Azim Nanji

Session 1, Friday 13th, 9:00-10:30 am
Location: University of Alberta, Lister Conference Centre, Wild Rose Room

Session 8, Saturday 14th, 3:20-4:50 pm
Location: University of Alberta, Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, Room 1-140

The Path To Heaven: Landscapes Of Paradise



Muslim understandings of Heaven include descriptions, representations and narratives of the journey to as well as the landscape of this ultimate destination. The most foundational is the Quranic reference to the Mir’aj,the Prophet Muhammad’s ascent, accounts and representations of which abound in the literature and arts across virtually all Muslim societies. This paper traces some of these references, and attempts to link the imagined ideal of the Garden to their historicised representations on Earth. In this way aesthetic, ethical and environmental concerns become linked as ways of thinking about and retrieving paradise and also as cultivated landscapes.



Azim Nanji serves currently as Special Advisor to the Provost at the Aga Khan University. Most recently he served as Senior Associate Director of the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University 2008-2010 and also lectured on Islam in the Department of Religious Studies. He was previously Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London from 1998 to 2008 and before that was Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Florida. Born in Kenya, he studied at Makerere University in Uganda and completed his graduate studies at McGill University in Canada obtaining his Ph.D in 1972. He has authored, co-authored and edited several books including: The Nizari Ismaili Tradition (1976), The Muslim Almanac (1996), Mapping Islamic Studies (1997), The Historical Atlas of Islam (with M.Ruthven, 2004) The Dictionary of Islam (with Razia Nanji, Penguin 2008) and Living in Historic Cairo (with Farhad Daftary and Elizabeth Fernea, 2010) In addition, he has contributed numerous shorter articles on religion and ethics in encyclopedias, journals and collective volumes. In 1988 he was Margaret Gest Visiting Professor at Haverford College and a Visiting Professor at Stanford University in 2004, where he was also invited to give the Baccalaureate Address in 1995. He has served as a member of the Master Jury and Steering Committee of the international Aga Khan Award for Architecture. He has also lectured widely at international conferences all over the world. In 2004, he gave the annual Birks Lecture at McGill University. He currently serves on the Board of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada.


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