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A Time Before Time:
Ibn ʿArabī and the Poesis of Polytheism

Tuesday, 28 November | 6pm - 8pm | Institute for Critical Thought

Dr. Faris Abdelhadi

The Andalusian sage Muhyī al-Dīn ibn ʿArabī was one of the most profound and influential intellectuals within the Islamic world; he continues to be revered as a saint by many Sufi institutions across the globe. Ibn ʿArabī was also a ‘perennially curious’ traveler, covering a wide geographical range of cities and encountering a variety of religious beliefs.

In this lecture, we will explore elements from his masterpiece, Futūhāt al-Makkiyya, which speak to religious pluralism. Through Ibn ʿArabī’s unique metaphysical framework, we will examine the place of non-Abrahamic religions. To that end, we will take into account the relationship between diversity of beliefs and an all-embracing conception of divine mercy.  

Andalucia Souvenirs

مؤتمر الشرق: اجتياز العوائق

21 - 22 أكتوبر 2023

محاضرة يقدمها عبدالله عوض (مدير المعهد)

منتدى الشرق

إسطنبول، تركيا 

ُيعد المؤتمر بمثابة منصة جامعة لصناع القرار والمفكرین والعلماء والناشطين والشباب من خلفيات متنوعة لمناقشة التحديات السياسية، الاقتصادية والاجتماعية ذات الصلة بمجتمعنا. كما انه يساهم في خلق مساحة للتفكير وتجاوز الأحداث والمعوقات الحالية، والاستفادة من الفرص والإمكانات المتاحة بالإضافة إلى المساهمة في تمكين الشباب من تحطيم القيود التي تجعلهم عاجزين عن الانطلاق 

School Children

Istijarah Conference

September 13, 2023

Presented by Abdullah M. Awad and Sanabel Alfar


Institute for Critical Thought

Amman, Jordan

6 pm

Cobblestone entrance to house

Islam, Adorno, and Aesthetic Theory

July 25, 2023

A talk by Abdullah M. Awad


Ilem Academy

Istanbul, Turkey

9:30 am

Presented as part of a series called “Rethinking Arts and Aesthetics in the Muslim World.”

Metallic Structure

It From Bit: On mathematics, art, and speculative philosophy

June 01, 2023

A talk by Abdullah M. Awad


Royal Institution

London, UK


On how the mathematical sciences may benefit from philosophical and aesthetic developments in twentieth century thought.


Istijarah: On Human Flourishing in Jordan

March 07, 2023

A talk by Abdullah M. Awad


St Antony’s College, University of Oxford

Oxford, UK


The most severe health issues affect both the body and the soul. Such issues are especially difficult to navigate among refugee communities, where humanitarian and governmental organizations prioritize material needs over spiritual matters. This paper shares the journey of an innovative school program developed in Jordan that takes inspiration from the concept of Istijarah, or the ethical response of accommodating those in need, from the vantage of the Arab world. As it develops a curriculum which balances the interior cultivation of virtues with outward community building, the concept of Istijarah provides a historically significant and regionally resonant alternative to dominant western discourses around refugees and education. Given the severity of migrant crises around the world, Istijarah may further provide resources for thinking comparatively about indigenous knowledge and practice in educational reform. 

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في مديح الفراغ

الثلاثاء | ٢٧ أيلول | الساعة ٧ مساءً 2022

الموسيقيون المشاركون
همام عيد: قانون
ليث سليمان: ناي
بلال العشموطي: إيقاع

سنابل الفار: إلقاء

بيت الناي 

يحتضن بيت الناي، بالتوأمة والمعهد، أمسيةً تؤالِفُ الموسيقى والكلام. فعِبر الْحَوْمِ مع الفراغ، يلوح الوصلُ بين نفخيةِ الناي والروح في معارفنا العربية والإسلامية.

Boy Writing on a Blackboard

Progressive Policies in the Islamic World

October 19, 2021

A talk by Abdullah M. Awad


Sharif Policy Institute

Tehran, Iran


On how effective policies may be developed and shared among Islamic countries; and the role of social science and education in these efforts.


