Speaker Series: Encountering the Divine through His Most Beautiful Names in Islamic Contemplative Practice



Speaker Series: Encountering the Divine through His Most Beautiful Names in Islamic Contemplative Practice


Mon., Apr 3 2017 - 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM


WILSON Hall 301

Please join Prof. Maria Dakake for a public talk entitled "Encountering the Divine through His Most Beautiful Names in Islamic Contemplative Practice".

This talk will examine contemplative practices related to the names of God in traditional Islamic thought. The Qur’an asserts that “to God belong the most beautiful names” and that believers should “call Him by them.” Muslims have traditionally identified 99 names or attributes of God mentioned in the Qur’an that reflect God’s transcendence and immanence, His beauty and majesty, His compassion and power. The Qur’anic command to call God by His “beautiful names” has led to the development of these names, and various practices of invoking them, as keys to contemplative practice (dhikr) in Islam, and particularly in the mystical perspective of Sufism.

Please register here to join us for these free events.

Dr. Dakake researches and publishes on Islamic intellectual history, Quranic studies, Shi`ite and Sufi traditions, and women's spirituality and religious experience. She recently completed work on a major collaborative project to produce the first HarperCollins Study Quran, which comprises a verse-by-verse commentary on the Quranic text (November 2015). This work draws upon classical and modern Quran commentaries, making the rich and varied tradition of Muslim commentary on their own scripture, written almost exclusively in Arabic and Persian, accessible to an English-speaking audience for the first time in such a comprehensive manner. She is also currently working with Daniel Madigan on a co-edited volume, The Routledge Companion to the Qur'an, and is working independently on a monograph on the concept of religion as a universal phenomenon in the Quran and Islamic intellectual tradition.

This event is co-sponsored by the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.
There is also a specialized talk entitled "Is the Qur'ān an Open Book? The Signs (āyāt) and their Interpretation (ta’wīl)" on the same day: April 3 (Mon.), 10:30 am - 12:00 pm at MONROE Hall 134

The Islamic exegetical tradition has generally preferred to locate the proper interpretation of Qur’anic verses in the reports of the early generations of Muslim scholars and authorities, thereby fixing the interpretation in time. As indispensable as these early exegetical reports are for our understanding of the Qur’an, the Qur’an itself provides little warrant for limiting its interpretation to any one group of religious authorities. More importantly, the rich and multivalent words the Qur’an uses to refer to its own verses (ayat, or “signs”) and to the interpretation of these divine signs (ta’wil), suggest that the meaning of its verses/signs is precisely not “fixed”, but rather open to the development, deepening, and unfolding of meaning over time.