Sacred Web Conference

September 23rd and 24th, 2006
Myer Horowitz Theatre, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta 


Conference Introduction

HRH Prince CharlesHis Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, is actively interested in traditional thought and its applications to the problems of the modern world. Through various foundations and charities, including The Prince’s Trust (established in 1976), Prince Charles has promoted improvement in the fields of ecology, agriculture, architecture, and the arts, and is an advocate of pluralism and the respect for sacred traditions. He is the patron of the Temenos Academy, which is dedicated to the “perennial philosophy”.


Keynote Address

Seyyed Hossein NasrProfessor Seyyed Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the world’s leading experts on Islamic science and spirituality, is University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. Professor Nasr is the author of numerous books, including Man and Nature: the Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man (Kazi Publications, 1998), Religion and the Order of Nature (Oxford, 1996) and Knowledge and the Sacred (SUNY, 1998).

Professor Nasr, currently University Professor of Islamic Studies at the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., is one of the most important and foremost scholars of Islamic, Religious and Comparative Studies in the world today. Author of over fifty books and five hundred articles that have been translated into several major Islamic, European and Asian languages, Professor Nasr is a well known and highly respected intellectual figure both in the West and the Islamic world. An eloquent speaker with a charismatic presence, Nasr is a much sought-after speaker at academic conferences and seminars, university and public lectures and also radio and television programs in his area of expertise.

The range of subjects and areas of study that Professor Nasr has involved and engaged himself with in his academic career and intellectual life is immense. As demonstrated by his numerous writings, lectures and speeches, Professor Nasr speaks and writes with great authority on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from philosophy to religion to spirituality, to music and art and architecture, to science and literature, to civilizational dialogues and the natural environment. For Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the quest for knowledge, specifically knowledge that enables man to understand the true nature of things and that furthermore “liberates and delivers him from the fetters and limitations of earthly existence,” has been and continues to be the central concern and determinant of his intellectual life. A volume in the prestigious Library of Living Philosophers (to which he was the 28th inductee, alongside thinkers such as Buber, Dewey, Einstein, Moore, Popper, Russell, Santayana, Sartre, and Whitehead) has been dedicated to his life and thought.



Professor William C. ChittickWilliam C. Chittick is professor in the Department of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. Among his publications are The Sufi Path of Love: the Spiritual Teachings of Rumi (1983), The Psalms of Islam (1998), The Self-Disclosure of God: Principles of Ibn al-‘Arabí’s Cosmology (1998), Sufism: a Short Introduction (2000), and The Heart of Islamic Philosophy: the Quest for Self-Knowledge and the Teachings of Afdal al-Dîn Kâshânî (2001). He is also the author of The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi (2005).

Professor Chittick is one of the world’s leading translators and interpreters of the mystical poetry of Jalaluddin Rumi. He is also recognized for his translation and interpretation of the writings of the great Sufi theorist and poet, Ibn Arabi.

Professor James S. Cutsinger
James S. Cutsinger (Ph.D., Harvard) is Professor of Theology and Religious Thought at the University of South Carolina.

A widely recognized authority on the Sophia Perennis and the traditionalist school of comparative religious thought, he is best known for his work on the Swiss philosopher Frithjof Schuon. Professor Cutsinger serves as secretary to the Foundation of raditional Studies, and he is currently editing the Collected Works of Frithjof Schuon. In addition, he is editing an anthology of Christian mystical writings for World Wisdom Books. Presented from a perspective of the transcendent unity of denominations, the anthology will include selected writings of Christian sages and saints from the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Celtic branches of the Christian tradition.

The recipient of numerous teaching awards, he was honored in 1999 as a Michael J. Mungo University Teacher of the Year. He offers courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in Religious Studies, and he is a frequent contributor to USC’s Honors College, where he has taken the lead in developing a series of courses in the study of the Great Books.

Professor Cutsinger is a nationally known advocate of Socratic teaching based on the classics.

Michael Oren FitzgeraldMichael Oren Fitzgerald has written and edited numerous publications on American Indian spirituality, including Yellowtail: Crow Medicine Man and Sun Dance Chief. Fitzgerald has taught Religious Traditions of the North American Indians in the Indiana University Continuing Studies Department at Bloomington, Indiana. He holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence, cum laude, from Indiana University. Michael Fitzgerald is an adopted son of the late Thomas Yellowtail, one of the most honored American Indian spiritual leaders of the last century, and is an adopted member of the Crow tribe. He has attended sacred rites of the Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Bannock and Apache tribes.

