International Conference: The Occult Sciences in Pre-modern Islamic Culture

Beirut, 5-6 December 2013

From 5-6 December 2013 the Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) and the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (CAMES) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) are jointly hosting an international conference on “The Occult Sciences in Pre-modern Islamic Culture”.

In pre-modern Islamic culture, a number of “occult” sciences that deal with non-observable realities and are marked by ritual references were acknowledged part of the canon of knowledge and practiced also by natural scientists. The “occult” sciences, al-‘ulum al-khafiya, include sciences such as ‘ilm al-firasa (phsysiognomy), qiyafa (tracking), ‘iyafa (myomancy), kimiya (alchemy), ‘ilm ahkam al-nujum (astrology), ruqya; tawidh (spells and incantations), tabir al-ruya (oneiromancy), and various forms of sihr (magic). To investigate these and similar sciences and to place them in the context of the other sciences in Islam, and of Islamic culture in general, this conference presents contributions that can be placed under two main topics: The first will examine particular “occult” sciences and their context within the body of the sciences. The second explores how the relationship between the natural and the supernatural was perceived in Islamic culture and how the “occult” in these sciences was defined.

Speakers: Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad (American University in Cairo), Nader El-Bizri (American University of Beirut), Christopher Braun (Warburg Institute, London), Kristine Chalyan-Daffner (Heidelberg University), Emma Gannagé (Georgetown University, Washington, DC), Antonella Ghersetti (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice), Dahlia Gubara (Orient-Institut Beirut), Muhammad Khalidi (York University, Toronto), Tarif Khalidi (American University of Beirut), Matthew Melvin-Koushki (Princeton University), Eva Orthmann (Bonn University), Liana Saif (British Museum, London), George Saliba (Columbia University, New York), Isabel Toral-Niehoff (Aga Khan University, London).

Download full programme

Venue: American University of Beirut, College Hall, Auditorium B 1.

Contact OIB: phone +961-1-359240; email: Scheffler[at]

Contact CAMES: phone: +961-1-350000 ext. 3845; email: cames[at]

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2 Responses

  1. Mirja Brachtel says:

    Dear OIB,

    I would like to know if there will be made available online a video
    or podcast recording of the speakers, either via your website or that of AUB.
    I was unfortunately not able to attend the conference in person but would be very much interested in some of the papers presented.

    With best regards,

    M.M. Brachtel

    • Nadia von Maltzahn says:

      Dear Mirja Brachtel,
      Thanks for your interest in our Occult Sciences conference. We are planning to publish the conference proceedings in an edited volume. We will post details once they are available. I think it is unlikely that we will post podcasts of the presentations, but in case we do so we will keep you informed.
      Best wishes,
      The OIB

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