Public Lecture Series Program 2023/24

Lectures are hybrid  (in person and online via registration) unless otherwise noted


March 2024

Date and time: March 11, 2024 

Lecture title: IRAQ AFTER THE TERRITORIAL DEFEAT OF ISLAMIC STATE: Slow recovery or danger of after-effects?

Speaker: Marko Juntunen, University of Helsinki

Venue: F3006 Main Building, University of Helsinki

To attend virtually, please register at the following link:

Abstract: The citizens of Iraq have had to struggle for the last four decades in the middle of a continuous state of emergency. Repeating political crises, large-scale violence, destruction of infrastructure and broken visions of the future have marked the collective experience of the last generations of Iraqis.The latest large-scale human catastrophe, that was produced by the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS), is today largely over, but the fragile society is still struggling with serious challenges.The aim of the presentation is to shed light on key challenges of peacebuilding, reforms and reconciliation in Iraq with specific focus on north-western parts of the country, areas that formed between the years 2014-2019 the base of the international terrorist organization IS.

Bio: Marko Juntunen is a docent of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies (University of Helsinki). He has worked in numerous research projects that dealt with social, political, cultural and transnational aspects of the present-day globalized Middle East with focus on North Africa, Iraq and European diasporic Muslim spaces. Between 2020 and 2023, he worked in Finn Church Aid as a senior specialist of the Middle East focusing on the possibilities of stabilizing the conflict areas of Iraq and Syria and the prevention of violent extremism.


April 2024

Date and time: April 15, 2024 

Lecture title: The Influence of Context over the Interpretation of Religious Sources and Practices of People

Speaker: Sumeyra Yakar, University of Iğdır in Turkey

Venue: F3006 Main Building, University of Helsinki

To attend virtually. please register at the following link:

Abstract: The connection between Islamic law and custom (ʿurf), identifies the ways in which personal and social issues are treated within contemporary societies. The existence of complex ideas around similar issues within contemporary Islamic legal opinions is further complicated by the influence of international, social, political, cultural, customary and ideological contexts. The lecture, therefore, aims to present diversities of religious interpretation which are related to practice of Islamic law in the contemporary Muslim and non-Muslim countries. It, also, highlights the connection between context and contemporaneity, on one hand, and the adaptable perception of Islamic law, on the other.

Bio: Sumeyra Yakar is an Associate Professor of Islamic law. She specializes in Islamic law and legal anthropology. She received her Ph.D. from Exeter University (2019) and currently works at the University of Iğdır in Turkey. Her studies focuses on the relationship between theory and practice in Islamic legal systems, especially in contemporary Saudi Arabia and Iran. She also studies religious practices, sectarian differences, and the influence of religion on politics in the Middle East. Her recent research are is related to the religious identity of Muslim minorities who are living in non-Muslim countries.


(Later lectures to be announced)


Previous Lectures in this Academic Year:

February 2024

Date and time: February 12, 2024 

Lecture title: Islamic theology at European universities

Speaker: Tobias Andersson, Uppsala University

This is an online lecture, please register at the following link:

Abstract: Alasdair MacIntyre’s concept of tradition as “an historically extended, socially embodied argument” has previously been used to describe and explain the historical development of Islamic theology. This presentation explores the relevance of MacIntyre’s concept for critical and constructive studies of Islamic theology at European universities.   

Bio: Tobias Andersson is a senior lecturer in Systematic Theology at Uppsala University. He has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Systematic Theology from Uppsala University.  His research focuses on Islamic historiography, North African Ash’arism and Sufism, and the integration of Islamic theology into European university settings.


September 2023

Date and time: September 11, 2023, 16:00-18:00 pm

Lecture title: The Everyday Politics of Labor of Explaining: Formation of Racialization of Islam

Speaker: Zeinab Karimi, University of Helsinki

Venue: F3006 Main Building, University of Helsinki

To attend virtually, please register at the following link:

Abstract: Bringing religion into conversation with critical race and citizenship theories, my research investigates how the racialization of Islam shapes the lived citizenship of minorities in the Finnish context. The 26 people participating in this research were asked questions about their everyday lives and the role of religion in their experiences. The study includes people of different religious and nonreligious identifications. I reflect upon my learning from the narratives of the research participants and explain the key concepts that developed from this research; selective secularism and labor of explaining.

