TYPOLOGIES IN THE ISLAMIC ETHICAL DISCOURSE
The Orient-Institut Beirut and the American University of Beirut jointly organized a workshop on “Typologies in the Islamic Ethical Discourse”. Various typologies from the pre-modern texts of ethics including ethnic, religious, societal, gendered and historical typologies have been extensively discussed in five panels for three days in hybrid form. Eleven out of fifteen speakers were physically present in Beirut. All panels have been livestreamed to achieve a wide audience worldwide. The workshop took place from 10-12 March 2022 and has been organized by Fatih Ermiş (OIB), Bilal Orfali (AUB) and Enrico Boccaccini (OIB). The spectrum of the speakers ranged from Canada and USA to Germany, UK, the Netherlands, Turkey and Lebanon.
In this pioneering endeavor for the first time the wider ethics discourse has been reevaluated from the perspective of typologies. The workshop was not limited to the sources, which are formally defined as ethics books but extended its scope to include philosophical, literary and mystical sources like Ikhwān al-Safā’, Mathnawī, Gulistān or Dīwān-i Ḥāfiz. The relation between the use of typologies and the understanding of time and history have been discussed through how exemplary and stereotypical characters are used, modified and redefined in pre-modern Islamic texts. It has been ascertained that the typological characters do not need to correspond to reality and they are rather stereotypes dominating Islamic literature as well as philosophical texts.
Pre-modern Islamic writings on ethics are populated by a host of exemplary and stereotypical characters who function as shorthand for certain models of behaviors. Playing well-defined roles in narratives and aphorisms, these types come with sets of traits that were commonly recognized and anticipated by the contemporary audience. While the presence of typologies in Islamic texts is frequently acknowledged, they remain a largely untapped source for the understanding of the Islamic ethical discourse. Referring to the relationship between recurring elements that define each other by partaking in the same continuum of meaning, typologies shed light on a variety of issues, such as the discursive mechanisms that governed the writing and reading processes of texts on ethics, the pedagogical theories and practices that underlie them and the writings’ literary nature. Through discussions on how exemplary and stereotypical characters are used, modified and redefined in pre-modern Islamic texts, the workshop investigated a range of typologies in the ethical discourse in light of its historical and intellectual developments across all relevant genres.
The five panels of the workshop were entitled: Typological characters, Typology of the soul / personality, Ethnic Typologies, Typology of society, Religious typologies. In the concluding discussions the speakers uttered their willingness to create a book out of the fruitful presentations and discussions of the workshop.