The conference explored different issues of Ibadi theology from the early beginnings until the present day and specifically focused on the formative period of Ibadi theology, the transformation period and the theological discourse. The Ibadis are a moderate branch, and today the only survivors, of the Khawarij, the oldest Islamic sect. At present, they form the main part of the population in Oman, in the oases of Mzab in Algeria, of Zawara and Jabal Nafusa in Tripolitania, in the island of Jerba in Tunisia while small groups are also found in the island of Zanzibar. Ibadi Islam emerged in the early Islamic period and played a pivotal role into the development of Islamic law and theology. Today it continues to be an influential force in the contemporary Middle East and North Africa. Despite its antiquity and its vitality, Ibadi Islam has often been misunderstood and remains little known.
The Conference aimed at redressing this gap by introducing the distinctive theological teachings of this influential Islamic school to a broad public, specialists and non specialists alike.
The Ibadi theology has attracted the attention of Italian scholars, most of them based at the University of Naples "L'Orientale", since the middle of last century. The pivotal works by Carlo Alfonso Nallino, Laura Vecchia Vaglieri and Roberto Rubinacci opened the way for a better understanding of Ibadism, but interpretation still remains essentially open and Ibadi studies still deserve much more attention. The history of Ibadism in the first six Islamic centuries is essential for understanding the evolution of both religious institutions and practical law in the Muslim world. The early Ibadi doctrine is, as Ignaz Goldziher and Carlo Alfonso Nallino pointed out, definitely of Mu'tazili origin, but when and where this influence made itself felt is a question which has not yet been settled. It may have originated among the eastern Ibadis in Basra which was their spiritual home, and have been transmitted thence to the West as a result of the intellectual contact between eastern and western Ibadi. Later on, Ibadism increasingly converged towards Sunni-Ash'ari norms in parallel with the evolution of Ibadi identity as a madhhab.
The Naples Conference dealt with a series of cases, from different periods and different sources: Using an interdisciplinary approach, speakers addressed questions such as dogma and creed, conception of faith, theological controversies, reassessment of theological sources, the Ibadi "modernism" in last century Oman and North Africa. Four themes were treated: "Reading and Rereading Ibadi Sources", "The Ibadi Theological Discourse", "Contemporary Ibadi Theology", "Studies on Ibadism. Past, Present and Future Perspectives" by 27 speakers from Algeria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Oman, Tunisia, Ukraine and USA.
The morning Conference panels have been opened by Keynote Speakers (Wilfred Madelung/Oxford, Josef van Ess/Tübingen, Radwan Al-Sayed/Beirut, John Wilkinson/Oxford) who discussed crucial question concerning the Ibadi theological discourse and the construction of the Ibadi identity, and the Conference closed with a lively debate among all the speakers and experts in the field on the future of studies in Ibadism.
The Conference proceedings will be entirely edited in a high-quality publication. An International Scientific Board is in charge of conference organization, selection of participants, and critical reading of the papers.
Professor emeritus, University of Tübingen