Bio: Zeinab Karimi holds a Ph.D. in sociology (2020) from the University of Helsinki. Karimi is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki. She has worked on various topics related to forced migration, racism, lived citizenship, transnational family life, and religion. Karimi has published in international journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies, Nordic Journal of Migration Research, and Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture. Karimi’s main research interests are religion studies, international migration, migrant families, critical race studies, and border studies.


October 2023

Date and time: October 16, 2023, 16:00-18:00 pm.

Lecture Title: The Problem of Animal Suffering in the Brethren of Purity and Abū Bakr al-Rāzī: the Mu‘tazilite Context”.

Speaker: Janne Mattila, University of Helsinki

Venue: F3006 Main Building, University of Helsinki

To attend virtually, please register at the following link:

Abstract: The presentation addresses the ethical problem of animal suffering in the Brethren of Purity (9th-10th cent.) and al-Rāzī (d. 925). I argue that the ethical concern for animals in both philosophers is due to the influence of Mu‘tazilite theology: any suffering (whether human or animal) contradicts the notion of benevolent and omnipotent God; thus, animals are also incorporated within the sphere of divine, and by extension human, justice (since the same concept applies to both). In the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity, this theodicean

context is present in the highlighting of animal suffering in the animal fable of Epistle 22 but more explicitly in the discussions of God’s reasons for allowing 1) pain in general in Epistle 30, 2) animal pain and carnivorism in particular in Epistle 40, and 3) slaughter of animals in Epistle 5. Al-Rāzī’s Philosophical Life infers from its fourth ethical principle (God is compassionate and therefore abhors us experiencing pain) that we also should not cause pain to any sentient being, including animals. For both authors, the Muʻtazilite influence is evident in four aspects: 1) grounding of the ethical value of animals in divine justice, 2) the specific problems of carnivore animals and human slaughter of animals, 3) the solution of compensation in the afterlife (through reincarnation for the philosophers), and 4) the ethical terms employed in the arguments (benefit and harm; duty, right, and desert). By means of the two cases, the article makes the larger argument that the Muʻtazila played a pivotal role in introducing animal ethical concerns during the first Islamic centuries: the two most important examples of philosophers that give any prominence to animal ethics are influenced by the Muʻtazila.

Bio: Janne Mattila is a researcher in the project “The Nature and Moral Status of Animals in Antiquity and the Middle Ages” funded by the Kone Foundation. He has specialized in the investigation of the history of Islamic philoosphy and philosophical theology during the classical period.


November 2023

Date and time: November 13, 2023, 16:00-18:00 pm

Roundtable: “Identity theories and the study of Christianity and Islam”

Speakers: Katja Kujanpaa, Ilkka Lindstedt, Teemu Pauha

Venue: F3006 Main Building, University of Helsinki

To attend virtually, please register at the following link:

Abstract: In this roundtable, we present some of the results of the Cultural Foundation-funded research project “The transmission of social identities in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam” (PI: Jutta Jokiranta). Various identity theories (in particular, those promulgated in the field of social psychology) have proven useful in analyzing historical and contemporary religious texts and phenomena. We discuss the possibilities and challenges in utilizing these theories of identity in various research settings and with different data. The word “identity” is over-used and often loosely defined in the humanities (including religious studies); we argue that more rigorous and better theorized usage is needed.

Bios: Katja Kujanpää is a Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Her project at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies examines the use of authoritative texts in early Christian processes of identity construction. The objectives are 1) to produce new knowledge of the ways in which early Christian writers used authoritative texts when shaping the group identity of their audience, 2) to develop concepts and models for analysing the authority of texts, and 3) to demonstrate the connections between power, identity and scriptural argumentation.

Ilkka Lindstedt is Lecturer in Islamic theology at the Faculty of Theology. He specializes in early Islam, Arabic literature, and Arabic epigraphy. His book Muhammad and His Followers in Context: The Religious Map of Late Antique Arabia is forthcoming in Dec. 2023 (Brill).

Teemu Pauha is Lecturer in Islamic theology at the Faculty of Theology. In his current project, he studies the e ways in which young Shia Muslims in Finland use the Qur’an in negotiations of identity and authority. Besides these topics, he has published on anti-Muslim attitudes in Finland, interreligious attitudes among atheists, Finnish mosque debates, moral psychology of Islamic sermons, and apostasy from Islam.

January 2024


Kirjaesittely 18.1. 2024 klo 16.00-18.00

F3006 Päärakennus, Helsingin yliopisto

JOONAS MARISTO esittelee tuoretta teostaan

Islamilaisen oikeuden historia: Šarian monet merkitykset. Gaudeamus

Kirjan teemoista keskustelevat Islamin tutkimuksen ja islamilaisen teologian yliopistonlehtori Ilkka Lindstedt, Lähi-idän tutkimuksen yliopistonlehtori Marko Juntunen sekä tutkijatohtori Sanna Mustasaari.

