Seminar: IAS Unit2-C Seminar on Saint Veneration, Sufism and Tariqa

Date: May 27, 2000

Place: Sophia University


Yasushi TONAGA (Associate Professor; Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University)


Preliminary Study of the School of Ibn'Arabi"


In his presentation, Yasushi TONAGA integrated various aspects of the study of Ibn 'Arabi and his school. A summary follows.

In order to define the school of Ibn 'Arabi, it must be examined in three ways. First, it must be viewed on a metaphysical level, as represented by the study of individual thinkers. The second aspect that must be examined is the study of popular beliefs showing how Ibn 'Arabi came to be venerated as a saint. Lastly, a study of various regions and periods must be conducted to distinguish the different ways in which Ibn 'Arabi's ideas have been received. Our task for the future is to develop studies further in this third aspect, in which the research was particularly insufficient, and integrate it with the other research.

In developing this last method, however, its diversity stands out as a problem. For example, we can not regard the entire school of Ibn 'Arabi as adherents of the doctrine of the "oneness of being". The theory of the divine manifestation of God, as proposed by 'Abd al-Karim al-Jili, a member of the school, is instead closer to the doctrine of "oneness of witness and contemplation". In the same way, Ahmad Sirhindi of South Asia can also be regarded as a member of Ibn'Arabi's school in that he gave priority to the "doctrine of oneness of witness and contemplation" over the "doctrine of oneness of being" in order not to deny the latter but to improve it. Liu Zhi of China can also be regarded as a member of the school, because his thoughts were much influenced by Ibn 'Arabis, though in a different way from the former two. Considering the diverse influences of Ibn 'Arabi's thoughts to different thinkers, it may be more appropriate to refer to the "the schools of Ibn 'Arabi" hereafter.

In response to the presentation, the following topics were discussed: the Arabic word for "school" at the time, the academic significance of the defining "schools" of thought, and the processes leading to these definition of "schools."

The studies of ideas, especially those of the classic age, are almost entirely dependent on the available texts since the historical background, such as the prevailing social situation, is not clear. The attempts made in this study to integrate metaphysical studies with area studies can be said to have great significance in that it integrates excessively segmented fields of scholarship.

(Kyo OKAWA' Ph. D. Student Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, The University of Tokyo; text revised by M. AKAHORI)



Masayuki AKAHORI (Associate Professor, Institute of Asian Cultures, Sophia University)

"Review of Keiko TAKAKI, Islamic Saints in North Africa: Historical Ethnography of Sedada in Tunisia, Tokyo: Tosui Shobo, 2000 "


Masayuki AKAHORI reviewed Keiko TAKAKI's latest work, introducing the content and assessing its significance in terms of the saint veneration study.

The assessment was conducted from three viewpoints, the first being the ethnographical perspective. The book is the first full-fledged ethnography on saint veneration written by a single Japanese anthropologist, and its abundant ethnographical data based on the extensive fieldwork of Keiko TAKAKI was highly evaluated. The second perspective examined was the logical framework. In particular, Keiko TAKAKIユs concept of the "complex of three phases" based on Geertzユs argument regarding saint veneration in Morocco was examined. Here, Keiko TAKAKI's perspective transcending the conventional dichotomous understanding was acclaimed. At the same time, the applicability of the framework in describing a small community under study was examined from all angles. The third viewpoint was its impact on the study of saint-veneration. Here, to deepen understanding of the concept of sainthood, various indications were examined such as the symbolic meaning given to community by saints and the social importance attributed to descendants of the saints. Lastly, an enthusiastic discussion including audience participation was held on the future of the saint veneration at the level of nation-states.

The review was useful as a guide for those planning to read the book. Also, the discussion on the framework for understanding saint veneration was interesting for its potential for further examination and broader comparative studies by various scholars.

(Masahiko TOGAWAユ JFPS research fellow; text revised by M. AKAHORI)