Wednesday, 4 October marked the return of the ACRPS' regular seminar series of events devoted to studying issues of topical interest to the scholarly community at the Center and throughout Doha. This week's seminar, the first in the 2017/2018 academic year, was delivered by Mohammed Jamal Barout whose lecture tackled the topic of "The Historical, Institutional Roots of the Divergence of Sunni and Shia Islam during the Fourth and Fifth Hijri Centuries (1100-1200 AD): from Sect to Confession". Barout's work, which drew a large audience, examined the period during which the two major Islamic sects extant today crystalized in the Middle East, under the Abbasid and Fatimid Empires. It was during that time, explained Barout, that theological division between various jurisprudents seeking to establish the primacy of their school of thought as the "single path to salvation"—an allusion to a contested Hadith—developed into distinct confessional/sectarian identities.


Barout used his time to explore the theological, historical dynamics which gave rise to the institutionalization of these distinct identities in later periods. Barout was followed by historian Wajih Kawtharani, who offered a critique of Barout's depiction of the growth of distinct Islamic identities. Kawtharani's main contention was that Jamal Barout's treatment of the disputes which brought the nascent Sunni-Shia divide to an edge did not take into account the political turmoil and mass revolts which characterized the preceding three centuries of Islamic social history.