Dr. Jean-Louis MichonJean-Louis Michon is a traditionalist French scholar who specializes in Islam in North Africa, Islamic Art, and Sufism, His works include Le Soufi marrocain Ahmad Ibn ‘Ajiba and L’Autobiographie (Fahrasa) du Soufi marrocain Ahmad Ibn ‘Ajiba (1747-1809). For eight years he was the Chief Technical Advisor to the Moroccan government on UNESCO/UNDP projects for the preservation of the cultural heritage. Dr. Michon coordinated the rehabilitation of traditional handicrafts that were seriously threatened by industrialization and other factors. To preserve Morocco’s monuments, sites, museum collections, living folk arts and traditions, he set up an inventorization and classification of the assets of the cultural heritage. Furthermore, he was instrumental in preserving and restoring the ancient casbahs (castles) of Morocco in a project designed to safeguard the ancient city of Fez.

His article “The Vocation of Man According to the Koran” appears in Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man (World Wisdom Books). Dr. Michon is also the co-editor of the upcoming book Sufism: Love and Wisdom.

Professor Harry OldmeadowDr. Harry Oldmeadow is currently the Coordinator of Philosophy and Religious Studies at La Trobe University, Bendigo. Over the last decade he has published extensively in such journals as Sacred Web (Vancouver), Sophia (Washington, D.C.), and Asian Philosophy (Nottingham, U.K.). In late 2001, he was a key speaker at a large interfaith gathering in Sydney, organized by the Australian Centre for Sufism; the theme of the meeting was the need for inter-religious understanding in the wake of the September 11 attacks. He is the author of a major study concerning twentieth-century Western encounters with Eastern religions, published by World Wisdom under the title Journeys East.

He has studied history, politics and literature at the Australian National University, and after further studies at the University of Sydney he worked as a history tutor at La Trobe University in Melbourne. For a Master’s degree in Religious Studies at the University of Sydney, he completed a dissertation on the work of Frithjof Schuon and the other principal traditionalist writers. This study was awarded the University of Sydney Medal for excellence in research, and published by the Sri Lanka Institute of Traditional Studies under the title Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy (Colombo, 2000). Under the auspices of the Institute, Harry delivered the Inaugural Ananda Coomaraswamy Memorial Lecture, in Colombo, on “The Religious Tradition of the Australian Aborigines.”

Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi
Formerly a Consultant to the Institute for Policy Research in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Reza Shah-Kazemi is now a Research Fellow at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. Founding editor of the Islamic World Report, Reza Shah-Kazemi studied International Relations and Politics at Sussex and Exeter Universities before obtaining his Ph.D. in Comparative Religion from the University of Kent in 1994.

He has authored and translated several works, including Paths of Transcendence: Shankara,Ibn Arabi and Meister Eckhart on Transcendent Spiritual Realization (World Wisdom Books, 2006), Doctrines of Shi‘i Islam (I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2001), Avicenna: Prince of Physicians (Hood, 1997) and Crisis in Chechnya (Islamic World Report, 1995). He has edited a number of collective volumes, including Algeria: Revolution Revisited (Islamic World Report, 1997) and published over a dozen articles and reviews in academic journals. Author of the forthcoming books The Other in the Light of the One: the Universality of the Qur’an and Interfaith Dialogue (Islamic Texts Society), and Justice and Remembrance: Introducing the Spirituality of Imam ‘Ali (I. B. Tauris), and of an essay titled “A Sacred Conception of Justice: Imam ‘Ali’s Letter to Malik al-Ashtar” in the forthcoming anthology The Sacred Foundations of Justice in Islam: Imam ‘Ali: The Teachings of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (Sacred Web and World Wisdom, forthcoming), he is currently preparing a new, annotated translation of Nahj al-Balagha, the discourses of Imam ‘Ali.

Professor Huston SmithHuston Smith is Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Syracuse University. For fifteen years he was Professor of Philosophy at M.I.T. and for a decade before that he taught at Washington University in St. Louis. Most recently he has served as Visiting Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

Holder of twelve honorary degrees, Smith is the author of fourteen books, including The World’s Religions, which has sold over 2 ½ million copies, and Why Religion Matters, which won the Wilbur Award for the best book on religion published in 2001. In 1996 Bill Moyers devoted a five-part PBS Special, The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith, to his life and work. His film documentaries on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism have all won international awards, and The Journal of Ethnomusicology lauded his discovery of Tibetan multiphonic chanting as “an important landmark in the study of music.” His latest book is titled The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition.