جلسة حوارية: العلم والفكر النقدي

17 أوغسطس 2020 | في تمام الساعة الفلانية

حوار بين عبدالله محمد: (استاذ الفكر النقدي)، وسنابل الفار: (أستاذة فقه اللغة)، و​منير جميل فاشه (مُعلم)

أسبوع العلوم العربي | القاهرة، مصر 

على افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأعلى افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأ، على افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأ، ، على افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأعلى افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأ، على افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأ، على افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأعلى افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأ، على افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأ، على افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأعلى افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأ، على افتراض أن هناك فقرة هنا، أنت تحاول أن تقرأ

Wooden Theme

Education and the Humanities

February 22, 2020

A talk by A. M. Awad (Director)​

Rhodes House

University of Oxford

Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3RG​


As STEM dominates the aspirations of students in the Arab world, universities are viewed in terms of scientific output, entrepreneurial activity, and professional count. Within the region, technology is specifically shaping the educational sector, and knowledge production is often associated with its size and visibility. While essential to the future of the Levant, STEM can overshadow the critical and creative role of the humanities in the region. How may the humanities, then, inform our capacity to produce knowledge with a view to both trends in technology and the educational sector as a whole?

All are welcome.

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The Humanities in the Arab World

April 05, 2019

A talk by A. M. Awad (Director)

Emerson Hall

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA 02138


This talk foregrounds the power and possibility of humanistic knowledge in the Arab world. How may the humanities specifically respond to the crisis of identity amid protracted conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine? Calling upon the rich and fertile - but often understudied - fields of Arab pedagogy, literature, and sociology, Awad offers an account of innovative institutions, as well as their research programs and curricula, in the Levant. Attendees are invited afterward to consider critical partnerships among members of academia, government, and civil society.

All are welcome.

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Beyond the Logic of Rights: On Refugees in the Arab World

May 10, 2018

A talk by A. M. Awad (Director)


Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Scholarship on the global South has frequently focused on the political rights of individual citizens as enshrined in constitutions and other foundational legal documents.  Yet the language of right has been used and contested outside institutional arenas by a range of political actors. This talk will offer an account of a collective right - the Palestinian right of return - against the politics and history of the United Nations' response to the Palestinian question.

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Kafka Goes to Palestine: Reflections on Politics, Pedagogy, and the Destination of Literature

May 01, 2018

A talk by A. M. Awad (Director)


Land Lecture Hall, Harvard University

For more than a century, Franz Kafka has posed a challenge to interpretation. Philosophers have debated his work while theologians have probed its mystical elements. Recently, the legal battle over his physical papers caused controversy in Israel, momentarily suspending the Zionist identity of religion and the nation-state. At the heart of this history are two questions which remain with us today: what can literature do? and for whom does it belong?


In this talk, we will trace the destination of literature within and beyond colonial borders. By following Kafka to the Institute for Critical Thought in Amman, we will consider the reception of certain European writers in the Arab world (despite, as it were, the whereabouts of their physical papers). How might such reception, in turn, inform the Anglo-American academy, where the conditions for interpretation - and the humanities at large - face their own layered crisis?


What is a Museum? Function vs Freedom

June 30, 2017

A talk by A. M. Awad (Director)

The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts

As Spring Sessions comes to a close, this talk will offer a public interpretation of the Superfine Art Show. Guided by individual artworks, as well as their collective exhibition in the National Gallery, it will speculate upon the struggles enacted between form and content, buildings and people, function and freedom. A conversation will follow.

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A Word for Love: A Conversation

April 03, 2017

Emily Robbins (Ethics and Exile '17) discusses her book, A Word for Love, with Rula Quawas (Ethics and Exile '17).

Readers Bookshop, Amman

Emily Robbins has lived and worked across the Middle East and North Africa. From 2007 to 2008, she was a Fulbright Fellow in Syria, where she studied religion and language with a women’s mosque movement and lived with the family of a leading intellectual. Robbins holds an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and in 2016 she received a second Fulbright to study in Jordan. Her writing on Syria has appeared in Lit Hub and The New York Times. A Word for Love is her first novel. 

Rula Quawas is a professor of American literature and feminist theory at the University of Jordan. She was the founding Director of the Women’s Studies Center at the university in 2006, and she was also the Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages in 2011. Rula’s research focuses on feminist readings of American and Arabic texts written by women writers. She has published numerous essays and book chapters on American and Arab women writers. Her books include From the Speaking Womb of the Desert: Stories from Jordan and Crossing Borders: A Narrative Journey into the Middle Eastern World.


