic world. This world, built around an empire, a global economy, a political culture, a visual universe, a social habit and a common language disappeared at the dawn of the 20th century for reasons many – including the crisis of imperial societies and the construction of national identities – giving way to what is now called the Muslim world, where the word ‘Islam’ no longer designates anything but the Muslim religion.

This cycle of conferences aims to bring together historians, philosophers and specialists of the Koran to discuss the nature of political power in Islam, the need to “reread the Koran” taking into account the political and cultural context in which it was codified. It is a question of returning to the first official documents of Islam to understand the establishment of government policies aimed at the different populations that formed the Islamic empire.

These public conferences propose to analyze some founding texts of ethics and political philosophy which break with the predominance of theology over politics and allow to appreciate a political thought in Islam largely ignored.

New political languages ​​in Islam are being developed today. Will we be able to discover and understand them? Such is the vocation and the raison d’être of this cycle of public conferences.

Discover all the conferences (video content in French)

Conference #1 – January 28, 2021

The caliphate put to the test of history: a look back at the practice of power in the long duration of Islam

With Sobhi Bouderbala, assistant professor at the University of Tunis and holder of the Averroès Chair at Iméra (Institute for Advanced Studies of Aix-Marseille University). A specialist in the beginnings of Islam and Arabic papyrology, he notably edited (with Sylvie Denoix and Matt Malczycki), New Frontiers of Arabic Papyrology Arabic and Multilingual Texts from Early Islam, Brill, Leiden, 2017; and Julien Loiseau, university professor, history of the medieval Islamic world, and head of the European HornEast project. Horn & Crescent. Connections, Mobility and Exchange between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East in the Middle Ages (ERC).

Can we still speak of a caliphate in Islam? If the term is widely used and accepted to define the nature of the political, since its appropriation by the Muslim reformers of the beginning of the 20th century, the historical analysis makes it possible to qualify its validity by highlighting the plurality of political practices over the long term. . Or how to challenge the predominance of religion in the political sphere in Islam?

Conference #2 – February 25, 2021

Stories and languages ​​of the Quran: around the Quran of historians

With Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, university professor, director of studies at the Practical School for Advanced Studies (EPHE). Specialist in the Koran and Shiism. Among his books, The Silent Quran and The Speaking Quran. Scriptural sources of Islam between history and fervour, CNRS, Paris, 2011; and Guillaume Dye, professor of Islamology at the Free University of Brussels, specialist in Koranic studies and the history of the beginnings of Islam. He is co-director of the Quran of Historians, Cerf, 2019.

Quranic studies have experienced significant growth in recent decades, thanks to the renewal of analytical methods and the discovery of several Koranic codices from the first Islamic century. The publication of the sum The Quran of historians testifies to this. This conference will return at length to the different languages ​​of the Quran, the process of its codification and the role of politics in the canonization of the Quranic text.

Conference #3 March 18, 2021

Governing the Empire: Politics and Administration in the Early Times of Islam

With Arietta Papaconstantinou, Associate Professor at the University of Reading (England), specialist in the religious, social and economic history of the ancient and medieval Near East. She is notably the author of The Cult of Saints in Egypt from the Byzantines to the Abbasids: the contribution of Greek and Coptic inscriptions and papyri, CNRS, Paris, 2001.

Stretching from Central Asia to Spain in the 8th century, the Islamic empire ruled varied populations and absorbed ancient cultures that largely contributed to the formation of what is known as Islamic civilization. Thousands of documents written in Greek, Coptic and Arabic testify to the establishment of an imperial administration whose mechanisms respond to the concern to lead cosmopolitan, widely connected societies, thus creating a new ethic of management and administration. men.