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Islamic Pathways of Reform: the Reception of Ibn Taymiyya between the 16th-18th centuries

Dr. Caterina Bori

This project examines the impact of Ibn Taymiyya in the centuries that preceded the rise of the Wahhābī movement (16th – early 18thth), with special focus on the Ottoman provinces of Bilād al-Sham, Baghdad and Egypt. The research will focus on the social and intellectual networks in which the transmission and reception of Ibn Taymiyya took place. Particular attention will be given to circles of people, or single scholars, who exploited Ibn Taymiyya as a dynamic voice of religious reformism. Today Ibn Taymiyya is widely looked at as the ideological father of many contemporary fundamentalist trends. His connection with Wahhābī ideology has been repeatedly stressed. In spite of this, the itineraries undertaken by ideas associated with him towards modernity remain generally unexplored. The investigation of the so far unexplored 16th and 17th centuries intends to map the trajectories of the social and intellectual journey of the 14th century Hanbalī scholar that more than any other has today become the medieval paradigm of modern Islamic fundamentalism. With this in mind, the research is meant to broaden our understanding of the history of one of the key-figure of contemporary Islamic ideologies. By looking at what happened to the writings of Ibn Taymiyya between the 16th and early 18th century in different areas of the Ottoman Empire, the main idea is to use his figure as an input to understand what the intellectual forces behind discourses on religious reform were. More broadly, “religious disorders and reform” will be looked at as a springboard into questions of how to effect reform within the framework of traditionalist Sunnism, in different times and settings, and what constituted a reformist religious identity in the pre-modern period.