Doctoral Scholarship Programme

1. About the Doctoral Scholarships

2. Funding and Conditions

3. Eligibility and Application

4. Selection Criteria and Process

5. Core Research Areas

6. Contact and FAQ

7. Previous Recipients and Testimonials 

1. About the Doctoral Scholarships

The Institute of Ismaili Studies awards Doctoral Scholarships each year to suitable candidates who are interested in pursuing research at PhD level on a topic related to any of the Institute’s core research areas.  The Institutes's Doctoral Scholarships programme was established in 1997. Since then, more than 40 scholarships have been awarded (see the previous recipients). The IIS views the Doctoral Scholars both as a vehicle for intellectual advancement, career progression and human resources development.

2. Funding and conditions

The scholarship covers university fees (and, if applicable, college fees), up to a maximum of 3 academic years, as well as a living stipend of £15,240 per annum (£1270 pcm) up to a maximum of 4 academic years. The award is reviewed after each academic year and renewal of the award is conditional upon the student’s satisfactory academic progress. Progress reports must be sent to the IIS as and when requested (usually twice a year by the recipient, as well as once a year by the thesis supervisor). During the duration of the scholarship, the recipient is bound to provide 30 days’ work per year to the IIS when requested (reasonable notice will be given). After completion of the degree, and subject to being requested by the IIS, the scholarship recipient must contribute in a professional capacity to the work of the IIS or other related institutions (AKDN or the Ismaili Community). When possible, the IIS will have first right to publish the final dissertation produced by the scholarship recipient.

3. Eligibility and Application

The IIS Doctoral Scholarships are available to Ismaili students from around the globe. The following are the eligibility criteria:   

  • Acceptance to a PhD degree: Only candidates providing a copy of the acceptance to a university PhD degree will be considered. In exceptional circumstances, when the applicant has not received the acceptance letter by the time of the IIS applications deadline (see below), evidence of the application to the university may be considered conditionally.

  • Academic record: Candidates must have an excellent academic record. A Masters’ degree is a sine qua non.

  • Languages: Candidates are expected to have linguistic competence in languages traditionally used by Muslims (at least one language, and ideally also Arabic or Persian) and in European languages (English and ideally at least one other). English proficiency must be as at the level required by the university where the student has been accepted for a PhD degree.

  • Age: There is no age limit, although historically the Scholarship has been awarded to an age band of between 22-35 years.

  • Nationality and visa: Students from all countries may apply. Visa requirements are those set by the university where the student has been accepted for a PhD degree. The IIS is will not be involved in the visa applications process, nor does it cover visa application costs.


The application deadline is 31 March (every year). Please follow this link for further information: “How to apply”.

4. Selection Criteria and Process

The IIS Doctoral Scholarships are awarded according to the following criteria:

  • Relevance of the topic to the core research areas of the IIS and/or the areas of interest of AKDN and related institutions.
  • Consonance with the IIS’ principles and commitment to academic scholarship.
  • Conceptual sophistication and intellectual depth and thoroughness.
  • Analytical ability and methodological prowess.
  • Proficient knowledge of existing literature.
  • Clarity of thought and excellent writing abilities.
  • Commitment to contributing to the IIS or its related institutions and constituencies.

Successful candidates are selected by the IIS Scholarships Committee. Applications are due on 31 March (every year). Applications reviews usually take place in April.  Shortlisted candidates may be called for an interview in mid/late April. The successful candidate will receive notice by mid/late May. No legal entitlement shall be constituted by applying to the programme. As a matter of policy, the Institute does not disclose reasons for rejecting an application.


5. Core Research Areas

There is great want of research in areas that are traditionally considered part of Islamic Studies. Among these, the most relevant to the Institute’s research needs are:

  • Ismaili Studies, understood as covering any field and discipline that deals with the Ismailis, their history, philosophy and spirituality, built heritage, oral history, manuscript traditions, diaspora, devotional practices; as well as their  situation in the contemporary world, including comparative studies with other communities.

  • Wider Shi‘i Studies, including Shi‘i texts, history, theology and doctrines, theories of authority, law, philosophy or rituals.

