Among the first recipients of the Institute’s Ph D scholarship is Dr Zulfikar A Hirji who is a Research Associate in the Department of Academic Research and Publications of the IIS and currently co-ordinates the Ph D Scholarship Programme as well as other scholarships and fellowships offered by the IIS.
Zulfikar Hirji obtained a BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Religious Studies from McGill University and worked with international development agencies in Canada and the Ontario Government before joining the Institute’s Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities in 1994. He subsequently read for an MPhil in Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge and a DPhil at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford.
His interest in Islam and Muslim societies emerged while studying anthropology and the manner in which religious ideas work in society and through culture. For example, in an article published on “The Kofia Tradition of Zanzibar: The Implicit and Explicit Discourses of Male Head-Dress in an Indian Ocean Society”, for Textiles in the Indian Ocean (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), Dr Hirji uses male head-gear (i.e., a piece of material culture) to examine the multiple factors, including religion, which inform contemporary conceptions of Muslim male identity in coastal East Africa.
In July 2005, Dr Hirji delivered a course on ‘Anthropology and Muslim Societies’ in a Research Methodologies Conference organized by the Central Asia Studies Unit of the IIS for senior scholars from Tajikistan in Dushanbe. He is also a lecturer in the Institute’s Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities and is involved in a number of research programmes at the IIS.
Dr Hirji is currently editing several publications, including the proceedings of ‘The Muslim Pluralism Seminar Series’. In addition, he has published various articles including, “The Trials of Seyavash: Fire, Water and Virtue” for Edebiyat: A Journal of Middle Eastern Literatures, and “The Indian Ocean before 1500” in The Historical Atlas of Islam (Harvard, 2004).