Can Devotion and Academic Inquiry Coexist?
Dominican School Hosts Event for Yemen Scholar
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
On April 6, 2011, The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology organized with Center for Islamic Studies and Zaytuna College a panel discussion to explore the relationship between religious devotion and academic study. The program was entitled: Sacred Knowledge. Can Devotion and Academic Inquiry Coexist? The panelists were representatives from these institutions along with the distinguished Muslim religious scholar, Al-Habib Umar b. Muhammad bin Hafiz.
Habib Umar founded the Dar al-Mustafa Academy of Islamic Sciences, an international center in Tarim, Yemen. He currently is the Academic Dean of this institution. Habib Umar is also called upon as a scholar concerning interreligious understanding among faiths. He is one of the drafters and principal signatory of the recent document ‘A Common Word Between Us and You', a message from Muslims to all Christian communities. This purpose of the document, and the ongoing dialogue sessions, is to build bridges of academic learning and pastoral concern between the Muslims and Christians. Since 2008, Pope Benedict and the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, hosts yearly discussions based on this document, inviting Muslims and Christian scholars from around the world.
Joining Habib Umar on the panel were Imam Zaid Shakir,cofounder of Zaytuna College and professor of Arabic, Islamic law, history, and Islamic spirituality and Sister Marianne Farina, CSC faculty member of the Dominican School.
The panel discussion highlighted the ways Muslims and Catholics possess a strong intellectual tradition and how this heritage informs authentic faith and practice. The speakers noted how all fields of inquiry help believers to contemplate truth and that God has given to human beings the desire for this truth and the capacity to pursue truth.
The event was well attended with over 180 Muslims and Christians present and 45 to 60 people viewing over the internet. Participants came from a variety of academic backgrounds and religious settings. The discussion drew on their experiences using both small group sharing and general question and answer segments during the program.
The evening concluded with a resolution to put these ideas into practice by having follow-up discussions and speaker series that will expose others to the richness of the intellectual traditions of Islam and Catholicism.