  • Qur’anic Studies, including studies on the Qur’aninfo-icon itself- its text, its context, its discourse or its concepts, as well as studies on  the reception of the Qur’an in various fields or linguistic regions, or the various interpretations of the Qur’an: the genre of tafsir (Qur’anic commentary), ta’wilinfo-icon (esoteric, philosophical or mystical interpretations), or any other forms of interpretation or applications of the Qur’an.

  • Islamic Law, including ethics, bioethics, governance, the so-called “pillars of Islam” (arkan), rituals, legal theory (usul al-fiqhinfo-icon), contemporary applications, responses to modernity, contemporary life-style issues, etc.

  • Education, including curriculum planning and development; school curricula on Islam in Muslim educational systems; approaching Islam as a school subject; curricular change, innovation and implementation; curriculum evaluation; translation and adaptation of curriculum materials for diverse cultural contexts; the arts, humanities and sciences in education on Islam; pedagogies for value education; distance education, blended learning, etc.

In addition, the scholarships are also open to any areas in which Islam can be analysed in one of its various manifestations (historical, theological, philosophical, legal, educational, political, ritual, cultural, etc.). Research can be conducted from any of the various perspectives and disciplines related to the Humanities, including, for instance, Anthropology and related disciplines, Arts and Material Culture,  Digital Humanities, Education, Literature, Ethnomusicology, Philosophy, Political Science or Sociology, to name but a few. Applications focusing on historical studies (until the 19th century) as well as those concentrating on contemporary studies (20th century onwards) will also be considered. Research may be focused on any region of the Muslim world.


6. FAQ and Contact


How do I know if my research proposal is relevant to the IIS?

Please have a look around the IIS website, its departments and publications and you will get an idea of the IIS’ areas of interest. You may also contact our heads of department and unit coordinators, as well as the research faculty for advice.

Are the scholarships only for pursuing traditional Islamic Studies?

There is certainly a pressing need for  scholars who are willing to engage with Ismaili and wider Shi‛i texts, as well as studying Qur’anic interpretations, and the scholarship is a vehicle to encourage that. However, at the IIS, the concept of “Islamic Studies” is conceived a broadly one at the IIS. Please see the core research areas section.

How do I write a good research proposal?

Several universities have online guides on how to write good research proposals. Getting advice from your potential supervisors will also help.

Will I receive guidance or support during my studies?

Yes, the Scholarship Coordinator will be in touch with you throughout your studies. In addition, you may be assigned a scholar from the IIS for support.

I have a spouse (and/or children). Can they come with me?

The IIS is unable to give any advice or support in this regard. Please contact your university for advice.

What happens after my PhD?

The IIS may be interested in contacting youprofessionally, depending on its needs. We also offer post-doctoral fellowships, mainly for preparing the thesis for publication by the IIS.

What careers can I pursue with a humanities PhD?

Many PhD graduates end up in academic (or academic-related) jobs or in education.However, a large number of PhDs also work for international organisations and companies, and many end up in senior positions.  

What do I gain from a PhD?

Apart from the obvious answer (in-depth knowledge of a specific area), a PhD for involves intellectual search and problem-solving.  It trains you to tackle immensely complicated issues, to analyse problems considering all sides in a balanced way and attempt problem-solving. These are hugely valuable and transferable skills. Also, your methodology and scholarly approach will have the potential to help  enhance the intellectual level of the community and society you come from originally.  

Are the scholarships limited to UK universities?

While 80% of past scholarships have been given to pursue PhDs at British universities, other prestigious universities abroad may also be considered.

Do I have to complete GPISH to be eligible?

Not necessarily, but GPISH does provide students with the intellectual tools and the awareness of the IIS’ core areas which are needed to do a PhD.

Can I apply if I am a STEP graduate?

STEP graduates can only apply after they have fulfilled their contractual teaching commitment.

Do you fund non-humanities projects or development projects?

(Please see response to the next question).

What happens if my topic of interest is not directly related to the IIS’ core areas?

You may apply to for AKF scholarships: (the page also includes a useful link with a list of international and country-specific scholarships).

