ICMA Conference

Georgetown University and Charles Sturt University Conference 2024

Isnād-cum-Matn Analysis (ICMA) as a Method in Contemporary Hadith Studies

Call for papers closed on 31 August 2023.

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The Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding of Georgetown University and the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation of Charles Sturt University in collaboration with Comparative Islamic Studies (Equinox Journal) are pleased to host an online conference on Isnād-cum-matn Analysis (ICMA) as a Method in Contemporary Hadith Studies on 27-28 January 2024.

Western academic scholarship on the origin and transmission of hadith and traditional Muslim hadith methodologies of authentication, though studying the same body of literature, often operate in disconnected universes. It is of scholarly importance to academic development and for the continued vibrancy of the hadith tradition, as practiced by Muslim ulema, that dialogue continues between the two. Conferences aiming to do so, such as the one at Pembroke College, Oxford in 2019 on the topic of Modern Hadith Studies between Arabophone and Western scholarship, are a welcome effort, though the field remains siloed.

Since the academic movement most closely associated with the work of Harold Motzki from the 1990s, there has been a shift beyond the so-called ‘skeptical’ school with respect to hadith using the technique of ICMA. This method analyses the variation of hadith texts according to their paths of transmission, seeking to provide a reliable date for the time at which a hadith was first in common circulation (as witnessed by its corroborated chains). Scholars with a range of theoretical perspectives have used this methodology to analyze and in particular, date hadiths on various topics. The method is commonly used to recover as much as possible of the hadith corpus as a viable historical source for the first two centuries of Islam, even though the canonical compilations date mainly to the third century and later. Though ICMA has received positive reception, especially in the context of the prior prevailing academic skepticism about hadith, critical voices have been raised. Some scholars have argued for the continuation of a more skeptical attitude towards the transmission of hadith, based on the ways that fabricated reports and chains can enter the corpus. Others have suggested that Motzki’s focus on full textual corroboration does not go far enough and other techniques, including those used within the Islamic intellectual tradition, could be legitimately added to date hadiths earlier still. Finally, some scholars defend the integrity of the canonical hadith collections as a whole.

This conference will provide a forum for the assessment of an international group of experts on hadith, from a variety of backgrounds and theoretical perspectives. The intention is to provide a ‘state of the art’ appraisal of ICMA within hadith studies and related academic disciplines, with selected papers published with the blind peer reviewed journal Comparative Islamic Studies.

The conference invites papers on a range of methodological and historiographical inquiries surrounding the use of ICMA in the field of hadith studies. While case studies involving the application of the method to specific hadith clusters is likely to feature in many of the papers, the intended focus is the broader question of method. The ability to advance questions of hadith methodology through the analysis of specific traditions is modelled by Motzki’s pioneering contributions to the field.

Papers are requested on topics addressing questions such as:

  • How has ICMA been received in hadith studies in the past three decades?
  • What is the epistemic status of ICMA analysis?
  • What does ICMA reveal about the common links of hadith?
  • What are the advantages and limitations of the technique, and the scope of its application?
  • Are there similar techniques to the ICMA in classical Muslim scholarship and have they yielded the same results?
  • What are the challenges of conducting ICMA and can technology, such as electronic databases and AI generated tools, contribute to the development of reliable tools?
  • How does ICMA relate to the historiographical reception of hadith in academic circles and the hadith canon in Islamic religious tradition?

These topics are intended to be taken broadly and papers on ICMA from different theoretical, methodological and empirical perspectives are also welcome.

Send proposals of up to 300 words to sansari@respectgs.us by 31 August 2023, which will be reviewed by members of the organizing committee. Please include relevant affiliation, a 200 word biography and contact information in a single Word document along with the abstract.

Conference presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes. Selected conference papers will be published as a Special Issue of the journal Comparative Islamic Studies.

  • Call for abstracts deadline: 31 August 2023
  • Announcement of accepted papers: 18 September 2023
  • Online Conference: 27-28 January 2024
  • Manuscript submission deadline: 31 March 2024

Dr. Ulrika Mårtensson

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Editor of Comparative Islamic Studies (CIS) (Equinox)

Dr. Ramon Harvey

Cambridge Muslim College

Editor of Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Scripture and Theology

Prof. Jonathan A.C. Brown

Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service

Georgetown University

Dr. Suleyman Sertkaya (Co-Editor for Special Issue)

Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation

Charles Sturt University

Dr. Sadeq Ansari (Co-Editor for Special Issue)

Assistant Professor Islamic Studies

Respect Graduate School

London TimeItem
9.30am -10.00am

Welcome and Introduction

Welcome and Acknowledgements
Suleyman Sertkaya, Charles Sturt University
Sadeq Ansari, Respect Graduate School

Welcome and Opening Remarks on Hadith Studies
Jonathan Brown, Georgetown University

Introduction to the Conference Theme
Ramon Harvey, Cambridge Muslim College

10.00am -12.00pm

Panel 1  
Comparative Methods between ICMA and Traditional Hadith
Chair: Jonathan Brown

