We’re in Esfahan now (unquestionably one of the most stunning cities I’ve ever visited) but I want to tell you first about our day yesterday, which we spent at Mofid University in the city of Qom.
Qom is considered a holy city for Shia Islam and is the largest center for Shia scholarship in the world. In addition to traditional Islam, most of the seminaries also offer courses in social sciences, Western thought and comparative religion. Mofid is considered one of the more liberal universities in Qom and is notable in particular for its interfaith research.
We spent the better part of the day at Mofid, visiting and dialoguing with professors and students. Any preconceptions we may have had about an Islamic university in Iran went out of the window almost immediately. We introduced ourselves to our host and the professors introduced themselves to us – they included scholars who were versed in a remarkable variety of subjects including Jewish law, contemporary feminism and Western philosophy. That’s me above with Dr. Masoud Adib, who among other things has translated a book by Dr. Jacob Neusner (a prominent American Jewish scholar) into Farsi. In the pic below Rabbi Lynn (left) poses with Fatima (center) a graduate student who is currently studying Rashi’s commentary on the Torah and has translated the Book of Mormon into Farsi. On the right is Haydeh Rostam Abadi, who works with the Center for Interreligious Dialogue and has been traveling with us for the past few days. Her research, among other things, focuses on a comparison of the Catholic and Islamic concepts of revelation.
Our discussion took the better part of two hours. The professors discussed their study of the relationsip between Islam and the other religious traditions and their research in the fields of comparative religious philosophy and law. The theological validity and spiritual worth of all Abrahamic religions was a common and recurring theme . Members of our group also spoke about Jewish and Christian attitudes toward Islam. Our discussion was relatively brief in the scheme of things, but it was enough to give us all the sense that these Islamic scholars were deeply engaged in a wide spectrum of religious and philosophical ideas and that they had an abiding desire to meet and learn from others.
After our meeting we shared lunch with teachers and students and continued our conversation in a more informal manner. This was followed by a longer conversation with the thoughtful and enthusiastic students of Mofid. In the pic below, one of our younger delegation members, Ariel Vegosen (right) is chatting up a group of young students.
What can I say? Another day for smashing assumptions and preconceived notions to smithereens. I’m off to sleep now, but I’ll come back soon and tell you about our first day in ravishing Esfahan…
Many of us have read a variety of memoirs that include narratives about Iranian universities and students. It’s really wonderful to get another perspective, and one that is so refreshingly optimistic.
Thanks to you, Alan and Sallie for inspiring all of us.
We continue to be amazed. In light of your optimistic experiences, I’d like to get your input on Dennis Ross’s comments on Iran in the current Newsweek magazine
Shalom, Salam, Mom