Religious Pluralism & Religious Plurality: towards an ethics of peace
You can find information in Urdu on our german site.
Research cum Dialogue Project (2016-17)
In January 2016, the Chair of Muslim Cultural & Religious History (CMCRH), University of Erfurt initiated a new research-cum-dialogue project titled ‘Religious Pluralism & Religious Plurality: towards an ethics of peace’. This academic endeavor invites male and female students from religious seminaries from Pakistan to participate in workshops at the University of Erfurt.
Over the course of two years, the CMCRH will host three major workshops on the topic of
(i) Questions of Historiography (ii) Social Sciences & Religion (iii) Human Rights and the Contribution of Religions
These workshops are carefully designed in order to deal with the issue of religious (in)tolerance from the perspective of social, cultural and religious studies, and the participants are encouraged to advance their own solutions from within their traditions while also employing the scientific tools and epistemological insights provided during the workshops.
One of the unique aspects of these workshops at the University of Erfurt is its sustainability effect as every workshop conducted in Erfurt University will be followed up with a similar workshop that madrasa students will be encouraged to conduct in their own seminaries in Pakistan. This exercise in cultural translation is of immense importance as it will bear the potential to put into practice the knowledge acquired in Germany.
In contemporary history, madrasas have played a significant role in configuring Muslim religious thought and their contributions have been momentous in shaping new political identities and structural changes in society. In the context of South Asia, the knowledge tradition of Dars-e Nizami has been an important factor in serving as a socio-religious framework for various dominating schools of thought such as the Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-e Hadith, Shiite traditions, and Jamaat-e Islami. In fact, madrasas established during the late 19th and 20th centuries produced several luminaries that left a strong impact on South Asian cultures, even at the state level. This may be credited to the fact that in terms of curricular approach, Dars-e Nizami was highly pragmatic, pluralistic and divergent in nature.
While madrasas have continued to inspire ideologies, nation-building processes and/or socio-religious movements, at the same time these places of learning have shared a complex relationship with the state. This holds particularly true in the context of geo-political world order that has been shaped over the past two decades as madrasas have received worldwide attention, particularly in Pakistan. Contrary to popular assertion spread by media and scholarship alike that the education received in madrasas can be limited in scope, there is credible evidence to suggest that madrasas rather introduce their students to philosophy, law, science, ethics, languages and of course religious education, harkened back to the tradition of pluralism and the ethics of ikhtilaf or constructive conflict.
At the Chair of Muslim Cultural & Religious History in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Erfurt, we believe and argue that educational training in madrasas has a strong potential to create inter- and intra-faith harmony. In order to fully utilize this potential, the collaboration of University of Erfurt with all five major schools of thought in Pakistan aims to create a frame of reference to further extend and highlight the prevalent tradition of tolerance in madrasas and the management of disagreement. Such collaboration will also provide a strong potential for western academia to learn from the knowledge repository available in madrasa curriculum such as the deeply anchored Islamic jurisprudence, akhlaq tradition, Sufi discourses and Hadith studies. We believe that these scholarly traditions can therefore ascertain each other by acknowledging the values of peace and religious pluralism, while appreciating religio-cultural diversity and coexistence.
It is with this motivation that the Chair of Muslim Cultural & Religious History at the University of Erfurt wishes to collaborate with all major schools of thought in Pakistani religious seminaries and to conduct joint workshops for their students. These workshops are expected to deal with the issue of religious (in)tolerance from the perspective of social, cultural and religious studies. The participants in the planned workshops will be encouraged to advance their own solutions from within their traditions while also employing the scientific tools and epistemological insights provided during the workshops.
This project seeks to collaborate with madrasa students as well as potential future leaders within the society of Pakistan in promoting the values of justice, religious pluralism and appreciating religious diversity, while grounding the discussion primarily within Islamic traditions. Other academic efforts in Germany cater to the training of Imams or Muslim theologians within Germany, whereas at the University of Erfurt our effort is distinctively characterised in developing more space for religious pluralism, respect for disagreement and disaccords and an ethics of peace in the context of Pakistan. Moreover, an important aspect of our effort is to bridge the gap between mainstream higher education institutions in Germany and traditional education systems in Pakistan, as German and international students from the University of Erfurt will jointly take part in the workshops together with madrasa students.
In order to achieve the aims and objectives outlined above, the project will comprise a series of workshops and study excursions in Germany. These will include madrasa students, both male and female, from the major schools of thought as well as students from the University of Erfurt. By thus introducing the participants to different social and cultural perspectives, the participants will be encouraged to learn to appreciate and eventually analyse various religious practices and to reflect on them in the light of Islamic cultural articulations. In this context, it will be important to trace the traditional belief contents and symbols, initially, into their historical contexts of origin and then re-translate them in a responsible interpretation, so that, in a process of reflection and evaluation, they can be subjected to criticism, if necessary, and freshly adopted in a conscious second step.
In order to make our efforts more practical and sustainable, following each workshop in Germany, there will be corresponding post-workshop projects in Pakistan which the madrasa graduates themselves will design and conduct upon returning to their respective home institutions. This exercise in cultural translation is of immense importance, as these post-workshop ventures conducted in Pakistan will bear the potential to put into practice the knowledge acquired in Germany.
University of Erfurt students receive guests from Pakistan Source: Thüringen Landeszeitung (in German, PDF format, web) __________________________________________________________________________
Students from Pakistan and Erfurt discuss religion Source: Thüringen Allgemeine (in German, PDF format, web) __________________________________________________________________________
Thüringen Minister for Culture and European Affairs appreciates the need of dialogue project as an important aspect of intercultural Source: Thüringen Staatskanzlei (in German, PDF format, web) __________________________________________________________________________
Workshop on Questions of Historiography commences in Erfurt University Source: Uni Erfurt (in German, web)