2019 Annual Conference of the Ibn 'Arabi Society USA

Suffering, Love and the Alchemy of Happiness:
Teachings of Ibn 'Arabi

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Oludamini Ogunnaike     

Oludamine Ogunnaike

Oludamini Ogunnaike is an assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He teaches courses on African and African Diasporic Religions as well as Islam, Islamic Philosophy, Spirituality, and Art. He holds a PhD in African Studies and the Study of Religion from Harvard University, and spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University's Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies. Professor Ogunnaike's research examines the philosophical dimensions of postcolonial, colonial, and pre-colonial Islamic and indigenous religious traditions of West and North Africa, especially Sufism and Ifa. He is currently working on a book entitled, Sufism and Ifa: Ways of Knowing in Two West African Intellectual Traditions and maintains a digital archive of West African Sufi poetry.

Presentation: Love and Happiness, Suffering and Bewilderment: One of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s anti-systematic treatments of the human condition

Workshop: Give me an Excess of Love, Bewildered: Exploring love and suffering through a poem of Ibn al-Fariḍ and a verse of the Qur'an
Workshop description: This workshop will examine the intricate dynamics of love and suffering through a personal explorations of Qur'an 2:165: "Among the people are some who take peers apart from God, loving them as if loving God. And those who believe are more intense in love for God. If only those who were unjust could see, they would see the suffering: that all power is God’s and God is intense in suffering" and Ibn al-Farid's poem "Give me an excess of love." After listening to recitations of the verse and poem, and reading some commentaries upon both, participants will connect the themes and ideas of both to their own personal experiences of love and suffering, hopefully illuminating both these experiences and the texts, as well as the realities they describe.

James Morris

James Morris

James Morris (Boston College) has taught and published widely on Islamic and religious studies over the past 40 years at the Universities of Exeter, Princeton, Oberlin, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies in Paris and London, serving recently as visiting professor in Istanbul, Paris, and Jogjakarta. He has lived and studied in regions from Morocco to Indonesia, and he lectures and leads workshops in many countries on Islamic philosophy and theology, Sufism, the Islamic humanities (poetry, music, and visual arts), the Qur’an and hadith, and esoteric Shiism. Recently he has led interfaith study-abroad programs centering on sacred sites, pilgrimage, sainthood, and related arts and architecture in Turkey and France. His forthcoming books include Openings: From the Qur’an to the Islamic Humanities; Approaching Ibn ‘Arabi: Foundations, Contexts, Interpretations; Ostad Elahi’s “Demonstration of the Truth”; and “Servants of the All-Merciful”: Ibn ‘Arabi on Spiritual Practice and Realization.

Presentation: Beyond Belief: Ibn 'Arabi on the Perennial Challenges of Realization

Workshop: Exploring the Process of ‘Realization’
Workshop description: “People Are Only Stories”: Finding the “Philosopher’s Stone” The larger themes of this Symposium—Love and Suffering—pretty well summarize the countless dimensions of human motivation and spiritual realization. This workshop is an opportunity to explore key dimensions of the processes of spiritual growth and realization illustrated in those unfolding individual “stories” (as Ibn ‘Arabi describes them near the very end of his Meccan Illuminations) of love and suffering that together constitute the unique spiritual life of each human being. Our discussion will start with a few indicative case-studies from Ibn ‘Arabi and Rumi’s Masnavi.

Angela Jaffray

Angela Jaffray

Angela Jaffray (PhD Harvard University) is an independent scholar, specializing in the translation of and commentary on the short works of Ibn ‘Arabī. Her translation of Ibn ‘Arabī’s al-Ittiḥād al-kawnī (The Universal Tree and the Four Birds) was published by Anqa Publications in 2007 and her article “Watered with One Water: Ibn ‘Arabī on the One and the Many” appeared in the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society in 2008. Her most recent translation and commentary of Ibn ‘Arabī’s Isfār ‘an natā’ij al-asfār (The Secrets of Voyaging), was published by Anqa Publications in 2015, reprinted in 2016. She divides her time between Jerusalem and Chicago.

Presentation: Better Living Through Alchemy – Some Secrets of Spiritual Medicine

Workshop: Two Masters of Alchemical Healing: Idrīs and Noah
Workshop description: For Ibn ‘Arabī, the Prophets Noah and Idrīs (the Qur’anic Enoch) form a pair of sorts. Linked by a variety of subtle threads: scriptural, mythological, linguistic, vocational, and symbolic, these two prophets are a particular focus of Ibn ‘Arabi’s most obscure writings. Voyagers of and to the Heart, their penetration into the realm of transformation provides a model for those who seek to ponder the secrets of imaginal alchemy. We will examine various writings, including the Futūḥāt, the Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam, and The Secrets of Voyaging, which present a kaleidoscope of perspectives pertaining to these two seminal figures.

Deniz Mater

Deniz Mater

Deniz Mater is a board member of Ibn Arabi Society in US and holds a Master’s Degree from Uskudar University, Institute for Sufi Studies in Istanbul. She studies Ibn Arabi’s influence on today’s globalized world where various cultures and faiths interact more due to increased mobility and enhancements in technology, and where we need more of inclusion, tolerance, mutual understanding and respect.

Workshop: Chess of Wise-ones

Workshop description: In this interactive workshop, we will play an Ottoman-era board game called Satrac-i Urefa - Chess of Wise ones. Originally attributed to Ibn Arabi, Satrac-I Urefa was played in coffee houses and dervish lodges in Istanbul and some territories of Ottoman Empire (1299-1922). It is believed that the game was created to teach salik (the one on Sufi path) the good deeds and dangers of the path. The ultimate goal of the game is reaching Visal-I Hak (Reunion with Divine) and there are 100 steps to navigate through along the way. We will use one of few commentaries of this game from 1900s by a Sufi called Muhammed el-Hasimi ed-Dimeski. In addition, we will refer to contemporary Ibn Arabi work- Ibn Arabi Dictionary by Souad Hakim to enhance our understanding of concepts. Through Sufi path let’s explore advancing in “Reunion with Divine” which some may call completeness within or reaching ultimate peace, happiness and love.