”Islamilainen oikeus on yli tuhat vuotta vanha kirjallinen ja eletyn elämän tulkintatraditio. Se käsittää koko ihmiselämän kirjon antaen ohjeita, suosituksia ja määräyksiä paastosta ja pyhiinvaelluksesta kaupankäyntiin ja poliittisiin käytäntöihin. Islamilaisen oikeuden historia valottaa yleistajuisesti šaria-käsitteen muotoutumista, merkityksiä ja sisältöä.”(Esittelyteksti kustantajan sivuilta)

Joonas Maristo, FT, on tutkinut varhaista islamilaista historiankirjoitusta ja persiankielistä runoutta. Hän on kommentoinut asiantuntijana usein Iraniin liittyviä aiheita.

Sanna Mustasaari, OTT toimii Itä-Suomen yliopistolla yliopistotutkijana ja Suomen akatemian tutkijatohtorina. Hän tutkii islamilaista perheoikeutta ja transnationaalisia muslimiperheitä arjen, ylirajaisuuden ja oikeuspluralismin näkökulmista. Hän on toimittanut yhdessä Marja Tiilikaisen ja Mulki Al-Sharmanin kanssa teoksen Wellbeing of Transnational Muslim Families Marriage, Law and Gender (open access: )

Ilkka Lindstedt on islamilaisen teologian yliopistonlehtori sekä arabian kielen ja islamin tutkimuksen dosentti Helsingin yliopistossa. Hänen tutkimuksensa käsittelee varhaista islamia. Hänen kirjansa Muhammad and His Followers in Context: The Religious Map of Late Antique Arabia on juuri julkaistu (Brill).

Marko Juntunen FT, on Lähi-idän tutkimuksen dosentti ja yliopistonlehtori Helsingin yliopistossa. Hänen tutkimuksensa ovat kohdentuneet Marokon kaupunkiköyhälistöön, irakilaisdiasporaan Euroopassa, monikulttuuriseen kaupunkitilaan ja väkivaltaisen ekstremismin ennaltaehkäisyyn.

Hänen teoksensa Matkalla islamilaisessa Suomessa (Vastapaino 2020) palkittiin tiedonjulkistamisen valtionpalkinnolla.

(Details in English below):

F3006 Main Building, University of Helsinki

JOONAS MARISTO presents his latest work: Islamilaisen oikeuden historia: Šarian monet merkitykset. Gaudeamus [A History of Islamic Law: The Many Meanings of Sharia. Gaudeamus]

The themes of the book will be discussed by Ilkka Lindstedt, Sanna Mustasaari and Marko Juntunen.

“Islamic law is more than a thousand years old written and lived life interpretation tradition. It encompasses the entire spectrum of human life, giving instructions, recommendations and regulations from fasting and pilgrimage to commerce and political practices. The history of Islamic law sheds light on the formation, meanings and content of the concept of Shariah in a general sense.” (Introductory text from the publisher’s website)

Joonas Maristo, FT, has studied early Islamic historiography and Persian poetry. As an expert, he has often commented on topics related to Iran.

Sanna Mustasaari, OTT works at the University of Eastern Finland as a university researcher and as a research doctor at the Academy of Finland. She studies Islamic family law and transnational Muslim families from the perspectives of everyday life, globalised networks and legal pluralism. Together with Marja Tiilikainen and Mulki Al-Sharman, she has edited the book Wellbeing of Transnational Muslim Families Marriage, Law and Gender (open access: -and-Gender/Tiilikainen-Al-Sharmani-Mustasaari/p/book/9780367727659# )

Ilkka Lindstedt is a university lecturer in Islamic theology and a docent of Arabic language and Islamic studies at the University of Helsinki. His research is on early Islam. His book Muhammad and His Followers in Context: The Religious Map of Late Antique Arabia has just been published (Brill).

Marko Juntunen PhD, is a docent of Middle Eastern studies and university lecturer at the University of Helsinki. His research has focused on the Moroccan urban poor, the Iraqi diaspora in Europe, multicultural urban space and the prevention of violent extremism. His book Matkalla islamilaisessa Suomessa (Vastapaino) [On a Journey in Islamic Finland] was awarded with the Finnish state prize for publishing information in 2020.