Critical Reading Group

The blind and the seeing are not alike; nor are the depths of darkness and the Light; nor are the shade and the heat of the sun; nor are alike those that are living and those that are dead … Those truly in awe of God among His servants are the learned.

(Qur’an, 35:19-22, 28) 

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living … I mean that profounder beauty which comes from the harmonious order of the parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.

    Henri Poincare 

Toward the end of the eighth century, the life of one particular man was about to change irrevocably. The man was Thabit bin Qurra who had already reached local distinction through his talent in linguistics and languages. He was to remain, however, engaged in various menial crafts as his livelihood in Harran (now in Turkey), until that is, he caught the attention of the philanthropist Mohammed bin Musa bin Shakir during his travels.  Thabit would accompany Mohammed bin Musa back to Baghdad to work with him and other illustrious scholars in Dar ul-Hikma. They were all gathered with other consummate scholars at the Dar ul-Hikma (House of Wisdom) under the auspices of the ‘Abbasid caliph, Al-Mu‘tadid. The purpose of the Dar ul-Hikma was primarily to provide a protected, intellectually vibrant space for talented scholars to pursue their interests that spanned an astonishing number of diverse subjects. This gathering would prove to serve as an engine for revolutionary advances in knowledge, science and technology. It was at the Dar ul-Hikma that Thabit bin Qurra not only put his language skills into service by translating and critiquing many of the most important treatises of the Greeks, but also became a first-rate scholar in his own right. It is worth noting another point concerning Thabit: he was not a Muslim, but a Sabian, a star worshipper.   


Do the above speak to you? If so, then you may be interested in attending a critical reading group that will engage with the writing of thinkers, all manner of scientists, philosophers and theologians – some well-known, others not so well-known – who have had or continue to have a profound, perhaps surprising influence in the world of ideas as we experience it today. We anticipate that the group will consist of Muslims who take seriously but critically the undeniable edifice of most, if not all, great civilizations: fellowship, faith, learning and scholarship.  

The group will meet weekly and, following a main presentation by a convener, discuss and debate the issues contained in and raised by readings from a core set of texts. The experience may be unfamiliar, uncomfortable, perhaps unsettling but the aim will always be clear: to be moved, transformed and inspired by the experience. We also hope that the secondary, transferable skills of critical thinking, systematic enquiry and collaborative learning are developed along the way. Above all, participants should bear in mind that neither agreement nor closure on subjects will be given much weight. Here, it may help to see the spirit of the sessions through one of Deleuze’s remarks: “Every time someone puts an objection to me, I want to say: OK, OK, let’s go on to something else ” 

Examples of the kind of thinkers and the issues would include: John Polkinghorne on religion and science; Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn on the philosophy of science; Ibn ‘Arabi on ontology, ethics and knowledge; G. H. Hardy on Mathematics; Kant on metaphysics and morality; Ziauddin Sardar and others on Islam and development. Readings of contemporary articles from peer reviewed journals will also be included.     

Click here for weekly listings


The details of the meetings are as follows: 

VENUE:   King’s College London (Strand Campus), Room 4A, Chesham Building 

DIRECTIONS:  Walk from the reception towards the Great Hall, go down the stair case opposite the Great Hall to the first basement. Take a right and then a left through the first set of doors continue up the stairs and follow the corridoor until you hit the wall, take the door on your left, follow the corridoor until you reach another pair of doors, take the stairs down and you have reached your destination.

TIME:  6.30pm until 8pm

DAY:   Every Tuesday

CONVENORS:  Dr Usama Hasan (Senior Lecturer, Middlesex University) & Dr Mahbub Gani (Lecturer, King’s College London)                                            

CONTACT:   mahbub.gani{at}