Divinity School lecture to explore violence in Islamic history

At an upcoming lecture at the Divinity School, University of Exeter scholar Robert Gleave will delve into a complex and often misunderstood area of Islamic studies: the role of violence in Islamic history.

The lecture, “Islam, Violence, and the Sacred: Insurgent Shi’ism in Muslim History,” will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan.18 in the Swift Hall Common Room. The event is free and open to the public.


Gleave, who specializes in Shi’ite legal and political theory, is one of the three scholars this year who will spend a quarter teaching at the University of Chicago through the Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative.

That project, a three-year effort supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to create substantive, sustained discussion about both specific topics in Islamic studies and the wider field of study. Through the initiative, UChicago hosts one prominent international scholar per quarter. Visiting scholars offer a public lecture, teach a graduate-level course and participate in a workshop on an area of scholarly interest during their stay at the University.

Gleave is a professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, where he is also director of the Centre for the Study of Islam. His research focuses on Islamic law and legal theory, violence and its justification in Islamic thought, and Shi’i legal and political theory. He is the author of Islam and Literalism: Literal Meaning and Literal Interpretation in Islamic Jurisprudence, Scripturalist Islam: The History and Doctrines of the Imami Shi’i Akhbari School of Thought and Inevitable Doubt: Two Theories of Shi’i Jurisprudence.

Gleave is teaching a course titled “Shi’ism, Messianism and Resistance” at UChicago this quarter. His work will be the subject of a workshop on March 1.

Previous visiting scholars through the Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative include Maribel Fierro, Angelika Neuwirth, and Abdulkarim Saroush. Prof. Leonardo Capezzone of the University of Rome, who studies medieval Islamic thought and culture, will be in residence at UChicago in spring 2013.

For more information on the upcoming lecture or the Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative, please contact Harry Bastermajian at harry@uchicago.edu.