Beyond the Stars: Revisiting the Heart of Abraham in the Light of Islam

NOA Community Centre (Ferry Centre)
Summertown, Oxford

(click for map etc.)

"When the night descended upon him, Abraham saw a star and said: 'This is my Lord'; then when it set, he said: 'I do not love that which sets'. Qur'an

All three western religions look back to Abraham as the father of monotheism, but the image in which he is portrayed varies from tradition to tradition. Despite the fact that Jews, Christians and Muslims have been depicted as sitting in Abraham's lap, he is often enlisted on the side of intolerance and exclusivity. Turning his back on tradition, the nomad in quest of the divine, prepared to sacrifice his own child, founder of two sacred centres - how are we to better understand our father in faith, and what might it mean for us to be a child of Abraham?

In this talk we will look at Abraham through the eyes of the Islamic tradition, the Khalil (or "intimate friend of God"), who represents the model of the human interpenetrated by the Divine, and in particular at the universal Abrahamic community to which the great Sufi master Ibn 'Arabi refers as the "brotherhood of milk."

Stephen Hirtenstein has spent many years researching and lecturing on the works of Ibn 'Arabi and his school. After graduating from Cambridge in History, he studied at the Beshara School and has been Editor of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society since 1982. In addition to running a publishing company, he is the author of The Unlimited Mercifier (1999), a spiritual biography of Ibn 'Arabi. He is also co-translator of two of Ibn 'Arabi's short works - Divine Sayings (2004), and The Seven Days of the Heart (2000) and is working on new critical editions and translations from Ibn 'Arabi's voluminous corpus. He is currently teaching a seminar series, with Jane Clark, on "Human Universality in Islamic Mysticism: An Introduction to the Thought of Ibn 'Arabi" at the University of Oxford Department of Continuing Education.

6.00 (Friends 3.00)