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Conf/CfP - ILM: Science, Religion, and Art in Islam, 21-23 July 2016, University of Adelaide, Australia

Publish Date: Nov 10, 2015

Deadline: Dec 15, 2015

Event Dates: from Jul 21, 2016 12:00 to Jul 23, 2016 12:00

‘Ilm is a complex, multifaceted Arabic term used in various derivations to denote the many aspects of knowing and knowledge acquisition, production, and dissemination, including teaching and learning, education, and science, as well as comprehension, perception, feeling, experience, and familiarity. From ‘ilm also comes the term ‘ālam, “world,” signifying that the divine creative act is fundamentally an act of knowing and an expression of knowledge. Through the Quran and prophetic traditions, Islam has placed a strong emphasis on ‘ilm, considering the seeking of knowledge to be obligatory on all Muslims. Accordingly, the enterprise of knowing has been central to all aspects of cultural production in Islam, particularly in the fields of science, religion, and the arts. On the one hand, ‘ilm fuses science and religion together into an indissoluble whole, and on the other, it makes art an act of knowledge before being an expression of feeling. Historically, there has been no specific word for “science” in Arabic, and early-modern and modern Arab intellectuals, linguists, reformers, and “scientists” did not coin a new term for it to help delineate the territories of modern science from that of traditional ‘ilm in Arabic thought. The Arabic word ‘ilm (pl. ‘ulūm) has continued to be used to describe both religious and non-religious pursuits of knowledge, that is, the devotional and intellectual engagements with the divine revelation as well as the rational and empirical study of nature. It has also continued to be associated with art (fann), imagination (khayāl), and artistic creativity (ibdā’). As both science and religion have formed the common foundation of artistic production in the Islamic tradition, ‘ilm has acted as a unifying cultural force throughout Islamic history.

‘Ilm conference presents an opportunity, at the national and international levels, to examine the concept of “knowledge” in the Islamic culture in order to explore and generate innovative perspectives on its role in science, religion, and the arts. It invites reflections on and discussions of the idea of ‘ilmand its role in pre-, early-, and post-modern Islamic culture, and, more importantly, how it is engaged and experienced by Muslim communities today. What are its practices, territories, and histories? How does it continue to shape Islam’s past, present, and future within the Muslims’ lands and beyond?

‘Ilm conference will bring together a broad group of scholars, artists, designers, curators, practitioners, and higher degree researchers across the fields of Islamic intellectual history, history and theory of Islamic art and architecture, history of Islamic science, and Islamic studies to address key issues of concern and to highlight points of intersection between science, religion, and the arts.

Main Themes

The conference will focus on three broad topics: ‘ilm as science, ‘ilm as religion, and ‘ilm as art. These broad topics are articulated through the following proposed sets of sub-topics, which should be seen as guides rather than exclusive lists. Proposals expanding the proposed thematic scope are encouraged.

‘Ilm as Science

Islam and the study of nature

Islam and the rise of early modern science

Scientific thinking: a universal mode of knowing

Science and Islam: conflicts and harmony

Islamic science and the concept of i‘jāz

Islamic history of the “scientific revolution”

Islam and the ethos of science in the post-Copernican period

Islam, technology, and virtual worlds

‘Ilm as Religion

Revelation and reason

Revelation, history, and modernity

Religion, philosophy, and the mystical quest

Religion, culture, and society

Islam in Australia: ideals and realities

Religion, identity, and globalization

The sacred and the secular

Religion and technology: utility vs ideology

‘Ilm as Art

What is “Islamic” Art?

Islamic art: knowledge, aesthetics, and utility

Islamic art, music, and architecture: Australia and beyond

Australian Muslim artists: creative crossings

Contemporary Islamic art: theory and practice

Art, gender, and the law in Islam

Space and spatial thinking in Islam

Islamic ornamentation: iconography, calligraphy, and geometry


Researchers, artists, designers, and architects are invited to submit proposals for two types of contributions:

1.    Paper: 300-word summary, outlining clearly the topic, main argument, and sources to be used. Please include email address and 50-word biography.

2.    Poster: A4 mock-up (portrait) presenting visual commentary on a selected theme. The final poster size is A1 (portrait) with 500-800-word exposition. A 200-word summary of the exposition should be submitted with the mock-up.

Key Dates

Announcement: 15 October, 2015

Proposals: 15 December 2015 – 300 words / A4 posters

Selection: 15 January 2016 

Papers/posters: 15 June 2016 – 2500 words / A1 posters

Conference: 21-23 July 2016

Organisers & Contacts

Professor Samer Akkach, Founding Director, Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture (CAMEA), the University of Adelaide, Australia (

Professor Sahar Amer, Chair, Department of Arabic Language and Cultures, The University of Sydney, Australia (

Dr Samuel Bowker, School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt University, Australia (

All inquiries should be directed to Perri Sparnon:

Contact Info: 

All enquiries should be directed to Perri Sparnon, The University of Adelaide

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