Torah – Worldliness – Quran
Beyond the Common Concepts of „Secular” and “Religious”
International Conference, Tübingen 28.-29.11 2023
(Asher J. Mattern, Fahimah Ulfat)
Disputes about the role and position of religions in the secular state are increasing worldwide. Conflicts over values, national citizenship and public space are often interwoven with questions of religion, which in turn are linked to questions of gender, sexuality and ethnicity. These public disputes as their reflection in academic research and discourse are still very much unilaterally determined by an understanding and a conceptualization derived from Christian religion and its specific critique. The liberal society as a secular society and its critical perspective on religion as such shows itself as part of a genuinely (post-)Christian configuration.
The Christian, especially Protestant, character of the concept of secularization is immediately apparent in its dependence on a concept of religion for which the inwardness of faith is the central phenomenon. Not only the privatization and internalization of religion, but also its differentiation as an independent functional area of society, as well as the demand for a detachment of the political from the realm of the religious, show themselves to be fundamentally compatible, for example, with an understanding of religion in the faith dimension as a "sense and taste for the infinite" or a "feeling of utter dependence" (Schleiermacher). But, and this is our fundamental question, what is the situation with "religions” characterized by a practice that has irrevocably a public dimension? In such a context differentiation and privatization or internalization of religion do not seem to imply the preservation of religion in modern contexts, but rather its exclusion or even negation.
How differently such a constellation of “religion” as Dat and Din has to be structured is immediately apparent in the attempt to ascribe the concepts of atheism or irreligion in the context of religion as law: while an atheist in the Christian tradition, that focuses on the inwardness of faith (although not exclusively), can unambiguously be described as unbelieving and non-religious, this is clearly more complex in Judaism, for example. Is a Jew who follows the law of the Torah but does not believe in God secular, atheist or non-religious? And what about a Jew who believes but does not follow the halachic prescription? From the perspective of traditional Judaism, the latter would certainly not be considered "religious", i.e., "dati" ("law-abiding" or observant), whereas according to the widespread (post-)Christian understanding this would be the case.
Following current discourses initiated by Thomas Bauer (The Culture of Ambiguity), Talal Asad (Formations of the Secular), Charles Taylor (A Secular Age), or Wael Hallaq (The Impossible State), we want to ask, what “secularization” could mean if "religion" was decisively constituted in a conceptualisation of Dat (Hebrew for "religion"; but primarily: "law, right and custom") or Din (Arabic for "religion"; primarily: "law, obligation and custom"), i.e. in the semantic field of "religious” law, and thus implies obligation and action in the public sphere? What might a genuinely Jewish or Muslim understanding of secularization look like or is there a more general term that includes a diversity of “religious” configurations?
While in a narrow classical understanding of secularization, the thesis that secularization is a special Western path can be affirmed, a broader perspective raises the question of whether, on the basis of other conceptions of the relationship to the divine, the sacred, the heteronomous, a corresponding non-religious or "other-than-religious" or secular realm could be or was actually thought of in other traditions. This questioning cannot mean a simple rejection of the Western-Enlightenment differentiation and rely on or project the establishment of binary oppositions such as "Western-Islamic" or the like, but rather the possibility of opening and internally differentiating the concept of secularity by examining non-Christian semantic and structural constellations of the relationship between the "religious" and the "secular". It is therefore necessary to question the opposition of both spheres in a way that can reveal alternative differentiations between religion/dat/din and the profane/world or also the interconnections and dialectical dynamics of the structural constellations in question.
In the context of our conference this investigation aims specifically at the Jewish and Muslim traditions and their respective, but corresponding understanding of religion as Dat or Din (in its sense as law) and their relationship to the World, the Worldly, the Profane, the Political or whatever term should be conceived off as the included or opposed other of the divine order or framework. How are the Absolute and the Relative, the Divine and the Worldly related in the traditions of Torah and Koran? What kind of oppositions or dialectics have been developed in Jewish and Islamic traditions, what possibilities did not yet enter our dominant ideological frameworks? Are there ideas and dynamics that might even enrich the Western traditions and, in the end, help us to develop our multicultural societies by including a variety of semantic, religious, cultural ideas?
The Conference on “Torah – Worldliness – Koran: Beyond the Common Concepts of ‘Secular’ and ‘Religious’” organized by the “Research Center for Jewish and Islamic Theology, Hermeneutics, Law and Education” at the University of Tübingen will examine these questions of the basis of classical and modern Jewish and Islamic sources. We intend to form a discourse that, on the one hand, concentrates on developing the conceptual possibilities in these sources and their respective traditions, and, on the other hand, reflect on the question what these traditions have to offer in order to rethink anew the relationship between the “Religious” and the “Worldly” as it is necessary in order to develop the multicultural potential of our modern societies.
The Conference will take place at the University of Tübingen from November 28th to November 29th 2023. For registration, please send an email to zeynep.taskiran. You can find further information and the program @uni-tuebingen.dehere.
Ringvorlesung: "Jüdisch-muslimische Beziehungen in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart"
Organisation: Prof. Fahimah Ulfat, Zentrum für Islamische Theologie; Dr. Asher J. Mattern, Institut für Ökumenische und Interreligiöse Forschung
jeweils Donnerstag 18.00 Uhr c. t. im Kupferbau Hörsaal 21
Die Termine und Themen der Gastredner:innen finden Sie hier.