Utopia and Art of the Possible

March 23, 2017

A talk by A. M. Awad (Director)

Ossama Al Mashini Theater, Jordan Ministry of Culture


The concept of utopia has had a troubled history. Beginning with the Republic, Plato’s perfected society necessitated the exclusion of poetry, or of what we might today call aesthetic practice. In the centuries to follow, similar Platonic ideals worked their way into medieval thought. Thomas More’s publication of Utopia, when the term was properly coined, came with ambivalence, and the book was interpreted by some as satirical commentary rather than a work of earnest speculation. Such ambivalence persisted into the 20th century, when the concept was used to consolidate phenomena as disparate as European fascism and liberation theology.

In this talk, we will situate the practice of art in Amman against the concept of utopia. In what ways does the utopian imagination serve as a veiled extension of, rather than emancipation from, the way things already are? Is utopianism, in its traditional form, an unwittingly conservative endeavor? And if the concept of utopia itself has been incorporated into consumer culture, with what other language can we go forward? In considering heterotopia as an alternative, we will explore modes of thoughts which push past the boundary between the possible and impossible. We will ask, in turn, what kind of art can we cultivate?

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Blank Maps

April 04, 2017

Tala Elissa (Philosophy of Culture '15) launches Blank Maps.

A podcast that sheds light on the issue of statelessness in the Arab world. It tells stories of people who have been stripped of their basic rights due to their statelessness, unearthing factors behind the lack of citizenship to understand what it is that citizenship offers and how it is related to identity and belonging.


Women's Rights in Jordan:
A Critical Perspective

April 04, 2017

A lecture by A. M. Awad (Director)


The United Nations WFP Compound

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we will reflect on women’s rights in the region, focusing on the role of international governing bodies such as the United Nations. How do external forces, such as neocolonialism and neoliberalism, shape how we think about and practice female empowerment? What is excluded or repressed by those forces? With these questions in mind, we will discuss the uniqueness of the Jordanian context: to what degree can local practices - from Islamic and Arab history - inform our work? What new modes of thought and practice can we subsequently imagine and implement?

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Islam and the State

February 12, 2017

A seminar by A. M. Awad (Director)

The British Institute (Comenius Leadership Course)


During the twentieth century, “Islam" was constructed to fit the structures of Western modernity: from various Islamic regimes, where the European nation-state is the framework for governance, to cities like Amman, where bourgeois culture dictates the form of religious practice. The past twenty years have intensified this process, as neoliberal development grew in size and scope.

In this one-time seminar, we will take a historical look at how Islam conceived of life before the state, taking the construction of local governance, community, and morality as the basis for critical reflections on the present moment. To what degree might pre-statist ways of life - and indeed their traces today - open new avenues of thought and practice in the realm of development?


Foucault and Friendship: A Conversation

August 09, 2016

A. M. Awad (Director) discusses friendship as a philosophical trope with Nader K. Uthman (Psychoanalysis '16).

Co-sponsored with Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture


A. M. Awad is Director of the Institute for Critical Thought in Amman, where he teaches seminars on critical theory, and a Herchel Smith Fellow at the University of Cambridge. His research traverses continental philosophy and aesthetics. 

Nader K. Uthman is Summer Director of Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture in Amman. He teaches Arabic language, literature and culture at New York University, where he is Clinical Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

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The Ethics of Street Photography

October 12, 2015

A talk by Ramzi Nari (Philosophy of Culture '15).

Jordan Photographic Society


About Ramzi's collection of photographs, comparing the history of graffiti in New York and Amman in light of documenting the art form with the photographic image.

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Modernity and the limits of democracy

October 26, 2015

A lecture by A. M. Awad (Director)


Co-sponsored with Jadal Culture


The dominant political ideology today - democracy - imposes itself as the ultimate solution to the crises of the Arab world. Such imposition, however, comes not only through military violence and economic reconfiguration, where it can be easily critiqued, but also in our everyday life. In this lecture, we will discuss the limits to democracy, engaging its relation to colonialism and capitalism, before asking the question of how pre-modern ways of life can inform us today.

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