Forum Presenters

Professor Caner DagliDr. Dagli, a Fulbright Award winner for research in Turkey, earned a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.A. from George Washington University and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. His dissertation is titled "From Mysticism to Philosophy and Back". He specializes in Islamic philosophy, mysticism in world religions and Sufism. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Religious Studies Department of George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, specializing in Comparative Religion and Islamic Philosophy. He has taught courses on Islam and Mysticism, and on the relationship of Religion and Science, as well as on Values and Responsible Life.

Dr. Dagli's interest in religion and mysticism, particularly Islamic studies, has been fueled in part by his heritage. Though Dr. Dagli was born and raised in New Jersey, his parents are of Circassian background. His father is from the Caucasus Mountain region in Russia and his mother is from the same ethnic group originating in Turkey. These areas, primarily Muslim enclaves, offer a natural starting point for Dr.Dagli's studies.

Dr. Dagli is a Special Advisor to the Royal Hashemite Courty of Jordan for Interfaith Affairs.

Professor David DakakeDavid Dakake is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, George Mason University. He specializes in Comparative Religion and Islamic Philosophy. He has an M.A. in Religious Studies from Temple University and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in their Department of Religion. His dissertation is entitled Defending Ambiguity: Early and Classical Commentary on the Mutashabih Verses of the Qur’an.

He has also studied extensively in Egypt and Iran and published articles on Islamic history and philosophy. He has delivered academic papers in the Middle East, Europe and North America, and his most recent article, entitled “The Myth of a Militant Islam,” appears in the book Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (World Wisdom Books, 2004).

Professor Maria DakakeMaria Massi Dakake holds a B.A. in Government from Cornell University (1990) and an M.A. (1998) and Ph.D. (2000) in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. She is currently Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where she teaches courses on Islam and other Near Eastern religious traditions, as well as courses on Women in Religion, and is one of the founding faculty members of the interdisciplinary Islamic Studies Program recently established at George Mason.

Her research interests lie in the fields of Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Mysticism, with a particular interest in Shi‘ite and Sufi Traditions and in Women’s Issues. She has published articles and presented papers on early Shi‘ism, Islamic Philosophy and Sufism. She most recently completed a book entitled The Charismatic Community: Shi‘ite Identity in Early Islam (forthcoming, 2006) and is working on an edited volume on women and Sufism.

Professor Waleed El-AnsaryWaleed El-Ansary, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, received his M.A. in Economics from the University of Maryland and his Ph.D. from George Washington University. He is a consultant to the Grand Mufti of Egypt and is involved in interfaith dialogue. His research focuses on the relationship between religion, philosophy, science and economics. Publications include Not by Bread Alone: Lecture of E. F. Schumacher (forthcoming), “The Quantum Enigma and Islamic Sciences of Nature: Implications for Islamic Economic Theory,” and “The Traditionalist Critique of Industrial Capitalism.” He has lectured widely on topics relating to economics, philosophy and policy.

Professor Joseph E.B. LumbardJoseph Lumbard is the founder of The Islamic Research Institute and is currently Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Brandeis University. He was awarded a B.A. magna cum laude in English Literature and Religious Studies from The George Washington University in 1993, and an M.A. in Religious Studies in 1995. He received an M.Phil. in Islamic Studies from Yale University in 2000, and a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies with distinction in May, 2003.

A specialist in Sufism and Islamic Philosophy, Dr. Lumbard has spent many years researching and writing about Islamic civilization, with an emphasis on its intellectual traditions. He has studied Islamic texts in Qur’an, law, theology, philosophy and Sufism with scholars trained in the classical Islamic tradition and has reached a high degree of proficiency in both Arabic and Persian. He is thus conversant with the technical vocabulary and the methodological issues particular to a broad range of Islamic intellectual disciplines. Professor Lumbard has served as a copy-editor for several books in Islamic Studies, among them Ideals and Realities of Islam, Islam and the Plight of Modern Man and The Heart of Islam, all by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Volume II of An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia. His articles have been published in journals such as The Islamic Quarterly, Transcendent Philosophy, Sacred Web and Sophia, and in collections of essays, such as Knowledge Is Light: Essays in Honor of Seyyed Hossein Nasr and How Can I Find God? Essays by the Famous and Not So Famous. He has spoken in academic forums around the world, participated in interfaith dialogue in Jewish and Christian forums and has appeared on several radio and television programs.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, Dr. Lumbard founded the Islamic Research Institute (IRI) to provide a forum in which Muslim scholars are able to contextualize issues pertaining to Islam and apply the traditional teachings of Islam to the exigencies of modern life. Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition is a product of his vision and leadership in this important area.


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