Conference of the European Network for the Study of Islam and Esotericism (ENSIE): “Islamic Esotericism in Global Contexts” — Online, with registration, 03-05/12/2020

​“Islamic Esotericism in Global Contexts”
2020 ENSIE Conference

Online at Zoom, 35 December 2020.
​Registration before 1 December at

The conference examines Islam and esotericism, from Sufism and dreams to sorcery and magic, in al-Andalus, the historical and contemporary Middle East, Africa, and the West.



All times are CET (UTC+01:00)


Day one, 3 December

12:45–13:00: Welcome and introduction

13:00–15:00: Panel 1. Moderator: Liana Saif
  • Pierre Lory (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes), “Satanic Dreams in Islam”.
  • Eyad Abu Ali (Utrecht University), “Imagined Bodies in Medieval Sufism: Boundaries of corporeality in Sufi dream manuals”.
  • Marinos Sariyannis (FORTH/IMS, Greece), “Languages of Ottoman esotericism”.
  • Dimitrios Giagtzoglou (University of Crete), “Is there an Ottoman Lettrist tradition?” 

15:00–15:30: Break

15:30–17:00: Panel 2Moderator: Francesco Piraino ​
  • José Bellver (Université Catholique de Louvain), “Ibn Barrajān and the Science of Letters”.
  • Michele Petrone (Université Catholique de Louvain), “Artificial Creation of Human Life: Ibn Waḥšiyya as a source of the Futūḥāt al-makkiyya”.
  • Arjan Post ( KU Leuven), “Al-Wāsiṭī’s (d. 711/1311) Ṭarīqa Muḥammadiyya: Neither of the East nor of the West”.


Day TWO, 4 December

13:00–15:00: Panel 3Moderator: Liana Saif 
  • Ariela Marcus Sells (Elon University), “Sorcery or Science: Contesting Practice in the Work of the Kunta Scholars”.
  • Oludamini Ogunnaike (University of Virginia), “The Sage of the Sokoto Caliphate: Shaykh Dan Tafa and the Sciences of the Unseen”.
  • Ayodeji Ogunnaike (Bowdoin College), “Spreading Sands: Khaṭṭ al-Raml and Indigenous African Divination”.
  • Zachary Wright (Northwestern University in Qatar), “Islamic Esotericism in West Africa: From Timbuktu to Senegal, 15th to 20th centuries”.

15:00–15:30: Break

15:30–17:00: Panel 4Moderator: Michele Petrone 
  • Emily Selove (University of Exeter), “Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī: The Currents and Links of Poetry and Magic”.
  • Luca Patrizi (University of Exeter), “Magical Hydromancy’s Practice Involving a Goblet and a Young Boy in the Kitāb al-Shāmil by Sakkākī (d. 1160): A Reminiscence of the Ancient Myth of the Cupbearer?” 
  • Giovanni Maria Martini (Università degli Studi di Napoli L’Orientale), “The Occult Properties of the Qurʾān (Khawāṣṣ al-Qurʾān): A Concept and Literarily Genre Connecting Religious and Occult Sciences in the Islamicate World”.


Day THREE, 5 December

12:00–13:30: Panel 5Moderator: Mark Sedgwick  
  • Mattias Gori Olesen (Aarhus University), “The Perennial Solidarity of the East: Esotericism and pan-Orientalism in interwar Egypt”.
  • Youna Eskandari (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales), “Approaching the unseen of the Islamic Revolution of Iran through René Guénon”.
  • Ahmad Bostani (Khārazmi University, Tehran), “Alexander Dugin and Post-Revolutionary Iranian Conservatives: Esotericism as Political Ideology”.

13:30–14:00: Break

14:00–16:00: Panel 6Moderator: Michele Petrone  
  • Federico Stella (Università degli Studi di Napoli L’Orientale), “The Mi‘rāj of Muḥammad according to Baldassarre Loyola Mandes S.J. (1631-1667). Between Controversy and Christianization”.
  • Gowaart Vandenbossche (Aga Khan University), “Esoteric knowledge, historical memory, colonial fantasy: Thinking with manuscripts from late medieval Maṣyāf”.
  • Rasoul Namazi (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München), “How to write an esoteric text: Practice of Esoteric Writing in the Thought of Leo Strauss”.
  • Michael Muhammad Knight (University of Central Florida), “Scientists, Imams, and Gods: Theosophy and Epistemology in the Nation of Islam”.

16:00–16:15: Break

16:15–17:00: Closing plenary



The meeting is organized by
  • Mark Sedgwick, Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies, Aarhus University, and Convener of ENSIE.
  • Liana Saif, Research Associate, Warburg Institute.
  • Godefroid de Callataÿ, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Université catholique de Louvain.
  • Michele Petrone, Postdoc, Université catholique de Louvain.
  • Francesco Piraino, Postdoc, IDEMEC-CNRS – Fondazione Giorgio Cini.



The 2020 meeting is arranged in cooperation with the ERC project on Philosophy in al-Andalus (PhilAnd), and the Université catholique de Louvain.


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