Was ICMA how Early Hadith Critics Worked?
Belal Abulabbas, University of Nottingham

Using Isnād-cum-Matn Analysis to Verify the Authenticity of the Transmission Process of Single Strands: A Case Study of G. H. A. Juynboll
Ayse Mutlu Ozgur, Independent

The Potential for an isnād-cum-matn Analysis Accepted by Muslim and Western Scholars: A Comparative Perspective
Fatma Kızıl, Yalova University

Home-Grown Organic ICMA? Case Study of an ICMA-Like Approach in Contemporary Muslim Scholarship
Mohammed El-Sayed Bushra, The University of Otago

12.00pm - 12.15pmBREAK
12.15pm - 13.45pm

Panel 2
Methodological Debates in ICMA I: Assessing Limitations
Chair: Sadeq Ansari

Intertextuality during the Process of Transmission or How Isnād-cum-Matn Analysis Misunderstands Textual Criticism
Georg Leube, University of Bayreuth

The Limits of ICMA: al-ḥadīth al-gharīb
I-Wen Su, National Chengchi University

Reappraisal of Methodological Diversity in Isnād-cum-Matn Analysis (ICMA): A Scrutiny of Sunni and Shia Hadiths on the usage of ḍarb  in Quran 4:34 (iḍribūhunna)
Ali Aghaei, Paderborn University
Nahid Hoseinnataj, al-Zahra University

13.45pm - 14.30pmLUNCH BREAK
14.30pm - 16.30pm

Panel 3
Methodological Debates in ICMA II: Overcoming Limitations?
Chair: Ramon Harvey

ICMA and Beyond: Ibn Sīrīn and the Rise of Source Verification as a Means of Hadith Criticism. A Critical Analysis of the Provenance of a Famous Report
Tahir Muhammad, Independent
Salman Nasir, Independent

Beyond the Common Link: The Utility and Necessity of Form Criticism and Literary Analysis
Joshua Little, Independent

Text-hadith Review Procedures such as ICMA as a Tool for a Contemporary Islamic Theology? A Critical Review of Some Apostasy Hadiths and the Significance of Isnād-cum-matn Analysis
Ulvi Karagedik, University of Education in Karlsruhe (Pädagogische Hochschule Karlsruhe)

Bio-Bibliographical Cross-Reference Analysis: A tailoring approach to applying ICMA to Imāmī ḥadīth
Mostafa Movahedifar, Al-Mahdi Institute

London TimeItem
9.30am - 11.00am

Panel 4
Digital Hadith Methodologies
Chair: Suleyman Sertkaya

Benefits and Limitations of a Computational Approach to ICMA Analysis
Mairaj Syed, University of California, Davis

The Narrator’s Fingerprint: Transmitter-based Stylometry as a Supplement to ICMA Hadith Studies
Ali Cebeci, Georgetown University

A New Counter-Taṣḥīf Method for Determining the Textual Similarity in ICMA
Mohammad Ghandehari, University of Tehran

11.00am - 11.15amBREAK
11.15am - 13.15pm

Panel 5
Global Reception of ICMA
Chair: Sadeq Ansari

Comparative Analysis of the ICMA Method and Classical Islamic Hadith Science: A Focus on Motzki's Works and the Murder of Ibn Abi al-Huqayq
Muhamet Ziberi, Independent

The Reception of Harald Motzki’s Isnad cum Matn Theory in The Muslim World: With Special Reference to Indonesian Hadith Scholarship
Rizqa Ahmadi, Universitas Islam Negeri Sayyid Ali Rahmatullah Tulungagung

Islamic and Modern Western Ḥadīth Criticism Inter-Receptions: A Qualitative Analysis of ICMA
Bilal Ahmad Qureishi, International Islamic University

13.15pm - 14.00pmLUNCH BREAK
14.00pm - 16.00pm

Panel 6
Historiographical Application of ICMA
Chair: Ulrika Mårtensson

Surāqa’s Pursuit Continues: Is an Exhaustive Isnād-cum-Matn Analysis indeed necessary?
Nicolet Boekhoff-van der Voort, Radboud University

Debating the Sanctity of Medina: A Reevaluation of Hadith Narratives
Seyfeddin Kara, University of Groningen

Isnād-cum-matn and the Islamic Historical Tradition: The ‘Narrativisation’ Process in the Accounts of Ibn al-Zubayr’s Early Career
Mehdy Shaddel, Aga Khan University

Mapping Isnāds and Mining Biographical Dictionaries: Recovering the Social Legitimation of the Caliph’s Court
S. Beena Butool, Florida State University

16.00pm - 16.30pmConcluding Session/Publication Discussion

Ramon Harvey, Cambridge Muslim College
Sadeq Ansari, Respect Graduate School
Ulrika Mårtensson, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Further information

If you have further questions please contact sansari@respectgs.us