Kalam Research and Media’s working group with a focus on the ‘Soul and the Unseen’ met on 31 January and 1 February in Strasbourg, France for a two-day intensive workshop probing the scientific, historical and philosophical understandings of human consciousness. The working group was hosted in the Grand Mosque in Strasbourg, with gracious support provided by the administration and the mosque’s president, Mr Ali El Jarroudi. In addition to their enthusiasm and support, both the mosque administration as well as the greater Muslim community attended an open discussion on consciousness and the significance of this big question as it relates to Islam and theology.
The group consisted of Dr Eric Geoffroy of University of Strasbourg; Dr Yamina Mermer who is co-founder of Always Receiving Nur and formerly Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Carthage College; Dr Aaron Spevack, Assistant Professor of Religion at Colgate University; Dr Steffen Stelzer, Professor of Philosophy at The American University in Cairo; Dr. Wan Suhaimi Wan Abdullah of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia who is Associate Professor at the Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science, and Civilisation (CASIS); and Yusuf Lenfest of KRM.
Contributions ranged from intellectual histories of figures and concepts of consciousness to contemporary debates in philosophy and quantum physics. Considering what consciousness is or possibly means in the realm of theology must also ponder Man’s relationship to God, the realities and degrees of the soul (whether psychological or metaphysical) as it relates to Being, and the participation of the creation within the parameters of the classic fate/free-will paradigm.
The engaged critical discussions amongst participants revealed a real urgency to the issue and a diverse range of methodologies by which to approach the subject. The enthusiasm from the audience meanwhile, and their intelligent questions about applying and reconciling such theories into the discourse of traditional practice and thought, proved that the question of consciousness is not one unique only to the sphere of academia, but also concerns the wider community of diverse believing men, women and youth throughout society.