People of the Prophet’s House: Art, Architecture and Shi‘ism in the Islamic World

Calligram of the Nade 'Ali prayer in the form of a lion, India, 17th C., Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper

 (c) Aga Khaninfo-icon Trust for Culture


Co-sponsored by The Institute of Ismaili Studies and the British Museum


Date: Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 March 2009

Venue: BP Lecture Theatre, the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG







“They said: Do you wonder at Allah’s bidding? The mercy of Allah and His blessings are on you, O People of the House (Ahl al-Baytinfo-icon), surely He is Praised, Glorious.”

Holy Qur’aninfo-icon, 11:73

The Arabic phrase ‘Ahl al-Bayt’ or ‘People of the House’ is mentioned twice in the Holy Qur’an and, in one instance, refers specifically to the family of the Prophet Muhammad. For Shi‘ainfo-icon Muslims, the term refers to the Prophet’s daughter, Fatimainfo-icon, her husband, Imaminfo-icon ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was the Prophet’s cousin and first Shi‘i Imam (leader), their two sons, Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn, and subsequently to their descendants. Today, Shi‘a Muslims reside predominantly in the Middle East, with sizable minorities in South and Central Asia, making up 10% of the world’s culturally diverse Muslim population. Although, like all Muslims, the Shi‘a have always been and remain ethnically, culturally and even religiously diverse, their shared beliefs and practices which centre on reverence for the Prophet and his descendants have greatly impacted Muslim material culture.

Who are the Shi‘a? Can we identify art, architecture and material culture that is inspired by Shi‘i traditions from around the world and throughout history? These questions are explored in an intellectually stimulating and visually enthralling three-day international conference. Covering topics from shrine and mosque architecture, manuscript painting, and religious iconography, to ritual expressions and contemporary cinema, the papers also span a wide geographic area from West Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia and China.


Registration Cost:

Full Rate: £55 (3 days), £25 (1 day)
Concession Rate (full-time students with valid ID, Seniors, and unwaged):
£25 (3 days), £10 (1 day)

Payment details are explained on the registration form. As places are limited, please register early to avoid disappointment.

To register, please send in a completed registration form and your payment to:

Dr. Fahmida Suleman
Research Associate, Department of Academic Research and Publications
The Institute of Ismaili Studies
210 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DA
United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7756 2723 (direct line)
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7756 2700 (switchboard)
Fax: +44 (0)20 7756 2740

Registration forms can be downloaded here or contact Fahmida Suleman to receive a posted form. Please direct all enquiries to Fahmida Suleman at Speakers’ biographies and abstracts will soon be posted on this webpage.

Please note that the conference will be held in the British Museum’s BP Lecture Theatre, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0)20 73238000/8299


The British Museum and the BP Lecture Theatre are wheelchair accessible


For the full programme accompanying the British Museum’s exhibition,

"Shah ‘Abbas: The Remaking of Iran" (19 February - 14 June 2009), visit British Museum webpage.