The Practical Authority of the Imams and their Representatives

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April 3 – 4, 2015, Swift Hall Common Room, 1025 East 58th Street

Those attending the symposium may contact Mohammad Sagha ( to obtain the pre-circulated papers in advance

Friday, April 3rd


Panel 1

Discussant: Najam Haider, Barnard College, Columbia University
Devin Stewart, Emory University, The Twelfth Imam's Rescripts to al-Shaykh al-Mufīd

Liyakat Takim, McMaster University, Between Theory and Practice: The Clash of Authority between the Imams and their Disciples

Nebil Husayn, Princeton University, Legal Codes Specific to Hāshimids



Coffee Break



Panel 2: 

Discussant: Paul Walker, University of Chicago
Shayesteh Ghofrani, Exeter University, A Comparative Exploration of the Concept of Wilāya in Shiʿism before the Minor Occultation

Samer Traboulsi, University of North Carolina at Asheville, Whose Charisma is it? A Weberian Reading of Authority in Ṭayyibī Ismāʿīlism 

Najam Haider, Barnard College, Columbia University, The Travelling Tree, the Dead Magician, and the Poisoned Dog







Moderator: Mohammad Sagha, University of Chicago
Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, The divine man’s Holy Spirit. Some new remarks regarding Imamate and prophecy



Coffee Break



Panel 3:

Discussant: Alireza Doostdar, University of Chicago
Elham Mireshghi, University of California, Irvine, The Authority of the Jurist and the Making of Policy : the Cases of Kidney Sales and Smoking in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Elvire Corboz, Aarhus University, The Transnational Marja'iyya and the Islamic Republic of Iran: The Dynamics of a Competition

(Following this program, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies will be hosting a lecture by Laura Deeb, 4.30-6.00, in Stuart Hall Room 105)

Saturday, April 4th


Panel 4:

Discussant: Rodrigo Adem, University of Chicago
Denis Hermann, The Imam and the Political Authority in the Modern Shaykhi Literature

Sajjad Rizvi, Exeter University, Who represents the Imam in contemporary Iran? Debates between jurists and mystics

Discussant: Timothy Gutmann, University of Chicago
Oliver Scharbrodt, University of Chester, Muhammad Al-Shirazi (1928-2001): The Collective Governance of the Jurisconsults (ḥukūmat al-fuqahā’) in the Time of Occultation


Coffee Break



Panel 5:

Discussant: Sajjad Rizvi, Exeter University
Rizwan Mawani, Instituting and Institutionalizing Authority in 19th and 20th Century Ismaili Shi’ism: The First Three Aga Khans and the Mechanisms and Modes of Authority Reclamation in the Age of Steam and Print

Radhika Gupta, Goettingen University, Striking a fine balance: The exercise of religious authority among the Twelver Shi‘a in India

1.00-2.00: Lunch for presenters

Format of the symposium
Presenters will get 10 minutes to introduce their papers. Discussants will prepare around 5 minutes of remarks for each paper, then presenters will be given time for to respond to the discussant and also to make remarks about each the other papers, and then open it up to the floor. Contact to obtain one or all of the pre-circulated papers.

All events will be held at Swift Hall (1025 E 58th St., Chicago, IL)

This event is free and open to the public. Funding and support for this symposium is generously provided by various funders within the University of Chicago, including Norman Wait Harris Fund, the Martin Marty Center at the Divinity School, the Division of the Humanities, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Council for Advanced Studies Islamic Studies workshops and MEHAT workshops, the Department for Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should email Other inquiries can be directed towards Ed Hayes ( or Mohammad Sagha (