Following the Laws in Islam: A Phenomenological Perspective


Friday, February 21, 2020, 4:00pm to 6:00pm


CMES, Rm 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The Aga Khan Fund for Iranian Studies presents

Hessam DehghaniHessam Dehghani
Lecturer in Philosophy, Bentley University; Lecturer in Persian and Arabic language and linguistics, Boston College

Abstract: The aim of this study is to investigate the experience of the followers of the laws in Islam phenomenologically. Beyond the hermeneutic strategies to extract the laws, this study focuses on the interpretation of laws at the level of the experience of the followers. In particular, the existential-phenomenological analysis of the rites of the pilgrimage of ḥajj shows how the very performance of the stories and actions leads to a multiplicity of interpretations rather than a static ideological structure. Instead of prioritizing one interpretation of Islamic laws over others, a phenomenological study of “following” sheds light on the conditions of possibility of all modes of following, from “blind following” or imitation (taqlīd) to imaginative or mimetic following as heedful conduct (adab). Besides, the extracted transcendental principles of "following" the laws in Islam will explain the transformation of one mode to the other in any particular context.

Hessam Dehghani is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Bentley University, and a Lecturer in Persian and Arabic language and linguistics at Boston College. A scholar of Western and Islamic philosophy and literary hermeneutics, his current research focuses on the configuration of the “self” among the “followers” of religious law, a project which he developed during his time at the Harvard Divinity School, where he was a Postdoctoral Fellow last fall.

Dr. Dehghani obtained a first Ph.D. in Linguistics from Allameh Tabataba’i University in Tehran, Iran, with a dissertation titled “Interpretation and Literary Theory: From Structuralism to Ricoeurian Hermeneutics” (2011). In 2019, he earned a second Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston College, where he was a Fellow at the Clough Center for Constitutional Democracy (2014-2018). His dissertation, “The Topology of Community in Aristotle: a Phenomenological Approach,” offers a phenomenological reading of Aristotle’s formulation of a “just community” and its appropriation in Islamic thought.

His publications include an award-winning essay on “The Phenomenological Hermeneutics of Poetry: a re-reading of Ahmad Shamlu’s The Walls” (in Persian), and an essay on “Natural Community and the Limits of Laws in Aristotle” in the first Iranian Yearbook of Phenomenology (forthcoming).

Co-sponsors: Aga Khan Fund for Iranian Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
Contact: Liz Flanagan