By Elena Dini
ROME — Aljaž Krajnc, a Lay Centre scholar from Slovenia, earned his licentiate at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI). His time in Rome was interrupted due to the COVID-19 lockdown, but he returned to successfully defend his thesis June 18. Here is a look at his distinctive work and future plans.
Q. What is the topic of your licentiate thesis?
A. My thesis deals with the theology of the Mu'tazila, one of the most preponderant theological schools of early Islam. In my thesis, I provided an annotated translation of a heresiographical report of its doctrines, written by AbuHasan al-Aš'ari, an Islamic theologian who died at the beginning of the 10th century. I wrote an introduction to al-Aš'ari’s work and a commentary that dealt primarily with the Mu'tazili doctrine about oneness/unity of God (tawhid).
Q. You recently published an article. What was it about?
A. It was the revised version of a presentation I gave at an international conference in in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in October 2019. The conference was organized on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the meeting of St. Francis of Assisi with the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. I dealt with the place of al-Malik al-Kamil in Islamic history and I discussed in detail the genealogy of the title “Sultan” in Islam. The article was published in “Unity and Dialogue” (Edinost in dialog), an academic journal of the Unversity of Ljubljana.
Q. How did you live the lockdown and what was your experience coming back to Rome to defend your thesis?
A. I was lucky that I could return home to Slovenia at a certain point during the lockdown. At home, I continued following the school curriculum. I did not miss any class, because PISAI established an online teaching system very quickly. It was challenging to concentrate and follow the lectures in these extraordinary circumstances. On the one hand, I was not used to following online lectures, and on the other hand I did not exactly know what was going to happen with the coronavirus situation.
However, I was very lucky that the border between Italy and Slovenia opened in the middle of June, so I was able to come back to Rome to defend my thesis in person. I know that many other colleagues wanted to have this chance, but could not come because of the restrictions. So, I am especially grateful that I was able to make it. There was a big difference for me between finishing my studies by walking out the door that I had entered at least 1,000 times and closing the tab of my computer program. I hope that the situation improves and that, as soon as possible, everyone will be able to return to class.
Q. What are your plans after graduation?
A. I will probably rest for some time. Then I will start studying again. I am planning to continue with a PhD. I will most probably continue studying the topic that I already addressed in my licentiate thesis and expand it by considering as well the representatives of other religions, maybe Jews and Christians, who were living in the Islamic world.
Main photo by Stefano Dal Pozzolo