The historical formation of the worldwide Muslim community or Umma, as it is known in Arabic, has resulted in a great deal of diversity that reflects a rich intellectual, spiritual, and institutional pluralism.

In seeking to express a response to the primal message of Islam, Muslims have developed distinct perspectives that have led various groups to coalesce around different interpretations of the core message of the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad. One such perspective is that of Shi‘a Islam.

Rather than per­ceive these expressions as sectarian in a narrow sense, it is more appropriate to recognise them as representing different communities of interpretation with diverse views of how the ideals of Islam might be realised in the life of the Umma.Unfortunately, much early scholarship on Shi‘ism has represented this perspective as a dissident voice or heterodoxy, and in some cases has even characterised it as a ‘Persian’ response to ‘Arab’ Islam. Recent scholarship has created a more balanced view of Shi‘ism.

Thus, it is now pos­sible to move beyond stereotypical assumptions and reject the viewthat there is an ‘orthodox’ or ‘authentic’ Islam, from which Shi‘ism is a departure.

Dr Farhad Daftary

Co-Director and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications

An authority in Shi'i studies, with special reference to its Ismaili tradition, Dr. Daftary has published and lectured widely in these fields of Islamic studies. In 2011 a Festschrift entitled Fortresses of the Intellect was produced to honour Dr. Daftary by a number of his colleagues and peers.

 

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Professor Azim Nanji

Professor Azim Nanji serves currently as Special Advisor to the Provost at the Aga Khan University. Most recently he served as Senior Associate Director of the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University 2008-2010 and also lectured on Islam in the Department of Religious Studies. He was previously the of Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies from 1998 - 2008. 

 

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