Does the scholarship include travel money for conferences or book allowances?

No. You normallly apply for these to your the university where you have been accepted for the PhD degree.

For any further information, you may email us on

In recent years, doctoral scholarships have been awarded to the following students:


I. Visram (Theology and Religion, University of Oxford): 'Preservation and Migration of the Indo-Ismaili Ginān Tradition'

Karam Alkatlabe (Architecture, University of Cambridge): 'Rebuilding Syria: What is the future of housing and informal settlements in post-war Damascus in light of the current reconstruction process?'


Qurratulain Faheem (Anthropology, University of Sussex): 'Exploring the Variant Perceptions of Human Body among Muslim Communities and its Influence on their Approaches Towards Organ Transplantation'


Sadiq S. Habib (Religious Studies, SOAS): 'Identity Processes Among Emerging Adult Ismailis in Europe and North America—A Study in Integral Anthropology.'


Taushif Kara (History, University of Cambridge): 'Colonial Born?’: Migration, Memory, and Islam for the Khoja of East Africa.'


Amaan Merali (Oriental Studies, University of Oxford): 'The Ottomansinfo-icon and the Ismailis (1887-1914): Imperial Perceptions of an Inter-Imperial Community'

Azzam Al-Kassir (Politics, Birkbeck, University of London): 'Continuity and Change in the Thought and Praxis of Salafi-Jihadism: Reading into the writings of the ideologues and Strategists of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria'

Muhammad Dost Khan (History, Royal Holloway, University of London): 'Historicising Perceptions Of The West In Pakistan’s Political Discourse'


Aslisho Qurboniev (Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge): ‘The Organisation of Learning and Knowledge Transmission in Egypt and Ifrīqiyya under the Fāṯimids: Institutions, Patronage, Networks and Practices’



Karim Javan (Religious Studies, SOAS): ‘Qiyama in Ismaili Histories’



Rahim Gholami (Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter): ‘Ismaili Neoplatinism in two Fatimid texts: A comparative study of al-Sijistani's al-Yanabi and Nasir Khusraw's Khwan al-ikhwan with an annotated English translation of Khwan al-ikhwan’

Shumaila Hemani (Ethnomusicology, University of Alberta): ‘Singing the Shah-jo-Raag in Pakistan and India’



Zulfiqar Khimani (Sociology, University of Cambridge): ‘Transnational Religious Belonging: The Case of Nizari Ismaili Muslims’



Zarangez Karimova (Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter): ‘The Structure and Content Analysis of the Three Shīʽī Ḥadīth Works: Kitāb al-jami` al-Wāfī, Wasā’il al- Shīʻa ilā ahādīth al-sharīʻa and Bihār al-Anwār’

Ula Zeir (Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Edinburgh): Salamiyyainfo-icon: A City of the Ismailis in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Ottoman Syria (1839-1918)’



Laila Kadiwal (Sociology, University of Sussex): ‘Religious Pluralism in Ismaili Muslim Religious Education: From difference to diversity’

Sorbon Mavlonazarov (Anthropology, Durham University): ‘Changes and Continuity in Shrines Visitation in Badakhshan: A Case Study of Wakhan Valley’



Zamira Dildorbekova (Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter): ‘The Dynamics of Islam and Modernity in Tajikistan: Contemporary Ismaili Discourse’

Shayesteh Ghofrani (Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter): ‘Comparative analysis of the Concept of Wilayainfo-icon in Shi'ism and Sufisminfo-icon in the Formative Period’



Sultonbek Aksakolov (History, SOAS): ‘Islam in Soviet Tajikistan: State Policy and the Practice of Religion from1950-85’

Shaftolu Gulamadov (Religious Studies, University of Toronto): ‘The Ethical Dimension of the Ismaili Tradition of Badakhshan’

Amier Saidula (Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh): ‘A Last Refuge: National Law, Traditional Dispute Resolution and Tajik Survival in Xinjiang Today’



Zouhal Avzalshoeva (Law, University of Sussex): ‘Nobody beats an obedient woman': state and non-state responses to violence against women in Tajikistan’

