In October 2004, China Charity Federation - CCF - hosted an International Charity Law Comparative Seminar in Beijing, China's capital city, of which The Aga Khan Development Network was a principal sponsor. CCF is an autonomous non-governmental organization. It was established with the approval of the Chinese Government in April 1984 to engage in nationwide charity work. Since then, its contribution to disaster and poverty relief, education and health support for the weak, and improving income conditions, for example, through better sheep raising in the mountain areas in Guizhow Province, has earned CCF government and national recognition.
Students of the Institute’s Graduate Programme, accompanied by Head of Graduate Studies, Dr Alnoor Dhanani, were in Paris on March 17-18 to visit two museum exhibitions. The theme of the exhibitions complimented their graduate courses on Islamic history, providing an opportunity to expand their investigation and learning of the Muslim World - its civilisations, contributions and values.
A significant milestone was laid in the contemporary history of the Muslim world at the recent International Islamic Conference, held in Amman, Jordan from July 4 to 6, 2005. It brought forth a united resolve, rarely seen before, to tackle firmly the challenges threatening the Ummah’s own internal stability, and even integrity, as well as undermining its historic role of constructive interface with other cultures and traditions, especially, though not exclusively, Christians and Jews whom Islam honourably refers to as the fellow People of the Book, ahl al-kitab.
On March 9th, Professor Azim Nanji spoke to a mixed audience of Sixth Form students (17-year-olds) and their parents at the Berkhamsted Collegiate School on Muslim contributions to society and the common heritage of the Abrahamic religions, providing a perspective on how this shared history could help us understand and speak about Islam in the 21st century. This presentation was the first in the newly inaugurated seminar series organized by the school’s Philosophy Society.
Students from the class of 2008 of the Institute’s Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities visited the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford as part of their course on the Anthropology of Islam. Taught by Dr Zulfikar Hirji, the course introduces students to the discipline of anthropology and explores the diversity of Islam.
Dr Duncan Haldane, who passed away on 22nd August, 2006 was the Head Librarian & Curator at The Institute of Ismaili Studies from 1997 to 2004. Representatives from the Institute joined Dr Haldane’s family at a service of thanksgiving held on 4th September at All Saints’ Church, Putney Common.
Since 1997, The Institute of Ismaili Studies has awarded PhD Scholarships to outstanding students whose work complements the work and mandate of the IIS. This year’s three recipients, all alumni of the Institute’s Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities are Zoulfia Achourmamadova, Jamil Kassam and Nourmamdcho Nourmamdchoev.
As Lendas dos Assassinos, a Portuguese translation of The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Ismailis, was launched recently in Lisbon. The author, Dr Farhad Daftary, participated in the proceedings. This first Portuguese book in the field of Ismaili Studies provides an introduction to the history of the Ismailis and unravels the Assassin Legends after centuries of misrepresentation.
The Pontificio Instituto di Studi Arabi E d’Islamistica (PISAI) in Rome, which is part of the Vatican’s initiative to promote study, research and a better understanding of the Muslim world and Muslim-Christian relations, organises annually the Bradley Conference, to which a Muslim scholar is invited to deliver a presentation. This year, the guest speaker was the Director of The Institute of Ismaili Studies, Professor Azim Nanji.
IIS Alumni from East Africa, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and the Sudan came together for the first meeting of the Asian Chapter Group of the IIS Alumni Association. The meeting was held in Dubai, UEA, on 22nd April. Members of the Institute’s senior management were also in attendance.
Dr Arzina Lalani, Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, was invited to participate in the First Annual Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace, held in Edinburgh from 27th February to 7th March 2004 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Festival, which brought together individuals from different faith communities, provided a forum to discuss the nature of world spirituality, with particular reference to the spiritual foundations for peace.
Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century, edited by Suha Taji-Farouki and Basheer M. Nafi, is among the latest publications supported by the Institute and published by I.B. Tauris. This work focuses on the diverse forms and themes of Islamic thought in the twentieth century, the conditions that fomented it and the social, political and cultural contexts in which it occurred.
On June 24, Professor Eric Ormsby, Chief Librarian of The Institute of Ismaili Studies, spoke on a selection of images of Muslim Architecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The talk was part of an architecture week special event, the V& A and RIBA Study Rooms Open Day, which is part of an ongoing initiative of the museum entitled ‘Alternating Currents: Dialogues in Islamic Architecture’.
Professor Azim Nanji led a panel discussion about diversity and religion at a major two day conference, ‘Diversity: a stronger economy, a better Britain’ held on March 14th -15th at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London. The conference brought together many of Britain’s leading employers from the private, public and voluntary sectors to explore and exchange best practice ideas.
A panel was organized by the Department of Academic Research and Publications on 4th December with four scholars conducting research on the Ismailis of South Asia. The presentations illustrated parallel themes and ideas on the formation and negotiation of identity of the Ismailis of the Indian Subcontinent throughout the nineteenth century to the present. Each of the panelists provided perspectives on how traditions are negotiated and transmitted from generation to generation and the historical circumstances which inform the process in each of their specific contexts.
Interviewed by Rachael Kohn, host of The Ark, a religious affairs programme on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Alice Hunsberger spoke about the Ismaili poet, philosopher and traveller Nasir Khusraw. Aired on May 9, 2004, the radio show examined the importance of the intellect in Nasir Khusraw’s poetry and the relevance of his writing for today’s world.
The IIS Summer Programme on Islam was held in August 2006 at McGill University’s campus, in the heart of Montreal, Canada. The participants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, United Sates and Canada brought a mélange of cultural and social backgrounds to the discussions and seminars of the programme.