Jordan: on the practice of Istijarah for human flourishing

Jordan: on the practice of Istijarah for human flourishing

Tuesday, 7 March 2023 - 5:00pm
Pavilion Room, St Antony's College
Dr Abdullah Awad, The Institute for Critical Thought
Education, Purpose and Human Flourishing in Uncertain Times

This seminar is part of the Education, Purpose and Human Flourishing in Uncertain Times research programme.

Theme 3: History and Politics

This series explores how we might better understand the ‘idea’ or indeed the ideal of flourishing, and the importance of education as a pathway to it. Previously, we first examined a variety of important concepts concerning personhood and society as it relates to flourishing, such as character and virtue, and asked whether flourishing lies in the development of these. In the second seminar series, we turned our attention to other notions interdependently related to flourishing, specifically the notions of culture and context. We asked whether and how the development of mind and socio-emotional qualities such as character, virtue, open-mindedness, resilience, and actualisation are differently, but no less meaningfully, shaped by history and culture across world contexts. In this third series, we are turning to the impact of history and politics on pathways and understandings of human flourishing. We ask to what extent we should consider enabling and disabling historical factors in national and international contexts, and point towards examples of collective endeavour and struggle in response to adversity.

These seminars are open to the public and can be joined in person, or virtually on the following MS Teams link: Click here to join the meeting.

Recordings of past seminars can be found at this link.


The most severe health issues affect both the body and the soul. Such issues are especially difficult to navigate among refugee communities, where humanitarian and governmental organizations prioritize material needs over spiritual matters. This paper shares the journey of an innovative school program developed in Jordan that takes inspiration from the concept of Istijarah, or the ethical response of accommodating those in need, from the vantage of the Arab world. As it develops a curriculum which balances the interior cultivation of virtues with outward community building, the concept of Istijarah provides a historically significant and regionally resonant alternative to dominant western discourses around refugees and education. Given the severity of migrant crises around the world, Istijarah may further provide resources for thinking comparatively about indigenous knowledge and practice in educational reform.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Abdullah Awad is a Herschel Smith Fellow at the University of Cambridge and the founding director of the Institute for Critical Thought, where he teaches seminars in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. He leads collaborative research programs on how history and language condition humanitarian protection, especially in the context of the Arab world, and lectures widely on education and the humanities.