Rafiq Rahim Ajani (Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter): ‘The Development of the Mystical Theology and Ethics of Rindi in Persian Poetry from the Eleventh to Fifteenth Centuries’

Sharaf Oshurbekov (Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of York, Toronto): ‘Contested Spaces and Contested Meanings: Isma’ili Muslim Places of worship in Badakhshan region’

Sabrina Datoo (History, University of Chicago): ‘Fashioning Muslim Life: Yunani Medicine and Muslim Liberalism in Colonial India c. 1880 – 1930’

Aly Kassam-Remtulla (Education, University of Oxford): ‘Muslim Chaplaincy on Campus: Institutional intent and implications’



Shiraz Hajani (South Asian Languages and Civilisations, University of Chicago): ‘The Great Resurrection – Reconstructing Alamutinfo-icon

Wafi Momin (South Asian Languages and Civilisations, University of Chicago): ‘The Formation of Satpanth Ismaili Tradition in South Asia’



Zulfiya Ashurmamadova (Education, University of London): ‘Financing Education in Tajikistan: Tradition and Transition’

Jamil Kassam (Near Eastern Languages and Civilisations, University of Chicago): ‘The Nizarisinfo-icon during the Safavid Period’

Nourmamadcho Nourmamadchoev (History, SOAS): ‘The Ismailis of Badakhshan: History, Politics and Religion from 1500 to 1750’



Maryam Rezaee (Politics, University of York): ‘Women and Higher Education: An Analysis of Women’s Development, Empowerment, and Class Position with Special Reference to the Ismaili Women of Iran’

Karim Gillani (Music and Religious Studies, University of Alberta): ‘Sound and Recitation of Khoja Ismaili Ginans: Tradition and Transformation’

Otambek Mastibekov (Near and Middle Eastern Studies, SOAS): ‘Leadership and Authority of Ismailis: A Case Study of Badakhshani Community in Tajikistan’



Arifinfo-icon Jamal (Law, University College London): ‘Liberal Theory and Islam: (Re) Imagining a Muslim Public Square’

Marodsilton Mubarokshoeva (Education, University of Oxford): ‘Universities in Muslim Context: Concepts, Challenges, and Opportunities’

Nacim Pak (Anthropology of Media, SOAS): ‘Shi'i Expressions of Religion and Spirituality in Iranian Cinema’



Yahia Baiza (Education, University of Oxford): ‘Education in Afghanistan, 1901-2006: Developments, Influences and Legacies’

Abdulmamad Iloliev (Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge): ‘Poetic Expression of Pamiri Ismalism: The Life and Thought of Mubarak-i Wakhani, a Nineteenth-century Mystic Poet and Religious Scholar’

Vafo Navkarov (Philosophy, University College London): ‘Justice, Persons & Institutions’



Amin Mahdavi (Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, University of Edinburgh): ‘An Event-Driven Distribution Model for Automatic Insertion of Illustrations in Narrative Discourse: A Study Based on the Shahnama Narrative’

Gurdofarid Miskinzoda (Islamic Studies, SOAS): ‘On the Margins of Sirainfo-icon: Mughulta'i (689-762/1290-1361) and His Place in the Development of Sira Literature’

Saeed Zeydabadi-Nejad (Social Anthropology and Media Studies, SOAS): ‘Post Revolutionary Iranian Cinema: Ideology and Cinematic Critique’



Miriam Ali-de-Unzaga (Material Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford): ‘Weaving social life. Moroccan Rural Textiles, People and Changing Values’



Omar Ali-de-Unzaga (Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge): ‘The Use of the Qur'an in the Epistles of the Ikhwan al-Safa'



Laila Halani (Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford): ‘Discourses of Religion and Development: Agency, Empowerment and Choices for Muslim Women in Gujerat, India'

Fahmida Suleman (Islamic Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford): ‘The Lion, the Hare and Lustre Ware: Studies in the Iconography of Lustre Ceramics from Fāṭimid Egypt (969 - 1171 CE)’



Zulfikar Hirji (Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford): ‘The Co construction of Space and Relatedness Amongst Swahili speaking Muslims of the Indian Ocean: Zanzibar, Mombasa and Muscat’